The most recommended Buddhist philosophy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 22 experts.

22 authors created a book list connected to Buddhist philosophy, and here are their favorite Buddhist philosophy books.
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Book cover of Illuminating the Mind: An Introduction to Buddhist Epistemology

Mark Siderits Author Of Buddhism as Philosophy

From my list on Indian Buddhist philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began studying philosophy, both western and Asian, as a college freshman, and I never stopped. Much of my career in philosophy was devoted to building bridges between western and Buddhist traditions. The best philosophers try to make their ideas as clear as possible. But standards of clarity can differ across traditions, and this sometimes makes it difficult to present the theories and arguments of one philosophical tradition to those who think in terms of another. I have struggled with this in my own efforts at bridge-building, and I am always appreciative when I see other scholars of Buddhism achieve the sort of clarity I aim for.

Mark's book list on Indian Buddhist philosophy

Mark Siderits Why did Mark love this book?

Buddhist philosophers try to construct rational defenses of those claims about the nature of ourselves and the world that are central to the Buddhist project. So clarity about how we obtain knowledge is important to Buddhist thinkers. In this book Stoltz presents some of the fruits of their efforts, the epistemological theories of the tradition. What I most like about this book is the clarity with which Stoltz connects Buddhist theorizing about knowledge with trends in more recent western epistemology, bringing out both important overlaps and significant discontinuities. 

By Jonathan Stoltz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Illuminating the Mind puts the field of Buddhist epistemology in conversation with contemporary debates in philosophy. Jonathan Stoltz provides readers with an introduction to epistemology within the Buddhist intellectual tradition in a manner that is accessible to those whose primary background is in the "Western" tradition of philosophy. The book examines many of the most important topics in the field of epistemology, topics that are central
both to contemporary discussions of epistemology and to the classical Buddhist tradition of epistemology in India and Tibet. Among the topics discussed are Buddhist accounts of the nature of knowledge episodes, the defining conditions…


Book cover of Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha

Sarah McArthur Author Of The AMA Handbook of Leadership

From my list on working together towards a bright future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong student of philosophy, leadership, and principled living. Having worked with great leaders of today and being an editor-in-chief of a leadership journal (Leader to Leader), I experience how their leadership continues the principles set forth in days long past, and I publish works by authors who are keeping these principles alive in their writing. I am grateful for the opportunity to recommend books that might help others as we grapple with how to be in the world today to create value for all.

Sarah's book list on working together towards a bright future

Sarah McArthur Why did Sarah love this book?

This is one of my favorite books of all time.

If there were two books that I could take with me to a desert island to read until the end of days, they would be this one and My Life in Leadership by Frances Hesselbein. This one because it is the story of the life of Buddha and because Thich Nhat Hahn writes this story in the most engagingly gentle prose.

The writing style is absolutely exquisite.

By Thich Nhat Hanh, Nguyen Thi Hop (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Old Path White Clouds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Presenting the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha, drawn directly from 24 Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese sources—and retold by beloved Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh

Retold in Thich Nhat Hanh’s inimitably beautiful style, this book traces the Buddha’s life over the course of 80 years—partly through the eyes of Svasti, the buffalo boy, and partly through the eyes of the Buddha himself. Old Path White Clouds is a classic of religious literature.

“I have not avoided including the various difficulties the Buddha encountered, both from his own disciples and in relation to the wider society. If the Buddha appears in…


Book cover of Self, No-Self, and Salvation: Dharmakirti's Critique of the Notions of Self and Person

Mark Siderits Author Of Buddhism as Philosophy

From my list on Indian Buddhist philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began studying philosophy, both western and Asian, as a college freshman, and I never stopped. Much of my career in philosophy was devoted to building bridges between western and Buddhist traditions. The best philosophers try to make their ideas as clear as possible. But standards of clarity can differ across traditions, and this sometimes makes it difficult to present the theories and arguments of one philosophical tradition to those who think in terms of another. I have struggled with this in my own efforts at bridge-building, and I am always appreciative when I see other scholars of Buddhism achieve the sort of clarity I aim for.

Mark's book list on Indian Buddhist philosophy

Mark Siderits Why did Mark love this book?

