November 6, 2013

7 Essential & Enlightening Classic Buddhist Books.

Whenever we’re seeking further illumination along the path of dharma, one effective way to get inspiration and information is by reading books on Buddhism.

A few months ago, I wrote a list of 7 sensational American Buddhist book recommendations.

In contrast, what I’m offering here for any budding Buddhists or others in search of Beginner’s Mind, is a list of Eastern Buddhist books, written primarily by Asian authors.

In my opinion, these books are classic, because they are not new, yet their content is timeless, accessible and highly re-readable.

Please add your favorite classic Buddhist title(s) in a comment to expand the list!

1. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Suzuki Roshi

I fell in love with this book because of where and when I read it. I truly had a beginner’s mind, as I was a 24-year-old, new Zen practitioner. I was on a four-day retreat at Green Gulch Farm, waking up at 5:00 a.m. to meditate with monks, chopping onions in the communal kitchen as my mindful service, hiking along a crest overlooking the Pacific. I read the book during my free time in the afternoons, sprawled out on my yoga mat on the patio outside my cozy cabin.

No matter where you are, if you’re interested in zen, this classic book—first published over 40 years ago—is required (and enjoyable) reading.

2. Cutting through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa

This daunting blue book sat on my bookshelf in every house I lived in for years before I finally broke down and read it. It’s certainly not a light read, and it took me months to get through, but it was definitely worth the effort.

Rinpoche writes, “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality.” Read his masterpiece and learn how to avoid the common pitfall of materialism in this essential volume by a great teacher.

3. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

A non-boyfriend lent me his copy of this book the morning after… and then never called me again. Was that supposed to be some kind of not-so-subtle message? Whether he meant it that way or not, I took it as a clear sign to read the book and learn the art of happiness.

Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama and his co-author, psychologist Dr. Howard Cutler explore everyday life and show us how to deal with difficult emotions like anxiety, insecurity, anger and fear.

4. The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is hard to spell but easy to read. I truly love every book of his that I’ve ever read, from Peace is Every Step to Living Buddha, Living Christ.

In this thin volume, the inimitable Vietnamese zen teacher shows us how we are all interconnected with everything and everyone. He offers his clear, lovely interpretation of a core Buddhist text, The Heart Sutra.

5. The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur

A young(ish) monk and the youngest son of a great lama, Yongey Mingyur was born in 1975. With excellent writing and a friendly tone, he weaves together the fields of Tibetan Buddhism, neuroscience and quantum physics in this accessible, practical and down-to-earth book.

6. Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana

Just as the title promises, this is a book about the practice of mindfulness meditation in straightforward, no-frills language. Truly a must read for anyone new to the practice—or anyone looking to renew their passion for practicing mindfulness daily.

7. The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka by William Hart

There’s really no replacement for attending a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course. But, for “old students” and inquiring potential attendees, this lovely little gem of a book includes stories by Goenkaji as well as answers to students’ questions.

Bonus: The Pocket Pema Chodron. Because I can’t make a classic book list without including Ani Pema, the most influential female Buddhist teacher and author around.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Fun Zen Bakery.}

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