Five Great Dharma Books

Via Reverend Danny Fisher
on Jun 2, 2009
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Over at The Huffington Post, our fearless leader Waylon Lewis shares some titles he considers to be among the best Buddhist books.  He invited me to share some of mine, and I’ve picked five favorites of mine that might be a bit more “under the radar” than, say, some others I might include (like Shambhala or The Experience of Insight or When Things Fall Apart). They’re not necessarily my “top five,” although that list and this one would most certainly overlap.  Anyway, here they are in no particular order:

  1. Visions of Buddhist Life by Don Farber. Perhaps no single collection of artwork moves me quite so much as Don Farber‘s astonishing, beautiful book of photographs of modern Buddhist masters. An incredible inspiration, this one is a must for any practitioner.
  2. Meeting the Monkey Halfway by Ajahn Bhikkhu Sumano with Emily Popp. A personal and downright fun guide to meditation that includes slogans, exercises, stories, and more. Enormously insightful and helpful, this is one I frequently pull down from the shelf.
  3. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakīrti: A Mahāyāna Scripture translated by Robert A.F. Thurman. Compared with other translations of the Vimalakīrti Nirdesa Sūtra, Thurman’s (from the Tibetan) is most certainly what the publisher advertises it to be: “clearer, richer, and more precise in its philosophical and psychological expression” than other translations. “Buddha Bob” manages to capture all of the humor, wisdom, and brilliance of this great piece of literature–which is no small task indeed.
  4. How to Be a Help Instead of a Nuisance: Practical Approaches to Giving Support, Service & Encouragement to Others by Karen Kissel-Wigela. A monumentally important guide to basic attendance that pulls no punches in its look at the slippery slope between effective care and the aggravation of suffering. Equally informed by modern psychology, Kagyu Tibetan Buddhism, and the wisdom of Shambhala, this is an important book for not just those in the caring professions but any person seeking to be more helpful to others.
  5. Talks on Buddhist Meditation by Godwin Samararatne. This one has a lot of sentimental value to me: it’s authored by Godwin Samararatne, who was my first meditation teacher. Culled from a series of talks given in Hong Kong, this is as informed by Godwin’s work as a meditation teacher as it is by his work as scholar of Buddhism and a social worker. An essential volume from a remarkable man–my heart teacher.

Please share your favorites in the comments section of this post and Waylon’s.


About Reverend Danny Fisher

Rev. Danny Fisher, M.Div., D.B.S. (Cand.), is a professor and Coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West in Rosemead, CA. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister by the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California in 2008. In addition, he is certified as a mindfulness meditation instructor by Naropa University in association with Shambhala International. A member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, he serves on the advisory council for the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. In addition to his work for elephant journal, he is a blogger for Shambhala Sun. He has also written for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Religion Dispatches, The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, The Journal of Religion & Film, Eastern Horizon, New York Spirit, Alternet's Wiretap Magazine, and other publications. His award-winning website is


One Response to “Five Great Dharma Books”

  1. Maria Lavis says:

    I would also recommend anything by Thich Nhat Hahn, who writes with great sensitivity to the Western perception and helped me to see and use mindfulness as a concrete technique with real results, rather than intriguing yet enigmatic and unreachable theory. Some of my favourites:

    Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames: Not just for anger, but to help control any emotion that causes you to suffer in the end.
    True Love: A lovely reminder that love is a skill, not just an emotion
    No Fear No Death: A beautiful treatise on life actually, subtle transformation and interbeing
    Living Buddha Living Christ: for those coming from Christian background this is a lovely bridge between faiths
    His darma talks are also online – formatting isn't the greatest, but they are free and a good starting point on various topics: