27 Best Books On Buddhism That Will Change Your Life
Buddhism is inherently peaceful because it focuses on meditation, being present, and not getting attached to things. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that there is so much written about a religion that is so peaceful.
Today, you can choose from thousands of books about Buddhism. Each is about a different part of the religion or the people who practice it. Some talk about the various schools and branches of the religion, while others talk about certain beliefs or practices.
These 27 best books on Buddhism will change your life, whether you are just starting to learn about it or want to learn more. I put the books into different groups to make things easier for you.
The Best Books On Buddhism In General
These books on Zen Buddhism will give you an excellent overview of the religion’s history, central teachings, and daily practices. They are a perfect way to learn about the basics of the faith and find out what interests you. These books will help you learn more about the religion and find answers to your own questions.
1. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
Dalai Lama – Jul 21, 2020
He smiles or laughs every time you see him. Even when he’s sad, he makes everyone around him feel better. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader of Tibet and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a top-rated speaker and statesman. Why is he so well-known?
Even if you only talk to him for a few minutes, you can’t help but feel better. He never stops laughing, smiling, or doing both. Even though he lost his country, if you ask him if he is happy, he will always say yes. He thinks that happiness is the point of life and that everything is moving in that direction.
The Art of Happiness was the first book of its kind and is still the most essential book in positive psychology. Since it was first published in 1988, the Dalai Lama’s advice on dealing with daily anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement has helped millions of people worldwide. Dr. Howard Cutler talks about different parts of life, such as relationships and loss, to show how to deal with them and keep your inner peace.
Based on 2,500 years of Buddhist meditation and common sense, this book talks about problems that people worldwide face. This book has been out for years and has helped millions worldwide.
2. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
Thich Nhat Hanh – Jun 8, 1999
This book by Thich Nhat Hanh tells us about the central Buddhist teachings. It gives us new ideas and information and introduces us to the teachings of Buddhism. Buddhist teachings about the nature of suffering and its role in compassion, love, and joy, which are all signs of enlightenment, are made more comforting by Nhat Hanh’s poetry and clarity.
The book talks about essential Buddhist teachings like the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Three Doors of Liberation, the Three Dharma Seals, and the Seven Factors of Enlightenment.
All of these can be understood by anyone, no matter how much they know about Buddhism. As a guide to Buddhist thought, it is a bright beacon for both experienced and new Buddhists.
3. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: 50th Anniversary Edition
Shunryu Suzuki – Jun 2, 2020
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the most critical Zen books of the last 50 years. It is loved, read over and over again, and is often recommended as the best book to start with when learning about Zen.
In his classic book, Suzuki Roshi explains the basics of Zen meditation in an obvious way and full of the joy of discovery. This is the 50th-anniversary edition with an afterword by David Chadwick, who wrote Shunryu Suzuki’s biography. It is a book that will always inspire people who practice.
This book helped me learn how to meditate in the Zen Buddhist way. After I finished this book, I meditated for 40 minutes straight, and I did this every day for almost a month. It really helped me be present and pay attention to the here and now. This short but powerful book about Buddhism is a great choice.
4. You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment
Thich Nhat Hanh – Dec 21, 2010
Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Zen monk and meditation master, gives a simple way to live in the present moment based on Buddhist philosophy and practice. Hanh says the Buddha’s message is that mindfulness isn’t a way to escape.
Instead, it’s about being in the moment and living life to the fullest. This book was inspired by a retreat Hanh led for Westerners. It has several practices that can help you experience the wonder of life and ease your suffering, both on and off the mat.
For example, seeing how beautiful the world makes you feel less pain and turn your sadness into kindness, tenderness, and peace. Nhat Hanh tells us that the energy of the Buddha is always there and that anyone can create it.
5. The Way of Zen
Alan Watts – Jan 26, 1999
Watts talks about the history of Buddhism and Taoism before Zen Buddhism came along. He then gives an exciting overview of Zen as it was and is in East Asia. After that, he provides a broad but detailed picture of Zen as a religion and part of many East Asian disciplines. Watts’s story clears up the confusion and adds to the mystery of Zen.
Since this book came out for the first time in 1957, Zen Buddhism has grown in the West. After it came out, Watts’s The Way of Zen became one of the most essential Zen books in the West. As Zen Buddhism has grown, it has been influenced by Watts’s point of view and approach and by his other books.
6. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu – Sep 20, 2016
One question, five days, two masters. They looked back on their long lives to try to find joy in the pain that was a part of life. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama are two of the happiest people in the world. They lived over fifty years of being forced to leave their homes and living under the brutal rule.
Desmond Tutu and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, are two of the happiest people in the world, even though they have been through a lot. How do we find joy when we have to go through pain in life?
They talk about the things they do every day to keep their emotional and spiritual lives stable. Before telling us about the Pillars of Joy, they talk about the Nature of True Joy and the Eight Obstacles to Joy.
Some of these obstacles are fear, stress, and anger. They tell stories, give advice, and talk about science throughout. Then they talk about the joy routines that stabilize their emotional and spiritual lives.
7. Zen and the Art of Happiness
Chris Prentiss – Jun 28, 2006
Modern science and spirituality say that what we think, believe, and feel affects how our cells are made. In Zen and the Art of Happiness, one of the best books on Zen Buddhism, you’ll learn how to be happy and full of life instead of feeling sad and hopeless.
You’ll learn how to deal with stress healthily and cultivate happiness in your everyday life. The gentle wisdom of Zen and the Art of Happiness will show you how to welcome great things into your life and create a personal philosophy that will last no matter what. This book has been translated into more than 20 languages. It talks about the art of happiness, the way to happiness, and the inner game of happiness.
8. Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World
Lama Surya Das – Jun 15, 1998
This book is a complete guide to Western Buddhism written by Lama Surya Das, one of the best Tibetan Buddhist teachers in the United States. Lama Surya Das is the American lama with the most training in the Tibetan tradition.
He shares the message of Buddhism, which is radical and convincing. It tells us that we all have the wisdom, understanding, love, and power of the Buddha inside of us, but most of us are too often like Buddhas who are sleeping. By looking into how we can wake up to who we really are to live a more kind, wise, and balanced life,
Lama Surya Das explains the Noble Eightfold Path and the traditional Three Trainings for Awakening, which are used by most Buddhist schools. The Noble Eightfold Path is the practice of wisdom, ethics, meditation, and other things that help us live a higher, more compassionate life.
9. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
Tara Brach – Nov 23, 2004
In this uplifting book, Tara Brach talks about how harsh self-judgments and inner conflicts can make us live our lives in a limited and not very satisfying way. Because of our addictions and perfectionism, our loneliness, and the amount of work we do, our lives are full of crutches and too much work.
Radical Acceptance gives way out, with step-by-step advice for everyday life that Tara Brach developed over twenty years of working with therapy clients and Buddhist students. This book shows how we can grow our natural goodness by trusting our clear-headedness and kindness.
Radical Acceptance does not mean giving up or being lazy. Instead, it makes it possible for real change to happen. As Tara Brach guides us through her teachings, we talk about healing fears in a safe and supportive setting.
10. The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment
Philip Kapleau Roshi – Feb 27, 1989
In this spiritual classic, the founder of the Rochester Zen Center talks about the three main parts of Zen Buddhism: teaching, practice, and enlightenment. Roshi Philip Kapleau, who founded one of the most influential Zen institutions in the United States, writes about the three pillars of Zen.
He also talks about his experiences as a student and teacher, giving readers tips on improving their own practices. This version has new pictures and photos, as well as a new afterword by Sensei Bodhin Kjolhede, the spiritual director of the Rochester Zen Center. The Three Pillars of Zen is on of the best books on the history and philosophy of Zen.
11. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Pema Chödrön – Jun 7, 2016
Pema Chodron is one of the most well-known spiritual writers in the United States. This is because she has a Ph.D. in the beauty of being practical and can explain it well. Her book is a collection of tips on how to deal with life’s storms and tragedies. Here are some of the things she says:
- Using hard feelings to grow wisdom, kindness, and courage
- Communicating in a way that gets other people to open up instead of shut down
- Ways to stop doing the same thing over and over
- How to handle chaotic situations, in addition to how to manage them
12. What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada
Walpola Rahula – Jan 1, 1974
This is the best and most convenient way for a modern Buddhist student to learn about what the Buddha taught. This Buddhist classic has been used in colleges, universities, and theological schools for a long time because it makes the Buddha’s teachings clear and easy to understand.
