Buddhist Book Group Readings

A List for the Louisville Zen Center

Let me say a little something about reading Zen books…. A lot of people wonder is it appropriate? Zen practice is about direct experience. It’s not reading somebody else’s experience of Zen. Read more….

~ Sensei John Pulleyn

Upcoming Meetings

June 17, 2022, 5:30 – 6:30 PM Eastern

  • Zen: Merging of East and West. Philip Kapleau, Roshi. Anchor, 1989. [Revised edition of: Zen: Dawn in the West. Anchor Press, 1979.] Chosen by Jeanette.


Books We Will Read Soon

  1. The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi. Susan Moon. Shambhala, 2001. Chosen by Anna Belle.
  2. Siddhartha. Herman Hesse. There are many editions of this, including free versions from Project Gutenberg. An article about the book from Tricycle. Chosen by Abu.
  3. Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. Essays by Jane Hirshfield. Harper Perennial, 1998. Interview with the author in Tricycle. Chosen by Jedd.


Zen Books Under Consideration

* = On the RZC Suggested Reading List


  • * Illuminating Silence: Insights on the Path of Chinese Zen. Chinese Zen master Sheng-yen, (John H. Crook, Ed.). Watkins Publishing, 2018.
  • * Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice. Kosho Uchiyama, Roshi, (Jisho Warner, Shohaku Okumura, & Thomas Wright, eds.). Wisdom Publications; revised, expanded edition, 2004.
  • The Practice of Zen. Zhenji Zhang. Greenwood Press, 1978, ©1959. Recommended by Larry.
  • * Taking the Path of Zen. Robert Aitken, Roshi. North Point Press, 1982.
  • * The Way of Korean Zen. Master Kusan Sunim, (Martine Batchelor, tr. & Stephen Batchelor, ed.). Weatherhill, 2009.

Lectures & Essays

  • Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot. Soyen Shaku. Translated by D.T. Suzuki. Three Leaves, 2004. Recommended by Abu.
  • * Zen: Tradition and Transition. Kenneth Kraft, ed. Grove Press, 1994.


  • Footprints in the Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. Sheng Yen. Random House, 2008. Recommended by Larry. Note: may be hard to get.


  • Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time. Dainin Katagiri. Shambhala, 2008. Recommended by Meredith.

Daily Life

  • Essential Chan Buddhism: The Character and Spirit of Chinese Zen. Guo Jun. Monkfish Book Publishing, 2013. Suggested by Anna Belle.
  • * Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks. Gary Thorp. Walker Books, 2000.

Monastic & Religious Life

  • The Empty Mirror : Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery. Janwillem van de Wetering. Houghton Mifflin, 1974. Recommended by Meredith.
  • Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality. Brad Warner. Wisdom Publications, 2015. Suggested by Mike.
  • The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life. John Tarrant. Harper Perennial, 1999. Suggested by Anna Belle.
  • Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Thich Nhat Hanh. Bantam Books, 1991. Recommended by Abu.
  • The Practice of Perfection: The Paramitas from a Zen Buddhist Perspective. Robert Aitken. Counterpoint, 1997. Recommended by Larry.
  • The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea. Robert Buswell, Princeton University Press, 1993. Recommended by Jeanette.


  • Zen At War. Brian Daizen Victoria. 2nd ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. Suggested by Mike.


  • Zen Baggage : a Pilgrimage to China. Bill Porter. Counterpoint, 2008. Recommended by Judd.

Socially Engaged Zen

  • Red Thread Zen: Humanly Entangled in Emptiness. Susan Murphy. Counterpoint, 2016. Recommended by Jeanette.

Zen Teaching Classics


Buddhist Books Under Consideration


  • * Buddhism: A Concise Introduction. Huston Smith & Philip Novak. HarperOne, reprint edition, 2004.
  • * Buddhism: A Way of Life and Thought. Nancy Wilson Ross. Knopf, 1980.

Early Buddhist Texts

  • * Dhammapada. Buddha, (Eknath Easwaran, tr.). Nilgiri Press, 2nd edition, 2007.
  • The Way of the Bodhisattva. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Shambhala, 2nd edition, 2006. Recommended by Larry.


