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Recommended books

It is really useful to read books, but please also come along to some of our meetings, as you will find you will get a much deeper and richer experience when you are together with the spiritual community of friends that we are building.

Meditation Books

Vessantara: The Breath

In the breath Vessantara, who has been meditating on the breath for over 30 years, writes engagingly for both newcomers to meditation and those with some experience, giving us: Clear instruction on how to meditate on the breath; Practical ways to integrate meditation into our lives; Suggestions for deepening calm and concentration; Advice on how to let go and dive into experience; Insights into the lessons of the breath; This is an incredibly useful combination of practical instruction on the mindfulness of breathing with much broader lessons on where the breath can lead us. Unique and so very useable for meditators as well as their teachers.

Vessantara: The Heart

Explore the potential of your heart and discover a warmer, more loving you. The second in this “Art of Meditation” series by Western Buddhist meditation teacher Vessantara after “The Breath”, this book shows us how cultivating more warmth, more kindness, and more happiness is possible for all of us. Through the loving-kindness meditation, the gentle and encouraging approach of the author helps us to discover the positive wonder of what is already in our hearts. Accessible for those new to or experienced in meditation as well as teachers, this book provides clear instruction with suggestions for integrating meditation and what we can learn from it into our lives.

Wildmind: A Step-by Step Guide to Meditation


This is a really excellent book. Lots of very practical information, and highly recommended. But it is hard to learn meditation from a book. I recommend you use it in conjunction with some of the other resources listed here, not instead of.


Paramabandhu is an order member living in a community above the London Buddhist Centre, where he used to be chairman. He is also a retired psychiatrist. He set up Breathing Space below the London Buddhist Centre where they teach various courses in a secular context. Jed Shamel is also a doctor and a clinical psychologist.

KBT (kindness behaviour training) was first developed as a follow-on course for those who had completed a course in mindfulness, especially one of the therapeutic mindfulness courses such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for depression, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or mindfulness-based addiction recovery (MBAR).

KBT is a great way to take further and expand on what has been learned on a mindfulness course – whether secular or Buddhist. However no previous experience of mindfulness is needed as the first two weeks give a basic grounding in mindfulness. Essentially KBT is for anyone who values kindness and wishes to bring more kindness into their life.

This is a secular course, and there is little (if any) mention of Buddhism in it. This is to make it more accessible to a wider audience, however the authors have drawn on both their Buddhist as well as their clinical experience when writing it.

They use different meditations and approaches, but they are closely aligned with the two main practices we teach at Hertford Buddhist Group.

There are also lots of free streamable and downloadable mp3s with meditations connected with the above book available at https://kindnessbehaviourtraining.com/downloads/   

“Mindful Emotion” by Paramabandhu Groves and Jed Shamel


Books about Buddhism

This book is highly recommended “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta. We have been studying this book together at Broxbourne. It is very accessible, and a lot of depth to it, and is a really good introduction for anybody wanting to learn more about our Buddhist path. Vajragupta’s “job” is to come round and support local groups, and he has promised to come to Hertford sometime when he is in the area.

It is available on Amazon in papaerback and also kindle by clicking here

Above is Vajragupta’s visit to us in March 2018. He is standing 5th from the left. He said we were a “lovely sangha” 🙂


There are so many amazing books, it is hard to single one out, but another one that looks very accessible for beginners is “A Deeper Beauty” by Paramananda. Click here for the Amazon link.

There are many excellent books on Buddhism and meditation by many teachers both inside and outside Triratna. We usually prefer to recommend books by Triratna teachers as they are normally a bit more in line with the approach and practices of our classes. www.windhorsepublications.com/ is part of Triratna, and publishes a lot of amazing books, so we would recommend any that you find on their website. Most of these are also available on Amazon.

Free book – The Triratna Story by Vajragupta

Click here  for a free pdf of the book by Vajragupta “The Triratna Story” which charts the growth of a Western Buddhist movement founded in the Sixties as the ‘Friends of the Western Buddhist Order’ (FWBO) and recently renamed Triratna Buddhist Community. From its inception in London, to its development worldwide, The Triratna Story takes you behind the scenes of a unique modern Buddhist community. Extract: ‘This is the story of a circle of friends dreaming a dream, and working to make it a reality…It’s the nitty-gritty story of how a community evolves. It’s a story of idealism and naivety, growth and growing pains, hard work and burn-out, friendship and fall-out.’

You can also buy it in Paperback or Kindle from Amazon by clicking here

The booklist above was compiled by Keith. Below is an article by Helen that also recommends a lot of books, and she has sorted them into categories. Many of them are also in my list above. I would also recommend all of the books mentioned by Helen, below.

Introductory and Regulars’ Level Books

Where can I buy books from?

Obviously new and second hand books can be purchased from a range of sources such as Amazon, however we would like to draw your attention to Windhorse Plublications;

Windhorse Publications is a Buddhist charitable company based in the UK who seek to produce accessible and relevant books of high quality for all those interested in Buddhism at whatever level. They are the main publisher of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order. They draw on the whole range of the Buddhist traditions, including translations of traditional texts, commentaries, books that make links with contemporary culture and ways of life, biographies of Buddhists, and works on meditation. As a not-for-profit enterprise, they ensure that surplus income is invested in new books and improved production methods, to better communicate Buddhism clearly in the 21st century. Their website is www.windhorsepublications.com.

