In this timeless dharma talk from 1977, Jack Kornfield explores working with wisdom, power, and knowledge on your spiritual path, and why it’s so important to walk the Middle Way.
This Jack Kornfield talk from December 1977 at the Insight Meditation Society Retreat Center was originally published on Dharma Seed.
Knowledge and Power
Jack begins by exploring the different kinds of knowledge and power that we can come by in this world, including spiritual knowledge and power. There is endless knowledge to pursue and endless powers to be cultivated. Jack covers the Buddha’s four unknowables, which include things like karma and the range of the mind of a Buddha.
“If you look in the spiritual traditions in literature all around the world, again, the kind of things you can do with your mind when it becomes really concentrated and directed are fantastic and enormous.” – Jack Kornfield
Wisdom and the Middle Way (15:05)
Jack illustrates the difference between wisdom and knowledge with the story of a very wise monk who did not know the Earth is round. He talks about the importance of walking the Middle Way and finding balance on the spiritual path. If we don’t watch out, we can become attached to the endless pursuit of different kinds of knowledge and powers, both spiritual and otherwise.
“Compared to peace, compared to stillness, everything else is Dukkha. Even the most extraordinary power, even the most exalted states of mind, any kind of knowledge or anything you could learn about, any kind of thing you relate to out of desire, out of holding on, attachment, of wanting to get, wanting to know, wanting to become – painful, because there’s always that grasping, that off-balance-ness, that desire, that fire.” – Jack Kornfield
Don’t Know Mind (29:50)
Jack explores how the real happiness that comes from spiritual practice comes from the liberation of letting go. He brings in the concept of “don’t know mind” and how it allows us to fully be with whatever is happening. He closes by saying that knowledge and power are not wisdom, but when wisdom is present, it comes with a special kind of knowledge and power.
“Wisdom is being. Wisdom is just being here as things are.” – Jack Kornfield
Sharon Salzberg offers her perspective on finding the middle ground through our practice on Metta Hour Ep. 119