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Zen Buddhism Books

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Lists Tagged “Zen Buddhism”

Zen Sand by Victor Sogen Hori

Quotes Tagged “Zen Buddhism”

Thich Nhat Hanh

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books on zen buddhism

Zen Studies

Reading List

There are many, many great books on the subject of Buddha’s teachings, so we have compiled a list you may find helpful. We have also included links to purchase on Amazon, of course you may find in or order from your local bookstore.

For the Beginner:

books on zen buddhism

Going Deeper:

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Teachings and Koan Practice:

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Hardcore Zen

Zen books that don’t suck.

The title of this page is not meant to imply that I think every book about Zen other than those listed on this page sucks. This is just a short and incomplete list of books on Zen that I know for myself do not suck. There are a number of books I haven’t read that I’m pretty sure are great because of what people tell me about them or what I know about their authors – Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama, for example or Seung Sahn’s Only Don’t Know . But I didn’t want to list anything I have not personally read. I’m also not listing some great non-Zen books such as Commentaries on Living by J. Krishnamurti. I’ll probably add to this list, so check back some time.

SHORT WORKS BY GUDO NISHIJIMA  This isn’t really a specific book. But several of Nishijima Roshi’s shorter works in English are available in PDF form from the Dogen Sangha website. These include his short pamphlet about the Buddhist Precepts , a pamphlet called  Three Philosophies One Reality , which lays out his favorite philosophical theory in great detail, Understanding the Shobogenzo , which is exactly what it sounds like,  Japanese Buddhism and the Meiji Restoration , which is far more interesting than the title suggests, Zazen: A Better Way of Experiencing Pain , a collection of lectures on the phenomenon of pain, Buddhism and the Autonomic Nervous System , another of his favorite theories,   30 Questions and Answers About Buddhism , which is very, very, very good, How to Practice Zazen , a nice short introduction, and some other collected lectures.

ZEN MIND BEGINNER’S MIND by Shunryu Suzuki. This was the first Zen book I ever read. It’s still one of my favorites. The chapters are short and straightforward. You don’t need a degree in Asian studies or philosophy to follow along. This book created from transcripts of talks Suzuki gave in a garage in Palo Alto in the Sixties. I’ve seen the original transcripts and these versions are much more readable. Also recommended by the same author Not Always So , Branching Streams Flow in Darkness , Zen is Right Here

EMBRACING MIND: THE ZEN TALKS OF KOBUN CHINO OTOGAWA edited by Judy Cosgrove and Shinbo Joseph Hall. Kobun Chino Otogawa was my first Zen teacher’s teacher. I never met him. But I feel like much of the way I understand Zen comes from the way Kobun taught it to Tim. It’s great to finally have some of Kobun’s lectures collected in written form. This is an amazing book.

EACH MOMENT IS THE UNIVERSE by Dainin Katagiri. Like Suzuki’s books, this was created from transcripts of talks the late Katagiri Roshi gave at Minneapolis Zen Center. It’s quite similar to Suzuki’s books, meaning it’s not very technical. He just delivers straight talk about Zen practice and life. Katagiri and Suzuki were good friends. Also recommended by the same author Returning to Silence , You Have to Say Something

LIVING BY VOW by Shohaku Okumura. A great book about the various vows we make in Zen as well as some of the ceremonial stuff we do. Okumura’s work is a bit more scholarly and slightly more technical than Suzuki’s or Katagiri’s, but it’s also similar in its warmth and directness. Unlike Suzuki or Katagiri, Okumura actually writes his own stuff rather than having his students turn transcribed talks into books. So his books better represent what he is actually trying to say. Also recommended by the same author Realizing Genjo Koan

EVERYDAY ZEN by Charlotte Joko Beck. I haven’t read this book in at least twenty years, so my memory of it may not be completely reliable. But I remember thinking it was one of the clearest Zen books I’d ever read. Also recommended by the same author Nothing Special

SINGLE WHITE MONK by Shozan Jack Haubner. This is one of the most real books about Zen practice ever written. Haubner was a monk at Mt. Baldy Zen Center where Leonard Cohen was also a monk. In this book he gets into the gritty details of contemporary Western Zen monastic life. He also deals frankly and honestly with the sex scandal that raged around the head teacher of his monastery. Harrowing stuff but also funny and entertaining. Also recommended by the same author, Zen Confidential .

DISCOVERING THE TRUE SELF by Kodo Sawaki. Kodo Sawaki was one of my teacher Nishijima Roshi’s teachers. Arthur Braverman wrote an engaging biography of Sawaki and paired it with some of Sawaki’s best teachings. This is one of the best Zen books there is and also one of the easiest ones to read!

