Top 5 Dharma Books

Katie L, who writes one of the three best Buddhist blogs (the other two are Full Contact Enlightenment, and Jizo Chronicles),  just wrote up her list of top 5 Dharma books  (–check it out), and so I thought I’d write a list up here as well….

Derek’s Top 5 Dharma Books:

1. Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung? Ajahn Brahm. [Wins the prize for Funniest Dharma Book, but is also the best book to give to non-Dharmites.]
2. Natural Awakening. Tarchin Hearn. [Best intro book to Dharma.]
3. Still Forest Pool. Ajahn Chah. [Most beautifully composed Dharma book; by one of the greatest teachers in the Theravada tradition.]
4. Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha) excellent translation and footnotes by Bhikkhu Bodhi. [Indispensable text for Dharma nerds, comprised of 152 of the Buddha’s talks, including the most important: Satipatthanna Sutta (#10, Foundations of Mindfulness), and Anapanasati Sutta (#118, Mindfulness of Breathing)].
5. Introduction to Tantra. Lama Yeshe. [Best explanation of tantra and meditation].

Honorable mention: No Death No Fear. Thich Nhat Hanh. [best Dharma book dealing with death].

Being a “Dharma Nerd”, I was tempted to add Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the  Samyutta Nikaya (Connected Discourses of the Buddha)  since it  includes 100s of suttas [including the Buddha’s first 3 discourses: (1)Turning the wheel Sutta, (2) Anatta Sutta, (3) Fire Sutta] ….but I restrained myself….**

Books as Refuge

Once , during a Dharma class on “refuge” in NZ, a student asked why didn’t we include  ‘books as refuge’?

She said certain books were a refuge for her, at certain times in her life; for example, Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was particularly helpful to her.
That book has been translated into French, and since there don’t seem to be a lot of French Dharma books  here in Quebec, I notice that a lot of folks here cite that book as being a very important doorway to the Dharma for them….

HH Karmapa and Ven Namgyal Rinpoche, Rumtek, 1975

When my principal teacher, Namgyal Rinpoche, died in 2003,  I holed up in a lil cabin on the Ottawa River and found refuge in a beautiful book Matthieu Ricard had written about his teacher, H.E. Khyentse Rinpoche: “Journey to Enlightenment: The Life and World of  Khyentse Rinpoche Spiritual Teacher from Tibet.” I read the book slowly, savouring the photos and poems. It was the only thing that seemed to resonate with me, the only thing that helped me, since I could sense how devoted Ricard was to his teacher, who had also died. And yet Ricard’s book soared with beauty, and promised something more to come.


**[One thing I didn’t put on the book list are any Buddhist books that help folks suffering with depression. That’s because there are none. (Maybe the only book that is helpful is Destructive Emotions by HH the Dalai Lama and a group of scientists led by Daniel Goleman).  Most Buddhist books (and instructions!) are useless or counterproductive when it comes to helping folks who are suffering with depression.  I think the general rule of thumb for depressed folks ought to be:  ‘Don’t meditate!’   Please… see a therapist or a doctor. But beware of inward focusing techniques when you are already probably inward-focusing enough (if you are depressed.)]  Susan Moon’s  Shambala Sun Nov. 2001 essay “I want to tell you about coming apart”,  is the most honest and helpful account of a veteran meditator suffering with depression:


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