Suggested Zen Reading



Karen Armstrong (2001). New York: Viking.
ISBN: 067 089 1932                                           Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

Karen Armstrong the celebrated religious scholar reflects upon the life of Siddhārtha Gautama and how he became the Buddha. The New York Times Book Review calls this work "penetrating, readable and prescient." 


Cultivating the mind of Love

Thich Nhat Hanh (2008). Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
ISBN: 093 807 7708                                            
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

With delicately deceptive simplicity, Thich Nhat Hanh interweaves memories of his first love, a young Buddhist nun, with his thoughts on the Mahayana Buddhist sutras.  


The Dhammapada

Translator: Valerie Roebuck (2010). New York: Penguin Books.
ISBN: 978 0140 449419                                        
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

The Dhammapada is a third century collection of the Buddha's words in verse forms.  Composed in the ancient Pali language during the third century, the Dhammapada has become the most widely read and studied Buddhist scripture in existence. 

Zen at Work

Zen at Work

Les Kaye (1996). New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks.
ISBN: 978 051 7886205                                        
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

Kaye, the Abbott of Kannon Do, a Zen Meditation Center, uses his experience as a design engineer for IBM for over 30 years and applies the lessons in Zen to the work place. This extraordinary book intertwines Zen practice with corporate culture.


Way of Zen

Alan Watts (1957). New York: Pantheon.
ISBN: 037 570 5104                                            
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

Alan Watts used his wit, charm and uncommon insight to explain Zen Buddhism to a Western audiences over 50 years ago, and it remains as fresh and vibrant as the day it was written. The first half of the book relates the rich history of Zen Buddhism starting with its ancient Indian and Chinese roots.  The second part of the book devotes itself to Zen principles and practice including the tradition of Zazen.


What the Buddha Taught

Walpola Rahula (1974). New York: Grove Press.
ISBN: 978 080 2130310                                        
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

 "An exposition of Buddhism conceived in a resolutely modern spirit.”--from the Foreword. "For years,” says the Journal of the Buddhist Society, "the newcomer to Buddhism has lacked a simple and reliable introduction to the complexities of the subject. Dr. Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught fills the need as only could be done by one having a firm grasp of the vast material to be sifted. It is a model of what a book should be that is addressed first of all to 'the educated and intelligent reader.’ Authoritative and clear, logical and sober, this study is as comprehensive as it is masterly.” A classic textbook.


Zen Buddhism: A History

Heinrich Dumoulin (1988). New York: Macmillan.
ISBN: 002 908 2404                                            
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

Written by a Jesuit theologian who became a leading Zen scholar after studying Zen during the 1930s in Japan,  this book has become a classic of Zen history.  Dumoulin carefully considers Zen history, introduces many of Zens greatest thinkers and even examines topics such as Zen in art and culture.  


Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Shunryu Suzuki (1970). New York: Walker/Weatherhill.
ISBN: 978 159 0302675                                        
Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

The most beloved of American Zen books was created from the transcripts of Suzuki Roshi's talk at Haiku Zen, the predecessor of Kannon Do. Read this slowly, one or two chapters a week.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." Suzuki Roshi presents the basics-from the details of posture and breathing in Zazen to the perception of non-duality in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page. It's a book to come back to time and time again as an inspiration to practice.


The Digha Nikaya, or the Long Discourses of Buddha, are considered some of the oldest records of the Buddha's original teachings.  These are the the major texts of the Pali Cannon and focus on the gentleness, compassion, power, and penetrating wisdom of the Buddha.  

The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya (Teachings of the Buddha)The Long Discourses of the Buddha

Siddhārtha Gautama : Maurice O'Connell Walshe (1995). New York: Wisdom Publications; 2nd edition.
978 086 1711031                                      Locate at a library near you using WorldCat

Originally released under the title Thus I Have Heard, Walshe's translation cuts through the often endless repetitions while rendering this important text into graceful modern English. Wisdom publications offers a preview of the first 53 pages. 

Shōbōgenzō by Japanese Sōtō Zen Master Eihei Dōgen 


The Shōbōgenzō by the  Japanese Sōtō Zen Master Eihei Dōgen  usually refers to 95 lectures and writings given to his monks and recorded by his Dharma successor Koun Ejō between the years 1231-1253.   However, the organization of Dōgen's work can be very confusing: Shōbōgenzō can refer to three different collections of  Dōgen's essays.  This article from the website does a lovely job of explaining the difference.  If this were not confusing enough, the term  Shōbōgenzō  maybe used to refer to the essence of Buddha dharma in Mahayana Buddhism or a title of Koan collections written by the Dahui Zonggao. 

Dōgen's  Shōbōgenzō  can be difficult for Westerners, so studying in a group with others it can be most helpful. A wonderful place to start is studying Dōgen's essay Genjokoan, thirteen paragraphs outlining Zen for the lay practitioner.

Master Dogen's Shobogenzo: 1

Master Dogen's Shobogenzo

Dōgen : Translated: Gudo Wafu NishijimaChodo Cross 1997). Numata Center for Busshist Translation and Research.

ISBN: 978 141 9638206                                              Free Downloadable PDF

A free downloadable highly regarded translation with extensive and accurate annotations. .


The Shōbōgenzō: A Trainee’s Translation of Great Master Dōgen’s Spiritual Masterpiece

Dōgen : Translated: Hubert Nearman (1996). Mount Shasta, California: Shasta Abbey Press.
997 809 30066178                                        Free Downloadable PDF

A free downloadable very readable translation by the monk Hubert Nearman. Prior to becoming a monk, he was a scholar and translator of medieval Japanese texts and was a recipient of a grant for his translation work from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Two Zen Classics - Katsuki Sekida
    (Two collections of Zen koans)
The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch