Jack Kornfield has brought Buddhism to countless Americans—maybe millions after 40 years as a leading Buddhist scholar. He teaches through books, including a 2004 collaboration with Bible scholar Marcus Borg that we highly recommend: Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings. And he regularly teaches in person at the Spirit Rock retreat center that he co-founded.
TODAY, we recommend his latest: A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times, which you can order right now via this link or by clicking on the images at right.
KORNFIELD ON HEALING AFTER 9/11 DECADE:
Our regular readers will recall Jack Kornfield’s spiritually challenging reflection on sprouting compassion again, after the trauma of living with global fear. Many readers praised that 9/11 meditation by Kornfield, the text of which came from the in-depth interview we will publish later this week.
TODAY, we’re sharing a short excerpt of “A Lamp in the Darkness” to illustrate why we so highly recommend this resource for—as the subtitle says—“illuminating the path through difficult times.” No, you don’t have to “become a Buddhist” to appreciate this volume. In this book, Kornfield has gleaned his lessons from timeless spiritual truths, as he explains in our interview later this week.
A LAMP IN THE DARKNESS
THERE IS praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. Did you think this would not happen to you?
If you’re reading these words, you’ve probably hit hard times. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, or maybe you’ve lost your job, or received a difficult diagnosis, or someone close to you has. Maybe you’re divorcing or you’re in bankruptcy or you’ve been injured, or your life is falling apart in any number of ways. Maybe daily life itself has become too much for you—or not enough. But even in the best of times there’s plenty to worry about: seemingly endless wars and violence, racism, our accelerating environmental destruction. In difficult times, personally or collectively, we often begin to wonder not only how we can get through this difficult patch: we begin to question existence itself.
One of the most difficult things about hard times is that we often feel that we are going through them alone. But we are not alone. In fact, your life is only possible because of the thousands of generations before you, survivors who have carried the lamp of humanity through difficult times from one generation to another. Even Jesus had hard times, and Buddha did as well. At times they were hounded, threatened, physically attacked, and despised. Yet their gifts outshone all their difficulties. And now, as you read these words, you can feel yourself as part of the stream of humanity walking together, finding ways to carry the lamp of wisdom and courage and compassion through difficult times.
Several years ago I was giving a talk on compassion with Pema Chodron in a large hall in San Francisco filled with at least 3,000 participants. At one point, a young woman stood up and spoke in the most raw and painful way about her partner’s suicide several weeks before. She was experiencing a gamut of complex emotions, such as agonizing grief and confusion, guilt and anger, loss and fear. As I listened to her I could feel her loneliness, and so I asked the group when she finished, “How many of you in this room have experienced the suicide of someone in your family, or someone really close to you?” More than 200 people stood up. I asked her to look around the room at the eyes of those who had gone through a similar tragedy and survived. As they gazed at one another, everyone in the room could feel the presence of true compassion, as if we were in a great temple. We all felt the suffering that is part of our humanity, and part of the mystery that we share. But it’s not only in great difficulties like the suicide of a loved one that we touch this truth: in the midst of our daily confusions, self-doubts, conflicts, and fears, we need support, reminders to trust in ourselves. We can trust. We were designed to journey through the full measure of beauty and sorrows in life and survive.
Come back later this week for our interview with Jack Kornfield, one of the world’s most important Buddhist teachers.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.