Intro to Buddhism: a bibliography

I put together the following list of introductory books about Buddhism. So if you’ve got some time to catch up on your reading (perhaps putting the government shut down to great use), you might want to check it out.

Getting Started With Buddhism: an annotated bibliography

Note: this is a selected list of resources for learning about Buddhism and is intended for students who are just starting out. The list is grouped by subject with the more accessible books listed first in each group. Start with the first subject and then work your way down the list. The list will be updated as new titles are released.

1. Ethics

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. Beyond Religion: ethics for a whole world. Houghton Mifflin: 2011. – everyone who can read should read this book.

2. Four Dharma Seals

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. What Makes You Not a Buddhist. Shambala Press: 2007. – this short book contains a funny, thought-provoking and profound explanation of the four core buddhist principles and how they apply to daily life.

3. Four Noble Truths – excellent starting point.

Geshe Tashi Tsering. The Foundations of Buddhist Thought. – this is a six part series of books that is based on Geshe la’s two year online course (description: Topics include: the Four Noble Truths, Relative Truth-Ultimate Truth, Emptiness, Tantra, the Awakening Mind, and Buddhist Psychology.

4. Stages on the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim)

Lama Atisha was an Indian Buddhist scholar who lived in the 11th century. He was invited to Tibet to share the Buddha’s teachings. His most celebrated text, entitled Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment sets forth the entire Buddhist path within the framework of three levels of motivation on the part of the practitioner. Atisha’s text thus became the source of the Lam Rim tradition, or graduated stages of the path to enlightenment, an approach to spiritual practice incorporated within all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Root text PDF download:

Commentaries on the root text:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From Here to Enlightenment: An Introduction to Tsong-kha-pa’s Classic Text The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Snow Lion: 2013.

Yangsi Rinpoche. Practicing the Path: A Commentary on the Lamrim Chenmo. Wisdom: 2007. – this book is based on a month long course that Rinpoche gave to a group of Western students on the Lamrim (stages on the path to Enlightenment). As such, it makes the teachings easily accessible. Rinpoche included many examples from daily life. Yangsi Rinpoche is the director of Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon.

Geshe Lhundup Sopa. Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: volumes 1 to 3. Wisdom Publications: 2004 – 2007. – Geshe Sopa was one of the first Tibetan masters who came to the United States. For student who would like a more extensive commentary on the lamrim, Geshe Sopa offers a clear explanation peppered with amusing stories and beautiful quotes. Geshe Sopa lives outside Madison, WI at his Center, Deer Park Buddhist Center.

4.1 The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination – a beautiful overview of the twelve links.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. The Meaning of Life: buddhist perspectives on cause and effect. Wisdom Publications: 2000. – His Holiness offers an in-depth analysis of the well-known Tibetan image of the Wheel of Life. Using the image, His Holiness describes how karma operates.

4.2 Generating the Mind of Enlightenment (bodhicitta)

A bodhisattva is someone who has taken vows pledging to attain Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. This subject is covered in the Lamrim teachings, but it is best represented by the Indian Buddhist teacher Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. There are many incredible teachings about this text.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night. Shambhala: 1994. – a good introduction to the text.

Geshe Yeshe Tobden. The Way of Awakening. Wisdom Publications: 2005. – a verse-by-verse reading of the text filled with many illustrations from the Lamrim teachings; written by a scholar who spent much of his life in meditation.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Bodhisattva Attitude: how to dedicate your life to others. Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives: 2012. “With the bodhisattva attitude you become wish-fulfilling for others. All sentient beings have been wish-fulfilling and kind to you since beginningless rebirths, and now you become wish-fulfilling for them. From this, all your wishes for happiness will be fulfilled, every your wish to achieve liberation and enlightenment and to benefit others by causing them to have happiness in this and future lives, liberation and enlightenment. You will become the cause of all this for others. This is how to overcome all problems.” An amazing book of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teaching followed by a handy set of meditations.

4.2.1 Mind Training

Geshe Jampa Tegchok. Transforming Adversity Into Joy And Courage: An Explanation Of The Thirty-Seven Practices Of Bodhisattvas. Snow Lion: 2005. – a detailed commentary presented in an accessible style on how to use difficulties as part of our spiritual path.

Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen. Key to Great Enlightenment. Thubten Dhargye Ling: 2006. – a brief commentary on two well-known texts in the mind training tradition: the Eight Verses on Thought Training, and the Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices.

4.3 Emptiness

Guy Newland. An Introduction to Emptiness. Snow Lion: 2009. – a clear introduction to a complex subject.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. How to See Yourself as You Really Are. Atria Books: 2006. – His Holiness introduces emptiness through a series of point-by-point meditation exercises.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche. How Things Exist: teachings on emptiness. Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives: 2008. – a meditative examination of emptiness with lots of examples.

5. Buddhist Psychology

These books delve into the specifics of how the mind works as described in Tibetan Buddhism. Topics include: main minds and mental functions, subjects – objects, perception – conception, and much more.

Geshe Tashi Tsering. Buddhist Psychology: Foundation of Buddhist Thought. Wisdom Publications: 2006.

Geshe Rabten. The Mind and Its Functions. Edition Rabten; Revised edition (June 2005) – a more difficult presentation but very interesting.

Lati Rinbochay. Mind in Tibetan Buddhism. Snow Lion: 1991. – not an easy subject but important for understanding how Enlightenment can be attained.

6. Meditation

Kathleen MacDonald. How to Meditate: a practical guide. Wisdom Publications: 2nd edition, 2005. – a classic book that paved the way for many books that have been published more recently.

Websites for more information about Tibetan Buddhism – starter pack: – born in the U.K. And educated at Cambridge University, Ajahn Brahm is a Theravada monk. He took ordination at the age of 23 in 1974. Currently he is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia. – Venerable Thubten Chodron is the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey. She is a well-known author and editor of many books covering topics such as how to practice Buddhism in daily life, dealing with anger, and emptiness. – teachers from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism are represented – Theravadan and Mahayana teachings, sutras, resources for children and much more.

~ * * * ~

BEWARE: you can quickly get lost in Dharma jargon and philosophical word games. Remember that at its heart, Buddhism is simply about finding contentment in the present moment so that you are filled with universal Big Love.

May you find inner strength and the courage to practice the path.

May you develop boundless wisdom and compassion through your studies and meditation.

May you quickly attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings

Prepared by Losang Tendrol

Special thanks to Linda Merle for her contributions

September 2013


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