THE ZEN TEACHINGS OF HOMELESS KODO by Kodo Sawaki and Kosho Uchiyama with Shohaku Okumura. Kodo Sawaki was Gudo Nishijima’s main teacher. He was also very influential to Shunryu Suzuki and Dainin Katagiri and, thus, indirectly highly influential on American Zen as a whole. This is one of the few books available in English of his extensive writings. It’s a great little compilation and I hope more of this material will become available in English soon. (See C ommentary on the Song of Awakening below).

BLOOD SOAKED BUDDHA/HARD EARTH PASCAL by Noah Cicero. This is a short and very personal reflection on Buddhism and existentialist philosophy by a young Ohio-born poet. It’s not exactly a Zen book in terms of being something written by a monk or ordained teacher, rather, it’s a sincere account of one person’s lifelong interest in Buddhist philosophy. I liked it so much I wrote the foreword.

CONFESSIONS OF A BUDDHIST ATHEIST by Stephen Batchelor. A travelogue about the life of Gautama Buddha along with ruminations on what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21 st century. Batchelor travels the roads that Gautama Buddha himself traveled in order to gain a unique insight into the real life of the real person who started Buddhism. Also recommended by the same author Buddhism Without Beliefs , The Awakening of the West , After Buddhism .

THIS IS IT by Alan Watts. It took me a long time to finally read anything by Alan Watts. When I started studying Zen it seemed like the only books on the subject I could find were by DT Suzuki and Alan Watts. DT Suzuki was way too scholarly for me and Watts just seemed like a druggy hippie. I finally read the title essay from this collection around 2009 and was amazed. Watts was really good. I’m still not so sure about DT Suzuki.

ASKING ABOUT ZEN: 108 ANSWERS by Jiho Sargent. A short concise introduction to Zen philosophy and practice by an American woman Zen master who lived and taught in Tokyo, Japan for decades. I never got to meet Jiho, but I really enjoyed her book.

BUDDHISM IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK by Steve Hagen. Another short, concise introduction to Buddhist practice and philosophy by a Minneapolis based teacher in the lineage of Danin Katagiri. We once ate Thai food together. Also recommended by the same author Buddhism Plain and Simple and The Grand Delusion and Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense .

BUDDHAS BEHIND BARS by Rev. Tonen O’Connor. A collection of stories from a Zen prison outreach project conducted by Rev. Tonen O’Connor of the Milwaukee Zen Center. Sometimes a harrowing read, but invaluable.

BUDDHA IS THE CENTER OF GRAVITY by Joshu Sasaki. I didn’t list this on the earlier version of this page because it was impossible to find at a reasonable price. But now someone has put up a PDF, which I’ve linked to. Sasaki’s reputation is kind of in the gutter these days. You can read all about this in Shozan Jack Haubner’s Single White Monk (link above) or just search Sasaki’s name online. I believe that pieces of art are very often far better than their creators. This book may be a great example. It’s a genuinely enlightened piece of writing and I still really like it, in spite of some of the things I’ve heard about the man who wrote it.


DOGEN: TEXTUAL AND HISTORICAL STUDIES edited by Steven Heine. A very good compilation of the latest research about Dogen Zenji, the author of Shobogenzo and founder of Soto style Zen Buddhism in Japan. Heine is a respected scholar and all of his books about Dogen are worth investigating.

DOGEN’S MANUALS OF ZEN MEDITATION by Carl Bielefeldt. This is evidently the only full-length book currently available from one of the best Dogen scholars around. Bielefeldt is one of the few Dogen scholars I ever heard my teacher Gudo Nishijima say nice things about. This book goes into almost ridiculous detail about the origins of his famous piece Fukan Zazengi (Recommending Zazen to All People).

COMMENTARY ON THE SONG OF AWAKENING by Kodo Sawaki, translated by Tonen O’Connor. Kodo Sawaki wrote a number of books in Japanese, the most famous of which is called Zen and Satori . This is the only one of Sawaki’s books currently available in English. It was translated by Tonen O’Connor, retired abbot of the Milwaukee Zen Center, from the French edition. She consulted with the estate of Kodo Sawaki to make sure her English version matched the original Japanese as closely as possible. This is not an easy book, but it gives great insight into Sawaki’s ideas about Zen Buddhism.

GOTAMA BUDDHA by Hajime Nakamura. Amazon now lists this book, which was published just fourteen years ago, at over $900. That’s a ridiculous price and no one should ever buy it for that much. Once it goes back to a normal price, I highly recommend it. This is probably the most reliable book you’ll ever find about the man who started it all, our good friend Mr. Buddha. It’s not an easy read, but Nakamura is extremely thorough and his scholarship is first rate. Also recommended by the same author Gotama Buddha Vol. 2

THE HISTORICAL BUDDHA by H.W. Schumann. This is almost as good as Nakamura’s book but much shorter and easier to read. Plus it still sells for a reasonable price. Another historical overview of the guy who started it all.

