The most recommended books on dharma

Who picked these books? Meet our 10 experts.

10 authors created a book list connected to dharma, and here are their favorite dharma books.
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Book cover of Dharma Art

Ib Vindbjerg Author Of The First Book I Wish I'd Had at Art College

From my list on creativity and consciousness.

Who am I?

Having graduated as a teacher before undertaking an art degree has made me think that art is not just the kind of stuff we encounter in galleries, but it is about creativity in a much broader sense. Two decades in art education and galleries across London have taught me that as creatives and teachers, we do not only teach others, but we all teach each other on our journeys through life. Creativity is intricately woven into the fabric of our lives and the list of books here are some of my favourite books on the subject.

Ib's book list on creativity and consciousness

Ib Vindbjerg Why did Ib love this book?

History has had mixed perceptions of Chogyam Trungpa, yet as is implicit in this book, one should not mistake great art for the artist. It is often said that to make it commercially as an artist, you need to be very assertive, yet Trungpa argues that as we insist on asserting our expectations to what we want from ourselves and others in the creative process we become blind to inspiration. He calls such a mindset one of aggression and instead advocates the creative process as being one of non-aggression. 

By Chögyam Trungpa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Dharma art" refers to creative works that spring from the awakened meditative state, characterized by directness, unselfconsciousness, and nonaggression. Trungpa Rinpoche shows that dharma art provides a vehicle to appreciate the nature of things as they are and express it without any struggle or desire to achieve.

Book cover of Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah

Kevin Griffin Author Of Living Kindness: Buddhist Teachings for a Troubled World

From my list on Theravada Buddhism.

Who am I?

I’m a Buddhist teacher and author of six books. I started practicing Buddhist meditation in 1980 and then got sober in 1985. The fact that I needed the 12 Steps when I was already a serious meditator gives you a clue about what a mess I was. Besides addiction, I’ve struggled with depression as well. All of this makes me feel like something of an outsider in the “happy, happy” world of mindfulness and meditation. Much of my work comes from that outsider’s perspective. While five of my books focus on connecting Buddhism and recovery, the sixth comes out of my study of the suttas of the Pali Canon, the earliest preserved Buddhist teachings.

Kevin's book list on Theravada Buddhism

Kevin Griffin Why did Kevin love this book?

Ajahn Chah was a Buddhist monk in the Thai Forest Tradition who taught and influenced a generation of Western Buddhist teachers, from Jack Kornfield to Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Amaro, and Ajahn Passano. Combining the commitment of an ascetic monk with the clarity of a Zen Master, Ajahn Chah’s teachings here are rich and alive. Far from the drier suttas of the Pali Canon, here we see Buddhism coming alive in practical and inspiring ways. Everything from how to meditate to how to be mindful in daily life is covered in stories and pithy teachings. Easy to pick up and read short passages.

By Ajahn Chah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Renowned for the beauty and simplicity of his teachings, Ajahn Chah was Thailand's best-known meditation teacher. His charisma and wisdom influenced many American and European seekers, and helped shape the American Vipassana community. This collection brings together for the first time Ajahn Chah's most powerful teachings, including those on meditation, liberation from suffering, calming the mind, enlightenment and the 'living dhamma'. Most of these talks have previously only been available in limited, private editions and the publication of Food for the Heart therefore represents a momentous occasion: the hugely increased accessibility of his words and wisdom. Western teachers such as…

Book cover of The Dharma Bums

Seth Wynes Author Of SOS: What You Can Do to Reduce Climate Change - Simple Actons That Make a Difference

From my list on fiction about our place in nature.

Who am I?

Seth Wynes is a climate researcher studying how everyday people can fight climate change more effectively. His work has been featured in media outlets from around the world including The New York Times, NPR, and The Guardian. Before pursuing an academic career, Seth was a high school science teacher in England and Northern Quebec, and still draws inspiration for his research from the questions and concerns raised by his students. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

Seth's book list on fiction about our place in nature

Seth Wynes Why did Seth love this book?

