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Good Eastern Books

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ~Charles W. Eliot

Also See: Yoga | Health | Visionary | Spirituality | Conscious Living Books

Buddha's Brain

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius

We have often been told that by altering our thoughts, deeds and words, we can create a happier, more fulfilled life. This book, at the intersection between psychology, neuroscience, and Buddhism, offers effective methods to show us how to live such a life by being fully present in the moment.

This book is very informative, with helpful summaries at the end of each chapter. The authors’ writing, even when explaining the intricacies of neuroscience, is infused with humor and fun to read. This is a good working manual to help us to become who we already are, and an important contribution to the growing body of knowledge on the relationship between mind, brain, and consciousness.

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The Essential Gandhi

The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas
by Mahatma Gandhi, Louis Fischer, M.K. Gandhi and Gandhi

This is a book that should- and will- profoundly affect you. On the one hand it’s wonderful and inspiring. But I find myself instead feeling heart-broken. I grieve for an alternate reality where our leaders have either the education, curiosity, wisdom, or courage to embrace the lessons of great people such as Gandhi.

With this book and the writings that are on his official website, you will have all the information you will ever need. One thing to keep in mind, that many people seem to forget, is that Gandhi was a normal man like you and me. He made mistakes just like every other man, but had the courage to always follow his ‘inner voice’ even in his unperfectness. This is a life changing book for those who dare to look within themselves.

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Taking the Leap

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
by Pema Chodron

The focus of Taking the Leap is how we can learn to recognize when we are hooked, and how we can work with and transform the energy generated when this occurs. Instead of judging or battling within ourselves, we can learn to see each occurrence of shenpa as an opportunity – an opportunity for awakening. This process is about more than just our personal happiness, for shenpa is the source of bigotry and violence in our world. Ani Pema says:

“Each of us can be an active participant in creating a nonviolent future simply by how we work with shenpa when it arises. How individuals like you and I relate to being hooked, these days, has global implications.”

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In My Own Words

In My Own Words: An Introduction to My Teachings and Philosophy
by The Dalai Lama and Rajiv Mehrotra

This is the second book I have read by the Dalai Lama and it did not disappoint. His overpowering positivity is found throughout the book and it guides you through thought processes and progressions that if you follow will lead to a better way of life.

His Eight Verses for Training the Mind and explanation of them I found especially helpful. This is just an example of some of the wisdom you can find in this book. In the search for inner peace I have found the Dalai Lama is perhaps one of the best teachers you can take on.

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Toward a True Kinship of Faiths

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together
by The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama expands upon ideas in many of his earlier writings to discuss the nature of religious pluralism. The book moves both on a personal and on a community, world-wide level. The issue the book addresses is how individuals and religions may be committed to their own individual faith traditions, or their secularism, while respecting the faith traditions or the secularism of other people or religions. Of course, this is a difficult, multi-leveled inquiry that has been asked and explored many times. The question is important because all too often religion becomes a means of divisiveness and anger among individuals and groups rather than a source of shared humanity.

This is a wise, deceptively simple book that will appeal to readers who have struggled with questions of religious belief and religious pluralism

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My Spiritual Journey

My Spiritual Journey
by The Dalai Lama and Sofia Stril-Rever

The book has the character of anthology on subjects which the Dalai Lama has written about in more detail elsewhere. I find it useful to read the Dalai Lama’s books periodically to revisit and rethink his spiritual teachings. If not a full description of the Dalai Lama’s own spiritual journey, this book does describe his commitments and the basis of his teachings. Stril-Rever’s accompanying commentary is reverential and also useful. This book may make a good basic introduction for newcomers to the Dalai Lama as well as a good refresher for his admirers.

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by Hermann Hesse

Set in India, Siddhartha is subtitled an “Indic Poetic Work” and clearly it does owe much to both Buddhism and Hinduism, however the philosophy embodied in Siddhartha is both unique and quite complex, despite the lyrically beautiful simplicity of the plot.

The book reads like the flowing river, and is in some ways an eternal story of search for meaning in life and realization. Like Sidhartha our search for meaning often ends at the beginning. Ultimately, we return to the basic and simple truths that were there when we were born. Growing up is a kind of struggle. Sidhartha is a story of idealism and virtue that survives ignorance, futility and evil. If in the end, we retain that idealism, our lives can be heroic and our conscience pure. Sometimes, I remember and recall the words: “From Sidhartha to Sidhartha is my coming and my going.” It is a book of haunting beauty and depth of meaning.

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The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Carter, M.D.

Here are inviting observations on the pursuit of happiness – the search for which, His Holiness notes, is “the very purpose of our life.” Right now, in this moment we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness. A smart, kind, hopeful book.

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Awakening to the Sacred: Creating a Spiritual Life from Scratch
by Lama Surya Das

The author is the most highly trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition. Here he integrates essential Buddhist practices with a variety of other spiritual philosophies and wisdom traditions. Through reflections on his own life quest, thoughtful essays, and entertaining stories, he examines the common themes at the heart of any spiritual path.

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The Book of Secrets: The Science of Meditation: A Contemporary Approach to 112 Meditations described in the Vigyan Bhairov Tantra
by Osho

This book consists of Osho’s lucid and spontaneous discourses on an ancient scripture on Tantra by Lord Shiva. Here, Tantra is described as a spiritual path of surrender and love. It is instructive, thought provoking, funny, and truly inspiring. It is so all-encompassing, that in the end you will feel as if you have learned about every aspect of spirituality.

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Discovering Kwan Yin, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion: A Woman’s Book of Prayers, Ruminations, Meditations, and Chants
by Sandy Boucher

The phenomenon of Kwan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion, comforter, healer, and female exemplar has been adopted as a personal deity by a growing number of Western women, whether Buddhists or not. In Discovering Kwan Yin, Boucher meets up with many of them, evoking stories of profound encounters, life-saving rescues, and long-term guidance. For those seeking a divine presence in their lives, and a female one at that. This book is a powerful initiation into a centuries-old tradition of soulful devotion.

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The Marriage of Sense & Soul: Integrating Science & Religion
by Ken Wilbur

In this book, one of today’s most important philosophers brilliantly articulates how we might begin to think about science and religion in ways that allow for their reconciliation and union on terms acceptable to both camps. Wilbur is widly acclaimed as the foremost thinker in integrating Western psychology and the Eastern spiritual traditions.

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Wheels of Life: a user’s guide to the Chakra System
by Anodea Judith

This is an instruction manual for owning and operating the inner gears that run the machinery of our lives. From liberating our spirits to manifesting our dreams, the Chakras are the Wheels of Life described in earliest, recorded Indian history. This is the first really eclectic study of the Chakra system as it explains the vital energy systems of the body.

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The Mystery of Light: The Life and Teaching of Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov
by Georg Feuerstein

This is the first book-length account of the life and teaching of this Bulgarian-born spiritual adept. The author succeeds in capturing the unique spirit of Aivanhov’s teaching, and offers Western seekers a sensitive portrayal of one of the great ‘light-bringers’ of our age.

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A Floating Life: The Adventures of Li Po: An Historical Novel
by Simon Elegant

History and legend brilliantly combine in this bawdy “autobiographical” account of the life of famed rabble-rousing Chinese versemaker Li Po. This book is a magnificant portrayal of a critical time in China’s history and the life of a literary legend. This scrupulously researched novel captures the essence of the eccentric bard of spontaneous verse.

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Crooked Cucumber:
The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

by David Chadwick

David Chadwick, who studied with Suzuki at the San Francisco Zen Center from 1966 until Suzuki’s death in 1971, has interviewed his mentor’s family, friends, and disciples and was granted full access to Japanese and American archives. Crooked Cucumber begins with Suzuki’s earliest days in Japan, where his teacher nicknamed him “Crooked Cucumber,” claiming Suzuki was too absent-minded and dim-witted to ever become a successful priest. Brief, illuminating chapters, with previously unpublished lecture quotes, convey the down-to-earth message of a man who continues to transform countless lives.

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Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar
by Elizabeth U. Harding

Most major religions do not acknowledge the feminine power of God. The concept of the Mother Goddess in the West is very different than the image of Kali in the Hindu pantheon. In this book, you get an insight into mystics who attained God by worshipping Kali, and read about Sri Ramakrishna, who lived and worshipped the live image of Kali. This is a living story, and one of inspiration.

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Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation
by Kabir Helminski

Helminski, writing with the ease and fluidity that comes from years of discernment, discusses the seven levels of the self, the important role of the spiritual teacher, the blessings of spiritual conversation, the courtesy of the path, and the sacredness of everyday life. The author’s exquisite overview of Sufism and all its resources enables him to enchant us with the sayings of Muhammad, aphorisms that stir the soul, themes for contemplation from Rumi, and a helpful glossary.

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Circling the Sacred Mountain:
A Spiritual Adventure through the Himalayas

by Tad Wise, Robert A. F. Thurman

A guru-and-disciple account of a pilgrimage to a Tibetan Buddhist sacred site – Mount Kailash in Tibet. This is their account of the journey. Since all of the trip participants were novices to Buddhism, this dharma/teaching is geared for the beginner and offers a helpful introduction to esoteric (tantric) Buddhism. As the pilgrims circle Mount Kailash, the most revered peak in Tibet, Thurman outlines the spokes of “the blade wheel of mind reform,” encouraging the hikers to empty themselves of samsara (suffering) and to practice compassion for all beings. The book extends to us the rare chance to enjoy armchair traveling in an area off-limits to casual tourists.

