are books that have helped us.
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The Complete Gospels – If we had to pick just one source for the Teachings of Jesus, it would be this edition of the Gospels, published by HarperSanFrancisco, associated with The Jesus Seminar. Here are presented in a clear, understandable, and exceedingly readable translation (prepared entirely free of ecclesiastical control), with accompanying notes and cross references, not only the four “traditional” gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), but also the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, James, and Peter, as well as more than a dozen others, all of which broaden our perspective on the man, his times, his life, and his words. If all you know of the New Testament Teachings is what your Sunday school teacher told you, this edition of the gospels belongs on your bookshelf.
The Bhagavad Gita – The Gita is one of the great epics of Hinduism. Two enormous armies stand face to face on the field, poised for battle, awaiting only a signal to begin from the master bowman, Arjuna, who at the very last moment loses his nerve. His charioteer, the divine Krishna, urges him onward. The Gita is the ensuing conversation between them, in which Arjuna and, through him, we, are Taught the True Nature of Ourselves, of Reality, of the Universe, of the Spiritual Process, and of God. Finally, Arjuna proclaims, as someday so shall each of us: “My delusion is gone!” There are numerous excellent translations of this wonderful scripture. This one by Swami Nikhilananda from the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, which includes an inspiring commentary, is one of our favorites.
Mysticism – This book, written by Evelyn Underhill in 1911, instantly became a classic, and has been so ever since. And deservedly so. Its focus is Christian Mysticism, but any seeker on the spiritual search in earnest, will benefit from reading it. Mysticism itself is about an immediate relationship with or awareness of the Divine, however considered, however labeled; in other words, im-mediate: no mediator. A mystic’s relationship with God is intimate, constant, earnest, and boundary-less, until finally only God remains. All of that and more is what Evelyn Underhill writes about so convincingly.
By His Grace – A Devotee’s Story by Dada Mukerjee (known as Dadaji) – This is the story of Neem Karoli Baba – also known as Babaji and Maharajji) – perhaps best known in the West as the Guru discovered in India by Ram Dass. For me, this short volume has become among my most favorite, most often turned-to books; the cover is torn, the seams failing, the corners frayed, and my underlines and circles and exclamation points are throughout. Babaji, as I call him because he is Babaji in this book, and it was by this book that I came to know him (although I met him in one of Ram Dass’ books, where he is Maharajji), has become for me (and many others) a dearly beloved, honored, and respected Teacher. There are a lot of other excellent books about him at Amazon.
The Awakening of Intelligence by J. Krishnamurti – This is the first significant book we read on the spiritual path, and it changed everything! Not to mention a couple of mystical experiences it generated. With crystal clarity and unerring insight, Krishnamurti– who was declared by the Theosophical Society to be the next messiah, but who declined the privilege– gently but expertly guides readers to new, enlightening and uplifting ways of perceiving ourselves, our reality, and, perhaps most importantly, the way we think about thinking. Please see TZF’s Ampers&nd page for an extended excerpt from one of his most famous talks.
A Course in Miracles – This set of three books has attracted much attention, and generated a variety of spin-offs. Our own experience with it has been that, if undertaken alone, quietly and in earnest, with discipline, patience, and a genuine commitment, it will deliver on its title. For additional comments, please see TZF’s Consider This! and Letters.
The Sufis by Idries Shah – Sufism is commonly considered to be the mystical path of Islam. In fact, it is more likely the mystical heart of every spiritual tradition. No one makes that case more convincingly than the late Idries Shah, who was himself a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.
I Am That – Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj –There are no words to express the power resident in this book. If ever we were to be exiled to the proverbial desert island with only one book, this volume of Nisargadatta’s Teachings would be it. An excellent accompaniment is Pointers From Nisargadatta Maharaj by Ramesh S. Balkesar, in which a devotee of Nisargadatta expands upon and clarifies the Teachings. Besides Amazon.com, both titles are available at the publisher,The Acorn Press, PO Box 3279 Durham NC 27715-3279 (www.acornpressonline.com). There is an excerpt from “I Am That” at TZF’s Ampers&nd feature.
Ramana Maharshi and The Path of Self-Knowledge – We suggest this book by Arthur Osborne, who knew Ramana Maharshi personally, be the first book seekers read about this extraordinary Teacher. We do that because Osborne introduces his readers not only to Ramana’s wondrous Teaching but also to Ramana as a person, a human being. Osborne makes the Teacher and the Teaching real, alive, present.
Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi – Edited by David Godman, this wonderful book presents in commentary and dialogue form the Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, one of the clearest and most powerful spiritual Teachers of modern times, perhaps of all time.
