When it comes to books on Buddhism, there are plenty to choose from. But which ones should you read? Which will be the most interesting and informative?
Writing this blog post reminds me of being 12 years old (yes that was many moons ago!)
As a young boy, I was fascinated by books about Buddha and Buddhism. I remember reading about how he achieved enlightenment under a tree. Thinking I could do the same, I would try to sit in the same position for hours at a time. Of course, I never came close to achieving enlightenment, but it was fun to pretend!
As I got older, I began to appreciate what it means to be a Buddhist. I discovered that Buddhism is not just a religion, but a way of life. It teaches values such as compassion, wisdom, and peace. In many ways, it has shaped who I am today, even though I’ve never been a practicing Buddhist. I know I will never achieve enlightenment, but I’m grateful for the lessons that Buddhism has taught me.
In this blog post, we will discuss my favorite books about Buddha and Buddhism and why you should read them. These are all
great selections for beginners.
The 6 Best Books on Buddhism: Buddha, History, and Modern Times
Looking to get your feet wet and learn about Buddhism? Whether you’re interested in beginning your path to Enlightenment, or just curious about this philosophy, these works are a fantastic starting point.
The Art Of Happiness
A Handbook For Living
In “The Art of Happiness,” the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler offer a practical approach to achieving happiness based on the Dalai Lama’s teachings. In the book, the authors explain that the key to happiness lies in our own hands and that we each have the power to create our own happiness.
They offer specific advice on how to deal with difficult emotions, such as anger and fear, and how to find compassion and forgiveness. They also discuss the importance of developing positive relationships and creating a meaningful life.
Throughout the book, the authors emphasize the importance of mindfulness and living in the present moment. While the book does contain some dry sections, overall it is an insightful and engaging read. The Dalai Lama’s personal stories are especially powerful, and they serve as a reminder that happiness is something that must be actively pursued.
The Art of Happiness is an accessible and insightful introduction to Buddhism, and it provides readers with a valuable framework for beginning their own journey towards enlightenment.
“When life becomes too complicated and we feel overwhelmed, it’s often useful just to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal.
When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then reset our priorities on the basis of that.
This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take.”Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness
The Diamond Cutter
The Buddha on Managing your Business and Your Life
This book is a gem of spiritually-empowering knowledge and practical business expertise. It will teach you how to focus and what it takes to turn your business aspirations into success.
Through his seventeen years of experience as a co-leader of the Andin International Diamond Corporation, Geshe Roach saw the company expand to become a global powerhouse.
In this book, he describes a method for success using the Buddhist teachings from Tibetan lamas, and spiritual teachers, he has encountered in his own life.
It begins with the Diamond Sutra, known in Sanskrit as the Arya Vajra-cchedika Nama Prajnaparamita Mahayana Sutra. The title roughly translates to “The Noble Mahayana Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom.” It was imparted by Lord Buddha himself to his disciple Subhuti.
The Sutra is a 4000-year-old book that teaches about the hidden potential in all things.
Roach then includes some teachings from current-day Tibetan lamas he encountered before becoming a “geshe” himself. Commentaries from Tibetan Buddhist traditions are included as well.
In the third section of the book, Roach tells his personal story. How he grew from being a mere apprentice all the way to becoming a leader in the diamond firm that grew alongside him.
The most intriguing part of the book (in my opinion), is where he also talks about the Buddhist approach to starting and then leading a business that continues to prosper.
The first goal, making money, can actually be part of a spiritual process if that goal is kept with a healthy attitude and the money is made with respect for customers and an acknowledgment of where that money comes from and how to keep it coming. Roach also elaborates on how to find the diamond potential within us all and how to use it.
The second goal is to enjoy the money by maintaining the health of our minds and bodies, as well as a habit of meditation, while we earn.
The third goal is to lead a business that will have great value when you reflect upon how you have conducted yourself, what you have learned, and what you have been able to achieve for yourself and for the greater good. It concludes with a collection of success stories among the millions whose lives have been inspired by this book and the experiences of all the people recorded in it.
Buddha in Daily Life
The Introduction to the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin
For the past several decades, Buddhism as taught by Nichiren Daishonin has been embraced by millions of people from all countries and all walks of life. It can be practiced beyond religious identity or a specified way of life.
