12 Buddhist Books To Read On Your Path To Enlightenment

Dive in to this ancient spiritual tradition.

Buddhism is one of the world's oldest religions. Founded by Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha, circa the 5th century BCE, Buddhism outlines a path of personal spiritual enrichment through meditation and insight. Following in the Buddha's footsteps, Buddhists seek to reach nirvana, or enlightenment, a state of transcendence free from suffering, desire and the cycle of death and rebirth.

Unlike Christianity or Islam, Buddhism does not have one central text that sums up the religion's basic tenets. What people call "Buddhism" today is really a collection of different philosophies and schools of thought, ranging from Zen to Mahayana to Theravada.

If you're seeking to explore Buddhism more deeply, here are 12 books that both practitioners and religious seekers can use to learn more about this ancient tradition.

Are there any books that we missed? Tell us in the comments below. And check out our other ReligionReads lists on Sikhism, Paganism and Seeker Spirituality.

'The Heart Of The Buddha's Teaching'
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh introduces the core teachings of Buddhism. The book explores concepts like the four noble truths, the eightfold path, the three doors of liberation and demonstrates their power to transform lives.
'Real Happiness'
Real Happiness, by renowned Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg, is a must-read for those interested in learning about the life-changing effects of starting a meditation practice.
'On The Path To Enlightenment'
On the Path to Enlightenment by renowned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard is an anthology of key teachings from some of the most famous Buddhist teachers in history. The teachings touch on topics like the qualities of the mind, altruism, meditation and how to remove obstacles in your path.
'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind'
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki presents a clear, relatable exploration of Zen practice, from breathing techniques to the concept of non-duality. The book explains the importance of "beginner's mind," starting off with the line: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
'When Things Fall Apart'
Written by renowned Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart offers wisdom for dealing with pain and life's difficulties from a Buddhist perspective. Chödrön shows how we may cultivate compassion and courage through painful experiences.
'Radiant Mind'
Radiant Mind is a collection of essential Buddhist teachings and texts edited by Jean Smith. In addition to the texts, the book includes commentaries and interpretations from Buddhist leaders like the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield.
'Being Upright'
Being Upright by Reb Anderson introduces the fundamental concepts of Zen Buddhism and explores its ten basic precepts, including not killing, not stealing and not lying. The book offers a new kind of ethics based in compassion.
'The Poetry Of Zen'
Translated and edited by Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton, The Poetry of Zen is a collection of Chinese and Japanese Zen poetry spanning from the tradition's early days to the twentieth century.
'After The Ecstasy, The Laundry'
After The Ecstasy, The Laundry by American vipassana teacher Jack Kornfield explains the everyday realities of being on a spiritual path. The book draws heavily from Kornfield's own Buddhist tradition, while also exploring wisdom from Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sufi traditions.
'The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Buddhist Wisdom'
Written by Gill Farrer-Halls, this illustrated introduction to Buddhism is great for beginners. The book includes the story of Prince Siddhartha and the spread of Buddhism, basic beliefs of Buddhism, quotes from teachers, practical instruction on how to meditate and more.
'Nothing Holy About It'
Tim Burkett's Nothing Holy About It explores Zen teaching and aims to show readers that, as Amazon writes, "you don’t need to go looking for something holy— buddha nature is right here in front of you."
'Mindfulness In Plain English'
We've all heard of mindfulness, but do we really understand what it means or how it works? Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana explains this important concept for those interested in experiencing its transformative potential.
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Before You Go

Ramayana, translated by Kamala Subramaniam

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