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Bibliography (continued)


The companion volume for the earlier editions of The Buddhist Religion, Stephan V. Beyer's The Buddhist Experience: Sources and Interpretations, has since been supplanted by John Strong's The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations, which is the first book to which students are advised to turn for source readings. Nevertheless, Beyer's volume (hereafter referred to as Beyer, Experience) is still useful, offering lively translations of texts--in many cases hard to find elsewhere--drawn from all major Buddhist canonical languages. The author's interpretations, however, are not always as reliable as Strong's.

Two other source for students who seriously want to learn more are:

Buddhism and Asian History, edited by Joseph M. Kitagawa and Mark D. Cummings (New York: Macmillan, 1987); and

Buddhism: A Modern Perspective, edited by Charles S. Prebish (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975).

The former book, composed of articles drawn from The Encyclopedia of Religion, gives a good sense of the recent state of scholarship on nearly all the Buddhist traditions in Asia. The articles range from solid to brilliant. The latter book, written by former students of Richard Robinson, has summaries of almost all major topics in Buddhist history and thought, and is organized as a series of lectures in an introductory "course" on Buddhism. Both books include useful bibliographies as guides to further reading, although some of their recommendations have since become dated.

The following works, almost all available in paperback editions, should provide beginning students with sufficient materials to supplement what has been presented in BR. On occasion, this bibliography identifies a book by an incomplete reference (lacking place, publisher, or date) or lists a book that may have been reprinted at a later date. Readers can ascertain the book's availability with the author and title citation.

Auboyer, Jeannine, Buddha: A Pictorial History of His Life and Legacy. New York: Crossroad, 1983. Beautifully produced pictorial survey.

Bapat, P. V., ed., 2500 Years of Buddhism. New Delhi: Government of India, Publications Division, 1956. Issued to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha's Final Nirvana, this book is a good source of information on the whole of Buddhism.

Basham, A. L., The Wonder That Was India. New York: Grove Press, 1959. Many reprints. A survey of the culture of the Indian subcontinent before the coming of the Muslims; a many-splendored classic. Contains much historical information on the background and context of Buddhism in India, comparisons with Hinduism, and material on Buddhism itself. Includes examples of art and literature.

Bechert, Heinz and Richard Gombrich, eds., The World of Buddhism: Monks and Nuns in Society and Culture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984. Looks like a coffee-table book, with gorgeous pictures of Buddhist art and practice, but the articles, covering most aspects of the Buddhist tradition, are all by established scholars, ranging from mediocre (Bechert's article on Burma) to brilliant (Carrithers on Sri Lanka).

Cabezon, Jose Ignacia, ed., Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992. Essays focusing mainly on gender issues, with an added section on gay issues, drawing on Buddhist traditions in South and East Asia. [W]

Conze, Edward, Buddhism: Its Essence and Development. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965. Succinct introduction to major Buddhist ideas; mixes insight with controversy.

-----, ed., Buddhist Texts through the Ages. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964. Collection of texts, including translation of Pali excerpts by I. B. Horner, of Mahayana texts by Edward Conze, of Buddhist Tantra by David Snellgrove, and of Chinese and Japanese texts by Arthur Waley. Excellent translations, but somewhat difficult to use due to lack of continuity and introductory materials.

-----, Buddhist Thought in India. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967. A good survey of Indian Buddhist thought. A detailed, more advanced source than others; should be of interest to those who like philosophy.

de Berval, Rene, ed., Presence du bouddhisme. Saigon: France-Asie, 1959. Articles of varying quality in French and English on Buddhism in most countries. Now somewhat dated. Many photographs, maps and charts.

Gyatso, Janet, ed. In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Albany: State University Press of New York, 1992.

Horner, I. B., The Living Thoughts of Gotama the Buddha. London: Cassell, 1948. Good anthology from Pali sources. Miss Horner has also written a succinct summary of Theravada Buddhism, "Buddhism: the Theravada," in R. C. Zaehner, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, pp. 267-295 (Boston, Beacon Press, 1967). In the same source, Edward Conze summarizes Mahayana, pp. 296-320; and Richard H. Robinson describes Buddhism in China and Japan, pp. 321-347.

Keown, Damein, eds. Buddhism and Human Rights. London: Curzon, 1998.

Kohn, Michael H., trans., The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Boston: Shambhala, 1991.

Lamotte, Etienne, History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Saka Era. Louvain-La-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste, 1988. (Hereafter: Lamotte, History.) An authoratative work, strong on history but weaker than Warder on doctrine.

