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Good Books on Buddhism/Spirituality

I love Buddhism and most things Spiritual but ironically I find most books on the subjects boring as hell. All the metaphoric and spiritual writing is good for quotations and little nuggets of wisdom but whole books I find it a chore to keep reading.

I liked Sam harris waking up, Buddhism plain and simple, Mindfulness in plain English and the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh but books like The Power of Now by Eckart Toll and Buddhism without belief by Stephen Batchelor I found boring as hell.

Any other good books on the subject without too much jargon? There was one I had been recommended at a Sangha written by a guy who left Buddhism and returned to it years later but I can't remember the title if I could take a shot in the dark and ask you guys.

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Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    It sounds to me as if you're looking for the kinds of 'easy listening' books the sound-bytes of which are easy to swallow and follow. Sometimes, we have to plough through what seems boring and permit the inner wisdom to reach us.... A pearl isn't the easiest thing to extract, and its casing is far from pretty....Simply because something is boring, doesn't mean it's useless.

    dhammachickTiggerkarastiDhammika
  • MingleMingle Veteran

    @federica said:
    It sounds to me as if you're looking for the kinds of 'easy listening' books the sound-bytes of which are easy to swallow and follow. Sometimes, we have to plough through what seems boring and permit the inner wisdom to reach us.... A pearl isn't the easiest thing to extract, and its casing is far from pretty....Simply because something is boring, doesn't mean it's useless.

    True, I just find the wisdom a bit difficult to absorb when its constant riddles. I prefer things to sound blunt and factual.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited January 16

    Have you stopped to consider that these books are not meant to be read in one chunk, but taken in small doses so that you have time to ponder the 'riddles'....?
    The mistake you might be making is one of believing you have to read it all, and read it from end to end, and let it sink into you.

    In many cases, that's not The Way. The Dhamma is not like that, why do you expect its teachings to be otherwise?

    ZenCanuck
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited January 16

    Everything we encounter teaches us something. Both about 'it' and about ourselves.

  • @Mingle said:
    I love Buddhism and most things Spiritual but ironically I find most books on the subjects boring as hell.

    Indeed. Me too. Tend to get my info on the interweb. I like books with lots of pictures and simple initiatory tales. A tactic I found useful was to ask for books I wanted to read at libraries and bookstores - not necessarily that they had been written ... Have you tried getting Buddhist comics?

    I am still on the lookout for the following titles:

    • 'How to Become Enlightened in a Week'
    • 'A Zen Guide to Book Burning'
    • 'Dharma Free Buddhism'

    Sorry I could not be of more help :3

    kerance
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    Lama Surya Das is awesome too

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    @federica said:
    Have you stopped to consider that these books are not meant to be read in one chunk, but taken in small doses so that you have time to ponder the 'riddles'....?
    The mistake you might be making is one of believing you have to read it all, and read it from end to end, and let it sink into you.

    I very much agree with @federica. While reading The Mind & The Way I stopped at the end of every chapter or concept to ponder it, this way I could really get my head around what it was trying to say. Not just what I was reading, meaning the actual words but what those words really meant. Once I grasped that I moved on to the next topic. It helped me to really contemplate what it was discussing.

    I would recommend The Mind & The Way to anyone new to buddhism. I don't know where you are at @Mingle....I assume years past where I am so this book might be too ABC for you. I think it's a great read and really helped me understand some concepts I didn't before I read it. Great explanations, examples and a question and answer portion at the end of each chapter.

  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    @Mingle said:
    I love Buddhism and most things Spiritual but ironically I find most books on the subjects boring as hell. All the metaphoric and spiritual writing is good for quotations and little nuggets of wisdom but whole books I find it a chore to keep reading.

    Any other good books on the subject without too much jargon?

    Yes.

    Huston Smith's books are completely devoid of the flowery platitudes; I think you might like them. His landmark work is The Religions of Man, since updated and retitled The World's Religions. He describes in turn the major religions of the world, and does so with deep love and respect for religion in general but remarkable objectivity in each chapter. He subsequently wrote (with a coauthor) a similar book dedicated specifically to Buddhism. These books are not light reading --- he writes in great loving detail, for an intelligent audience -- but they may be just what you're looking for.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Indeed, dharma books aren't meant to read like adventure novels. It often takes me months to get through some of them, because I not only have to stop and contemplate what is being said, but I often write about it as well. They are the ones that for me, provide the most value to my actually learning and having the dharma work through my life.