FUNDAMENTAL WISDOM OF THE MIDDLE WAY by Gudo Wafu Nishijima (with Brad Warner). Nishijima Roshi spent the last years of his life attempting to produce the definitive English translation of Nagarjuna’s 2nd Century CE classic Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. I helped him turn his idiosyncratic prose into standard English. I do not claim that this is the definitive translation of Nagarjuna’s masterwork. It is certainly nothing like the standard translations. Even so, I do believe it is an extremely worthwhile and valuable book on its own. I wish I’d been able to convince Nishijima to issue it as his reflections on Nagarjuna’s work rather than as a translation of it. If he would have, the book would not have taken the highly undeserved and ridiculously over-emotional critical beating it did. Buddhist scholars can be very nasty and extraordinarily petty, including the authors of other Nagarjuna translations. Sad!

LETTERS TO A DEAD FRIEND ABOUT ZEN My latest book was written as a series of letters written to my friend Marky who died of cancer a few years ago. I had known Marky since high school, and we had even shared a house together, yet I had never spoken to him in detail about Zen practice. In this book, I wrote all the things I wanted him to know about this crazy weird practice that I have devoted most of my life to. In a sense, it’s a continuation of Hardcore Zen in that it is intended to explain the basics of Zen practice and philosophy to someone who is very new to them. Also available as an audiobook .

DON’T BE A JERK In this book I rewrote several of Dogen’s 800 year-old essays on Zen practice in my own words. Even though there are several excellent English translations of Dogen’s works, they tend to be written for academics or for people already steeped in the deep study of ancient Asian philosophy. But Dogen wasn’t writing for people like that. He was writing for anyone interested in looking fearlessly at what life is really all about. I’ve tried to bring that back by making Dogen’s ideas more accessible to contemporary readers without dumbing them down.  NPR liked it! Also available as an audiobook .

IT CAME FROM BEYOND ZEN This is a continuation of Don’t Be a Jerk (DBAJ). I think it’s a little better than DBAJ in the sense that I applied what I learned in writing DBAJ to the essays I looked at in It Came From Beyond Zen. Also available as an audiobook .

HARDCORE ZEN The book that started my career had its origins as a website, which has long ago disappeared, and as a kind of long letter to my then 14 year old nephew Ben. Wisdom Publications heavily edited my original prose, making me sound like a raging punk teenager at times. But it’s still OK. It’s a basic overview of Dogen-style Zen Buddhism. Everybody seems to love the chapter on the Heart Sutra. Also available as an audiobook .

SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! This book goes much more into detail about Dogen’s philosophy. I tried to present what I understood of Shobogenzo from my study of it under the guidance of Gudo Nishijima. There’s now an on-line index of where the various quotations from Shobogenzo can be found. Also available as an audiobook .

ZEN WRAPPED IN KARMA DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE This is my most important book and, as you might expect, the poorest seller of them all. It’s about how all this Zen mysticism fits in with the real world in the 21 st century. It focuses on my own 2007 when my mom and my grandmother died, my wife left me, and I lost my job, all while I was traveling around the country trying to be Mr. Zen Master for the people who needed me to be that.

SEX SIN AND ZEN The third Buddhist precept says, “Do not misuse sexuality,” but what does that really mean? I started practicing Zen and trying to follow its moral code when I was 18, so this is a question I’ve struggled with for pretty much as long as I’ve been a sexually active adult. This book is my answer. What’s yours? Also available as an audiobook .

THERE IS NO GOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU Most of the debate about religion vs. atheism leaves me cold. The giants in the field, people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and even Sam Harris seem to me to be addressing the wrong issues. With this book I tried to focus attention on what I think are the real issues when it comes to whether it makes rational sense to believe in God or not. Also available as an audiobook .

DEATH TO ALL MONSTERS This is another of my novels. It’s my first and concerns my work at Tsuburaya Productions and my life as an American ex-pat in Japan. Gudo Nishijima is a character in the story. It’s a fun and fast-paced comedic adventure novel with some X-Files-ish overtones. The Zen themes are, again, subtle. I had the idea that I’d write books that had just enough sci-fi elements to be accepted by readers of that genre while sneaking little bits of Zen past them.

