The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology

 
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You have within you unlimited capacities for love, for joy, for communion with life, and for unshakable freedom¡ªand here is how to awaken them. In The Wise Heart, one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time offers the most accessible and illuminating guide to Buddhism¡¯s transformational psychology ever published in the West.

Trained as a monk in Thailand, Burma, and India, Jack Kornfield experienced at first hand the life-changing power of Buddhist teachings: the emphasis on the nobility and sacredness of the human spirit, the fine-grained analysis of emotion and thought, the precise techniques for healing, training, and transforming the mind and heart. In contrast to the medical orientation of most Western psychology and psychiatry, here is a vision of radiant human dignity, and a practical path for realizing it in our own lives.

The Wise Heart is the fruit of a life¡¯s work that includes such classics as A Path with Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. Filled with stories from Kornfield¡¯s Buddhist psychotherapy practice and portraits of remarkable teachers, it also includes a moving account of his own recovery from a violence-filled childhood. For meditators and mental health professionals, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, The Wise Heart offers an extraordinary journey from the roots of consciousness to the highest expression of human possibility.

Customer Reviews:

  • the wise heart
    The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology

    i had read a Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist Monk, book before
    which was excellent. The Wise Heart far exceeded my expectations with his wise, gentle wisdom and is for anyone who aspires to open his/her heart and desires to love not only another but all the world. ...more info
  • A good book for a WISE HEART but not as much for BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY
    The Abhidhamma Pitaka, the third, newest and longest of the three divisions of the Pali Canon, is the original source of the theory of Buddhism as a school of psychology; the Canon is universally acknowledged as the oldest and most reliable source of Buddhist Sacred texts. This makes timing one of the problems in the development of Buddhist psychology. On one hand, Buddhism precedes psychology by over two millennia; on the other, the Abhidhamma Pitaka is dated around two hundred years after the death of Siddhattha Gotama. So the Teachings of the Buddha were not proposed to be a school of psychology and obviously such evolution was not intended by the Buddha. (Last, least and just for fun, the first root of the word "psychology" comes for the Greek "psykhe," which means "soul", an entity that Buddhism considers non existing). So Buddhist psychology is an inconclusive puzzle, which must be completed with pieces from other schools and made up by each scholar within his/her own specialization and frame of mind.

    Jack Kornfield's approach to the subject is described in THE WISE HEART. Here he explains in detail what he calls the twenty six principles of Buddhist psychology. I am not very happy with the result. Most items are indeed principles --comprehensive and fundamental rules-- though some, as you could expect, are no more than basic Siddhattha Gotama's Teachings. Examples: Don't cling to self (#5), be mindful of your body (#8), your thoughts (#10) and your intention (#17), release grasping/be free from suffering (#16). and follow the middle way (#24). A few other, such as see inner nobility of human beings (#1) and recognize and transform unhealthy patterns of our personality (#12), are just nice recommendations that you find in almost any personal growth writing. A couple of principles, shift attention from experience to spacious consciousness (#3) and mindful attention to any experience is liberating (#7), seems to contradict each other.

    Buddhist psychotherapy further complicates the whole subject from the strict doctrinal point of view. Whoever agrees to work with a therapist is after some kind of change, namely wanting to be somebody different from what he/she currently is. I see problems here. The desire to change is the THIRST, the second noble truth, the root of suffering, "the craving that makes for further becoming" (Thanissaro Bhikkhu), "the craving that produces renewal" (?anamoli Thera), or "the craving which leads to renewed existence" (Peter Harvey). Most therapy cases, as described extensively and illustratively by Jack Kornfield, portray situations that obviously aim at modifying mental health conditions. There the Buddha's Teachings and the Buddhist meditation techniques have proved to be excellent tools to help patients. But they were just some of the tools that are to be used in connection with other techniques of, so to speak, conventional western therapies. You can hardly talk of such a thing as a purely / exclusively Buddhist approach to psychotherapy.

    The supporting material of each principle is excellent thanks to the long experience of the author both as a psychologist and a therapist, on one hand, and as the Buddhist practitioner and scholar of many years, on the other. Most quotations prove very helpful to the author purpose, particularly those by Ajanh Chah. The Buddha's quotations are also most appropriate still, as the meticulous picky reader who often checks alternative translations, I would love to see the suttas or discourses where they are taken from. This is particularly important to take into account when excerpts from the Mahayana texts are quoted since they are farther away from what might actually have been the Buddha's words.

    Jack Kornfield makes THE WISE HEART a very entertaining good-title-to-read book. But it does not match the expectancy created by the subtitle.
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  • Very interesting
    I have read several Buddhist books, and listened to countless Dharma talks, and yet I have learned things in this book that I had never heard of. For example, Buddhist texts on Lucid dreaming, past life visions, Buddhist personality types, and thoughts on the unconscious. While not all of this is relevant to me at this point, it was interesting. The book has great wisdom throughout. Maybe a little too much on the stories, that's why I didn't give 5 stars....more info
  • The Wise Heart and Mind
    I enjoy,savor and collect almost every book by Thich Nhat Hahn,Ajahn Chah and others and this one goes right into the realm of Gem.The wisdom of Ajahn Chah(from "Food for the Heart",Everything arises,Everything falls away,Being Dharma,and A still forest pool,All highly recommended)is made easier to understand.The Structure of the book and contents is perfect.I read this one chapter and sometimes one section of a chapter at a time,realizing this is the best it gets with these kind of books.A perfect gift and I will give it away and reread when paperback comes out.I like to do that with Gems.Im doing that now with The Joy of Living(Yongey Rinpoche). This book is an excellent summary of all teachings of the Mind Science,Buddhism.










