Rev. Danny Fisher, MDiv, DBS., is a professor and coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West in Rosemead, California. An ordained Buddhist minister with the Los Angeles Buddhist Union and the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California, he is also certified as a mindfulness meditation instructor by Naropa University in association with Shambhala International. In 2009, Danny became the first-ever Buddhist member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains.
A blogger for Patheos.com, Shambhala SunSpace, and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, he has also written for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Inquiring Mind, Religion Dispatches, The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, The Journal of Global Buddhism, and other publications. In addition, he has commented on Buddhism in America and other religious issues for CNN, the Religion News Service, Buddhist Geeks, E! Entertainment Television, and The Washington Post’s “On Faith.” His website is dannyfisher.org.
The Shambhala Publications catalogue has quite a few tremendous books for those new to Buddhist study and practice. Personally, I recommend starting with Sherab Chödzin Kohn and Samuel Bercholz’s exquisitely assembled collection of textual sources, commentary, and dharma talks. You get ancient and modern sources representing both traditional and somewhat radical approaches, and it’s all in service of offering you not only important knowledge of the Buddhist traditions, but also tastes of the wisdom and compassion that they offer as well.
A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations
by Gil Fronsdal
After getting important context in Kohn and Bercholz’s book, I recommend spending some time with the teachings of the Buddha himself . . . and where better to begin than Gil Fronsdal’s beautiful translation of Pali Buddhism’s “Buddhist Book of Proverbs”? Trained as a Buddhologist (academic scholar of the religion) at Stanford University, Frondal (who serves as the primary teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in northern California) is steeped in the Zen and Vipassana traditions as practitioner and teacher. He brings impeccable scholarship to his own personal journey to understanding the words of the Buddha, and we are all the beneficiaries of that work.
In my own training as a meditation teacher, When Things Fall Apart was effectively the textbook. This classic collection of dharma talks from the much-beloved Shambhala Buddhist teacher distills that community’s incredibly nuanced, imminently useful, and readily accessible teachings on Buddhist meditation by way of sober, sensitive reflection on the hard realities, fears, and other strong emotions that are part of every life. By “going to the places that scare us,” Pema-la takes us on a comparatively challenging but profoundly rewarding path toward peace.
Using Mindfulness and Compassionate Presence to Help, Support, and Encourage Others
by Karen Kissel Wegela
This was another important text in my graduate school education, and one I use now with my own students at University of the West. Buddhism is known for the transformative impact it has both on individual lives, and in a larger world context. Here, Karen Kissel Wegela explains the mechanics of how we can put what we discover in our practice to work to benefit other beings. Like Pema Chödrön, the author dives into the big, scary questions—“What do I do when I don’t know what to say?” “How do I know if I’m really being helpful?”—and comes through with one of most useful books on the subject of care and counsel that I’ve ever read. If you want to be of service to others and contribute to changing the world for the better, What Really Helps will prove invaluable.
“We do not have to be ashamed of what we are,” writes the late, great Trungpa Rinpoche in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. “As sentient beings we have wonderful backgrounds. These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful or intelligent. Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate; we can plant anything in it.” Here, the author takes the key teaching of the Vajrayana—to find the sacred in everything, even the “profane”—and shapes it into one of the most jolting, important works of spiritual writing you will ever read. In addition to this teaching, we also find prophetic cautioning against the dangers of letting aggression, vanity, competition, fearfulness, and especially escapism intrude on the spiritual path. Be with what is, he exhorts us; that is enough. Transform those habitual tendencies into wisdom. Indeed, as he explains, “In the process of burning out these confusions, we discover enlightenment.”
Most of us, at one time or another, would like to help a friend, family member, or acquaintance through a challenging time. But do we really know how to give meaningful support and guidance? And why do our best efforts… Read More
The Dhammapada is the most widely read Buddhist scripture in existence, enjoyed by both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. This classic text of teaching verses from the earliest period of Buddhism in India conveys the philosophical and practical foundations of the Buddhist… Read More
Originally published as Entering the Stream, this book offers a simple and inspiring answer to the question "What is the Buddha's teaching?" primarily in the words of the Buddha and other masters. This anthology draws on traditional Indian,… Read More
In this modern spiritual classic, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa highlights the commonest pitfall to which every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see… Read More
The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Chödrön one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury… Read More