Best Zen Buddhism Book

Ava Flores
• Monday, 18 January, 2021
• 10 min read

Some are personal stories, some are educative and contain tutorials, some are in-depth essay style publications, and some are novellas. In the list below, I’ve shared different works that together encompass a broad range of Zen teaching.

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Published more than 40 years ago, this read has grown to be one of the most highly regarded spiritual publications in the world. If you are a beginner, you will learn everything you need to know to get started, including posture and breathing techniques, as well as the most important practices.

Alan Watts is one of the true masters of Buddhist interpretation, and oh boy does he show it in this, one of the best Zen books ever written. In this title, Alan Watts takes us back to basics as he reveals the true interpretation of Buddhist philosophy.

He journeys all the way back to the birth of Buddhism as it rose from the concepts of Hinduism. From there we journey towards today and see how Chan has grown over the years, right up to the modern-day and a look at the symbolical representation of Buddhism in Japanese art.

What makes this one of the best Zen books of all time is the way in which Watt’s explains the core concepts for a Western audience. In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert M Persia shares the transformational story of a journey across America with his son.

The journey becomes a story of personal growth and transformation as Persia delves into the most fundamental questions of modern-day living. In it, Joshi Philip Tableau presents an examination of the three core pillars of Chan Buddhism : teaching, practice and enlightenment.

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What makes this one of the best Zen books ever is Tableau’s ability to merge his personal story in technical teachings on the practices and techniques. As we journey through Tableau’s time from student to master, we are led along our own path of spiritual development.

Revised to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the current edition features beautiful illustrations and photographs that are really just the icing on the cake. Originally published in 1957, this title immediately won the hearts of readers who were just beginning to learn about Chan Buddhism.

Subsequently, it has become one of the most influential publications on the subject, inspiring students and teachers alike. This title presents texts and challenges readers to make their own interpretations of the core philosophies of Chan Buddhism.

Let the whole thundering world come home book In Let The Whole Thundering World Come Home, Zen practitioner Natalie Goldberg shares a personal and inspiring story of how she overcame the trauma of cancer by practicing Zen. Natalie is a highly regarded Zen teacher whose words are captivating and enlightening.

It provides easy ways to start meditating and answers most of the common questions about the practice. Suzuki is one of the most prominent luminaries in the field, inspiring millions of people around the world.

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Arguably David Suzuki’s best book on is An Introduction To Zen Buddhism (the contents of the book is far more compelling than its uninspired title suggests). There’s depth and insight for the most ardent Chan Buddhist, and there are clear instructions and advice for newcomers.

The book covers the basics of Zen and shows you how to apply the concepts to your own life to create feelings of peace and happiness. The book focuses on playfulness and curiosity, which the author, Charlie Ambler, states is the key to being a happy person.

It’s a more light-hearted read compared to the other books in this list, and the illustrations are really cool (done by Brooklyn artist Iris Gottlieb). If you’ve been looking for a more playful book to help you get into Zen, I highly recommend Charlie Ambler’s read.

Radical Acceptance by Tara Branch The Art of Happiness, Dalai Lama The Power of Now, Eckhart Toll Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Persia Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Bachelor The Tibetan Book of the Dead as translated by Gourmet More The Connected Discourses by Shikoku Bod hi Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and PRE- Zen Writings by Paul Reps and Neogene Sendai Everyday Zen : Love & Work Charlotte Joke Beck Buddhism : An Introduction and Guide by Christmas Humphreys How to Meditate by Kathleen McDonald The Buddha, Geoff, and Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas Buddhism : What Everyone Needs to Know by Dale S. Wright Psychotherapy Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up by Kosher Paley Ellison Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein Zen as F×ck (Zen as F×ck Journals) by Monica Sweeney The Dude and the Zen Master, by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman The Three Pillars of Zen : Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment by Philip Tableau Joshi Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness by Change Denebola Narayana Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night: A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of by the Holiness the Dalai Lama Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health, and Find Peace in the Every day by Matthew Sociology Zurchungpa’s Testament with commentary by Diego Hyenas Roche Buddhism for Beginners by Tauten Chevron Awareness by Anthony Demerol Women’s Buddhism, Buddhism’s Women by Ellison Banks Finely Awakening Compassion by Pea Chevron One Teacher, Many Traditions by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tauten Chevron Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pea Chevron Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Was The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Angara Dorinda Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac Buddhism : An Introduction to the Buddha’s Life, Teachings, and Practices by Joan Duncan Oliver One Breath at a Time by Kevin Edward Griffin Eight Steps to Happiness by Ge she Kelsey Goats Zen Training by Philip Tableau Joshi Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism by Kittisaro and Honiara A Still Forest Pool by Again Chat In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pale Canon by Shikoku Bod hi Written by a Vietnamese Zen Monk who was friend with Martin Luther King, Which That Hand (1926-) introduces us to a simple concept that we often forget in our busy hectic daily lives: the present moment.