Dharmakīrti is among the most important of the Indian Buddhist philosophers, but he is also one of the most challenging. These two eminent scholars of his tradition bring their expertise to bear in making a central aspect of his thought accessible to non-experts. The Buddhist quest for enlightenment is organized around the task of overcoming the sense of self, the sense of a ‘me’ that is the owner of this life. Eltschinger and Ratié clearly and carefully explain how Dharmakīrti uses philosophical rationality to help us in the task of dissolving that sense.

By Vincent Eltschinger, Isabelle Ratie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Self, No-Self, and Salvation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From very early times, Buddhist intellectuals have made the notion of a self-existing over and above the bodily and mental
constituent’s one of their main targets. Their critique first culminates in Vasubandhu’s treatise against the Buddhist personalists
(5th century CE).The eighth-century philosophers Santaraksita and Kamalasila provide another milestone in the
history of the mainstream Buddhists’ critique of the self and the person: their Tattvasangraha (pañjika) contains the most learned and elaborate treatment of the subject. But how have Dignaga and Dharmakirti contributed to this debate? The present study attempts to answer at least in part this question by offering an…


Book cover of The Dalai Lama's Cat

Arielle Ford Author Of The Love Thief

From my list on growing your soul and opening your heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved fairytales, whimsical stories, and mysteries. Plus, I’m passionate about mind-expanding, heart-opening books that offer me new ways to understand myself and the Universe we live in. And I particularly like books that show me ways to have more of what brings me joy and pleasure. When I can get all of this in a novel I’m in heaven.

Arielle's book list on growing your soul and opening your heart

Arielle Ford Why did Arielle love this book?

I’m a crazy cat lover and a lover of all things mystical so this book makes my heart purr.

It’s about His Holiness the Dalia Lama rescuing a starving and pitiful kitten he finds on a street in New Delhi and takes to his home in the Himalayas. This is a very sweet and warmhearted story told from the cat's bird eye view as she spies on his meetings with Hollywood celebrities, VIPs, and philanthropists.

It’s a through-the-back-door crash course in Buddhism.

By David Michie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dalai Lama's Cat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'In the months that followed I watched His Holiness working on a new book... I began to think that perhaps the time had come for me to turn my paws to a book of my own . . . one that tells my own tale . . . How I was rescued from a fate too grisly to contemplate, to become constant companion to a man who is not only one of the world's greatest spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but who is also a dab hand with the can opener.'

Not so much fly-on-the-wall as cat-on-the-sill,…


Book cover of Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency?

Mark Siderits Author Of Buddhism as Philosophy

From my list on Indian Buddhist philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began studying philosophy, both western and Asian, as a college freshman, and I never stopped. Much of my career in philosophy was devoted to building bridges between western and Buddhist traditions. The best philosophers try to make their ideas as clear as possible. But standards of clarity can differ across traditions, and this sometimes makes it difficult to present the theories and arguments of one philosophical tradition to those who think in terms of another. I have struggled with this in my own efforts at bridge-building, and I am always appreciative when I see other scholars of Buddhism achieve the sort of clarity I aim for.

Mark's book list on Indian Buddhist philosophy

Mark Siderits Why did Mark love this book?

A key claim of Buddhist philosophy is that all the facts about persons are causally determined. This claim leads people to wonder where Buddhists stand on the so-called ‘free will’ problem: can someone whose actions are determined by earlier events be held responsible for what they do? This question never arose in Indian Buddhist philosophy, but modern scholars have had much to say about whether Buddhism’s causal determinism is compatible with the practice of praising or blaming people for what they do. This book collects some of the best attempts to answer the question.

By Rick Repetti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout the history of Buddhism, little has been said prior to the Twentieth Century that explicitly raises the question whether we have free will, though the Buddha rejected fatalism and some Buddhists have addressed whether karma is fatalistic. Recently, however, Buddhist and Western philosophers have begun to explicitly discuss Buddhism and free will.

