Suggested Reading

The following books are generally available for loan to members from our Temple Library. Select titles are available for purchase at our Temple Bookstore on Sundays and at our annual Obon Festival. Upon request, Temple Bookstore may be able to fill special orders. Links are also provided to online ordering from the BCA Bookstore.

The Teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha

One of the most readable explanations of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings is found in Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught. One of the more accessible forms of the teachings is the Dhammapada, a collection of Buddha’s sayings. Numerous translations are avail­able, one of which is listed below.

Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai. The Teaching of Buddha. Tokyo: Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai. Available in many languages.

Byrom, Thomas (translator). 1993. Dhammapada: The Sayings of Buddha. Boston: Shambala.

Rahula, Walpola. 1974. What the Buddha Taught, 2nd ed. New York: Grove Press.

Buddhism Today

Hagen’s Buddhism Plain and Simple presents the teachings in contemporary language. Although written for teenagers, Metcalf’s Buddha in Your Backpack is another good introduction to the Buddhist teachings. Loudon’s two books are collections of essays written by teenagers and young adults who describe how they encountered and practice Buddhism.

Hagen, Steve. 1999. Buddhism Plain and Simple. New York: Broadway Books.

Khyentse, Dzongsar Jamyang. 2007. What Makes You Not a Buddhist. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Loundon, Sumi, ed. 2001. Blue Jean Buddha. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications.

Loundon, Sumi, ed. 2006. Buddha’s Apprentices. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications.

Metcalf, Franz. 2003. Buddha in Your Backpack. Berkeley: Seastone.


While the preceding books focus on the teachings or their contemporary interpretation and practice, the following books provide the historical, philosophical, and cultural context of the teachings. Skilton’s A Concise History of Buddhism is a good starting point; the most advanced books are Williams’ Mahayana Buddhism and Buddhist Thought.

Also listed are pages that specifically refer to Jodo Shinshu.

Harvey, Peter. 1998. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Pure Land schools: 163-165

Robinson, Richard H. and Willard L. Johnson. 1997. The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction, 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

  • Pure Land: 253-255

Skilton, Andrew. 2000. A Concise History of Buddhism. Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1994. Reprint, New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

  • Shinran: 180 (Buddhism in Japan: 177-182)

Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. (several editions)

Williams, Paul. 1998. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London: Routledge, 1989. Reprint, London: Routledge.

  • Shinran Shōnin: 269-276

Williams, Paul and Anthony Tribe. 2000. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition. London: Routledge

Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism)

A good entry point is Tanaka’s Ocean, presented in Q&A format. Its “Further Readings” section is not only thorough, but is annotated as well. Note that some books (such as James Dobbins’ Jōdo Shinshū: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan) have been revised or reprinted. The books noted here are among the many that have been published since Ocean.

Jodo Shinshu: A Guide provides an excellent overview and serves as an easy-to-use reference. For serious students of Jodo Shinshu, the two-volume Collected Works of Shinran is indispensable.

Bloom, Alfred. 2007. The Essential Shinran: A Buddhist Path of True Entrusting. Bloomington: World Wisdom Inc.

Dobbins, James. 2002. Jōdo Shinshū: Shin Buddhism in Medieval JapanHonolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Hirota, Dennis, et al (translators). 1997. The Collected Works of Shinran. Vol. I, The Writings. Shin Buddhism Translation Series. Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. Available to read online here.

Hongwanji International Center. 2004. Jodo Shinshu: A Guide (3rd printing). Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha. Available as a PDF here.

Ohtani, Monshu Koshin. 2009. Buddha’s Wish for the World. ­American Buddhist Study Center.

Shigaraki, Takamaro. 2005. Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path: A Life of Awakening. Kyoto: Hōzōkan Publications.

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro. 1998. Buddha of Infinite Light: The Teachings of Shin Buddhism, The Japanese Way of Wisdom and Compassion. Revised by Taitetsu Unno. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Tanaka, Kenneth K. 1997. Ocean: An Introduction to Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism in America. Berkeley: WisdomOcean Publications.

Unno, Taitetsu. 1998. River of Fire, River of Water. New York: Doubleday.

Unno, Taitetsu. 2002. Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold. New York: Doubleday.

Usuki, Patricia Kanaya. 2007. Currents of Change: American Buddhist Women Speak Out on Jodo Shinshu. Berkeley: Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Wilson, Jeff. 2009. Buddhism of the Heart: Reflections on Shin Buddhism and Inner Togetherness. Wisdom Publications

Well, Almost Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Jodo-Shinshu But Were Afraid to Ask. N.d. Los Angeles: Nembutsu Press.

Continue to Learn More for links to additional educational resources.

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