Top Ten Books for the New Buddhist (and the Curious)

Need a good intro to Buddhism book? Look no further. In this list, Tergar instructors Cortland Dahl and Edwin Kelley share their recommendations for those who are new to Buddhism. If you are curious about the Buddha’s teachings, or want some pearls of wisdom to inspire your practice, these books are just what you’re looking for.

Cortland’s Picks:

Old Path White Clouds

Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

by Thich Nhat Hanh
This book is one of my all-time favorites. Old Path offers a great overview of the life and teachings of the Buddha. Thich Nhat Hanh paints a very human portrait of the Buddha, interspersing beautiful accounts of his life with pithy teachings on the core elements of the path of awakening. It’s a long book, but a remarkably easy read.


Joyful Wisdom

Joyful Wisdom

by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Well, I must confess that I am not an impartial critic here, but there’s no doubt that Mingyur Rinpoche has a gift for taking profound ideas and showing how we can apply them directly to our everyday lives. In this book, Rinpoche explores the question of chronic dissatisfaction. Why are we always waiting for the next moment to be better than the present? How can we undo this habit and find a sense of lasting contentment that doesn’t depend on the changing conditions of our lives? If you want to learn more about the beginning and ending of suffering, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.


Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

by Sogyal Rinpoche
This is the book that started it all for me. In this modern classic, Sogyal Rinpoche covers a lot of territory, including some pretty esoteric material. What captivated me were the stories he tells about his own teachers, who were some of the greatest Tibetan masters of the 20th century. Hearing his first-hand accounts of the lives of these teachers opened my eyes to the possibility of awakening. This book also contains some of the clearest instructions on meditation you’re likely to find. A great read…and filled with practical advice for those new to the Buddhist path.


Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

by Chogyam Trungpa
Chogyam Trungpa’s life was filled with controversy, but there’s no doubt that his efforts brought countless people to meditation and the Dharma. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is one of his best-known books. Filled with practical advice on meditation practice, as well as hard-hitting insights about the spiritual path, this modern Buddhist classic is sure to inspire, provoke, and get you thinking about the Buddha’s teachings.


Rebel Buddha

Rebel Buddha

by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Ponlop Rinpoche is an extraordinary teacher. At once thoroughly modern, and yet steeped in the ancient wisdom of Tibet, he has a unique ability to make the Buddha’s teachings relevant to the modern world. Rebel Buddha is a great place to start if you want to learn more about Buddhism, especially if you find the cultural trappings of religion off-putting. In his endorsement for this book, Mingyur Rinpoche himself said it best: “With Rebel Buddha, Ponlop Rinpoche goes straight to the core of the spiritual path, showing how the Buddha’s liberating insights transcend race, religion, and culture.”


 

Edwin’s Picks:

The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living

by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
This is one of the most widely read books by the living face of Buddhism in our times, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. In this book, His Holiness explains how we can deal with the difficult circumstances of our lives more skillfully. Filled with insights into the workings of the human mind, his practical instructions provide a recipe for how to live a meaningful life...it’s an easy and compelling read.


Zen Mind Beginners Mind

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

by Shunyru Suzuki Roshi
This modern spiritual classic presents foundational teachings on meditation practice that are sure to be of interest to anyone who feels called to the contemplative life. Suzuki Roshi was one of the first and most beloved pioneers to teach meditation in the West. Ranging from the practical to the transcendent, his teachings are always humorous, down to earth, and direct. This gem is on the short list of many practitioners’ favorite books.


Meditation in Action

Meditation in Action

by Chogyam Trungpa
Here’s another modern classic, this one by a teacher who helped introduce the Buddha’s teachings in the West in an authentic and accessible way. Trungpa Rinpoche’s approach to meditation asks us to see what is, rather than to try to achieve a supposedly ‘higher’ state of mind. His teachings show that meditation is not a retreat from the world, but rather a practical way to build a foundation for compassion, awareness, and creativity in all aspects of our lives.


Buddhism Without Beliefs

Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening

by Stephen Batchelor
If you are someone who is interested in Buddhism, but do not want to become a Buddhist or blindly believe what some teacher tells you, then this is the book for you. Batchelor presents his understanding of the Buddha’s teachings in a clear and logical way without the trappings of faith or tradition. A great, thought-provoking read.


Heart of the Buddha's Teachings

Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings

by Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh is known for taking complicated Buddhist teachings and showing how they relate to our everyday lives. This book covers many of the core teachings of the Buddhist tradition, including the four noble truths, the eightfold path, and the twelve links of interdependence. These are pretty standard teachings, and here they are presented in a clear, engaging manner that you can immediately apply to your life. If you’re looking for an accessible introduction to the Buddha’s teachings, this book is hard to beat.


What Makes You Not a Buddhist

What Makes You Not a Buddhist

by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
There’s no doubt about it: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is irreverent and provocative. His style may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like your spiritual teachings served with an acerbic wit, then you’ll love Khyentse Rinpoche’s book. What Makes You Not a Buddhist is a mixture of traditional Buddhist teachings and insights about practicing the Buddhadharma in the modern world. More specifically, he discusses the four seals of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and nirvana and shows how important it is to work with these teachings when treading the path to enlightenment.

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January 18, 2013

2 responses on "Top Ten Books for the New Buddhist (and the Curious)"

  1. Profile photo of dhgreenlee

    I have recently read Stephen Batchelor’s “Buddhism w/o Beliefs…” My, oh my, what a beautiful text from a content/rhetorical writing style!! A must read….
    I have also recently completed Mingyur Rinpoche’s “Joy of Living,” which I enjoyed very much and will consult as needed. He is so very refreshing to read or listen to!!! I particularly enjoy the focus on ‘what is present’ and short/multiple mindfullness awareness meditations throughout the day.
    What isn’t on this list but should be (as far as I’m concerned) is Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Reconciliation: Healing the inner child.” It seems to me that to experience joy one must also heal old wounds as needed…. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to read Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Heart of Buddha’s Teachings,” so I can begin to understand Buddhist/beliefs/psychology more fully.

  2. Profile photo of sheylascosta

    I’d had the opportunity to read almost 80% of the book suggestions more than one time ( sometimes around 10 times ( few of them). All very special and relevant . Please, avoiding to be pretencious Just becouse of my experience I tought that some books should be on this list. One of them: As it is from Tulko Urgyen and two more from one of my precious teacher Chogyan Trungpa: Crazy Wisdom and Transcending Madness,
    Just a humble suggestion.

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