    Sometimes, there are some that look great, and I can't read them. But it's not because the book is boring, it is because my understanding just isn't there yet. I can't get meaning out of it no matter how hard I try. It's like trying to juice a banana, lol. But that isn't the book, it's my lack of level of understanding. Later on, I might go back and then it is easier to grasp because I have learned more. Some teachers just speak more to me than others. Most of my reading, however, is Tibetan in nature because that is my practice. So it's of little use to someone who might be Theravadan or secular etc.

    The first 2 books I read when I started (before I had a teacher or a path) were TNH's The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings and Sogyal Rinpoche's The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. That one is less "Tibetan" than most, though it has some Tibetan end of life stuff in it, there is plenty of good information as well. I've read it multiple times, and it is entirely dog eared and highlighted. I've enjoyed several of Trungpa's books, but his Ocean of Dharma has been very good. But it's an expensive investment if it doesn't work for you. I think the other one I liked best of his was "Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior" but again, it might not be your type of book. The library is a good option so you don't end up spending money on stuff you don't like.

    lobsterZenCanuckKerome
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    @karasti said:
    Most of my reading, however, is Tibetan in nature because that is my practice. So it's of little use to someone who might be Theravadan or secular etc.

    Not to piggy back off of @Mingle discussion here but I was just wondering how you determined that Tibetan was your practice or how does one determine what their pratice is? Does it take years to determine this? Does it become obvious because of what you believe or do you need to read about all of them to know where you are? for example, I like to believe in reincarnation, does that mean I believe in a specific Buddhist teaching

    I am curious because only once I came to this forum did I even realize there are so many different Buddhist practices. I only knew there was Theravada and Mahayana because I read that early on.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    For me, it was basically a matter of what was available to me. If I lived in an urban area, it's possible I would have made the same choice. I quite enjoy it. But perhaps I wouldn't have. I am 250 miles from the nearest metro area, which is where my teacher lives. But he happens to be the only teacher that comes to this part of the state, so that is how I met him. So it was a choice, but a choice made more out of necessity. I had gotten to a point in my home/self practice that I had way more questions than answers and was caught up in not knowing what to do. Then a few weeks later someone posted a poster at a local store for a weekend retreat with a Buddhist monk, so I jumped at it. A year later I took refuge vows from him. I still haven't adopted everything my teacher believes in, but I don't have to, thankfully. It just happens that a lot of the stuff that goes into Tibetan Buddhism is stuff I enjoy. Some of it I don't, and it took a lot of learning and humbleness to understand and accept it, even if I didn't adopt it for myself.

    Most people who have multiple options seem to spend time visiting various centers and teachers until they find one that feels like home. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears, and I find that to have been true at every turn in my life where a teacher of any sort entered the picture.

    Tigger
  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

    My fab four:

    Ajahn Chah
    Ajahn Brahm
    Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
    Thich Nhat Hanh

  • NamadaNamada Veteran

    Her its a link to many dhamma talks from diffrent teachers, and also books, some are short others are long.

    http://www.dhammatalks.net/

    TiggerJaySonlobsterkarasti
  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

    Bookmarked! Amazing.

    Namada
  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran
    edited January 16

    Here's a link to all the audio versions if anyone's interested: http://www.dhammatalks.org/mp3_collections_index.html

    (Correction. I was mistaken. Those aren't all the talks. They are just the talks from one of the teachers. Jumped the gun...)

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    Awesome, thanks @Namada & @JaySon.

    Namada
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    The complete works of Osho (well nearly) can be found as audio lectures at

    http://www.oshoworld.com/

    Not sure if anyone else is interested, and I realise at least @lobster would put him in with Trungpa as somewhat flawed, but I still enjoy him.

    And a great many holy texts can be found here...

    http://www.holybooks.com/

    JaySon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Any other good books on the subject without too much jargon?

    The "Dhammapada"

    Tara1978
  • just_sojust_so Explorer

    The one I've purchased and given away the most is What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.

