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rikpa

Favorite Buddhist Books (not Suttas) And Reference Websites

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Another good book I'm reading is Theravada Buddhism by leading scholar Richard Gombrich. It's a "social history" of Buddhism. This extract from an interview with the author gives an idea of where he's coming from:

"My early research work was, in fact, what you would call anthropological. I went to Sri Lanka and wanted to understand what Buddhism meant to Buddhists in a given context. I clearly found that to take the Buddha's words out of their context, without knowing the cultural background, is liable to give you total misconceptions. For instance, you can simply read that all Buddhists believe that everything is suffering. If you take that seriously, you will think you are going to meet a population of depressives. Of course, Buddhists are quite different to that, which leads to the question, 'How do Buddhists interpret that everything is suffering?'

Gradually it dawned on me that any religion has to be interpreted in this way, whether it is ancient or modern. Of course, being a Sanskritist as well, it wasn't so difficult for me, because I could read the texts that the Buddha was responding to in his day. I discovered, indeed, that they are highly relevant and that the Buddha accepted certain things in them. For instance, he accepted the idea that we are in an endless cycle of rebirth - although he changed the meaning of that very considerably. However, he did have that basic presupposition given to him, along with a lot of other things as well. For example, he was given an alternative idea of what 'religion' was about. It did not just have to be about how human beings can save themselves by resorting to the power of some omnipotent deity.

It immediately became obvious to me that this was an important way of learning more about what the texts mean. Doubly so, because the commentaries seem to be completely unaware of the things to which the Buddha was responding. Of course, we must read the commentaries. They are full of valuable and interesting material. It is just that they don't say the last word on the matter."

Interesting research adhering to hermeneutic principles. When the interviewer brings up descontructionism later in the interview, I was surprised the professor didn't respond that his own approach was inspired by hermeneutics, a methodology most popular among Bible scholars.

The philosophical problem with hermeneutics is that when one uses other literature as grounds for understanding the meaning of a text contemporary to or preceding that literature, one then has the problem of having to, by necessity, apply hermeneutics to those texts as well ... ad infinitum.

In such an approach all symbols/words/meanings point to other symbols/words/meanings and no concept within the system can have an ultimate, unambiguous meaning.

Political scientist Ole Waever was one of the first to address this problem when hermeneutics finally reached the sphere of politics and international relations studies. He pointed out that the process of including a text (or in his case, a political tenet) in certain groups of other texts (tenets, for politics) is not a neutral description of meaning but is rather a decision (intentional or otherwise), on the scholar's part, to place a particular issue at a particular level of meaning.

Of course the most direct way to understand Buddhist texts is to put them to practice and see what happens. :D This is where Gombrich may never understand the objects of his research. According to him, ' In one way, you could say I am more of a Buddhist than most Buddhists, because I believe that the Buddha was an intellectual genius and had some extraordinarily interesting things to say.' For a practising Buddhist, the import of the discourses are more than the sum of some extraordinarily interesting things to say.

Still I think all three approaches, structuralist, deconstructionist and hermeneutic, have a lot to offer, bringing new angles from which to view Buddhism, each angle perhaps appealing to a different sort of individual. And in these ways the Buddhadhamma is also spread. :o

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I can recommend to read Jan Willem van de Wetering. He wrote 3 books about his experiences with zen buddhism. It is not really Dhamma, but very recognizable.

All other books he wrote are normal romans, but the whole atmosphere is saturated with Dhamma. The books seem normal police romans, but very enjoyable to read and nice to recognise the bits and pieces of Dhamma.

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A Heart Released.. by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera.. The first "Dhamma" book to really grab me..

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I can recommend to read Jan Willem van de Wetering. He wrote 3 books about his experiences with zen buddhism. It is not really Dhamma, but very recognizable.

All other books he wrote are normal romans, but the whole atmosphere is saturated with Dhamma. The books seem normal police romans, but very enjoyable to read and nice to recognise the bits and pieces of Dhamma.

I'm a longtime fan of Mr van de Wetering as well. As you say even his novels are permeated with Zen Buddhism, even when not explicitly mentioned.

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Hi Sabaijai, I read this a couple of years ago, and while I generaly liked it, I also feel he didn't leave his experience of satori in the oven long enough to fully bake. :o Had he waited another decade to write it, I would have found it more interesting. Then again, it could inspire folks with the idea that comprehending the Dhamma is not impossible in this day and age, even for miscreants!