  • * Being Dharma: The Essence of the Buddha’s Teaching. Ajahn Chah. Shambhala, 2001. Theravada Buddhism.
  • The Buddha Is Still Teaching: Contemporary Buddhist Wisdom. Jack Kornfield. Shambala, 2010. Snippets from other books. Recommended by Judd.
  • Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom. Joseph Goldstein. Shambhala, 2003. Eryl Kubicka used this book as her primary source for the December 2020 online sesshin.
  • * Mindfulness in Plain English. Bhante Gunaratana. Wisdom Publications, 2011. Theravada Buddhism.
  • The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works. Shinzen Young. Sounds True, 2016. On mindfulness. Suggested by Mike.


  • Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master. Amy Schmidt. BlueBridge, 2005. Recommended by Anna Belle


  • * Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression – An Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism. Taigen Dan Leighton. Wisdom Publications, 2012. Recommended by Larry.

Compassion and Metta

  • A Fearless Heart : How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives. Thupten Jinpa. Avery Pub Group, 2016. Recommended by Anna Belle
  • Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Sharon Salzberg. Shambala, 1995/2002.
  • Commentaries on Lojong (The Seven Point Mind Training) – Larry favorites:
    • The Intelligent Heart: A Guide to the Compassionate Life. Dzigar Kongtrul; forward by Pema Chodron. Shambhala, 2016. (“I love the accessibility of Kongrul Rinpoche’s writings, his fluency in Western issues, and his practicality.”)
    • The Heart of Compassion: The Thirty-seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva. Dilgo Khyentse. Shambhala, 2007. Available as a stand-alone volume and also in Vol. 1 of The Collected Works­. (“Dilgo Khyentse was one of a handful of truly towering spiritual beings to take human form in the 20th century; reading anything of his works imparts inspiration and blessings.”)
    • Buddhism With an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind Training. B. Alan Wallace. Snow Lion, reprint edition, 2003. (“Slightly drier and more scholarly than some, still very practical.”)
    • The Practice of Lojong: Cultivating Compassion through Training the Mind. Traleg Kyabgon. Shambhala, 2007. (“My copy has a lot of passages underlined, and I have enjoyed revisiting it.”)

Daily Life

  • Getting Unstuck. Pema Chödrön. Sounds True, 2005. Audio & CD. Recommended by Larry.
  • * When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Pema Chödrön. Shambhala, 20th anniversary edition, 2016. Recommended by Chloe. Tibetan Buddhism.


  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Sogyal Rinpoche. HarperCollins, 1992. Recommended by Iriz.


  • Mindfully Facing Climate Change. Bhikkhu Analayo. Independently published, 2019. It’s available to purchase in book format or there is a free PDF version. Recommended by Alan based on an AZC email.


  • Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom. Rick Hanson, Richard Mendius and Daniel Siegel. New Harbinger Publications, 2009. Recommended by Alan.
  • Going to Pieces without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness. Mark Epstein. Harmony, 1999. Recommended by Chloe.
  • True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. Tara Brach. Bantam, 2013. Recommended by Judd.
  • The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology. Jack Kornfield. Bantam, 2008.


  • A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism. Pamela Weiss. North Atlantic Books, 2020. Suggested by Anna Belle after listening to a podcast episode with the author.
  • * Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master. Amy Schmidt. BlueBridge, 2005. Recommended by Anna Belle

Writing & Buddhism

  • Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing. Charles Johnson. ‎ Scribner, 2007. Recommended by Jedd.

From the Rochester Zen Center


  • Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication. Oren Jay Sofer. Shambhala, 2018. Recommended by Alan.

The Hidden Lamp: Stories Read

From The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. Florence Caplow and Susan Moon. Wisdom Publications, 2013.

