Recommended Reading


This is an idiosyncratic listing that like all biographies immediately goes out of date. It includes titles with no Zen pretensions which I find nonetheless useful for my teaching. It includes several dictionaries, some with appendices useful for the serious Zen student who is pursuing language study. You need some Japanese or Chinese to use the basic directories. Entries that begin with Japanese transliteration are in the Japanese or Chinese language. The studies of particular masters have all his cases in one place. These same cases are scattered throughout the literature and should be consulted to get a clear idea of the correct translations. Try your library and its inter-library loan service for out-of-print titles. -RA

Robert Aitken, [Book List].

Robert Aitken, Taking the Path of Zen (North Point). How to do zazen. It includes the autotobiographic essay, "Willy Nilly Zen."

Aitken, Encouraging Words: Zen Buddhist Teachings for Western Students. (Pantheon). It includes the Diamond Sangha Sutra Book, and an extended glossary of Mahayana categories. Aitken has published several other books.

Urs App, Master Yunmen: From the Record of the Chan Master "Gate of the Clouds" (Kodansha International). Yunmen is surely one of the greatest of Zen masters. App's comments can be misleading but the book is useful as a reference.

R.H. Blyth, Haiku. 4 Vols. (Hokuseido) The unfailingly accurate and complete resource with helpful comments.

Blyth, Senryū: Japanese satirical verses (Hokuseido). The only collection--with hilarious illustrations.

Blyth, Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics (Hokuseido). My first book. It introduced me to the Zen perspective and showed me how it can be found in other forms many cultures. It also taught me an effective prose style. Blyth did zazen less than a year, and his comments about Zen are untrustworthy.

Arthur Braverman, Mud and Water: The Teachings of Zen Master Bassui (Wisdom ). An excellent translation of the writings of an important Japanese master who had many lay followers.

Chung-yuan Chang, Original Teachings of Ch'an Buddhism (Pantheon). A scholarly study that is useful as a reference.

Garma Chang, Chang, Garma C. C. The Buddhist Teaching of Totality: The Philosophy of Hwa Yen Buddhism(Pennsylvania State). An early introduction to the Huayan.

Christopher Cleary, Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures (Grove). A useful reference to writings of an important master who had many lay students.

Thomas Cleary, Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-Yen Buddhism (University of Hawaii). An excellent introduction.

Cleary, Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang (Center). A useful source for everything of Baizhang, an important early master.

Cleary, The Book of Serenity ( Lindisfarne). The Shōyōroku, a kōan collection used used by Zen students in their formal study.

Cleary, The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, 3 vols. (Shambhala). The Huayan. A colossal resource for Zen masters from the beginning.

Cleary, Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record (Shambhala). The core of The Blue Cliff Record with most useful comments by Hakuin and Tenkei.

Cleary, Thomas, and Cleary, J. C. The Blue Cliff Record (Shambhala). Used by Zen students in their formal kōan study, a good choice as one's only book for desert island reading.

Francis H. Cook, The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan's Denkoroku (Center). Another collection used by Zen students in their formal kōan study.

Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism (Pennsylvania State). Another useful introduction.

Har Dayal, The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature (Mitilal Banarsidas). All the concepts of Mahayana thought, in categories: Bodhicitta, Dharma, Pāramitā and Bhūmi.

Louis Frédéric, Buddhism (Flammarion Iconographic Guides) (Flammarian). All the images and implements illustrated, described and interpreted.

Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History ( Princeton). Deja vue from a traditional perspective. See above: Francis H. Cook, The Record of Transmitting the Light,p. 89.

Andrew Ferguson, Zen's Chinese Heritage -- The Masters & Their Teachings (Wisdom). It includes a fold-out genealogical map which I have mounted by my desk.

Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker, Roaring Stream (Ecco Companions) (Ecco). A cogently selected anthology with comments that are exactly to the point.

Richard A. Gard, Gard, Richard A. Buddhism. (Braziller). All of the material in Har Dayal's book above, in much more detail and with a different arrangement of catagories. Heavy going,

James Green, The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu (Shambala). A collection of the pre-eminent. Zhaochou.

