“THE WIT LECTURES AT HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL are an exploration of living a spiritual life in the contemporary world, a subject of great importance today as we see the suffering of so many beings in the face of human greed, hatred, and confusion.

This book by Joan Halifax tells us about a life that touches both suffering and joy. It is the story of a Western woman’s journey to compassion. It is also a book that explores engaged spirituality, a way of practicing compassionate action in the world.” – excerpt from the Foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh

“WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SPIRITUAL IN THE MODERN WORLD? It does not mean being a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Let us look at one person’s story to see if there is a partial answer in a life. And perhaps we can consider how a spiritual tradition from Asia has led some of us to a way of being that is closer to home.

Buddhist practice, psychology, and philosophy are touching the lives of many in the Western world. For some of us, Buddhism offers a way of contemplation and seeing that is helping to work with the inheritance of our era. It has touched me for thirty years, first through books, and for more than twenty years through meditation practice.

Twenty years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the sixties exploded in our hearts and minds. Many of us wanted to expand our inner and outer horizons as well as to commit ourselves to human rights and simple living close to the earth.Thirty years later, the nineties seem to be a time when we are renewing our vows and putting them to work in a practical way. This new but old path is called “engaged spirituality,” a way for us to bring our spiritual practice into the everyday world.

What follows are fragments of a life that are pieces of a quilt, not a whole cloth. I tell the story to you in the hope that you will see how the inevitable struggles along the way, the passage of time, and a spiritual practice can lead one home. Although this lecture series is about spirituality and everyday life, I hesitate calling myself spiritual. My sense is that the spiritual flows between beings, be they with humans or other beings.” ~ excerpt from Joan’s opening remarks in Chapter 1

This limited edition of A Buddhist Life in America: Simplicity in the Complex by Joan Halifax Roshi was presented to her by Charles Daishin Rue Woods on August 14, 2000, at the Omega Institute Rhinebeck, New York.

This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

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