    To follow up on @federica's point, here is an excerpt from the Preface, a recommendation to the "Western reader":

    "I would ask him, if he is interested, to take up on his first reading the opening chapter, and then go to Chapters V, VII and VIII, returning to Chapters II, III, IV and VI when the general sense is clearer."

    federica
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @just_so said:
    The one I've purchased and given away the most is What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.

    To follow up on @federica's point, here is an excerpt from the Preface, a recommendation to the "Western reader":

    "I would ask him, if he is interested, to take up on his first reading the opening chapter, and then go to Chapters V, VII and VIII, returning to Chapters II, III, IV and VI when the general sense is clearer."

    What The Buddha Taught is a very dry read. I had to really push through it

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I've also enjoyed Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, and Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Both of those are pretty clear and lacking in jargon.

    Geshe Kelsang Gyatso I found a little wordy and not really in tune with a sparse view on the dharma. I ended up shelving him at least temporarily after a chapter or so.

    In terms of more general spirituality, I've found Tao to be a good complement to Buddhism, and so the works of it's three great sages are recommended as short and interesting reads. The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and the Way of Chuang Tzu are both classics, I've not yet read Lieh Tzu.

  • ZenCanuckZenCanuck Toronto, ON Explorer

    @federica said:
    Have you stopped to consider that these books are not meant to be read in one chunk, but taken in small doses so that you have time to ponder the 'riddles'....?
    The mistake you might be making is one of believing you have to read it all, and read it from end to end, and let it sink into you.

    In many cases, that's not The Way. The Dhamma is not like that, why do you expect its teachings to be otherwise?

    I'm finding this with Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Art of Power". Damn, it's so insight-rich I have to read it slowly because I keep looking up to think about things. They must have thought I was majorly ADHD on the subway the other day!

    But seriously, it is SO good, speaking to me with exactly what I need to read at the right time in my life. OTOH, I just finished his book on helping Israelis & Palestinians find peace and I found it less interesting than I thought I would, but partly because the last part was all about mindfulness, meditation, how to practice, etc. which was a bit redundant for me.

  • ZenCanuckZenCanuck Toronto, ON Explorer

    @Kerome said:
    I've also enjoyed Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, and Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Both of those are pretty clear and lacking in jargon.

    Geshe Kelsang Gyatso I found a little wordy and not really in tune with a sparse view on the dharma. I ended up shelving him at least temporarily after a chapter or so.

    In terms of more general spirituality, I've found Tao to be a good complement to Buddhism, and so the works of it's three great sages are recommended as short and interesting reads. The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and the Way of Chuang Tzu are both classics, I've not yet read Lieh Tzu.

    I want to read The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching! We've been reading parts of it out in the weekly meditation group I go too and it's really piqued my interest. Tragically, I didn't find it at the bookstores I went to a few weeks ago. I suspect that's another one I'm going to have to read slowly because it's so insightful I'll keep stopping to think...

  • ZenCanuckZenCanuck Toronto, ON Explorer

    @Mingle said:
    I love Buddhism and most things Spiritual but ironically I find most books on the subjects boring as hell. All the metaphoric and spiritual writing is good for quotations and little nuggets of wisdom but whole books I find it a chore to keep reading.

    I liked Sam harris waking up, Buddhism plain and simple, Mindfulness in plain English and the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh but books like The Power of Now by Eckart Toll and Buddhism without belief by Stephen Batchelor I found boring as hell.

    Any other good books on the subject without too much jargon? There was one I had been recommended at a Sangha written by a guy who left Buddhism and returned to it years later but I can't remember the title if I could take a shot in the dark and ask you guys.

    I started off with Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance book which a fellow Pagan friend had given to me for Christmas several years back. Read it twice but was too closed to deal with it. Pulled it out this summer when I made a real commitment to get my s**t together and cried through several pieces of it. It's now kind of my workbook and I listen to a lot of her talks at tarabrach.com and also I do a ten-minute guided meditation she offers every morning before breakfast.

  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

    The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings is good.

    Gyatso can be a dense read. His meditation manual, The New Meditation Handbook, is gold. It lays out Lamrim brilliantly.