Lopez, Donald S., Jr., ed., Buddhism in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. Focuses on non-elite forms of Buddhist belief, ritual, and practice in general, with some sections on monastic practice. By "non-elite," the editor presumably means everything but systematic doctrine. Best read in conjunction with an anthology--such as Conze, Buddhist Texts through the Ages or Beyer, Experience--that provides more of the doctrinal background. [W] [M]

____, ed., Buddhist Hermeneutics. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988. Good range of articles on how Buddhists regard the process of communicating the Dharma.

Malalasekera, G. P., ed., Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Colombo: Government of Sri Lanka, 1961. Compehensive range of articles, many of very high quality. (hereafter referred to as EoB).

Morgan, Kenneth W., ed., The Path of the Buddha. New York: Ronald Press, 1974. Good survey of Buddhism throughout Asia written by prominent Asian Buddhist scholars. Similar to, but less complete than, P. V. Bapat, cited above.

Prebish, Charles S., ed. Buddhist Ethics: A Cross-Cultural Approach. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1992.

-----, Historical Dictionary of Buddhism. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1993.

Queen, Christopher and Sallie B. King, eds., Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. Albany: SUNY Press, 1996. Essays discussing the growth of socially active Asian Buddhist movements resulting from the interaction of Buddhist and Western Enlightenment ideals.

Schober, Juliane, ed., Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997. Essays discussing the structure and function of biographical narrative in Indian and Theravadin Buddhist tradtions, starting with the narratives of the Buddha's lives, and extending up to narratives of modern Theravadin figures.

Warder, A. K., Indian Buddhism, 2nd ed. rev. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980. Authoritative. Especially good on philosophical and literary issues; excellent bibliography and index.

Warren, Henry C., Buddhism in Translations. New York: Atheneum, 1963. Judicious, comprehensive selections from Pali texts in graceful but dated translations.

Zürcher, Erik, Buddhism, Its Origin and Spread in Words, Maps, and Pictures. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1962. Very useful for tracing the spread of Buddhism from its beginnings in India throughout the rest of Asia. The maps, in particular, are excellent.


Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures: A Bibliography. Edited and revised by Lewis Lancaster. (New York: Garland, 1982).

Frank E. Reynolds, Guide to the Buddhist Religion (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981).

John Powers, The Yogacara School of Buddhism: A Bibliography. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Bibliographie bouddhique (Paris: 1928 and following).

S. Hanayama, Bibliograpy on Buddhism (Tokyo, 1961).

Yushin Yoo, Books on Buddhism: An Annotated Subject Guide (Metuchen, N. J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976).

Other sources are issues of Buddhist Text Information and Buddhist Research Information, available from the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions (5001 Melville Memorial Library, SUNY at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York 11794). Another bibliographic series comes from the Institute Belge des Hautes Etudes Bouddhiques, which issues the Serie bibliographies (Brussels, starting in 1969), including Bibliographie du bouddhisme zen (1969), Bibliographie du bouddhisme (1971), and Bibliographie de la litterature prajñaparamita (1971), all by Pierre Beautrix.

For German-language publications, consult Hans Ludwig Held's Deutsche Bibliographie des Buddhismus (Hildesheim/New York: G. Olms, 1973).

A useful bibliography of journal articles is Yushin Yoo's Buddhism: A Subject Index to Periodical Articles in English, 1728-1971 (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1973).

Journals that often contain articles about Buddhism and are likely to be easily available are Buddhist Studies Review, Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, Bulletin of the London School of Oriental and African Studies, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, History of Religions, Indo-Iranian Journal, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal Asiatique, Journal of Buddhist Ethics (see [6.2]), Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy East and West, and T'oung Pao.


The books listed above are good, scholarly accounts of the Buddhist religion. But there are other ways of learning about Buddhism, too. Some different kinds of sources are listed below to help those beginning their study of Buddhism to get a rounded view of the subject.

[3.1] On Buddhist Art

Art has always been a major part of religious practice and a major expression of religious experience. Buddhist art is particularly rich, a multicultural tradition spanning more than two thousand years. Buddhists have produced an enormous amount of art; the books listed below give only a sampling.

The most complete single source on Buddhist art is P. M. Lad, The Way of the Buddha (New Delhi: Government of India, Publications Division, 1956). Issued on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha's Final Nirvana, this book selects art from all sources to describe the background of Buddhism, the Bodhisattva's life and message, the growth of Buddhism, the pantheon, and the spread of Buddhism beyond India. Complete notes accompany the many illustrations.

A very useful work for the study of Buddhist (and Indian) art and iconography is Gosta Liebert's Iconographical Dictionary of the Indian Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism (Leiden: Brill, 1976). Carefully defines the terms, iconographic forms, and deities encountered in Buddhist art and literature.

Other worthwhile studies of Buddhist art include:

Bandaranayake, S. Sinhalese Monastic Architecture: The Viharas of Anuradhapura. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974.

