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Thread: Book Suggestions?

  1. #1

    Book Suggestions?

    I've been reading Buddhism For Dummies as recommended by Jundo in his thread of recommended literature, and I'm approaching the end. I've purchased What Is Zen? Plain Talk For A Beginner's Mind and Opening The Hand Of Thought, and have The Zen Master's Dance arriving soon as well. I wanted to see if anyone has suggestions for what to read next of those three books for this Zen newbie.

    Gassho, John
    ST/LAH

  2. #2
    Everyone, I know, has their favorites to recommend.

    I will just bump the thread of our "Suggested Books & Media" List which you mentioned (with books marked with ** especially recommended for newer folk) ...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...ed-Books-Media

    I might suggest Uchiyama Roshi's commentary of "Tenzo Kyokun" called "How to Cook your Life," and also Okumura Roshi's "Living by Vow" and "Realizing Genjo Koan," but other folks have their personal treasures too, I know.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    As another relative newbie, I would suggest reading them in the order you have listed. They rather build on each other. The Zen Master’s Dance is the best available intro to Dogen, but it’s still some mind-bending stuff. The first two provide a good foundation for that (which I found helpful).. but maybe you’re ready to just leap .
    Gassho,
    Naiko
    st

  4. #4
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    There are so many good books to consider, and I feel that those already mentioned above and in the link Jundo shared are all excellent choices.

    My advice (take it or leave it as I'm just an eternal beginner myself) is to take your time and select the books that seem to meet you where you are on the path.

    Also, whatever you read, be gentle with yourself as you may not understand everything you read right away. Absorb what resonates with you at the time and have faith that more of it will make sense in due time and with further practice (on and off the cushion). It's not a race to knowledge.

    I regularly re-read Dharma books and learn something new with every read. Often, I'll read something that seems so obvious to me now that I can't believe it took me decades and multiple readings to "get it".

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-

    (Apologies for running long...)


    Sent from my Pixel 4a (5G) using Tapatalk
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  5. #5
    I like Jundo's list of suggestions a lot, and have been alternating books from that list with books that just grab me for some reason.

    One introduction to Buddhist history and practice I like is Jack Mcquire's Essential Buddhism. He was a student of John Daido Loori at Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM). I also liked Walpole Rahula's What the Buddha Taught. Those were two of the introductory texts recommended at ZMM and I found them quite good grounding in Buddhism. And then for Zen John Daido Loori wrote some great books. But I'd go with Jundo's book The Zen Master's Dance. I know I will need to re-read in a few months to really start to get some of the sections. Reading Jundo's book was the first time Dogen came alive for me.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    Walpole Rahula's What the Buddha Taught. Those were two of the introductory texts recommended at ZMM and I found them quite good grounding in Buddhism.
    My one comment on that book is that it is one view of "What the Buddha Taught," as explained by a rather philosophical fellow from primarily a Theravadan perspective.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    My one comment on that book is that it is one view of "What the Buddha Taught," as explained by a rather philosophical fellow from primarily a Theravadan perspective.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Hmmm... It's been a while since I read it. But my memory was that it didn't present a particularly Theravadan perspective. It looked at Early Buddhist suttas (it did use the Pali canon), before Theravada-specific developments like the Abhidhamma and the The Path of Purification, or Mahayana-specific developments like Nagarjuna and the Prajnaparamita texts.

    Walpole doesn't bring the level of scholarship identifying the earliest strata of the suttas that someone like Bhante Sujato does. And he doesn't have the language skills of Bhikkhu Analayo, looking at Pali suttas and Chinese Nikayas to triangulate on the most likely original versions of texts. And both Sujato and Analayo take into account the long period of oral transmission, and the prevalent beliefs of the time, when trying to separate out what were likely later additions. That's beyond Walpole's focus. But Walpole stays pretty straight ahead, focusing on early texts on teachings that show up often enough, like 4 Noble Truths and Noble 8-fold Path, that it is more likely an authentic teaching of the Buddha than a later addition. I always assumed his general-ist approach was why a Zen school like Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM) recommended his book.

