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Five Favourite Buddhist Books Tag

Tagged by Gerald at Five Favorite Buddhist Books

First, refer to Buddhist Books, an older post where I mention Selling Water By The River, The Mind of Clover, and Hardcore Zen.

I was wandering up and down the aisles of our city public library one day, long ago, and serendipitously, Selling Water By The River found me. It’s long out of print. I don’t remember much except the absolute truth of the metaphor.

The Mind of Clover also was seminal for me for the way  Robert Aitkin Roshi dealt with the ten precepts.

Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen re-speaks for today. But is it one of my favourites?…. let’s see…Three Pillars of Zen? Old Path White Clouds? Never got Suzuki. Hmmm… two? three more…?

How about something really obscure. The Concise Tibetan Art Book by Pema Namdol Thaye. December 1987, published by New Monastery, Kalimpong, 734301, India. I found this in Pilgrim’s Book House in Kathmandu the first time I was in Nepal on a trek with my now wife around 18 or 20 years ago. The book is a collection of technical specifications, sketches, diagrams and art related to painting of Thankhas.

It reminds me of our meeting in Bhaktapur with a remarkable Thankha painter Naryan Chitrakar, who on that first trip to Nepal, graciously showed me his, his father’s, and grandfather’s single sketchbook of tiny drawings and motifs – handed down in the family. If you get to Taumadhi Tole in Baktapur, look for the yellow gate on the east side. That’s his address. Ignore the other shops and shills.

I guess the next book would have to be Lama Anagarika Govinda’sThe Way of the White Clouds. Fairly common in Pokhara bookstores, this last trip it finally caught my eye. It’s one of those books common in any trekkers reading repertory, and for that reason, perhaps, I neglected it for so long. It turns out Govinda was not only a serious adept of the Gelugpa sect, but an artist as well. Much of his wandering was justified by his seeking out and recording the wall paintings and sculptures in various obscure, distant, and now destroyed monasteries throughout Tibet.

In Part 2, Pilgrim Life, Chapter 2, The Living Language of Colours, he writes:

 Colours are the living language of light, the hallmark of conscious reality. The metaphysical significance of colours as exponants and symbols of reality is emphasised in the Bardo Thödol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as it is commonly known), where transcendental reality is indicated by the experience of various forms of light, represented by brilliant, pure colours …

Our perceptions of the external world are habitually clouded by the verbal notions in terms of which we do our thinking. We are forever attempting to convert things into signs… but in so doing we rob these things of their native thinghood. At the antipodes of the mind we are more or less completely free of language…

Consequently our perception of visionary objects possesses all the freshness, all the naked intensity, of experiences which have never been verbalised, never assimilated to lifeless abstraction. Their colour (the hallmark of givenness) shines forth with a brilliance which seems  to us preternatural, because it is in fact entirely natural in the sense of being entirely unsophisticated by language or the scientific, philosophical, and utilitarian notions, by means of which we ordinarily re-create the given world in our own dreary human language.

bon-echo-rock.pngThat comes as close as words ever could to describing a woo woo mystical brain state that kicked self in the butt and out of the way of being.

Now as to the last other favourite book, it would have to be that other book on Thankas I bought twenty years ago at Pilgrim’s Book House and have consequently misplaced. Favourite, because I am deeply attached to not being able to find it anymore.

No tags. I am trying to end rebirth.


7 thoughts on “Five Favourite Buddhist Books Tag

  1. Trying to end rebirth? What are you, a Buddhist or something? ;)

    Excellent explanation of your choices, thanks! I just felt like seeing what other people read. It’s a fascinating look at one’s personality, without necessarily saying a word.

    Take care!

  2. OK. I clicked on the Buddhist Books link, and the message I got was “Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.”

    That totally cracked me up!

  3. Please may I add my five favorites, although they can change over time. I am reminded of the story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones where the customer asks the butcher which cut of meat is the best and the butcher replies that “all my cuts are the best. There is not one cut of meat that is not the best.” The shopper gains insight from the butcher’s comments. I’m paraphrasing, but anyway, here goes:

    Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
    Endless Vow: The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa
    Old Path, White Clouds
    The Dhammapada (it’s all in there)
    Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn

    There’s plenty more, but then again, all are best!


    will take you to the link that could not be found.

    Henry, I read Old Path, White Clouds while lugging it up and down the trail in Nepal. Wonderful book. I’ll keep an eye open for Endless Vow.

  5. I’m looking for a copy of The Concise Tibetan Art Book by Pema Namdol. Does anyone know where can I find a copy or is willing to let go of their own copy? Thanks.

    1. Tell me a little more about you.

      Sorry for the long delay in responding.

  6. Hello dougrogers, I am residing in Singapore and have learnt thangka painting before from a nun some years ago. I’m trying to get back into thangka painting again and will find the book by Pema Namdol useful. Thanks.

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