Behl, Benoy K. The Ajanta Caves: Artistic Wonder of Ancient Buddhist India. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998. The pictures vastly outshine the text. The author photographed the murals in the cave temples using natural light, and the results are spectacular. The accompanying text is most useful where it shows how the murals embody principles of Indian aesthetic theory, but it's weak on issues of Buddhist doctrine.

Berkson, Carmel. The Caves at Aurangabad: Early Buddhist Tantric Art in India. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 1986. Excellent black-and-white photographs of Buddhist cave temples, one of which includes one of the few ancient Buddhist shrines to Tara remaining in India.

Brown, R.L. The Dvaravati Wheels of the Law and the Indianization of South East Asia. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996.

Buddhadasa, Bhikkhu, Teaching Dhamma by Pictures. Bangkok: Social Science Association Press of Thailand, 1968. This book presents a traditional Thai manuscript that illustrates the Buddhist Path, with commentary on its symbolism.

Bussagli, Mano, Painting of Central Asia. Geneva: Editions d'art Albert Skira, 1963. Magnificent Buddhist paintings from the rich finds of Central Asia.

Chihara, D. Hindu-Buddhist Architecture in Southeast Asia. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., Elements of Buddhist Iconography. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1935. An early interpretation of symbolism in Buddhist art.

-----, History of Indian and Indonesian Art. New York: Dover, 1965. Excellent survey, including Buddhist art.

Dagyab, Loden Sherap, Tibetan Religious Art. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1977. Excellent two-volume work, the first introducing the art, the second showing it in color plates.

Dallapiccola, Anna, ed., The Stupa: Its Religious, Historical, and Architectural Significance. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1980.

Davidson, J. Leroy, The Lotus Sutra in Chinese Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954.

Dehejia, Vidya. Discourse in Early Buddhist Art: Visual Narratives of India. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1997. Sophisticated analysis. Should be read in conjunction with the article by Robert Brown in Schober [1].

Fickle, Dorothy H., The Life ot the Buddha: Murals in the Buddhaisawan Chapel National Museum, Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok: Fine Arts Department, 1972. Includes color illustrations of one of the better examples of Thai mural art.

Fontein, Jan, The Pilgrimage of Sudhana: A Study of Gandavyuha Illustrations in China, Japan, and Java. The Hague: Mouton, 1968. The Pilgrim's Progress of Buddhism in art and literature, spanning several civilizations.

-----, and Money L. Hickman, Zen, Painting and Calligraphy. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1970. Attractive selection of and commentary on Zen art.

Freeman, Michael and Roger Warner, Angkor: The Hidden Glories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Ghosh, A., ed., Ajanta Murals. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 1967. Beautiful illustrations, sensitively interpreted.

Ginsberg, Henry. Thai Manuscript Painting. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1989.

Goepper, Roger, Alchi: Ladakh's Hidden Buddhist Sanctuary: The Sumtsek. Boston: Shambala, 1996. Gorgeous photos, with a text by an art historian, detailing a temple in the western Himalayas preserving a mixture of Kashmiri, Tibetan, and central Asian artistic styles.

Gray, Basil, Buddhist Cave Paintings at Tun-huang. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.

Griswold, Alexander, et al., The Art of Burma, Korea, Tibet. New York: Crown, 1964. A good survey of little known areas.

Hisamatsu, Shin'ichi, Zen and the Fine Arts. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1971. Large selection of Zen-related arts.

Jessup, Helen Ibbitson and Thierry Zephir, eds., Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia: Millennium of Glory. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997). Hefty, beautifully-produced catalog for an excellent exhibition of Khmer sculpture, mostly Buddhist and Hindu, from the seventh to sixteenth centuries. Includes a number of informative scholarly articles on the history, religion, architecture, and technology of Ancient Cambodia, with a focus on the Angkor period.

Karmay, Heather, Early Sino-Tibetan Art. Warminster, England, 1975.

Knox, Robert, Amaravati: Buddhist Sculpture from the Great Stupa. London: British Museum Press, 1992. The latest research on the history of one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in southern India (or, formerly in southern India; now most of the best pieces are in the British Museum). Gorgeous photos.

Krom, N. I., The Life of Buddha on the Stupa ot Barabudur According to the Lalitavishtara Text. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1926. An excellent retelling of the biography with photographs of the episodes from the great Javanese stupa.

Lyons, Islay, Gandharan Art in Pakistan. New York: Pantheon, 1957. Records an important phase of Buddhist art, the product of Indo-Greek culture. Read with Sharma, cited below.

Marshall, Sir John, The Monuments of Sanchi. London: Probsthain, 1940. A study of one of the most important remaining Indian Buddhist stupas.

