five “favorite” buddhist books

Gerald Ford (not the former President) over at The Level 8th Buddhist has tagged me to list my five favorite Buddhist books. It’s a little daunting, to be honest. The vast majority of books I’ve read over the past five or six years have been hard-core academic books or fluffy pulp fiction. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, hey, I read. I’ve got some good stuff up on the ol’ book shelf.

Then I followed this tag-trend to some other Buddhist bloggers and saw a lot of very similar lists. So I’m going out on a limb here and listing some stuff that’s off the beaten path. Enjoy!

The Bodhicaryavatara by Santideva. This book, in addition to having the basis of the bodhisattva path and some excellent vipassana and samanta meditation techniques, also has the great line: “The world is a confusion of insane people striving to delude themselves.”

Tariki: Embracing Despair, Discovering Peace by Hiroyuki Itsuki. Itsuki’s lived a hard life, but rather than falling to despair, he uses tariki, the Shin term for “other power,” to realize how truly fortunate we all are simply to be alive.

Bits of Rubble Turn Into Gold by Taitetsu Unno. A modern American Shin Buddhist teacher, this one was a toss up between this book and Unno-sensei’s River of Fire, River of Water. It’s really all about how we’re all already enlightened. Go figure.

Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West by Judith Snodgrass. This one’s pretty academic, but damn it’s an entertaining read. She covers the history of the World Parliament of Religions circa 1893 and shows how the Kyoto School of Zen intellectuals packaged a nice little version of Zen for Americans. Good stuff.

Interpreting Amida by Galen Amstutz is a must-read for anyone interested in Japanese-Buddhist history and how it’s been told, in a rather one-sided way, on both sides of the Pacific. Also a little academic, but it’s short. Go for it.

And I guess the rules of this tagging thing say I hafta to tag some other people. Looks like most of the Buddhist blogs I read have already done this, so I’ll say….. the Buddhist Jihad, and the Bad Buddha, and (how come no one tags these guys) the Tricycle Editor’s Blog. What the hell.

3 thoughts on “five “favorite” buddhist books

  1. How do you know I am not the former president? 😉

    Anyways, I tagged you precisely because I wanted to read your scholarly choice in books, and you have certainly not let me down. 🙂

    I am kind of ambivalent on “Tariki” myself. I really love some parts, and some parts I felt almost like Mr. Itsuki was whining or just really morbid. I think I should try reading it again though. He says some pretty insightful stuff, and maybe I should give the book another try. It’s been almost a year since I read it.

    Take care!

  2. Yeah Tariki can be a hard read. I first stumbled upon it at a particularly crappy place in my life so it spoke to me. But it’s good remember that (a) it’s a Japanese work so it feels different than English stuff and (b) it’s a nice change of pace from the usual I’m OK you’re OK “buddhist” stuff out there.

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