15 books directly related to Tibetan Buddhism 📚

All 15 Tibetan Buddhism books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Tsongkhapa: A Buddha in the Land of Snows

By Thupten Jinpa,

Book cover of Tsongkhapa: A Buddha in the Land of Snows

Why this book?

Thubten Jinpa is the foremost English language translator for the Dalai Lama, a prolific author and translator, and someone highly involved in scientific research on compassion and positive emotions. Here, he shares in detail for the first time a biography of Tsongkhapa who is one of the great geniuses of our shared, human heritage. Anyone interested in Buddhist philosophy or practice will benefit from an understanding of Tsongkhapa's life and work. And anyone interested in Asian history will find his life illuminating.


Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist — One Woman's Spiritual Journey

By Jan Willis,

Book cover of Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist — One Woman's Spiritual Journey

Why this book?

Jan Willis is one of our most respected American Buddhist teachers and scholars. Like so many Americans who identify as Buddhists, Jan Willis’ story begins with a Christian background. Willis was raised in the Baptist church in Alabama where she endured Jim Crow racism and later marched with MLK, Jr. She writes about the obstacles she faced in her Ivy League education and how she eventually met her Buddhist guru in India. This story is so resonant for me because it reminds me that we can evolve and grow on our spiritual journey without rejecting any part of who we already are. I read this book when it was published in 2001 and it continues to inspire me as a Buddhist, an American, and a writer.


After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

By Stephen Batchelor,

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

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 shines through and – to me at least – he is bang on: both down to earth and utterly inspirational.


The Life and Teaching of Naropa

By Herbert V. Guenther,

Book cover of The Life and Teaching of Naropa

Why this book?

Naropa was an important figure in Indian Tantric Buddhism whose lineages gained great popularity in Tibet. His life story beautifully embodies many archetypal elements of the spiritual journey in a way that has proved compelling, inspiring, and educational for Buddhist practitioners for well over a millenium. He goes from being a great scholar to a seeker who bears many hardships to an enlightened master. If you yourself are someone deeply committed to a spiritual journey, then it's likely that you'll find moments of your own experience reflected back for you in his remarkable story.


Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition

By Jan Willis,

Book cover of Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition

Why this book?

This book does a remarkable job of exploring the nature of spiritual biography itself. It compares and contrasts Western hagiographical traditions with the unique ways that Tibetans (and other Central Asians) use outer, inner, and secret biographies not only to share the stories of great Buddhist masters but also to share history, inspiration, and implicit teachings to apply to one's own practice of the path. Willis explores these themes in complex ways and also provides translations of the life stories of 6 Tibetan lamas of the Ganden tradition who combined profound scholarly and deep yogic pursuits in unique ways.

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

By Matthieu Ricard,

Book cover of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

Why this book?

This book describes that all human beings strive to achieve perfect authentic happiness directly or indirectly. True happiness must be cultivated by the transformation of oneself. True joy is what we need and not passing excitement. The book speaks to us about creating a contemplative and introspective mind conducive to our wellbeing and inner peace. If our mind can manage its thoughts, perceptions, and emotions, then it can change our moods and transform us forever. Strong Belief in the reality of the ego leads to human pain. Ignorance and mental toxins are the causes of unhappiness that must be eliminated and then we can open the door to our true well-being. Lasting well-being is rooted in the culture of positive emotions, wisdom, and compassion. We need to cultivate an emotionally balanced mind through long-term practice and training.


Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

By Donald S. Lopez Jr,

Book cover of Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

Why this book?

When my grandparents died they left small presents for their grandchildren, and in a way that many Buddhists would recognise I bought a book about Buddhism – a funny and sad one. Lopez’s book tells the story of how Western fantasies talk over actual Tibetans and their struggles, from what we think we know about the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” to Lobsang Rampa’s spurious The Third Eye, passing through how we talk about Tibetan art and what we say about the mantra “Om mani padme hum”. This is a deeply humane book about how Tibetans are trapped not only by superpower politics and colonialism but also by how they are represented to the West. 


The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche,

Book cover of The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness

Why this book?

The author is a world-renowned Buddhist teacher. Using the basic meditation practices the author provides, the reader can discover paths through his problems, transforming obstacles into opportunities to recognize the unlimited potential of his own minds. The monk invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets to finding joy and contentment in the everyday life. The book offers an illuminating perspective on the art of meditation and is a handbook for transforming our minds, bodies, and lives.


