Myridian's Reviews > A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield
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Jan 15, 10

bookshelves: buddhism, psychology, self-help, nonfiction
Read in January, 2010

This is a Kornfield's attempt at a general guide book to Buddhist spiritual inquiry. It makes an attempt to draw parallels between Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, but in general it's intended audience is practicing Buddhists with some familiarity with the tradition. I bought this book after seeing Kornfield speak at the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference. He got a room of about a thousand mental health practitioners to chant and do meditation in concert. It was a powerful experience. I have more mixed feelings about his book.

There were some pretty notable pros and cons with this book. First the pros: Kornfield does a good job of addressing some of the pitfalls that one can fall into during spiritual practice. I thought the chapter on near enemies, "No boundaries to the sacred," was something everyone ought to read. I've known a number of people who, while benefitted from spiritual practice, tend to use it to justify unhealthy ways of being. He also discusses some of the perils of working with a spiritual community and spiritual "master" that I think help dispel some of the mythologizing of these individuals.

There were a couple of things that irritated me throughout the book that I had a hard time getting past. First of all, Kornfield is very focused on the importance of working with a spiritual teacher. While I see how this can be helpful, I've also always believed that we each have our own access to mindfulness/enlightenment, and that a spiritual teacher is largly extraneous except for helping get us to practice more consistently. Secondly, Kornfield uses the word faith throughout the book. I have an inherent problem with this word, and a particular problem with it when it is used in the context of Buddhism. in general I think that faith condones human stupidity and when it comes to Buddhism it should be particularly avoided since Buddhism is not a religion in the typical sense of having beliefs about divine beings. At least the kind of Buddhism I practice doesn't.

So, overall, a worthwhile read, but a few things that irritated me that I had to overlook in finding what was helpful about this book.
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Quotes Myridian Liked

Jack Kornfield
“In our charade with ourselves we pretend that our war is not really war. We have changed the name of the War Department to the Defense Department and call a whole class of nuclear missiles Peace Keepers!”
Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
tags: war

Jack Kornfield
“This life is a test-it is only a test.
If it had been an actual life, you would have received further
instructions on where to go and what to do.
Remember, this life is only a test.”
Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
tags: life

Jack Kornfield
“As we encounter new experiences with a mindful and wise attention, we discover that one of three things will happen to our new experience: it will go away, it will stay the same, or it will get more intense. whatever happens does not really matter.”
Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

Jack Kornfield
“True emptiness is not empty, but contains all things. The mysterious and pregnant void creates and reflects all possibilities. From it arises our individuality, which can be discovered and developed, although never possessed or fixed.”
Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
tags: self

Jack Kornfield
“When the stories of our life no longer bind us, we discover within them something greater. We discover that within the very limitations of form, of our maleness and femaleness, of our parenthood and our childhood, of gravity on the earth and the changing of the seasons, is the freedom and harmony we have sought for so long. Our individual life is an expression of the whole mystery, and in it we can rest in the center of the movement, the center of all worlds.”
Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life


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