“The little flowers grew everywhere around the rocks, and no one had asked them to grow, or me to grow.” The joy in Kerouac is stumbling along with his absent-minded musings and finding the stretches of poetry that really speak to you. Dharma Bums is spiritual and inward-focused, but the characters spend time in nature, trying to figure out their place in it. It’s the kind of companion that you want to have with you on a canoe trip or sharing space with you on a hammock on a warm fall day. 

By Jack Kerouac,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Dharma Bums as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published just one year after "On The Road", this is the story of two men enganged in a passionate search for Dharma or truth. Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen Way, which takes them climbing into the High Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude.

Book cover of The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling

James Stanier Author Of Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager: How to Be the Leader Your Development Team Needs

From James' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Engineer Leader Geek Explorer

James' 3 favorite reads in 2023

James Stanier Why did James love this book?

I had been wanting to begin exploring historically and spiritually important texts, and I was drawn to this example-driven, practitioner-led exploration of the Bhagavad Gita by Stephen Cope. It highlights the key themes of the Gita and then uses examples from the life stories of real people — both famous and not famous — to expand on the core messages.

Stephen Cope is a careful, considerate, and nuanced writer who brings a text to life in a way that other authors could have produced yet another popular spirituality book.

His deep knowledge of the reference text, plus sibling texts from the Hindu canon, shines in the simple, clear, and concise message that the book delivers. In fact, I loved this so much that I went and read the Gita itself after this: it was a fantastic cornerstone to my understanding of it.

However, regardless of whether you want to explore…

By Stephen Cope,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Great Work of Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the deep purpose hidden at the very core of your being

To know your true calling-your dharma, as the yogis say-is perhaps the greatest desire within each of us. And yet, few can say we know our purpose with absolute certainty. Fortunately, there is a time-tested guide-an ancient map-for discovering and fulfilling your unique calling. In The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope walks you through each step of the journey.

Cope teaches that the secrets to unlocking the mystery of your dharma can be found in the spiritual classic, the Bhagavad Gita-a timeless tale about the path…

Book cover of Everyday Zen: Love and Work

Koshin Paley Ellison Author Of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up

From my list on an introduction to Zen.

Who am I?

Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison is an author, Soto Zen teacher, and Jungian psychotherapist. Koshin co-founded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, which offers contemplative approaches to care through education, personal caregiving, and Zen practice. He is the author of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up. And the co-editor of Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life Care. He is a recognized Zen teacher by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, White Plum Asanga, and American Zen Teachers Association. 

Koshin's book list on an introduction to Zen

Koshin Paley Ellison Why did Koshin love this book?

Dharma successor to Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Charlotte Joko Beck, was a musician, mother, partner and a person deeply interested in the integration of deep practice in the midst of our ordinary lives. Through her warmth and clarity, this book explicitly explores love, relationships, work, dear, ambition, and suffering. It is a beautiful book about how to live fully.

By Charlotte Joko Beck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Charlotte Joko Beck is one of the most popular Zen teachers currently teaching in the West.

This beautifully written book is a Zen guide to the problems of daily living, love, relationships, work, fear and suffering. Beck describes how to be in the present and living each moment to the full.

Book cover of God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita

Suresh Ramaswamy Author Of Just Be: Transform Your Life and Live as Infinity

From my list on transformation for enlightenment.

Who am I?

I am a transformational teacher and author based in San Diego, California. I am a being just like you, the very same in essence. Born with an unstoppable yearning for Truth. Through an unwavering quest for the ultimate, I came to a profound realization. Of our infinite nature. You can too! Books played an important part in this quest, especially in the beginning. We are blessed with great teachers speaking to us across time and across dimensions through their words as they transmit their blessings for our enlightenment.

Suresh's book list on transformation for enlightenment

Suresh Ramaswamy Why did Suresh love this book?