    I admit I turn to Bhante Sujato and Bhikkhu Analayo when studying Early Buddhist Texts, and they are all coming out of the Theravada tradition. But they have a strong commitment to separating out what the Early Texts say from what Theravada says.

    Are there any Zen teachers/practioners/writers who have a main focus on studying and translating early Buddhist texts? At ZMM their focus was pretty much on the Prajnaparamita texts, Chinese Ch'an texts, and Dogen.

    Thank you. Sorry for going so long.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post

    Are there any Zen teachers/practioners/writers who have a main focus on studying and translating early Buddhist texts? At ZMM their focus was pretty much on the Prajnaparamita texts, Chinese Ch'an texts, and Dogen.
    Dogen and most Zen folks would emphasize the Mahayana Sutras, such as the Diamond and other Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, the Flower Garland, the Lotus Sutra of course, and several others. Many of the South Asian Suttas came to China and were translated principally as what are known as the "Agamas":

    https://encyclopediaofbuddhism.org/wiki/Agamas

    Dogen would often quote various stories and passages from the Agamas but, typically, with a Mahayana twist, even sometimes critical of their so-called "lesser vehicle" interpretations or practices (seen by many Mahayana Buddhists of centuries past, no matter how we look at things now, as a provisional teaching given by the Buddha until the world was ready for the "great vehicle" message). So, rarely did he quote from the old Suttas without a Mahayana lens. Now, we do not (and I certainly do not) talk so much about inferiority or superiority, and just see them as different approaches of different cultures and times suited perhaps to different people. None is more "original" or even necessarily "older" than any other, and each is just of its own time and timeless too.

    You are correct, and I misspoke, to say that "What the Buddha Taught" is a strictly "Theravadan" interpretation, although its author Ven. Walpola Rahula was a Sri Lankan Theravadan monk.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpola_Rahula_Thero

    In many ways, the interpretation there is his effort to bring a "Buddhist modernist" rationality and organization to the South Asian teachings. It is a wonderful and classic book so long as the reader knows that it is coming from its own perspective. I think that many Zen folks, like ZMM, might turn to it because it is (or was until recent years) one of the few books attempting to present the basic and early Buddhist doctrines in a readable and organized fashion. However, there is very little Mahayana or Zen approach to the basic Buddhist doctrines present in the book. We also uphold all the basic foundational teachings ... Noble Truths, Non-Self, Impermanence, Noble Path and much more ... but in our own ways, flavored with Emptiness and such.

    Sorry to go long too.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-03-2021 at 05:07 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Are there any Zen teachers/practioners/writers who have a main focus on studying and translating early Buddhist texts? At ZMM their focus was pretty much on the Prajnaparamita texts, Chinese Ch'an texts, and Dogen.
    Hi Jim

    Not a primary focus but I like that Domyo Burk includes twelve suttas from the Pali Canon for study in her Zen Studies Podcast:

    Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know pt 1
    Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know pt 2
    Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know pt 3

    Personally, I have a complete English translation of the Sutta Pitaka and find it inspiring. There are certain Theravadin teachers, of whom Ajahn Chah is one, whose message is not dissimilar to what we find in Sōtō Zen.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post

    Personally, I have a complete English translation of the Sutta Pitaka and find it inspiring. There are certain Theravadin teachers, of whom Ajahn Chah is one, whose message is not dissimilar to what we find in Sōtō Zen.
    I agree.

    I also have several of the Bikkhu Bodhi and Walshe translations, and a short introductory collection I recommend to anyone interested is "In the Buddha's Words."

    https://books.google.co.jp/books/abo...on&redir_esc=y

    It is a very nice "best of" collection.

    One thing, my personal bias perhaps, is that I read the Suttas in their own words before turning to the Theravadan commentaries on their meaning at the back of the book in the footnotes. The Suttas themselves were often very straight and clear, easy to fathom, and very often not in any disharmony with various Zen approaches to things. I did find that the Theravadan comments did often put twists and interpretations on the words, however, that were hard for my to resonate with.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Thank you for this thread - I am learning a lot and have a lot to study.