EIJI TSUBURAYA: MASTER OF MONSTERS I did not write the main text of this book. That part is by August Ragone. But I did pretty much everything else. I conceived the idea, pitched it to Chronicle Books, sourced all of the photographs, wrote all the captions for the photos, cleared the rights for all of the photos (which included an amazingly unpleasant meeting with the LA-based representatives of Toho, the owners of Godzilla), commissioned most of the sidebars and fact-checked the text against Japanese written sources and by speaking directly to the actual people mentioned in the book. I also wrote two sections of the book, the one credited to me and the one credited to Akira Tsuburaya (I interviewed Akira and turned what he said into a first-person account as if Akira had written it himself). It’s the best book you’re gonna find in English about Eiji Tsuburaya, the creator of Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah, Ultraman and a host of other Japanese monstrosities.


I AM THAT by Nisargadatta Maharaj. Nisargadatta Maharaj was just a guy in Mumbai who owned a little cigarette shop. In his 30’s he underwent a spiritual transformation, but instead of founding an ashram or an institution, he went back to his family and his shop. Eventually people heard about his experience and he would sit and talk with them in his apartment above the shop. Some of these talks were tape recorded and turned into this book. To me, Nisargadatta sometimes sounds like a modern-day Dogen, although he comes from a different tradition. I read this book three times all the way through. I’ve only ever done that with one other book, which was Shobogenzo.

THE TEACHINGS OF SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI by David Godman. Ramana Maharshi was a teacher of Advaita Vedanta, a non-dualistic movement in the Hindu tradition. All of his stuff is great, if you ask me. This is probably the easiest book of his teachings to start with if you’re unfamiliar.

CONSCIOUSNESS SPEAKS by Ramesh S. Balsekar. Ramesh Balsekar was a student of Nisargadatta Maharaj and also a teacher to Leonard Cohen. This is probably his most popular book, although he wrote a bunch of other books, which are also worth seeking out. He’s got an interesting take on the nature of reality that I found useful. I also recommend THE FINAL TRUTH by Balsekar.

ROBERT FRIPP: THE BOFFOMUNDO INTERVIEW 1979 by Ron Curtiss. Robert Fripp is the guitarist and one of the founding members of King Crimson. Although they’re often classified as “prog rock,” King Crimson have little in common with Yes, or Genesis, or Pink Floyd. Fripp was a student of J.G. Bennett, who was a student of Gudjieff. I know nearly nothing of the philosophies of Bennett and Gurdjieff, but much of the philosophical parts of this long interview with Fripp remind me of things my Zen teachers have said.

MONSTERS ARE ATTACKING TOKYO by Stuart Galbraith IV. This may be the best ever overview of Japanese monster movies and the people that made them. Galbraith traveled to Japan in the 1990’s and interviewed just about everyone involved in the industry. He stayed at my apartment for part of that time. I still feel bad that a mis-communication between us resulted in him having to sit out in front of my place for a few hours shivering in the cold.

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5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read

5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read

Luckily, there are several books that explore this vast subject in great detail.

In this article, we’ve listed down our 5 favorite Zen books which should be read by anyone who’s passionate or wants to learn more about Zen.

5 of the Best Zen Books

1. peace is every step by thich nhat hanh.

Peace is Every Step - Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace is Every Step is considered one of the best Zen books of all time. The book contains mindfulness advice from one of the greatest authorities on Zen, Thich Nhat Hanh .

It is full of useful guidelines and principles for leading a mindful, peaceful life and helping those around you do the same.

What’s truly wonderful about this book is that the author has lived by these guidelines and principles all his life.

Exiled from his native country Vietnam for his participation in the peace movement, Thich Nhat Hanh has since lived in France. He is revered around the world for his teachings and writings on mindfulness.

Though he has authored  several books on Zen  and on the life and teachings of the Buddha, Peace is Every Step deserves a special mention in this list because it presents mindfulness principles in the context of everyday life.

Thich Nhat Hanh acknowledges the sorrows and challenges of modern life, but draws our attention back to the  power of the present moment .

books on zen buddhism

Truly a remarkable book which is a must-read for those who’d like to learn the basic principles of Zen.

Best quote from the book:  “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

Goodreads Rating: 4.3/5 (28,000+ ratings)

Soulful Arogya Rating: 5/5

Order this book on Amazon

Other recommended titles by Thich Nhat Hanh:

  • The Miracle of Mindfulness
  • The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
  • You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

2. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Possibly the most recommended Zen book these days, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind  is a compilation of talks given by Shunryu Suzuki , a renowned Zen master from Japan and the founder of San Francisco Zen Center .

While practicing Zazen meditation , it’s important to approach the subject with a beginner’s mind . And that is the idea Suzuki presents in an eloquent style while demystifying a complex subject like Zen.

