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Favorite Buddhist Books (not Suttas) And Reference Websites


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Just casting about for good book recommendations. This is not a question of favorite Suttas, but more a modern take on the Dhamma, as it is mutating its way out of Asia. The two favorites that come t

A great personal story of a guy who did the hippy scene and drugs but describes his progress through dhamma and meditation .... http://archive.org/stream/OneNightsShelter/OneNightsShelter-Ven.Rahula_

Intuitive Awareness by Ajahn Sumedho.   https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/intuitive-awareness?language=English

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The Manuals of Buddhism

by Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw

Published by Union Buddha Sasana Council, Kaba-Aye, Rangoon, Burma. 1965

Originally written in Pali late 18th- early 19th centuries.

Quite technical, knowledge of Pali terms required.

But contains everything you would ever want to know about Theravada teaching.

Used to be able to buy it at Pagan Bookshop, 37th street, Yangon.

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I just finished reading The Silk Road Journey With Xuanzang by Sally Wriggins. It's a biography of the remarkable Tang Dynasty Chinese monk who travelled to India, around India, and back to China in the 7th century, and then spent 20 years translating all the sutra scrolls he brought back. It reads very much like a travelogue but is also a mine of information about ancient India and Buddhism at the time - mostly Mahayana. Worth reading if you're interested in the history of Buddhism.

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I just finished reading The Silk Road Journey With Xuanzang by Sally Wriggins. It's a biography of the remarkable Tang Dynasty Chinese monk who travelled to India, around India, and back to China in the 7th century, and then spent 20 years translating all the sutra scrolls he brought back. It reads very much like a travelogue but is also a mine of information about ancient India and Buddhism at the time - mostly Mahayana. Worth reading if you're interested in the history of Buddhism.

If you can't get enough of Xuanzang you can go on reading "Ten thousend miles without a cloud" by Sun Shuyun, a Chinese lady who spent two years trying to follow the tracks of Xuanzang.

Personally the book could not hold my attention too long, nor as a travelbook, nor as a spiritual journey or as a historic account.

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My present teacher is a Thai lady who married an Englishman and has been living in England for the past thirty years.

In her youth she studied with Ajarn Buddhdasa at Suan Mohk and Luang por Tian. I and many of her students consider her to be either arahant or very close..

She is of Thai/Chinese descent and so to help the family income started to teach Tai-chi at the university of Birmingham. Her excellent English and understanding of modern Western thoughts and attitudes towards religion, plus her own life in England raising three children, enable her to explain the Dhamma in new terms, more easily understood by those unfamiliar with Pali and normal Buddhist terms.

She introduced her tai-chi students to Vipassana meditation, without them knowing it. Often her ex-students who had returned to their own towns and countries after their uni course was over, would keep in touch with her by e-mail. She would continue to help their problems and started to write some books to give them more information.

Now she has a web site started for her by her Thai students, and she has published books in both Thai and English. They are only published here in Thailand though, since she was unable to find a Western publisher. Most of her books are also available for free download from her website as pdf or word files, and the site is in Thai and English ....

http://www.supawangreen.in.th/indexeng.html

I especially recommend her titles... The User Guide to Life ..1 and 2 ( the moral diet and the Law of karma)

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You can now read the whole of the innocently titled Peoples of the Buddhist World on Google Books. On page 277 there's a long but interesting article called "The Thai Way of Meekness" by a Thai convert to Christianity. Her complaint is that missionary methods in Thailand are aggressive Western methods that alienate Thais and make life difficult for Thai Christians. She herself used to drop miniature bibles into monks' alms bowls, and she mentions Korean missionaries smashing Buddha statues and Japanese missionaries shouting the gospel in temples and plastering stickers on trees all over the country.

If you want to know the best strategy to convert Buddhists in any part of the world, this is the book for you. :o

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not forgetting that the Buddha predicted that the true dhamma would last for 5000 years, after which all trace would be lost from the world..... we are over half-way and on the slippery slope downwards.

As Buddhism enters new countries it always takes on some of their old beliefs and gets slightly 'adjusted' to fit the local pallette.

The demise is inevitable...just look to your own safety by aiming for Sotapannahood..... possible in this very lifetime

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http://uqconnect.net/slsoc/bsq/budchr0.htm

some good ammunition to answer these evangelists

Hi FF.

I only glanced at A L de Silva's critique of A Buddhist Critique of Christianity, but it appears some of his logic is flawed.

Quote:

According to Christians, God is all-knowing - he knows all the past, all the present and all the future. If this is so, then God must know everything we do long before we do it. This means that our whole life must be predetermined and that we act not according to the free exercise of our wills but according to our predetermined natures.

