17 Best Books For Buddhism: Expand Your Knowledge Today

Buddhism is an ancient religion that has captured the hearts and minds of people around the globe. Discover our helpful list of the best books for Buddhism.

Siddhartha Gautama also referred to as the Buddha, established the religion of Buddhism in the sixth century BCE. The Buddha was raised in an affluent household, but after witnessing the suffering of others, he gave up his life of luxury. After that, he spent six years looking for a cure for misery until he found it.

The remainder of the Buddha’s life was devoted to imparting his knowledge to others. Buddhism intrigues millions of people around the world in the modern age. To begin your journey of learning more about Buddhism, start with these 17 best books for Buddhism.

1. Buddhism for Beginners, by Thubten Chodron

Thubten Chodron
Thubten Chodron via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Whether you’re new to Buddhism or you’ve been practicing for years, Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron is a great place to start. In it, Chodron explains Buddhism. She addresses the most common questions about Buddhism, focusing on the practical application of rebirth, tantric practice, and spirituality. For anyone new to Buddhism, Buddhism for Beginners provides a solid overview of the history and development of Buddhism. The author covers Pali traditions from Sri Lanka, Tibet and Sanskrit traditions from India.

“As one thinks more and more upon reasonings, one’s ascertainment increases, and this in turn, induces experience, whereby faith becomes more firm.”

Thubten Chodron, Buddhism for Beginners

2. The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Using the techniques of mindfulness, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh helps readers to re-orient their lives and live happily. The Miracle of Mindfulness aims to help readers ground themselves in the here and now and enjoy spaciousness. It’s a helpful book for anyone interested in developing their mindfulness skills.

The Miracle of Mindfulness has no hard and fast rules. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, was exiled from his country in 1966. He became a writer and has spent most of his life in France’s Plum Village spiritual community.

“We must be conscious of each breath, each movement, every thought and feeling, everything which has any relation to ourselves.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

3. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama via Wikipedia, Public Domain

The Dalai Lama symbolizes serenity, compassion, and goodness among the world’s most famous Buddhist monks. He is a Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in Dharamsala, India. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama explains how to achieve inner peace and balance. He also explains how to deal with anger and other negative emotions. He also discusses relationships, work, and health.

The Dalai Lama believes that a balanced, wholesome life is possible through loving, positive, and compassionate behavior. In the book, he also says that a person who goes to extremes will cause harm to others and that a balanced person can face their problems and work towards a solution. If you enjoyed our round-up of the best books for Buddhism, we have many more educational articles you can check out. You might want to check out our list of the best books about civilization!

“Cultivating greater happiness benefits not only oneself, but also one’s family, community, and society.”

The Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness

4. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmin’s quest for ultimate reality. His journey parallels the life of Buddha. He finds himself on a path of self-discovery that begins with the simple concept of love. The story begins when Siddhartha leaves his family behind to follow a spiritual path. He becomes a wealthy merchant. He meets Kamala, a beautiful courtesan. She consents to become his lover. However, Kamala insists on a materialistic life.

“Siddhartha was thus loved by everyone. He was a source of joy for everybody, he was a delight for them all.”

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

5. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Among the many books about Zen, Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is one of the most popular. The book is a streamlined summary of the basics of Zen, presented simply and practically. The book is divided into three sections: Right Attitude, Right Practice, and Right Understanding. Each section is designed to illustrate the basics of Zen.

“Our “original mind” includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind.”

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

6. You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Known for his pioneering work on mindfulness and peace, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader. In You Are Here, he teaches readers how to be fully present, cultivates true love, and turns suffering into compassion. The book is a collection of teachings on letting go, transforming suffering into compassion, deep listening, and skillful speech. It includes teachings on cultivating true love, shining light, and letting go of anger. The book provides an effective approach to cultivating mindfulness and empowers readers to experience the wonder of life.

Thich Nhat Hanh became interested in Buddhism at an early age. He attended Princeton University, studied comparative religion, and received training in Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhism. He worked with Zen master Thanh Quy Chan That. Later, Nhat Hanh founded Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon.  

“I am breathing in and breathing out. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. I smile at my out-breath.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here

7. Awakening the Buddha Within, by Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das
Lama Surya Das via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Lama Surya Das presents the first comprehensive book on Western Buddhism for the modern spiritual seeker, using a modern approach and nodding to the traditional Tibetan style of Buddhist teachings. The book is rich with detailed meditation instructions. Awakening the Buddha Within is packed with information, but the real value comes from taking a page out of Surya’s book and applying it to one’s life.

With Surya’s book, readers can enjoy the serenity of mind and body that accompanies Buddhism in the real world. In addition, his many years of meditation experience translated into the best possible advice for those interested in practicing Buddhism in the real world. 