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  • I love this book!
    I first borrowed this book from the library, but now I have to have it! Not only have I personally benefited from the practices recommended, but I have brought them into my psychotherapy sessions to use with clients. As a result, my sessions have quickly gone to a new depth of healing. I am so grateful!...more info
  • Not His Best Book
    I was disappointed and irked by The Wise Heart. My low rating comes from three sources: (1) Format (2) Content and (3) Peeves. My critical comments and poor rating come with hesitation because I have a a sincere appreciation of Jack Kornfield's work. I hope this book will be re-written.

    (1) Format. I have been fortunate to attend many Monday nights of Jack's dharma talks at Spirit Rock, and his powers as a presenter are unmatched. Unfortunately, the formula in this book fails to deliver the sub- title's promise "A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology." The sections start with several quotes, next a vague notion ("So does mindfulness open us to that which is unseen in our experience" p. 97) followed by an intense story with a happy ending ("With mindfulness Peter found relief" p. 98) and ending up with a sweeping generality ("Since 1980 nearly a thousand scientific papers have documented the effectiveness of mindfulness, often studying Western trainings that are based on a Buddhist approach." p. 99). The therapy stories are too numerous, I come away from this book completely befuddled.

    (2) Content. The notion of inner radiance or beauty as each human's intrinsic nature isn't an idea that is accepted by many followers of Theraveda or Zen Buddhism. I am finding that once you read the original texts not Western commentary, the Buddha is circumspect about settling any metaphysical debates, in Nikaya's translation of the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha in the Aggivacchagotta Sutta on p. 590 for example, the Buddha refuses to settle a long sting of metaphysical debates in his discussion with the wanderer Vacchagotta. The 26 principles throughout the book are internally contradictory, and not universally accepted by Buddhists.

    (3) Peeves. Authors that provide "early praise" for this book on the back cover have most of their books listed in the Related Documents section. Perhaps it isn't quid pro quo, but I find it really irritating to have the extraordinary claim that "Two thousand years before Freud and Jung's probed the unconscious, Buddhist psychology taught about the unconscious foundation of human behavior" on pg. 151 without providing the title and translating author of the book containing the Fifty Verses on the Nature of Unconscious in the in the Related Documents section. This book has hundreds of quotes, and there are no footnotes to check how the quotes mold the content. You can't check whether the quotes are taken out of context, or if the quote comes from a early inaccurate translation. Also, there are well intentioned but sloppy stereotypes, for example, the dubious stereotype "This is evident in the healthy, caring bond between parents and children in Buddhist countries." p. 187. Or, what I find most irritating of all, what I can only describe as sophistry via oxymoron baiting: this is the use of objective terms to modify subjective experiences to further the current self-help fad promoting Buddhism as a scientific not religious activity. So, we have the "technology of visualization" p. 277 "science of mind" p.xi, and "particle-like aspect of consciousness" p.39. ...more info
  • An exceptional book
    This is an exceptionally intelligent, well-written and useful book. Based on Buddhist principals, it lays out a way of looking at the world and wisely becoming an integrated, constructive, comfortable member of it. It is generous and compassionate and anecdotal enough to show how its applications can enhance one's life. It's contrast of Buddhist psychology and Western psychology is extremely interesting and explains how the Eastern view gives more room for one to use already present internal mechanisms for healing. I recommend it highly....more info
  • Kornfield has done a great service
    If you have some knowledge of Buddhism and want to deepen it this is a great book. It took me a long time to read because there are so many places I wanted to stop and think about the meaning of what he said. What I really loved was the stories about people he worked with and how they had to deal with the everyday problems in their lives. It will make me a better person if I can just adopt a small percentage of his wisdom...more info
  • Wonderful book !

    I just hope many have enough conditions to read and experience this book. It is the best present I have ever received....more info
  • GOOD PRESENTATION

    This book is well-written, clear and mostly complete and very helpful for a person who is a Buddhist practitioner as well as a teacher in Vipassana meditation. Especially teaching in the West requires a right blend of traditional Buddhist psychology with the western psyche and ethos. This book specially helps to comprehend the subject clearly and in presenting the subject to the western audience ...more info
  • Wonderfully Inspiring book
    The best buddhist book I read until now! Jack Kornfield writes very nicely, if you have heard him teach you see that is comes from a profound integrity. The book has some proposals for meditations, not even what you would expect, but sometimes more for making you understand what he's trying to tell you: When teaching you shouldn't cling to a "self", he tells you to write down every half hour how strong the feeling of self was related to how well/bad/neutral your feelings were. What accompanied these and so on.
    Jack kornfield combines buddhism with Western psychology which adds in understanding these "old" traditions.
    The book was so persuading that I decided to go to a meditation retreat lead by him. A retreat teaches you much more intensely than a book ever can for shure. If you reread the book after that it's as interesting as before, because many detail reveal more this time and deepen your understanding....more info
  • The Wise Heart
    Use this book with my boyfriend (he has a copy)We take approximately 10 minutes to read a chapter, then we follow up with a 20 minute meditation.
    Useful information....more info

 

 
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