The Spirit Rock meditation Smörgåsbord

Given the long recent thread about Jack Kornfield and “American Tantric Buddhism” I thought I’d post this fascinating and perhaps somewhat obscure article by him from 2007:

Kornfield vividly describes the challenges he faced in trying to deal with competing claims of authenticity and superiority by two of his teachers in particular (Sayadaw U. Pandita and S.N.Goenka), along with trying to balance those two strongly fundamentalist teachers with what he learned from Ajahn Chah and others. One quickly comes to understand why the meditation instructions in a typical introductory retreat there are basically a sampler of techniques from leading Burmese teachers. Sorry for the bad pun involved but “jack of all trades/master of none” does come to mind here.

Further complicating things for both Spirit Rock and IMS is that in the 15 years since this article was written teachers there have had to contend with the research of Bhikkhus Sujato and Anālayo and others showing how different Early Buddhist teaching and practices are from the Burmese “vipassanavāda” lineages they had been representing as being what the Buddha taught for so long.


Thank you. It’s helpful to hear how he perceives the teachings at and evolution of IMS and Spirit Rock, regardless of whether I think these experiments have been successful.

I was disappointed many years ago when I contacted Pariyatti Book Service to ask them where the body scan technique was in the suttas. They told me that it was not, but that it fit specifications in the suttas for satipathana practice. Many years later I don’t think that is bad. I’m still working on reading the entire Sutta Nipata, but so far I have found very little there for emotional support or concrete suggestions for a better life as an ordinary person. I’ve gotten much more out of adding “Theravada” meditation instructions taught by monks to my routine. Given how little is said in the suttas I am starting to think of them as sheet music, and the tradition of the sangha making it come alive like musicians do with sheet music.

One of my favorite things from the suttas, that I put into my notes, is the “checksum” below from AN 8.53.

As for the qualities of which you may know, “These qualities lead
to dispassion, not to passion;
to being unfettered, not to being fettered;
to shedding, not to accumulating;
to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement;
to contentment, not to discontent;
to seclusion, not to entanglement;
to aroused persistence, not to laziness;
to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome”:
You may categorically hold, “This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s