The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan

By Lobsang P. Lhalungpa, Unknown,

Book cover of The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan

Why this book?

For me personally, this book changed my life more than any other, opening me up to the inspiring possibility that a deeply imperfect person could become enlightened through sincere and mighty efforts. This work is one of the world's great stories. The name Milarepa has inspired people for a millenium throughout Central Asia, being almost synonymous with being a yogi and with redemption through heartfelt efforts. It includes Milarepa's life story and some of the many poems which he spontaneously composed to educate and enlighten others as he wandered through the Himalayas.


The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga

By Lama Christie McNally, Geshe Michael Roach,

Book cover of The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga

Why this book?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is how to manage my own fear and excitement. How we react to the world around us is one of the few things we are truly in control of! This is the book that helped me most to shift the way I perceive and react to things, allowing me to live more calmly in my work and my life even in the face of complexity, fear, even success. 

This book is weirdly simple, almost child-like in its cadence, but don’t let the simplicity fool you. I found it valuable to sit with the short parables and examples especially when I’m having an emotional response surrounding a business decision. 

This was the first book based on Buddhist teachings that I ever read and made sense to me in a practical way. The writing style is strange (and the author has a truly bizarre backstory) but this book taught me a lot about how our perception of reality really works and how it holds us back.


The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path

By Chögyam Trungpa,

Book cover of The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path

Why this book?

Moving from the Zen lineages over to another branch of this tradition, Tibetan Buddhism, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was famous for making the esoteric accessible. In this book he covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the four foundations of mindfulness over to advanced Buddhist views around taking vows and maintaining sacred outlook throughout one’s day. Bonus: there’s a section devoted to a number of modern day issues where he offers Buddhist teachings on relationships, art, and money.


Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations

By Paul Williams,

Book cover of Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations

Why this book?

Mahāyāna Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that emerges in India around the turn of the Common Era, and is the form that spreads into East Asia. (Only one of the earlier forms of religious Buddhism is still extant, Theravāda, which can be found in South East Asia.) Williams’ book traces the development of Mahāyāna philosophy from its beginnings in India into China, where Buddhist thought is influenced by the indigenous philosophies, in particular, that of Daoism (道家).


In Love with the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Helen Tworkov,

Book cover of In Love with the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying

Why this book?

This is an extraordinary journey book of a yogi who was identified at a very young age as a Tulku - reincarnate custodian of a specific lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Mingyur Rinpoche was taken at a very young age to a monastery to receive a Buddhist education. Since his childhood, he was fascinated by the wandering yogis of his tradition (like Naropa and Milarepa). At the age of 34, when he was a respected authority of Tibetan Buddhism and a renowned master who was teaching around the world, he decided to become a wandering yogi and embark on a solitary journey. He soon encountered many difficulties, including life-threatening situations which he describes with an amazing sincerity. His story shows how even a master encounters mental and emotional upheavals like all of us but then is able to apply his skill in meditation to restore his peace and equanimity.


The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

By Chögyam Trungpa,

Book cover of The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

Why this book?

I’ll be honest: I have only scratched the surface of this book and the questions it asks and answers. How to deal with suffering and remain open to joy and beauty? I understand the book’s content at only the most superficial level. I suspect it’s going to take years for me to go deeper with it. As a writer, I am blown away by Trungpa’s style, which is clear, simple, and relatable. As a psychologist, I am humbled to see how clumsy and awkward our modern approaches are. 


Women of Wisdom

By Tsultrim Allione,

Book cover of Women of Wisdom

Why this book?

This book is a wonderful collection of the lives of six Tibetan female mystics, brought together by the American Lama Tsultrim Allione, the emanation of the renowned 11th-century Tibetan yogini, Machig Labdrön, and one of the few women Lamas in the world today. The book includes an extensive autobiographical preface and introduction in which Lama Tultrum Allione shares her own story and experience of the difficulties and triumphs of women in Tibetan Buddhism, and of women pursuing a spiritual life in the West with candid honesty. The stories of these remarkable women's pasts and brought together in this book offer a wealth of insight and encouragement for both women and men who aspire to a spiritual life in the face of adversity.