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Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings 
by Paul Reps, Nyogen Senzaki (Compiler)

The essence of Zen–as a way of life, a religion, an aesthetic–can be found in the works of the Zen canon. No matter what religion you are, no matter what age, these stories will affect your life and the way you respond to and see the world around you. You’ll chuckle, you’ll frown, and you’ll wish there were 1001 Zen Stories to read instead of only 101.

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The Bhagavad Gita
by Eknath Easwaran (Translator)

Prince Arjuna faced a dilemma that many face sooner or later–whether to take action that is necessary yet morally ambiguous. Krishna, his ally and incarnation of divine consciousness, begins to teach him the nature of God and of himself. The most famous and revered of all Hindu Scriptures goes on to teach the paths of knowledge, devotion, action, and meditation, becoming the seed for all the Hindu systems of philosophy and religion that followed. This is a guide to action, devotional Scripture, a philosophical text, and inspirational reading. So what does Arjuna finally do? He follows his dharma, of course, as we all must.

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The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensai
by George Burr Leonard

An insightful and inspiring book for the spiritual seeker, The Way of Aikido offers a new way of facing life’s challenges using the powerful philosophy of Aikido. This book translates the teachings of an intricate Eastern philosophy into life lessons for American readers. For three decades, George Leonard has taught more than 50,000 people a unique form of Aikido, in which life’s unanticipated blows become gifts, attacks lead to reconciliation, discord is transformed into harmony, and pain is reborn as vital energy. This book is the culmination of these teachings, designed not only for students of the martial arts, but also for all who seek to improve themselves.

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Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
by Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun for regular folks. Having raised a family of her own, she doesn’t shy away from persistent troubles and the basic meatiness of life. In fact, in this book, she tries to get us to see that the faults and foibles in each of us now are the perfect ingredients for creating a better life. Fearlessness opens the way to recognizing our egos and that rather than being cursed, we are blessed with an original soft spot that is the seat of true compassion.

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Autobiography of a Yogi
by Paramahansa Yogananda

This acclaimed autobiography is at once a penetrating and unforgettable look at the ultimate mysteries of human existence, and a riviting portrait of one of the great spiritual figures of our time. Continuously in print for over fifty years, this book remains a seminal work in the field of Eastern religion.

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The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche

This popular Tibetan teacher has transformed an ancient text, conveying a perennial philosophy that is at once religious, scientific, and practical. Through extraordinary anecdotes and stories from religious traditions East and West, Rinpoche introduces the reader to the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, moving gradually to the topics of death and dying. Death turns out to be less of a crisis and more of an opportunity.

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Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia
by George Crane

In 1959 a young monk named Tsung Tsai (Ancestor Wisdom) escapes the Red Army troops that destroy his monastery, and flees alone three thousand miles across a China swept by chaos and famine. He is sustained by his mission: to carry on the teachings of his Buddhist meditation master, who was too old to leave with his disciple. Nearly forty years later Tsung Tsai, now an old master himself, persuades his American neighbor, maverick poet George Crane, to travel with him back to his birthplace at the edge of the Gobi Desert. They are unlikely companions. Crane seeks freedom, adventure, sensation. Tsung Tsai is determined to find his master’s grave and plant the seeds of a spiritual renewal in China.

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Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching:
A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way

by Lao-Tzu, Jerome P. Seaton, Ursula K. Le Guin (Introduction)

Prize-winning novelist and poet Ursula Le Guin teamed up with Chinese scholar J.P. Seaton on this completely fresh and lyrical translation of the 2500 year old Chinese spiritual classic the Tao Te Ching. This version captures all the brilliance of Lao Tzu’s poetry while conveying with immediacy and clarity the astonishing depths of his spiritual insights. This is a welcomed translation.

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The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Strategies for Managing Your Business and Your Life 
by Michael Roach

Other Buddhist books offer you a path to happiness, Geshe Michael Roach offers a path to wealth. Drawing on lessons he learned in the diamond business and years in Buddhist monasteries, Roach shows how taking care of others is the ultimate path to taking care of oneself, even–especially–in business, which means doing certain practical things that will form new habits that will create an ideal reality for you. His precise instructions are down to earth and address numerous specific issues common to the business/management world. Through this practice, you will become a considerate, generous, introspective, creative person of immense integrity, and that will be the key to your wealth.

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Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior
by Chogyam Trungpa, Carolyn Rose Gimian (Editor)

This classic guide to enlightened lving presents the ancient code of the warrior as a way for modern men and women to meet the challenges of life with fearlessness and dignity. Warriorship does not connote aggression, but rather a confidence in basic human goodness, which enables us to uplift our lives and create an enlightened society.

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