Suzuki provides helpful and thought-provoking truths about meditation for anyone who wants to lead a more mindful life.

Best quote from the book:   “What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.”

Goodreads Rating: 4.2 (36,000+ ratings)

Soulful Arogya Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended resource: A detailed review of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

3. The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

The Way of Zen

One of the best books on Zen Buddhism is The Way of Zen by Alan Watts.

Alan Watts saw Zen as “one of the most precious gifts of Asia to the world” and in his groundbreaking book, he introduces Zen philosophy to the world.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the history of Buddhism and Zen, this is the book you should read.

Watts effectively outlines the history of Buddhism, its roots in Vedic philosophy, and its travel through China to Japan.

He also covers the influences of Confucianism and Taoism on Zen and moves on to the growth of the Zen monastic tradition.

Like Zen itself, Alan Watts’ style is simple, straightforward, and devoid of unnecessary jargon.

Best quote from the book: “When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”

Goodreads Rating: 4.2 (16,000+ ratings)

Soulful Arogya Rating: 4/5

Order this book on Amazon

Other recommended titles by Alan Watts:

  • The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
  • Become What You Are

4. The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama (5 Best Zen Books)

Any Zen reading list would be incomplete without a book containing the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

This book is a series of interviews and meetings between Dr. Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama, as His Holiness explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, and illustrates how one can ride through life’s challenges and obstacles to lead a more peaceful, mindful life.

The Dalai Lama discusses in detail the concept of happiness and how happiness is determined by one’s state of mind than by one’s external conditions and circumstances.

Best quote from the book:  “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Goodreads Rating: 4.2/5 (92,000+ ratings)

5. The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau

The Three Pillars of Zen

A Zen classic by Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen explores three main tenets of Zen — teaching, practice, and enlightenment.

This book was published way back in 1965 and was one of the few books at the time to examine Zen as a way of living rather than a philosophy.

Though not as comprehensive and detailed as other books in this list, Kapleau’s passion for the subject and his enthusiasm to share insights on Zen is remarkable.

Best quote from the book: “If you fall into poverty, live that way without grumbling – then your poverty will not burden you. Likewise, if you are rich, live with your riches. All this is the functioning of Buddha-nature. In short, Buddha-nature has the quality of infinite adaptability.”

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 (6,000+ ratings)

Soulful Arogya Rating: 3.5/5

A Few More Zen Books to Add to Your Reading List

Zen is a complex subject and as is the case with all complex subjects, you simply can’t get enough of them.

So here are a few more books we’d recommend you read:

  • An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki
  • The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo by Kodo Sawaki
  • Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Toole
  • Zen: The Path of Paradox by Osho

So these are the books we’d recommend to people who are interested to learn more about Zen.

What books would you recommend?

Do you have a favorite that we missed out in this list?

Let us know in the comments section.

If you liked this article, please share it on Twitter using the link below:

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Dec 6, 2016 and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness.

Interested to learn more about Zen philosophy, teachings, and practice? Check out these links below:

  • Zen Meditation Techniques for Beginners
  • A Collection of Zen Stories
  • Soulful Arogya’s Zen Archives

5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read


Only a true “p.g. wodehouse” fan can get 13/15 on this quiz, 75 of the greatest p.g. wodehouse quotes to lighten your mood, book review: how to relax by thich nhat hanh.

This is a lovely list. Glad to have read the 1st and 4th book on it.

This quote by HH Dalai Lama stood out for me the most: “The purpose of your life is to seek happiness.”

If we can figure out that happiness and peace are a result of what we experience from within, we will live much calmer lives.

Adding the books I haven’t read to my TBR list for 2017.

Thanks, Vishal. Hope you enjoy the remaining books in the list. ?

[…] The Essential Zen Reading List: 5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read – Peace is Every Step is considered one of the best Zen books of all time … While practicing Zazen meditation, it’s important to approach the subject with a beginner’s mind. And that is … […]

[…] The Essential Zen Reading List: 5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read […]

[…] The Essential Zen Reading List: 5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read – When we first start practicing Zen meditation, there is this voracious curiosity … If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the history of Buddhism and Zen, this is the book you should read. … […]

[…] featured Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind in 5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read. It’s now time to discuss this iconic book in […]

toehold on zen is a lovely book by jeffrey swann, illustrated by ekon

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. The Spirit of Zen.

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7 Best Zen Books of All Time

Our goal : Find the best Zen books according to the internet (not just one random person's opinion).

  • Type "best zen books" into our search engine and study the top 5+ pages.
  • Add only the books mentioned 2+ times.
  • Rank the results neatly for you here! 😊 (It was a lot of work. But hey! That's why we're here, right?)