The Yogas and Other Works – Here in one volume are the principal writings of Swami Vivekananda, including his consideration of the yogas (jnana, bhakti, karma, and so on), his talks, letters, and other stuff. Ramakrishna’s best known disciple, Vivekananda’s teaching is clear, concise, powerful, encouraging, and genuinely comforting. At nearly a thousand pages in length, this book is a wealth of inspiration.
Jesus The Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran – This unique, intensely intimate portrait of Jesus (Issa) is written by someone who lived where Issa (Jesus) lived, geographically and metaphysically. For those of us raised in the West on Sunday school pictures of the Gospels Teacher, Gibran opens a wide expanse of windows, framed by some of the most beautiful and moving images we have ever read. There is an excerpt at TZF’s Ampers&nd.
Yeshua Buddha by Jay Williams – In our opinion, this little book is a classic. Here, the gospel teachings of Jesus (Issa) are presented in a Buddhist light, granting to seekers raised in a traditional Western Christian setting an entirely new and fresh perspective on this powerful Teacher. If you want to hear the teachings of Jesus (Issa) as he probably delivered them, then this book is a good place to start.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dyingby Sogyal Rinpoche – In this easy to read, easy to understand book, with lots of stories and anecdotes from various traditions, a Tibetan Buddhist lama (monk) offers a positive consideration of death and dying, what it is and how to do it. There is an excellent chapter on meditation practice, and more about karma, reincarnation, and other concepts & practices.
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts – This book was our introduction to Zen, perhaps even America’s introduction to Zen, and like a couple of other selections here, it changed everything for us. With crystal clarity, Watts explores the evolution of Zen from its roots in Hinduism through Buddhism and Taoism, and then presents the nuts and bolts of the practice. But there is more than that to this book. Somewhere within this text, Watts buried the power of his awakening, and if you come to it with an open and receptive mind, you will feel it.
Daughter of Fire by Irina Tweedie –This is the story of a Russian-born woman who went to India in 1961 where she found a Sufi Master who completely revolutionized her life. Written as a diary, this is a powerful and inspiring story of a seeker’s journey from egoic self-absorption to spiritual liberation. A condensed version of this book, called The Chasm of Fire, is also available from Amazon.com.
The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass – This early work by Ram Dass is based on talks he gave at the Menninger Foundation and to a hospital in Maryland. It is an excellent introduction not only to Ram Dass himself and his path, but to the nature of consciousness and the awakening process. This is a great first book for a seeker.
Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila – This classic work by a sixteenth century Spanish Carmelite nun offers an intimate portrait of the soul’s progression toward Union, and provides specific, meaningful guidance and encouragement that is just as relevant and powerful today as when it was written for Teresa’s sister nuns four hundred years ago.
The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of The New Physics by Gary Zukav – Every seeker eventually recognizes that the much touted conflict between science and religion is an illusion, for they are both struggling to decipher and realize the same Thing, and those at the farthest limits of each know it! If you have not reached that awareness yet, this fascinating and easy-to-read book will bring you a lot closer.
The Thunder of Silence by Joel S. Goldsmith – The author of The Infinite Way, which has evolved into a spiritual path based on principles to live by and practice for God realization and harmonious living, Joel Goldsmith was a Christian mystic and powerful healer. His talks and teaching are available in about twenty-five books. His The Art of Meditation is already a classic. We particularly like this book for its focus on how to live in this world rightly.
Reluctant Saint by Donald Spoto – This biography of Francis of Assisi draws upon new developments in Franciscan scholarship to present a thoroughly engrossing image of the man who is perhaps the world’s– and certainly the west’s– best known and most loved saint. What distinguishes this book for us is its presentation of Francis as a real life, flesh and blood human being, instead of the fanciful, romantic, cartoon caricature too common to other writings, and particularly to films. Spoto presents Francis in the context of medieval Europe, giving us a true picture of what it was like to be alive– and a spiritual seeker– at that time in history. He gets into Francis’s head and heart, analyzing and measuring and celebrating his desires, his fears, his doubts, his hopes, his faith, his actions, and his life. We hope this book will be the basis of the movie that has yet to be made.
Afterzen by Janwillem van de Wetering – Sub-titled “Experiences of a Zen Student Out on His Ear”, this book offers the author’s personal interpretation of a collection of classical Zen koans, told in the context of his own life as a student of Zen. Van de Wetering, a noted writer of mystery fiction, has written two other books about his life with Zen (The Empty Mirror and A Glimpse of Nothingness). All three offer enjoyable reads as well as interesting, learning experiences for seekers.
The Mother of God by Luna Tarlo –The author is the mother of self-proclaimed guru Andrew Cohen (founder of What Is Enlightenment? magazine). In diary form, she relates how she became her son’s disciple, and then struggled to free herself from his coercive control. Here we encounter, in fascinating and convincing detail, the abuse of power too common among gurus, teachers, preachers, prophets, and the like. This book is not great literature, but it is a warning all seekers should take seriously.