The book is a series of talks that the Zen Master Henry Suzuki gave in a garage in the 1960s, so you can expect a clear and concise experience. The book is delightful to read for people who already practice Zen meditation and mindfulness, but who want to know more details about Zen Buddhism.

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Philip Tableau (1912-2004) who was ordained in Japan after 13 years of practice, was the founder of the Rochester Zen Center in the USA. Tableau Joshi (Joshi means Zen Master, ) was a teacher in the relatively new San Kodak tradition that mixes both mainstream traditions of Zen in Japan, Sinai and Soto.

You should read Hardcore Zen if you are looking for something that does not sound too scholastic, but nonetheless contains a lot of great insights and funny anecdotes. Brad Warner (1964-) is an ordained monk in the Soto school of Zen and was a student of late Judo Weight Nishijima.

Brad Warner spent more than a decade working in Japan before coming back to the US. A Californian who is into rock n’ roll music, Japanese monster movies and blogging, Zen Master Warner writes books that go off the beaten tracks by including references to modern culture.

The Way of Zen is beautifully written by a great communicator named Alan Watts that had the ability to simplify hard-to-understand concepts and explain them in a manner easy to understand for all. The book provides insights in the history and the concepts Zen Buddhism in the greater scheme of things: the different traditions of the Smaller (Hinayana) and the Great Vehicle (Mahayana), the influence of Chinese Taoism and Indian Buddhism on Zen, Zen’s influence on Japanese and Chinese cultures, etc.

Alan Watts (1915-1973) was a British-American theologian, writer, Zen practitioner and interpreter of Eastern philosophy for Westerners. The introduction was written by Philip Tableau (the author of the “Three Pillars of Zen ”) which means this book should definitively on your “To Read” list.

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Shamble publications, probably the most famous publisher for works about Buddhism in the West, brings us Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy, a book written by Zen Master Katsuki Skid. The book is often tagged as a “handbook for taken sitting meditation” and how to live and train as a Zen practitioner.

Zen Training also discusses the emphasis that is put on enlightenment, which Skid believes is overly represented in the practice of Zen, which goes beyond the enlightenment concept with a diverse and rich practice. The author also makes parallels with Western philosophy and psychology, comparing the similitude between each thinking systems.

This is a book that requires a bit more of intellectual willpower to read as well as an interest in scholarly topics. The book is based on his talks and provides anecdotes, historical explanations, concepts explorations and introductions to the different schools of Buddhism and their own particularities.

It is a great book for people who want to gain knowledge about the bigger picture of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism from both historical and conceptual perspectives. After fighting in the Korean War, he eventually settled in America where he spends a few decades building the Kwan Um School of Zen, which is active all around the world.

If you read amazing books about focus, Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, Buddhism, mindfulness, personal growth, productivity… feel free to share with us! All images on this website follow Fair Use requirements and are used solely for commentary, criticism, research and teaching.

Best Buddhism Bookshop looking to study the ancient religion of Buddhism, one can feel lost or overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin. Buddhism does not have a holy book to turn to for guidance and, if you live in a Western culture, finding someone to guide you along the teachings of the Buddha might not be possible.

As the religion dates back to 5 BCE, these teachings are complex, deep and interpreted differently by Buddhist practitioners and teachers. If you’re looking to open your mind and soul to the teachings of the Buddha or deepening your knowledge and understanding of principles that you already practice, there are a few books that might help you on your journey to enlightenment.

In 384 pages readers glimpse into the week His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Milo Tutu spent together where they discussed how they have managed to find joy in the midst of suffering. The obstacles to Joy: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Despair, Loneliness, Envy, Suffering and finally Illness & Death.

The Eight Pillars of Joy: Perspective, Humility, Humor, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Compassion and Generosity. Finally, the book concludes with a guide to shift your everyday thinking in order to take thoughts that would otherwise be negative and turn them into joy with ease.

The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living combines the knowledge and power behind Buddhist teachings with the practicality of science and psychology. Dr. Howard C Cutler, a psychiatrist and best -selling author, interviews His Holiness the Dalai Lama in this 352-page book.

