The best books on how to learn Buddhism

Who am I?

Lodro Rinzler has taught Buddhism for 20 years, starting when he was just 18 years-old. He is the author of seven meditation books including the best-seller The Buddha Walks into a Bar, and the co-founder of MNDFL meditation studios in New York City. His books Walk Like a Buddha and The Buddha Walks into the Office both have received Independent Publisher Book Awards. Named one of 50 Innovators Shaping the Future of Wellness by SONIMA, Rinzler's new book is Take Back Your Mind: Buddhist Advice for Anxious Times.

I wrote...

Take Back Your Mind: Buddhist Advice for Anxious Times

By Lodro Rinzler,

Book cover of Take Back Your Mind: Buddhist Advice for Anxious Times

What is my book about?

If you are reading this, than you're likely plagued with anxiety. The good news is that you don't have to be. You can live a life without so much anxiety and stress. You can train the mind to feel contentment, peace, and joy-even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Best-selling author and long-time Buddhist meditation teacher Lodro Rinzler shows us how to work with the mind so that we don't hold ourselves in a state of stress and learn to relax into and appreciate our world once more. What you hold is a guidebook with practical and easy-to-implement steps for how to take back your mind.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Why did I love this book?

If you’re interested in learning about Buddhism, you don’t want to go the route of Buddhism for Dummies; you want to read the words of true Buddhist masters who are pioneers in the field of making this ancient tradition accessible and relevant to our modern world. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for his peaceful demeanor as well as making Buddhism applicable and meditation easy to grasp and practice. While all of his books are lovely (you can even check out the recent shorter books such as How to Love or How to Fight) this book goes over the foundations of what the Buddha taught so for our purposes it hits the top of the list.

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Thich Nhat Hanh shows us the connection between personal, inner peace, and peace on earth.' The Dalai Lama

In The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh brings his gift of clear and poetic expression to an explanation of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and other basic Buddhist teachings. Thich Nhat Hanh's extraordinary contribution to Buddhism and to life is the way he makes these teachings and practices accessible to everyone, showing us how the very suffering that is holding us down can be the path to our liberation.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

By Shunryu Suzuki,

Book cover of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Why did I love this book?

At the core of Buddhism lies the question: how much are you moving toward your inner peace and awakening and how much are you indulging in your own confusion and suffering? This classic text from the Zen master Suzuki Roshi was written here in the West half a century ago yet is still relevant today because it helps us quickly figure out what it means to be in touch with that sense of awakening by coming into the present moment and accessing the “Zen mind” right here and now.

By Shunryu Suzuki,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century (Spirituality & Practice)

A 50th Anniversary edition of the bestselling Zen classic on meditation, maintaining a curious and open mind, and living with simplicity.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books. Seldom has such a small handful of words provided a teaching as rich as has this famous opening line. In a single stroke, the simple sentence cuts through the pervasive tendency students have of getting so close to Zen…

Book cover of The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path

Why did I love this book?

Moving from the Zen lineages over to another branch of this tradition, Tibetan Buddhism, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was famous for making the esoteric accessible. In this book he covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the four foundations of mindfulness over to advanced Buddhist views around taking vows and maintaining sacred outlook throughout one’s day. Bonus: there’s a section devoted to a number of modern day issues where he offers Buddhist teachings on relationships, art, and money.

By Chögyam Trungpa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heart of the Buddha as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The basic teachings of Buddhism as they relate to everyday life—presented by the esteemed Tibetan meditation master
In The Heart of the Buddha, Chögyam Trungpa examines the basic teachings of Buddhism and places them within the context of daily life. Divided into three parts, the book begins with a discussion about the open, inquisitive, and good-humored qualities of the “heart of the Buddha”—an “enlightened gene” that everyone possesses. Next, Chögyam Trungpa moves to the stages of the Buddhist path, presenting the three vehicles—Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—that carry the Buddhist practitioner toward enlightenment. Finally, he describes the direct application of Buddhist…

Book cover of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Why did I love this book?

The first Westerner on this list, Sharon Salzberg is an OG student of the Buddhism here in America, having traveled to India back in 1970 and learned from a wide variety of masters before co-founding the Insight Meditation Society. In this classic text she talks about one of the most essential Buddhist concepts: living with an open and awake heart. When we open our heart, love can manifest in a number of ways, including the four immeasurables known as loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These are not just ideas but things we can embody, thanks to the teachings in this book and with that in mind it is full of practices for you to engage with in order to connect to that feeling of boundless love.

By Sharon Salzberg,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lovingkindness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and find a greater sense of connection with others. Our fear of intimacy—both with others and with ourselves—creates feelings of pain and longing. But these feelings can also awaken in us the desire for freedom and the willingness to take up the spiritual path.

In this inspiring book, longtime meditation practitioner and teacher Sharon Salzberg shows how the Buddhist path can help us discover the radiant, joyful heart within each one of us, drawing on Buddhist teachings, wisdom from various traditions, her personal experiences, and guided meditation exercises. With these…

Book cover of Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Why did I love this book?

I vacillated wildly on which of Pema Chödrön’s books to include here, as many of them cover Buddhism in such a way that the teachings are made modern and relevant to whatever readers are going through. This book, for example, covers the ancient lojong, or mind-training, slogans of the Buddhist master Atisha and shows how this very old text has a lot to say about how we can live a life based in mindfulness and compassion. I don’t think you can go wrong by picking up any of her books (or any books written by any of these authors, frankly), but this one fits best for our purposes for a strong introduction to the fundamental teachings of Buddhism.

By Pema Chödrön,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Start Where You Are as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Start Where You Are is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart, from bestselling author Pema Choedroen. With insight and humour, she presents down-to-earth guidance on how to make friends with ourselves and develop genuine compassion towards others.

This book shows how we can 'start where we are' by embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives.

Pema Choedroen frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist maxims, or slogans, such as: 'Always apply a joyful state of mind', 'Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment' and 'Be grateful to everyone'.

Working with…

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