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Buddhism - root texts

Translations of the Pali Canon, the Prajnaparamita Sutras and other major Buddhist sutras

Overviews and anthologies

What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula / Paperback / 1986. Often recommended as a general introduction to Buddhism, this short book covers the basics from a Theraveda perspective, with abundant references to Pali Canon sutras - the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha. I've found it particularly helpful as a reference for locating sutras related to various teachings.

Buddhist Scriptures (Penguin Classics) by Edward Conze / Paperback/ 1959. There really isn't a Buddhist equivalent of the Christian scriptures... unless you want to purchase the complete set of the Pali Canon (at some sixty volumes and over $1,000 the last time I checked). In addition, there are numerous non-Pali Sutras that are central to particular Buddhist sects (such as the Prajnaparamita (Heart) Sutras, the Lotus, and the Flower Ornament), as well as countless later teachings and commentaries. Conze's compilation is a good starting point for an overview of some of the major texts.


Dhammapada : The Sayings of the Buddha (Shambhala Pocket Classics) by Thomas Byrom. Paperback / 1993 / Shambhala Publications.
by Thomas Byrom / Hardcover / June, 2001 / Bell Tower.

Dhammapada (Tibetan Translation Series) by Gedun Choephel (Translator). Paperback / 1987 / Dharma Publishing. This edition is translated from Tibetan sources and includes the Tibetan text on facing pages, as well as a glossary and word list in Sanskrit, Tibetan and English.

New & noteworthy

= titles I've read & recommend
Books without checks are by authors whose work I respect, or are books that others have requested or recommended.

Pali Canon

The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi / Hardcover - 2080 pages 2 vol. Set edition / October 2000 / Wisdom Publications.

The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya, translated by Maurice Walshe / Hardcover / 1996 / Wisdom Publications.

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi / Hardcover / 1995 / Wisdom Publications.

Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya, translated by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi / Paperback / June 2000 / Altamira Press.

The First Discourse of the Buddha, translated by Venerable Dr. Rewata Dhamma / Paperback / 1997 / Wisdom Publications. After enlightenment, the Buddha delivered his first discourse to five disciples in Deer Park, India. Known as the Four Noble Truths, this teaching forms the foundation and essence of all the Buddha's teachings. It contains all the necessary information and instruction to become free from suffering and gain insight into the truth of enlightenment. Includes a history of the Buddha's life, background on Buddhism, and a contemporary translation of and commentary on the Four Noble Truths.

Prajnaparamita Sutras

Mother of the Buddhas : Meditations on the Prajnaparamita Sutra by Lex Hixon. Paperback / 1993 / Theosophical Publishing House. This is a "contemplative expansion" rather than a scholarly translation of passages from the Prajnaparamita Sutra in 8,000 Lines. He also includes a section on practice.

Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines & Its Verse Summary (Wheel Series, 1) by Edward Conze (Editor). Paperback / 1984 / Four Seasons Foundation. This is the Prajnaparamita Sutra in 8,000 Lines.

The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom : With the Divisions of the Abhisamayalankara by Edward Conze (Editor). Paperback / 1985 / University of California Press. Translation and compilation of the Prajnaparamita Sutras in 25,000 Lines and 100,000 Lines.

Buddhist Wisdom: Containing the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra (Vintage Spiritual Classic Orig), translated by Edward Conze / Paperback / April 2001) / Vintage Books.

The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra by Thich Nhat Hanh/ Paperback / 1988 / Parallax Press.

The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion : Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra by Thich Nhat Hanh. Paperback / 1992 / Parallax Press.

The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom by Red Pine (Translator) / Hardcover / November 27, 2001 / Counterpoint Press. Two works lie at the center of Zen: The Heart Sutra, which monks recite all over the world, and The Diamond Sutra, said to contain answers to all questions of delusion and dualism. This is the Buddhist teaching on the "perfection of wisdom" and the diamond of its title is said to cut through everything on its way to enlightenment. It is perhaps the most studied of all the sutras, and by one count more than twenty thousand commentaries are noted. Red Pine has consulted dozens of commentaries, in Chinese and in Sanskrit, to offer this brilliant new translation that includes extensive commentary intended to present this important text in a new light.

Other Buddhist Sutras

The Flower Ornament Scripture: a Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra by Thomas Cleary (Translator). Hardcover / 1993 / Shambhala Publications.

Manifestation of the Tathagata: Buddhahood According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, translated by Cheng Chien Bhikshu / Paperback / 1993 / Wisdom Publications. What does it mean to be a Buddha? The chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra translated here is considered the most profound and comprehensive Buddhist scripture, offering the reader a rare glimpse of the sublime realm of Buddhahood in language that is rich in meaning and in captivating imagery.

The Lotus Sutra (Translations from the Asian Classics), translated by Burton Watson. Paperback / 1993 / Columbia Univ Press.
The Lotus Sutra Hardcover / 1993 /Columbia Univ Press.

The Vimalakirti Sutra (Translations from the Asian Classics) translated by Burton Watson. Paperback / December 2000 / Columbia Univ Press.
The Vimalakirti Sutra
Hardcover / 1996 / Columbia Univ Press.


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