A Dharma friend once told me that you don’t need that many books to understand the essential aspects of Buddhism. If we were beginning to look at Buddhism again, this article describes the books that we would select. We cheat and select 6 books, 3 books, and 2 other books that gives us a total of 11 books mostly around 200-250 pages in length.
1. ‘Foundation of Buddhist Thought’ series by Geshe Tashi Tsering. The 6 books allow space for a lot of key areas to be carefully explained. Knowing a modern audience the books are very accessible and answer many questions that modern people have when they first approach Buddhism. Starting with the Four Noble Truths the series works it’s way through the Two Truths, Psychology, the Awakening Mind, Emptiness, and finishes with Tantra. For anybody unsure where to start with Buddhism, we certainly recommend this series. Optionally, there is a course to accompany the books with audio teachings:
‘Foundation of Buddhist Thought’ course
2. To get more of a flavour of Buddhism, you could then study Shantideva’s text ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life’. The verses are very useful to reflect upon and also to memorise. A clear translation of ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life’ is available by Stephen Batchelor. We would also recommend a commentary such as ‘The Way of Awakening’ by Geshe Yeshe Tobden and ‘Healing Anger’ by HH Dalai Lama. From the tone in these the text and two commentaries, you begin to hear the kindness in their words and glimpse the change that has come about.
‘Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life’ translated Stephen Batchelor
‘The Way of Awakening’ by Geshe Yeshe Tobden
‘Healing Anger’ by HH Dalai Lama
3. We would recommend ‘Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun’ by Nam-Kha Pel. This presents practical advice on the application of the teachings using one of the traditional ‘mind training’ texts. This book in particular summarises the teachings that have been presented above in the traditional sequence used in other ‘lamrim’ texts.
‘Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun’ by Nam-Kha Pel
4. Finally, to assist with formal meditation practice, we would recommend ‘How to Meditate’. Kathleen McDonald’s words are warm, encouraging, and steeped in experience. She describes the different types of meditation that help you to structure your own meditations based on the sources listed above.
‘How to Meditate’ by Kathleen McDonald
These are the main books that we continue to study. We do dive into other books, but we return back to these listed above because they are so practical and useful in our daily lives and regular practice.