10 Best Books on Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is a popular type of Buddhism, branching off from the Mahayana school. With a strong emphasis on lineage, use of symbols and rituals, and the presence of many mantras and practices, Tibetan Buddhism offers a rich tradition in which to practice. There are many books on Tibetan Buddhism, but here are a few of our favorites!
Edited by Gyurme Dorje, Ph.D., Graham Coleman, and Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., this edition of the the Tibetan Book of the Dead is a beautiful copy. Believed to have been originally written in the 8th century, this book focuses on consciousness as we approach and go through death. Covering the Tibetan Buddhist teaching of bardo this book is widely considered to be an essential reading in this tradition. A text with a long and beautiful history, this is a great way to begin investigating basic teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a wonderful book that offers some pragmatic tips for getting started with meditation practice. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche has been called the “happiest man in the world,” and shares his practices of cultivating joy, compassion, and awareness. Using his deep experience with spiritual practice and an understanding of the science of the mind, he offers powerful encouragement and practices to meditate. From covering a few benefits of meditation practice to offering ancient Tibetan practices, this is a great read for those new to Tibetan Buddhism.
This book by Pema Chödrön is one of my favorite books out there. This is perhaps her best-known book, and has been in print for over twenty years. Pema expertly dives into dealing with anxiety, fear, and the pain we all experience. Using foundational teachings from Tibetan Buddhism, this book offers ways we can learn from these difficult experiences. She writes about moving toward the adversity, familiarizing ourselves, and gaining insight and compassion as we meed our difficulties with a kind awareness.
Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by John Powers is a comprehensive book investigating the teachings and practices of the tradition. Starting with the history of Buddhism in Tibet, the author goes through basic teachings, the various schools, important figures, and more. He then dives into actually practicing and diving into the path ourselves. This is one of our favorite outlines of Tibetan Buddhism, organized well and clearly offering the basics of the traditions for newcomers.
The Art of Happiness is one of the Dalai Lama’s most well-known books. A master in his tradition, the Dalai Lama offers stories, insights, and conversations for cultivating happiness in our lives. He offers practices you can try yourself, living happily in everyday life, and dealing with difficulties like anxiety, pain, anger, grief, and relationships. Dr. Howard Cutler co-authors the book and offers a scientific understanding of the brain and body, and how practice can be beneficial in approaching our lives and our contentment.
Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron is a handy user guide to help you understand Tibetan Buddhism. Thubten Chodron goes through basic Buddhist teachings, how to practice, and deep questions. Offered in a question-and-answer format, this book addresses many questions you may have about Buddhism and meditation practice. It makes the book easy to read, constantly changing in topic, and interesting. We strongly recommend checking this book out if you’re new to meditation practice!
Co-written by Patrul Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama, this book is one of the most popular and well-respected books on Tibetan Buddhism. Offering a commentary on practices from the Longchen Nyingtig, this book uses stories, personal experience, and years of meditation experience to help make these teachings accessible and relateable. This is a great book to take these powerful teachings and begin applying them to your everyday life. With essays, poems, and more, this book is both intensely useful and interesting.
This book by Chogyam Trungpa covers the idea of the spiritual warrior, facing difficulties and pain with wisdom, awareness, and compassion. This is one of the best introductions to Shambhala Buddhism out there, and Chogyam Trungpa covers the the basics of this tradition beautifully. With a unique voice, extensive experience, and humor, this is one of our go-to recommendations for those interested in learning more about Tibetan schools of Buddhism!
This book has made other lists of ours, and we have multiple copies sitting our our bookshelves at home and in the center. Lama Surya Das has spent decades studying various traditions of Buddhism (and yoga), including Tibetan Buddhism. This book is a fairly big one, covering quite a few topics. One reason we love this book so much is that it always seems to be incredibly practical. He offers teachings, practices, stories, and guidance that you can actually take with you and use in formal meditation practice and in your daily life. We love the way he writes, as it is engaging and simple. It makes this book easy to read, consume, and learn from!
This book by Robert. A. F. Thurman is another beautiful outline of Tibetan Buddhism. Thurman is both a monk and a scholar, giving him the ability to write with expertise from a few perspectives. Going through teachings of living Buddhas, cultivating awakening, and how to actually walk the path, this book is a great way to kickstart your practice in this beautiful tradition!