Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Buddhism 101" books

In one of last week's area meditation sessions, a newcomer asked the question,
"What is the best 'Buddhism 101' type introductory book to buy?"

The question is very obvious but the answer is tricky and depends in part on which approach would be the best fit to the beginner's personality.  I've read about two dozen books written in the Western Buddhism context by now, and not a single one of them jumps out at me as THE obvious beginner reference.  So I did what any decent blogger does when faced with a dilemma of this type: I started asking my contacts.  Here are some of the responses that I received:

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Not to be confused with the Thubten Chodron book of similar name ("Buddhism for Beginners"), but I bet that one would be pretty good also. 
Written from a strong secular perspective.
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One contact revealed that, when he walked into a local big-box chain bookstore and asked the same question, this is what the clerk handed him:
Not a bad choice, actually.  Gunaratana is a stunning writer.
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 I myself would add to these possibilities the following:
It's written with exceptional clarity and simplicity, but because the author is an American Zen priest, some folks might find it to be a bit harsh or clipped in its tone, owing to the Zen perspective.
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I also see no reason not to include this American classic, especially for folks who wish to avoid sectarian perspectives:
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Hope this helps!!  If anyone else has additional suggestions, please feel free to email me or add them to the comments section below.  Thanks!!

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