(Updated 2023)

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  • Best Zen Books

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Informal talks on zen meditation and practice.

Shunryu Suzuki

The Three Pillars of Zen

Teaching, practice, and enlightenment.

Philip Kapleau Roshi

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

A collection of zen and pre-zen writings, the way of zen, everyday zen.

Charlotte J. Beck

An Introduction to Zen Buddhism

D. T. Suzuki

Each Moment Is the Universe

Zen and the way of being time.

Dainin Katagiri

  • 5 Best Zen Books Everyone Should Read
  • Reading List - Zen Studies
  • Zen books
  • 5 Powerful Books On Zen Buddhism to Gain a New Perspective on Life | by Peter Burns | Mind Cafe | Medium
  • Top 10 Books on Zen Buddhism - Watkins MIND BODY SPIRIT Magazine

What are the top buddhism books, especially about zen, that have been penned down by Paul Harrison?

An exploration into the top zen books will inevitably lead you to Paul Harrison. His work, which focuses heavily on zen and Buddhism, has earned him a place as one of the most respected authors in the field. His books delve into the practice of meditation, exploring life through the lens of buddhist teachings, and even provide great examples for beginners. One of his best books is "Zen Mind, Zen Life", which is a perfect fusion of zen practice and real-life application.

How can I find the best zen books to read?

You can explore the best books on Zen Buddhism through a books menu available on various online platforms. The menu lists top zen books, and you can review views from other readers to decide which one is best for you. Remember to check the price before you buy.

What makes a book on zen and Buddhism good to read?

A good book about Zen Buddhism should guide you on how to practice mindfulness in your daily life. It should have teachings from great Zen Buddhist teachers, authors like Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Harrison, and include examples of how to meditate. The book should be a min read, yet comprehensive enough to delve into the mind and life of a Buddha.

What's the significance of "Mind Cafe" in the world of Zen books?

Mind Cafe is a hub for Zen enthusiasts and authors. It offers a mind-blowing array of zen books which are masterpieces in their own right. The authors, like Paul Harrison and Koshin, contribute their understanding and life experiences of zen practice which makes the books an excellent read for both beginners and advanced practitioners.

What are some of the greatest Zen Buddhism books?

"The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma" by Nyogen Senzaki and "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki are two of the best books in Zen Buddhism. They capture the essence of Zen practice, mindfulness, and meditation, and are considered by many as the greatest contribution to Zen literature.

Where can I get the best zen books written by Buddhist teachers?

You can find the best zen books written by Buddhist teachers from various online platforms. They offer a review view of each book, so you can make an informed decision before buying. Don't forget to check the price to ensure it fits within your budget.

Who are some of the top authors of Zen Buddhism books?

Some of the top authors of Zen Buddhism books are Nyogen Senzaki, Koshin, Lama Surya Das, and of course, Paul Harrison. These authors have dedicated their life to the study, practice, and teaching of Zen, offering invaluable insights and teachings through their books.

What should I look for when buying a Zen book?

When buying a Zen book, look for the author's experience and knowledge in Zen Buddhism. The book should provide practical teachings on meditation, life lessons, and the ways of the Buddha. It should be a good read, captivating you from start to end, and leave you with a better understanding of Zen practice.

Can you recommend some zen books for beginners?

For beginners, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki and "The Three Pillars of Zen" by Roshi Philip Kapleau are great choices. These zen books offer a gentle introduction to the principles of Zen Buddhism and meditation, making them ideal for those new to the practice.

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Mindful Zen

Curious About Zen Buddhism? 15 Of The Best Books To Enlighten You

Establishing equanimity is essential for us to become the happiest version of ourselves. 

By reading books on Zen Buddhism, you can better understand the teachings of this philosophy and learn to live in the present moment to find peace within. 

Apply the teachings to your own life, and you will discover myriad benefits for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. 

There are many excellent books written about this ancient spiritual tradition, and we will review fifteen of the best Zen Buddhism books.

A Brief Primer on Zen Buddhism

Why you should read zen buddhism books, 1. the heart of the buddha’s teaching: transforming suffering into peace, joy, and liberation by thich nhat hanh, 2. no-nonsense buddhism for beginners: clear answers to burning questions about core buddhist teachings by noah rasheta, 3. zen mind, beginner’s mind: 50th anniversary edition kindle edition by shunryu suzuki , 4. the way of zen by alan w. watts, 5. zen training: methods and philosophy by katsuki sekida .

