Beginners Reading List

The Life of the Buddha. There are a number of different treatments available.

Armstrong, Karen 2001 Buddha. Penguin Group Publ. By a highly regarded scholar, insightful.

Kohn, Sherab Chodzin 1994 The Awakened One – A Life of the Buddha. Shambhala Publ. From a Tibetan Buddhist perspective.


With the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths. The Theravadin school is now found in Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia. The original teachings of the Buddha were recited and memorized by generations of monks and eventually written in Pali on banana leaves.

Fronsdal, Gil 2005 The Dhammapada. Shambhala Publ. There are many translations of this early Buddhist text. This is one of the more recent versions. Also available as a audio book.

Rahula, Walpola 1974 The Heritage of the Bhikkhu. Grove Press

Rahula, Walpola 1974 What the Buddha Taught. Grove Press

Wisdom Publishers have published three volumes of The Teachings of the Buddha series translated from the Pali. They are excellent.

Jack Kornfield practiced as a western Theravadin monk and has written a number of fine books from that perspective. The Wise Heart 2008 Bantan Publ. is excellent and useful, with wide application.


With the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Buddha taught emptiness and the way of the Bodhisattva. Teachings, called sutras, were written in Sanskrit. Presently found in China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea, mostly as Chan, Zen, Shin or some other form of Pure Land Buddhism.

There are many sutras; the Prajnaparamita, in many forms, is the most important, especially the Heart Sutra, which presents teachings on emptiness. Many translations and commentaries are available.

McLeod, Ken 2007 An Arrow to the Heart – A Commentary on the Heart Sutra. Trafford Publishing. This is an original evocative approach.

The Mind Training, or Lojong teachings provide the basis for compassion.
Kenchen Thrangu Rinpoche 2004 The Seven Points of Mind Training. Namo Buddha Publications. DVD’s of Rinpoche teachings on Mind Training are available from Namo Buddha Publications.

Wallace, B. Alan 2001 Buddhism with an Attitude. Snow Lion Publishers.

Santideva 1997 A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (trans. by Vesna and B. Alan Wallace). Snow Lion Publishers.
The Shambhala Publishers version is now available as an audio book.

Thrangu Rinpoche 2002 A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Sri Satguru Publications.

Chodron, Pema 2005 No Time To Lose – A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva. Shambhala Publishers.

Suzuki, Shunryu 1970 Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. Weatherhill Publishers. This book remains a classic.

Books by Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh are excellent.

These next two books provide a basis for understanding and practice in the Kagyu tradition.
Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen (trans.) 1998 Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation. Snow Lion Publishers.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche 2003 The Jewel Ornament of Liberation. Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Trust Publications is an excellent commentary.

The Dalai Lama has published a number of wonderful books on Buddhism with a Mahayana perspective.


With the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Buddha taught about Buddha nature. Teachings are in the form of tantras, commentaries and essays in Tibetan. Vajrayana is practiced in Mongolia, Tibet and Himalayan kingdoms of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Lahdak. One sect is found in Japan. Tibetan teachers have brought Vajrayana to the west.

Chodron, Thubten 2001 Buddhism for Beginners. Snow Lion Publications. She has many fine books for new practioners.

Newman, Bruce 2004 A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism. Snow Lion Publishers. Enjoyed by many new practitioners.

These next three fine new books are by Tibetan teachers with a command of English.
Kongtrul, Dzigar 2006 It’s Up to You. Shambhala Publishers.
Khyentse, Dzongsar Jamyang 2007 What Makes You Not a Buddhist. Shambhala Publishers. Director of the film, The Cup.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche 2007 The Joy of Living – Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness. Harmony Books.

Karthar Rinpoche, Ven. Khenpo 1992 Dharma Paths. Snow Lion Publishers. This is a fine general treatment of Dharma from a Tibetan perspective by an outstanding teacher.

Of course any of the books by our teacher Thrangu Rinpoche are recommended, especially 2002 Essential Practice and 1993 The Practice of Tranquility and Insight. Both published by Snow Lion. Namo Buddha Publ., Boulder, Colorado handles all of Rinpoche’s books, videos and digital teachings.

Thrangu Rinpoche also recommends that new students read the spiritual biographies of the great teachers, for example, Marpa, Milarepa, Naropa, Gampopa. He has published such biographies.

Three more interesting and useful books:
Rockwell, Irini 2002 The Five Wisdom Energies – A Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions and Relationships. Shambhala Publications.
Lama Yeshe 2001 Introduction to Tantra – The Transformation of Desire. Wisdom Publications.
Bokar Rinpoche 1991 Chrenzig – Lord of Love. Clear Point Press.

If you read all of this you would have accomplished a great deal, but remember study must be done along with contemplation and meditation to travel the path of Dharma.

Charles Schweger, Karma Tashi Ling 2009

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