Thomas Cleary

Thomas Cleary (1949—2021) was one of the twentieth century’s greatest translators of Asian classics. He was extremely prolific, translating and authoring countless works. Shambhala Publications has published over sixty. His books have sold millions of copies and his translations have in turn been translated into over twenty languages worldwide. His first published project, in collaboration with his brother J.C. Cleary, was the classic Blue Cliff Record, that great collection of koans.

While Cleary was best known for his translations of essential East Asian works, the titles below show how he wandered westward to explore Greek, Sufi, and Islamic wisdom.

We hope you enjoy it and benefit from the lifetime of dedication to these texts and the figures behind them that have benefitted so many.

Thomas Cleary Reader Guides

BuddhismTaoismArt of War, Strategy,  & Martial Arts | I Ching | Greek Wisdom, Sufism & Islam


Living a Good Life: Advice on Virtue, Love, and Action from the Ancient Greek Masters

This collection of eminently practical advice from the likes of Socrates, Plato, Diogenes, Pythagoras, and Aristotle covers subjects as diverse as money, child-raising, politics, philosophy, law, and relationships—all aspects of life and how to live it.

Thomas Cleary has translated these sayings and aphorisms from the Arabic sources that preserved Greek thought throughout the Middle Ages. Many of the texts no longer exist in the original Greek. Included in the book is an appendix that presents resonant sayings and fragments from Buddhist, Taoist, and Muslim sources, demonstrating the universal quality of the teachings of the Greek sages and hinting at the interaction between Western and Eastern cultures.


Living and Dying with Grace: Counsels of Hadrat 'Ali

Living and Dying with Grace is a book of aphoristic Sufi teachings on how to make one's way in the world—especially on how to bring spiritual insight to the affairs of daily life. Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam, contains a vast body of knowledge concerning the inner development of the complete human being. Among the greatest of Sufi masters, Hadrat 'Alî (598-661 CE), cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, is regarded as a paragon of compassion and virtue and a master of both exoteric and esoteric knowledge. He was not only a great warrior, statesman, and scholar, but also a devoted husband and father.

Success in this life, 'Alî teaches, is bestowed on those who maintain generosity, intelligence, perseverance, integrity, and calm reflection. As for success in the hereafter, 'Alî says, "God, the Glorified, admits to Paradise anyone, at will, for truthfulness of intention and goodness of innermost thoughts."

This book contains four hundred of Hadrat 'Alî's teachings, showing how people can use the everyday realities of their lives to cultivate wisdom and well-being, both temporal and eternal, offering a path to living and dying with grace.


The Wisdom of the Prophet: Sayings of Muhammad

The Wisdom of the Prophet contains a rich selection of hadith, or traditional teaching stories based on the words and deeds of Muhammad, that have brought inspiration and guidance to spiritual seekers for centuries. The passages in this collection, chosen for their universal appeal, reveal both Muhammad's profound worldly wisdom and his lofty spiritual vision. The Wisdom of the Prophet contains more than two hundred authentic stories and sayings of Muhammad translated by Thomas Cleary, the translator of The Essential Koran.

This volume presents two hundred and twenty-four authentic accounts of the Prophet Muhammad, revealing both his profound worldly wisdom and his lofty spiritual vision. Most of the selections are taken from Bukhariy’s authoritative Sahih and Nawawı’s popular Riyad al-Salihın.