This book incorporates Buddhist philosophy more explicitly into the Western analytic philosophical discussion of free will, both in order to render more perspicuous Buddhist ideas that might shed light on the Western philosophical debate, and in order to render more perspicuous the many possible positions on the…


Book cover of Happy Inside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness

Joanna Thornhill Author Of My Bedroom Is an Office: & Other Interior Design Dilemmas

From my list on how our interiors can support our wellbeing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong interiors obsessive, which I’ve managed to turn into a multi-stranded career: I style commercial photoshoots and set up events for brands, write about interiors trends for magazines and a trend forecasting agency, have authored several interiors books of my own, and recently I’ve begun teaching my own blend of authentic yet actionable interior design tips to others, through courses, workshops, and creative consultancy. I am always interested in the why behind what makes us feel a certain way when it comes to design, and believe that creating a home that reflects and supports our emotional needs will ultimately support us in all aspects of life.

Joanna's book list on how our interiors can support our wellbeing

Joanna Thornhill Why did Joanna love this book?

Interiors expert and host of Interior Design Masters (BBC), Michelle has a fascinating view on interiors, honed through her many years working on magazines alongside her personal interests in Buddhist philosophy, sustainable design, and ‘clean’ living within the home. She goes deep into her research within this title, examining potential pathogens that might be lurking in a typical household (and advising on what to do to mitigate them), alongside thoughtful prose on how you can identify both your aesthetic and wellbeing needs and decorate accordingly.

By Michelle Ogundehin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Happy Inside as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I love this book. Strong, clever, intelligent advice with soul.'
Mary Portas

'A wonderful look at how to transform our homes to be more mindfully aligned with our true nature and a reflection of who we are.'
Fearne Cotton

'A happy home is a fundamental building block of happiness, and Michelle's book is an essential, step-by-step guide to creating a home we love.'
Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

'A must-have read for anyone looking to improve not just their home but also their quality of life within it.'
Matthew Williamson

Be happier, healthier and more empowered with Michelle…


Book cover of When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen

David W. Stowe Author Of How Sweet the Sound: Music in the Spiritual Lives of Americans

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Curious Creative Compassionate Reflective Moody

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

David W. Stowe Why did David love this book?

Western Buddhism has had more than its share of fine explicators, from Stephen Batchelor to Sharon Salzberg, but this volume ranks with the most informative of them. It collects the best writings published over recent decades by the very wise Jewish-American Zen priest Norman Fischer. 

For me, these far-ranging articles make better sense of Zen than anything I've ever read. In humorous, down-to-earth prose, these essays unpack some of the thorniest issues raised by Zen, that bundle of paradoxes.

Using personal examples drawn from his long activity in and around various Buddhist centers, Fischer makes Zen sound both approachable and worth approaching. In the final section, he thinks through how a religion that stresses the fluid nature of the self can speak to an era that places fixed identity (racial, sexual, ethnic, gendered) at the center of our personhood. 

It's too late now, but this book made me want…

By Norman Fischer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When You Greet Me I Bow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From beloved Zen teacher Norman Fischer, a collection of essays spanning a life of inquiry into Zen practice, relationship, social engagement, and spiritual creativity.

"Looking backwards at a life lived, walking forward into more life to live built on all that, trying not to be too much influenced by what's already been said and done, not to be held to a point of view or an identity previously expressed, trying to be surprised and undone and maybe even dismayed by what lies ahead."--Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer is a Zen priest, poet, and translator whose writings, teachings, and commitment to interfaith…


Book cover of Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction

Mark Siderits Author Of Buddhism as Philosophy

From my list on Indian Buddhist philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began studying philosophy, both western and Asian, as a college freshman, and I never stopped. Much of my career in philosophy was devoted to building bridges between western and Buddhist traditions. The best philosophers try to make their ideas as clear as possible. But standards of clarity can differ across traditions, and this sometimes makes it difficult to present the theories and arguments of one philosophical tradition to those who think in terms of another. I have struggled with this in my own efforts at bridge-building, and I am always appreciative when I see other scholars of Buddhism achieve the sort of clarity I aim for.

Mark's book list on Indian Buddhist philosophy

Mark Siderits Why did Mark love this book?