Miksic, John, Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddha. Boston: Shambala, 1990. Good modern introduction to the history and interpretation of the great Javanese stupa, well-illustrated.

Mitra, Debala, Buddhist Monuments. Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 1971. Excellent description of sacred Buddhist sites in India.

Okazaki, Joji, Pure Land Buddhist Painting. Translated and adapted by Elizabeth ten Grotenjuis. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1977.

Pal, Pratapaditya, Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art. Los Angeles: County Museum of Art, 1984.

Rawson, Philip, The Art of Southeast Asia. New York: Praeger, 1967.

Rhie, Marylin M. and Robert A. F. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. New York: Harry H. Abrams, 1991.

Roland, Benjamin, The Art of Central Asia. New York: Crown, 1974. Good analysis of the art record, revealing its many interesting Buddhist features.

-----, The Evolution of the Buddha Image. New York: Abrams, 1963.

Rosenfeld, John M., The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans. Berkeley: University of California Press. An exhaustive but readable study of Kushan (Kusana) art.

Saunders, E. Dale, Mudra, a Study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture. New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1960.

Sharma, R. C., Buddhist Art: Mathura School. New Delhi: Wiley Eastern Limited, 1995. Cites recent archaeological finds to argue the primacy of the Mathura (native Indian) school of sculpture over the Gandharan (Indo-Greek) in the development of the Buddha image.

Singh, Madanjeet, Himalayan Art. New York: Macmillan, 1971.

Sivaramamurti, Calambur, The Art of India. New York: Abrams, 1977. Includes many Buddhist pieces and puts them in the context of Indian civilization.

Snellgrove, David L., The Image of the Buddha. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1978.

Sullivan, Michael, The Cave Temples of Maichishan. Berkeley: University of California Press. Beautifully illustrated study of the Buddhist cave temples carved into the mountain in an isolated region of China.

Weidner, Marsha, et. al. Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850-1850. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1994.

Weiner, Sheila, Ajanta: Its Place in Buddhist Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. Short but comprehensive analysis of the painting, sculpture, and architecture of one of the best-preserved Indian Buddhist sites.

Wray, Elizabeth, The Ten Lives of the Buddha. New York: Weatherhill, 1972. Features Thai temple murals, many of very high quality, illustrating the perfections developed by the Bodhisattva in the ten penultimate Jataka tales.

Zwalf, W., Buddhism: Art and Faith. London: British Museum Publications, 1985.

[3.2] Audio-Visual Resources on Buddhism

Many good films on Buddhism exist, catalogued and reviewed by experts in Robert A. McDermott, ed., Focus on Buddhism (1981), available in cloth or paper from Anima Publications, 1053 Wilson Avenue, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 17201. This book spans the entire Buddhist experience by cultural area, listing other aids such as slide sets and recordings as well.
Donald K. Swearer's, The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia (SUNY, 1996) contains a more up-to-date inventory of post-1980 audio visual aids relating to Southeast Asian Buddhism.


Literary works composed by Buddhists provide an especially attractive way of learning about their religion. From Beyer's selection of passages in The Buddhist Experience, a student can gain some idea of the great diversity of literary genres Buddhists have used. Discussed below are some extra samples.

[3.3.1] Traditional Biographies of Buddhists

The great Buddhist biographical tradition of China remains, for the most part, untranslated, and what little has been translated often appears in sources difficult to find:

Chavannes, Edouard, Memoires sur les Religieux Eminents, Paris, 1894.

Gernet, Jacques, "Biographie de Maitre Chen-houei du Ho-tso," Journal Asiatique, vol. 239 (1951): 29-68. This is the biography of Shen-hui who worked to establish his master Hui-neng as the Sixth Patriarch of Ch'an.

Liebenthal, Walter, "A Biography of Tao-sheng," Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 11 (1955): 64-96.

Link, Arthur, "Biography of Shih Tao-an," T'oung Pao, vol. 46 (1958): 1-48.

-----, "Shih Seng-yu and His Writings," Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 80 (1960): 17-43.

Soymie, Michel, "Biographic de Chan Tao-k'ai," Melanges publics par L'Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, Tome Premier, Paris, 1957: 415-422.

Tsu, Y. Y., "Diary of a Chinese Buddhist Nun: Tz'e-kuang," The Journal of Religion, vol. 7 (1927): 612-618. Reprinted in The Chinese Way in Religion. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1973: 120-124. [W]

Weinstein, Stanley, "A Biographical Study of Tz'e-en," Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 15 (1959): 119-149. This is a study of K'uei-chi, the last great master of the San-lun school.

Wright, Arthur, "Biography of the Nun An Ling-shou," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 15 (1952): 193-196. [W]

-----, "Fo-t'u-teng, A Biography," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 11 (1948): 321 -371.

