Welcome to the Hermitage Library. Here you may find a list of books, sources and commentaries, with some links to PDFs when these are available. The Library consists of what, for me, have been essential texts – to my own understanding, training and inspiration on the Buddhist Path.
Sutras/Discourses of the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (From the Canon of the Southern Tradition)
This is the first discourse the Buddha ever gave upon attaining enlightenment. He sets forth the 4 Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path. A perfect starting point.
One of the primary meditation discourses from the Early Buddhist Texts.
The other important meditation discourse from the Early Buddhist Texts.
The Buddha lived as a man, and died as a man. This incredibly detailed biography of his last three months is a historical and educational treasure.
This famous parable explains the difference between pain and suffering as clearly as could be.
One of my personal favorites. Here one can learn why Nirvana is called Nirvana, lit. “blowing out”, like a flame. Also a prime early example of the fourfold negation formula in action.
Sutras/Discourses of the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (From the Canon of the Northern Tradition)
This short sutra is the quintessence of wisdom, expressed by the Bodhisattva of Compassion through the power of the Buddha. What may seem confusing on the surface, may actually turn out to be the ultimate cure for the heart. That’s why us Zen folks chant it daily.
This scripture is the Body of the Buddha. You’re probably thinking that’s a metaphor. No- it’s the actual Body of the Buddha. If you want to understand what true wisdom is, look no further.
This giant of a scripture contains all you need to know from A-Z. How the multiverse came to be? check. How to achieve enlightenment? check. How does all of psychology work? Also check.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you must be a monk in order to achieve liberation from suffering, this Sutra is there to answer it. And that answer is: no. The amazing tale of the layman Vimalakirti, who explains the doctrine of Sunyata (Emptiness) to Arhats and Bodhisattvas, the enlightened beings in the Buddha’s assembly, showing that it’s what’s in the heart that counts, and not your particular choice of lifestyle. Beautiful lightness of spirit and humor in this magnificent text.
Sutras/Discourses of the Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (Discourses on the Ultimate Nature of Reality)
Teachings within the Lanka cover a wide range of Mahayana concepts cast within a Yogacara (“mind-only”) and Tathagata-Garbha (Buddha-nature) context. Throughout this “Bodhisattva Crash-Course” the stress is on attaining the inner enlightenment that thoroughly understands the illusory nature of all duality and distinctions. Beautiful.
If you’re ready for some magic in your life, this is the right thing for you. Throughout these 33-scriptures-in-1, the incredible displays and intricate magical happenings are actually intended for an extraordinarily useful purpose: to show us what Reality is like from the perspective of a Buddha, a fully awakened being. Here we go into the mystical realm of “All phenomena interpenetrate with mutual non-obstruction”. And the Noumenon, of which all phenomena are expressions, is actually none other than all phenomena. Fear not! Take a deep breath and jump down the rabbit hole.
The 3 principle Pure Land Sutras are where the esoteric meets the practical. Comprised of the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra, Amitayurdhyana Sutra and the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra, these scriptures describe the story of the Buddha Amitabha, one of the Buddhas that lived in the past before past. To Chan Buddhists, this Buddha represents our own Infinite Light Nature, and recitation of His name is very often undertaken as part of Buddhist practice in China, regardless of specific school.
Chan (Zen) Texts
Classics and Foundations:
The only canonical “Discourse” that was spoken by someone other that the Buddha Shakyamuni. This is the Platform Sutra of Sixth Chan Patriarch Huineng. The Path of Zen and its approach (or approach of non-approach) is fully laid out in this most beloved of Chan scriptures.
The legendary first patriarch of Zen, the man who brought these teachings from China, was not a man of many words. But when he did speak, he said all you’d ever need to hear. This excellent edition and translation by Master Red Pine sheds much light on the history of this text.
This compilation of “public cases” or gongan (koans) compiled by the eminent 13th Century Master Wumen Huikai, is one of the the principle compilations of gongan in usage today. Wumen’s comments and verses, further elaborated in this edition by Master Seung Sahn’s comments are truly marvelous. For serious study of gongan though, you must find yourself a Chan Master.
Master Linji Yixuan, the founder of one of the largest lineages of Chan Buddhism, was a real iconoclast. His sayings accompany Chan practitioners to this day, from which one can get a glimpse of “living words”, a Chan that expresses itself in the midst of life, and not a dry, philosophical,”dead word” tradition.