The introduction says it is “a text that is decidedly modern in its approach, content, and presentation.” The Journal of the Buddhist Society says it is “wider than any other book on Buddhism” and that “the educated and intelligent reader” will find it easy to read. This book is full of examples and stories from the Pali Canon that are useful.
The Best Books On Buddhism For Beginners
These are the best books on Buddhism for people who are just starting to learn about it. They are easy to read and understand, and they teach you the basics of everything you need to know about Buddhism.
People who have been practicing Buddhism for a while and want something simple to read to help them learn more and grow in their practice will also enjoy these books.
13. Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day
Steve Hagen – Nov 13, 2018
This book is an easy way to learn about Buddhism and consciousness. This book is all about being aware of what’s going on around you right now. When asked what his teachings were all about in one word, the Buddha said, “Awareness.” The Buddha showed people how to look straight into experience.
His observations and realizations are simple, realistic, valuable, and all about the present. In Buddhism Plain and Simple, Steve Hagen explains these simple, original ideas in everyday language without using religious rituals, customs, or beliefs.
14. Buddhism for Beginners
Thubten Chodron – Jan 1, 2001
In this user’s guide to basic Buddhist ideas, Thubten Chodron talks in plain English about the questions people always ask about Buddhism. This book is a very complete and easy-to-understand introduction to Buddhism. It also guides living a more peaceful, mindful, and satisfying life.
It’s suitable for both new and experienced Buddhist students, and its question-and-answer format makes it easy to find the topic you want, like:
- What is the goal of the Buddhist path?
- What is karma?
- How do we handle fear?
- How do I get into the habit of meditating every day?
- What does Buddha-nature mean?
15. No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners: Clear Answers to Burning Questions About Core Buddhist Teachings
Noah Rasheta – May 15, 2018
No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners gives you everything you need to know about Buddhism in a simple question-and-answer format, whether you’re just curious about it or a pro at studying it. With a basic understanding of Buddhism and its four parts — the Buddha, key Buddhist ideas, the Buddha’s teachings, and modern Buddhist practices — you’ll learn how to use Buddhist philosophy in your daily life.
With these simple questions and answers, you’ll learn how to understand the most essential parts of Buddhist thought. “No-Nonsense Buddhism” gives real-life examples to help you better understand Buddhism.
16. Buddhism: Beginner’s Guide to Understanding & Practicing Buddhism to Become Stress and Anxiety Free
Michael Williams – Sep 29, 2016
In the last 100 years, Buddhism has become more and more popular. Its incredible rise is due to the many benefits it gives to people who practice it and try to live by what it teaches. Buddhism is prevalent right now, and it’s not just because it’s known as a fundamental religion.
Those who want to learn about it can take advantage of its many benefits, which include inner peace and clarity. So, the many benefits of Buddhism can be a part of your life. Buddhist teachings and tenets are the keys to healthy dealing with anxiety and stress.
Now is the time to learn about and practice Buddhism and see how it can help you live without stress and worry. Because of its rules and teachings, your spiritual journey will give you a calm and clear mind. Grab a copy of Buddhism: A Beginner’s Guide if you want to improve your life.
The Best Books On Buddhism For Meditation
These books are a great way to learn about what meditation is all about. They all talk about meditating ways and show you exactly how to do it and how to set up a habit of it regularly.
17. Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health, and Find Peace in the Everyday
Matthew Sockolov – Sep 11, 2018
Practicing mindfulness is a good meditation program that makes it easy to live in the present moment, every moment of your busy life. This book gives you a lot of techniques and meditations to make incorporating mindfulness into your daily life straightforward.
These practice-based techniques make it easy to use mindfulness in everyday life, whether you want to get your breath back or feel more grounded. More than 75 mindfulness meditations can be done in 5 to 20 minutes.
These meditations are easy to do and can help you bring mindfulness into your life. These techniques to practice mindfulness will help you deal with your life, whether you’re stressed, mentally healthy, or want to be in the present moment.
18. Wake Up: How to Practice Zen Buddhism
Bonnie Myotai Treace – Oct 22, 2019
To understand Zen, you have to do it every day. You can’t understand Zen until your body and breath are a part of it. In this book, you’ll learn about Zen Buddhism’s main ideas and simple practices you can do every day to get closer to enlightenment.
