Reading Zen: Fifteen Zen Teachers Each Recommend Five Books

Reading Zen: Fifteen Zen Teachers Each Recommend Five Books July 1, 2017


I asked a number of Zen teachers if they would give me five titles on the subject of Zen and Buddhism that they recommend. I originally did not intend to include five of my own, but somewhere along the line got excited about the project and so, in total we have fifteen Zen teachers offering five books each. Well, five more or less. As you will see going through the lists. Zen teachers are not as a rule well known for coloring within the lines.

I gave no guidelines beyond Zen and Buddhism and five titles. Some thought others would include beginning titles and others wanted to make sure books for beginners were included. There are some repetitions. Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is listed six times, Shohaku Okamura’s Living by Vow is listed five times, Kosho Uchiyama’s Opening the Hand of Thought, and his Refining Your Life and Hee-Jin Kim’s Dogen on Meditation and Thinking are each noted twice. There is a great deal of Eihei Dogen. We also find some serious exploration of koan literature. And, not a whole lot of early Buddhism, one biography of the founder and one anthology of his putative direct teachings.

On balance I find a pretty good list of very interesting books. One or two, I would never have thought to add to a list of books on Zen and Buddhism. In my view all in all not a bad library for anyone interested in the great Zen project. 

I hope you find them helpful.

Mitra Bishop:

Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan, (ed by James Ishmael Ford & Melissa Blacker)

Nothing is Hidden: the Psychology of Zen Koans, Barry Magid
Ordinary Mind: Exploring the Common Ground of Zen and Psychoanalysis, Barry Magid
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Undying Lamp of Zen: The Testament of Zen Master Torei (trs by Thomas Cleary)

Domyo Burk:

The Wings to Awakening: An Anthology of the Pali Canon, (ed by Bhikku Thanissaro)
(Dogen) Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Shohaku Okumura
(Dogen) How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment, Kosho Uchiyama
Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction. Richard Robinson, Willard L. Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikku.
Seeds of Virtue, Seeds of Change: A Collection of Zen Teachings, (ed by Jikyo Wolfer & Eido Carney)

Anita Feng:

Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi (trs by Taigen Leighton)
Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui (trs by J. C. Cleary)
Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry (ed by Stephen Mitchell)

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Blue Cliff Record (various translations)

Norman Fischer:

Everyday Zen, Joko Beck
Living by Vow, Shohaku Okamura
Not Always So, Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Refining Your Life, Kosho Uchiyama

James Ishmael Ford:

Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, Robert Aitken
Taking the Path of Zen, Robert Aitken
Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor
Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen Practice, trs by Jeffrey Broughton & Elise Watanabe
Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life, John Tarrant

Gesshin Greenwood:

Bossy Pants, Tina Fey
Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh
Opening the Hand of Thought, Kosho Uchiyama
(Dogen) Bendowa: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way by Eihei Dogen, Kosho Uchiyama
The Dhammapada, Gautama Siddhartha (various translations)

Joan Halifax:

(Dogen) Moon in a Dewdrop, (trs Kazuaki Tanahashi, et al)
Transmission of Light, Jokin Keizan (trs Francis Cook)
Zen’s Chinese Heritage, Andy Ferguson
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Opening the Hand of Thought, Kosho Uchiyama

Mushim Patricia Ikeda:

Zen Monastic Experience, Robert Buswell
Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center, Michael Downing
Cave of Poison Grass: Essays on the Hannya Sutra, Seikan Hasegawa
Zen at War, Brian Daizen Victoria

Barry Magid:

Greek Buddha, Christopher Beckwith
Living & Dying and Zazen, Arthur Braverman
Fathering Your Father, Alan Cole
Patriarchs on Paper, Alan Cole
Living by Vow, Shohaku Okamura

Rafe Martin:

The Gateless Barrier (trs by Robert Aitken)
(Dogen) Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, (ed. Kazuaki Takahashi)

The Three Pillars of Zen, ed by Philip Kapleau
The Ox and His Herdsman: A Chinese Zen Text, ( trs by M.H. Trevor)
Vimalakirti Sutra.(trans. Burton Watson)
Poison Blossoms from A Thicket of Thorn, Hakuin Ekaku (trs Norman Waddell)

Wendy Egyoku Nakai:

The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women, (Florence Caplow, Susan Moon, eds)
Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen, Bernie Glassman
Liberating Intimacy: Enlightenment and Social Virtuosity in Ch’an Buddhism, Peter Hershock
Zen Talks: More than Anyone Can Do, Ton Lathouwers
Art of the Lotus Sutra: Japanese Masterpieces, Tamura Kurata

Dosho Port:

Narrow Road to the Interior, Bassho (trs Hammil)
Dogen’s Extensive Record (trs Leighton and Okumura)
Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, by Hee-Jin Kim
Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn, Ekaku Hakuin (trs Waddell)
Moon by the Window, by Shodo Harada

Judy Roitman:

(five for beginners)

What the Buddha Taught, Walpola Rahula
Compass of Zen, Seung Sahn
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
Hardcore Zen, Brad Warner
Sit Down and Shut Up, Brad Warner

(and for more mature practitioners)

Gateless Barrier (trs by Robert Aitken
Elegant Failure, Richard Shrobe
Don’t Know Mind, Richard Shrobe
Diamond Sutra (various translations)
Vimalakirti Sutra (trs by Burton Watson)
Lotus Sutra (trs by either Burton Watson or Gene Reeves)
Platform Sutra of the Sixth Ancestor (various translations)
Mirror of Zen: The Classic Guide to Buddhist Practice by Zen Master So Sahn (ZM Roitman adds: (credited to Boep Jeong Sunim who is actually the monk who translated the Chinese text into contemporary Korean from which it was translated into English by Hyon Gak Sunim and why Shambhala made such a mess of the attribution I don’t know)

(and for people who want a little feminist perspective)

First Buddhist Women, Susan Murcott
Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters, Grace Schireson

(And just for fun)

Buddha, Karen Armstrong

Grace Schireson:

Nothing Special, Joko Beck
Living Zen, Joko Beck
Living by Vow, Shohaku Okamura
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki

Daniel Terragno:

Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, Hee-Jin Kim
Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen Hee-Jin Kim
Passing Through the Gateless Barrier: Koan Practice for Real Life, Guo Gu
Record of Linji (trs Ruth Fuller Sasaki)
Art of Just Sitting (ed Daido Loori)
Sitting With Koans (ed Daido Loori)


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