Reading Suggestions

Below you will find a suggested reading list along with some bibliographical notes.

Books to start with:

On Buddhism:

What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula
1974, Grove Press
A profound explanation of the fundamental principles of Buddhism by a Theravadan Monk, referring to the most ancient texts in this tradition.

Buddhism without Beliefs: A contemporary guide to awakening by Stephen Batchelor
1998, Bloomsbury Publishing.
A modern presentation of the essential teachings of Buddhism.

Sôtô Zen Tradition:

The Ring of the Way, Taisen Deshimaru (Tr: Nancy Amphoux; Ed: Evelyn de Smedt & Dominique Dussaussoy)
1987, Penguin
The essentials of Master Deshimaru’s Zen teaching, at once traditional and radical, presented clearly and systematically.

Questions to a Zen Master, Taisen Deshimaru (Tr: Nancy Amphoux)
1985, Penguin
A collection of Deshimaru’s mondo – formal question/answer exchanges – giving insight into zen philosophy, practice and living.

Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo, Kosho Uchiyama
1990, Kyoto Soto Zen Centre.
Pithy sayings of Master Kodo Sawaki, and anecdotes from his life, illustrating his direct no-nonsense approach to Zen.

One Robe, One Bowl: Zen Poetry of Ryokan, Taigu Ryokan (tr/ed: John Stevens)
1987, Weatherhill
Beautiful, spartan, simple poetry from an 18th century Zen hermit-monk.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
1973, Weatherhill.
A collection of teachings from talks given by Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki transmitting the essence of Soto Zen in a modern language, accessible to all.

Not Always So, Shunryu Suzuki
2003, HarperOne.
A second collection of teaching-talks given by Suzuki, this time focused more on practical aspects of Zen practice.

Zen Seeds, Reflections of A Female Priest, by Shundo Aoyama
1991, Kosei Shuppan-Sha.
Through anecdotes and reflections, a modern female Zen master gives us teachings of simplicity and wisdom.

The Zen Way to the Martial Arts, Taisen Deshimaru (Tr: Nancy Amphoux)
1991, Penguin Compass
Master Deshimaru, also a skilled practitioner of kendo, skillfully applies his understanding of Zen to the practice of martial arts.

Diary of a Zen Nun, Nan Shin (Nancy Amphoux)
1987, Rider and Co.
Vivid, raw flashes of life from a disciple of Deshimaru as she deepens her practice of Zen while living with cancer.
 

Extended Reading:

The Sutra of Great Wisdom – Commentary by Master Deshimaru, Taisen Deshimaru (new edition revised and corrected by Philippe Coupey, Tr: Ilsa Fatt Priest)
2007, Association Zen Internationale
Deshimaru’s commentary on the Heart Sutra, one of the core texts of Mahayana Buddhism, bringing it to life for the modern world.

Dogen Zen (Dogen, Menzan, Uchiyama Tr. Okumura etc.)
2002, Sotoshu Shumucho
A selection of core Japanese Soto Zen texts allowing readers to understand the characteristics of zazen practice as taught by Dogen Zenji.

Living and Dying in Zazen, Arthur Braverman
2003, Weatherhill Inc.
The life stories and core teachings of five 20th century Japanese Zen Masters.

Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness, Shunryu Suzuki
1999, University of California Press
Master Shunryu Suzuki gives a commentary on the San Do Kai of the Chinese Master Sekito Kisen. In a simple and living language, he expresses the essence of Zen in its depth and subtlety.

Returning to Silence: Zen Practice in Daily Life, Dainin Katagiri
1988, Shambhala Publications
Through his humanity, wisdom and depth of teaching, Dainin Katagiri speaks to the heart.

Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice, Kosho Uchiyama
2005, Wisdom publications.
Clear, conceptual presentation of many of the core ideas of Zen philosophy, together with guidance for practice.

Zen – Simply Sitting. Philippe Coupey
2006, Hohm Press
A fresh, sometimes irreverent, perspective on Dogen’s classic ‘Fukanzazengi’ – a short text on the essentials of Zen practice.

The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan's Denkoroku, Keizan Jokin (Tr: Francis Cook),
2005, Wisdom Publications
An accessible and clear translation of Master Keizan’s Denkoroku.

Master Dogen’s Writings:

The Wholehearted Way, A Translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa - Eihei Dogen, (with commentary by Kosho Uchiyama, Tr. by Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Dan Leighton)
1997, Tuttle Publishing
This is an accessible and thorough translation of Master Dogen’s Bendowa, with useful and clarifying commentary by Kosho Uchiyama.

Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Books 1-4, Eihei Dogen - (Tr. : Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross)
1994-2006, Windbell Publications Ltd.
The most rigorous and complete of the translations of Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo currently available (as of March 2011).

Moon in a Dewdrop, Eihei Dogen, (Tr. Kazuaki Tanahashi)
1986, North Point Press.
Selected chapters from Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo and a selection of his poetry, translated in an accessible, dynamic and fluid fashion which does justice to Master Dogen’s use of paradoxical language and vivid imagery.

Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen, Eihei Dogen, (Tr. Kazuaki Tanahashi)
1999, Shambhala Publications Inc.
A sequel to Moon in a Dewdrop, this book includes excerpts from Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo along with some of his other writings.

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Eihei Dogen (Tr. Kazuaki Tanahashi)
To be released July 2011, Shambhala Publications Inc.
The latest complete translation of the Shobogenzo by the translator who brought us Moon in a Dewdrop and Enlightenment Unfolds.

