Our spiritual path is one we study, cultivate, and delve into on our own.
Books are an easy way to start learning and exploring spirituality—however, it is important to know where to begin and which sources to trust.
Below are 10 spiritual books for any seeker to cultivate and expand along their path:
10. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now is a basic guide to mindfulness. As you read this book, Eckhart Tolle takes you on a journey through the infinitum that is the present moment.
This book is about coming into your most pure, undiluted state of consciousness: the observer. As Tolle describes it, the observer is the consciousness that is you. This consciousness watches all the planes of existence you are experiencing: the physical body, mental thoughts, emotional feelings. Rather than identifying yourself to be the body or mind, you simply observe them from an almost third-person perspective.
Tolle explains that if you can come into this state of observation, rather than reaction, you can cultivate the path of mindfulness. This book is a guide to teach you how to do just that.
9. Peace is Every Step by Thích Nhất Hạnh
Peace is Every Step is a basic, practical guide to applying mindfulness in everyday life. Written by the monk, speaker, and best-selling author Thích Nhất Hạnh, this book explains how one may take Buddhist concepts of mindfulness and apply them in each moment to cultivate inner peace.
One story that stands out, in particular, to highlight this work is the chapter “Cookie of Childhood.” In it, Hạnh explains his childhood memory of standing outside eating a cookie slowly and mindfully. He explains that each bite came with a burst of yummy flavor, that he would embrace the sun on his skin and the grass against his feet, that he’d play with the dog—being so in the moment that before he knew it, almost an hour had passed.
This story shows what one can embrace in the present moment, if only—as Hạnh says—they can access that “cookie of childhood.” By simply coming into the senses and experiencing things fully, everyone is capable of cultivating their already-present peace and mindfulness in each moment. From driving to eating to walking, Hanh explains how to bring mindfulness to it all in this short, sweet, and simple guide.
8. The Heart of The Buddha’s Teaching by Thích Nhất Hạnh
The Heart of The Buddha’s Teaching is written by the same author as Peace is Every Step, the monk, author, and speaker, Thích Nhất Hạnh. This book is an excellent guide to the core of Buddhism—both a philosophical and spiritual discipline.
The Four Noble Truths explain the path of acknowledging, finding the root causes of, and healing one’s suffering; The Eightfold Path explains how one should live to maintain that liberation. Basically, it’s free therapy. Well, actually, it’s $13.94-at-a-bookstore therapy. Through the book, you explore the root causes of your problems and follow a step-by-step guide to heal them.
Not only does Hạnh provide the basic core teachings in great detail, but he also provides the reader with additional, miscellaneous Buddhist teachings. This book is sure to provide a deep understanding of Buddhism as a philosophy and discipline to help one not only know but walk the path.
7. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
The Tao Te Ching is a classic work of ancient China, and it translates to “The Power of the Way.” It was written by the sage or philosopher Lao Tzu during the Zhou Dynasty around 500 to 600 B.C. This book is composed only of poems, using concepts and metaphors to describe The Tao or “The Way.”
Philosophical books can be heavy and, sometimes, boring reads. However, Lao Tzu conveys this philosophical work in an artistic compilation of poetry pieces. The philosophy of The Tao provides knowledge of universal laws and how individuals can work with these laws to maintain peace both internally and externally. Some of the main concepts are nonaction and flow, with Tzu providing a passive approach to life through which one may learn to ride the waves of life rather than swimming opposite the current—to work with life rather than against it.
These poems have a nuance of peace within chaos. Historically, Tzu wrote this work during an unsettling time in China fueled by government corruption. This work presented an alternative way of living and a means to cultivate peace individually and collectively. The poems in this book are filled with historical context, philosophical jewels, and spiritual wisdom.
6. The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön
The Places That Scare You is a guide to cultivating compassion by the use of Buddhist teachings; it was written by the Buddhist nun and best-selling author, Pema Chödrön.
Though Buddhism may seem like a happy and peaceful path, it is actually quite dark. The Buddha taught the path of awareness, and that with awareness can come great sorrow. Hearing the cries of anguish all over the world, becoming aware of individual and collective suffering—it’s heavy. In this book, Chödrön explains how one can take the pain and affliction of this world and transmute it into love and understanding.
Chödrön teaches that rather than fearing it, one must explore the depths of their own darkness and that of the collective in order to bring the light of love to it. Compassion and understanding are the elements that will help to heal the deep wounds of this world. Chödrön explains how to cultivate this compassion through meditation practices, Buddhist teachings, and practical life advice in The Places That Scare You.
5. The Bhagavad Gita by Sage Vyasa
The Bhagavad Gita was written by the ancient Indian sage and scribe Vyasa, during what is recorded as the second century BCE. It is included in a great Hindu text known as the Mahabharata, which is only one of a few major Hindu texts Vyasa wrote. The story follows Krishna, an incarnation of the divine, and his counseling of Arjuna, a man forced to participate in the bloodshed of waging war, who seeks guidance on what course of action he should take.
