Zen Books and Sutras

The Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering

The Buddha’s teachings focus around two basic principles. One is the Four Noble Truths, in which the Buddha diagnoses the problem of suffering and prescribes the way to remedy this suffering. The other is the Noble Eightfold Path, which describes the eight elements of practice to eliminate the causes of suffering.

The author uses clear and concise language to discuss each aspect of the Eightfold path and what each aspect implies in practical, daily training.

These are some of our favorite books on Zen. They are available at online book sites.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
A respected Zen master in Japan and founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, Shunryu Suzuki had a number of his lectures transformed into what has become one of the leading introductory texts on Zen.

Covering a number of topics from the transience of the world to the basics of meditation, Suzuki always returns to the idea of beginner’s mind, a recognition that our original nature is our true nature. With beginner’s mind, daily life becomes our Zen training, and we discover that “to study Buddhism is to study ourselves.”

Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen

These 35 talks, delivered shortly before Suzuki’s death from cancer, continue with his clear prose: “Our tendency is to be interested in something that is growing in the garden, not in the bare soil itself. But if you want to have a good harvest, the most important thing is to make the soil rich and cultivate it well. The Buddha’s teaching is not about the food itself but about how it is grown, and how to take care of it.”

The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza

Shikantaza (“just sitting”) is a subtle form of meditation, simple in description and requiring practice to attain. This book contains numerous writings, from the Buddha and Dogen plus and many contemporary masters of Zen Buddhism. Edited by Daido John Loori of Zen Mountain Monastery.

What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada

Beneath the enormous umbrella of Buddhism, there is a diverse galaxy of customs and beliefs, but there is also a kernel of truth that every sect holds dear. Rahula Walpola, scholar and monk, discovers this foundation of Buddhism for us first through straightforward explication, never skipping over a point that has yet to be substantiated, then through translations from key scriptures. Logical and focused, these are the essentials of Buddhism; know them first, then move comfortably on to other Buddhist works.

The Sutra of Hui-neng, Grand Master of Zen: With Hui-neng’s Commentary on the Diamond Sutra

Hui-neng (638–713) was an illiterate woodcutter who attained enlightenment in a flash, became the Sixth Patriarch of Chinese Zen, and is regarded as the founder of the “Sudden Enlightenment” school. He is the ultimate example that neither education nor social background has any bearing on the attainment of enlightenment.

The Sutra of Hui-neng is here accompanied by Hui-neng’s verse-by-verse commentary on the Diamond Sutra—in its very first published English translation ever.

vimalakirti sutra

The Vimalakirti Sutra

This highly readable translation of a lay practitioner demonstrating deeper understanding than throngs of monks and disciples is summarized in this blog post with full text available in Robert Thurman’s translation.

 

Dream Conversations: On Buddhism and Zen

Dream Conversations is a collection of renowned Japanese master Muso Kokushi (1275–1351)’s written replies to questions about Zen. His simply worded teachings expose common misconceptions and offer psychological insights designed to lead the reader into the depths of authentic Zen experience.

Living Buddha, Living Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition

In this national bestseller, Zen monk and social activist Thich Nhat Hanh draws parallels between these two traditions that have them walking, hand in hand, down the same path to salvation. In Christianity, he finds mindfulness in the Holy Spirit as an agent of healing. In Buddhism, he finds unqualified love in the form of compassion for all living things. And in both he finds an emphasis on living practice and community spirit.

The Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom Teachings

In Essence of the Heart Sutra, the Dalai Lama translates and interprets a central teaching of Buddhism with clarity and simplicity. In this Sutra (which is all of three pages), the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara describes how to train in the perfection of wisdom by seeing through the illusions of all things.

After an introduction to the basics of Buddhism and the Mahayana tradition’s emphasis on emptiness. The Dalai Lama goes through the text passage by passage and shows how understanding emptiness is a key to happiness and liberation from suffering.

The Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering

The Buddha’s teachings focus around two basic principles. One is the Four Noble Truths, in which the Buddha diagnoses the problem of suffering and prescribes the way to remedy this suffering. The other is the Noble Eightfold Path, which describes the eight elements of practice to eliminate the causes of suffering.

The author uses clear and concise language to discuss each aspect of the Eightfold path and what each aspect implies in practical, daily training.