Edited by rikpa

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One of my favourites is: Venerable Father: A Life with Ajahn Chah by Paul Breiter. First read it in 2001, my recollection of its contents is still vivid. A humanistic account by Breiter who was Ajahn Chah's farang disciple in the 1970s, of his apprenticeship under Ajahn Chah following the Thai Buddhist forest tradition. This is, in my mind, a very readable book which somewhat conveys Buddhism from the perspective of a Westerner who writes with a charming innocence.

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Anything by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

https://merigar.powweb.com/shangshungeditions/library.php

http://www.snowlionpub.com/search.php?isbn=DZTE

actually, the book I really wanted to list is difficult to find. The original italian is out of print but, if you can read italian, is much better written than the English translation.

Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State (orig. Dzog-chen. Lo stato di autoperfezione)

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/155...tatiohillpressi

also anything by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

http://www.ligminchastore.org/searchbykeyword.asp

enjoy :-)

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The book "Fruit of Karma" is a translation into english by the author of the original thai book 'sat lok yoom pen pay taam kamm'

the author Suddasa Onkom (pen name for Suchitra Ronruen... now Suchitra Onkom) has been a student of Luang Por Jaran at Wat Ampawan, Singhburi for more than thirty years.

She writes in the bi-monthly magazine 'Kulastri' and each of her novels is published there until complete, whereupon they are printed as books.

The Thai book 'sat lok yoom pen pay taam kamm' was her first about the life of Luang Por.... from her many attendances at the temple and from hearing Luang Por relate his experiences, also the fact that Luang Por kept detailed records in diary form of every experience he thought worthy of note to help teach others about the laws of karma and their effects. So the books, although in novel form, are based on factual real-life experiences. The novelised form makes for very easy and enjoyable reading, with what is a serious subject, and in its usual doctinal form can be hard to understand and assimilate.

This book was of 80 chapters in Thai... but only the first 20 chapters were translated at first to become the book "Fruit of Karma".

The next 20 chapters were later translated and the latest version of "Fruit of Karma" part 1.... now includes the first 40 chapters.

For those who read Thai... get the full book...

Sudassa Onkom then continued with the story by printing two prequels called "Makaliphon" and "Nariphon"...then sequels... "Watr Jackr chiwit"... "kwaam long nay songsaarn"... and the final part is just coming out in 'Kulastri' so has yet to reach book form.

an excellent series... from which I learned much about the intricacies and workings of karma, and Thai Buddhism in general.

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Seeking peace

Merton's affinity for Buddhism explored

By Frederick Smock

Special to The Courier-Journal

Tongues are wagging over just how Buddhist the celebrated Trappist monk Thomas Merton became late in his life. "Because it has traditionally been understood that Christianity makes exclusive claims on those of us who follow Jesus, when a great master in our tradition studies (and practices) another way, eyebrows are raised," Bonnie Thurston writes in her preface to Merton & Buddhism.

Sometimes the worry seems nervous. John Eudes Bamberger, who studied under Merton, wrote in his book Thomas Merton: Prophet of Renewal, "There is no basis for the opinion that Merton's faith in the church or in his Cistercian vocation was ever modified, much less weakened by, his interest in the East." Not even "modified"? Thurston, in a second essay here (on the Zen influence in Merton's poetry) writes that "when Merton reached out to Buddhism, he did so by going to his own deepest roots."

Merton admired and studied Buddhism assiduously. Daisetz Suzuki said that Merton was the one Westerner who understood Zen better than any other. The Dalai Lama pronounced him an honorary geshe, or Zen adept, the highest honor for a non-Buddhist.

The question about his Buddhist leanings could really only be answered by one man, Merton himself, who is no longer with us. Merton was accidentally electrocuted in Bangkok in 1968, after delivering an address (which was not well received, by the way) to a conference of world religious leaders on the subject of reconciling the differences between Buddhism and Christianity. Many of the attendees deemed such a reconciliation to be impossible.

The current volume, Merton & Buddhism, collects essays from a conference at the Louisville Seminary entitled "Merton and Buddhism: Wisdom, Emptiness and Everyday Mind," preceded by foundational essays in each title subject, by Buddhist scholar Roger Corless, and Merton scholar and religiost Thurston. Taken together, these essays open up avenues of inquiry in solid and exciting ways.

Merton encountered Eastern mysticism as early as 1930, at the Oakham School in England, when he investigated Gandhi for a class report. At the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, he renewed his interest, corresponding with D.T. Suzuki (who introduced America to Zen in the 1960s) and others, and by writing such books as Mystics and Zen Masters (1967) and Zen and the Birds of Appetite (1968).