This beloved Zen Master of the Ming Dynasty has left his profound mark on Chinese Chan Buddhism which follows in his footsteps to this very day. Not to be confused with Hanshan (Cold Mountain) of the Tang dynasty, Master Silly Mountain, Hanshan Deqing was the model and inspiration for Master Hsu Yun (Empty Cloud), the father of modern Chinese Chan, and the patriarch of our own Order of Hsu Yun.
This basic manual of our Order of Hsu Yun is perhaps the best place to start from when one decides to get a taste of real Chan. Like a punch to the gut, these direct, down to earth, modern teachings are as salient as they are applicable. You will easily see why this incredible Master is the preeminent force behind all of Chinese Chan since the late 19th century and to this very day.
The autobiography of the beloved father of modern Chan.
Modern Day Masters:
Written by one of the founders of our Order of Hsu Yun, my teacher’s teacher Ming Zhen Shakya, This is our “complete intermediate-level review of the origins, psychology and practice of Southern School Chan Buddhism”. This is the right place to go when you want to gain perspective and deepen your understanding of the practice of Chan.
This is a Bodhi&Bass original publication, and it elucidates the path of Chan from the perspective of what one of my teachers, Beishi Guohan calls the “Suddenness Chan Approach”.
Originally written as a letter to a fellow monk, Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh elucidates the practice of meditation and the start of the path in a very simple, elegant and straight-forward way. A fantastic book for any beginner looking for instruction and inspiration.
Japanese Zen Master Kodo Sawaki is a true sage of modernity. His simple sayings encapsulate the simultaneous iconoclasm and reverence at the heart of Zen.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books. In the forty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the great modern spiritual classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen. Suzuki Roshi presents the basics—from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of non-duality—in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page.
“Somebody comes into the Zen center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha statue, blows smoke in its face, and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?” This is a problem that Zen Master Seung Sahn is fond of posing to his American students who attend his Zen centers. Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a delightful, irreverent, and often hilariously funny living record of the dialogue between Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn and his American students. Consisting of dialogues, stories, formal Zen interviews, Dharma speeches, and letters using the Zen Master’s actual words in spontaneous, living interaction with his students, this book is a fresh presentation of the Zen teaching method of “instant dialogue” between Master and student which, through the use of, among other things, astonishment and paradox, leads to an understanding of ultimate reality.
Wise, clear, and searching, this collection of the writings of iconoclastic Zen master, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, takes a rational approach to transcendence, to the discovery of the unlimited depth of reality, and to understanding the self beyond our usual notions of who we are.
Through explorations of the three pillars of Zen–teaching, practice, and enlightenment–Roshi Philip Kapleau presents a comprehensive overview of the history and discipline of Zen Buddhism. One of the most fun reads for any newcomer to Zen.
Texts from the Tibetan Tradition
Treasured by Buddhists of all traditions, Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicharyavatara) is a guide to cultivating the mind of enlightenment, and to generating the qualities of love, compassion, generosity, and patience. This text has been studied, practiced, and expounded upon in an unbroken tradition for centuries, first in India, and later in Tibet. Presented in the form of a personal meditation in verse, it outlines the path of the Bodhisattvas—those who renounce the peace of individual enlightenment and vow to work for the liberation of all beings and to attain buddhahood for their sake.
The Buddhist saint Nagarjuna, who lived in South India in approximately the second century CE, is undoubtedly the most important, influential, and widely studied Mahayana Buddhist philosopher. His many works include texts addressed to lay audiences, letters of advice to kings, and a set of penetrating metaphysical and epistemological treatises. His greatest philosophical work, the Mulamadhyamikakarika—read and studied by philosophers in all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea—is one of the most influential works in the history of Indian philosophy.
The Life of Milarepa is the most beloved story of the Tibetan people amd one of the greatest source books for the contemplative life in all world literature. This biography, a true folk tale from a culture now in crisis, can be read on several levels: a personal and moving introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, it is also a profoundly detailed guidebook in the search for consciousness. It presents the quest for spiritual perfection, tracing the path of a great sinner who became a great saint. But it is also a powerful and graphic folk tale, full of magic, disaster, feuds, deceptions, and humor.
