Many of the books and DVDs listed here transcend categories; we’ve placed them according to the gifts they have brought to our lives. You may feel they belong elsewhere. Tell us your favorites and we may add them to this list.
The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi -- A Visual Journey edited by Matthew Greenblatt
“Our real nature is Liberation, but we imagine that we are bound...we make strenuous efforts to become free, although all the while we are free.” This book is a treasure, full of the pithiest Ramana Maharshi quotations superimposed on exquisite sepia-toned photos that convey the spirit of the man and his humble, simple life. “’I Am That I Am’ sums up the whole truth; the method is summarized in ‘Be Still.’”
Astavakra Samhita translated by Swami Nityaswarupananda
This timeless Advaita Vedanta text has been a favorite for 20 years. We love to read passages aloud on wintry evenings when cats and humans alike gather around the woodstove. Opening the book at “random” reveals these gems: “Virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, are of the mind, not of you, O all-pervading one. You are neither doer or enjoyer. Verily you are ever free.” And: “The universe rises from you like bubbles rising from the sea. Thus know the Self to be One and in this way enter into the state of dissolution.” And finally, succinct advice for living: “O Pure Intelligence, do not disturb your mind with affirmations and negations. Be calm and abide happily in your own self which is Bliss itself.”
Hsin Hsin Ming: Verses on the Faith-Mind by Sengstan, the Third Zen Patriarch
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences...” Thus begins this succinct text, published over the years in pamphlet form, and also available online. It is sublime read aloud (although we challenge anyone to remain totally conscious throughout! We find we go unconscious at just the insights we are currently integrating.) This may be the pithiest explication of an enlightened state ever written.
Yet another classic nondual text, this one from the Hindu tradition. An excerpt:
“I am neither created nor uncreated, for I have always been here.
I am neither deluded nor undeluded, for I have always been here.
I am neither of light nor of darkness, for I have always been here.
I am the Bliss, I am the Truth, I am the Boundless Sky.”
A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie
All of Katie’s books are treasures, but this one is our favorite. Has anyone else so clearly expressed what daily life is like for someone who is awake? Katie describes encountering the kinds of challenges that Life endlessly provides -- from being stood up at a restaurant to being threatened at gunpoint. Whatever the circumstance, this woman meets it with total presence, a childlike curiosity, and irrepressible joy.
“Teddy” in Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger
Karen often tells the story of a child who realized, as he watched his sister pouring milk into a glass at the breakfast table, that he was seeing “God pouring God into God.” This story, written in the late 1940s, is the origin of that tale. Fictional Teddy is an awakened ten-year-old, who, as he describes his realizations to other less-evolved souls, sounds uncannily as if he is channeling Byron Katie! The two are clearly drinking from the same well, and lovers of Katie may enjoy this quirky tale of a younger awakened being.
Spiritual Enlightenment: the Damnedest Thing by Jed McKenna
Jed is an American original. In this book, he makes it clear that enlightenment is nothing like most of us think. His unabashed honesty and bluntness are liberating, if sometimes seeming to lack a corresponding quality of heart-centeredness. But for a peek into the pure enlightened state, this book is a gem. We found this, his first book, to be far more useful than his second.
The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
Tolle is the real thing -- an awakened being who, having been stripped of all preferences, happily lived on a park bench for the first couple of years after his consciousness opened. His books express the realizations he was given in the accessible, powerfully affecting style that has created a huge following throughout the world.
The Mystique of Enlightenment and others by U. G. Krishnamurti
At the age of 49, U. G. experienced an “inner explosion”, in which “even that state I thought I was in -- the state of Buddha, Jesus. Even that has disappeared. The question has disappeared. The whole thing is finished for me, you see...It is not emptiness; it is not blankness; it is not the void. ...The question disappeared suddenly, and that is all.” After that, he became aware that his ”mind was in what I call a declutched state.” He goes on to describe this: “I no longer spend time in reverie, worrying, conceptualization, and the other kinds of thinking that most people do when they’re alone. My mind is only engaged when it’s needed, for instance when you ask questions, or when I have to fix the tape-recorder, or something like that. ...The rest of the time my mind is in the declutched state.” Read U. G. for a blast of radical, head-center freedom. Nothing is safe from his laser-like perception, least of all the “guru game,” which he says is “highly profitable”!