The entire Lives of Eminent [Chinese] Nuns has been translated by Kathryn Ann Tsai in Lives of the Nuns: Biographies of Chinese Buddhist Nuns from the Fourth to Sixth Centuries. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994 [W]. This is the most readily available of the books listed in this subsection. The entire Lives of Eminent [Chinese] Monks has been translated by Arthur Link, but this translation remains in manuscript form only. The biography of Hui-ynan appears in Erik Zurcher, Buddhist Conquest, vol. 1, pp. 240-253. Biographies of Korean monks are in Peter Lee, Lives of Eminent Korean Monks, Harvard University Press, 1969. Three Chinese Tantric masters have been studied by Chou I-liang in "Tantrism in China," (see reference in bibliography). Fascinating glimpses of the Chinese Tantric monk I-hsing, mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer of the late seventh and early eighth centuries, can be found in Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 3, Cambridge, 1959, passim.

The biographies and records of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims and travelers have been given much more attention.

Beal, Samuel, Buddhist Records of the Western World, London, 1885; Paragon, New York, 1968. This book includes the Hsi-yu-chi of Hsuan-tsang, Fo-kuo-chi of Fa-hsien, and travels of Sung Yun from Lo-yang ch'ieh-lan chi.

-----, Life of Hsuan-tsang, London, 1911. His materials are taken from Hsuan-tsang's biography.

Chavannes, Edouard, "Voyage de Song-yun dans l'Udyana et le Gandhara," Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, vol. 3 (1903): 1-63.

Giles, H. A., The Travels of Fa-hsien, Cambridge, 1877, 1923.

Grousset, Rene, In the Footsteps of the Buddha. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1932; Hertford: Stephen Austin and Sons, 1971. This is a narrative account of Central Asian and Indian history and religion woven together from the record of Chinese Buddhist travelers to these lands.

Legge, James, The Travels of Fa-hsien. Oxford, 1886.

Levi, Sylvain, "Les missions de Wang Hiuen Ts'e dans l'Inde," Journal Asiatique, 9th series, vol. 15 (1900): 297-468.

Reischauer, Edwin, trans., Ennin's Diary. New York: Ronald Press, 1955.

-----, Ennin's Travels in T'ang China. New York: Ronald Press, 1955, especially pp. 164-271. Ennin was in China during the great persecution of 845. The Diary is a translation of Ennin's diary and Travels puts Ennin and his diary into context. Both books are highly recommended.

Takakusu, J., A Record of the Buddhistic Religion. Oxford, 1896; Delhi, 1966; Taipei, 1970. This is the account of I-tsing, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim who traveled to India returned by way of Southeast Asia.

Watters, T., On Yuan Chwang's Travels, (2 vols.). London, 1904. His materials are taken from Hsuan-tsang's own account of his travels.

The traditional biography of a Korean monk from the Koryo dynasty is translated by Adrian Buzo and Tony Prince in Kyunyo-jon: The Life, Times and Songs of a Tenth-Century Korean Monk (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.

The traditional biographies of the lineage founders of the Tibetan Kagyu school are now all available in English. These include:

The Life and Teaching of Naropa, translated by Herbert V. Guenther (London: Oxford University Press, 1963; also reprinted by Shambala);

The Life of Marpa the Translator, translated by the Nalanda Translation Committe, under the direction of Chogyam Trungpa (Shambala);

Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa, translation edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, (London: Oxford University Press, 1969). A more recent translation of this biography is Lobsang P. Lhalungpa's The Life of Milarepa (New York: Dutton, 1977); of the four books listed here, this is the best-loved in Tibet;

The Life of Gampopa, translated by Jampa Mackenzie Stewart (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1995).

[3.3.2] Traditional Autobiographies

One extended autobiographical account of at least part of a Buddhist's life was written in the seventeenth century by Japan's most famous haiku poet, Matsuo Basho. A lay Buddhist who practiced some Zen meditation, Basho at the relatively late and frail age of forty became a wanderer, going against his personal inclination to settle down in his older years. He left five sketches of his resulting travels, which filled the remaining ten years of his life. They are a magnificent literary self-portrait of a Buddhist aesthete. Basho made his wanderings to see faraway parts of Japan into an extended journey of self-discovery. His sketches are translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa in Basho: The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (Baltimore: Penguin, 1966). A more recent, and very clean, translation of Narrow Road to the Interior has been made by Sam Hamill (Boston: Shambala, 1991). The same translator's more comprehensive The Essential Basho (Boston: Shambhala, 1998) provides excellent translations of the travel sketches plus a large selection of the author's haiku.

Another Japanese Buddhist poet (1763-1827) also left a lyric diary; it, too, has been translated by Yuasa: Issa's The Year of My Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960).