He traveled in Thailand and India, meeting fellow monks, and leaning ever eastward. He was searching for the perfect retreat, which Gethsemani did not provide him, even in his private hermitage. If he had survived his trip to Bangkok, would he have returned to Kentucky and Gethsemani? Or might he have established a hermitage in Dharamsala, or Alaska, or Sri Lanka, or Kyoto, that lovely Japanese city of temples? There is no way to know.

Paul Pearson, the director of the Merton Center at Bellarmine University, contributes an essay about the Zen nature of Merton's photographs -- of tree roots, weeds, and junk-piles. Indian children. Mount Kanchenjunga. The Buddhas at Polonnaruwa. "The camera is the most eager and helpful of beings, all full of happy suggestions," Merton wrote in The Road to Joy. " 'Try this!' 'Do it that way!' Reminding me of things I have overlooked.… This is a Zen camera."

Other essays include Roger Lipsey on Merton's calligraphic drawings, James Wiseman on Merton and Theravada Buddhism, Judith Simmer-Brown on Merton and Tibetan Buddhism, and Ruben Habito on Merton's Zen experience.

Paul Pearson also appends a bibliography on Merton and Buddhism.

Other titles in the Fons Vitae Thomas Merton series include Merton & Sufism: The Untold Story (1999), Merton & Hesychasm: The Prayer of the Heart (2003), and Merton & Judaism: Holiness in Words (2003).

Frederick Smock is poet-in-residence at Bellarmine University. His newest book is Pax Intrantibus: A Meditation on the Poetry of Thomas Merton (Broadstone Books).

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Seven Years in Tibet is much better than the film version. The first 100 pages are a straight adventure story as Harrer and his companion escape from an internment camp and walk across Tibet. The rest is about life in Lhasa and a surprisingly intimate and sympathetic picture of the young Dalai Lama.

There is nothing about the friction between Harrer and his fellow Austrian, the woman they were both interested in and Harrer's selfish personality. Apparently that comes from his later autobiography.

There are no photographs in the paperback edition but some can be seen at Harrer's site online.

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Seven Years in Tibet is much better than the film version. The first 100 pages are a straight adventure story as Harrer and his companion escape from an internment camp and walk across Tibet. The rest is about life in Lhasa and a surprisingly intimate and sympathetic picture of the young Dalai Lama.

There is nothing about the friction between Harrer and his fellow Austrian, the woman they were both interested in and Harrer's selfish personality. Apparently that comes from his later autobiography.

There are no photographs in the paperback edition but some can be seen at Harrer's site online.

I enjoyed it immensely when I read it many years ago.

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A Dhamma Compass

by Ajahn Pasanno

A collection of three Dhamma talks that Ajahn gave in the three winter retreats during 2003-2005 at Abhayagiri can be downloaded as a pdf here. Free print copies may also be ordered via the same website.

Aj Pasanno was abbot of Wat Pa Nanachat near Ubon for many years and is now the abbot of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California. The three talks, entitled 'The Delights of Dana', 'How to succeed in meditation' and 'Simile of Ducks and Chickens', cover 50 pages.

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The Search for the Buddha by historian Charles Allen is a fascinating account of the men who discovered Buddhism (as far as the West was concerned), its history, its languages and its relics. While they did a lot of good work in discovering and preserving the lost cities and artifacts of India, there were some tragedies too. One professor, desperate to revive his flagging reputation, levelled 17 stupas near the Buddha's birthplace looking for relics. Another enthusiast was little better. "Among his early triumphs was finding a new Ashokan rock edict - it was taken to bits, mislaid and lost - and a relic subsequently identified by the accompanying inscription as a segment of Buddha's alms bowl - it was thrown away.

There is also a chapter on the Theosophists and others who brought the teachings to the West. Definitely worth reading.

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A few weeks ago I read "crooked cucumber" from David Chadwick, a biography of zen master Shyunryu Suzuki. Very enjoyable to read. The book was about Suzuki's life in Japan and America, where he founded a meditation center.

What I liked is that the monk is not depicted as a holy person. The most enjoyable for me was the description of (the motions within) the Dhamma group around the monk. Very recognizable for me having been into a (some aspects) similar group.

Also the book is quite funny at times but with sufficient parts which can make you reflect.

David Chadwick wrote one more book, I will try to find. Hopefully as enjoyable.

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