    Food For The Heart by Ajahn Chah is amazing.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Another one I have found useful is a collection of different authors and their take on putting compassion into action. "Radical Compassion." It is a book that was put out for Naropa University's anniversary and they use it in teaching some of their classes. Very good stuff in that one. I've also enjoyed many biographical types of stories, people telling their stories of Buddhism. "Dharma in Hell: The Prison Writings of Fleet Maul" is a good one in that category.

    JaySon
  • JaySonJaySon Everywhere in the Cosmos Veteran

    @karasti said:
    Another one I have found useful is a collection of different authors and their take on putting compassion into action. "Radical Compassion." It is a book that was put out for Naropa University's anniversary and they use it in teaching some of their classes. Very good stuff in that one. I've also enjoyed many biographical types of stories, people telling their stories of Buddhism. "Dharma in Hell: The Prison Writings of Fleet Maul" is a good one in that category.

    Can't seem to find that one. Have a link?

  • You might like this true tale of Buddhist terrorists
    https://www.wired.com/1996/07/aum/
    'The Cult at the End of the World'

    I suppose more an exploration of how not to think ...
    I loved it - but then death and destruction are such fun - not? :p

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    ...And here's the latest photo (from @lobster's link) of guru Shoko Asahara

    lobsterTiggerZenCanuck
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    I'm surprised that picture didn't go up in flames when Trumps face was put on it.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Jayson the Radical Compassion one is put out by Shambhala Publications. I have it on my kindle so I got it on Amazon along with the prison one (wasn't sure which one you meant). I think both are available in normal book form too. The first one would also be available on Shambhala's website I think.

    JaySon
  • ZenCanuckZenCanuck Toronto, ON Explorer

    @Tigger said:
    I'm surprised that picture didn't go up in flames when Trumps face was put on it.

    I hope the guru isn't possessed by an evil spirit as a result :)

    Tigger
  • ZenCanuckZenCanuck Toronto, ON Explorer

    @Shoshin said:
    ...And here's the latest photo (from @lobster's link) of guru Shoko Asahara

    Oh geez, I didn't realize he was the leader of that nutty Japanese cult. Just now reading the Wired magazine article I probably read 21 years ago and have long since forgotten about !

  • shep83shep83 wisbech, cambigshire, uk Explorer

    The tibetan book of living and dying is a must read..

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran
    edited February 21

    Yes, @shep83 I'm in the middle of that book right now. It is a really good read. I thought it would be sad and morbid but it's not. I love the different quotes in the book and the stories. I have been absolutely terrified of death my entire life and suffer thinking of the day my parents pass away or my own death...I'm hoping this book helps with that.

  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    Living Buddha Living Christ is a great read for Westerners whose religious context is more systematic and Abrahamic

  • justushobbitsjustushobbits Virginia New

    The collected teachings of Ajahn Chah

  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    Another book I've recently been reading is an anthology called Queer Dharma. Unfortunately it only has gay male writers. I'd hoped I'd also find transgender, lesbian, and other voices. But it is still nice to read a new perspective close to my own. I think others would find it interesting too. There are 2 volumes. They include historical essays as well as personal accounts, poetry and more. If you want something different or new I'd highly recommend this.

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran
    edited February 27

    @eggsavior said:
    Living Buddha Living Christ is a great read for Westerners whose religious context is more systematic and Abrahamic

    Does this book have anything to do with Christianity or Catholicism? I am collecting a list of books but I'm not really interested in those topics (it's been seared in my head my whole life :p ). I only ask since it says living Buddha, living Christ.

    Thanks

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 28

    @Tigger, I would respectfully suggest you try to put aside you personal aversion to christian matters and instead read what the book can bring you. You are not alone in having been brought up in a Christo-Religious environment nor are you unique in having had a rough time through it. But in order to transcend such antipathy, you must learn to accept that not everything about Christianity is repellent, offensive or distasteful. On the contrary, TNH does an excellent job in outlining just how close Christ's overall message was, to that of the Buddha's. Please appreciate that simply because you are averse to Biblical teaching, there is still a world of learning therein.

    dhammachicklobster
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited February 28

    @federica said:
    Please appreciate that simply because you are averse to Biblical teaching, there is still a world of learning therein.

    Well, your mileage may vary. The problem I have with most biblical learning is not the wisdom, of which there is some, but all the surrounding baggage of heaven and hell and sin.