Dogen’s Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku, Eihei Dogen (Tr. Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura.)
2005, Wisdom Publications
Representing the first complete and scholarly translation of the Eihei Koroku, the other major body of writings by Master Dogen, containing extensive and detailed research and annotation.

Nothing is Hidden:Essays on Zen Master Dogen’s Instructions for the Cook (Tr. Griffith Foulk, Edited by Jisho Warner, Shohaku Okumura, John McRae and Taigen Dan Leighton.)
2001, Weatherhill Inc.
A translation of and collection of commenting essays on Master Dogen’s Tenzo Kyokun, his Instructions for the Cook, by leading Zen monks and scholars offering clear and instructive perspectives on this text.

Teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni:

In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi)
2005, Wisdom
A manageable, well-chosen collection of texts from the Buddha himself, unexcelled in clarity and depth.

The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nigkaya (Teachings of the Buddha) (Tr. Waurice Walshe)
1995 Wisdom Books

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya (Teachings of the Buddha) (Tr. Bhikkhu Boshi)
1995 Wisdom Books

The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya (Tr. Bhikku Bodhi)
2003 Wisdom Books
Three collections comprising together a large part of the original teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Excellent translations of essential works.
 

Mahayana Sutras:

The Lotus Sutra (Tr. Burton Watson)
1993, Columbia University Press
Truly the crown of the Mahayana sutra tradition.

The Diamond Sutra (Tr. Red Pine)
2002, Counterpoint
The sutra known as the jewel that cuts through illusion.

The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti (Tr. Robert A. F. Thurman )
2009 Penn State Press
Teachings on emptiness to Buddha's disciples, given by the layman Vimalakirti.

The Flower Ornament Scripture: Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra (Tr. Thomas Cleary)
1994 Shambhala
A Mahayana classic of colossal importance, translated by one of the best.

The Lankavatara Sutra (Tr. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki)
1999 Motilal Banardsidass
An important text for the Zen school in China, which was sometimes even called the Lankavatara school for its devotion to this sutra. Thoroughly outlines Yogacara philosophy.

Surangama Sutra (Tr. Charles Luk)
2000 Munshiram Manoharial Publishers
One of the last of the great Mahayana Sutras. Like The Lankavatara Sutra it is especially important for the Zen school, also drawing heavily on the concepts of the Yogacara school.

Zen Masters in China:

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma (Tr. Red Pine)
1989 North Point Press
A collection of impressive texts attributed to the first ancestor of Zen in China.

Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi (Tr. Taigen Dan Leighton and Yi Wu)
2000, Tuttle
A beautiful collection of short talks from one of the most significant masters of Song China.

Book of Serenity (Tr. Thomas Cleary).
Of the classical Sung dynasty koan collections, this is this one with the greatest resonance within the Soto school, selected and with accompanying verses by the great Soto Master Hongzhi (Jp. Wanshi).
 

Dogen Zenji:

Soto Zen – An Introduction to Zazen (Ed. Shohaku Okumura)
2002, Shumucho
Perhaps the shortest introduction to Soto Zen practice, with clear instructions on practice and translations of classic teachings.

Beyond Thinking: A Guide to Zen Meditation (Tr. Kazuaki Tanahashi)
An excellent translation of a collection of texts by Master Dogen on the practice of zazen.

Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community (Tr. Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura)
1995, SUNY Press
A collection of texts on the practice of monastic life at Eiheiji. Includes the Tenzo Kyokun (instructions to the cook), the Chiji Shinji (regulations for the temple administrators) as well as texts on the meals, comportment towards elders and rules for the study hall.

The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koans (Tr. John Daido Loori and Kazuaki Tanahashi)
2005, Shambhala
Until recently a text of disputed authenticity, now recognized as Dogen's own collection of traditional Zen stories, an interesting complement to a study of the Shobogenzo.

How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi
2005, Shambhala
An excellent translation with commentary on Master Dogen's Tenzo Kyokun, understood as a teaching on how to practice in daily life.

The Zen Poetry of Dogen – Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace (Tr. Steven Heine)
1997, Tuttle
A collection of Dogen's poetry with scholarly commentary, including translations from the Sanshodoei, a collection of poems in Japanese intended for laypeople.

Shobogenzo Zuimonki – Sayings of Eihei Dogen Zenji Recorded by Koun Ejo (Tr. Shohaku Okumura)
1988, Shumucho
A record of informal talks given by Master Dogen to his disciples at Kosho-ji in the early years of his teaching. Notable for its accessibility and relevance.

Zen Masters in the West:

Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki. (David Chadwick)
2000, Three Rivers Press
A fascinating biography of an important modern Zen master and an engaging history of his sangha's early development in America.

 

Miscellaneous:

Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China)
Zen Buddhism: A History (Japan)

By Heinrich Dumoulin (two volumes)
2005, Wisdom
A classic and authoritative history of Zen, from its beginnings to the contemporary period.

Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra (Taigen Dan Leighton)
2007, Oxford University Press
An excellent introduction to the philosophical dimension of the Lotus Sutra for contemporary practitioners of Soto Zen already familiar with Master Dogen's teachings.

The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza (Various authors and translators; edited by John Daido Loori)
2002, Wisdom
An anthology of classical and modern texts on the practice of zazen.

 

List compiled by Hosetsu Laure Scemama

 

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