Why would it mean that our life is predetermined?

It may appear predetermined to a person who already knows what your actions will be, but this power would be independent of ones future actions.

The fact that you or I may exercise free will sometime in the future is not dependent on whether a being knows what that might be.

Whether I know what you will do through omni present power, or by using a time machine to travel into the future needn't influence your freewill.

Naturally this contradicts the Buddhist viewpoint that none of us have free will, but this is not for a Christian to prove.

Not having freewill is theoretical, and, as the Buddha said, what he taught was for us to learn through first hand experience rather than believing blindly.

Edited by rockyysdt
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http://uqconnect.net/slsoc/bsq/budchr0.htm

some good ammunition to answer these evangelists

Yes, if you want to waste your time arguing with people like that. If the evangelists are as literalist as the straw man set up by the author of the link (and maybe they are), these arguments are probably pertinent, but if they're that irrational they're not going to be listening.

I wonder if it might be better just to ask them where they've got their ideas from, how reliable and authoritative is their source, where and when the source originated, and why you should feel obliged to accept their conclusions. If they are biblical literalists they're putting a lot of faith in texts that were in most cases written many years after the events they discuss following an oral tradition to start with and highly coloured by the events of the author's time and the audience he/she was writing for (yes, one or two books in the bible may have been written/compiled/edited by women). And the biblical canon they have so much faith in was assembled over a long long time and ratified by the Council of Laodicea in AD 364. (That Council did not accept the Book of Revelation, however, which was eventually included at the Council of Hippo in 393.) So the Christian Bible is really a product of the Church, not the other way round.

The early church (1st to 3rd centuries) used a variety of texts as scripture - the Jewish scriptures in Greek, Paul's letters, the gospels as they became available over time, some other writings by contemporaries, the mythical Book of Enoch (very influential), some "sayings texts", some texts later declared heretical, letters written in the name of apostles like Paul, Peter, James, etc, but not actually by them, and so on.

Narratives of Jesus' life did not appear in written form until 40- 70 years after his death. Paul's letters from about AD 49-60, i.e. 20-30 years after Jesus' death) talk about him, of course, but not about his life. Paul was not interested in Jesus' life, only in his post-resurrection appearances/visions to the disciples and, of course, Paul himself. Likewise, the Gospels were really more concerned with reproducing Jesus in an image acceptable to their circumstances and agendas than in what actually happened. For example, Matthew has a lot about Jesus disputing with the Pharisees and condemning them in no uncertain times. However, the Pharisees had a minimal presence in Galilee in Jesus' time. At the time Matthew was being written, however, the Pharisees were very significant in Upper Galilee, where Matthew was written. They'd moved up there after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and were renewing Jewish faith and practice there, in opposition to Matthew's community. The Matthean agenda was retrojected onto Jesus' life and times. This kind of retrojection was common practice in biblical writing (e.g. in Isaiah, written by at least two and possibly three different authors).

The evangelists have many reasonable questions to answer, but I doubt they're interested. They are people who believe they've had a personal experience of Christ, so they're not going to discuss with you questions of source validity and reliability. If they do, they're probably on the way out of the fundamentalist mind-frame. A real fundamentalist evangelist would just move on to someone more vulnerable and more gullible.

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Planning the Demise of Buddhism

Peoples of the Buddhist World by Paul Hattaway, Piquant Editions, Carlisle, 2004.

I must say that I'm impressed by the discourse on this topic. Rather than attempt to include myself in the literary discussion, I'll just relate a story of something that happened to me "in the West". It was, in fact, in Washington, D.C., not far from where I live. I was doing one of my marathon walks (well...not quite marathon...but about 6 miles) along the Potomac, and stopped in one park to use the restroom. As I was about to resume walking a young fellow walked up to me with a book in his hand. He started a non-religious conversation. Usually I shut these people off immediately, but I felt like a little rest, so I decided to play along. After a few minutes of small talk he suddenly held up the book and said, "Do you know what this is?" I responded, "I know what it is and why you are talking to me." "What do you mean?" "Come on now. It's the Bible, or perhaps the Book of Mormon, and you're going to try and convert me. It won't work. I'm an ex-Christian and a Buddhist. I know all your arguments. You're wasting your time." "Oh, you're a Buddhist. I have immense respect for Buddhism." "Really? Don't you believe that all Buddhists are going to hel_l?" "Well, we don't need to talk about the unpleasant aspects of your religion." "Wait a minute, answer my question. Don't you think Buddhists are going to hel_l?" "Well, yes." "In fact, don't you think all non-Christians who don't accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior are going to hel_l?" "Well, yes." "Including people who existed before Jesus Christ existed?" "Yes." "Including people who lived in remote places of the world who were unable to hear of Jesus Christ?" "Yes. It says so in THE Book." "I'm glad you respect my religion so much that you condemn me to hel_l. The true sign of a Christian." We went on for a few more minutes, but ultimately I left him nearly speechless.

