Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Absolute best book to read for Buddhism?

Barring the major and minor Buddhist sutras, the Pali canon, and/or the Dhammapada, because those are too easy and obvious, if you had to recommend a single book to someone, a single book to really convey what you think is most important for someone in 2010 to know about Buddhism, what would it be?  What book really reflects the heart of Buddhism in a way that can connect with and speak deeply to the reader?  (And why?)


  1. I don't think that there can be an absolute best book on Buddhism as the tradition is far too diverse but Thich Nhat Than's 'The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching' is a really good place to start with a helpful balance of theory and practice. Getting into specific schools my personal favourites are 'Opening the Hand of Thought' by Kosho Uchiyama from the Soto Zen tradition, and from the Jodo Shinshu tradtion 'Naturalness' by Kenryo Kanamatsu and 'Monshin' by Seikan Fukuma.

  2. I know what you mean Kyoshin. I read extensively about Chan/Zen, Vajaryana, Shin, and Nichiren, to name a few traditions. For example, I know many people consider Soka Gakkai to be a cult and its leader, Daisaku Ikeda, to be a megalomaniac, but one of the first Buddhist books I read was The Buddha in Your Mirror. It was written by SGI members, and it obviously emphasizes the power of their chant, but there are whole chapters which are great for people new to Buddhism. The same is true of Ikeda's Unlocking the Secrets of Birth and Death. After having studied and compared many Buddhist takes on the same idea, I found parts of Ikeda's book to be a good summary of some difficult concepts, with insights I had come to independently. Both of these books have flaws, and certain traditions, schools, and sects could easily find points of disagreement, but they are still insightful. But I don't know that I would really recommend them for a novice. And more experienced practitioners may focus on the parts they find too simplistic or with which they disagree. And I could say the same for some books on Shin, Chan, etc. It's very hard to come up with solid recommendations.

  3. Oops, that should be Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death.


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