Buddhism is immensely rich encompassing a variety of schools. However there are three main recognised traditions in Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Theravada is the oldest, foundational form of Buddhism and is found in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. Mahayana focuses on the Bodhisattva ideal (the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for all beings) and it spread to China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Tibet and Mongolia. Vajrayana is the tantric form of Buddhism and is especially associated with Tibetan Buddhism, though there are Chinese and Japanese forms. Zen, or Ch’an in Chinese, is a meditative tradition aimed at directly perceiving our Buddha nature.
Our Top-10 lists aim to represent a particular topic through the selected outstanding books, balancing classic texts and latest titles, popular books and less known must-reads. Here’s a selection on Buddhism from Watkins Books shelves, suggested by Mike, member of Watkins staff::
Bhikkhu Bodhi,In the Buddha’s Words
A new concise single-volume collection of the Buddha’s discourses, making this the definitive introduction to the Buddha’s teachings – in his own words. The renowned scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi, whose voluminous translations have won widespread acclaim, here presents selected discourses of the Buddha from the Pali Canon, the earliest record of what the Buddha taught.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Miracle of Mindfulness
A personal and direct guide to awareness and meditation in everyday life. “As a book on the Buddhist path, the Miracle of Mindfulness is special because its clear and simple emphasis on basic practice enables any reader to begin a practice of his or her own immediately.
Ajahn Chah, Food for the Heart
Renowned for the beauty and simplicity of his teachings, Ajahn Chah was Thailand’s best known meditation teacher. His charisma and wisdom influenced many American and European seekers, and helped shape the American Vipassana community. This collection brings together for the first time Ajahn Chah’s most powerful teachings, including those on meditation, liberation from suffering, calming the mind, enlightenment and the “living dharma”.
Ajahn Brahm, Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond
A self-described meditation junkie, Brahm shares his recipe for bliss in this practical, energising new book. “Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond” is a complete, stem-to-stern guide to the subject, with precise step-by-step instructions for traversing the stages of practice and overcoming obstacles.
Rahula Walpola, What the Buddha Taught
Buddhism continues to enjoy increasing interest in the West, both for its emphasis on reflection and meditation and as an object of scholarship. Drawing the words actually spoken by the Buddha, Rahula gives a full account of his fundamental teachings, from the Buddhist attitude of mind and meditation to the Buddha’s teaching in the contemporary world. The text also features a selection of texts from original Buddhist literature.
Jack Kornfield, Path with Heart
Perhaps the most important book yet written on meditation, the process of inner transformation, and the integration of spiritual practice into our Western way of life, A Path With Heart brings alive the possibilities of inner peace, wholeness and the achievement of happiness.
Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English
With his distinctive clarity and wit,”Bhante G” takes us step by step through the myths, realities, and benefits of meditation and the practice of mindfulness. We already have the foundation we need to live a more productive and peaceful life – Bhante simply points to each tool of meditation, tells us what it does, and how to make it work.
Sharon Salzberg, Loving Kindness
Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and find a greater sense of connection with others. Our fear of intimacy—both with others and with ourselves—creates feelings of pain and longing. But these feelings can also awaken in us the desire for freedom and the willingness to take up the spiritual path.
John Snelling, Buddhist Handbook
This book offers a comprehensive worldwide cultural and historical view of Buddhism. The initial chapters detail its spread from India into China, Asia, Tibet, Japan, and adjacent areas. Later chapters deal with Buddhism in Europe since World War II, the history of North American Buddhism, and the influence of Buddhism on psychotherapy.
Dhammapada, translated by Glenn Wallis
In this elegant new translation, Sanskrit scholar Glenn Wallis has exclusively referred to and quoted from the canonical suttas–the presumed earliest discourses of the Buddha–to bring us the heartwood of Buddhism, words as compelling today as when the Buddha first spoke them.