I thought about the lack of logic. And of course, that thought of moral and religious logic led me back to Buddhist thought. I also recalled the several times I have seen Christian evangelicals preaching in Bangkok. They were so fervent they couldn't even see that the Thais were (politely) laughing at them. While some SE Asian nations that were once colonies of Western powers have significant numbers of converts to Christianity, I somehow doubt that we have to worry much about that in Thailand. I can believe that Thais may become "less Buddhist", but I can't believe they will convert to Christianity in any significant numbers.

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While some SE Asian nations that were once colonies of Western powers have significant numbers of converts to Christianity, I somehow doubt that we have to worry much about that in Thailand. I can believe that Thais may become "less Buddhist", but I can't believe they will convert to Christianity in any significant numbers.

Interesting story about the encounter with the earnest young fundamentalist; indicative of the futility of trying to argue with fixated people.

I too can't see any significant move towards Christianity in this country, though the churches that are well established here seem quite robust. These are churches that go back to the 16th century at Ayudhaya (the Catholics in 1567) or the 19th century (the Presbyterians) and include significant figures in Thai education, health and welfare, such as the Bradleys and Dr McFarland in Bangkok and the McGilvarys and Dr Harris in Chiangmai, together with the Apostolic Vicar, Msgr Pellegoix, who was Prince (later King) Mongkut's friend and reciprocal tutor (he learnt Pali from the Prince and taught him Latin) and the founder of the Assumption colleges, Fr Colombet. These people contributed to this country and were highly regarded for their services and for the fact that they did not try to convert or impose their religion or ideas on the Siamese people. Contemporaries include Fr Joe Maier (Mercy Centre Klongtoei) and the recently deceased Fr Ray Brennan (Pattaya Orphanage).

There was in fact a period during which Buddhism may have been under at least an ephemeral threat from Christian expansionism. Some people believe that King Narai's prime minister, the Greek Constantine Faulkon, himself a convert to Rome, had positioned himself through his puppet, the heir Phra Pui, to establish a Catholic reign after King Narai's death, but this was foiled by the coup led by Phra Petracha, who became king in 1688. There is, however, no hard evidence for this, and others believe the alleged plot was just an excuse for Petracha to make his move. It's not even clear whether Phra Pui was in fact a Catholic. Whatever happened, times were bleak for a while for Catholics in Siam, even though they still enjoyed some favour from monarchs after King Petracha. In fact they were persecuted despite royal patronage, at least up to the time of Taksin the Great who was supported by the Portuguese and who set land aside for them and the Cathedral of Santa Cruz in Thonburi. The community there was based on and is still descended from the intermarriage of Portuguese and Chinese Catholics, a community still known as the Kudijeen and which has its own patois and cuisine.

Other communities based on Annamite and Cambodian religious refugees were founded in Samsen District of Bangkok as early as 1637. However, neither in Ayudhya or Thonburi-Bangkok did the Siamese convert in any numbers. Catholic and Protestant communities in these and other parts of Thailand grew from immigrants - mainly Chinese after the fall of Ayudhya - and ethnic minorities. It appears that ethnic Thais have little interest in Christianity other than some acknowledgement of the social outreach of Christians in education, health and welfare.

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some good ammunition to answer these evangelists

Thanks. I was looking for something like this. I have a few quibbles with the points presented but on the whole it's not bad. The new, expanded version of this is available at http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/beyond-belief02.pdf.

As for how well evangelists are doing at converting Thai Buddhists, according their handbook it isn't going well at all:

Central Thailand

"It is a common saying that 'To be Thai is to be Buddhist'. This cultural-religious tie has given Thailand a reputation for being 'a graveyard for missions'. The Central Thai remain one of the largest, yet most accessible, unreached groups in the world." Claim 36% have heard the gospel and 0.4% are Christian, but that includes Central Thais worldwide.

Northern Thailand

"Protestant missionaries have faithfully worked in northern Thailand for about 150 years. Progress among the Northern Thai has been painstakingly slow." Claim 41% have heard the gospel and 0.6% follow some form of Christianity.