Starting in the 13th century, the core of its teachings is that faith, religious study, and practice are the only things required to constantly reach higher achievements both spiritually and in the physical world.
Once a person is able to fulfill his or her greatest need (that of reaching the highest potential), the feeling of fulfillment and self-realization will naturally pour out to one’s family, community, and ultimately, the world.
The author of this book, Richard Causton, is himself a soldier who has served three years of active service in Burma during WWII. He was 25 years old then, and the war left him with a feeling that “the world of his early youth had gone forever.” This was a feeling soldiers, and civilians, with PTSD knew all too well.
His pain gave rise to an inner spiritual longing for an answer to the world’s suffering. After several years, he began a career in business in which he was destined to encounter Nichiren Buddhism. At age 51, he made a commitment to its teachings and imparting them to all.
The book speaks about working as an individual committed to world peace, protecting the environment, and serving humanity. It focuses on the issue of AIDs and how it can be alleviated.
The first chapter of the book speaks of the worlds which we transition or travel between each day:
- learning and realization
- and eventually Buddhahood
This stage is permanent and is reached only after one becomes a bodhisattva committed to one’s transformation. It also speaks of the meaning of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the sacred mantra taught by Nichiren to his disciples. It translates to “Respect to the Mystic Law of the Universe” and how to apply it to our daily lives.
The Gohonzon, a scroll on which this mantra is written, along with the words for the ten worlds, and Nichiren’s signature, is what Nichiren Buddhists look upon as they chant. Causton further details what faith, practice, and study mean in Nichiren Buddhism and about the lasting peace SGI is dedicated to creating.
Stop and Smell the Universe
This is a light-hearted yet highly thought-provoking book suitable for children and adults alike. It is as spiritual as it is calculating, as much about the mystical aspects of life as it is about the physical. As such it inspires a striking amount of curiosity among those who have ever dared to ask questions about their existence and the significance of life.
The book contains over 120 maxims, stories, and bizarre facts provided alongside whimsical illustrations, all of which can simultaneously serve as meditations to reflect upon.
What all of the pages share is a unique ability to captivate the reader on seemingly mundane and “normal” events, observations, etc. about the world around us that are indeed much more miraculous than most perceive.
Take, for example, the story featured on the first page:
Cleopatra’s breath…is still in the air
When Cleopatra took her last breath, she exhaled around 100 sextillion air molecules…So many were dispersed into the atmosphere that they’re still floating around…everywhere.
What’s the result? Every time you inhale, according to experts, you take in at least one that came from Cleopatra’s lungs, Julius Caesar’s, and George Washington’s. In fact, it’s likely that with every breath you take, at least one molecule breathed by every one of your ancestors all the way back to the first humans who started your family tree.
What we take for granted, usually, not only allows us to live but connects us, literally, to all who live and who have ever lived. Now that’s amazing!
The aim of this book is to evoke the awareness that we are all capable of. It is a reminder that we are all connected in ways we might not even imagine.
One of the most bizarrely profound works I’ve ever read, this “philosophical fiction” book details the life of Siddhartha during the time of Gautama Buddha. However, this Siddhartha is not the Shakyamuni who found his Enlightenment in the woods.
After leaving his home in Kapilavastu, the Brahmin Siddhartha (along with his friend Govinda) takes to begging with the ascetics of the Shramanas in hopes of gaining spiritual enlightenment. Along the way, he loses his desires for worldly goods and masters self-denial.
Nonetheless, realizing the oldest Shramanas have not attained what he seeks, he moves onward, bringing his friend with him. Next, they heard of Gotama Buddha who had succeeded in attaining Nirvana. His friend decides to stay with the practitioners while Siddhartha does not, because of the contradictions he faces in Buddhism, which he feels, are irreconcilable.
This marks the point at which Siddhartha leaves his friend as well as Gotama Buddha, and enters a rather chaotic, materialistic, and pleasure-seeking (somewhat Western) world. He begins to take on a wife, befriends a carefree ferryman, owns a powerful business the likes which no one has seen, has a child, and even takes on an addiction to alcohol.
He does all these things consciously, however, all in hopes of spiritual advancement, rather than for the pleasures themselves. While he enjoys what the world would call a “perfect life” materialistically, he feels an emptiness in his life as he never before.
