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Best books on Buddhism?

I am looking to learn more about Buddhism and specifically, Buddhist Meditation techniques. I am definitely a beginner, but I don’t need a Buddhism for Dummies type of book. In other words I didn’t just discover the word Buddhism the other day and I don’t need to be told that Buddha came from modern day India 😛 . I am interested in the Theravada and Zen forms of Buddhism. A book that delves into the different schools and beliefs is welcome too. So basically, I’m someone who has read through wikipedia (lol) and I know a Buddhist I can call on to help.
What I am not looking for (in no particular order):
1. Reasons why I should care about the environment. Not that I have anything against the environment, but I am looking for a more traditional, powerful book that focuses on the mind and meditation.
2. A Psychology book with Buddhist overtones. I am interested in Buddhism for psychological purposes (becoming patient, stronger in mind, body), but I want the good stuff. 😉
3. A comparison of world religions.
4. A book on furniture placement.
What I am looking for (in no particular order):
1. A book that delves into meditation techniques for gaining control over the mind and body (by body I DON’T mean levitating off the ground or any New Age nonsense). A book that helps with self-instructing since I have no Buddhist centers near me.
2. A book that focuses on Theravada practices, meditation techniques, and history.
3. A book that focuses on Zen practices and meditation techniques.
4. A book that delves into the philosophy (and possibly history) of Buddhism.
5. A book that can blow my mind if I am smart enough to understand it. 😀
Thanks to all who answer, and hopefully what I asked for made some sense to someone.
Thank you Jason, Upasakha Jason, and Coop for your ‘serious’ answers. I will definitely check out each of your recommendations.
I checked for a local Buddhist center, but they seemed to have closed in 2007. 🙁
Thanks Sati. I am checking out Mindfulness in Plain English, Old Path White Clouds, and The Heart of Buddha’s Teachings.


  1. “An Introduction to Zen Buddhism” by D.T. Suzuki
    Lots of stuff by Thich Naht Han.
    “The Art of Happiness” by Dalai Lama
    really should find a meditation monastery in your area, then you can be taught and practice at the same time.

  2. *The* traditional meditation manual in the Theravada tradition is The Visuddhimagga. But this book is not user friendly for beginners.
    I would recommend the Satipatthana Sutta, which is available online for free at accesstoinsight.org. I would also recommend Anapana Sati Sutta, which is also available online for free, as are a number of commentaries and instructions developed from it.
    For more contemporary books, I would recommend “Mindfulness In Plain English” by Henepola Gunaratana. It is also available online for free, if you want to search for it. Otherwise, you can pick up at a good bookstore for about $15.00.
    Also, you can check out “Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond” by Ajahn Brahm. It deals with Samatha Meditation–one of the most understated themes in Buddhist meditation.
    You might also consider “Eight MIndful Steps to Happiness” by Henepola Gunaratana. It is a breakdown of the Noble Eightfold Path and how to really engage Buddhist practice beyond just the meditation cushion.
    For Dhamma talks, I might recommend “Food For the Heart” by Ajahn Chah.
    For audio dhamma, you can check out bswa.org. They have awesome talks given by Ajahn Brahm in plain English.
    You can also check out the website for Wat Metta Sangha. Thanissaro Bhikkhu gives regular talks that focus a lot on meditation.
    At Bodhi Monastery, there is a course on the Majjhima Nikaya that is given by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The lectures are available for free at their website.
    Accesstoinsight.org has many essays and Sutta translations for free download and distribution.
    All sources I have provided focus on the Theravada tradition.

  3. As for Buddhism I don’t think to much of but the meditation techniques are excellent. When I have those night I can not sleep because of a racing mind, I lay in bed and concentrate on relaxing each part of the body starting with the feet. In making the mind focus on one thought it forces all other thoughts to be put on hold and I drift off to dreamworld.

