Salzberg, Sharon

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ADDRESSES: Office—Insight Meditation Society, 1230 Pleasant St., Barre, MA 01005; fax: 978-355-6398.

CAREER: Buddhist teacher, meditation leader, and writer. Cofounder of Insight Meditation Society, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and Forest Refuge.


Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1995.

A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom, and Compassion, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1997.

(Editor) Voices of Insight, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1999.

Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Author of audio tapes, including Lovingkindness Meditation; writer, with Joseph Goldstein, of Insight Meditation: A Complete Correspondence Course. Contributor to The Buddha Smiles: A Collection of Dharmatoons, by Mari Stein, White Cloud Press, 1999.

SIDELIGHTS: Sharon Salzberg is a student of Buddhism who has been leading meditation retreats since 1974. She is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the author of a number of books, including her first, a guide to the practice of meditations titled Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Amy Hollowell reviewed the volume in Tricycle, noting that the parts through which Salzberg suggests that the whole may be discovered are "love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity—the four brahma-viharas, 'divine states of dwelling.' 'By practicing these meditations,' writes Salzberg, 'we establish love (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha)asour home.'" Hollowell said Salzberg's work is elegant for her "clarity, her sincerity, her pure manifestation of the dharma."

Larry Smith reviewed A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom, and Compassion in Parabola. Smith noted that other teachers from the Insight Meditation Society, including Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, have published volumes, but added that "Salzberg's is by far the softest among these gentle teachers. … Like the Dalai Lama, the Insight Meditation writers are joyful and compassionate mentors whose metta, or lovingkindness, informs all their motives and actions." The book is divided into three sections, titled "The Spirit of Meditation," "The Practice of Transformation," and "Living with Wisdom and Compassion." Within each, Salzberg offer anecdotes from her own practice and those of her friends and teachers. Smith called the book "a gift, moving us clearly and tenderly toward an opening of the heart."

A Publishers Weekly reviewer said that with A Heart as Wide as the World, "Salzberg has written a book brimming with the mindfulness, wisdom and compassion that she teaches so well."

Voices of Insight, edited by Salzberg, contains the writings of eighteen teachers of insight meditation, including Salzberg, Kornfield and Goldstein, and is divided into three parts: "The Buddha and the Lineage of Teachers," "The Dharma and Understanding Practice," and "The Sangha and Practice in Daily Life." In the first section Salzberg contributes a piece on her chief mentor, titled "The Blessings of Dipa Ma." Kornfield explains the two types of Buddhist meditation and two types of suffering in his "Teachings of Ajahn Chah." Other contributors to the section include Kamala Masters, Steven Smith, Sylvia Boorstein, and Carol Wilson, who retells the lives of early Buddhist women. Chris Bazzett wrote for New Pages online that in this section, "we find no dry, dull, history lesson, but chapters that explore the relationships between teachers and students, and how ultimately we must learn to trust ourselves as the teacher."

Contributors to the book include Boorstein, Narayan Liebenson-Grady, Bhanti Gunaratana, Ajahn Sumedho, Rodney Smith, Larry Rosenberg, Christopher Titmuss, and Steve Armstrong. Smith felt the "most inspiring pieces" to be "Path of Parenting," by Kornfield, and Gavin Harrison's essay on his acceptance and coming to terms with HIV, and concluded his Parabola review by saying that "the book is full of good will and quiet wisdom. It is clearly a course in meditation and mindfulness and a vital introduction to some of the best teachers now practicing." A Publishers Weekly contributor called Voices of Insight "extraordinary not only for the depth of wisdom made accessible through a range of approaches … but for the high quality of much of the prose." The royalties from the collection were earmarked for a fund supporting the care of American spiritual leader Ram Dass, who suffered a stroke.

In Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience Salzberg writes of her first exposure to Buddhism in 1968, while she was taking a course in Asian philosophy and how it helped to relieve some of the sadness she felt following the death of her mother when Salzberg was nine. In 1970, at the age of eighteen, she traveled to India to learn to meditate and stayed for more than three years, studying with teachers from India, Tibet, and Burma. In writing the book, she draws on these experiences and on what she learned from her spiritual teachers who showed her how the pain of her life qualified her to teach others.

"This is the best book about faith that we have read in a long time," wrote Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat for the Spirituality and Health Web site. "We like the distinctions Salzberg makes between faith and belief. They seem especially cogent in these times when fundamentalism is so popular around the world. And finally, we would like to affirm with Salzberg that abiding faith contains wonder, questing, openness, and connections."

A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Salzberg shows that, in its essence, faith is a love of life that breaks out as it is exposed to real forces. Truth feeds faith. This is a work of great truth and great heart."



Salzberg, Sharon, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2002.


American Health for Women, April, 1998, Amy Gross, "A Prescription for Happiness" (interview), pp. 32, 35.

Booklist, October 1, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom, and Compassion, p. 289.

Choice, October, 2000, J. P. McDermott, review of Voices of Insight, p. 349.

Natural Health, November-December, 1995, Mirka Knaster, review of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, p. 138.

O, September, 2002, Cathleen Medwick, "Finding the Connection: Believe It or Not, Faith Doesn't Require Religious Fervor or Blind Trust" (interview), p. 131.

Parabola, May, 1998, Larry Smith, review of A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom, and Compassion, pp. 112-115; August, 2000, Larry Smith, review of Voices of Insight, pp. 130, 132, 134, 136, 138.

Publishers Weekly, November 24, 1997, review of A Heart as Wide as the World, p. 68; October 11, 1999, review of Voices of Insight, p. 70; July 1, 2002, Tracy Cochran, "PW talks with Sharon Salzberg," p. 74.

Tricycle, summer, 1995, Amy Hollowell, review of Lovingkindness, pp. 102-104.

ONLINE, (October 22, 2002), Chris Bazzett, review of Voices of Insight.

Spirituality and Health Web site, (October 22, 2002), Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat, reviews of A Heart as Wide as the World and Faith.*