Seikan Hasegawa, The Cave of Poison Grass (Great Ocean). Essays by a youthful modern master who clarifies some basic Zen terms found in Western literature.

David Hinton, The Four Chinese Classics. (Counterpoint). The master translator presents a precursor of Zen.

Hinton, Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters (Counterpoint). Chuang Tzu a Confucian thinker who is often cited by Zen masters as an important ancestor.

Hinton, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China (New Directions). A beautiful, pertinent anthology.

Victor Hori, Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice(University of Hawaii). The capping phrase is used by some Western masters as the final check of the student's understanding of a kōan.

Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (Vintage). A milestone book, useful to the Zen student who is studying dāna (giving).

Hisao Inagaki, A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms (Heian International). Like any small dictionary it has its limits.

Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment (Beacon). A first Zen book for many Western students, useful for Yasutani Rōshi's long introduction to Zen practice.

Hee-Jin Kim, Dōgen Kigen: Mystical Realist (Arizona). A comprehensive Dōgen handbook.

Kim, Flowers of Emptiness: Selections from Dōgen's Shōbōgezo (Edward Mellon). Very useful.

Thomas Kirchner, Entangling Vines: Koans of the Shūmon Kattōshū ( Institute for Philosophy). A previously un-translated collection, long anticipated.

Kirirchner and Ruth Fuller Sasaki, The Record of Linji (Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture). A revision of Sasaki's earlier text, with extensive scholarly annotations.

Michel H. Kohn, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (Shambhala). Will probably give you the information you need.

Komagata Zenkyō, Sōtōshū Yōten [Essential Texts of the Sōtō Sect] (Honolulu: Sōtōshū). A tiny sutra book with Japanese translations of the original Chinese.

Susanne K. Langer. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (Harvard). Setting forth her terms "presentational" and discursive."

Dan Leighton and Sōhaku Okamura, Dōgen's Extensive Record: The Eihei Koroku (Wisdom). A new and worthy translation of this important collection.

Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal (Parallax). An unbuttoned autobiography that includes deep Huanyan experiences and ruminations.

Isshū Miura and Ruth F. Sasaki, The Zen Koan (Harcourt, Brace & World). The old classic, still very useful.

Asatarō Miyamori, Anthology of Haiku Ancient and Modern (Maruzen). The first such anthology, beautifully illustrated. Miyamori renders the verses in two English lines rather than the traditional three.

Mu Soeng, The Diamond Sutra: Transforming the Way We Perceive the World (Wiisdom). A key sutra for Zen students, with comments

P.G. O'Neill, P.G. Japanese Names: A Comprehensive Index by Characters and Readings (Weatherhill). A fully indexed reference work.

Otobe Kaihō, Kosoku Zenshū Zenmon Kōan Taikan [A Complete Directory of Traditional Zen Kans] (Tokyo: Kokushō Kangyōsha). 5,500 of them!

William F. Powell, The Record of Tung-Shan (Classics in East Asian Buddhism) (University of Hawaii). The sayings and doings of Dongshan, a key Zen ancestor.

Andrew Nelson, The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary (Tuttle). On the desk of every Zen student for whom Zen practice is not just a Sunday pastime.

Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (Grove). Classic Buddhist thought clearly set forth.

Ruth Fuller Sasaki, et al., A Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang (Weatherhill). The earliest Chinese lay master, his wife and grown son and daughter who could show ordained masters a thing or two.

Odell Shepard, The Heart of Thoreau's Journals (Houghton Mifflin). The classic selection of the daily thoughts and doings of the relentlessly human American who knew simple facts of nature and society must be our guidelines, and was altogether good humored about those who clung to complication.

Paul Shepard, Thinking Animals: Animals and the Development of Human Intelligence (Viking). How we retain animals in our figures of speech, and how the extermination of animals would impoverish our language.

Shepherd., The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game (Georgia). How human beings in the Pleistocene knew they were animals, and how subsequent homocentric views evolved into ethnocentrism and wars.

Zenkei Shibayama, Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan (Shambhala). Also consult Robert Aitken. Wu-men Kuan (Mumonkan) (North Point). Part of the sequence of kōan collections used in formal study.

William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms (Kegan Paul). An indispensable reference.