    Some of these may be obvious but I don't want to assume anything; to be honest, I don't pay attention much to the Theravada, I think to my detriment based on what has been shared lately. Jim you posted a link - I have the page open on my phone but can't find it right now lol but that is absolutely beautiful about not being attached to outcomes.

    Is it fair to say that the Mahayana is just an expression of the way sort of adapted/integrated into the cultural norm(s) of the societies where it becomes popular? Do you think that one day the Mahayana will be considered the "traditional" vehicle and a new Buddhist framework may emerge? Is it fair to draw parallels with the Theravada and Mahayana to Christianity (from a very high level) for example where Theravada may be more like traditional Judaism whereas Christianity sort of emerged in a more modern era and was built on but expanded upon Judaism?

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

    PS Apologies for going long; interesting topic
    Last edited by Risho; 03-03-2021 at 01:54 PM.

  12. #12
    One thing, my personal bias perhaps, is that I read the Suttas in their own words before turning to the Theravadan commentaries on their meaning at the back of the book in the footnotes. The Suttas themselves were often very straight and clear, easy to fathom, and very often not in any disharmony with various Zen approaches to things. I did find that the Theravadan comments did often put twists and interpretations on the words, however, that were hard for my to resonate with.
    Modern Theravada largely came about through the systematisation of practices by a monk called Buddhaghosa in the Vishuddimaga (Path of Purification) in 5th century Sri Lanka, nearly a millennia after the Buddha's lifetime.

    With current scholarship, it is seen how this volume codified certain interpretations of the Pali Canon that are not universally accepted. I guess a parallel could be drawn with the way Dōgen codified Zen practice, although clearly he was totally correct

    Anyway, this is my long and drawn out way of agreeing with Jundo that, yes, going back to the horse's mouth, or as close as we can to it with the Pali Canon, is a good way to read those early teachings without any additional interpretations.

    Btw, if you don't want to buy any collections of suttas, you can read them for free in different translations at Access to Insight and Sutta Central. Access to Insight even has a neat Self-guided Tour of the Buddha's Teachings and Sutta Central has a similar guide to Getting Started. Of the two, an American Theravadin friend tells me that Sutta Central is generally considered the better site.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattodayandwillsitagainprobablyafterasmallnap-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 03-03-2021 at 02:06 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  13. #13
    Is it fair to say that the Mahayana is just an expression of the way sort of adapted/integrated into the cultural norm(s) of the societies where it becomes popular? Do you think that one day the Mahayana will be considered the "traditional" vehicle and a new Buddhist framework may emerge? Is it fair to draw parallels with the Theravada and Mahayana to Christianity (from a very high level) for example where Theravada may be more like traditional Judaism whereas Christianity sort of emerged in a more modern era and was built on but expanded upon Judaism?
    Hi Risho

    Personally, I would say that a Mahayana approach tended to appear in countries where Mahayana teachings were taken and Theravada teachings where those were taken. Theravada spread through south Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia) whereas Mahayana teachings spread north and east through Tibet, Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea. However, it is not impossible that those countries received teachings of both kinds and one resonated more with the culture of that society. Mostly it seems more like natural geographical spread though.

    I do not think that Mahayana will be come to be seen as the traditional vehicle, but what we are seeing with modern scholarship, and a view that Jundo often emphasises, is that we do not have access to the original teachings and early Mahayana sutras were being written down at the same time as the Pali Canon, which have clearly undergone some degree of revisionism since the Buddha taught through the addition of various supernatural elements that seem to be present in order to convert adherents of Brahminism/Hinduism. But, I see no reason that Theravada and Mahayana should not continue to exist side-by-side as they have done for around two thousand years, including in modern day Europe and America.

    A dropping of the attitudes that Theravada is more pure to the teachings of the Buddha and Mahayana superior in terms of compassion for all beings would be nice though!

