Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization
The Satipatthana Sutta is the Buddha’s core teaching on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Analayo takes you through the teachings step-by-step. He offers alternative understandings of the Four Foundations and beautifully connects them all, thereby revealing the beautiful architecture of the Buddha’s approach to meditation.
In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (Teachings of the Buddha)
Edited and introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi
This anthology is an excellent guide to the Buddha’s teachings. If you think you may be interested in studying the suttas, this is a good book to start with. The book is organized around various topics, from the human condition and how to approach the dharma to mastering the mind and planes of realization.
Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree: The Buddha’s Teachings on Voidness
By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Ajahn Buddhadasa was one of the most influential teachers in Thailand in the last century. This book explores what is meant by sunyata (emptiness or voidness). The teachings of emptiness are challenging and Ajahn Buddhadasa gives a clear description of his understanding of it and how you can experience it for yourself. It’s a book that every experienced student will want to be familiar with.
The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations
By Gil Fronsdal
The Dhammapada is the most widely read Buddhist scripture. It is a collection of short teachings on a wide range of subjects from old age to the meaning of path. It emphasizes both the practical aspects of Buddhism, such as happiness in this life, and the liberation aspect (i.e., absolute freedom). Fronsdal’s language is clear and reflects his background as a Buddhist scholar.
One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism
By Joseph Goldstein
This book describes the commonalities between the three main traditions of Buddhism and points to the emergence of a Western school of Buddhism that incorporates qualities and teachings from all three traditions. In Goldstein’s view, mindfulness is the common means of practice, compassion is the result of practice, and wisdom is the essence that is being cultivated.
Living Dharma: Teachings of Twelve Buddhist Masters
By Jack Kornfield
This book contains the stories of 12 highly respected Southeast Asian meditation masters of the last century and how they taught meditation. It reveals wide differences among these teachers as to what they emphasized. Somewhere in all these teachings you’ll find something that matches your meditation experience. Some of the teachers Kornfield writes about are Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Buddhadasa, and Ajhan Chah.
A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah (Quest Book)
Edited by Jack Kornfield and Paul Breiter
Ajahn Chah was one of the great insight meditation teachers of the last century. This book is a collection of short teachings that reflect his emphasis on being mindful in daily life as the way to attain liberation. He describes the essence of vipassana, concentration practice, walking meditation practice, and much more. His teachings are like nuggets that you can quickly consume and then chew on for days.
Teachings of the Buddha
Edited by Jack Kornfield
This collection of the Buddha’s teachings is an excellent reference and makes for good daily inspirational reading.
First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening
By Susan Murcott
This book is an inspiring collection of poems written by early nuns describing their own search for and experience of realization. They are a delight to read and capture the liberating feeling of the ego letting go of its tyrannical reign. (This is not a book for women only!)
Dependent Origination: Buddhist Law of Conditionality
By P.A. Payutto
One of the core teachings of the Buddha is dependent origination, which explains how suffering comes about due to a series of links that happen in the mind. This book is a very clear description of the 12 links that create suffering. It presents both the traditional teaching and various interpretations that have arisen, gives examples in everyday life, and it presents the more complex versions of dependent origination. This is a book you’ll want to re-read periodically as your practice deepens.
The Mind and the Way: Buddhist Reflections on Life
By Ajahn Sumedho
This book is a collection of Ajahn Sumedho’s dharma talks. It captures both Sumedho’s profound wisdom of insight and his modest, simple approach to mindfulness practice. He covers topics ranging from the Four Noble Truths and the Three Refuges to karma. This book is a remarkable resource for living the dharma in daily life.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks On Zen Meditation And Practice
By Shunryu Suzuki
Ironically, although this is a book that beginners are inspired by, it takes experience to fully appreciate it. It is based of a series of teachings by Shunryu Suzuki, the Zen master who established the San Francisco Zen Center. The book captures the immediate wisdom of the Zen approach to mindfulness. It is the best demonstration of beginners mind that I know of and awakens that feeling of possibility in you immediately.
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (Shambhala Library)
By Chogyam Trungpa
This book draws from a series of lectures given by Chogyam Trungpa, the founder of the Shambhala tradition in the US, in Boulder, Colo., in the early 1970s. Reading this book provides you with confidence on your own spiritual journey. It makes you reflect and helps you examine your own experience. Trungpa captures the experience of being on the path so clearly and in such a way that you recognize, “Ahhh, that’s what I experienced!”