Southern Thailand

"With such a religious battle for the hearts of the Southern Thai between Islam and Buddhism, it is not surprising that Christianity has failed to make much of an impact among this large unreached people group." Claim 24% have heard the gospel and 0.5% are Christians.

Isan

"Although there are now several hundred small churches among the Isan, Jesus Christ remains a little known figure among this group... follow-up is difficult because of the meagre human resources available and the vast, widespread area that the Isan inhabit." Claim 31% have heard the gospel and 0.2% are Christian.

It seems that missionaries prefer to concentrate on hilltribes and groups in nearby countries. There are 2,000 missionaries based in Chiangmai but most working in other countries.

Still, given the current state of Buddhism in Thailand, it's a wonder they aren't making more progress.

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not forgetting that the Buddha predicted that the true dhamma would last for 5000 years, after which all trace would be lost from the world..... we are over half-way and on the slippery slope downwards.

I had not heard this until last night and now I've heard it twice - from fabianfred and my wife (quite unrelated to ff's posting, though she attributed the prediction to Ananda)!

I searched on the net and came up with this:

“If, Ananda, women had not retired from the household life to the houseless one, under the doctrine and discipline announced by the Tathagata, Dharma Ananda would long endure; a thousand years would the good Dharma abide. But since, Ananda, women have now retired from the household life to the houseless one, under the doctrine and the discipline announced by the Tathagata, not long Ananda, will Dharma endure; but five hundred years Ananda, until the Dharma abide” (Vinya Pitaka II. 253 ff).

Buddha had previously promised that the Dharma would last for 5,000 years, which if broken down is really five periods of one thousand years, each period representing one of the five disappearances. After the fifth period, that is five thousand years, the Dharma would disappear and the true message of Buddha would be lost.

However, Buddha contests that because He has allowed women to participate in the fullness of Buddhist life, He would halve the time until the Dharma's expiration from five periods of one-thousand years (5,000 years), to five periods of five-hundred years (2,500 years).

According to Buddha, and explanation above, the Dharma would disappear 2,500 years after His Dispensation began (1957 A.D.), and shortly after the five disappearances, the Maitreya would come.

http://www.maitreya.org/English/PBuddhism.htm

It sounds pretty apocryphal to me.

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It sounds pretty apocryphal to me.

Exactly. My feeling is the Buddha probably did say something like this but didn't put a number on it. It would have seemed like a no-brainer that one day the teachings would be lost and, given society's attitude towards female renunciants at the time, that a female Sangha might hasten the demise of the Sangha as a whole.

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Buddha had previously promised that the Dharma would last for 5,000 years, which if broken down is really five periods of one thousand years, each period representing one of the five disappearances. After the fifth period, that is five thousand years, the Dharma would disappear and the true message of Buddha would be lost.

Although I can't give you a reference on this, in my own notes from a trip to Chiang Mai I have that: There was a prediction, "that Buddhism would decline after 2000 years. King Tilokarat's religious works, as well as those of other Southeast Asian monarchs of the time, were an attempt to prevent this decline. As such, Wat Jet Yod (in Chiang Mai) was the site of the Eighth World Buddhist council in 1477, which revised the Tripitaka (Buddhist canon and teachings)."

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It sounds pretty apocryphal to me.

Exactly. My feeling is the Buddha probably did say something like this but didn't put a number on it. It would have seemed like a no-brainer that one day the teachings would be lost and, given society's attitude towards female renunciants at the time, that a female Sangha might hasten the demise of the Sangha as a whole.

I agree. I don't see much evidence that the Buddha was into prophecy, at least not anything like to the degree we see in the judeo christian traditions if at all.

He probably mentioned that his teachings would pass away, as all conditioned things pass away. His over zealous followers probably decided to put a number on it.

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According to Buddha, and explanation above, the Dharma would disappear 2,500 years after His Dispensation began (1957 A.D.), and shortly after the five disappearances, the Maitreya would come.

http://www.maitreya.org/English/PBuddhism.htm

It sounds pretty apocryphal to me.

Yes there seem to be many mis-informed people who think the next Buddha will come soon after the Dhamma of Gotama has been lost.

This neither follows the scripture, nor is logical.

In this especially auspiscious aeon in which we have five Buddhas....wouldn't it be logical that they be fairly regularly spaced to give as many beings as possible the chance to meet one, or the teachings of one.

The scriptures relate that one of the facts a Buddha considers before coming to take his final rebirth is the life-span of men. It need to be no less than 100 years and no more than 100,000 years..... less than 100 and there is too much suffering to be able to listen to the words of Dhamma, whilst more than 100,000 and too little suffering for the Dhamma to be understood.