In addition, the book gives beneficial advice on how to live more mindfully and with more compassion. This book will help you live a happier and healthier life, whether you are new to Buddhism or have been practicing it for a while. Here are some of the things you can look forward to:
- You will have a better understanding of Zen
- You will have more chances to use Zen
- You’ll be able to live with more kindness and compassion
- Your mood will change, making your life happier and healthier.
19. Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners: 50 Meditations to Practice Awareness, Acceptance, and Peace
Dawn Mauricio – Aug 4, 2020
Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners will help you find peace and acceptance by calming your mind and improving your ability to focus and be aware. Mindfulness and meditation are two essential parts of mindfulness meditation for beginners. Together, they are a powerful way to heal.
This book is an excellent place to start if you want to learn the basics of mindfulness and meditation and build daily practice from the ground up. This complete guide to mindful meditation for beginners gives you everything you need to get started, from simple breathing exercises to tasks that involve visualizing. In addition, it includes a short explanation of mindfulness, meditation techniques that get more complex with practice, and tips on how to keep going with your training.
With 50 meditations, you’ll learn how to do Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners in different ways and for various lengths of time. In addition to daily meditation, you can build your practice with simple 5–15-minute mindfulness exercises. Also, it talks about what mindfulness is and how it works with meditation. This simple guide to mindful meditation is suitable for people who are just starting out.
20. Buddhism for Healing: Practical Meditations, Mantras, and Rituals for Balance and Harmony
Terry Cortés-Vega – Dec 15, 2020
Buddhism for Healing is a book about Buddhist teachings that can help you overcome stress, anxiety, and deeper feelings of loss. This easy-to-understand guide to Buddhism is an excellent place to start if you want to learn how to deal with stress, anxiety, and loss in all areas of your life. This book gives you everything you need to start healing.
It begins with basic Buddhist teachings and moves on to step-by-step Buddhist meditations, rituals, mantras, and prayers. Whether you do simple yoga poses to relieve stress or practice mindfulness to stay balanced in the present, you will feel calmer and more peaceful in any situation.
The Best Books On Buddhism Covering Science And Philosophy
These books explore different aspects of Buddhist philosophy, science and teachings, providing a comprehensive understanding of the religion.
21. The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet
Matthieu Ricard – Oct 26, 2004
Matthieu Ricard, who used to be a molecular biologist and worked in the lab of a Nobel laureate, was interested in the Quantum and Lotus schools of Buddhism. He later became a Buddhist. He goes to school at the Shechen monastery, where the Dalai Lama lives, near Kathmandu, Nepal.
Trinh Thuan was born into a Buddhist family in Vietnam. Still, in the 1960s, when new discoveries in astronomy were making a big splash, he became interested in them. Because of this, he went to the California Institute of Technology, where he studied galaxy formation with some of the best astrophysicists and researchers in the world.
The Quantum and the Lotus is a well-written text in the form of a conversation. It tells the exciting story of how the authors got their ideas and uses the power of the text to create an unforgettable experience. The text gives a clear introduction to both Buddhism’s basic teachings and modern science’s discoveries. The connections between the two streams of thought and inspiration profoundly affect the reader.
The conversation between the authors moves excitingly. By the end, the reader has a vital new understanding of how science and Buddhism are related and how they can help them. “Knowledge of our spirits and knowledge of the world are mutually enlightening and empowering in many ways,” said Matthieu Ricard.
22. Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment
Robert Wright – Aug 9, 2018
From one of America’s most brilliant people comes a journey through psychology, philosophy, and a lot of meditation to show how Buddhism is the key to moral clarity and lasting happiness. In his famous book The Moral Animal, Robert Wright wrote about how evolution changed the brain.
He said that our minds are made to lie to us about ourselves and about the world. It is made to cause anxiety, depression, anger, and greed to make it harder to stay happy. So what do we do if we know that the mind is made to feel anxious, hopeless, angry, and greedy? Wright thinks Buddhists knew thousands of years ago through meditation, which scientists are just finding out now.
It says that people suffer because they don’t understand the world properly. So to be a better, happier person, we need to know more about the world. Wright takes us on a journey through psychology, philosophy, and many quiet retreats to show how and why meditation can be the foundation of spiritual life in a time when most people don’t believe in God.
This is the first book to use cutting-edge neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to defend the radical ideas at the heart of Buddhist thought. It will not only convince you that Buddhism is true — a way to break out of our illusions as individuals and as a species — but also that it could save you from yourself, both as an individual and a species.
23. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
Paul Reps – Sep 15, 1998
When Zen Flesh, Zen Bones came out in 1957, a generation of readers started experimenting with Zen immediately. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is as popular now as it was when it came out. It is a book that gives readers a variety of easy-to-find sources about Zen so they can learn more about Zen on their own.
For example, 101 Zen Stories, a collection of Zen anecdotes that tell about real Zen experiences from the past five hundred years; The Gateless Gate, a famous collection of Zen koans from the thirteenth century; Ten Bulls, a Zen commentary on the stages of enlightenment from the twelfth century; and Centering, an Indian teaching from 4000 years ago that some people think is where Zen came from. These are just a few of the sources offered.
24. The Dhammapada
Ananda Maitreya – Aug 9, 2001
The Dhammapada is one of the most read and well-known Buddhist Scriptures. It is a collection of Buddhist statements written in the form of poetry. The Pali Canon, a part of the Theravada Buddhist canon, is where the Dhammapada was written.
Buddhaghosa, a Buddhist scholar and commentator, says that the Buddha wrote each of his statements in the Dhammapada in response to a specific situation that came up in the life of his monastic community. Buddhaghosa tells about these events in the Dhammapada Atthakatha. He also describes many stories about the Buddha’s life and times.
Best Books On The History Of Buddhism
These books overview Buddhism’s history and how it has changed over time. They also talk about how it has shaped other religions and cultures and changed them.
25. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices (Introduction to Religion)
Peter Harvey – Oct 15, 2004
This is an in-depth look at Buddhism in Asia, how it has changed over time, and how it is changing in the West. It is for students of religious studies and Asian studies, but the general public will also find it interesting. It looks at the Buddhist view of the world and shows how the religion works as a set of religious practices.
It has chapters on devotion, ethics, becoming a monk, and meditation. Buddhism is looked at in terms of how it sees the world and how it has changed over time. The goal of the book is to show how Buddhist societies are similar and different at the same time in terms of beliefs, practices, and historical continuity. Dr. Harvey talks about the questions people have about Buddhism and gives his answers.
26. Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism: History, Semiology, and Transgression in the Indian Traditions
Christian Wedemeyer- Jun 10, 2014
Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism challenges the idea that Buddhist Tantric traditions were “marginal” or “primitive” by rethinking the nature of thoughts and actions that go against the rules. Unlike previous scholarship, which identified Tantric transgression as actions inspired by lusty monks, primitive tribal customs, or slavish imitation of Saiva traditions, Wedemeyer demonstrates that these beliefs and institutional arrangements were unjustified.
By studying contemporary historical accounts, which interpret Tantrism as a degenerate form of Buddhism, an archaic religious undercurrent, or feudal rituals, he demonstrates that these are common thematic elements in the European historical imagination.
27. Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement
Ronald M. Davidson – Jan 15, 2003
Even though the origins of Buddhist thought and practice are unknown, Buddhism has spread quickly, especially the Tantric system, one of its most popular but least understood forms. Ronald Davidson’s groundbreaking work explains that the Tantric movement began in early medieval India as a response to and, in some ways, an example of the rise of feudalism.
This book talks about how the Tantric tradition grew in India because of changes in society, such as economic and patronage crises, less participation by women, and the rise of monastic orders. Using copies of original documents in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tibetan, Bengali, and Chinese, Ronald Davidson shows how Indian society changed during the Middle Ages.
These changes included economic and patronage crises, a drop in women’s participation, and the formation of large monastic orders, which led to the rise of esoteric Buddhist culture in China, Tibet, and Japan.
Buddhism is one of the most popular religions in the world. If you plan to learn about Buddhism, you need to research how different sects, schools, and branches of the religion differ from each other, and also which books are the best to study.
Finding the best Buddhism books helps you know what you are looking for. Are you interested in the history of Buddhism? Then pick up one of the many books on the subject. Are you interested in the practice of Buddhism? Then choose one that talks about meditation or other specific practices.
Maybe you are interested in the teachings of Buddhism. Then choose one that talks about the Buddha’s teachings, his life, or other religious concepts. Or maybe you have a more general interest in Buddhism. In that case, choose one that tells the story of how Buddhism spread from India to other countries or how it has influenced other religions.
With this list of the 27 best books on Buddhism, you should be able to find the right book for you. Have fun reading these great Buddhist books!