In this story, Siddhartha and Govinda are apt to gain Enlightenment, but you’ll need to read on in this book to learn how. The story is the artistic rendering of a Western man who made Buddhism a central part of his way of life and his literary works.
It is considered to be one of the greatest fictional books written about Buddhism and connects the teachings of Buddhism to the truth that everyone’s spiritual path will evolve differently but the same destination can be reached through each of these paths.
Singing For Freedom
Tibetan Buddhist nun Ani Choying Drolma is known worldwide for singing Buddhist songs and mantras which transport the listener to a realm of inner peace. She radiates compassion and triumph of the soul not only in her voice but in her story and her humanitarian deeds.
The book starts with her description of who she was before becoming a nun in a Nepalese monastery. Hers was a male-dominated world in which most women were married off against their will. Her home was a particularly chaotic one and finding peace was of utmost difficulty. There were no other options; for many, being a nun was unthinkable.
Yet it was through this way of life that nun Ani Choying transformed from a once bitterly angry girl into a divine being of “head and heart.”
Though she has never been formally educated herself, Choying has now opened a large school for girls in Nepal (the Arya Tara School) which never existed in her childhood. She has also started an NGO known as the “Nuns’ Welfare of Nepal.” Through it, she started the first kidney hospital in Nepal which made dialysis free for poor people.
Not having expected to be a singer, she sings in world concerts to fund her projects and to impart the blessings of Tibetan Buddhism to all who listen. Her vision is to empower all people to take their sufferings as lessons from which they are able to improve, rather than submitting themselves to the negativities they face.
In “Singing for Freedom,” Choying speaks of her growth, experiences, and message which can be summarized in her song “Phoolko Aakhama”:
“In the eyes of a flower, the world is a flower
In the eyes of thorns, the world is a thorn
The shadow is reflected according to the object
May my heart be pure
May my voice be Buddha
May my feet never kill an insect
In beautiful eyes, the world opens up beautifully
May I see the dazzling moon in the dark night
May I listen to the music of life in blissful moments”
How can Buddha books help me?
There are many different paths to enlightenment, and Buddhism is just one of them. However, Buddhism can offer us valuable insights into the nature of reality and the human condition.
By reading and studying Buddhist texts, we can learn about the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and other important concepts. These ideas can help us see the world in a new light and develop a more spiritual perspective.
Additionally, Buddhism books often contain beautiful stories and poetry that can inspire us on our journey. By reading this literature, we can gain a deeper understanding of this ancient tradition and its wisdom. Ultimately, books on Buddhism can lead us on a path closer to enlightenment, instead of away from it.
AI Art – Famous Philosophers
Using text-to-image artificial intelligence models, I’ve generated some interesting pictures of famous philosophers of the past and present. A fun experiment!
Who was Buddha?
Buddha was an ascetic and sage, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived in the eastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.
His original name was Siddhartha Gautama, and he was born into a wealthy family. However, he renounced his life of privilege after witnessing the suffering of ordinary people. He then embarked on a quest to find the cause of human suffering.
After years of study and meditation, he achieved enlightenment. He then began teaching his philosophy, which stresses the importance of moral conduct, compassion, and mindfulness.
Today, Buddha is revered as one of the most important figures in world history. Teachings continue to inspire millions of people around the globe.
How is Buddhism relevant now?
In a fast-paced, materialistic world, it can be easy to get caught up in the pursuit of wealth and power. However, this is not the path to happiness, as Buddha taught us more than 2,000 years ago.
Buddhism teaches us to live in the present moment and to be mindful of our thoughts and actions. By following these tenets, we can lead happier and more peaceful lives.
In addition, Buddhism teaches us to accept change as a part of life and to let go of attachments. This can be especially helpful in times of uncertainty when things feel beyond our control. By remembering that nothing is permanent, we can find peace amidst the chaos.
For these reasons and more, Buddhism is VERY helpful in modern life.
Final thoughts on books about Buddha and Buddhism
Whether you’re a beginner just starting to explore the world of Buddhism, or an experienced practitioner looking for some new guidance, these books about Buddha and Buddhism will be sure to help. So which one should you read first? That’s up to you! But we highly recommend giving all five of them a try.