Awakening from the Dream of Me by David Manners
This slender book published in 1987 may be hard to find, but the title says it all! More tidbits: “The common belief about liberation is that it is something difficult to obtain. But it’s so utterly simple and happy beyond happiness, free beyond freedom, powerful beyond power. It’s the wonder of wonders, the very I, I am.” And, sounding like a modern-day Astavakra Samhita: “Freed from the slavery of concepts, opinions, and ego-darkness, I awaken from my dream-life and embrace the reality I am.”
IMAGES TO CONTEMPLATE:
Photos of Ramana Maharshi, with the eyes of Self gleaming brightly
A Course in Miracles
What more can be said about this book that has deeply touched and transformed countless lives? It is more than a book -- as a course of spiritual study, it has become a way of life for thousands of sincere seekers of Truth and Love.
Nonviolent Communication and other teachings by Marshall Rosenberg
How can we express our appreciation for the body of work this man has given the world? Before we attended Marshall’s seminars and read his book, we thought of ourselves as people who communicated nonviolently. Were we in for a surprise! Marshall points out the violence in so many ways we humans commonly communicate, and demonstrates far more effective ways to say what we mean -- peacefully, without even the subtlest blame, faultfinding, or projection -- and to listen so that we can hear what others really mean. This may sound simple, but after a decade we have yet to master it.
The Infinite Way and all other books by Joel Goldsmith
Any book by Joel Goldsmith offers an immersion in God-realization. “If the truth of God as Omnipresence, Omnipotence, and Omniscience could be realized -- not mentally stated or agreed with, but realized -- that is all that would be necessary for the establishment of harmony in our being.” If you long to go deeper into God-realization, we recommend reading and deeply considering the words and consciousness of this man, who interpreted the teachings of the Christ for modern times.
The Compassionate Presence: Meeting and Greeting a Love That Will Not End by Stephen Schwartz
Steeped in the truths of A Course in Miracles, Schwartz created group spaces imbued with acceptance, compassion, and resurrection. “Our healing work brings sacredness into the ego space, brings the light of gentleness into a shadowy place, and honors the light and the shadows as one. ... We are waiting for the Christ Being to come into our lives. ... When we do accept enough to let everything become inundated with Light, everything changes and is resurrected from multiplicity and forms into formlessness, into a world of oneness. ... We start exactly where we are.”
I Need Your Love -- Is That True? by Byron Katie
In this easy-to-read volume, Katie works her magic on the kinds of relationship issues we all know inside and out. Prepare to see things differently!
A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield
Buddhist teacher Kornfield provides gentle, clear companionship along the way, whatever our Way may be. He offers a seasoned, mature perspective on the “perils and promises of spiritual life,” from facing our demons to the roller-coaster of kundalini phenomena to gracefully transiting the many aspects of the spiritual journey. Kornfield is a wise friend, one whose guidance we intuitively trust, for it arises out of decades of experience.
Love Without Conditions by Paul Ferrini
Joshua. In this simple story, a modern-day Christ figure turns a small town upside down as he demonstrates love in action.
The Song of Bernadette This classic 1940s film tells the story of the simple peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, whose beatific visions of a beautiful lady, thought by many to be the Virgin Mary, ultimately led to millions of pilgrims making their way to the tiny town of Lourdes, France each year, hoping for miracles of healing. Other, more recent DVDs about Bernadette are also worth watching, and may be easier to find.
Tuesdays with Morrie If you haven’t seen this one in awhile, watch it again, and glow in the heart-warmth.
The Station Agent Nothing saccharine here; just the story of three people thrown together by Life who somehow, despite their considerable differences -- or maybe because of them -- find their hearts opening to one another.I Am Sam Sean Penn is amazing in this film about the power of love to overcome challenges.
IMAGES TO CONTEMPLATE:
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary
Images of Jesus and Mary with their hearts exposed and aflame can be found on tiny holy cards and larger portraits. The unimaginably merciful heart of Jesus Christ was demonstrated by his life, teachings, and suffering on behalf of all beings. Whenever the Christ is called upon, this heart of infinite love blazes brightly, bestowing its mercy and igniting the flame in the heart of all who ask for Christ’s blessings. As the Mother of Sorrows, Mary sits holding the crown of thorns with seven knives in her exposed heart, representing her seven sorrows.What would it be like to meet the world with the compassionate mother-heart of Mary, or the infinitely giving heart of Jesus the Christ? How might we more gracefully, more willingly bear our own sorrows and burdens? Much may be revealed through sincere contemplation of images of the Sacred Heart.