“In the Himalayas, I found a veritable treasury of living, vibrant Dharma, a gold mine of truth and delight.”

Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within

8. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche

Sogyal Rinpoche
Sogyal Rinpoche via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Whether seeking a new spiritual path or a guide to dying, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche is a valuable resource. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is considered a spiritual masterpiece. Sogyal Rinpoche brings together the ancient wisdom of Tibet and modern research to explain the nature of mind, rebirth, and death. He introduces the main themes of Buddhism and explores the power of simple Tibetan practices. He also offers a thorough overview of meditation and practical measures for understanding and preparing others for death.

“What is born will die, What has been gathered will be dispersed, What has been accumulated will be exhausted, What has been built up will collapse, And what has been high will be brought low.”

Sogyal Rinpoche, Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

9. The Heart of the Path, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche via Wikipedia, Public Domain

The Heart of the Path is a collection of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings regarding the intricacies of guru devotion, a central component of the Buddhist path. The book is an enlightening guide to developing guru devotion. In addition to explaining the importance of guru devotion, Lama Zopa Rinpoche offers practical advice on various topics such as personal reflections. Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains why having a spiritual teacher is essential and helpful. He explains how to cultivate devotion and view one’s own teacher as the Buddha.

He also discusses six root delusions with antidotes. He concludes with a few brief guru yoga visualization practices. He emphasizes the importance of accumulating positive potential, which enables the mind to sustain its ultimate existence. The book also teaches five steps to deeper concentration.

“Through the practice of guru devotion, looking at our guru as inseparable from a buddha or our own special deity, the blessings of the guru enter our heart.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, The Heart of the Path

10. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, by Nyogen Senzaki

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is an anthology of 101 Zen stories. It contains a variety of primary Zen sources, including Chan koans, parables, and epigrams that convey profound truths. The author, Nyogen Senzaki, was a Buddhist scholar of international stature who spent his life wandering from Buddhist monastery to monastery. After the death of the Empress of Japan, he wanted to study Zen. He decided to give up his life of perfumed incense and became a Zen mendicant.

One of the primary points outlined is that it is important to remember that life is full of imperfections. Everyone is imperfect, and you have to respect that. Fortunately, we can learn from each other. Zen Buddhism teaches that life is a series of stages of awareness, and we can use these stages to guide us in life. The Zen book teaches various techniques and methods to help us achieve enlightenment.

“You see,” observed Bankei, “you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.”

Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

11. The Essence of Buddha: The Path to Enlightenment, by Ryuho Okawa

Ryuho Okawa
Ryuho Okawa via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Ryuho Okawa’s book, The Essence of Buddha: The Path to Enlightenment, examines the Buddhist doctrines and how they might be utilized in contemporary society. It provides an in-depth examination of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism, including the Noble Eightfold Path, the Six Paramitas, and the Laws of Casualty.

Okawa can clarify and illustrate all of the primary Buddhist teachings in a manner that not only makes them simpler to comprehend but also makes them quite interesting to read about. Throughout the entirety of the book, Okawa gives readers actionable guidance on how they might implement Buddhist teachings into their day-to-day lives. As a result, he provides a unique and illuminating look at the age-old teachings of Buddhism through the prism of modern thought.

“Quietly and silently, he persisted in his pursuit of the way to attain enlightenment.”

Ryuho Okawa, The Essence of Buddha: The Path to Enlightenment

12. Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment, by Robert Wright

Robert Wright
Robert Wright via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Why Buddhism is True examines the core values of Buddhism and how it can alleviate modern suffering. It also debunks the conventional Western perception of Buddhism. Wright argues that modern psychology and neuroscience support Buddhism’s radical philosophical concepts. Wright uses his own meditation experience as a vehicle to discuss the many elements of Buddhism. He makes these ideas clear and accessible. He explains how meditation can help people become aware of the illusion of themselves. He also explores the symbolic value of Buddhist teachings.

He uses a blend of Buddhist doctrine, evolutionary psychology, and contemporary science to provide his argument. Wright argues that Buddhism anticipates a modular view of the mind, which will help us see things more clearly and lessen our suffering. The book also explores the moral and philosophical implications of Buddhism.

“Some of my happiest moments have come from delusion.”

Robert Wright, Why Buddhism is True

13. No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners: Clear Answers to Burning Questions About Core Buddhist Teachings, by Noah Rasheta

The primary objective of No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners is to respond to some of the most pressing issues about Buddhism. To provide readers with an approachable introduction to Buddhism, Rasheta draws on his experience as a Buddhist teacher, lay minister, author, and host of the podcast Secular Buddhism. In addition, the book provides a useful lexicon of Buddhist words, making it an excellent resource for individuals just beginning their exploration of the faith.

“My hope is that the stories I share will demonstrate how Buddhist teachings can reveal themselves in your day-to-day experience.”

