The resources offered here are meant to help you discover the breadth of contemporary expressions of Early Buddhist thought and practice. You will not find links to Mahayana or Vajrayana resources only because of the limited and specific focus of this website and of this Buddhist community, not because of any implied superiority of one expression of Buddhism over another. Personally, I have a deep love for Buddhist wisdom and I respect all Buddhist traditions.
On this page you will find a number of suggested resources grouped into four broad topic areas:
- Mindfulness and the secular approach to personal development
- Centers teaching Buddhist meditation in Western countries as well as in Asia
- The practical and philosophical teachings of Early Buddhism
- The Buddhist response to social justice, racism, the environmental crises, and LGBTQ+ issues
I. Mindfulness and the secular approach
II. Buddhist meditation as currently practiced in the West
I include here a sampling of the major Western teaching centers of meditation following Early Buddhism.
One could say there are five major lineages of Buddhist meditation that have taken root in the West:
- From Burma–the lineage of Mahasi Sayadaw and his successor, the late U Pandita Sayadaw
- From Burma– the lineage of Pa-Auk Forest Sayadaw
- From Burma– the lineage of U Ba Khin and his student S.N. Goenka
- From Thailand–various Thai Forest lineages of which Ajahn Chah and the American monk Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu are the best known representatives
- From Sri Lanka– their Forest Tradition, of which “Bhante G.” is the best known
Teachers in the West vary in the degree to which they follow the model set by their Asian teaching lineage. Some well-known teachers, blend their understanding of the practices they inherited from Asia with insights from psychology, ecology and literature. I call these centers ones that follow their Asian influence less meticulously.
There are also teachers which follow their inherited Asian lineage very meticulously, and these are grouped together and listed below as well.
–a. Centers teaching meditation in line with Early Buddhism-world-wide.
III. The practical and philosophical teachings of Early Buddhism
The teachings of the Buddha are often referred to as the “Dhamma.” This word is closely associated with “truth”—a truth that one can know for oneself. The Buddha avoided metaphysical and speculative ideas in favor of practical teachings that serve the path of liberation. In being practical, he emphasized perspectives and practices that lead to the end of suffering.
The teachings I am referring to as early Buddhism are empirical in that they can be validated for oneself. He expressed this clearly by referring to the Dharma as “directly visible,” and by his frequent emphasis on knowing and seeing as integral to the path he taught. Believing, on the other hand, does not stand out as having a significant role in the Buddha’s core teachings.
I present in this section resources you might find helpful in exploring Early Buddhist thought and practice. The links below offer a variety of approaches–some are unabashedly traditional, while others less so.
The Buddha’s Teaching As It Is – An excellent way to get a feel for Early Buddhist teachings, recorded back in 1979 by Bhikkhu Bodhi. A wonderful and very accurate set of four talks. This is to many practicing Buddhists comparable to The White Album by the Beatles– a classic!
Access To Insight – Very thorough and comprehensive resources for practice and meditation — directories, text archives, self-guided tour through the Pali Canon. See for example their–>> A Path to Freedom: A Self-guided Tour of the Buddha’s Teachings.
Barre Center for Buddhist Studies – Onsite and online programs supportive of personal transformation through Buddhist inquiry as a way of developing wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all beings. (Barre, MA, USA).
Sati Center for Buddhist Studies – cholarly inquiry, personal practice, and training in the application of the original Buddhist texts in support of our wider world, with an appreciation for the richness of the tradition and lineage.
Paliaudio – offers readings from the Pali Suttas (Buddhist scriptures) in English.
Buddha Net – is a large, non-sectarian online database of Buddhist educational and supportive resources. It is a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the Buddha Dharma Education Association, which was started in 1992 as a vipassana meditation center in Sydney by Ven. Pannyavaro.
Sutta Readings – A selection of the Buddha’s Suttas read aloud by senior teachers and practitioners in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Suttacentral – A large collection of teachings attributed to the Buddha or his earliest disciples, with a special focus on the Pali texts, the core of the Theravada school. Teachings are offered in original languages, translations in modern languages.
Social justice issues were never outside of the central focus of Early Buddhism. Many today incorrectly believe the Buddha’s teaching was solely concerned with an individual’s liberation from the ills of the world.
As modern day inheritors of these priceless wisdom teaching, it is crucial we extend our meditation practice outward from the “internal” realm of personal healing and insight into the “external” realm of collective healing and liberation.
As the great civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer famously said,
Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.
But this work starts with ourselves, as an often deeply challenging process of self-reflection. Our meditation practice allows us to recognize our unconscious bias, and gives us the space to become less reactive and to choose how we respond to injustice and to heal from our own injustices.
Law professor and mindfulness teacher Rhonda Magee shows that by healing from injustices and dissolving our personal barriers to connection we can view others with compassion and to live in community with people who may have beliefs and opinion contrary to our own.
This is from Rhonda’s recently published book The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness:
Because there are so many rivers of pain joining and forming the ocean of racial suffering in our times, personal awareness practices are essential for racial justice work. In order for real change to occur, we must be able to examine our own experiences, discover the “situated” nature of our perspectives, and understand the ways that race and racism are mere cultural constructions.
The individual interdependence with the world of suffering beings was at the heart of many of the historic Buddha’s oral message to his students. Our work as modern day practitioners is to seek our collective liberation with the same passion we have brought to the path of individual healing.
Doing so honestly we recognize our interdependence with all beings.
May our practice and study be for the benefit of all.
What follows is a selection of resources highlighting this expansive view of Buddhist practice as social justice practice. I have chosen statements and articles by modern day Buddhist thought leaders and well as from teachers and groups addressing these critical issues in this time of global crisis.
–1. Resources to assist white people in this work
- When popular Buddhist mindfulness teacher Tara Brach came to recognize her own white privilege, it revealed blind spots. That changed her as a dharma teacher and leader. Writing in Lion’s Roar- >Facing My White Privilege
- Mindfulness teacher Oren Jay Sofer offers 10 Things White People Can Do To Work For Racial Justice.
- An excellent short video by Ruth King, author of the very popular book Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism From The Inside Out in which she says “Racism is a heart disease that’s curable. Cultivating a heart (through mindfulness practice) that is wise and open can be the medicine that heals this condition.”
- Pamela Ayo Yetunde’s recent article in Lion’s Roar –>Buddhism in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter. Pamela is the author of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom
–>> this page is a work in progress, please check back later as am filling it out as I go–
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
The mission of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), founded in 1978, is to serve as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism. BPF’s purpose is to help beings liberate themselves from the suffering that manifests in individuals, relationships, institutions, and social systems. Their programs, publications, and practice groups link Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change.
A Europe-based organization supporting refugees and environmental diversity.
“May all beings be well ” is more than a blessing. It is wise action to actively protect the health of the elements and all species, including our own. This organization offers ways to be involved
And finally — a very comprehensive reading list covering many aspects of Buddhism of interest to contemporary practitioners
This resource lists books in the following categories
- Meditation guidance
- The Buddhist tradition
- The Suttas of the Buddha
- Buddhism in the West
- People of color and Buddhism
- Buddhist books for children, youth and teens
- Socially engaged Buddhism
- Women in Buddhism
- Mindfulness-based practices in medicine and neuroscience, and finally –>
- Buddhism and psychology