Belief, Buddhism & books: For a clear vision of the path to enlightenment, read these!
I have been drawn to Buddhism because of its universality – everyone can relate to it and everyone can practise it. I don’t consider myself a Buddhist by any means and my knowledge of Buddhism is entirely bookish. I have neither followed a monk nor done any extensive practice, but the message of Buddhism has helped me overcome my own suffering. The books that opened my eyes were given as gifts by my friends and are perfect for beginners – What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse and Instructions to the Cook by Bernhard Glassman and Rick Fields.
Buddhism is not a religion. It is a very complex belief system that focuses on personal spiritual development. It does not consider Buddha as a god: rather, everyone can become a Buddha. There is no single holy text; instead, several scholars through history have contributed to a vast library of concepts. Buddhism is open to change, and it is dedicated only to the pursuit of truth. The central idea in Buddhism is that evil is measured by how much suffering it produces. The biggest cause of suffering is the ego and the most important thing is the ever-present now – working on ourselves in the moment, and letting go of the past and the future.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is undoubtedly ‘the authority’ on the matter and his numerous books offer a clear vision of the Buddhist path. Approaching the Buddhist Path is the first of a trilogy compiled and coauthored by the Dalai Lama and the American Buddhist nun Thubten Chodron. In it, the authors explain every step of the path to enlightenment. It tells you about Buddhist history and introduces you to the fundamentals of Buddhism along with the Dalai Lama’s personal experiences.
The Foundation of Buddhist Practice is the second in the trilogy, which explains the key teachings to start the practice of the Dharma. The book offers a simple description of how to structure a meditation session, and of the appropriate relationship between the spiritual mentor and the student. It has a series of chapters on the law of Karma and the concepts of death and birth. Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature is the third volume, which gives information about the Four Noble Truths. The reader will learn how to improve personal practice with insightful and easy to apply methods, and learn about the mind’s infinite potential through the teachings of Dzogchen.
Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the most famous Buddhist monks and peace activists, has written over 130 books and is considered the father of the mindfulness movement (Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967). His The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching serves as a guide for transforming your suffering into peace and joy. It covers significant Buddhist teachings such as The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path. If you are someone who holds on to anger and hurt, this book will help you find relief.
If you want to know about the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha then I would recommend Old Path White Clouds. Drawn directly from 24 Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese sources, and retold by Thich Nhat Hanh in his inimitably beautiful style, this book traces the Buddha’s life slowly and gently over the course of 80 years, partly through the eyes of Svasti, the buffalo boy, and partly through the eyes of the Buddha himself. Old Path White Clouds has become a classic of spiritual literature since its publication in 1991. I believe that Buddhism is as relevant today as it was 2,500 years ago. If we understand the truths – that life is full of suffering, and that the path to overcoming suffering is through compassion and wisdom – then we can all find happiness and peace in our lives.