The best books for the rest of us to absorb Buddhist essence

The Books I Picked & Why

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

By Eckhart Tolle

Book cover of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Why this book?

This book saved my life. That’s no exaggeration. When I was at my darkest, struggling with things I’d done in the military and in a destructive relationship with no perceived way out, Eckhart’s nondiscipline-specific approach to non-suffering (the essence of Buddhist philosophy) reached down and pulled me up from a black well of despair. I would not be here but for this amazing guide. My own book is titled partially in homage to his.

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The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

By Sogyal Rinpoche

Book cover of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Why this book?

Rinpoche’s tome on life and, most importantly for those of us in the western hemisphere, death is the essential classic. It transformed my relationship with death into the positive acceptance I now embrace. This isn’t merely theoretical, it served as a guide when I helped my own father pass away. Biggest takeaway: consider and explore death when you’re in a good place, not while in the process of losing someone you love or your own demise.

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What the Buddha Taught

By Walpola Rahula

Book cover of What the Buddha Taught

Why this book?

Looking for the vehicle to understand Siddhartha Gautama’s journey to enlightenment and teachings but worried you’ll never remember the four noble truths or eight-fold path? Search no more, my friends. Of all the books on Buddhism ever written this simple and compact distillation delivers what Siddhartha (the Buddha) taught which is really nothing more complex than, “You must figure it out for yourself, but here’s how I did it.”

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The Essential David Bohm

By Lee Nichol

Book cover of The Essential David Bohm

Why this book?

I first encountered the philosophy of physicist Bohm in another book by the philosopher Renée Weber (Dialogues with Scientists and Sages) in which she, the Dalai Lama, and Bohm (among others) explore, well, everything. But Bohm’s own exploration blends Buddhist concepts with physics. One of the many reasons I am Buddhist myself is its architecture and allowance for new concepts including physics theory and the reality of light itself. His implicate order for the universe explains more about its reality than accepted current theory. I’m no physicist nor towering intellectual, but I am following the Buddha’s advice to figure it out for myself. This book helped immensely. Sadly his work is overlooked by the scientific community.

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull

By Richard Bach

Book cover of Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Why this book?

One of the greatest books for finding liberation through seeing the universe and reality for what they are, merely our own perceptions. How we choose to do that determines whether we’re happy or not. To quote the character Chiang who vanishes and then returns in an instant by way of demonstrating to Jonathan that any number (including speed) is merely a limit, “It’s kind of fun.” While not a Buddhist book per se, it is one of the most timeless guides one can find. And it’s kind of fun.

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