This book is less of a guide to the teachings of Buddhism and more of a roadmap for how to live life as a wholly happy and peaceful being. His Holiness the Dali Lama tells his stories firsthand and Dr. Cutler relays them to the reader, giving context for their meetings as well as his personal reflections of the discussions.

This guide to Buddhism uses many metaphors to take abstract concepts and present them in a way that is similar to a real-life situation. Diving deeper, this book is for anyone who has questions that can’t be answered by typical Buddhist teachings and jargon.

In 159 pages, Zen teacher Steve Hagen reiterates the fact that the teachings of the Buddha are rooted in awareness and being fully present. Buddhism Plain and Simple focuses on the core teachings of the Buddha rather than the religious aspects.

The 146-page book is written in a conversational Q&A-style in order to answer the reader’s most burning questions about Buddhism. While it doesn’t go to in-depth on Buddhist concepts and teachings, it is a great place to start your journey to enlightenment.

If this simplistic style of teaching is beneficial to the reader, they may also listen to Noah Rash eta’s podcast Secular Buddhism. The book may seem as if it is delivering a disappointing prognosis of one’s life, but it leaves the reader with hope that there is a remedy.

Buddhism for Beginners is written is a question-and-answer format that allows the reader to easily find the answers to their most burning questions like, “what is karma?” and, “how do I meditate?” while touching on the roots that built the Buddhist religion thousands of years ago. Chevron touches the Buddhist perspective of issues such as abortion, euthanasia and animal rights in this 160-page book.

Over the course of 512 pages, American scholar-monk, Shikoku Bod hi, provides translations of original teachings, selections from the earliest original record of what the Buddha taught and a biography on the Buddha, detailing his life, rebirth, suffering, liberation and practice. His experience with different cultures around the world allows him to provide a first-hand account of what it means to practice a lifestyle such as his.

Either way, this guide to Buddhism and the Buddhist lifestyle gets the point across in a language that any level practitioner can understand. It will give the reader a base layer they can use to then delve into more complex guides, teachings and practices.

Those who are in recovery and are interested in the work of the Buddha may find this book extremely helpful in their journey. His 304-page book delves into each of the most important aspects of Buddhism all while relating them back to the Twelve-Step program and the journey to recovery and enlightenment.

Author Chris Niebuhr, Ph.D., publishes up-and-coming research that shows that our ego, or in Buddhist terms, Anita, is created by the left side of our own brain. In 184 pages, Dr. Niebuhr stakes the claim that there is no such thing as the self, that it is merely an illusion that we have created for ourselves, and he backs it up with both scientific research and Buddhist ideals.

Noah Rasta is a lay minister that is excellent at breaking down Buddhism into the most easily digestible teachings. This book is part of a “Very Short Introduction” series that are published by Oxford University Press.

This is a great introductory book for anyone interested in Buddhism as a school of thought or anyone who is skeptical about the religion. The book is 184 pages of easy-to-read chapters that provide thoughtful answers to why and how Buddhism is used in modern life.

Author Rupert Ge thin, co-founder of the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol, provides a reliable introduction to Buddhism. His 352-page book covers everything from the history of the religion to the differences between the factions that exist to the specifics of the teachings and principals.

In her book Wake Up, Sensei provides a guide to practicing Zen in our everyday lives. This 146-page book allows the reader to learn and explore the teachings of the Buddha, transform the way you think about things and is accessible to practitioners at any stage of education.

Sensei’s years of teaching show through her words and provide readers with the information that is necessary to becoming Zen. This 352-page book compares the Sanskrit traditions of Tibet and East Asia and the Pale traditions of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia while illuminating the core teachings of the Buddha that remain unwavering around the world.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and American Buddhist nun Tauten Choir give a proper history lesson into Buddhism in this book in order to readers to fully understand the religion that they are interested in or already practicing. Author Donald W. Mitchell brings the reader on a journey through the last 2,500 years of Buddhist teachings and history.

This 436-page book features primary sources such as photos, maps, essays and personal narratives by renowned Buddhists and scholars. Buddhism : Introducing the Buddhist Experience is such an educational one that it is often assigned to university students for class.

His Holiness starts with the basics of Buddhism in a way that is easy for the reader to digest and teaches how one may apply Buddhist principals to their everyday lives. Furthermore, His Holiness provides a commentary on some of the most integral texts of the Buddha including The Eight Verses on Training the Mind and Aisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment.

Mark Series, a professor of Philosophy at Illinois State University writes in a way that challenges the reader to think critically about Buddhism, the philosophers and the arguments that they make. Meanwhile, the author includes plenty of original Buddhist texts in order for the reader to better draw their own conclusion without another’s words clouding their judgment.

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