Best Zen Meditation Books

James Smith
• Saturday, 14 November, 2020
• 8 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 bestZenbooks 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 bestZenbooks 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 bestZenbooks 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 booking 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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There’s depth and insight for the most ardent Chan Buddhist, and there are clear instructions and advice for newcomers. The best thing about this book is that it is very straightforward and offers clear guidance on various aspects of Zen.

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.

Zen 2021 Wall Calendar I’ve put together this list of the 17 bestmeditationbooks for beginners learning how to meditate and novices looking to deepen their practice.

Which That Han his one of my favorite thinkers around mindfulness and is one of the most followed and loved figures in Zen. If you’re looking for a book that introduces you to the idea of mindfulness in a plain and easy to understand way, this is a great place to start.

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As the exiled leader of Tibet living as a refugee in India, the Dalai Lama remains a positive light despite the circumstances and his situation with China. Anger, fear, frustration, and stress are emotions that rob us of our happiness.

Even if you’re not interested in Buddhism and its teachings, there are some practical and useful insights to be taken away in this book. What Krishnamurti offers here is an invitation to anyone interested to reclaim a sense of ownership of their own life.

It’s an empowering and thought-provoking book that I recommend everyone take some time to read. I included the Tao Te Ching on this list because even if you’re not interested in Taoism, this is a classic book that has withstood the test of time since the 6th century.

There are so many nuggets of wisdom and timeless advice in here that anyone interested in meditation can apply to their life. Unlike other books on this list, it doesn’t offer answers or solutions.

This book offers a roadmap for how to practice meditation daily. I think what this book does a good job in doing is breaking down any preconceived notions around mindfulness.

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It lays out an easy-to-follow path along with practical applications you can begin to implement immediately. If you’re looking at improving your mental health with mindfulness, this book offers a great guide.

Despite Eckhart Toll being a bit of a controversial person (controversial in the sense that people disagree on how authentic or useful what he says is), this is the book that catapulted him into the mainstream and the idea of “living in the present moment”. I think the reason this book became as popular and mainstream as it did is because of how well it captures people in the beginning.

It says things that just feel instinctively true, and I think a lot of people at the time of this book’s release really resonated with the messages. At times, as some critics may point out, this book can be hard to read or understand.

Alan Watts is another one of my favorite thinkers and philosophers that brings his wit and humor into his musings on life, Zen Buddhism, and philosophy. It offers a secular look at Zen Buddhism with some really meaningful passages about the self, life, and the mind.

While this isn’t a pure book on Zen Buddhism as it includes some of Watts’ original interpretations and ideas, it’s still worth a read if you’re looking to deepen your meditation practice. What I love about Joke Beck’s book is that it takes Zen and its ideas and applies them to the average everyday life.

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This book helps bridge the gap between the teachings in Buddhism and what scientists are actually discovering. The good news is that these ancient teachings were on the money when it comes to what actually makes human beings happier.

Fortunately, this book presents the science in a non-technical way that’s easy to digest and understand. In this book, Wright offers his own interpretation of some Buddhist teachings mixed in with scientific understands within psychology.

While this book will not fulfill someone’s interested in the philosophies and ideas taught in Buddhism, it takes the most practical parts of the religion and shows how it helps make people happier despite years of human evolution that has baked in mechanisms that makes it harder for us to be happy. Diesels Suzuki was one of the earliest pioneers of teaching Japanese Zen in the West and an influencer to many thinkers and philosophers including Alan Watts.

It requires a lot of patience and rereading but there are certainly some gems to be picked up in this book. Either way, it’s a good short read if you’re looking for something a little older and rooted in religion and the abstract.

The basic idea of Zen is to come in touch with the inner workings of our being, and to do so in the most direct way possible, without resorting to anything external or super added. Henry Suzuki was a Zen monk who is known for founding the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia.

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While the book may be a bit repetitive at times, it’s trying to drill the core concepts into the reader so that they aren’t just remembered, they’re understood. I know many people turn to meditation as a way to support their management of their depression, and this book is a great guide on how to actually apply what you’re doing.

This book offers an easy set of instructions and exercises to begin using to help improve your mental health. Get out of our heads and learn to experience the world directly, experimentally, without the relentless commentary of our thoughts.

The last book on this list is one of my favorites and what I consider to be a true hidden gem when it comes to the bestmeditationbooks. When it comes to explaining meditation and its benefits, as well as the practice itself, in beautiful plain English, this is the book that does it.

Even as someone who has meditated for years, this book offered new ideas that I haven’t considered before. The wisdom packed in this short read is one that you will find yourself coming back to many times.

The intentions to be kind, compassionate, helpful, happy, and liberated are among the most beautiful qualities we have as humans. This book attempts to use science and neuropsychology to show that the Buddhist idea of “no self” or Anita, is true.

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There're practices and resources that allow you to explore the idea of “no self” on your own and see for yourself if what’s described is true. If you’re interested in learning how the brain interprets reality, and how that changes and controls our lived experience, this book is short and informative.

Chris Niebuhr Your journey into deepening your mindfulness and meditation practice doesn’t need to include every book on this list.

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