INTRODUCTORY LEVEL BOOKS

Introductory Books on Meditation and Mindfulness

Wildmind
A Step-by-Step Guide to MeditationBodhipaksa

Meditation helps us to cut through the agonising clutter of superficial mental turmoil and allows us to experience more spacious and joyful states of mind. It is this pure and luminous state that Bodhipaksa calls your Wildmind. From how to build your own stool to how a raisin can help you meditate, this illustrated guide explains everything you need to know to start or strengthen your meditation practice.

Life With Full Attention
A Practical Course in Mindfulness Maitreyabandhu

In this eight-week course on mindfulness, Maitreyabandhu gently guides readers, teaching them how to pay closer attention to their experience. Each week, he introduces a different aspect of mindfulness – such as awareness of the body, feelings, thoughts and the environment – and recommends a number of easy practices; from trying out a simple meditation to reading a poem. Featuring personal stories, examples and tempting suggestions, Life with Full Attention provides both a starting point and a great refresher.

The Heart (Art of Meditation)
Vessantara

Explore the potential of your heart and discover a warmer, more loving you. The second in this “Art of Meditation” series by Western Buddhist meditation teacher Vessantara after “The Breath”, this book shows us how cultivating more warmth, more kindness, and more happiness is possible for all of us. Through the loving-kindness meditation, the gentle and encouraging approach of the author helps us to discover the positive wonder of what is already in our hearts. Accessible for those new to or experienced in meditation as well as teachers, this book provides clear instruction with suggestions for integrating meditation and what we can learn from it into our lives.

Introductory Books on Buddhism

Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life
Vajragupta

The perfect guide for those seeking a meaningful spiritual path whilst leading busy, modern lives. Vajragupta gives clear explanations of Buddhist teachings and guidance on how to apply these to enrich our busy and complex lives. The personal stories, exercises, reflections and questions in this book help transform Buddhist practice into more than a fine set of ideals. They make the path of ethics, meditation and wisdom a tangible part of our lives.

Introducing Buddhism
Chris Pauling (Vadanya)

Introducing Buddhism is a lively and engaging guide for Westerners who want to learn more about Buddhism as a path of spiritual growth. Written in a clear, informal style, it explains the essential teachings and practices on which all mainstream Buddhists can agree, and shows how this ancient wisdom is more than ever relevant to the psychological, social, and spiritual issues concerning men and women in the modern West. Introducing Buddhism packs a lot of information into its pages. But it also communicates the emotional appeal of a tradition which has had such a liberating impact on the lives of many Westerners over recent decades.

REGULARS LEVEL BOOKS

Regulars Books on Meditation and Mindfulness

Metta

Metta, or loving kindness, lies at the heart of Buddhism. It is kindness at its purest and strongest, a loving response to all life. The development of metta is a traditional meditation practice that can help us to transform our emotional life into one consistently based on love. In this booklet, seven experienced meditators share their reflection on the nature of metta, giving instruction and advice on its cultivation. By using our imagination we can get a glimpse of what it means to transcend our limited, personal, point of view.

Practising metta can radically change our lives. Taking the meditation practice out of the mediation room, we begin to dissolve the barriers we have built around ourselves and open our hearts to the world.

Regulars Books on Buddhism (general)

The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path
Sangharakshita

The Noble Eightfold Path is the most widely known of the Buddha’s teachings. It is ancient, extending back to the Buddha’s first discourse and is highly valued as a unique treasury of wisdom and practical guidance on how to live our lives. This introduction takes the reader deeper while always remaining practical, inspiring and accessible. Sangharakshita explores ancient teachings and makes them relevant to the way we live our lives today.

What is the Sangha?
The Nature of Spiritual CommunitySangharakshita

The usual image of the Buddha is of a man seated alone, deep in meditation. So it can be a surprise to find that Buddhism gives great importance to the Sangha, the spiritual community. Some may feel that their guru or teacher is all that they need. To others, the idea of sharing their inner and outer lives, triumphs and disappointments, with others can seem a challenge or even a threat. But the spiritual community is not about unthinking conformity or belonging to a comfortable group. Rather, it is the free association of developing individuals choosing to help each other along the path. To explore the nature of the spiritual community is also to examine what makes us true individuals. This exploration ranges from our relationships with spiritual teachers through our friends, family and fellow workers to the benefits the spiritual community can offer to the wider world.

Regulars Books on Buddhism (ethics)

Not About Being Good
A Practical Guide to Buddhist EthicsSubhadramati

While there are numerous books on Buddhist meditation and philosophy, there are few books that are entirely devoted to the practice of Buddhist ethics. Subhadramati communicates clearly both their founding principles and the practical methods to embody them. Buddhist ethics are not about conforming to a set of conventions, not about ‘being good’ in order to gain rewards. Instead, living ethically springs from the awareness that other people are no different from yourself. You can actively develop this awareness, through cultivating love, clarity and contentment. Helping you to come into greater harmony with all that lives, this is ultimately your guidebook to a more satisfactory life.