    The parallels to Judaism and Christianity is not a bad one from my perspective, although Mahayana Buddhism did not have any one new prophet but rather a collection of new perspectives and practices that seemed to arise in Indian monasteries in the early centuries CE.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    Last edited by Kokuu; 03-03-2021 at 02:08 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  14. #14

  15. #15
    Thank you for all the comments. For me, because of the significant influence of Taoism on the development of Ch'an, I tend to find Zen teaching fairly distinct from the early Buddhist texts. Which is of course fine, but means I (and this might be my bias) have not looked much to Zen teachers for study of early Buddhist texts. Though, as someone mentioned, I thought Domyo Burke did a great job discussing early Buddhist thought. And Doug's Dharma, while under the heading secular Buddhism, does a nice job with early Buddhism teachings without ignoring or rejecting out of hand the non-secular elements.

    Theravada has a strong Early Buddhist Text (EBT) movement within it (though obviously a comparatively small part of Theravada overall), that makes a strong distinction between Theravada practice (with its roots in Abhidhamma, Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, and other later texts) and EBT teachings. A great example of this EBT movement is Bhante Sujato's scholarship and translations, all available for free at Sutta Central. There's also a discussion forum there--Bhante Sujato is quite approachable and easy to talk to. So, maybe my bias, but I know I look to that EBT movement within Theravada for the best source of learning on what the Buddha Taught.

    I find Bhante Sujato and Bhikkhu Analayo, who has the language skills to read/translate both the Pali Canon and Chinese Agamas in their original languages, have been the best sources for coming as close as possible with the surviving texts to what the Buddha most likely taught. Also, Bhikkhu Bodhi - as someone mentioned - has an excellent book, In The Buddha's Words.

    And, if interested, there are now some great online resources for learning Pali. I took a wonderful intensive with Stephen Sas, a student of Bhikkhu Bodhi, this past summer. Videos of that intensive are online. As well as videos of Bhikkhu Bodhi teaching Pali.

    Sorry for going long. Thank you for all the great comments - I've really enjoyed reading them.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  16. #16
    There's also a discussion forum there--Bhante Sujato is quite approachable and easy to talk to. So, maybe my bias, but I know I look to that EBT movement within Theravada for the best source of learning on what the Buddha Taught.

    I find Bhante Sujato and Bhikkhu Analayo, who has the language skills to read/translate both the Pali Canon and Chinese Agamas in their original languages, have been the best sources for coming as close as possible with the surviving texts to what the Buddha most likely taught. Also, Bhikkhu Bodhi - as someone mentioned - has an excellent book, In The Buddha's Words.
    I am going to say something perhaps a little shocking (again, not the first time this week ), but I am not overly concerned with what "the Buddha most likely taught" ... no more than I would be concerned about what the Wright Brothers had to say about modern jet aviation, or Newton about Black Holes.

    Each was a genius in their own day and culture, but even Buddhism has moved on, developed, learned some things about how the world and human mind actually work that have moved on from those times, expanded our vision, and sometimes shown some of the early beliefs as likely downright wrong. Buddha was still a man of Iron Age India, some 2500 years ago, and is not the final word on this beginningless endless timeless path.

    It is not simply a matter that we cannot truly know what he said, and need to extrapolate from later texts, even if we do assume that there was one actual man at all who was the "historical Buddha" (even most of the biographical story about leaving the palace, beginning his ministry, etc., is a story which only appeared and was then greatly embellished, centuries after his reported time of life), but that we now fly 777s (not that they don't have their own problem! ) while he was flying a glider.

    Still, so much wisdom, so much beauty there. We should learn from the Founders, honor the early Teachings. And we all fly the very same air, and experience the very same gravity.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-04-2021 at 06:07 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  18. #18
    Thank you all for the advice! Naiko, i will take your advice and read them in the order I've listed, and Jundo, thank you so much for suggesting these books and the others on the list! I'm glad that this thread is helping people with their studies as well, too Perhaps we can continue this thread for discussions of recommended books in and outside of Jundo's list? Sorry for going on a bit long.

    Gassho, John
    ST/LAH
    Last edited by GrasshopperMan17; 03-04-2021 at 06:07 AM.

  19. #19
    How to Cook Your Life by Uchiyama Roshi was great, as was Bringing the Sacred to Life by John Daido Loori... This next book isn't specifically Buddhist but I still highly recommend it, No Self, No Problem by Chris Niebauer.