This treatise is no ordinary commentary on the sacred Bhagavad Gita. Every page in this two-volume set is loaded with spiritual wisdom! Each time I dip into it, I emerge with clarity and upliftment. 

Paramahansa Yogananda put himself in a state of attunement with the originators of this sacred text as he wrote this commentary. The result is unparalleled insights into the yogic path and practical wisdom for higher consciousness. Easily the best writing on the Gita I have come across.

By Paramahansa Yogananda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God Talks with Arjuna as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Bhagavad Gita is India's most sacred text - the 'Hindu' Bible. Yogananda's translation and commentary brings a unique and deeply penetrating insight into this great scripture, which is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive books available on the science and philosophy of Yoga. God Talks With Arjuna explains the Bhagavad Gita's profoundest spiritual, psychological, and metaphysical truths, long obscured by metaphor and allegory. Yogananda takes Lord Krishna's counsel to the warrior Arjuna and applies it to our everyday struggles with the human ego. Our greatest battle he explains, like Arjuna's, takes place within our own minds as…

Book cover of After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

Guy Claxton Author Of The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World

From my list on Buddhism that get to the heart of the matter.

Who am I?

I’m a long-time meditator and student of Buddhism, and a retired but still active academic. I am a cognitive scientist specialising in the learnable aspects of real-world intelligence. My meditation ‘career’ started when I was an undergraduate studying psychology at Cambridge in the late 1960s, and has since taken me to America, India, and Japan, as well as to many retreats in the UK with visiting teachers from all the main branches of Buddhism. In my academic life, I have a doctorate in psycholinguistics from Oxford and have been Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Bristol and the Research Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning in Winchester. My books on the crossover between Eastern and Western Psychology include The Psychology of Awakening, Wholly HumanNoises from the Darkroom, and The Heart of Buddhism.

Guy's book list on Buddhism that get to the heart of the matter

Guy Claxton Why did Guy love this book?

Stephen Batchelor is an old and dear friend of mine – partly because I love his radical ‘take’ on Buddhism. He knows his traditional Buddhist stuff all right: he was a Tibetan Buddhism monk for eight years, and studied in a Korean Zen monastery for four. To some, he is a heretic because his books peel away the cultural superstitions that have befogged the Buddha’s original teachings – such as karma and reincarnation - and reveal a message that is as relevant and insightful today as it was two and a half millennia ago. But his deep and lightly-worn scholarship shines through and – to me at least – he is bang on: both down to earth and utterly inspirational.

By Stephen Batchelor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A renowned Buddhist teacher's magnum opus, based on his fresh reading of the tradition's earliest texts

Some twenty-five centuries after the Buddha started teaching, his message continues to inspire people across the globe, including those living in predominantly secular societies. What does it mean to adapt religious practices to secular contexts?

Stephen Batchelor, an internationally known author and teacher, is committed to a secularized version of the Buddha's teachings. The time has come, he feels, to articulate a coherent ethical, contemplative, and philosophical vision of Buddhism for our age. After Buddhism, the culmination of four decades of study and practice…

Book cover of The Essence of Enlightenment: Vedanta, the Science of Consciousness

Anthony Metivier Author Of The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being

From my list on improve your memory, focus, and concentration.

Who am I?

Memory techniques saved my life, but I still struggled with depression. When I learned how to combine memory techniques with meditation, I was finally able to experience peace with many aspects of the disease, particularly the unwanted thoughts it placed in my mind. Much good research demonstrates just how powerful memory and meditation are for people who are suffering. Combined, the two practices create even more beneficial outcomes.

Anthony's book list on improve your memory, focus, and concentration

Anthony Metivier Why did Anthony love this book?

One of the most direct spiritual movements is actually philosophical. In The Essence of Enlightenment, James Swartz discusses the concepts that underly a deeply misunderstood tradition called Advaita Vedanta.