The Zen monk Hakuin left several autobiographical narratives. The longest and most comprehensive is translated by Norman Waddell in Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin (Boston: Shambhala, 1999).

Charles Luk has translated the autobiography of one of the last great Chinese meditation masters, Xu Yun in Empty Cloud (Longmead: Element Books, 1988) [M].

The Autobiography of Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, a teacher of the Thai Kammatthana tradition, is available on the World Wide Web at Access to Insight (, hereafter referred to as "AI". This is a lively account; especially interesting are the author's descriptions of his training with Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto and his early years meditating in the forest [M].

Another valuable set of traditional Buddhist autobiographies has been recovered and translated by David Snellgrove under the title Four Lamas of Dolpo. Volume I is Introduction and Translations (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967). This is a complete book, with suitable introduction, ample photographic illustrations, texts, and critical commentary and annotation. The autobiographies reveal what life was like in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as remembered by four lamas of the Dolpo region, which today is in western Nepal but which has always been a cultural borderland of Tibet.

Two "secret" biographies of the seventeenth century Dzogchen adept, Jigme Lingpa, are the subject of a thorough study by Janet Gyaltso in Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

[3.3.3] Modern Autobiographies

The mass exodus from Tibet of monks and lamas after 1959 has resulted in quite a few autobiographies of refugees. These accounts help us grasp the meaning of the diaspora as well as to glimpse the traditional lives of important individuals. The present Dalai Lama wrote My Land and My People (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962). And his brother, Jigme Norbu Thubten, now a professor at Indiana University, recorded his experiences in Tibet Is My Country (New York: Dutton, 1961). Chogyam Trungpa contributed Born in Tibet (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968). Rato Khyongla Nawang Losang wrote his fascinating My Life and Lives: The Story of a Tibetan Incarnation (New York: Dutton, 1977), with interesting chapters on Lhasa, monastery study, debating sessions, the New Year, Tantric studies, and his flight to India after being forced to teach in a Communist school. B. Alan Wallace translated another Gelug monk's memoirs in The Life and Teaching of Geshe Rabten (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1980), subtitled A Tibetan Lama's Search for Truth. It traces the Geshe's life from a farm in Kham into the monastic life and training, and finally to his flight to India. Rinchen Dolma Taring's autobiography Daughter of Tibet. (London: Wisdom Publications, 1987), provides a noblewoman's perspective on the diaspora and life in Tibet for the last fifty years prior to that event [W].

From Vietnam comes Learning True Love: How I Learned and Practiced Social Change in Vietnam (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993), a readable autobiographical account by Chan Khong (Cao Ngoc Phuong), one of the founding members of the Order of Interbeing, who describes her social work both in Vietnam and in the West [W].

A growing category of Buddhist autobiographies is those composed by Western Buddhists. John Blofeld's The Wheel of Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist (Berkeley, Calif.: Shambhala, 1972) records the author's wanderings around China, life in a Ch'an monastery, and a Tibetan initiation. Although the work is not a full autobiography, D. P. E. Lingwood, or Sangharakshita, wrote The Thousand Petalled Lotus: An English Buddhist in India (London: Heinemann, 1976). Jiyu Kennett Roshi, now the abbess of Shasty Abbey in California, recorded her experiences as an Englishwoman training in a Japanese Soto monastery in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom (Mt. Shasta, Calif.: Shasta Abbey Press, 1977) [W]. Of great importance to our knowledge of the early development of Buddhism in Euro-American culture are three autobiographies published in the 1970s. Christmas Humphreys wrote Both Sides of the Circle (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978), describing his transition from Theosophist to Zen Buddhist. Alan Watts describes how he became the prophet of Zen, along with Suzuki (who directly influenced all three of these autobiographers), calling his work In My Own Way (New York: Vintage, 1973). Watts' brand of Zen did not even require being a Buddhist, a designation that made him uncomfortable, as did disciplined meditation and moral sentiments of all sorts. Edward Conze's autobiography is The Memoirs of a Modern Gnostic: Part 1, Life and Letters; Part 2, Politics, People and Places (Sherborne, England: Samizdat Publishing Company, 1979). Part 3, Forbidden Thoughts and Banished Topics, has been delayed in publication in order to await the demise of all the principals, thus releasing the publisher from libel suits. Although Conze's account is valuable in that he reports meetings with a wide range of interesting and important figures, it fails the Holden Caulfield test for a good book: after reading it, you would not want to call the author up on the phone.

From the American side of the Atlantic, Natalie Goldberg tells of her Zen training in Long Quiet Highway (New York: Bantam, 1993) [W]. Lawrence Shainberg has given an account of his life as a Zen student in Ambivalent Zen (New York: Pantheon, 1996). Stephen T. Butterfield, a student of Chogyam Trumpa, records his ambivalent feelings about his training in The Double Mirror: A Skeptical Journey into Buddhist Tantra (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1994).