Noah Rasheta, No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners

14. Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day, by Steve Hagen

Steve Hagen
Steve Hagen via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Buddhism Plain and Simple is an approachable and useful reference to the concepts and activities associated with Buddhism. The book begins by examining Buddha’s life and teachings and then describes how Buddhists make sense of the world around them and its fundamental components.

The practice of mindfulness, often known as being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings in the here and now, is something that Hagen strongly emphasizes. In addition, he explores the Buddhist ideas of karma and reincarnation, as well as the Buddhist perspective on the experience of suffering.

This book offers suggestions for putting Buddhist teachings into practice in day-to-day living, such as practicing meditation and compassion toward others. In general, Buddhism Plain and Simple is a wonderful introduction to Buddhism for those who are just beginning their practice and those who are more advanced.

Since 1967, Steve Hagen, Roshi has been a Zen student and practitioner. He now holds the position of Roshi. He trained under Dainin Katagiri, Roshi, for fifteen years, and it was through him that he got Dharma Transmission (the authorization to instruct) in the year 1980. Looking for more educational books to binge on a weekend? Check out our round-up of the best theology authors! Or you can also search for our best book guides using our search bar.

“There is a way to move beyond this ignorance, pessimism, and confusion, and to experience rather than comprehend-Reality as a Whole.”

Steve Hagen, Buddhism Plain and Simple

15. The Life of the Buddha, by Tenzin Chogyel

Originally written in 1740, The Life of the Buddha is a fictional account of the Buddha’s life and his journey to enlightenment. The book’s plot follows Bodhisattva from his birth to his enlightenment. In the ancient world, it was believed that the soul could escape rebirth and that it could achieve the goal of enlightenment.

When the baby bodhisattva was born, a host of gods surrounded him. They began to scatter flowers. The king and queen began to worry that something was wrong with the child. They called a court seer to examine him. The seer concluded that he was healthy. The court seer told the king and queen that the baby would grow into a king. Eventually, the prince vowed to find enlightenment for all beings.

The court seer told the king that the prince would be a great meditator. Eventually, the prince left the palace. He went to an ascetic, a renunciant, and began to pursue yoga and meditation. He became very impressed with the renunciant. He threw himself into the most challenging meditations. He also learned about the past lives of all beings. He also gained insight into the causes of rebirth. After his enlightenment, the Buddha taught a large variety of Buddhist teachings to a large number of people. 

“Would you rather be happy because of something or because of nothing?”

Tenzin Chogyel, The Life of the Buddha

16. What the Buddha Taught, by Walpola Rahula

Using an easy-to-understand style, Walpola Rahula explains the fundamental principles of Buddhism. What the Buddha Taught is popular in both theological and university settings. It features a selection of illustrative texts from the original Pali and Dhammapada. It also includes a glossary and bibliography.

The book is a faithful account of the Buddha’s teachings. It is also a valuable source of personal guidance. The book is designed to be a guide for non-Buddhists as well as those who are interested in learning more about Buddhism. The book’s story is told from the viewpoint of Rahula, the son of Siddhartha. Siddhartha left his family to seek enlightenment when Rahula was just a few days old.

The earliest texts are the Pali texts or sayings of the Buddha. They are not as polished as later texts but are as accurate to the Buddha. Buddha did not judge his teachings by what he said but by the lives of those he inspired.

“There is no unmoving mover behind the movement. It is only movement.”

Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught

17. Sarasvati’s Gift, by Mayumi Oda

Sarasvati’s Gift is an autobiography by artist Mayumi Oda. It is published in conjunction with an exhibition by Robyn Buntin of Honolulu Gallery of Fine Art. This exhibition will feature Oda’s Thangka paintings and prints from her Goddess Series. The book explores Oda’s early life in Tokyo, Japan, and her upbringing as a Buddhist practitioner. It also details her tumultuous marriage and the death of her son. It explores her commitment to the planet, activism, and artistic practice.

Mayumi Oda was born in 1941 in Tokyo, Japan. She is an artist, feminist, and activist. Her artwork mixes traditional Japanese images with contemporary ideas about nature and the female “Goddess.” Her works include ‘Chopugiga: Frolicking Animals’ and ‘Beauty Descending’. Her artwork introduces female “Goddesses” into the tradition of Japanese art. Her artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the world. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of thought-provoking thinking quotes!

“It’s not that I became a Buddhist. I was born a Buddhist. It’s in my blood.”

Mayumi Oda, Sarasvati’s Gift


  • Kate has been writing since she was 10 years old, tapping away on an old typewriter in her childhood bedroom. Today, Kate is a seasoned freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing for print and online media. She’s an avid reader and believes in the power of words to transport readers to new worlds, and inspire and nurture creativity. Kate is also a published author and is currently working on her next project.