What are some good books about Zen Buddhism?

I’m curious about Zen Buddhism, I don’t know anyone who is Buddhist, so I’m left with the internet and books. Is there a religious book that Zen Biddhists read, like Christians read the bible? I’m not looking to convert, I just like learning about religions.

6 thoughts on “What are some good books about Zen Buddhism?

  1. Try books by Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s an influential Zen teacher. Try reading the Lotus Sutra and the Flower Sermon as well. They’re important Zen texts.

  2. Generally Zen Buddhists shy away from writing things down since the general idea is that Zen is something you experience and practice rather than talk about. That said, there is the Shobogenzo, which was written by a Japanese monk and considered a classic of Zen literature. I am not sure how they feel about the Pali Cannon but that is the closest thing to a Bible for Buddhism in general; although it occupies many more pages than a dozen Bibles.

    If you want to learn more about Zen I would suggest starting with the work of Alan Watts, and Zen Flesh Zen Bones. The latter is a compilation of Zen stories with commentaries for the English reader.

  3. The sacred texts in Buddhism are largely inaccessible for people who aren’t monks. Few of them are translated into English (and not very well), and there are lots of disagreement over which has more authority than which. Best is to find a contemporary author who had spent a lifetime practicing Buddhism and get a feel for it through that, since there are only a few principles, which are observed through practice rather than academic study. You could even try something fun like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Remember, there are loads of different branches of Buddhism, and Zen is just one. The others are also worth looking into, it would probably be better to read something about Buddhism in general rather than a specific branch, since there are Teravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Tibetan, Zen (Chen), Soto, Rinzai, Obaku, Madhyamaka etc.

  4. ‘Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind’ by Shunryu Suzuki is a classic.

    The above book is written in “zen speak”, therefore it may be difficult for a beginner to understand. A better suited book may be ‘Beginning Mindfulness’ by Andrew Weiss, which introduces one to a zen lifestyle. Very helpful to any new zen student.

  5. There are hundreds of well written books about Zen and Zen Practice as well as informative websites. I’d suggest you start with Steve Hagen, he writes books that are very accessible. A good starting point is Hagen’s book Buddhism Plain and Simple, you’ll find it gives a good overview of the core of Zen. Next I’d move onto Zen Mind, Beginners Mind which I think is the best place for a beginner to start finding out about Zen and I have to disagree with the above post that says it is full of Zen speak, it’s not. ZMBM is a series of lectures given by Suzuki Rohsi in the 1960’s in San Francisco and of the dozens of Zen books I have read nothing is as clear or plain speaking as this book.

    And you might look at Sit Down and Shut Up from a former punk rocker and now Zen priest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *