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Dummy’s Guide to Buddhism?

This is a bit of a follow-up to my post from yesterday

I've read (or will read in more depth) Dan Benjamin's posts on Buddhism, but they're more so about meditation than Buddhism in general.

I'd like to read a bit about Buddhism - not so much the ancient stuff, any conflicts, etc. - but about modern Buddhism and how it can be applied in a Western world. I'm aware that there are several variations of Buddhism, and I'd like to look at those and see if one stands out as "making more sense" (and/or being more practical). What separates the variations?

Meditation will likely follow, as it's a part of every form of Buddhism (so far as I know), but for now it feels like I'm getting ahead of the game. Is there anything like the "Dummy's Guide to Buddhism"?

10 Responses to "Dummy’s Guide to Buddhism?"

  1. Here a couple books that my Buddhist friend recommends: The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment (9780385260930): Philip Kapleau Roshi: Books - that one is good because it has a very detailed section on meditation, and also contains transcripts of discussions between Zen masters and students from the west. A lot of common questions are answered in it. - It's big though... and may not contain the *basic* materials that you might be looking for. The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality) (9781586380199): Eknath Easwaran: Books - The Bhagavad Gita is the core Hindu book. Buddhism is built on Hinduism like Christianity is built on Judaism. It will give the background on where Buddha was coming from and has good explanations of some of the concepts like Dharma, Karma, etc.

    "If he's just looking for "Pop Zen/Buddhism" - I like what I have heard from Thich Nhat Hanh, but I have not actually read any of his books. I do have a handful of books by DT. Suzuki, and they are good, though a bit like empty calories. More like Koans in book form. A very good one by him is: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Shambhala Library) (9781590302675): Shunryu Suzuki: Books"

  2. The Gita is a great place to start. I would also recommend the Dharma Parda. Nice intro here (I haven't read all of the intro)

    Also worth a look are the Upanishads, a slightly more Hindu slant, but Buddha was the last Hindu to find enlightenment.

  3. Not a pure "Buddhism for dummies" or "Zen for dummies"-book, but a book with some sort of "real application" of the stuff:

    "Sacred Hoops -- Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior" by Phil Jackson. Yes, this is LA Lakers-Phil Jackson.

    He describes his application of Zen Buddhism on and outside the court and was inspiring enough to make the first steps.

  4. Oh there are so many! The writings of Bhante Henepola Gunaratana are indispensable guides to the Theravada tradition (the oldest form of Buddhism still practiced today). I'd especially recommend his Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness. It's fairly basic. It mostly deals with some core teachings like the Four Noble Truths, Five Precepts, what the suttas have to say about meditation, etc. All the same, even the most basic concepts of Buddhism can be a little tricky. Gunaratana does a fabulous job explaining them. His Mindfulness in Plain English is also a must read for a beginner. I'd stay away from his Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English until you've been practicing meditation for a number of years.

    Some other things you might want to consider - In the Buddha's Words (translations and essays by Bhikkhu Bodhi). This book provides a systematic introduction to key Buddhist concepts using the suttas as a base. Come to think of it, anything that has Bhikkhu Bodhi's name attached to it is fantastic. He also has an online lecture series available on the Bodhi Monastery website ( Jack Kornfield is also not too bad (although a little dry at times). His A Path with Heart covers a wide range of topics.

    If you are interested in learning about the Tibetan Tradition, the John Powers' Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism is pretty much the standard. The writings of Robert Thurman (former English translator for the Dalai Lama and current professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia) are also pretty excellent.

    As far as Zen goes, books such as Sheng-Yen's
    Footprint of the Ox: Principles of the Zen Buddhist Path
    as Taught by a Modern Chinese Master, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, and the poetry of Ryokan would be a good start. Frankly, as a Zen student myself, I'd advise that you just assume skip the books and go right into practice itself........

    Hope that helps!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Here is my list of must read books on meditation practice:

    1. Zen Heart by Ezra Bayda

    2. Nothing Special by Joko Beck

    3. Appreciate Your Life by Taizan Maezumi, Roshi

  6. There is actually a "Buddhism for Dummies" book. It is everything you need to know without going into too many details. Basic "Dummies" format. Talks a little about everything.

    For a more in depth look at the philosophy, try "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying", thick book but a good read.

    There is also "The Art of Happiness", by the Dali Lama. It has a question and answer format. I'm sure you would find it useful.

    Good luck! And remember, Past and Future are a duality of which Present is the reality. The now-moment alone is eternal and real.

  7. I recommend Buddhism with an Attitude, by B. Alan Wallace. Go and see for yourself.

  8. Hello
    I know how you feel beeing lost a bit with all the fluff around the core guidelines. Try reading some Alan Watts essays.
    He was a great scholar , thinker and philosopher that actually tried to explain as plainly as possible the whole of spirituality.
    He reaches accross all religions and distilles the essence of perceiving reality and understanding enlightement.
    He does that in a very light and humorous way.
    Just google him , read or listen to his audios and I guarantee you that you will get hooked 😉 and start to understand this whole mess stright away.
    I have been reading books and studying a lot and only after reaching Watts I can comprehend the sence of buddhism , hinduism and so on.
    Best wishes on your way .....

  9. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living, 2nd Edition (Paperback) ~ Ph.D., Gary R. McClain and Eve Adamson

  10. [...] up a copy of The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment thanks to a comment on this post. Thanks Brad (or Brad's [...]