A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield was first published in 1993 and today the book (which has been reprinted numerous times) is widely regarded as a classic and timeless guide to meditation and living an authentic spiritual life.
Jack Kornfield was ordained as a monk in the 1960’s at the Thai Forest monastery at Wat Ba Pong, and studied under a variety of noted masters, including Ajahn Chah and Mahasi Sayadaw. He started teaching Buddhism to Westerners in 1974 and, along with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachussets. He also became a founding teacher at the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California, and that is where he currently teaches, almost five decades after discovering the Buddhist path for himself.
A lot more information about Jack’s life and journey are provided in A Path With Heart, but we wanted to paint a thumbnail sketch of the author’s background to try and convey some of the length and depth of his experience. What we can’t convey here is how good he is at teaching those of us who want to follow the Buddhist path in the West, but fortunately anyone who picks up a copy of A Path With Heart will soon find that out for themselves.
This is a weighty book which covers every aspect of the spiritual life from a Buddhist perspective, and it will be of immense value to anyone who wants to make progress at any stage along the path. Whether you want to learn how to meditate from scratch or deepen an existing practice that will benefit every area of your life, this book presents the information you need in a practical, down-to-earth manner. Even when the author is discussing potentially confusing topics such as altered states, absorption, and access concentration, the text is always precise and illuminating. Chapter titles are as follows:
Chapter 1 – Did I Love Well?
Chapter 2 – Stopping the War
Chapter 3 – Taking the One Seat
Chapter 4 – Necessary Healing
Chapter 5 – Training the Puppy: Mindfulness of Breathing
Chapter 6 – Turning Straw into Gold
Chapter 7 – Naming the Demons
Chapter 8 – Difficult Problems and Insistent Visitors
Chapter 9 – The Spiritual Roller Coaster: Kundalini and Other Side Effects
Chapter 10 – Expanding and Dissolving the Self: Dark Night and Rebirth
Chapter 11 – Searching for the Buddha: A Lamp Unto Ourselves
Chapter 12 – Accepting the Cycles of Spiritual Life
Chapter 13 – No Boundaries to the Sacred
Chapter 14 – No Self or True Self?
Chapter 15 – Generosity, Codependence and Fearless Compassion
Chapter 16 – You Can’t Do It Alone: Finding and Working with a Teacher
Chapter 17 – Psychotherapy and Meditation
Chapter 18 – The Emperor’s New Clothes: Problems with Teachers
Chapter 19 – Karma: The Heart Is Our Garden
Chapter 20 – Expanding Our Circle: An Undivided Heart
Chapter 21 – Spiritual Maturity
Chapter 22 – The Great Song
Chapter 23 – Enlightenment Is Intimacy with All Things
As you can see, this isn’t a book that you will want to speed through, but one that you will want to savour at a measured pace. Whether you are simply curious about Buddhist meditation and life or you are already established on the path, this book will serve as an extremely valuable guide that you will want to refer to again and again.