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Recommended Reading

BrianBrian Moderator
edited November 2010 in Buddhism Basics
One of the first things that people who are new to Buddhism ask me is "Can you recommend any good books?"

I'll tell you, my wife and I have been the victims of some BAD books on Buddhism. There's a lot of garbage to wade through before you come across the gems. I don't know how it is in other languages, but the English-language selection can be pretty grim sometimes. I generally divide english-language books into three broad categories:

1: "California Hippie Buddhism" - Books by authors like Jack Kerouac, that make Buddhism out to be a free-ride peace and love deal, where you can do all the drugs you want and wander the countryside, radiating lovingkindess to your fellow man. Terrible. Unfortunately, a great majority of non-Buddhist Americans see Buddhism in this light, thanks to books like this :(

2: "Dry, Scholarly, and Inaccessible" - Many books written by monks who seem to have lost something in trying to communicate with the average layperson. There are books in this category that have merit, but only if you're experienced or you are a scholar. Many 600+ page tomes, containing line-for-line translations of the Pali canon, lack the simple humor or bright outlook that really "clicks" with the Western mindset. My opinion: Save it for later, when you are REALLY into Buddhism.

3: "Just Right" - There are some authors who can't seem to get it wrong, and write books for the Western mind that really speak to you. Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind (pronounced TEEK NAHT HAHN-- Thich is a Vietnamese word meaning "teacher" or "monk"). These are the ones that you come across once in a while and just say....."wow".

So, the purpose of this thread is to help you find books to read if you want to learn more about Buddhism. Feel free to ask any questions or even offer up reviews of any books you've read.
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Comments

  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited December 2003
    Book: "The Miracle of Mindfulness"
    Author: Thich Nhat Hanh, translated by Mobi Ho


    This is a fantastic book to introduce beginners into the practice of meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh writes very beautifully, and uses moments from everyday life in order to pinpoint opportunities for meditation practice. From a letter to a friend about how washing the dishes is the most important thing he's ever done in his life, to a very down-to-earth, almost clinical description of the process of breathing during mediation, this short, well-written book is a perfect introduction to basic buddhist practice and the science of mind-control and meditation. I highly recommend it.

    On a side note, most books by Thich Nhat Hanh are short, well-written, and strikingly clear. I recommend you read other books of his as well, notably the "Heart Sutra".
    [Deleted User]Lucaherberto
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited December 2003
    yeah, i have read my fair share of bad books too. some of my favorites are food for the heart by ajahn chah, well any book by him is good. he didn't write them himself, but they were taken from dhamma talks of his. you can find may of his talks on accesstoinsight also. these might be a little dry for most but i also like buddhist ethics by hammalawa saddhatissa and the buddha's ancient path by piyadassi thera. of all the discorses i've read i think the middle length discourse is my favorite, translated by bhikkhu bodi. now i read mostly books relating to the theravada tradition, but good life good death was an interesting book by ghelek rinpoche?. siddhartha by hesse is a fiction book, but it helped inspire me to seek ordination. if i think of anymore i'll post them.
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited December 2003
    Yes, I agree about "Siddhartha". Its a fictional book by Herman Hesse, almost like "This is what Siddhartha's life would have been like in an alternate universe". It's very inspirational, but if you read it, be sure to remember that it is not a portrayal of what the REAL Siddhartha's life was actually like.
  • edited September 2004
    You could try the Bhagavad-gita (www.asitis.com). Its more Krishna then Buddhist but its still a very interesting read.

    I studied under a shaolin master for a year and he wrote a book with a very scientific outlook on religion(when i say religion its more of a guide on how to live your life well)that i could make available to anyone who was interested.
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited September 2004
    Hey garcon!

    I have read the bhagavad-gita, and I agree. It offers a snapshot of the hindu faith that can help put buddhism from that era into historical perspective. Besides, many of the basic principles are essentially the same.

    --

    I'd be interested in reading your sifu's work. Is it something you can post, or something that is printed?
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 2005
    Heart of the Bodhi tree by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

    Buddhism: Its doctrines and methods,
    The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects,
    (The power of Emptiness,
    Mipam-which are fiction books with buddhist subjects)
    all by Alexandra David-Neel and Lama Yogden which may be out of print but I have found them in libraries.

    And for someone just starting out What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited March 2005
    Three books which I found user-friendly, amusing and extremely instructive were the trilogy by Lama Surya Das (originally a Jew from Manhattan!) "Awakening the Buddha within", "Awakening the Sacred" and Awakening the Buddhist Heart".
    One of the best and most enduring books is without doubt "The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche and more recently a book which has really switched some lights on for me is
    "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Mindblowingly simple yet stunningly illuminating. :bowdown:

    "A book is no more instructive for being dull, nor less scholarly for being amusing. What we learn with pleasure we seldom forget." (I have no idea who said this, but I have to agree with them.) :)
    NerimaJRick49
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited March 2005
    "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry"
    By Jack Kornfield

    This is a great book. We tend to think that after someone reaches enlightenment, they become some luminous guru, sitting in constant meditation day and night, in a temple or other abode which allows pilgrims seeking knowledge to come visit the great wise one.

