This delightful little book by Jack Kornfield, the former monk, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, psychotherapist, and accomplished author, is a collection of pithy aphorisms along with six short guided meditations.
The aphorisms, collected from a variety of meditation teachers such as Ajahn Chaa, Robert Aitken Roshi, Suzuki Roshi, and Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as the Buddha himself, provide rich food for reflection. Although the entire book could be hungrily devoured in an idle hour, the ideal would be to savor each quotation as the potent yet subtle delicacy it is, letting the effect sink in and allowing the mind and heart to make connections with one’s personal practice and life.
Take this one: “The trouble is that you think you have time.”
Or this: “When you walk, just walk. When you eat, just eat.”
Or this: “In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?”
These and any of the other 121 quotations in Buddha’s Little Instruction Book can help us to look at our life and practice anew, bringing a sense of curiosity and the dawning of an “aha!” moment.
The six meditations at the end of the book are beautifully crafted, with the language very simply yet richly giving instruction in classic Vipassana sitting meditation, as well as in walking meditation, eating meditation, and the cultivation of lovingkindness (metta), forgiveness, and compassion (karuna). The meditations are not overly structured but are more free-flowing and organic, although they are also very rich and the guidance, if returned to again and again, will be found to be fresh and multi-layered.
My only regret is that for all but a handful of the quotations no references are given, but given that Kornfield writes that the words are sometimes taken not literally but in the spirit of meditation masters, it’s perhaps fitting that so many of them stand on their own.
This is a book that I will certainly return to time and time again.