The best books about what the West can learn from the East

Rande Brown Author Of Geisha: A Life
By Rande Brown

Who am I?

I’m an American Jewish girl who was born knowing that I had been Japanese in my previous lifetime. After graduating with a degree in Japanese studies from Princeton University, I moved to Japan at 21 and became a well-known translator. One day the Geisha Mineko Iwasaki, the inspiration behind Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, asked me to co-author the story of her life. Published in 2002, Geisha, a Life became a bestseller. Writing Geisha awakened memories of my past life as a courtesan in fourteenth-century Kyoto. I began a deep study of reincarnation, which has led me to study the intersection of Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. Please look out for my forthcoming book, Reincarnation Karma.

I wrote...

Geisha: A Life

By Mineko Iwasaki, Rande Brown,

Book cover of Geisha: A Life

What is my book about?

"Many say I was the best geisha of my generation," writes Mineko Iwasaki. "And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave." Trained to become a geisha from the age of five, Iwasaki would live among the other women trained in the “art of perfection” in Kyoto's Gion Kobu district. She was loved by kings, princes, military heroes, and wealthy statesmen alike. But even though she became one of the most prized geishas in Japan's history, Iwasaki wanted more: her own life. And by the time she retired at age twenty-nine, Iwasaki was finally on her way toward a new beginning.

Geisha, a Life is her story—at times heartbreaking, always awe-inspiring, and totally true.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Meetings with Remarkable Men: All and Everything, 2nd Series

Why did I love this book?

I read this book when I was a teenager, and it taught me two very important things: that Enlightenment is possible—even for a Westernerand that living Spiritual Masters exist out in the world who can help to guide you there. This helped me gather the courage to leave home and travel throughout Asia in search of my true teacher, who I eventually found in Japan. My own Remarkable Man.

By G. I. Gurdjieff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meetings with Remarkable Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff's autobiographical account of his youth and early travels has become something of a legend since it was first published in 1963. A compulsive read in the tradition of adventure narratives, but suffused with Gurdjieff's unique perspective on life, it is organized around portraits of remarkable men and women who aided Gurdjieff's search for hidden knowledge or accompanied him on his journeys in remote parts of the Near East and Central Asia. A classic work, suffused with a haunting sense of what it means to live fully - with conscience, with purpose and with heart.

Zen and Japanese Culture

By Daisetz T. Suzuki,

Book cover of Zen and Japanese Culture

Why did I love this book?

Zen and Japanese Culture, the twentieth century's leading work on Zen Buddhism, completely changed my life when I read it at sixteen. This classic text, a profoundly simple introduction to Japanese art and philosophy, held the key to my young compulsion toward the transcendent aesthetic perfection of Japan and began to prepare me for understanding the world of the Geisha. It awakened the need within me to move to Japan to study Zen Buddhism in an authentic Zen Temple. Which I did. 

By Daisetz T. Suzuki,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zen and Japanese Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zen and Japanese Culture is a classic that has influenced generations of readers and played a major role in shaping conceptions of Zen's influence on Japanese traditional arts. In simple and poetic language, Daisetz Suzuki describes Zen and its historical evolution. He connects Zen to the philosophy of the samurai, and subtly portrays the relationship between Zen and swordsmanship, haiku, tea ceremonies, and the Japanese love of nature. Suzuki uses anecdotes, poetry, and illustrations of silk screens, calligraphy, and architecture. The book features an introduction by Richard Jaffe that acquaints readers with Suzuki's life and career and analyzes the book's…

Book cover of Theories of the Chakras: Bridge to Higher Consciousness

Why did I love this book?

Finally, the mechanisms that undergird the transformation of consciousness in all mystical traditions, whether East or West, are explained in language that is easy to understand. In this ground-breaking work, Motoyama combines the psycho-spiritual wisdom of Chinese medicine, Kundalini Yoga, and Esoteric Japanese Buddhism to create a model of spiritual evolution that can be utilized to good effect by anyone. 

Book cover of The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies

Why did I love this book?

This is the best book in English that illuminates the intensive interpenetration of Eastern and Western thought that took place in the ancient world, when half-naked yogis wandered the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, and Greek philosophers traveled to the Hindu Kush to study Buddhism. This brilliant book helped me make sense of the Eastern and Western parts of myself, reflections of my former incarnations in Greece, Tibet, and Japan, and helped me to understand that we are all of one mind.  

By Thomas C. Mcevilley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shape of Ancient Thought as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This revolutionary study by the renowned classical philologist reveals the interplay of Greek and Indian thought at the roots of Western culture.

Thomas C. McEvilley’s magisterial work demonstrates that Eastern and Western civilizations have not always had separate, autonomous metaphysical schemes, but have mutually influenced each other over a long period of time. Examining ancient trade routes, imperialist movements, and migration currents, he shows how some of today’s key philosophical ideas circulated freely in the triangle between Greece, India, and Persia, leading to an intense metaphysical interchange between Greek and Indian cultures.

While scholars have sensed a philosophical kinship between…

Book cover of Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective

Why did I love this book?

This is one of the first, and still one of the best, comparisons of Buddhist thought and Western psychology. In contemporary times, the lines between psychology and spirituality have become indistinct, and many seekers are finding benefit within both disciplines (a subject I discuss in my article "When Mindfulness is Not Enough"). Dr. Epstein illustrates how tools learned from Buddhism and psychotherapy can be used together to create a “healthy emotional life.”

By Mark Epstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thoughts Without a Thinker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The line between psychology and spirituality has blurred, as clinicians, their patients, and religious seekers explore new perspectives on the self. A landmark contribution to the field of psychoanalysis, Thoughts Without a Thinker describes the unique psychological contributions offered by the teachings of Buddhism. Drawing upon his own experiences as a psychotherapist and meditator, New York-based psychiatrist Mark Epstein lays out the path to meditation-inspired healing, and offers a revolutionary new understanding of what constitutes a healthy emotional life.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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