I’ve recently adopted an interest in Buddhism. Unfortunately, all the books I see on Buddhism in bookstores and libraries deal with it on a theoretical, idealized level. I want to know how the average Buddhist worships–their holidays, practices, etc. I’d especially like to know about Buddhism in Asian-American communities. What are the best books and websites available?
This answers lots of your questions quite well: Buddhist Studies: FAQs on Buddhist Culture
If you live in a reasonably large area, why not visit a local Buddhist temple?
ETA - The rest of that site has many more details, worth checking out.
One I found very interesting—I admit I read it years ago–is called Dropping Ashes on the Buddha
This is Zen Buddhism; I’m not sure what kind you’re interested in.
Since the OP is looking for informed opinions, let’s move this to IMHO.
samclem GQ moderator
I happen to know there’s a For Dummies book on the subject. My (Vietnamese) doctor has it on his shelf with all his medical books. No idea what it’s like, though.
The Dummies book is actually pretty reasonable. However, probably the best (by which I mean, ‘my favorite’) is Buddhadasa’s ‘Handbook for Mankind.’ Seriously, anything by Buddhadasa is worth reading, considering that he dragged Thai Buddhism - one of the largest constituent Sanghas in the world - as far away from superstition and idle ritual as he could.
You can read the whole document online here:
Other than that, it really depends which sect you’re getting into. You can, however, find a good selection of everything here arounds:
They publish all variety of Buddhist and Buddhist-interest books.
The google ads are for How to move your stash and never get caught!
The Diamond Cutter.
Out of so many choices that have been meaningful to me, I am going to recommend Robert Thurman. He is a tremendous teacher, and very Western oriented, and, in person, humorous and delightful. He was one of the first Westernerers ordained under Tibetan tradition, but, shed the robes, and has devoted his life to a Western understanding of Buddhism .
One book of many: “Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Real Happiness.” Thurman is excellent in explaining Buddhist concepts to Western mind, and clarifying it’s modern application.