Best Books on Zen Buddhism

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As a religious branch, Zen Buddhism has garnered the interest of generations of people. There are many regions all across the globe, where it is widely practiced and followed by a large array of devotees. Many readers can have the urge to know more about Zen Buddhism and it is only natural for them to seek books which serve this purpose. 

So, over here, we have compiled a list of the best books on Zen Buddhism and offer them to you for your consideration. We hope that you will find these books useful for the said purpose. 

7 Best Books on Zen Buddhism & Reviews

1. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Author: Shunryu Suzuki 

Publisher: Shambhala

Pages: 181

With a gap of more than 40 years from today to the time when it was first published, this book has made a huge impact on readers. The book is highly revered and loved by a classic readership and highly recommended for its absolute brilliance. The book isn’t the most voluminous edition on Zen Buddhism but preserves the ideals intact in its few pages. 

This book is among the most favored books on Zen Buddhism. In a handful of words, the author has delivered a handful of teachings which are very useful for the reader. Given the novelty of the topic, it is easy for a learner to miss out on the important aspects of it. But, the author ensures that the manner in which he depicts his words are absorbed well by the readers. So, from the very first page, it is possible to start locating the teachings of the system and that happens to be just the beginning! 

The book is structured to elucidate on each matter with intricate crispness and accuracy. This is why the book is much loved by the readers! Every section of the book is remarkably clear and bursting with knowledge on the subject. Time and again, the reader can pick up this book for inspiration. 

Summary: This book is highly recommended to read by several practicing monks and ardent learners. Thus, the profound knowledge of the book will prove to be of much use to its readers.

2. The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment

Author: Philip Kapleau Roshi

Publisher: Anchor

Pages: 480

The perfect guidance to spiritual awareness and realization, this book is a comprehensive one on Zen Buddhism. The author has traversed the teachings across the three pillars of Zen. So it includes practice, teaching and enlightenment. Presented in the book are the personal accounts of the author about his experiences as a student and a teacher. Through this medium, he hopes to be able to deliver some guidance on how the reader can develop their practice. 

Also, in this new edition of the book, the author gives the readers a chance to develop their awareness to absorb greater knowledge. The book also includes several illustrations and photos, which enlighten the interest of the reader. So, there is no dearth of imagery in the book to understand the concept of Zen Buddhism. This eye-opening work of the author is bound to catch the attention of many. 

Summary: The reader will find it interesting to read this timeless classic and revel in its joyful glory. But the work is written quite well, making it worthy of spending time on. 

3. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings

Author: Paul Reps 

Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

Pages: 211

It is interesting to know that this book dates back to the year 1957. Even after so many years of being written by the author, the book continues to remain a hit among readers. As it is, even when the book was released, it gained a place of prominence among readers who were just starting their journey in Zen Buddhism. So, it is not hard to comprehend why the book has deemed to inspire so many teachers and students throughout these years. 

So, this book is basically a collection of various Zen teachings. Each of the collections offered for reading in the book is accessible to the reader through clear and concise words. So, the readers will not find themselves struggling to grasp the meaning of Zen on their own with the help of this book. In this book, they will find over 101 stories on Zen, collected over a period of five centuries. 

Summary: This book includes many useful learnings for readers who want to gain knowledge of Zen Buddhism. So, enlightenment is on its way for those who are willing to sprawl their gaze over the pages of this book. 

4. Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time

Author: Dainin Katagiri

Publisher: Shambhala

Pages: 256

This is a unique book on Zen teachings, portrayed from a unique angle. The author begins by speaking about time, a crucial commodity, which is perhaps precious to each and every one. The notion about spending it is what the author lays his focus on. But, he claims that many people easily consider time as an enemy if they are unable to make complete utilization of it. Thus, the author goes on to explain how the Zen view of time is different. He explains how time is our life and how it is not something that is separate from us. 

The author believes that with this knowledge, a reader can substantially live a free and fulfilling life. So, the reader will find many denotations of time in this book, displayed from the Zen perspective. But the author claims that an understanding of this feature will allow the reader to widen his gaze in life. 

Summary: It can be a life-changing experience for a reader to come across these teachings and be able to implement them in his daily life. So, it is clearly worthwhile to read this book and learn from it. 

5. Everyday Zen: Love and Work

Author: Charlotte J. Beck

Publisher: Harper One

Pages: 240

It is believed that Charlotte J. Beck is one of the most popular teachers of Zen. Being penned by him, it is not wrong to expect this book to be a masterpiece. In its true essence, the author does make an attempt to guide the reader about different elements of his life. This includes love, relationships, work and life. But the author humbly requests the reader to examine the power of living in the present. 

This warm and engaging book is written in a unique fashion with an enlightening approach so that the reader is able to deal with the problems that he faces on a daily basis. Included in the book is an interview with the author as well, which is further a breakthrough for the average reader, seeking answers to many valid questions. 

Summary: The reader is bound to enjoy reading this book because it is full of revelations and truths, which are often overlooked on a routine basis. 

6. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind

Author: Maura O’Halloran 

Publisher: Charles E. Tuttle Company

Pages: 320

This book is the daunting journey of the author, from the time that she left her usual job and decided that she wanted to begin learning about Zen. The author was 24 years of age when she left her job. She used to work as a waitress in a famous hub in Boston. While at work, she realized that she wanted to give up on her job and progress in her learning of Zen. It was then that she left for Japan, where she completed her learning of Zen Buddhism. 

Since then, she has been revered as a saint of Buddhism and to commemorate her lifetime, a statue was erected in her memory at a monastery where she used to live. This book is an entire account of her journey and how she traced her journey all those years. But to the reader, the entire account might come forward as a huge motivation and inspiration, which is why reading this book might prove to be a reward. 

Summary: The reader is most likely to find it interesting to read this personal account by the author. But it can appear to drag a bit!

7. The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin

Author: Norman Waddell

Publisher: Shambhala Publications

Pages: 137

This book is an elucidation of the teachings of Hakuin, who was a dynamic teacher in Zen. He was also an artist and fiery personality, and thus, he made a major impact in the mind of people. Belief has it that he revolutionized the teachings of Zen among the masses but this was after almost three hundred years of its decline.

In this book, the reader will discover how his special emphasis was on Koan practice and how he invented many of them himself. The textbook is an excellent introduction into his thoughts and the ways of his teachings. Therefore, this book is an absolute must for someone who is looking to gain knowledge of Zen teachings. 

Summary: The reader is likely to appreciate the directional approach of the book and the manner in which the author prescribes his teachings to the reader. So, it is not hard to keep up with the flow. 

In Conclusion

With this, we complete our list of the best books on Zen Buddhism. There are only a handful of books which are as popular in this field as these. So, we have selected them rather carefully to ensure that you get a chance to read the best on the topic! 

If you happen to have read something more interesting on the topic, do share it with us below.

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