With such an extensive background, Kornfield is able to address Buddhist meditation not only from the Pali texts and from his own experience, but also by drawing on huge experience in dealing with the problems and successes of retreatants. This has demonstrated to him again and again the healing power of choiceless awareness. Though some basic meditation instructions appear in the last section of the book, the emphasis is on offering reflections for experienced meditators.
In the middle sections of the book, Kornfield surveys the history of his involvement in Buddhism. He reflects on his initiation into Buddhism as a twenty-something monk in Thailand and repeats stories of his interactions with Ajahn Chah. The material on Dipa Ma I found particularly powerful and inspiring. Kornfield then describes the characteristics of the type of Buddhism he has developed since the 1970s — a lay Theravada movement led by converts and centered around meditation rather than monasteries. He calls this “American Buddhism,” though it has to be said that it’s really only one of the many forms of Buddhism in America, since it coexists with other, more traditional varieties. He describes the founding of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts and Spirit Rock meditation center in California. Other topics covered include some of the hot topics of the last forty years — drugs, the sex lives of gurus, and the relationship between meditation and psychotherapy.
Though Bringing Home the Dharma offers little that will be new to fans of Kornfield’s earlier works, I think they will enjoy it as a summing up of his long teaching career.
Jack Kornfield. Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are. Shambhala, 2011. Hardcover. 304 pages. ISBN 9781590309131. $24.95.