[3.3.4] Poetry and Fiction

There have been many Buddhist belle-lettrists. A. K. Warder's Indian Kavya Literature (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass)--planned in eight volumes, of which six have been published--offers partial translations of Indian Buddhist belles lettres, such as the work of Asvaghosa, Matrceta, Arya Sura, Dharmakirti as poet, and Saraha, among others, discussing them from the point of view of the general Indian literary tradition. The book treats poetry and tales from the Pali Canon from the literary point of view as well. Asvaghosa's Saundarananda has been translated by E. H. Johnston (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975). For translations of his Buddhacarita, see the listings under chapter 1, below. A readable translation of Matrceta's Hymn to the Buddha (Satapancasatka) has been made by S. Dhammika (Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1989, also available on AI). Peter Khoroche has provided a stylish translation of Arya Sura's extremely stylish Jatakamala, entitledOnce the Buddha Was a Monkey: (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

The primary Chinese Buddhist poet is Han-shan, whose works lie at the point of intersection between Taoist and Ch'an practice. Like Basho, Han Shan never became a monk but remained a lay Ch'an Buddhist. His poems, as arranged by his translator, Burton Watson, in Cold Mountain, 100 poems by the T'ang Poet Han-shan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), describe his transformation from a carefree youth and subsequent life as a family man through difficult, bitter years that led eventually to the "Cold Mountain," both a place where he took refuge and his own more awakened state of mind. There is some question, however, as to whether there were two or more "Han-shan's", and of whether the poems describe the author's actual experiences, or were written--as was common with Chinese poetry--in empathy with the experiences of others. Robert G. Henricks provides an annotated, scholarly translation of the complete Han-shan's corpus in The Poetry of Han-shan (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990.)

Another Chinese Buddhist poet, one who deserves to be read more by Westerners, is Li Ho: J. D. Frodsham, translator, The Poems of Li Ho (791 -817) (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1970). In Poems of Wang Wei (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), G. W. Robinson has translated a fine selection of poems by this great T'ang dynasty poet and has provided some introductory notes on his relationship to Buddhism. The work of Su Tung-p'o, the great Sung poet, includes a number of pieces with Buddhist themes, which can be found translated by Burton Watson in Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o (Port Townsend, Wa.: Copper Canyon Press, 1994).

New translations are making the sixteenth-century Chinese folk novel Monkey more available to Westerners. Arthur Waley translated selections of Wu Ch'eng-en's novel (New York: Grove Press, 1958), and now Anthony C. Yu--The Journey to the West, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977 and following)--has brought out a complete translation. Berkeley's Asian Humanities Press is publishing the sequel by Tung Yueh under the title The Tower of Myriad Mirrors (1978). Monkey is the best of popular Chinese Buddhist literature, a work of consummate fantasy. Supposedly the account of Hsuan-tsang's journey to India to fetch Buddhist scriptures for the Chinese emperor, the novel tells of a fabulous stone monkey who pursued and gained power (siddhi) from a venerable patriarch. Running amok on a spree through Heaven, he made too many powerful enemies and was released from imprisonment in a mountain only when forced by the goddess of compassion, Kuan-yin, to accompany the priest Tripitaka (Hsuan-tsang) to India, thus putting his formidable powers to a useful purpose. The "real" story of Hsuan-tsang is equally fascinating, and is told by Waley in The Real Tripitaka (New York: Macmillan, 1952) and more recently by Sally Hovey Wriggins in Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996).

Many themes from Korean Buddhism can be found in the tales and literary works included in Peter Lee's Anthology of Korean Literature: From Early Times to the Nineteenth Century (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1981).

William LaFleur has written an excellent study of Buddhist themes in medieval Japanese literature: The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). He also offers a selection of poems from Saigyo (1118-1190) in his Mirror for the Moon (New York: New Directions, 1977). Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji, which reflects popular Buddhism in the Heian period, is available in English translation (New York: Modern Library, 1993) [W]. One of the most popular figures in Japanese Zen history is Ryokan (1758-1831) who, like Han-shan, avoided institutional Zen, preferring to be a mountain recluse, living off meager alms in order to devote full time to meditation and poetry. Two collections of his works in English are notable: Burton Watson's Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); and the more comprehensive Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan--Poems, Letters, and Other Writings, translated by Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskel (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996). Sam Hamill has provided a selection of excellent translations of Japanese haiku, many of which express Buddhist themes, in The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa and Other Poets (Boston: Shambala, 1995).

