2021 note: I often get asked for recommendations on meditation books and teachers. This was my response around 2014! There are still some great books and websites listed, so I’ve kept it around.
I started meditating when I was 22, a couple of years after taking an interest in Taoism. Not long after beginning my practice I came across Daniel Ingram’s Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. I was very impressed with the openness and clarity of the book, and immediately dedicated myself to Vipassana meditation as outlined in the first few chapters. It didn’t take long before I stumbled across the first of many events that have convinced me that this kind of mind training is something truly invaluable and deeply empowering. I wrote more about my meeting with meditation in Answering the Demand.
Daniel’s book is at the ever-evolving heart of the Pragmatic Dharma movement, also known as the Hardcore Dharma movement due to its focus on dedicated practice and transparency regarding results and attainments. A lot of people that resonate with this approach to meditation can be found on the Dharma Overground or at Kenneth Folk Dharma.
For newcomers, I usually recommend Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana. It is a very accessible introduction to the path and practice without compromising on the potency of what is being taught. For a more “hardcore” approach and a much more detailed look at the maps, territory and phenomena one might come across in practice, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is unsurpassed. Full versions of both of these books are generously available for free online.
One of my favourite teachers, Rob Burbea, has also written an excellent book called Seeing That Frees. It is a comprehensive and practical guide to exploring emptiness and dependent arising.
Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart comes highly recommended by many diverse practitioners, and it covers a lot of ground with a strong focus on integrating insight into our daily lives. Out of the three books mentioned here, it is the most gentle introduction.
- Buddha at the Gas Pump Fascinating in-depth interviews with a wide range of ordinary awakened individuals from a variety of backgrounds.
- Dharma Seed Thousands of freely available talks from a wide range of teachers. If you don’t know where to begin, one of my favourites is Realising the Nature of Mind by Rob Burbea. If you enjoyed that, Rob annually leads a month long retreat on emptiness, and all the talks from the 2010 event can be listened to here.
- Shinzen Young Lots of insightful videos from a geeky teacher who freely mixes Eastern comtemplative and Western scientific methods in his teachings.
- Access to Insight There are more than 2,000 web pages on this Theravada-focused site, containing hundreds of books, articles, sutta translations, and more.
- Martin Aylward Home of Martin Aylward—Work, Sex, Money, Dharma.
- Joan Tollifson Home of Joan Tollifson—The simplicity of What Is.
- Dharma Treasure Home of Culadasa. Lots of articles and audio.
- Unfettered Mind Pragmatic Buddhism from Ken McLeod.
- Happiness Beyond Thought A practical guide to awakening by Gary Weber.
- Ethan Nichtern Author and Buddhist teacher.
- David Loy David Robert Loy is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.
- Daniel Siegel Investigating mindfulness, “mindsight” and interpersonal neurobiology.
- Investigating Healthy Minds Conducts rigorous scientific research on healthy qualities of mind such as kindness, compassion, altruism, forgiveness, mindfulness and well-being.
- Contemplative Neurosciences Lots of interesting research lead by Dave Vago.
Some other teachers who I have found a lot of value in include A. H. Almaas, Adyashanti, Eckart Tolle, Leela Sarti, and Reggie Ray.
For anyone interested in going on retreat, I cannot recommend Gaia House enough. It is a beautiful and wonderfully well run retreat centre that hosts many great teachers.