  • 6. You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh 

7. The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment by Philip Kapleau Roshi 

8. the mirror of zen: the classic guide to buddhist practice by zen master so sahn authored by boep joeng , 9. the essence of buddha: the path to enlightenment by ryuho okawa, 10. the complete book of zen paperback by wong kiew kit  , 11. wake up: how to practice zen buddhism kindle edition by bonnie myotai treace , 12. peace is every step: the path of mindfulness in everyday life paperback by thich nhat hanh, 13. everyday zen: love and work by charlotte j. beck, 14. inner revolution by robert thurman , 15. a new buddhist path: enlightenment, evolution, and ethics in the modern world by david r. loy  , final thoughts.

Zen Buddhism is a form of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasizes the experience of enlightenment, or satori, through the practice of meditation . 

The goal of Zen meditation is to still the mind and allow the practitioner to see things clearly, without the distorting effects of thoughts and emotions. 

According to a definition published on the BBC website, “The essence of Zen Buddhism is achieving enlightenment by seeing one’s original mind (or original nature) directly; without the intervention of the intellect.”

Some popular Zen Buddhism tenets include:

  • There is no self.
  • Everything is constantly changing.
  • Attachment is the source of suffering.
  • Everything in the universe is connected.
  • Our logic is misguided.
  • Be present and mindful.
  • Fully experience each moment.

You may think Zen philosophy is too complex or deep to understand. However, books on Zen can introduce the core concepts of Eastern philosophy in a clear and accessible manner to Western readers.

Reading Zen Buddhist books can improve your awareness, help you gain a deeper understanding of the world, and empower you to develop a nuanced understanding of human nature.

If you’re looking for the best Zen book to improve your mind and make sense of the world around you, pick up one of the titles listed here.

In today’s fast-paced and turbulent world, these contemplative books are more valuable than ever.

Here are some reasons you’ll enjoy reading our handpicked selection:

  • They can help you live in the present moment and appreciate life more.
  • These books can help you accept things you cannot change.
  • They can help you connect to others and the meaning of life.

We constantly strive for more in today’s world, but sometimes more isn’t enough to be happy.

Our happiness depends on acquiring a clear mind and a calm heart. 

15 of the Best Books on Zen Buddhism

There are many uplifting and life-changing books on Zen Buddhism, and here are fifteen that we believe are among the best. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner, these books will help deepen your understanding and practice of Zen Buddhism. 

Select those whose themes resonate with your spiritual aspirations and interests.

books on zen buddhism

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching provides an in-depth exploration of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and peace activist, writes in an engaging style. He is a world-renowned Buddhist teacher, poet, and peace activist who has written more than one hundred books on mindfulness and meditation. 

He lives in Plum Village, his spiritual community in France, and leads international retreats throughout the year. His teachings are easy to understand and apply to everyday life. 

This book will inform you about how to practice dharma and meditation and turn suffering into peace, joy, and liberation.

books on zen buddhism

No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners provides readers with a clear and straightforward guide to understanding the basics of Buddhism. 

As an educational tool, it provides plenty of “aha” moments and deep insights as you leaf through the pages. 

It explains esoteric concepts, like karma and rebirth, and delves into the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path principles. 

books on zen buddhism

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind introduces Zen Buddhism to a wide audience. Even though Suzuki Roshi’s masterwork covers Zen basics such as zazen posture, bowing, intent, and other practices, it is not just for Zen practitioners. 

Ranked as one of the top five Buddhist books, it skillfully explains concepts like non-attachment, emptiness, and enlightenment.

books on zen buddhism

The Way of Zen is a helpful book to learn about Zen Buddhism from a Western perspective.

Watts had a knack for translating Eastern disciplines into modern Western languages. He followed Buddhism through the early Mahayana school and explains the evolution of Zen. 

He anticipates his audience’s stumbling blocks with concepts like emptiness and no-mind from the Western perspective and illuminates them.

books on zen buddhism

Zen Training offers many opportunities to learn more about Zen Buddhism.

With 60 years of experience as a lay teacher in zazen, Sekida provides detailed and progressive information on breathing, posture, distractions, actions of the mind, physiology, moods, laughter, Kenshō, and samadhi. 

There are interesting tidbits of information in each chapter that are easy to digest.

]Zen practice is taught practically, emphasizing concentration and seriousness of spirit while also acknowledging the value of having a sense of humor and enjoying life.

6. You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh  

books on zen buddhism

You Are Here is a treasury of dharma. This book offers several effective practices for cultivating mindfulness, including breathing, walking, listening deeply, and speaking skillfully. 

This world-renowned Zen monk teaches the simplicity of living in the present moment by practicing mindfulness. 

