Shambhala Sun | January 2014
Spirit Rock at Twenty-five
In 1975, three young Americans who had recently returned
from years of meditation and study in Asia embarked on an experiment. Starting
with the strict Vipassana meditation in which they were trained, Jack
Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg would teach dharma in the West
as a collaboration among Buddhism’s different meditative traditions.
It was a radical approach, but it worked. Today, the Insight
Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, which they founded that year, is
one of America’s most renowned meditation centers, and the Insight Meditation
community one of the most influential in American Buddhism.
In 1984, Jack Kornfield joined with Insight teachers James
Baraz, Sylvia Boorstein, Anna Douglas, and Howard Cohn to found a new center in
California. It started as a series of Monday-night talks in community centers
and people’s homes. In 1998, Spirit Rock Meditation Center was opened on 411
acres of beautiful undeveloped land in the San Geronimo Valley of Marin County,
about forty-five minutes from San Francisco.
Today, Spirit Rock is a nexus, serving forty thousand
visitors a year. It is close to the city, yet completely in nature. It offers
deep residential retreats and popular afternoon programs. It upholds the core
teachings of Vipassana but complements them with diverse traditions, including
Native American religion, dance, neuroscience, kirtan, and all schools of
Buddhism. The center is known for its commitment to diversity, offering
programs for teens, children, LGBTQ people, and people of color. The famed
Monday-night talks continue, now with a parallel program for kids.
To celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary, Spirit Rock this
year launched a $15.6 million capital campaign to upgrade its facilities
(www.spiritrock.org/capital_campaign). This will allow Spirit Rock to generate
its own solar power, accommodate twice as many guests in the meditation hall,
start offering hermitages, and expand its programs for children and families.
The discussion presented here between Insight teachers Jack Kornfield and
Joseph Goldstein was the centerpiece of a gala evening in support of the