Best Famous Buddhism Books
Great Books To Read About Buddhism, Katinka Hesselink 2015
Have you been searching for the best Buddhist books to read? These books will inspire you to learn more about the teachings of Buddha. It will give you ways find peace, compassion and patience.
The teachings of Buddhism are based on the spiritual direction first given by Gautama Buddha who lived roughly between the time of 563 BC to 400 BC, although the exact time of his passing is not documented very well. He lived and taught for the most part in India and is known as the Gautama Buddha. Buddha is a title given to the one who is the first enlightened one of an era.
I have organized this page by tradition. In each case I list one book aimed at beginners and another suitable for people who know a bit about Buddhism and meditation.
See also the amazon top ten.
Mindfulness without Buddhism books
Mindfulness is growing so rapidly, it is fast coming into 'hype' territory. There are good reasons for this popularity. One is that mindfulness meditation works for stress reduction, lowering blood pressure and helping people deal with their issues. However, it is not a one size fit all solution to all problems. Nothing is.
The books in this category have all been written from the perspective of secular mindfulness. MBSR and MBCT are ways in which meditation has found a place in modern psychology.
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Created by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.
- Secular Mindfulness
- My phrase for mindfulness outside a Buddhist context. Usually combined with a variation of Cognitive psychology. MBSR and MBCT are the most prominent examples of this trend.
For absolute newbies I recommend: Mindfulness for Dummies (my review)
- Mindfulness books
- Books about learning to be in the moment - Buddhist mindfulness books, Mindfulness exercise books Meditation books for children
- Coloring books for Buddhists
- Suitable for children and adults
A Great Book For The Beginner To Read
The first steps in living a life of mindfulness are outlined in this book. You learn ways to deal with your emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness is not easy, but for those who stick with it, the results are often dramatic. Many find contentment and an inner peace that you might not have even realized was possible.
Jon Kabat-Zinn was instrumental in popularizing mindfulness for a general audience through his MBSR system. The book is available in hard cover, paperback and also a digital version.
Is your brain the same as the Buddha?
Rick Hanson is both a neuroscientist as well as a mindfulness teacher. He is specialized in neuroplasticity: the ability of our brains to change through our experiences.
This is a wonderful book that explains that spiritual teachers like Jesus, Moses and Buddha were all born with the same brain that we each have.
The book explains how we can make changes in our own brains to have a better wisdom about us, a greater love within us and enjoy more happiness.
The science of neuroplasticity explained in laymans terms. It means that, through meditation, we CAN improve our concentration, our resilience and our patience (among other things).
Vipassana and Theravada Buddhism Books
The Vipassana movement is close to the Mindfulness movement. The main difference is in labelling: the Vipassana movement is explicitly Buddhist. This means that, depending on the teacher, Buddhist doctrine and texts will find their way into the meditation hall. Sometimes there may even be lectures on Buddhist concepts.
However, most Western Vipassana teachers, though strong on meditation, are light on Buddhist doctrine. They will have taken refuge and perhaps practice lay vows. However, chances are they aren't interested in rebirth. Many even identify themselves as 'Buddhists without beliefs'.There is nothing wrong with this. The question is: what is Buddhist about it?
Some of my university teachers insist that such Western Buddhists aren't Buddhists at all. I think that is taking it a bit far, but it is true that Western Buddhism is very different from traditional Buddhism as practiced in Buddhist countries over the past 2000 years.
In the Vipassana movement the main criterium for becoming a teacher is meditation practice. They see this as the center of the Buddhist path. Many distrust textual and historical study.
Most Read Tibetan Buddhism Books
Tibetan Buddhism is the first Mahayana tradition on this list. As I am primarily a Tibetan Buddhist myself, I have reviewed a lot of books from that tradition. Most of these are suitable for beginners.
Still, if you are only just getting to know the Buddhist tradition I would always recommend reading one of the books by Pema Chodron or one of the best sellers by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Both are known for their accessibility.
Buddhism for Beginnersby Thubten Chodron
Introduction into Buddhism that takes up contemporary themes like euthanasia, abortion, the environment and animal rights - as well as day to day practice.
Listed here because Thubten Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist nun. However, this book is very suitable for people interested in Buddhism in general, not just Tibetan Buddhism.
Also available on kindle
Letting Go Of Fear Based Living
Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change, Pema Chodron
Many of us hold on to stability. This is fine when things are going smoothly, but in times of change it just won't work. The surprising thing is that when we embrace the inherent uncertainty in our lives, we will be able to deal with it better. The result is not merely that we become happier ourselves, but that we also become more compassionate towards others.
Dealing with stress by accepting that it is a part of life is an essential skill in this fast-moving world.
Pema Chodron is a famous Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition, and a student of the renowned Trungpa Rinpoche. She is an expert in translating Buddhist practices and concepts into practical wisdom that can help us transform our lives - Buddhists or not.
This is aimed at people who loved his book The Art of Happinessand want to develop a daily practice to really transform their lives.
In 'How to Practice..' His Holiness explains the basics of the Mahayana path to enlightenment and the way it helps make your life meaningful. Thankfully, a meaningful life is also a happier one.
This book by Sogyal Rinpoche is perhaps as famous as the first (Jung sponsored) translation of the The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Does this book need an introduction? Sogyal Rinpoche's commentary on the 'Tibetan Book of the dead' (as it's usually referred to) is a classic already.
It has instructions on meditation as well as descriptions of the phases (bhardo's) consciousness goes to after death according to the Tibetan tradition.
Most Popular Zen Buddhist BooksZen Buddhism is also a form of Mahayana Buddhism. However, in the way it is practiced in the West, it is closer to Mindfulness and Vipassana than to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The reason they are considered Mahayana, like Tibetan Buddhism, is because Zen Buddhists are trained in the Bodhisattva vow: the aspiration to help all beings.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Chan Buddhist, but since he is from Vietnam, his historical lineage is very different from that of other prominent Zen Masters. He is however one of the most popular Buddhist teachers of our time because of his ability to make Buddhism useful in our daily lives.
- Thich Nhat Hanh books
- Zen Buddhism and mindfulness books
My reviews of Zen Buddhist Books:
- The Undying Lamp of Zen: the Testament of Zen Master Torei
- Beyond Happiness: the Zen way to True Contentment, Ezra Bayda
- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Shunryu Suzuki (40th anniversary ed)
General Academic BuddhismThe following two books are in another category altogether. They'll help you understand Buddhism from the Buddhist perspective: it's philosophy, history and wisdom.
And that includes a LOT that can only be called 'religion'. Like belief in gods (yes, plural), karma, reincarnation, rituals etc.
Recommended by Leiden University for the 2011 introduction into Buddhism course.
Available on Kindle