    That said, there are some good alternative books on the likely historical life of Jesus out there, and TNH's book falls more into that category or so I have heard. You could try looking up Yeshua or Jeshua, since some of these books call him that.

    Alternatively Osho also did a number of books on Jesus and how to see the man and teacher divorced of the church that grew up around him, you could download The Mustard Seed lecture series on oshoworld.com.

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Tigger I own that book and can say from my background (Catholic father, Jewish mother, raised and educated Catholic and embracing my Jewish roots as an adult), there is no indoctrination or proselytizing in favor of Catholicism or Christianity. I suggest you maybe put off reading it till you've reconciled your own ill feelings towards Christianity and Catholicism. That way you can be more open to the message from the author

    _ /\ _

    Tigger
  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran
    edited February 28

    Geshe Tashi Tsering has written a series of excellent introductory books, starting with the 4NT. They are written from the Tibetan tradition, but he does an excellent job of including points of view and advice from other traditions too. As previously mentioned the Dhammapada, an excellent choice, take in small bites, mine is the translation by Sangharakshita and easily accessible to the western mind.

    Kannon
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    @dhammachick said:
    @Tigger I own that book and can say from my background (Catholic father, Jewish mother, raised and educated Catholic and embracing my Jewish roots as an adult), there is no indoctrination or proselytizing in favor of Catholicism or Christianity. I suggest you maybe put off reading it till you've reconciled your own ill feelings towards Christianity and Catholicism. That way you can be more open to the message from the author

    I think I will put that one off, for now anyway. =)

    When I first read your post @dhammachick I thought to myself "I don't have ill will toward them", I just have been there and done that and don't believe in their teachings (parting of the red sea, Noah's Ark, I mean come on). Then I realised I do have some ill will towards Christianity and Catholicism. I don't have oodles and oodles of experience with different groups so I don't want to make a sweeping statement but most of the Catholics or Christians I have met in my life don't practice what they preach. I don't even know what they go to church for because they don't listen....apparently.

    Please understand, this is just my experience. I am not saying this about everyone. I can bet my life on the fact that there are good people in every race and religion.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Currently reading the collected dharma talks of Ajahn Chah which someone linked as a PDF earlier. Enjoying it so far!

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    @Tigger it's clear that you're not getting what we're explaining.
    TNH doesn't come from a standpoint of preaching or advocating Christianity. That's not what his book is about.
    What his book does is to reveal the similarities between the teachings of the Buddha, and the words and recommendations of Christ - who came about 500 years after the Buddha died...
    It's not about Catholicism, preaching or proselytising.

    I really think you need to examine your reluctance and aversion to hearing some really good things about Christ's ministry.
    Don't get me wrong: I used to be a Roman Catholic, but I neither believe in nor practise the teachings of Christianity per se. I don't straddle two canoes, I'm firmly in the Buddhist camp.

    But there's a whole lot of stuff surrounding Jesus that is worth both noting and absorbing: And to turn your back on something and shun the possible benefits it would bestow you, is just as blinkered - isn't it? - as a Christian follower refusing to investigate and examine the Ministry of the Buddha.
    Of course, that is their choice, but you and I both believe they may be the poorer for it.

    However, the reverse may also be true.

    Do not turn yourself away from expanding and bettering your mind-set. The more we understand the view and stand-point of others, the better we are equipped to be discerning and Compassionate...

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran
    edited February 28

    I do understand @federica. Although continuing my comment may not have made it seem so.

    I was Catholic for a long time and see similarities every time I read. Right now, I'm really focused on understanding some very complex Buddhist philosophy, even though I'm trying to keep it simple and want to focus more here rather than read about comparisons with other religions. I'm also focused on trying to understand meditation so I'm booked...no pun intended :p

  • ToshTosh Veteran

    I'm currently reading Breathing Underwater by Father Richard Rohr. He's a Catholic monk, but a contemplative who has been influenced by Thomas Merton, who brought back the contemplative tradition by spending years learning from Zen Buddhists.

    It's a commentary on A.A.'s 12 Step program; he makes the point that religion shouldn't be about a 'belief system', that belief systems divide, and that religion really should be about a practise of doing.

    It's all kind of Buddhist I think.

    federicaTigger
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