Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Book Review: The Wise Heart

Title: The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology
Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Jack Kornfield
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I have to admit that I really like Jack Kornfield. I love listening to his dharma talks. I love reading his books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It may be his best. If I have a complaint, and it is a small one, it is this:

Kornfield, like many other Therevadian Buddhists in North America, was a student of the late, great Ajahn Chah who, arguably, may have been the greatest Buddhist teacher in the last thousand years. In recent years it seems as if anyone who ever sat at Chah's feet wishes to claim his mantle. Name dropping Ajahn Chah's name is as commonplace in Buddhist books as commas and periods. Kornfield has never done that. While a student of Chah he has seldom mentioned him in his books or in his talks. Until now. This book is filled with references to Luang Por Chah. There certainly is nothing wrong with that. Chah was a great teacher. I just find myself wondering why, after years of barely mentioning him, Kornfield now fills a book with his examples. Is this a case of using the great Ajahn to lend authority to his book? Jumping on a currently popular bandwagon? I don't know the answer to that but obviously it is a "shenpa" with me or it wouldn't have hooked me.

Regardless, however, this is a really, really good book and deserves a read. Kornfield has done as much, or more, than anyone to bring readily understandable Buddhist teachings to the west. His kind heart and gentle nature shine in everything he does.

From Amazon:

"Author, psychologist and pioneering Buddhist teacher Kornfield writes his best book yet (and his previous ones were pretty good). His newest uses the same sweet narrative voice, provides convincing and illustrative anecdotes and stories, and reaches into world traditions and literature as well as contemporary scientific research. This book offers a systematic and well-organized view of Buddhist psychology, complete with occasional diagrams. Concepts and practices are placed in a framework that explains and connects them. It's all done with an eye toward application; most chapters end with exercises. Kornfield has been practicing Buddhism for close to 40 years, a lasting discipline that has produced this masterful book and a seasoned view of life that acknowledges a lot of oopses. As a mediator and psychologist, he has also witnessed some serious angst, including his own, and draws on it for illustrative power. Not everything here is new, least of all the title, but then the Buddha isn't either. The best is left for last: joy you can seek for yourself and others. Just keep your meditative seat, and this book by your bed. Kornfield comes across as the therapist you wish you'd had."
(Originally posted to Multiply September 6, 2008)

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