The best books on dharma

2 authors have picked their favorite books about dharma and why they recommend each book.

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

After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

By Stephen Batchelor,

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on Buddhism that get to the heart of the matter

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

Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah

By Ajahn Chah,

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on Theravada Buddhism

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

Discover Your Dharma: A Vedic Guide to Finding Your Purpose

By Sahara Rose Ketabi,

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books to support your spiritual awakening

Book cover of Dharma Art

Dharma Art

By Chögyam Trungpa,

Why 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. 

From the list:

The best books on creativity and consciousness

Book cover of The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums

By Jack Kerouac,

Why 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. 

From the list:

The best fictional books about our place in nature

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

The Essence of Enlightenment: Vedanta, the Science of Consciousness

By James Swartz,

Why 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"…

From the list:

The best meditation books that improve your memory, focus, and concentration

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

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

By Stephen Cope,

Why this book?

If I only had one book I could bring on a deserted island, The Great Work of Your Life, would be that book. It focuses on what is known in the Hindu tradition as one’s “dharma” or our soul’s unique duty or mission we are called to endeavor. Using The Bhagavad Gita—an epic Hindu folktale as an analogy, TGWOYL follows the lives of culturally known (Beethoven, Gandhi, Harriet Tubman, Susan B Anthony) and everyday characters from the author’s life, as an exploration of what it means (and requires) to live one’s dharma in the world. We all know…

From the list:

The best books to help you become unafraid of the dark

Book cover of God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita

God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita

By Paramahansa Yogananda,

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on transformation for enlightenment

Book cover of Everyday Zen: Love and Work

Everyday Zen: Love and Work

By Charlotte Joko Beck,

Why 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.

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The best books for an introduction to Zen

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