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Buddhism Books: Introduction to Buddhism

The following books are all highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Buddhism.
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Buddhism: Plain and Simple
by Steve Hagen

A Zen priest, Steve Hagen has studied Buddhism for thirty years, including fifteen years with Zen Master Dainin Katagiri, from who he received Dharma Transmission (endorsement to teach). He is also the author of How the World Can Be the Way It Is

Review: You might want to digest this book slowly, a few pages at a time. Although Zen teacher Steve Hagen has a knack for putting the philosophy of Buddhism in a "plain and simple" package, it may take a while to sink in. There is so much there. Seeing reality, realizing the wisdom of the self, breaking free of dualistic thinking--this is pretty heady stuff. Thankfully, Hagen passes it along in the form of examples from life, psychological tidbits, and stories from Buddhist teachers past and present. And when it clicks in, it can be life-transforming. Hagen explains this shift in outlook and how the fundamental way we look at the world affects everything we do. As an outline, Hagen follows the basic teachings of the Buddha, and we see that, rather than dogmatic truths, they are reminders for us as we reconsider the life we have taken for granted for so long. As it turns out, Buddhism is life, plain and simple

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How To Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life
by The Dalai Lama

Editorial Review: As a primer on living the good life, few books compete with How to Practice, another profound offering from the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Westerners may be confused by the book's title, assuming that it focuses solely on Buddhist meditation and prayer techniques. Though it does address meditation and prayer, at its core this is a book that demonstrates how day-to-day living can be a spiritual practice.

    There are two ways to create happiness:
  • The first is external. By obtaining better clothes, better shelter, and better friends we can find a certain measure of happiness and satisfaction.
  • The second is through mental development, which yields inner happiness. However, these two approaches are not equally viable. External happiness cannot last long without its counterpart.... However, if you have peace of mind you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances.
As he has in previous books (An Open Heart, The Art of Happiness), the Dalai Lama reminds us that developing peace of mind means paying attention to our daily attitudes and choices as well as taking the time to meditate and be prayerful. The six-part book covers Buddhist meditation techniques and visualization exercises as well as daily thoughts and actions that foster morality and wisdom. Click here for more books by the Dalai Lama

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Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening
by Stephen Batchelor

Review: Those with an interest in Buddhism will welcome this new book by Stephen Batchelor, former monk and author of Alone With Others and The Awakening of the West. But those who are just discovering this increasingly popular practice will have much to gain as well-for Buddhism Without Beliefs serves as a solid, straightforward introduction that demystifies Buddhism and explains simply and plainly how its practice can enrich our lives. Avoiding jargon and theory, Batchelor concentrates on the concrete, making Buddhism accessible and compelling and showing how anyone can embark on this path-regardless of their religious background.

Former monk and author of "Alone with Others" and "The Awakening of the West, Stephen Batchelor now offers a straightforward, solid introduction to Buddhism that demystifies the discipline and explains simply and plainly how its practice can enrich our lives.

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Awakening the Buddha Within : Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World
by Lama Surya Das

Review: This a fun-to-read introduction to the Buddhist path. Whether you are simply curious about Buddhism or are looking for some spiritual nourishment, this book informs and enlightens.

Lama Surya Das skillfully explains how ancient Buddhist wisdom can help us find peace and meaning in our fast-paced American lives. He conveys the beauty and richness of Tibetan Buddhism without making it so exotic or esoteric that is becomes inapplicable to our Western lives. He also has a warm sense of humor. ("America the Buddhaful" is the title of an essay by Lama Das.).

Das weaves the fundamentals of Buddhism with the story of his own spiritual journey. Find out how a nice Jewish boy from New York (his mom calls him "The Deli Lama") transforms himself into one of the leading teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. For Das, an ex-high school jock, it's a long way from the locker room to the windswept monasteries of the Himalayas!

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The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions
by Huston Smith

Author's Introduction: "How does it all sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange, ethereal harmony? ... We cannot know. All we can do is try to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine. Such listening defines the purpose of this book"

With an excellent section on Buddhism, this is truly an excellent world religion book that also covers Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, Christianity, and Judaism among others. A "must read" for everyone, of every religious persuasion. The respect it instills for diverse religious beliefs, and the manner in which the reader slowly comes to realize how much seemingly incompatible religious systems have in common, is nothing less than profound.

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Shopping for Buddhas
by Jeff Greenwald

A hugely fun and widely popular book about the author's obsessive search for the perfect Buddha statue. In the back streets of Kathmandu, Nepal, he discovers more than he bargained for--and his souvenir-hunting turns into an ironic metaphor for the clash between spiritual riches and material greed.

A fun introduction to Buddhism, and a highly recommended book.

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Siddhartha: An Indian Tale
by Herman Hesse

Review: Quite simply one of the most enchanting and delicate stories of our time. this is Hesse's version about the life of the man who would become Buddha. One of my favorite authors, Herman Hesse has always been a superb writer, and this book is a testament to his ability. Other great books by Hesse include Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game

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The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, & Liberation: The Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Other
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Review: Thich Nhat Hanh's presentation of the "basics" of Buddhism is a first-rate introduction to the essentials of this way of practice and faith. What distinguishes it from similar introductory treatments of Buddhism is its profoundly healing quality. The subtitle, "Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation" could well have been the title. In the Buddhist tradition of both wisdom and compassion, it enlightens the mind and heals the heart. An excellent read for anyone who feels life's difficulty, whether Buddhist or not.

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Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness : Walking the Buddha's Path
by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Review: Eight Mindful Steps To Happiness offers a mentally evolved, elegant presented, beautifully simple, Buddhist approach to life. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana was born in Sri Lanka, ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of twelve, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from The American University, and taught courses in Buddhism in several American colleges and universities. He draws upon his immense expertise, insights, and education skills to share the Buddha's teachings on every aspect of human life. Eight Mindful Steps To Happiness is a wonderful and much appreciated contribution to the growing library of Buddhist literature available to an American readership.

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Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is also the author of Mindfulness in Plain English, a popular book providing step by step, detailed instruction in how to practice insight meditation and mindfulness.


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Introduction to Buddhism, reviewed books, recommended Buddhist sprituality resources.