The Tibetan Buddhist poet who has attracted the most interest in the West is the Sixth Dalai Lama. Rick Fields and Brian Cutillo have translated a selection of his poems in The Turquoise Bee: The Lovesongs of the Sixth Dalai Lama (HarperSanFrancisco). Gary W. Houston has also translated the poetry in Wings of the White Crane: Poems of Tshangs dbyangs rgya misho (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981).

Modern Asian Buddhists have written novels, too. One, by Michio Takeyama, The Harp of Burma (Rutland, Vt.: Charles Tuttle, 1968), describes in poignant terms a Japanese soldier who becomes a Theravadin monk in Burma rather than return to Japan at the end of World War II. The book was made into a fine Japanese film, The Burmese Harp. Both call forth deep feelings. Yukio Mishima's final tetralogy of novels, The Sea of Fertility, is structured around the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth, with a denouement derived from the doctrine of not-self.

Western writers--Buddhist and not--have also appropriated Buddhist themes in their poetry and fiction. Some notable examples: J. D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye; Seymour: An Introduction), Aldous Huxley (Island), Jeanne Larsen (Bronze Mirror; Manchu Palaces) [W], and the Beat poets in general. For an anthology of Beat Buddhist writings, see Carole Tonkinson, Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation (New York: Riverhead, 1995) [W]; also Canoeing Up Cabarga Creek: Buddhist Poems by Philip Whalen (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1996). For a more general anthology of Buddhist themes in contemporary American poetry, see Johnson, Kent and Craig Paulenich, Beneath a Single Moon (Boston: Shambala, 1991).

[4] Popular Books on Buddhism

Although most of the popular books on Buddhism leave much to be desired in terms of factual reliability, many are well worth reading. Adventurers have left us exciting records of their experiences in Buddhist countries. An example is Sven Hedin's, Trans-Himalaya (Leipzig, 1909, English edition, New York: Macmillan, 1909). Hedin roamed over Central Asia in the early twentieth century. Another example is Heinrich Harrer's Seven Years in Tibet (New York: Dutton, 1954, recently reprinted). He escaped from an Allied prison camp in India where he was interned at the outbreak of the Second World War. Rather than staying in India, he made his way to Tibet and personally witnessed that closed society until the end of the war. Fosco Maraini wrote Secret Tibet (London: Hutchinson, 1952; New York: Grove Press, 1960), an exciting, perceptive book on his experiences in Buddhist monasteries. The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton (New York: New Directions, 1975) record the author's encounters with Buddhists of various traditions during his fatal visit to Asia. Russell Johnson and Kerry Morgan have provided a vivid account, with gorgeous photographs, of the life and scenery along the pilgrim's trail to and around Mount Kailasa in western Tibet in The Sacred Mountain of Tibet: On Pilgrimage to Kailasa (Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, 1989). Lama Anagarika Govinda, a European convert to Buddhism, recounted his wanderings in Tibet in Way of the White Clouds (Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1978). Another European Buddhist, John Blofeld, reminisces about his own experiences in pre-Second World War Buddhist China to illustrate his impressionistic, faithful accounting of the Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin (Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1978) [W]. Margaret D. Williamson left a record of her meetings with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama in Memoirs of Political Officer's Wife in Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987) [W].

Traveling scholars have also written accounts of their journeys, such as Snellgrove's Buddhist Himalaya: Travels and Studies in Quest of the Origins and Nature of Tibetan Religion (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1957) and his reissued Himalayan Pilgrimage: A Study of Tibetan Religion (Boulder, Colo.: Prajna Press, 1981). Similarly, Marco Pallis wrote Peaks and Lamas (London: Woburn Press, 1957), describing his travels in Buddhist areas of India, Sikkim, and Ladakh in the 1930s.

A more recent group of travelers, those who journey to Asia to meditate, have produced a considerable number of books on their experiences, many of which are often found in bookstores today. An example of one of these is Janwillem van de Wetering's The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery [M]. The experiences of Western women training in Japanese monasteries can be found in Zen and a Lady by Claire Myer Owens (New York: Baraka Books, 1979) [W] and Diary of a Zen Nun by Nancy Ambhoux (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1986) [W]. Of special interest is Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, by Maura O'Halloran (Boston: Charles Tuttle, 1994), the collected letters of an Irishwoman who trained in a Zen monastery and died in Thailand on her way back to the West [W].

A frank and entertaining account of one American's five-year stint as a monk in a Thai forest monastery is Paul Breiter's Venerable Father: A Life with Ajahn Chah (Bangkok, 1993) [M], which can be ordered from Wisdom Publications in Boston. Readable accounts have been written by Peter Matthiessen, an American naturalist and adventurer, whose Buddhist adventures in the wilds of Asia and America are recorded in his books The Snow Leopard (New York: Viking Press, 1978) and The Nine-headed Dragon River (Boston: Shambala, 1986).

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