14 May 2011

Recommended Reading

If you are just getting started in practice with our group, or would simply like to understand better what we are up to, you will find these books particularly useful. These are books to be read slowly, more than once, with a contemplative attitude and an eye toward practice.

Start with The Awakening of Faith, translated by Hakeda. This is, in some important respects, a foundational text for East Asian Buddhism generally. The Hakeda translation is particularly helpful with notes and other supports.

Next, take a very careful look at The Way of the Bodhisattva, also translated as A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, by Santideva. (The Sanskrit title for this one is Bodhicaryāvatāra, for clarity's sake.) This book is a necessity for understanding Mahayana Buddhism as practiced in North America especially, and is inherently good.

If these books leave you feeling more confusion than clarity, try Paul Williams' book Mahayana Buddhism, and then give The Awakening of Faith another try.

The most important text in the Tendai school of Buddhism is the Lotus Sutra. It assumes a certain background in Mahayana Buddhism generally, which is why I recommend reading this one after developing some background if you haven't done so yet. There are several translations available to you. The best one for our purposes is The Lotus Sutra by Murano, but it may be difficult to come by. The second best is The Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, by Leon Hurvitz; it was reprinted in 2009, and readily available at bookstores new and used. If neither of these are available to you, get a copy of The Threefold Lotus Sutra by Kato. The Burton Watson translation is less useful than these.

If you want to put these teachings into practice, an understanding of the ethical framework within which we work is essential to the task. Martine Batchelor's The Path of Compassion is a translation of the Brahma Net Sutra, which is the basis for the precepts we have taken in the Tendai school since our founding by Saicho himself.

Finally, if you absolutely must read books on meditation and you cannot stop yourself, consider Chih-i's classic Stopping and Seeing, translated by Cleary.

Last thing: the best tool I have found for locating well-priced used books is called Bookfinder. If you struggle to find any of the above items, give bookfinder a try before you give up and move on.

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