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Meaningful to Me

Eight prominent teachers and writers tell us which Buddhist book published in the past thirty years has meant the most to them personally.

Judith Lief, author of Making Friends with Death

I first discovered The Tibetan Book of the Dead in the Evans-Wentz version, but fell in love with it when I encountered the more earthy Chögyam Trungpa/Francesca Fremantle translation. This short text speaks to the heart of what gives us courage and what makes us afraid. Filled with practical advice for working with the mind in challenging times, it points out how easy it is to lose trust in our own potential for awakening and to cover up what is most luminous and splendid.

Joan Sutherland, Zen teacher and founder of The Open Source

Reading John Tarrant’s The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life was a revelation because it was the first Zen book I’d read that was entirely, naturally Western in both its understanding and expression. I’d thought it would take a couple of generations for a book like that to come along, and yet here it was, fully formed, graceful, and intelligent, and ushering in a new era in Zen literature.

Susan Piver, author of The Hard Questions

In The Heart of the Buddha, Chögyam Trungpa emphasizes the solitary, personal nature of the spiritual journey. I’d never before heard the journey described this way, but it resonated. I thought, “I must be a Buddhist. I didn't know that's what it was called.” And so I was. This was the exact moment I was introduced to the path.

Ajahn Amaro, co-abbot of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery

Mindfulness: The Path to the Deathless, the meditation teaching of Ajahn Sumedho, has clear and precise instructions in some of the most essential methods of Buddhist meditation. Like all profound texts, it’s a wellspring of fresh insights no matter how many times it is read. It has served as an invaluable guidebook to me for more than twenty years.

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, author In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon

For me the most important “books” published in the last thirty years are not printed books but two CDs: the Vipassana Research Institute’s Chattha Sangayana, containing the entire Pali Tipitaka along with its commentaries; and the CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripitaka Collection, which, produced in Taiwan, contains the entire Taisho edition of the Chinese Tripitaka. Not only do these two CDs include the entire Theravada and East Asian collections of scriptures, they also have search capacities that are an invaluable aid to scholarly research. Both CDs are distributed for free upon request.

Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job

My current favorite book is the late Nyanaponika Therea’s essay collection The Vision of Dhamma. In his essay on mindfulness he sounds like the tidy German housewife his mother likely was and, when describing metta (loving-kindness) in his essay on the four sublime states, he sounds like St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.

John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros

Haiku is a Zen poetic form that, for me, first opened a way to be at home. When we read haiku, or write them, we have a place in the world, the trees and animals befriend us, and we are even friendly to our own hearts. The Buddhist book published in the last thirty years that has most affected me is The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited by Robert Hass.

Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha

When I was twenty-three, my dad gave me a copy of Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, Maura O'Halloran’s journal about her three years in a Japanese monastery. Here was, at last, a book that spoke directly to me about Zen training and enlightenment experiences from the perspective of a young, Western woman. This deeply intimate portrait tipped me from being Buddhist simply because I was raised as one to dedicating myself to a life of practicing the dharma.

Meaningful to Me, Shambhala Sun, January 2009.

We'd like to know which Buddhist books have been most meaningful to
you.  Weigh in with your comments over at Shambhala SunSpace.

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