Although he retains some of the unhelpful mysticism, the book is still great for its discussion of using philosophical knowledge to reduce your head trash and live more fully in the moment. One of the strengths of the book is its discussion of how to prepare yourself for being able to use the philosophy in everyday life. Although it can be strange to think that you have to be "qualified" to use philosophy, it does make sense and it is a very practical means of cleansing your mind.

A clean mind is better able to remember.

By James Swartz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The counterintuitive, radical message of Vedanta, the ancient science of self-inquiry, is that reality is non-dual consciousness. What this means and how it benefits people in their quest for freedom from limitation is the subject of this inspirational book.

In an accessible style, James Swartz's new book develops teachings introduced in his popular first one, How to Attain Enlightenment, covering topics such as values and the enlightened person, dharma and the essence of enlightenment, and the relationship between consciousness, the individual, and the total. Demystifying enlightenment, Swartz makes Vedanta understandable to all.

Book cover of Discover Your Dharma: A Vedic Guide to Finding Your Purpose

Alyson Charles Author Of Animal Power: 100 Animals to Energize Your Life and Awaken Your Soul

From my list on supporting your spiritual awakening.

Who am I?

I am a shaman, seer, and spiritual teacher who lives in Austin, Texas with my husband Luke Storey, black cat Jelly Bean and dog Cookie. I’m devoted to being of service by living by the calls of inner wisdom, mysticism, energy medicine, and shamanic practices I’ve mastered through studies with spiritual teachers, both of and beyond this world. I lead global courses, events, and talks to reconnect people to their fullest power and confidence through sacred practices. My book was named “a top meditation to try” by O, The Oprah Magazine, and I’ve been called "a leading shaman for expanding others into their full gifts and power" by Forbes.

Alyson's book list on supporting your spiritual awakening

Alyson Charles Why did Alyson love this book?

This book is a powerful companion to support you in shifts within your personal, business and spiritual life. As many are waking up each day to a very deep yearning to discover who they truly are and what their true purpose in life is, Discover Your Dharma will guide you in unearthing these most potent truths, all while delivering said guidance in a down-to-earth, relatable and digestible way. This book will empower you to take aligned action to finally live the life your soul is seeking.

By Sahara Rose Ketabi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Discover Your Dharma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Say Yes to Your Higher Calling.

"Discover Your Dharma is a timely book for readers to decondition their minds, remember their essence, and step into the purpose they were born to express." —From the foreword by DEEPAK CHOPRA

It is no coincidence you have found this book. Your soul is calling you to step fully into your purpose, your truth, the reason why you are here: your dharma. This lifetime is about figuring out what your dharma is. When you say yes to your higher calling, everything you've been seeking naturally manifests. This book will guide you through the journey…

Book cover of Essays On The Gita

Duff McDonald Author Of Tickled: A Commonsense Guide to the Present Moment

From Duff's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Podcast Host Yogi Badineur Happiness Detective

Duff's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Duff McDonald Why did Duff love this book?

Sri Aurobindo may be the greatest philosopher in history. His essays on the Bhagavad Gita are both illuminating and inspiring.

This is the fourth time I have read this book in the past three years. When I read Aurobindo, I often feel as if I am in the thrall of a great sermon. When I read Aurobindo on the Gita, I feel as if I am in the thrall of a great sermon that’s being given by God and translated by Sri Aurobindo.

By Sri Aurobindo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Essays On The Gita is a collection of essays written by Sri Aurobindo, a renowned Indian philosopher, yogi, and spiritual leader. The book is a profound interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most revered texts in Hinduism. In this book, Sri Aurobindo delves deep into the spiritual and philosophical aspects of the Bhagavad Gita, exploring its teachings on karma, dharma, self-realization, and the nature of the divine. He presents a comprehensive analysis of the Gita's teachings, drawing upon his own experiences as a yogi and spiritual seeker.The essays in this book are not only a scholarly interpretation of…