The so-called “Tibetan Book of the Dead” has been renowned for centuries as a cornerstone of Buddhist wisdom and religious thought. Composed in the eighth century C.E., it is intended to prepare the soul for the trials and transformations of the afterworld. Its profound message is that the art of dying is as important as the art of living. Drawing on Tibetan spiritual traditions, it shows us the workings of the mind in its various manifestations—terrifying and comforting, wrathful and beautiful—which appear more clearly after death in the consciousness of the deceased. By recognizing these manifestations, we can attain a state of enlightenment, both in this existence and in the existence to come.
A favorite of Tibetans—and of the Dalai Lama himself— The Words of My Perfect Teacher is a practical guide to the spiritual practices common to all Tibetan Buddhist traditions. It is the classic commentary on the preliminary practices of Longchen Nyingthig, a cycle of teachings of the Nyingmapa school. Patrul Rinpoche makes his subject accessible through a wealth of stories, quotations, and references to everyday life, giving the text all the life and atmosphere of a compelling oral teaching.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, one of the greatest living Kagyu Masters, delivers a series of lectures on the practice of Mahamudra, one of the “pinnacle” practices of the Tibetan tradition. From beginning by learning to rest one’s attention, and all the way to realizing one’s true nature, these clear-eyed instructions are a treasure for any serious practitioner.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche described this book thus:
“The Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness is a signature teaching and systematic method of instruction taught by my amazing guru, Khenchen Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. Profound and concise, it is a transformative way for sincere students at any level of study to connect with the experience of shunyata. Lama Shenpen Hookham’s skillful presentation of Rinpoche’s teaching on these progressive stages so many years ago has been a great and enduring gift to the dharma world.
I am delighted by this revised edition, which will benefit all who take its pithy wisdom to heart”
The unambiguous Buddhist perception of reality is transmitted in profound, simple language by one of the foremost masters in the Tibetan tradition, Tulku Urgyen Ripoche. Dzogchen is to take the final result, the state of enlightenment itself, as path. This is the style of simply picking the ripened fruit or the fully bloomed flowers. Tulku Urgyen’s way of communicating this wisdom was to awaken the individual to their potential and reveal the methods to acknowledge and stabilize that prospective. His distinctive teaching style was widely known for its unique directness in introducing students to the nature of mind in a way that allowed immediate experience. This book offers the direct oral instructions of a master who inspired admiration, delight in practice, and deep trust and confidence in the Buddhist way.
In 1976 Diane Perry – by then known by her Tibetan name, Tenzin Palmo – secluded herself in a remote cave, 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas, cut off from the world by mountains and snow. She entered the cave aged thirty-three and left it when she was forty-five; there she faced unimaginable cold, wild animals, floods and rockfalls, grew her own food and slept in a traditional wooden meditation box, three-feet square – she never lay down. In 1988 she emerged from the cave with a determination to build a convent in northern India to revive the Togdenma lineage, a long-forgotten female spiritual elite. From living as a mendicant on 50 a year, she became a globe-trotting fund-raiser, giving lecture tours.
Son of Dawa Drolma, one of Tibet’s most renowned female lamas, Chagdud Rinpoche was recognized early in life as a tulku or incarnation of a realized master. Forced into exile by the Chinese invasion his was the last generation to inherit the highest teaching and methods of Buddhism in Tibet. This is his autobiography.
n this modern spiritual classic, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa highlights the commonest pitfall to which every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty. “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.”
One of the best books for any beginner Buddhist. Drawing from works of fiction and poetry, Western philosophy, Buddhist beliefs, scientific research, and personal experience, Tibetan Monk Matthieu Ricard weaves an inspirational and forward-looking account of how we can begin to rethink our realities in a fast-moving modern world. With its revelatory lessons and exercises, Happiness is an eloquent and stimulating guide to a happier life.
So you think you’re a Buddhist? Think again. Tibetan Buddhist master Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, one of the most creative and innovative lamas teaching today, throws down the gauntlet to the Buddhist world, challenging common misconceptions, stereotypes, and fantasies. With wit and irony, Khyentse urges readers to move beyond the superficial trappings of Buddhism—beyond the romance with beads, incense, or exotic robes—straight to the heart of what the Buddha taught.
If you require any elucidation on any of these texts or related matters, don’t hesitate to contact me. You can do so here: SIT! (Stay In Touch)
May these teaching be of benefit!