The span of life in the human realm cycles from a low of ten years to a high of over 100,000 years. The life span during the Buddha's time was 100 and after his parinirvana it drops by one year as each 100 years pass....meaning the the life-span is now at 75 years (averaged globally and dying of natural causes.)

When the life span reaches ten years, morals will have been lost completely, and sexual maturity will be reached at the age of five so childbirth can occur then. Sex with family members will be rampant, and the act of killing another human will be held of no more consequence than the killing of an animal.

In order to grow to sexual maturity in only five years the human size will be much smaller than now.

There will be a seven-day period of mass killing and madness....after which a few survivors who hid themselves away, will come out from hiding and after walking many days might meet another human. They will decide to start keeping the basic five precepts of morality. Their progeny will live to 20 years, and their progeny to 30 years.... going up to 100 years ...and then eventually to 100,000 years.

When the life-span reaches 60,000 years the next Buddha will take his final birth. He will be of above average height........ the Thais have a measurement from the fingers to the arm pit...called a curb.... the next buddha will be 85 curd in height, whilst the average for men will be about 65 curb. As we now have the age of 18 or 21 considered adulthood for young people to get married... in the time when life-span reaches 60,000 years a girl will have to reach 5,000 years of age before being allowed to marry.

It seems logical to me that a long life-span will allow the human body to grow to giant proportions....such things as sickness and hunger being virtually unknown then.

So this will take a few million years to come to completion....not the imminent arrival of the Buddha meitreya that some imagine.

The Buddha Gotama perfected himself as a Boddhisattva for 4 asongkaya plus 100,000 aeons....the Buddha Meitreya for 16 asongkaya plus 100,000 aeons

Edited by fabianfred
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Complete idiots guide to Buddhism lol

Na, Ive been looking for a one stop book on Mahayana but hard to find I was told about The Flower Ornament Scripture: Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra but at £72 I want to make sure its worth the read.1643 pages so it must be thorough

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I have to say Biography of Luaang Phaaw Bpaan (ประวัติหลวงพ่อปาน) by Luaang Phaaw Reuu See Ling Dam (หลวงพ่อฤาษีลิงดำ) is the book that changed my life. I don't know whether there is an English version (you may try google Translate) but I found the Thai version here, http://thaisquare.com/Dhamma/book/prawat_l...an/content.html

Edited by agent69
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Complete idiots guide to Buddhism lol

Na, Ive been looking for a one stop book on Mahayana but hard to find I was told about The Flower Ornament Scripture: Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra but at £72 I want to make sure its worth the read.1643 pages so it must be thorough

Paul Wiliams' "Buddhist Thought" (Routledge, 2000) is a good one. I paid S$50.53 at Kinokuniya in Singapore.

Edited by Xangsamhua
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I am reading two non-fiction books about Thailand right now. One is "Inside Thai Society" by Mulder. Not sure I can recommend it, simply because it's like working to plow through it, although it's only about 140 pages long.

Much more interesting is "Worshiping The Great Modernizer" by Stengs. It's a study of King Chulalongkorn's influence on life in Thailand beyond his lifetime. It's written in a technical manner, but is very readable and I'm enjoying it. Although it's more about how the aura around Rama V has been developed over the years, it -- by necessity -- does discuss the stories surrounding King Chulalongkorn. In many places it discusses "Buddhist Kings", their images, and their making merit for themselves and the nation.

You may find it worth a read.

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I am reading two non-fiction books about Thailand right now. One is "Inside Thai Society" by Mulder. Not sure I can recommend it, simply because it's like working to plow through it, although it's only about 140 pages long.

Much more interesting is "Worshiping The Great Modernizer" by Stengs. It's a study of King Chulalongkorn's influence on life in Thailand beyond his lifetime. It's written in a technical manner, but is very readable and I'm enjoying it. Although it's more about how the aura around Rama V has been developed over the years, it -- by necessity -- does discuss the stories surrounding King Chulalongkorn. In many places it discusses "Buddhist Kings", their images, and their making merit for themselves and the nation.

You may find it worth a read.

Other non-fictional books related to Thailand:

SOUTHEAST ASIA VISIONS is a collection of European travel accounts of pre-modern

Southeast Asia from Cornell University Library .... these are hi-resolution scanned pages.

The Southeast Asia Visions collection includes a selection of historically rich primary accounts

which range chronologically from the 1550s to the 1920s.

These travelogues, letters, official accounts, journals, autobiographies, guidebooks,

and photo albums cover Southeast Asia in the main but also include East Asia, South Asia ...

http://dlxs.library.cornell.edu/s/sea/index.php

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