Buddhism today is nothing but a collection of different philosophies and schools of thought, ranging from Zen to Mahayana to Thervada. Nevertheless, following in the Buddha’s footsteps, Buddhists seek to reach nirvana, or enlightenment, a state of transcendence free from suffering, desire and the cycle of death and rebirth.
If you’re seeking to explore Buddhism more deeply, here are 10 books that both practitioners and religious seekers can use to learn more about this ancient tradition.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
In the forty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the great modern Zen classics. Though covering Zen basics like zazen posture, bowing, intention, and so on, Suzuki Roshi’s masterwork is hardly just for Zen people—or just for beginners, for that matter. It skillfully introduces important Buddhist concepts like non-attachment, emptiness, and enlightenment.
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield
Internationally renowned author and meditation master Jack Kornfield convinces enlightenment does exist and is even pretty common. The rub is that after achieving it, day-to-day tasks and troubles still await you. This is a guide to translating our spiritual awakenings into our imperfect lives. This book deals with how the enlightened heart navigates the real world of family relationships, emotional pain, earning a living, sickness, loss, and death.
Cutting-Through-Spiritual-Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa
Based on the highest view of the Vajrayana school, it defines basic principles not only of Buddhism but of spiritual practice altogether. Always contemporary and relevant, a profound influence on how Buddhism is understood today.
Happiness Is an Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein
With her characteristic warmth, Sylvia Boorstein teaches how practicing right mindfulness, concentration, and effort leads us away from anger, anxiety, and confusion and into calmness, clarity, and joy.
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana
Perfect for anyone interested in mindfulness, Buddhist or not. This classic of the Theravada tradition explains what mindfulness is and isn’t, how to practice it, and how to work with distractions and other obstacles.
Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
Using almost no Buddhist-specific terms, this helpful little book nonetheless hits all the right notes when it comes to how to do basic meditation and related practices that can help us cultivate more kindness, connection, and contentment in our everyday lives.
What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
A precise delineation of the key tenets that define Buddhism, versus what is superfluous, merely cultural, or not Buddhist at all. A good book to read if you’re deciding whether or not you’re a Buddhist, or just want to know what Buddhism really is.
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
If you’re facing a challenging time in life, this is the book you want. It shows how to develop loving-kindness toward yourself and then cultivate a fearlessly compassionate attitude toward your own pain and that of others.