Recommended Reading List

This reading list is not exhaustive. It is simply a starting place for those who would like to engage with some of the many thousands of available volumes about Buddhism and Buddhist practices.


Good for those newer to formal practice:

  • The Buddha – Karen Armstrong: History – “...[retracing Buddha’s] life from prince to savior of humankind, in a philosophical portrait that offers an illuminating look at how his life and path to spiritual enlightenment spawned one of the great religions of the world”
  • Women of the Way – SallyTisdale: “In this groundbreaking work, Sallie Tisdale traces women Buddhist masters and teachers across continents and centuries, drawing upon historical, cultural, and Buddhist records to bring to life these narratives of ancestral Buddhist women.”
  • The Essence of Zen – Harada: “The Essence of Zen is an expert's guided tour of the ins and outs of the tradition's approach to meditation, enlightenment, and the oneness of all things”

Deeper engagement with our literature and heritage:

  • Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness – Shunryu Suzuki: Founder of San Francisco Zen Center, talks given to Westerners on the teaching: Merging of Difference and Unity/ Identity of the Relative and Absolute
  • The Hidden Lamp – Kaplow and Moon: “Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women” from ancient to contemporary
  • The Buddhist Religion – Robinson and Johnson: “This is a comprehensive overview of Buddhism in 'The Religious Life of Man' series, by two American academics; it also contains an appendix on Buddhist meditation by Shinzen Steven Young, of the International Buddhist Meditation Center, Los Angeles.”
  • Living by Vow – Okumura: a Practical Introduction to eight essential zen chants and texts
  • Realizing GenjoKoan – Okumura: “Realizing Genjokoan is a comprehensive introduction to the teachings and approach of [Dogen], taking us on a thorough guided tour of the most important essay-Genjokoan-in Dogen's seminal work, the Shobogenzo. Indeed, the Genjokoan is regarded as the pinnacle of Dogen's writings, encompassing and encapsulating the essence of all the rest of his work.”
  • Each Moment is the Universe – Katagiri: “The Zen view of time is radically different than that: time is not something separate from our life; rather, our life is time. Understand this, says Dainin Katagiri Roshi, and you can live fully and freely right where you are in each moment.”

Precepts and Ethics:

  • Being Upright – Reb Anderson: “Being Upright takes us beyond the conventional interpretation of ethical precepts to the ultimate meaning that informs them.”
  • The Mind of Clover – Aitken: “In The Mind of Clover [Aitken] addresses the world beyond the zazen cushions, illuminating issues of appropriate personal and social action through an exploration of the philosophical complexities of Zen ethics.”
  • The Unity of Knowledge and Action: A study in Wang Yang-ming’s Moral Psychology – A.S. Cua: This is a dense, theoretical and rich examination of Chinese philosophical vision and moral agency, very applicable to modern life.


Contemporary issues:

  • Radical Dharma – Williams, Owens and Syelludah: “Igniting a long-overdue dialogue about how the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy plays out in society at large and Buddhist communities in particular, this urgent call to action outlines a new dharma that takes into account the ways that racism and privilege prevent our collective awakening.
  • Active Hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy – Joanna Macy: Macy, a Buddhist scholar and teacher, “[d]rawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science.”

Poetry that expresses the dharma:

  • Mary Oliver
  • Gary Snyder

Study for practitioners immersed in the Way:

History of Buddhism and the early sutras that express the foundation of Buddhist teachings such as:

  • Pali Canon
    • Digha Nikaya
    • Majjhima Nikaya
    • Samyutta Nikaya
    • Anguttara Nikaya
    • Vinaya
  • Mahayana sutras
    • Lotus Sutra
    • Prajnaparamita Sutra in 8,000 Lines
    •  Heart Sutra
    • Diamond Sutra
    •  Lankavatara Sutra
    • Mahaparinirvana Sutra
    • Vimalakirti Sutra

Writings of significant Japanese Soto Zen ancestors such as:

  • Dogen:
    • Essential teachings
      • Bendowa
      • Genjokoan
      • Fukanzazengi
      • Tenzokyokun
      • Uji
      • Zazenshin
      • Bussho
    • Useful: other writings from
      • Shobogenzo
      • Eihei Koroku
      • Eihei Shingi
      • Shobogenzo Zuimonki
      • Moon in a Dewdrop
  • Keizan:
    • Denkoroku
    • Zazen-yojin-ki and other writings


Chan texts important to the Soto tradition, such as

  • Seng-T’san’s Faith in Mind
  • The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Ancestor
  • Shi-t’ou’s Harmony of Difference and Equality
  • Tung-shan’s Precious Mirror Samadhi
  • Book of Serenity
  • Blue Cliff Record
  • The Gateless Gate

Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy, such as writings by Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, and Vasubandhu