    Kornfield reminds us that many people have acheived moments of enlightenment in this world and in this lifetime, and yet they still have to go to work the next day, get the kids off to school, mow the lawn, and do the laundry. It's easy to read and has many illuminating insights into bringing peace into everyday life. I recommend it :)
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited March 2005
    In one of the books by Lama Surya Das, he quotes "before enlightenment, carry water, chop wood. After enlightnment, carry water, chop wood". Same old same old.... :lol:
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited March 2005
    'The Good Heart'. An exploration of Christianity in a modern world, and its' striking similarities to Buddhism. One may ask ones' self what kind of an authority does His Holiness think he is, to feel he can comment on Christianity?
    He is an extremely erudite and intelligent man, and has extensively studied all the world's leading religions in great detail. A worthwhile book, in my opinion.
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited April 2005
    Buddhism: Plain and Simple by Steven Hagen was my first stepping stone on the path. It's an attempt to look at Buddhism without cultural influences to get at the heart of the Dharma.
    Carrieryman
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited April 2005
    Welcome to the site, ZenLunatic :)
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited April 2005
    Thank you kindly :)
  • edited April 2005
    I disagree with your opinion on Jack Kerouac concerning of his books. "Some of the Dharma", which was one of the last Kerouac books released, contains a lot of traditional Buddhist thoughts and elements.
    It was written during his seclusion in a cabin, with little food, and no outside contact.
    It is probably the ONLY book that he wrote with no outside influences and no drugs or alcohol.

    Right now I'm in the middle of reading (again) a book by Zen Master Dogen called "Beyond Thinking". It's a guide to Zazen teachings.
  • angulimalaangulimala Veteran
    edited May 2005
    hi,
    have anyone read 'buddhism in the nutshell'?i think it is decent book for newbies in buddhism.
    [Deleted User]
  • edited May 2005
    Brian wrote:
    "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry"
    By Jack Kornfield

    This is a great book. We tend to think that after someone reaches enlightenment, they become some luminous guru, sitting in constant meditation day and night, in a temple or other abode which allows pilgrims seeking knowledge to come visit the great wise one.

    Kornfield reminds us that many people have acheived moments of enlightenment in this world and in this lifetime, and yet they still have to go to work the next day, get the kids off to school, mow the lawn, and do the laundry. It's easy to read and has many illuminating insights into bringing peace into everyday life. I recommend it :)

    Brian,

    I did read this book and I agree; it's a great book. It definitely describes MY life! :lol: :lol:

    Seriously though, I could really relate because I am constantly looking for ways to get more peace and tranquility in my life---not easy to attain with young children! :lol:

    Adiana :D :D
  • edited May 2005
    When starting my investigation (for want of a better term) of Buddhism, I read three books by the Dalai Lama. While I did gain some insight and inspiration, I felt that maybe these books should have come later in my learning. I also read one book by Jack Kornfield and have listened to one of his CD's. Very helpful to this beginner.

    I just started reading my first book by Thich Nhat Hanh, the above mentioned "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching". It is explaining the Four Noble Truths in a way this novice can understand and I am sure the entire book will be a much needed step in my learning.

    :ot: It has been hard for me to find services where I live. There are meditation groups all over; but I hope to go into Los angeles tomorrow and see a temple.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited May 2005
    Good luck with that, Tiger...(!) let us know how you get on..... :) Try also the Trilogy by Lama Surya Das (have mentioned him before) 'Awakening the Buddha within', 'Awakening the Sacred' and 'Awakening the Buddhist Heart'. All eminently readable, amusing, anecdotal and - human! :)
  • edited May 2005
    federica wrote:
    Good luck with that, Tiger...(!) let us know how you get on..... :) Try also the Trilogy by Lama Surya Das (have mentioned him before) 'Awakening the Buddha within', 'Awakening the Sacred' and 'Awakening the Buddhist Heart'. All eminently readable, amusing, anecdotal and - human! :)

    Fed,

    You have mentioned some books that I definitely want to read. :D

    Adiana :bigclap: :bigclap:
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited May 2005
    Maybe we can set up some kind of buddhist book exchange here? Have a list of the books you have and others can offer a trade. Media mail is fairly inexpensive, so I think it'd be quite a deal. Anyone interested?
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited May 2005
    That is actually a really good idea, ZL. Count me in.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited May 2005
    I'm all for it, even tho' I do live in France.... but hey, share 'n' share alike....
    Maybe I can post you some books, and you can pay my airfare over to see you guys..... :lol:
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited May 2005
    Really, Fed...we'd much rather come over there to visit!