This spiritual practice allows you to witness life’s wonder and transform your suffering into compassion, tenderness, and peace. Since the energy of mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha, anyone can experience it.

books on zen buddhism

The Three Pillars of Zen is a comprehensive guide to Zen Buddhism, written by the founder of the Rochester Zen Center, Philip Kapleau Roshi. 

Roshi provides an overview of Zen’s three pillars — teaching, practice, and enlightenment — and shares his own experiences as a student and teacher to give readers invaluable advice on developing their own practices. 

His remarkable book is an informative and insightful read into the world of Zen Buddhism.

books on zen buddhism

The Mirror of Zen is a classic guide to Buddhist practice. This book is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about Zen Buddhism and the teachings of Zen Master So Sahn. 

The Mirror of Zen provides clear and concise instructions on meditating, living a virtuous life, and finding peace within oneself.

Boep Joeng’s writing is clear and easy to understand, and he provides a wealth of information on the history and philosophy of Zen Buddhism. 

Not only is The Mirror of Zen an excellent introduction to Zen Buddhism for beginners, but it also contains valuable insights for experienced practitioners.

books on zen buddhism

The Essence of Buddha is a wonderful book that offers a contemporary interpretation of the way to enlightenment in simple language. 

Written by a highly revered Japanese spiritual leader, the book explains Buddhism clearly and in accessible terms, including self-reflection, karma, reincarnation, and other teachings of the Buddha. 

Okawa clearly describes esoteric Buddhist themes like the journey to enlightenment, the eightfold path, the six paramitas, the void concept, causality laws, and human perfection. 

This volume is extremely informative and enlightening. It will clarify many things about Buddhism for you and open your eyes to the beauty of this ancient philosophy.

books on zen buddhism

The Complete Book of Zen is a superb book for those looking to learn about the history and principles of Zen Buddhism. 

It is filled with beautiful illustrations and clear explanations of the concepts behind Zen. Master Wong Kiew Kit also makes this complex topic easy to understand, and his exercises provide a valuable physical and spiritual experience of Zen.

books on zen buddhism

Wake Up is the perfect place to start if you are simply curious about Zen Buddhism. Bonnie Myotai Treace does a fantastic job explaining the basics of the practice, as well as how to apply it to your daily life. 

Treace discusses Zen Buddhism’s simple practices for increasing awareness and mindfulness, and she never assumes you have any prior knowledge of the practice. You’ll find plenty of information that can help deepen your understanding and practice. 

She takes the time to explain everything in detail, making it accessible for beginners, and you’ll still enjoy if even if you’re not new to Zen Buddhism.

books on zen buddhism

Peace Is Every Step shares insights on how to live a more mindful life. If you’re looking for a way to live a more peaceful and content life, then you’ll find it in this book. 

Thich Nhat Hanh argues that peace is easier to experience than we think. It’s simply all about living in the present moment and staying mindful of your surroundings.

It can be easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but this book will teach you to find peace in small things. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, a world-renowned Zen master and spiritual leader, has written many books on mindfulness and peaceful living, and this is one of his most popular.

It’s filled with helpful tips and advice on how to stay in the present moment, find peace in everyday tasks, and deal with stress and anxiety.

books on zen buddhism

Everyday Zen is an excellent introduction to Zen Buddhism and its practical applications in daily life. The book is written for “ordinary people” and explores how to live each moment fully by using Zen principles.

It speaks about ultimate matters with the utmost simplicity. You’ll find this extraordinary book both informative and inspiring.

Beck supplies a comprehensive overview of Zen Buddhism and its teachings and offers real-world examples of how to apply these teachings in everyday life.

books on zen buddhism

Inner Revolution is a comprehensive examination of our civilization—and it suggests how we can change it for the better. Thurman’s book is a passionate declaration of how the world can be renewed. 

In addition to being a practical primer on one of the most fascinating traditions in the world, Inner Revolution inspires readers to act. It is a clear and concise overview of Zen Buddhism and its application to modern society. 

Thurman shares personal stories and anecdotes to illustrate the points he is making. This engaging book provides valuable insights into how we can work towards inner peace and use our harmony to create positive change in the world.

books on zen buddhism

A New Buddhist Path explores how ancient religious teachings and modern scientific theory can be reconciled. 

His book argues for a synthesis of Buddhistic philosophy and modernist philosophy because he believes it can lead to a more progressive way of thinking about societal problems. 

It’s a thought-provoking read for anyone interested in exploring the relationship between religion and science.

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If you’re interested in Buddhism, finding deeper peace, or exploring the relationship between religion and science, these books are essential reading.

They offer valuable insights into how we can work towards inner peace and create positive changes for ourselves and our shared world.

What is Zen Buddhism? Learn why you should know about it and try reading these best books on Zen Buddhism to enlighten you.

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