Filed in Vipassana

The Wise Heart

Tricycle chats with teacher Jack Kornfield about Buddhist psychology, everyday nirvana, and what all religions have in common.

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Just inside the gate to the grounds of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, in Woodacre, California, stands a modest "gratitude hut." It honors teachers past and present who have inspired the inclusive style of this Vipassana retreat center nestled in the hills forty minutes north of San Francisco, in Marin County. Pictures of Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike paper the walls: the current Dalai Lama, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, Maha Ghosananda, Anagarika Munindra, Thich Nhat Hanh, Kalu Rinpoche—to name a few—along with some of today's most well-known Vipassana teachers. The center's leading figure and cofounder, Jack Kornfield, draws freely from a broad range of spiritual traditions, citing teachers, political leaders, poets, writers, and artists in what he describes as an effort to speak to people using the language and metaphors they know best.

Tricycle caught up with Kornfield on a mid-afternoon in March, in a room used by teachers to interview students. Typical of the center, the room affords an incomparable view of the hills and valleys beyond. Kornfield has taken a break from leading a silent retreat and sits relaxed, casual, and ready to talk. His latest book, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, has just been published.


What do you hope people will learn from your latest book? Two things: The first is that Buddhism as a psychology has a great deal to offer the West. It provides an enormous and liberating map of the human psyche and of human possibility. Second, Buddhism offers a holistic approach. Often people say, “This part of life is spiritual, that part worldly,” as if the two can be divided. My own teacher, Ajahn Chah, never made a distinction between the pain of divorce and the pain in your knee and the pain of clinging to self. They are all forms of suffering, and Buddhism addresses them all.

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