    Brian, can you add something to the user profile for this? Like "books available to trade" and "books looking for"?

    I'd like the kornfield laundry book. All though my wife does most of the laundry (and i DO hear about that, from time to time!)
    Progman
  • edited May 2005
    Hi Everyone!

    I think that sounds great; I like the idea of a book exchange. I live in Anderson, Indiana so there should be no problem. Fed, like the others, maybe one day I can go to France; I haven't been to France in a long time. GEEZ! I was maybe 14 when I was there last?!

    :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Adiana
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited May 2005
    .... Well, it's still very French here.... :) I'd like that book too, Zen... the only way I can buy good Buddhist books at the mo' is on Amazon.... you can imagine the hassle, buying English books for shipping to france....phew! can't afford it any more....! :)
  • edited May 2005
    A really good book, that helped me in my practice, is:

    "Zen Mind Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki

    I highly reccomend it!
  • edited June 2005
    A good book is The little Book of Wisdom by the Dalai Lama. It has loads of good quotes and can fit in your pocket! I re-read it all the time, sometimes if you're feeling down it can remind you what life (and buddhism) is all for.
  • edited June 2005
    heres a couple that I'd take to the desert island with me. The Tibetan book of living and dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche. "living Zen' and "everyday Zen" by Charlotte Joko Beck. and at Least one or two Thich Nhat Hahn books "no death, no fear" oh yes and everything ever written by John Daido Loori :bowdown: May I be fortunate enough in this life to study under him @ the Zen Mountain Monestary. lots more but these are a start

    ^gassho^
  • edited June 2005
    Sorry to double post but I forgot two things. 1) "What the Buddha taught" byWalpola Rahula probably the best book for someone interested in Buddhism. straight ahead no fancy stuff just the stuff.
    and 2) I would be interested in the book exchange I have a very extensive library and my wife would appreciate me not spending more money on books she wont read ;)
  • edited June 2005
    I too like the idea of a book exchange, but alas being a newbie I have nothing Buddhist to share.

    Federica I can offer English fiction books if that is something you cannot find easily in France.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I have read too much over too many years! But these are the books to which I return, time after time, and are always within reach of my desk and my prayer stool:

    Two summaries of 'basic Buddhism':

    The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh (Rider, London. 1998. ISBN 0 7126 7003 3)

    The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (Rider, London. 1992. ISBN 0 7126 7139 0)

    Two treatises:

    Buddha Nature by Thrangu Rinpoche (Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Kathmandu. 1988. ISBN 962 7341 02 9)
    This is subtitled Ten Teachings on the Uttara Tantra Shastra and includes question and answer sessions after each teaching. A very useful and informative book, especially if you are interested in tantra.

    You Are The Eyes Of The World by Longchenpa (Snow Lion, New York. 2000. ISBN 1-55939-140-5)
    This is on of two books I am still to attached to (the other is The Gospel of Thomas). I don't know how to describe it so I may start a thread about it.

    And, finally:

    Universal Wisdom Bede Griffiths (Fount, London. 1994. ISBN 0 00 627679 2)
    This is a compendium of sacred texts, including the Upanishads, the Gita, the Dhammapad, the Mahayana Shraddhotpada Shastra, the Tao, Sikh writings, suras from the Quran, poems by Rumi, and Jewish and Christian scriptures. And, with all that, commentary by Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB, who spent so much of his monastic life at Shantivanam.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited June 2005
    The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying was my first "sledgehammer between the eyes" if you like; it sat on the bookshelf, and said, 'Hi Fede, here's the book you've been waiting for; it was written just for you, by the way!' It was one of the most profound turning-points in my life, and confirmed everything I believed, but at one and the same time, turned my entire existence upside down. Funnily enough, it was my mother, a staunch, lifelong church-going Roman Catholic, who pointed me toward it.... Funny how things can be, huh? :)
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    F.,

    Do you subscribe to Sogyal Rinpoche's "Daily Glimpse"?

    I doubt if any here do not know Sogyal Rinpoche but, just for you, the one person who has yet to encounter his warmth and compassion, here is a link:
    http://www.rigpa.org/
    Jerm
  • edited June 2005
    I like the book "Living Buddha, Living Christ" by Thich Naht Hanh. If you're a Buddhist with Christian background or the other way around, you will enjoy this book. Instead of asking for division and separation, Thich Naht Hanh seeks unity between religions of the world and gives good ways to better improve relationships between Christians and Buddhists.

