Twenty years ago, when I was a college student, I got turned on to spirituality largely by reading Ram Dass' "Be Here Now." Kornfield's book could do the same thing for thousands of people today (to the consternation of apologists for other religions!).
A Path with Heart is pretty much my favorite book on spirituality. It contains both useful practical advice on living a spiritual life and amazing esoteric descriptions of super-normal states. Numerous pages contain "gems" that speak directly to my personal struggles and experiences. And Kornfield has a great sense of humor with deep compassion.
One of the things that attracts me to Buddhism is its relative lack of superstition and dogmatism. The essential teaching is practical, down-to-earth, and perfectly acceptable to a scientifically minded person. Still, many Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and Kornfield describes some pretty far out experiences involving, for example, reincarnation, angelic beings, and psychic powers.
Kornfield is a wonderful writer, and I hear that he is such a good teacher that one has to enter a lottery to get the chance to go to one of his retreats. He seems to be a charismatic, highly advanced being (though, who am I to judge?). But he would be the first to warn against starry-eyed adulation of him. An oft-repeated theme throughout the book -- and the topic of one whole chapter -- was the need to beware of unhealthy, exploitative relationships with teachers. Every spiritual seeker has one or more fallings-out with a teacher, he says. These fallings-out can be painful and damaging, but we must learn to learn from such events.
Many people get the impression that Buddhism is an austere, impersonal, ascetic religion, with little of the bhakti (devotion) found in many Christian and Hindu faiths. This book challenges that perception. Indeed, it's amazing how loving Buddhists can be, considering that they tend not to believe in God! One thing that impresses me is his apparently complete lack of cynicism and pessimism. Kornfield has only good things to say about every major religion.
In fact, another theme of the book is that Buddhism too should not be treated as a dogmatic teaching that we should grasp on to. Rather, it is a tool to be used to get where we want to go. Teachings and paths should be left behind when no longer needed, like a boat used to cross a river. (I'm reminded of Kornfield's story about a retreat in which two of his students, a married couple, were struggling hard to relax into meditation. Kornfield advised them to stop being so serious and to make love. They started to show up in the meditation hall smiling.)
I'm still not completely convinced that a spiritual seeker can get by without faith and trust in some sort of divine being or essence. But this books goes a long way to showing how an atheist can have faith and hope.
If you're on a spiritual path, or even if you're just curious and open-minded, read this book. (I feel like I'm writing an ad.)
I follow a pathway of self-teaching, formerly with a teacher, and now on my own. Kornfield's book was of immense importance to me in making my decision to stay or leave a particular metaphysical church group following disclosure of the married teacher/minister's affair with a fellow student. He succinctly and with HEART put into words my emotional reaction, gut feelings and intellectual musings of the situation, resulting in my growth as a human being. I decided to leave the group because it was unable to maintain what I believed to be a minimal standard for behavior, and Kornfield was able to assist me in deciding what my boundaries would be. I have read the entire book many times since I first found it years ago and it remains fresh and applicable to whatever I might question. A PATH WITH HEART IS A MUST FOR ANY SPIRITUAL SEEKER.