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'All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come from wanting pleasure for oneself.'

'The Way of the Bodhisattva', Shantideva (685-763)

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Where to start?

My personal view is that the best starting point for anyone who wants to appreciate the Buddhist view of life is to read the Dhammapada, an early collection of Buddha's teachings. It contains the core ideas without the later religious and cultural overlays.


buy now in the UK

buy now in the USA 

Thiese links take you to the Oxford World Classics edition, but there are many other good translations available.


Monks chanting before receiving a meal, prepared for them by a family. Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand.

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'With its blending of wisdom and compassion, Buddhism offers a view of the world that has transformed the lives of millions of individuals over the last two and a half thousand years.

Its ideas are not presented as having inflexible religious authority, nor simply as an intellectual challenge, but as an invitation to reflect on the nature of reality and on the universal human quest for happiness in a world where everything is changing and nothing is secure.'

from the introduction to Buddhism: Key Ideas

Matthieu Ricard

Every week, the Buddhist monk, philosopher and photographer Matthieu Ricard shares inspiring quotes from Buddhist writers along with his photographs. He has also written some remarkable books, inclusing especially Altruism. Take a look at his website here. If you are interested in Buddhism, whether from a religious or a purely secular point of view (although that distinction doesn't really apply when thinking about Buddhism), you'll find his blog and publications a constant source of inspiration.

The Monk and the Philosopher

The Monk and the Philosopher, by Jean-Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard is a father-son dialogue between Revel, a French philosopher, and his son Matthieu, who trained in science before becoming a Buddhist monk.

The dialogue form and conversational style makes this a useful introduction both to Tibetan Buddhism and to the issues that arise when Eastern and Western philosophical styles come together.

It's quite an old book - published by Thorsons in 1998 - and I regret not having read it earlier. If you can get hold of a copy, it's a worthwhile read.

There's also this talk by Matthieu Ricard in the TED series:

 Secular Buddhism

secular buddhismThe Secular Buddhism Association follows 'a natural, pragmatic approach to early Buddhist teachings and pratice'. Take a look at their website Secular Buddhism. org.

There's a really useful dialogue, posted on this website, between Stephen Batchelor and Don Cupitt, who represents a radical secular approach to Christianity. It includes a personal introduction by Stephen Batchelor. See the dialogue here.

Here's Dave Webster speaking about greed, one of the three poisons...


Or if you're interested in hate and delusion as well, just follow this linkhttp://t.co/LgEQ61cB

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Interested in Buddhist ethics?

Then try the the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, for a wide range of articles.

Stephen Batchelor

Stephen Batchelor's book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist is part autobiography, part biography of the Buddha and part survey of what has happened to Buddhism over the last 40 years in terms of the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to the West and its engagement (or lack of it) with western thinking.

It will be of interest to those asking radical questions about the relationship between a pragmatic approach to the potential benefits of religion and the dilemma about beliefs that are intellectually indefensible (in Western terms, at least).  He touches on existentialism, and the theology of Paul Tillich and Don Cupitt - with references to many Western thinkers, from Buber to Dawkins. Click here to buy from Amazonin the USA.

It is an interesting follow-up to Buddhism Without Beliefs, which is a valuable work for anyone struggling with the issue of beliefs and intellectual integrity - very readable, clear and liberating!  Click here to buy from Amazon in the USA.  

Here's what Christopher Hitchens says on the back cover of the Confessions:

'The human thirst for the transcendent, the numinous - even the ecstatic - is too universal and too important to be entrusted to the cultish and the archaic and the superstitious. In this honest and serious book of self-examination and critical scrutiny, Stephen Batchelor adds the universe of Buddhism to the many fields in which received truth and blind faith are now giving way to ethical and scientific humanism, in which lies our only real hope.'

mug[Except... I'd want to add that Stephen Batchelor and others are helping scientific humanism to appreciate that there is a richness to be discovered in some religious traditions, for those who have the courage not to be blinded my scientific and literary fundamentalism. Just as it takes courage for those who come from a religious background to shed literal supernaturalism!]

To find out more about Stephen Batchelor, see www.stephenbatchelor.org

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Young men in northern Thailand, towards the end of their time spent as monks during the Rains Retreat.

My own books on Buddhism...

Just click any title for more information.

buddhism cover

From Abhidhamma to Zen, this book offers a simple introduction to key Buddhist ideas - each explained in straightforward language.

Available in Kindle format for only £1.53!

Click on the cover for further information...


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... for Key Stage 3

budd bel

... for Key Stages 2/3

budd app

... for GCSE

Other subjects...



Understand Eastern Philosophy

has chapters on Early Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism and Zen

Click here for more information

world phil





There are sections in World Philosophy introducing Buddhists and other Eastern philosophies. Here's a sample page. Click here for more information about this book.


For information on Buddhist Philosophy, the BuddhaNet gives a useful range of study materials from basic introductions to illustrations of Buddhist art. It covers all the main branches of Buddhism, and presents Buddhist teachings in a particularly accessible and straightforward way. Just click on www.buddhanet.net .