  • “Chiyono’s No Water No Moon” and reflection by Merle Kodo Boyd. Pages 37-40. Two teishos by Amala Sensei on this story: Oct. 2018 in Rochester and Nov. 2020 in Auckland. Read for Jan. 22, 2021.
  • “The Old Woman’s Rice Cakes.” Pages 256-259 in The Hidden Lamp. Note: Roshi discusses this encounter in his teisho of January 12, 2013. Read for Feb. 19, 2021.
  • “Lingzhao’s Helping.” The first story in part 4 (“The Path of Practice”) in The Hidden Lamp. Read for March 19, 2021.
  • “Maylie Scott Meets Loneliness.” A story in part 2 (“Bring Me a Mustard Seed”). Read for April 16, 2021.
  • “Bhikkhuni Kabilsingh Keeps the Precepts.” #90. Read for May 21, 2021
  • “Satsujo Weeps.” #50. Read for June 18, 2021.
  • “Satsujo Sits on the Lotus Sutra.” #72 in The Hidden Lamp. Read for July 16, 2021.
  • “Satsujo Overcomes Hakuin.” Read for Aug. 20, 2021.
  • “Songyeong Doesn’t Undress.” #95. Read for Sept. 17, 2021
  • “The Woman in Samadhi.” #17. Read for Oct. 15, 2021

Books Already Read

  • What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada. Walpola Rahula. Grove Press, 1994. On RZC list. Read for June 5, 2020.
  • Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Robert Wright. Simon & Schuster, 2017. Read for June 5, 2020.
  • Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. Tara Brach. Bantam, 2003. Read for July 3, 2020.
  • Mindful of Race : Transforming Racism From the Inside Out. Ruth King. Sounds True, 2018.
  • Finding Your Seat: A Zen Handbook. Amala Wrightson, Kathryn Argetsinger. Auckland Zen Centre, 2020.
  • Buddha. Karen Armstrong. Viking Penguin, 2001.
  • Tracking Bodhidharma: A Journey to the Heart of Chinese Culture. Andy Ferguson. Counterpoint, 2013. Read for Nov. 13, 2020.
  • Cave in the Snow : A Western Woman’s Quest for Enlightenment. Vicki Mackenzie. Bloomsbury, 1998. Read for Nov. 13, 2020.
  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Shunryu Suzuki. Weatherhill, 1970. (There’s also a 2020 50th anniversary edition.) Read for Dec. 18, 2020.
  • The First Rule of Ten. (Tenzing Norbu mystery series no. 1). Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay. Hay House Visions, 2012. Read for Dec. 18, 2020.
  • Novice to Master: An Ongoing Lesson in the Extent of My Own Stupidity. Soko Morinaga. Wisdom, 2002. Suggestion inspired by Trueman’s Dharma talk 1 and Dharma talk 2 of Sept. 2020. Read for Jan. 22, 2021.
  • How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment. Dogen, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. Shambhala, 2005. Read for Feb. 19, 2021.
  • The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. Robert Aitken. North Point Press, 4th ed., 1984. Read for March 19, 2021.
  • Therigatha. Read for April 16, 2021.
    • The First Buddhist Women: Translations and Commentary on the Therigatha. Susan Murcott. Parallax Press, 1991.
    • Therigatha: Selected Poems of the First Buddhist Women. Charles Hallisey. Harvard University Press, 2015.
    • Eight Dharma Talks by Gil Fronsdal and Meg Gawler of the Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, California. Related: Ninth Dharma Talk by Gil Fronsdal about the Therigatha-based statuary at his Center.
  • Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong. Norman Fischer. Shambhala, 2013. Read for May 21, 2021.
  • Minding the Earth, Mending the World: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis. Susan Murphy. Counterpoint, 2014. Read for June 18, 2021.
  • The Three Pillars of Zen. Philip Kapleau. Read for July 16 and August 20, 2021.
  • World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Planetary Renewal. Joanna Macy. Parallax Press. 30th Anniversary Edition, 2021. Read for Sept. 17, 2021.
  • Silent Illumination: A Chan Buddhist Path to Natural Awakening. Guo Gu. Shambhala, 2021. See also: videos of Guo Gu. Read for Nov. 19 and Dec. 17, 2021.Some Guo Gu resources recommended by members:
  • A Tale for the Time Being. Ruth Ozeki. Viking, 2013. See also: “Confessions of a Zen Novelist.” Read for March 18, 2022.
  • Ordinary Wonder: Zen Life and Practice. Charlotte Joko Beck. Edited by Brenda Beck Hess. Shambhala, 2021. Read for April 22, 2022. Related to this, on YouTube there are:
    1. A 30 minute documentary (recommended by Anna Belle)
    2. Source & Summary of Her Teaching” (8 minutes; recommended by Anna Belle)
    3. A YouTube playlist of her talks