  4. The following are some books that aided me along my path. Maybe that can also be helpful for you.
    Introductory Buddhism
    1. What The Buddha Taught – classic book introducing people to buddhism since 1959
    2. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching – more in depth explanations of fundamental buddhist teachings
    3. Old Path White Clouds – the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha written as a novel like biography.
    Meditation & Mindfulness
    1. Beginning Mindfulness – ten week course that helps develop the daily practice of mindfulness and meditation.
    2. Mindfulness in Plain English – the beginners meditation manual. A must have for any meditator.
    (online free version) http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html
    3. Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness – sequel to the above book. Helps one learn and incorporate the eightfold path into daily life.
    Buddhist Texts
    1. The Dhammapada – most widely read Buddhist scripture; Fronsdal’s translation is a very enjoyable read.
    2. Transformation and Healing. Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness – fundamental buddhist sutra with commentary by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
    3. In the Buddha’s Words. An Anthology of Discourses from the Pail Canon – collection of buddhist sutras organized for easy reference.
    For online study:
    1. Audiodharma.org – excellent resource of dharma talks from the Insight Meditation Center
    2. AccesstoInsight.org – great for sutta study

  5. First, I have four suggestions about where to find general information on Buddhism:
    1. Read about the Buddha’s life, including his teachings, in the wonderfully poetic prose biography “Old Path, White Clouds” by the famous Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh: http://www.wisdom-books.com/ProductDetail.asp?PID=10236
    2. Read the accessible introductions to Buddhism by the American nun Thubten Chodron, Buddhism for Beginners” (answers and questions style) and “Open Heart, Clear Mind” (more focusing on how Buddhist psychology is relevant for modern Westerners):
    You can also find many interesting texts on her homepage, including everything you need to know about meditation:
    3. Any book by the incomparable and unconventional Tibetan teacher Lama Thubten Yeshe (the “hippie lama”, as he called himself). On this site you can find many texts online, and also order a number of excellent books for free (donation suggested):
    4. The somewhat more traditional, but still highly relevant and accessible explanations of the basics of the Buddhist teachings by HH the Dalai Lama, in for example “How to Practice. The Way to a Meaningful Life” (a short but not superficial overview of the entire Buddhist path) and “A Simple Path” (an exceedingly beautifully illustrated explanation of the Four Noble Truths, the foundational teaching of all Buddhism):
    Second, some advice before you consider becoming a Buddhist yourself, if that thought would occur to you:
    1. Make sure you understand the main points of Buddhism before you commit yourself.
    2. Make sure your interest comes from your heart, and isn’t just a transient whim or fascination for something exotic and different.
    3. Make sure you want to become a Buddhist because of positive feelings for Buddhism, NOT because of negative feelings for Christianity or something like that.
    Third, some general advice:
    1. Find a better place to ask your questions, so you know who is answering them and what they base their answers on. If you can’t find a Buddhist group in your city (or even if you can!), register and and ask your questions (and read myriads of other discussions) on the biggest Buddhist online forum in the world, the e-Sangha: http://www.e-sangha.com/
    Unfortunately, the e-Sangha is down for the moment, so in the meantime you might try this forum: http://www.dharmawheel.net/
    2. Be careful – there is an ocean of information about Buddhism online (and in books). Much is excellent, but unfortunately much is also misleading, inauthentic or simply fake, and it’s very difficult for a beginner to see which is good and which is not. If you’re not sure, you can always get reliable answers at the e-Sangha (there are thousands of Buddhists of all traditions from all over the world, including monks, nuns, lamas, academical scholars, experienced and inexperienced practitioners and beginners, do you will find all kinds of Buddhists there), not only about Buddhism itself, but also about Buddhist books, teachers, organizations and traditions.
    Then if you’re interested, you should maybe read up on some of the books about the meeting of Buddhism and Western science. See more in my answer to this question: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=AtXuImkaWMdytpIvl2Kzorvsy6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20090821130921AAw7zkr&show=7#profile-info-Lv0I1Voqaa
    Good luck in your search!


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