Holly Stevens, ed.. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Knopf). Stevens interests the Western Zen master ore than any other modern poet..

Robert Louis Stevenson, Fables (Charles Scribner's Sons). In Fables, Stevenson touches the dimension where the Zen master works.

Lucian Stryk, Zen Poems Prayers: Sermons, Anecdotes, Interviews (Doubleday). Contains useful references.

D.T. Suzuki, A Miscellany on the Shin Teaching of Buddhism (Kyoto: Shinshūtaniha Shumusho). An excellent introduction to the Pure Land School.

Suzuki, Manual of Zen Buddhism (Eastern Buddhist Society). Very early translations of sutras and other texts into English with an explanation of dōjō procedures.

Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism: First Series (Samuel Weiser). With the publication of this book by Luzac in 1928, Zen burst upon the English speaking world. It was soon translated into other languages. The popular understanding of Zen is still colored by Suzuki's interpretations. He later wrote a second and a third series.

Suzuki, The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk (Eastern Buddhist Society). Life and ritual in the monastery.

Suzuki, Sengai, the Zen Master (New York Graphic Society). Reproductions of the often hilarious paintings by Sengai with a translation of the inscriptions and with comments. Dr. Suzuki wrote a great many other books..

Suzuki Tetsuo, Chūgoku Zenshū Jimmei Sakuin [Directory of Chinese Zen Masters] (Kikudōsha). A valuable resource that places each master in the lineage.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience (Mass Market). Two separate publications bound in one volume. Thoreau used a portion of his journal as a draft of Walden, the story of his experiment in self-sufficient living. He built a little cottage by Walden Pond in Massachusetts, fished and planted a garden. To this day Walden is very popular, and is the "first book" for many adolescents. Civil Disobedience: Resistance to Civil Government is a tract on non-violent anarchism that is a basic text for peace and social justice workers.

Thoreau, The Maine Woods (Penguin). Another work revised by the author from his journal. Some rank this book with Walden.

Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, The Heart of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzo (State University of NY), Two fine scholars collaborate on a study of the Genjōkōan.

Waddell, Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin (Shambhala). A well selected collection.

Waddell, Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei, 1622-1693 (North Point). The saying and doings of a Japanese master who worked almost exclusively with lay students.

Waddell, The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto. (Counterpoint). The sayings and doings of a lay Zen practitioner. Prof. Waddell has written several other important books.

Arthur Waley, Translations From the Chinese (Knopf). The classic collection by a scholar who is renown for his elegant style.

Burton Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi ( Shambhala). Linji is revered as the great founder of the modern-day Rinzai sect.

Watson, The Lotus Sutra (Columbia). An Mahayana sutra that was essential to the development of Zen.

Watson, The Vimalakirti Sutra (Columbia). Another Mahayana sutra about a distinguished lay disciple of the Buddha Shakyama. It includes a hilarious spoof of the male chauvinism of the time.

Thorton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey ( Boni). The famous novel about several people, unknown to each other, who died together when a bridge they were crossing collapsed. It raises many interesting question for the Zen student.

Dale S. Wright, Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism (UK: Cambridge). A fascinating critique of The Zen Teaching of Huang-Po, by John Blofeld and P'ei Hsiu.

Wu Jingrong, The Pinyin Chinese-English Dictionary (Pitman Advanced Publishing). The Pinyin-Wade Giles conversion charts are most useful.

Kōun YAMADA, Gateless Gate: Newly Translated with Commentary (Arizona). A translation of the Wumenguan by the late master of the Sambyōkyōdan.

Philip B. Yampolsky, trans., The Zen Master Hakuin (Columbia). An early but still useful translation and commentary.

Yasutani Haku'un, Jūjūkinkai Dokugo (Five Modes, Three Refuges, Three Pure Precepts, Ten Grave Precepts (Kamakura: Sambōryūkai). The last steps of forma Zen practice.

Katsuhiro Yoshizawa and Norman Waddell, The Religious Art of Zen Master Hakuin (Counterpoint). The great master as artist, with reproductions of his paintings and sculptures. A treasury.

[Content on this page was last updated in 2009, just before Rōshi's death. After that, Papa can only help you in other ways.]