Wednesday, September 15, 2010

a short reading list

When you study, study everything under the sun.
When you reflect, keep an open mind. 
When you practice, do one practice and go deep.
— Jamgön Kongtrül, 1813-1899

When it comes to practice, advice is ageless. We struggle with the same challenges that practitioners struggled with a thousand or two thousand years ago. Thus, we can read books from any age or any culture and we will find helpful advice.

What to read?
With the plethora of books on Buddhism now available, where do you start? When it comes to practice, it pays to keep things simple and rely on ageless advice. You don't need to read many books, but you do need to learn the ones you do read. Here is a basic reading list that will serve you well. If you really learn these, you will be in very good shape.
All these books are on Unfettered Mind's recommended reading blog. If you purchase them through the blog (it connects directly to Amazon), you will help Unfettered Mind in the process.
Basic Practice
  • Breath by Breath (Larry Rosenberg's very readable commentary on the Anapanasanti Sutra)
  • Mindfulness in Plain English (Gunaratana's excellent instructions in basic mindfulness, basically drawing from the Satipatthana Sutra)
  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Suzuki Roshi)
  • How to Cook Your Life (Dogen and Uchiyama, best description I know of how to live in awareness)
Tibetan Mahayana
  • ONE lamrim text, e.g., Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Words of my Perfect Teacher, Treasury of Precious Qualities, The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception, etc.
    (strongly recommend listening to the 
    TAN series of podcasts as you read)
  • The Way of the Bodhisattva (a solid translation of Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara)
  • Wake Up to Your Life (a reference manual for meditation practices, Ken McLeod)
  • The Great Path of Awakening (THE basic manual for mind training, Kongtrul, trans. Ken McLeod)
  • The Torch of Certainty (Kongtrul's commentary on ngöndro, trans. July Hanson)
  • Creation and Completion (Kongtrul's summary of vajrayana practice, trans. Sarah Harding)
  • Clarifying the Natural State (excellent practice book for mahamudra, Tashi Namgyal, trans. Erik Kunsang)
  • Heart Lamp (two excellent short books on  mahamudra, Tselek Rangdrol, trans. Erik Kunsang)
Two important sutras
  • The Diamond Sutra (Red Pine)
  • The Heart Sutra (Red Pine)
This may seem like a lot. Except for the lamrim text, Shantideva, and Wake Up to Your Life, the books are not long. All of them, however, are dense and potent. Thus, read them carefully, study them with friends or fellow practitioners, and take them to heart.