    Another good read is "Buddhism, Plain and Simple" by Steve Hagen. It is a short and simple description of Buddhism.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Two wonderful books for those who, like myself, still find nourishment and inspiration in the Christian gospel:

    The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian by roshiRobert Aitkin, Brother David Steindl-Rast

    and (although this is somewhat technical and 'chewy'):
    The Emptying God edited by Cobb/Ives: this is a wonderful collection of essays on sunyatta and kenosis

    For anyone who wants to try Buddhsit and other mediatation techniques within a Christian context, the work of Fr. Anthony de Mello, especially Sadhana, is worth visiting.
  • edited June 2005
    I just bought The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. I thought I would have a hard time finding it, but there it wa at Barnes and Noble along with many other books by Thich Nhat Hanh.

    I hope to begin reading it tomorrow but be warned I may have MANY questions afterwards.
    I also bought a little book of daily wisdom by the Dali Lama. It looked interesting.

    Some books I have tried to look at in the past were written in a way that was jsut to hard to grasp. I also skimmed the Dummies guide to Buddhism which seemed good in explaing the background and gave additional sources to read which one of them was the Heart of Buddha's Teaching. This book also talked about many magazines that one can get on Buddhism. I am going on the internet tomorrow to look up a few.

    Any thoughts on monthly magazines???

    I am glad to be a part of this forum and hopefully you will welcome my voracious curiosity with patience :D
  • edited June 2005
    By the way forgive the lack of spell checking I did in the last post.....geez...
  • ZhuZhu
    edited June 2005
    My all-time favourite books are:
    • SHAMBHALA: THE SACRED PATH OF THE WARRIOR, by Chogyam Trungpa (1995, Shambhala Publications, Boston).
    - this book is founded on Buddhism but seeks a non-sectarian approach to everyday life
    • AT HOME IN THE MUDDY WATER, A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos, by Ezra Bayda (2004, Shambhala Publications, Boston).
    - this book is based on Zen Buddhism (in the style of Charlotte Joko Beck) but focuses on understanding the "now" of everyday life

    Both books have become my favourite as their non-sectarian approach promotes the examination of your life as it really is: in the past I had a tendency to try to escape my own life by seeking to superimpose other rituals and cultural frameworks in an effort to "dress up" what I saw as my own drab reality. These books have taught me to accept my life as it is, and to use it as a starting point for practice.

    Best wishes, Zhu ;)
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited June 2005
    A good all around buddhist magazine is Tricycle magazine, casthinker :)
  • edited June 2005
    I have a subscription to Living Buddhism and I really like it. Tricycle is also another good magazine that I read as well.

    Adiana :) :)
  • LincLinc Community Instigator Detroit Moderator
    edited June 2005
    Brian wrote:
    A good all around buddhist magazine is Tricycle magazine, casthinker :)
    Yeah, I have a subscription to that one.
  • edited June 2005
    Thanks for the book ideas. have been going to the bookstore lately, so many titles. You have narrowed my choices down. Now I have the "must read as soon as possible" "can read later" and then maybe read sometiime. I have just become interested in Buddism and want to learn as much as I can


    charla
  • BrianBrian Moderator
    edited June 2005
    Welcome to our site, charla :)
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited June 2005
    1. Did a book exchange get off of the ground?
    2. Are the stated buddhist magazine available worldwide? I have not heard of them in Aust.
    3. have just finished reading 'Buddhism for Busy People', it was quite easy to read and gave a brief but thorough introduction to buddhism, as the author, David Michie is a bit of an accidental buddhist. Would definitely recommend for a beginner.
  • SabineSabine Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Oooh, I plan on going to the bookstore some time this week. Very helpful, thanks :bigclap:
  • edited June 2005
    Hi. I've been reading this site fora a few days and have found it very helpful. I am currently reading "Thorson's Way Of Zen", which offers a lot of basic info. (practices, history, beliefs, etc.) on Zen Buddhism. Also, I would reccomend "Mind Of Clear Light" by his holiness the Dali Lama, which has a lot on buddhist beliefs about death and Tantric phisiology and psychology. However, the subject-matter can be a little difficulr to grasp at times, so I wouldn't resd it without basic knowledge of buddhism.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I notice that most of the books referred to here are secondary or, even, tertiary, works.

    It is, I submit, imnporant to go back to the original suttas as well as reading Western commentaries.
  • emmakemmak Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I notice that most of the books referred to here are secondary or, even, tertiary, works.

    It is, I submit, imnporant to go back to the original suttas as well as reading Western commentaries.
    Very good point, I also had observed this. Speaking for myself, I am a little daunted by the original suttas. What would you recommend as an absolute first thing ever to read in the way of the original writings? :confused:
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I would suggest the Dhammapada and the Heart Sutra.
    Buddha_Fan22
  • SabineSabine Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I notice that most of the books referred to here are secondary or, even, tertiary, works.

    It is, I submit, imnporant to go back to the original suttas as well as reading Western commentaries.
    That's true, but...at the local bookstore, a volume of the original suttas is over my current money limit of $25. :o (About 33-34 euros, I believe) I'll get there one day. :bawling:
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