By Barbara Falconer Newhall
Sylvia Boorstein and Jack Kornfield are two of my favorite Buddhist writers. I learn a lot from them about how to lead my life, how to be a better me.
Sylvia’s Happiness Is an Inside Job fits right in with what I need to be doing right now. I like Kornfield’s writing, too, though I’m not at all sure I want to follow him into “inner deconstruction” – the wrenching process experienced by advanced meditators – without a well-trained psychotherapist at my side.
As for actually taking time out to sit myself down and meditate, I can’t help thinking (as I’ve thought in an earlier post) – why meditate when I could be sweeping the garage? Or emailing my son in Minnesota? Or thinning the camellia buds in the front yard? Or writing this post to you?
Or, better yet, curling up with a good book about Buddhism?
That’s why I was startled and amused when I read a passage devoted to this very issue in Kornfield’s newest book, Bringing Home the Dharma. There it was, righteous and incisive, in a chapter about Ajahn Chah, who was Kornfield’s teacher years ago at the Wat Ba Pong forest monastery in Thailand.
During a visit to England, Ajahn Chah had an encounter with a staid English lady who was part of the British Buddhist Society.
The woman pummeled the teacher with complex philosophical questions. But when asked whether she did much meditating, the woman said no, she didn’t have time; she was too busy studying the texts.
“Madam,” Ajahn Chah said to her. “You are like a woman who keeps chickens in her yard and goes around picking up the chicken shit instead of the eggs.”
Hey, that’s me!
It’s true — by reading about Buddhism instead of taking the time to meditate I am probably missing out on some nice eggs. But I don’t think I’m picking up chicken shit.
Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are, Jack Kornfield, Shambhala, 2011, $24.95 hardcover.
Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life, Sylvia Boorstein, 2008, Ballantine, $14 paper.