Whereas the majority of the books listed within this article contain practical teachings one may easily apply, The Bhagavad Gita is written in storytelling fashion. Rather than learning information in a way that applies to your life, here and now, you learn abstract concepts, lessons, and spiritual discipline as it was presented to Arjuna during a time of war. The lessons in this text come from following the story rather than receiving straightforward advice.
In the Gita, Krishna presents spiritual advice to Arjuna during a most chaotic time in which he is forced to fight against and kill his own brethren. With stories, dialogue, metaphors, symbolism, historical context, and vivid imagery, the Gita provides a deep understanding and navigation of the dark spiritual truths of reality, life, death, and war.
4. The Yoga Sutras by Patañjali
The Yoga Sutras is the original text of yoga as a philosophy. They were, like The Bhagavad Gita, written in the second century BCE and recorded by the revered ancient Indian sage Patañjali. Patañjali said that he did not create yoga; rather, he was one to record it after many generations of ancestors passed it down.
Many may only know yoga to be physical movements and breathing; however, The Yoga Sutras present eight limbs or aspects of yoga; six of which are more mental and spiritual aspects to be developed. Yoga, in its philosophy, is presented as a path to follow—not as an exercise to be done.
The Yoga Sutras break down the path of yoga and its cultivation for greater well-being and spiritual awareness. They are presented in the manner of 195 teachings distributed throughout four sections of text. Through the cultivation of this path, one is said to achieve total union between themselves and their divine nature—the Sutras provide a guide for one to get there.
3. The Kybalion by Three Initiates
The Kybalion is a book that houses one of the oldest known philosophies: The Hermetic Philosophy. It is said to come from Ancient Egypt or Kemet, which is known by students of the occult as the source of all spiritual knowledge. Although the Hermetic Philosophy was originally presented by an ancient scribe named Tehuti, the “Three Initiates” are the authors of The Kybalion. In it, they provide an in-depth and applicable breakdown of this great philosophy.
The Greeks are the ones who named this philosophy “Hermetic,” after Hermes, the Greek god of wisdom. The mythology of Hermes comes from an Egyptian deity called Thoth, a title of reverence given to Tehuti—known as the first scribe. Tehuti was deified because he invented writing, was the first scribe and shared wisdom that lived on through the ages.
The Hermetic Philosophy consists of seven axioms that lay out a foundation on life and universal law. From polarity, to rhythm, to cause and effect, these laws are present and observable. This philosophy lived on as long as it did for a reason, as it presents absolute truths undiluted by religion, politics, or opinion.
The Hermetic Philosophy not only presents a layout on universal law, but it also provides details on how to honor and use these laws for the utmost benefit. By bringing conscious awareness to the universal laws and principles at play, the Hermetic Philosophy provides its students with rules to the game of life, so they may become players of the game rather than pawns.
2. Kundalini: The Arousal of The Inner Energy by Ajit Mookerjee
Kundalini may be a familiar term if you have even briefly explored spirituality or yoga. It is one’s inner life force energy waiting to be activated and united with the divine. In Kundalini: The Arousal of The Inner Energy, Ajit Mookerjee breaks down this dormant energy and explains how to arouse and utilize it using ancient yogic science.
Though kundalini is well-known, it is often misunderstood due to the dilution of ancient information by modern, Western interpretations. In this book, Mookerjee breaks down the system of kundalini and the chakras in its most ancient teaching. He provides the original yogic science in its classical and modern interpretations. This book is an informational and applicable guide to the workings of this spiritual energy.
Mookerjee writes ancient information in an easy-to-understand way. Kundalini and the chakra system are extremely abstract and imaginative concepts to grasp; however, Mookerjee makes this ancient science easily accessible.
1. The Emerald Tablet by Hermes Trismegistus
The Emerald Tablet was attributed to being written by Hermes Trismegistus a long time ago. It’s so old; no one actually knows when it was written.
Review time: Hermes is the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian Thoth, a deity made of the great scribe Tehuti. Just as the Egyptians titled Tehuti, Thoth, in reverence, the Greeks titled him Hermes Trismegistus, which translates to “Hermes the Three-Times Great.” You know, like, “Three Cheers for Hermes!”
The Emerald Tablet is a profound piece. Yet it is only that—a piece. It is one page long with absolute truth on creation, existence, life, and what is. It really gets to the point of it all: the source. There aren’t many other words or ways to describe it, as short and abstract as it is.
In its ancient mystery, The Emerald Tablet has become a profound piece for spiritual seekers, magicians, witches, alchemists, and the like. It is formless yet solidified; it is mysterious, yet it permeates with the light of truth.