Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, and there is no mystery as to why that is the case! The teachings of the Buddha have always intrigued people belonging to other religions, especially among westerners. If you want to gain an insight on the Buddhist way of living, then SpiritualRay is here to help you with the top 10 must-read books on Buddhism.
“Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
If you wish to read books on a subject as spiritual and enlightening as Buddhism, the very first thing to remember is to keep your cup empty. Agreed, it is natural for us to weigh the written words into the scales of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable; however, the right way to keep yourself open to ‘learning’ in the true sense of the word, is to accept what comes your way with an open mind. This is the only reason why wisdom cannot reach everyone, even though everyone hears it at some point in their lives.
The one reason why Buddhism, a 2,500-year-old religion, is gaining immense popularity and attracting followers from all across the globe is because of its simplistic view of living. Unlike other religions, Buddhism does not revolve around the connection between God and humans, but advocates the path to enlightenment through practicing meditation, ethical conduct, and constantly working towards attaining wisdom. It revolves around the Four Noble Truths, with an ultimate goal to attain Nirvana. The teachings of this religion are spiritually awakening for those who are ready to be awakened. As a first step, it would be best to begin reading about Buddhism to understand the core of this faith. The following section gives you a list of our picks.
A LIST OF 10 BEST BOOKS ON BUDDHISM
Innumerable books have been written on Buddhist teachings and way of living, and mind you, there are hundreds of books on the subject that are truly inspirational and enlightening, successfully drawing their readers closer to understanding and accepting Buddhism in their everyday lives. There are some immensely noted and brilliant authors including, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Pema Chödrön, Thích Nhất Hạnh, and Shunryu Suzuki who through all their books, have successfully imparted the teachings of Buddha to those who live outside monasteries and temples. In fact, Dalai Lama XIV says, “This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.“
Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen
“Buddha is not someone you pray to, or try to get something from. Nor is a Buddha someone you bow down to. A Buddha is simply a person who is awake-nothing more or less.“
Steve Hagen justifies his writing with the title of this book by plainly putting across the core message of Buddhism ― Awareness! He conveys through this book that this faith is all about experience, awareness, and awakening. He highlights the need to be out there to feel it all, to be in touch with your environment so that the experiences of this world will take you through the journey of enlightenment and help you become your finest. As you read through the 160 pages of this book, you would understand that Buddhism is not a religion, it’s not about worshiping a deity, it is about the right way of living with yourself. We highly recommend it for all, especially those who are new to this faith.
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by Thích Nhất Hạnh
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.“
This book is a great start for those who do, or do not, know anything about Buddhism. Written by one of the great teachers, this book beautifully connects with the readers, with use of simple language that profoundly infuses the author’s intellectual appeal to life, its sufferings, and an end to these sufferings. He covers some significant teachings of Buddhism including the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eight-fold Path, the Three Doors of Liberation, the Three Dharma Seals, and the Seven Factors of Awakening. The simplistic formation of the text imparts love, compassion, and immense clarity to the readers, making it possible for all to practice and implement Buddha’s teachings in their everyday lives and attain inner peace.
How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“True change is within; leave the outside as it is.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, through his liveliness and compassion helps the readers understand what it is to live a meaningful life, and how we can excuse ourselves from the unnecessary ambiguities that prevent us from reaching our ultimate goal―awakening. As the title suggests, His Holiness gives simple and effective guidelines through which one can come back to the right track, eliminating feelings such as jealously, mistrust, anger, and hatred. The language is simple and the message efficaciously connects with the readers’ psyche. A definite inclusion in your library collection.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
This book is truly a classic! Each and every message in this book teaches you that Buddhism isn’t something different than our everyday life, it is just doing what we are doing, in the right way. The whole point of difference is the way we see, act, and think. The essence of this book is to encourage its readers to be mischievous, to put in their very existence into something that they are practicing. The author has done a great job in conveying the very core of zazen meditation. It is a classic pick for those who wish to gain insight on the subject.
Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment by Lama Surya Das
“Enlightenment is not about becoming divine. Instead it’s about becoming more fully human. . . . It is the end of ignorance.”
This book is a true life-changer, especially for those who are stuck in the modern way of living and fail to find inner peace in their never-ending busyness. In plain and simple language, the author successfully imparts the divine wisdom of Buddha through the noble Eight-Fold Path and the traditional Three Enlightenment Trainings: Wisdom, Ethic, and Meditation. The book is apt for modern-day Americans who wish to draw closer to self-control, positivity, and contentment in life. It will touch you at many levels: Spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, and quite likely motivate you to follow the written guidelines as a way of joyful, loving, and fulfilled living.
What the Buddha Taught with Texts from Suttas & Dhammapada by Walpola Rahula
“First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and the world. It looks at things objectively (yathābhūtam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool’s paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness.“
This book does a crisp, to-the-point, and straightforward job when it comes to teaching the essence of being a true Buddhism follower, and how you can incorporate its amazing practices in your everyday life. In fact, it is not “mushy” in any way, but seems more like a “man-to-man” talk when it comes to clarifying some complexities of this subject. With texts from Suttas and Dhammapada, this book does a great job in answering the basic questions about life, death, sufferings, and rebirth. All in all, a clarifying and interesting insight on Buddhism.
Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening by Stephen Batchelor
“…meditation… exposes a contradiction between the sort of person we wish to be and the kind of person we are. Restlessness and lethargy are ways of evading the discomfort of this contradiction.”
Batchelor does a remarkable job is explaining how Buddhism is different from other religions. He explains clearly that Buddha wasn’t a mystic being who experienced some sort of revelation from God. On the contrary, he was just an ordinary being who was curious to find a peaceful way of living through understanding the origin and cessation of dukkha, or anguish. He explains that Buddhism is not a religious belief, but a practice that leads to awakening. This book explains these concepts addressing everybody from any walk of life, religious or agnostic.
What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
“We are like monkeys who dwell in the forest and shit on the very branches from which we hang.“
This book is undoubtedly a refreshing take on what Buddhism is really about. The author through his witty writing, explains how the practitioners of Buddhism have kind of missed the whole point of following this faith. How Buddhism has become more about romancing with the beads, obsession with the incense, and compulsion of the robe, rather than being an enlightened path to awakening. This book will help you come out of the superficiality of your existence, and the stereotypical attitude that has most likely trapped your way of thinking. An enjoyable and insightful read, for sure!
The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World by Pema Chödrön
“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.“
As the title suggests, this book wonderfully conveys the basic message that we all need to share with ourselves―to accept ourselves and embrace ourselves as we are, cherishing each and every moment of our lives. Admit it or not, to make others happy, it is very important for you to be happy. Pema Chodron, through some intriguing stories and tales, helps the readers understand what it truly means to live in the moment, to stop hiding from pain, suffering, or hurt, and accept it to allow yourself to grow as a person full of love and courage. For you never know which moment would be your last, we might as well make the most of every moment, pleasant or unpleasant, and embrace it, for there is no escape.
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
This book isn’t actually a full-on write-up by the Dalai Lama, but more of an interview or meeting narrations that occurred between him and Dr. Howard Cutler. The reason why we have included this book in our top 10 picks is because it remarkably shows the patience, compassion, and enlightenment of His Holiness, even when he was constantly “interrupted” by Cutler to give a clear/crisp secret to achieve happiness. For those who wish to get a full-proof formula for happiness, perhaps a list of dos and don’ts, this book will help understand the journey that one needs to take to be happy. It is a spiritual process, and this book has some remarkable quotes by His Holiness that will definitely help us all get started.
We bet that there are many other books that are equally worth reading as much as these. In truth, wisdom and intellect has no boundary, and we believe that every source that takes us there, or at least gives us a glimpse of it, is worth being used. Nonetheless, the aforementioned list will definitely help you get a good start. Enjoy!