Further Reading for the Ambitious 

There are a myriad of books out there. This section focuses on those relating directly to our tradition organized into categories to help you navigate.

Kong-ans and related records of teachers

J.C. Cleary, Zen Dawn: A very useful compilation of early Zen records discovered in the Dunhuang library in the early 20th century, including translations of the Bodhidharma texts, The Records of the Masters of Lanka(an early history of Zen patriarchs), and The Treatise on Sudden Enlightenment. 

The Transmission of Light: Not to be confused with the Transmission of the Lamp, the Transmission of Light or Denkorokuis a Japanese text, compiled by Keizan Zenji in 1300, that presents kong-ans associated with all of the traditional Indian, Chinese, and Japanese patriarchs from Sakyamuni Buddha to Keizan’s own era. 

John Daido Loori Roshi, The True Dharma Eye: Dogen’s excellent anthology of 300 Chinese kong-ans, which contains some cases not translated into English elsewhere. 

Steven Heine, Opening a Mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters: A very instructive “alternative” compilation of classic Tang and Song kong-ans, focusing on cases that involve supernatural forces, magic, and unusual characters, including nuns and lay women not mentioned in traditional anthologies. 

Jeffrey Broughton, Zongmi on Chan: A useful introduction to the work of Guifeng Zongmi, one of the key figures in Song Dynasty Buddhism and a major influence on later Zen schools in Korea and Japan. 

Jeffrey Broughton, The Bodhidharma Anthology: A scholarly edition of various texts associated with Bodhidharma, including a very useful introduction about early Chan in China. 

Steven Heine, Opening a Mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters: A very instructive “alternative” compilation of classic Tang and Song kong-ans, focusing on cases that involve supernatural forces, magic, and unusual characters, including nuns and lay women not mentioned in traditional anthologies. 

History, including debunking of myths 

John McRae, Seeing Through Zen. An online summary can be found in his “The Antecedents of Encounter Dialogue in Chinese Ch’an Buddhism.”

Morten Schlütter’s How Zen Became Zen

Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism

Korean Zen

Robert Buswell, The Zen Monastic Tradition

Charles Muller, The Sutra on Perfect Enlightenment: Korean Buddhism’s Guide to Meditation

Martine Batchelor, Women in Korean Zen. The title promises a survey. Instead it consists of two compelling first-hand accounts of the experience of Zen practice for women monastics in 20th century Korea, the first of Batchelor’s life as a nun studying with Ku San Sunim (the other Korean master who reached out to westerners); the second an as-told-to autobiography of the great 20th century Korean nun Son'gyong Sunim.