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.

The books I picked & why

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

By G. I. Gurdjieff,

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

Why 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.

Zen and Japanese Culture

By Daisetz T. Suzuki,

Book cover of Zen and Japanese Culture

Why 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. 

Theories of the Chakras: Bridge to Higher Consciousness

By Hiroshi Motoyama,

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

Why 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. 

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

By Thomas C. Mcevilley,

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

Why 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.  

Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective

By Mark Epstein,

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

Why 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.”

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