    Evan,
    Sat today, lah
    Just going through life one day at a time!

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I am going to say something perhaps a little shocking (again, not the first time this week ), but I am not overly concerned with what "the Buddha most likely taught" ... no more than I would be concerned about what the Wright Brothers had to say about modern jet aviation, or Newton about Black Holes.
    Might as well skip Dogen as well if being recent is what's important. Only read things written since the advent of brain scans.

    More seriously, not worrying about trying to work out what the Buddha most likely taught actually isn't shocking - I find it a standard position for many Buddhists nowadays. But, as I said, there is a small Early Buddhist Text movement within the Theravada tradition and within the academic world trying to bring scholarship to bear on answering that question of what the Buddha taught, to the extent possible. I am going to keep studying those developments, because maybe airplanes aren't a good analogy. Maybe all airplanes now are better than the Wright Brother's airplane. But maybe, just maybe, all Buddhist teachers now aren't better than the Buddha.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  21. #21
    I can't recommend "Hoofprint of the Ox" by Sheng-Yen enough! I have read quite a few 'Introductory' books, if that is what we can call them. Such as Opening the hand of thought, Zen mind, Beginers Mind, What is Zen etc and I personally found Hoofprint of the Ox to give me the most useful overview of things.

    So this is my personal recomendation for the thread!

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST/LAH

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingIntrospection View Post
    I can't recommend "Hoofprint of the Ox" by Sheng-Yen enough! I have read quite a few 'Introductory' books, if that is what we can call them. Such as Opening the hand of thought, Zen mind, Beginers Mind, What is Zen etc and I personally found Hoofprint of the Ox to give me the most useful overview of things.

    So this is my personal recomendation for the thread!

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST/LAH
    But quite a different approach, in subtle but important ways, from Shikantaza and Soto Zen.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    I am just entering Yasunari Kawabata the Snow County where the author vanquished the ancient Japanese ideas of male subjugation of superior women with the story of as a Geisha woman in isolation away from humanely relevant culture where women someday can outwit men and there in Japan’s wilderness isolation where Japanese business men from outside different from women and taking advantage of the nature of wilderness demand for money women who are captive to sex and these men who cannot break free of life in prison of subjugation of these women. Kawtaba’s masterpiece makes use of the ancient Haiku in structure and form to reveal the ultimate beauty in these women as one women vows to live for another woman. Women are yet slaves to control and violence as men still in a single moment of love turn back to dishonest violence in neglect so subtle.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    I find it better to sit in Sangha


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    A monk asked Yun-men, "What are the teachings of a lifetime?" Yum-men said to him, "An appropriate statement." Zen Mondo

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    But quite a different approach, in subtle but important ways, from Shikantaza and Soto Zen.
    i think you wrote about that, where can i find that?



    aprapti

    std

    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by aprapti View Post
    i think you wrote about that, where can i find that?
    Sounds like a Koan?

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Sounds like a Koan?
    excuse me.. i was talking about the difference between the teaching of m.Sheng Yen and shikantaza..



    aprapti

    sat

    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by aprapti View Post
    excuse me.. i was talking about the difference between the teaching of m.Sheng Yen and shikantaza..



    aprapti

    sat
    You can find that on the Zafu and in one's own heart.

    (But you can also find some information on what I meant here. Sheng Yen's ways are beautiful and powerful, but they really are rather unlike Shikantaza. His books are not always so clear on that point):

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post266190

    It is a lovely way, but just not the same ... like Karate and Judo are both lovely, but not the same. Same yet not the same.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    You can find that on the Zafu and in one's own heart.

    (But you can also find some information on what I meant here. Sheng Yen's ways are beautiful and powerful, but they really are rather unlike Shikantaza. His books are not always so clear on that point):

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post266190

    It is a lovely way, but just not the same ... like Karate and Judo are both lovely, but not the same. Same yet not the same.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    thank you, Jundo. i'll search my heart and keep sitting.. but i'll read the two articles too..



    aprapti

    sat

    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

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