Buddhist philosophers had much to say about how we should live our lives and how we should treat others. Modern scholars of Buddhist moral thinking have presented these ideas in a number of different ways. Gowans’ book is a fair and balanced discussion of what Indian Buddhist moral philosophers had to say about ethics and the different ways in which recent scholars have interpreted their claims.

By Christopher W. Gowans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buddhist Moral Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first book of its kind, Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction introduces the reader to contemporary philosophical interpretations and analyses of Buddhist ethics. It begins with a survey of traditional Buddhist ethical thought and practice, mainly in the Pali Canon and early Mahayana schools, and an account of the emergence of Buddhist moral philosophy as a distinct discipline in the modern world. It then examines recent debates about karma, rebirth and nirvana, well-being, normative ethics, moral objectivity, moral psychology, and the issue of freedom, responsibility and determinism. The book also introduces the reader to philosophical discussions of topics in socially…


Book cover of Indian Buddhist Philosophy

Graham Priest Author Of The Fifth Corner of Four: an Essay on Buddhist Metaphysics and the Catuṣkoṭi

From my list on learning about Buddhist philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Initially trained as a mathematician, I have now been an academic philosopher for well over four decades—in the UK, Australia, and currently at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. About halfway through this time I was shocked to discover that I knew nothing of half of the world’s philosophy: that developed in the Eastern traditions. I set about educating myself—reading, travelling to India and Japan to teach and study, working with those who were specialists in the relevant areas. Nowadays in my philosophical writing and research I am able to draw on a much richer and deeper understanding of philosophy.

Graham's book list on learning about Buddhist philosophy

Graham Priest Why did Graham love this book?

Buddhism is a religion (or family of religions), but its underlying ideas—many of which are independent of the soteriology of Buddhism—have undergone a rich development in the two and a half thousand years since Siddhārtha Guatama (the historical Buddha) lived. Carpenter’s book introduces us to the philosophical development in India in the first 1,000 years of Buddhism. It concentrates on the ethical aspects, and explores, amongst other things, various relationships with ethical ideas from Ancient Greek philosophy.

By Amber Carpenter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Indian Buddhist Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Organised in broadly chronological terms, this book presents the philosophical arguments of the great Indian Buddhist philosophers of the fifth century BCE to the eighth century CE. Each chapter examines their core ethical, metaphysical and epistemological views as well as the distinctive area of Buddhist ethics that we call today moral psychology. Throughout, this book follows three key themes that both tie the tradition together and are the focus for most critical dialogue: the idea of anatman or no-self, the appearance/reality distinction and the moral aim, or ideal. Indian Buddhist philosophy is shown to be a remarkably rich tradition that…


Book cover of The Diamond Sutra

Bertrand Jouvenot Author Of Managing Softly

From my list on Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Bertrand Jouvenot is a French marketing influencer and prominent writer on business, management, marketing, branding, and digital. He has spent over twenty years in a variety of senior marketing roles. He now teaches at several business and fashion schools for Chinese and European students as well as consulting to various businesses. Bertrand lives in Paris, France, and writes for Le Monde, The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Mediapart, Stratégies, le Journal du Net, Les Echos, and Influencia, the prestigious French quarterly print magazine spotting trends in marketing, communication, and creation. 

Bertrand's book list on Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness

Bertrand Jouvenot Why did Bertrand love this book?

This book is told to be the offering of no mind, born of compassion for all suffering beings. The diamond Sūtra takes the form of a dialogue between the Buddha and his disciple Subhūti. The central theme of emptiness is a pillar in Buddhism. It relates to the non-existence of the bodhisattva's self (buddha‘s self), the merits, stages of spiritual progression, marks, and characteristics of a Buddha in the perspective of universal emptiness. It plays a particularly important role in meditative currents such as Zen.

By Red Pine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zen Buddhism is often said to be a practice of mind-to-mind transmission without reliance on texts --in fact, some great teachers forbid their students to read or write. But Buddhism has also inspired some of the greatest philosophical writings of any religion, and two such works lie at the center of Zen: The Heart Sutra, which monks recite all over the world, and The Diamond Sutra, said to contain answers to all questions of delusion and dualism. This is the Buddhist teaching on the perfection of wisdom and cuts through all obstacles on the path of practice. As Red Pine…