Zen is known for its emphasis on wisdom that is maintained and transmitted “outside the scriptures,” or independent of any external intellectual device. All the great treatises and teachers in the Zen tradition have stressed that fundamental insight can come only from within, and cannot be grasped by words and letters.
Despite this essential point, there is a rich body of inherited Zen literature that seeks to help sincere practitioners cultivate their understanding and their ability to live in accord with the teachings.
This list of suggested readings draws on this work, and is intended as an aid for Zen Buddhist study. It cannot take the place of direct practice itself, beginning with meditation, but may be useful for arousing aspiration and dissolving some sticking points in practice.
The reading list may be used in consultation with one of the Village Zendo teachers, as part of a collective study group, or for individual inquiry. It can complement existing study activities such as koan practice, precepts study, or ango study periods.
While we have organized the list on three levels, roughly equivalent to the first three years of Zen practice, it is only a loose organizing principle, and students are encouraged to follow their interests as they will, across categories and on to other texts. Enjoy!
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara
Maezumi, Taizan & Glassman, Bernie: On Zen Practice: Body, Breath and Mind. Boston: Wisdom Publications. 2002.
Zen In Our Lives Daily
Beck, Charlotte Joko. Everyday Zen: Love and Work. New York: HarperCollins. 2007.
Glassman, Bernie. Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life that Matters. New York: Crown Publishing. 1997.
Maezumi, Taizan. Appreciate Your Life: The Essence of Zen Practice. Boston: Shambhala. 2001.
Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. Boston: Shambhala. 1977.
Uchiyama, Kosho. Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2004.
Reps, Paul & Senzaki, Nyogen. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. Hong Kong: Periplus. 1998.
Aitken, Robert. Taking the Path of Zen. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 1982.
Buchsbazen, John. Zen Meditation in Plain English. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2002.
Dogen, Eihei. Fukan-Zazengi.
Hakuin, Kosho. Zazen Wasan.
Leighton, Taigen Daniel. Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi. Clarendon, VT: Tuttle. 2000.
History and Principles
Hanh, Thich Nhat. Being Peace. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. 2005.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. 1991.
Walpola, Sri Rahula. What the Buddha Taught. New York: Grove/Atlantic. 1994.
Poetry and Art
Stevens, John. Three Zen Masters: Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan. Tokyo: Kodansha Int’l. 1993.
Zen in our Lives Today
Glassman, Bernie. Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen. Boston: Shambhala. 2003.
Maezumi, Taizan. Teaching of the Great Mountain: The Zen Teachings of Maezumi Roshi. Clarendon, VT: Tuttle. 2001.
Schneider, David. Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo. 2000.
O’Hara, Pat Enkyo. A Winter Sesshin: Ten Talks on the Heart Sutra.
Conze, Edward. Buddhist Wisdom: The Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. New York: Knopf. 2001.
Thurman, Robert. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: Mahayana Scripture. University Park, PA: Penn State Press. 2001.
Translation and Commentary
Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Parallax. 1988.
Pine, Red. The Heart Sutra. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker and Hoard. 2005.
Soeng, Mu. Trust in Mind: The Rebellion of Chinese Zen. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2004.
Waddell, Norman. Zen Words from the Heart: Hakuin’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra. New York: Random House. 1996.
Cook, Francis H. Sounds of Valley Streams: Enlightenment in Dogen’s Zen. Translation of Nine Essays from Shobogenzo. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1989.
Tanahashi, Kazuaki. Enlightenment Unfolds. Boston: Shambhala. 2000.
Tanahashi, Kazuaki. Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen. New York: North Point Press. 1995.
Waddell, Norman & Abe Masao. The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1989
Dogen Translations and Commentary
Uchiyama, Kosho. The Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa with Commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. Clarendon, VT: Tuttle. 1997.
Yasutani, Hakuun. Flowers Fall: A Commentary on Dogen’s Genjokoan. New York: Random House. 1996.
The 16 Bodhisattva Precepts of the Village Zendo
Aitken, Robert. The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. New York: North Point Press. 1982.
Addis, S., Lombardo, S. & Reitman, J. eds. Zen Sourcebook: Traditional Documents from China, Korea and Japan. Indianapolis: Hackett. 2008.
Aitken, Robert. A Zen Wave: Basho’s Haiku and Zen. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard. 2003.
Zen in our Lives Today
Maezumi, Taizan & Glassman, Bernie. The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2007.
Ferguson, Andy. Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2000.
Tisdale, Sally. Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom. New York: HarperCollins. 2007.
Cleary, Thomas F. The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala. 1993.
Hurvitz, Leon. Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma: The Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press. 1976. or Watson, Burton. Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press. 1994.
Sutras with Commentaries
Pine, Red. The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom, Text and Commentaries Translated from Sanskrit and Chinese. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint. 2002.
Pine, Red. The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint. 2008.
Cleary, J.C. & Cleary, T.F. The Blue Cliff Record. Boston: Shambhala. 2005.
Cleary, T.F. The Book of Serenity: One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Boston: Shambhala. 2005.
Cook, Francis. The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan’s Denkoroku. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2003.
Shibayama, Zenkei. The Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments on the Mumonkan. Boston: Shambhala. 2000.
Grant, Beata. Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. 2005.
Stevens, John. Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan. Boston: Shambhala. 2004.