Living the Skilful Life: Introduction to Buddhist Ethics

by Muata Abhaya Ashby 

Providing an introduction to Buddhist ethics, this booklet outlines a commonly practised set of five precepts, with commentary on each. It covers the Buddhist approach to non-violence, sex, drugs and alcohol, and shows how, in Buddhism, ethics are not about forsaking things that are forbidden, but about embracing a positive and joyful way of living.

Regulars Books on Buddhism (conditionality)

This Being, That Becomes – The Buddha’s Teaching on Conditionality
Dhivan Thomas Jones, with the collaboration of Sagaraghosa

“This being, that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises.” This succinct formula, recorded in texts and carved in inscriptions throughout the Buddhist world, is said to summarise the whole of the Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha. But how can such a simple summary be the conceptual formulation that characterises the experience of a Buddha, an ‘Awakened One’, a state beyond all words and concepts? Dhivan Thomas Jones tells us how, and takes us into the heart of the Buddha’s insight that everything arises in dependence on conditions. With the aid of lucid reflections and exercises he prompts us to explore how conditionality works in our own lives, and provides a sure guide to the most essential teaching of Buddhism.

Study Level Books

The Ten Pillars of Buddhism
Sangharakshita Classics

The Ten Pillars of Buddhism are ten ethical precepts—such as generosity, truthfulness, or compassion—that together provide a comprehensive moral guide. These deceptively simple teachings are the source of Buddhist ethics, their surprising depth revealed here as Sangharakshita considers them first collectively, then individually. The Ten Pillars of Buddhism provides a fascinating insight for anyone interested in leading an ethical or Buddhist life.

Teachers of Enlightenment
The Refuge Tree of the Western Buddhist Order – Kulananda

The Refuge Tree is a symbol of the highest ideals of Buddhism, a traditional image in the Tibetan tradition that takes different forms in different schools. On the refuge tree are formal teachers and sages from Buddhism’s history. Modern Buddhists might be regarded as heirs to the whole of the Buddhist tradition and the Refuge Tree of the Western Buddhist Order founded by Sangharakshita includes figures from India, Tibet, China and Japan as well as archetypal Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the teachers whose guidance helped to shape Sangharakshita’s understanding of Buddhism. Here a leading member of the Triratna Order introduces each figure on this form of the Refuge Tree and explores their significance for Buddhists in the modern world.

Tibetan Buddhism
An Introduction – Sangharakshita

‘Karma’,‘Nirvana’, ‘Dalai Lama’ …Tibetan Buddhism is becoming increasingly common and fashionable in Western media – but this familiarity can cause its teachings and message to be misunderstood. If we are to truly learn from the rich and noble Tibetan tradition we must look beyond adverts and lifestyle magazines, exotic artifacts and spiritual sound-bites.

Sangharakshita is ideally suited as our guide through the vast realm of Tibetan Buddhism, having spent many years in contact with Tibetan lamas of all schools, from whom he received several initiations. This down-to-earth account of the origin and history of Buddhism in Tibet explains the essentials of the tradition and can act as the starting point for our own noble journey.

The Buddha’s Victory

 Sangharakshita 

The author tells of five incidents from the Buddha’s life and reflects on their significance: the Buddha’s struggle for Enlightenment, his first communication of the Enlightenment to others, his reluctance to admit women into his Order, his encounter with a monk with dysentery and his final passing away into parinirvana.

The Eternal Legacy
An Introduction to the Canonical Literature of Buddhism – Sangharakshita

An invaluable guide and reference book to Buddhist sacred texts, The Eternal Legacy gives students of Buddhism an unparalleled overview of texts from canonical Pali works to Mahayana sutras, together with their doctrinal and historical context and significance.

It brilliantly and concisely summarises the essence of core Buddhist teachings such as the Jataka Tales, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, Diamond Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Vimalakirti-nirdesa, Lankavatara Sutra, Sutra of Golden Light, Flower Ornament Sutra, Perfection of Wisdom scriptures and more. The author also addresses the question of what actually constitutes Buddhism’s authentic canonical literature.

The Inconceivable Emancipation
Themes from the Vimalakirti-Nirdesa – Sangharakshita

Step into the magical, paradoxical world of a Mahayana Buddhist scripture. Mahayana Buddhism, to which the Zen and Tibetan traditions are related, emphasises the ideal of the Bodhisattva, one who seeks to become Enlightened out of a compassionate desire to help all living beings. In the Vimalakirti-Nirdesa we meet the Bodhisattva Vimalakirti, a worker of wonders, a formidable debator and skilful teacher. Sangharakshita’s commentary illuminates this original text, its myths and symbols, and explores the powerful figure of Vimalakirti and the significance of his teachings. By journeying into this scripture we can find the wisdom and compassion that lie at the heart of the Bodhisattva path and discover, communicate and put into action Vimalakirti’s message.

The Thousand-Petalled Lotus: The Indian Journey of an English Buddhist –
Sangharakshita 

An account of Sangharakshita’s years wandering in India.