Throughout the world, as never before, women are speaking out and taking action on behalf of Life. These passionate voices for change include those of Arundhati Roy, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, Frances Moore Lappe and her daughter, Anna Lappe, Julia Butterfly Hill, Starhawk, and many, many more. Each of these women strongly embodies the enlifenment principle, which, above all else, centers around the protection of Life. Their writings are numerous and powerful. These modern-day Kali figures use the sharp sword of Truth to cut through the veils of complacency and indifference to the violence that arises out of the fundamental separation from Life.
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield
The resident Buddhist teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California delineates the many challenges that can arise after an experience of awakening, including, but not limited to, the “Dark Night.” Kornfield writes with great wisdom and compassion about the process of embodying our realizations, and removes much of the glamorous mystique around “enlightenment,” particularly the erroneous idea that once a major awakening has occurred, the journey is over. Numerous real-life stories illustrate his teachings, making this book a comforting, reassuring joy to read.
Tao te Ching, the compiled sayings of Lao Tzu
Numerous translations exist; our longtime favorite is the Gia-Fu Feng rendition, illustrated with evocative photos by Jane English. We like the Stephen Mitchell version as well, particularly in light of Byron Katie’s recent commentary on many passages in A Thousand Names for Joy (see above for review).The Light Inside the Dark by John Tarrant"John Tarrant offers us a way to gain access to the irrepressible seeds of hope which lie barren, yet ready to bloom, in fallow and dark times," says Clarissa Pinkola Estes about this wise, deep book.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
In this novel of redemption and renewal, two beekeeping sisters create the kind of home we all might like to move into.
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
Is your inner child in need of some tender loving care? This short novel will provide it.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
In the midst of a snowstorm, in darkest night, two babies are born. One is deemed perfect; the other has Down’s syndrome. The choices that are made that night will reverberate throughout many lives for decades to come, revealing, as the novel progresses, a great deal about how life unfolds in the presence, and the absence, of enlifenment.
Darshan -- the Embrace
This film follows Ammachi through her daily round, which typically includes embracing many hundreds of devotees from sunup to sundown, with superhuman perseverance and unflagging love. When an earthquake devastated parts of India, Ammachi immediately solicited funds so that 10, 000 homes could be built. After the Asian tsunami, her ashram cooked meals for thousands each day. Her organization has constructed hospitals, schools, and orphanages, and has created endowment funds for indigent Indian widows. Is there a more prolific example of Divine Mother-love on the planet today?
Sicko by Michael Moore
America is the only “developed” nation that does not provide health care to all its citizens. While this basic human need goes unmet here, in dozens of less-affluent countries health care for all is provided as a matter of course. Perhaps this film will serve as the long-overdue tipping-point for change in the US. How much longer will it take for this nation to embrace enlifenment?
Surfing for Life
What could be more enlivening than vicariously absorbing the joie de vivre these seniors maintain through pursuing their favorite pastime into their latter decades? These elders really know how to live!
This African man with a huge heart has dedicated this incarnation to making life more wonderful for others who, like himself, were born with a physical disability. He doesn’t for a moment let the absence of a leg deter him from living to the fullest.
Fierce Grace with Ram Dass
Here the beloved teacher shares how “being stroked” has changed his life and deepened his realization. We see him going about his life, counseling others who have experienced the unthinkable, and, as always, communicating with wry wisdom and unflappable spirit.
This classic starring Ellen Burstyn is the story of a woman who one day, to her great surprise, discovers that she has a healing gift. Her struggle to remain true to herself as she explores the best uses of this healing ability forms the central theme of this moving film.
Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor narrated by Michael Keaton
If you grew up watching Mr. Rogers, you know that this man was an embodiment of loving-kindness. When your inner child could use a big dose of comfort and reassurance, this commemorative DVD will enfold you in a gentle, encouraging hug. (Did you know that Mr. Roger’s sweaters, his sartorial signature, were knitted by his very own mother? Or that he was an ordained minister?) And the next time you’re in the bathtub, remember the refrain of his immortal song: “You can’t go down the drain.”
IMAGES TO CONTEMPLATE:
Photos of Ammachi, the “hugging saint” who has devoted decades to embracing, and caring for, humanity, all of which she considers her children. All she wants to do for the rest of her life, she says, is hug her children.
The Buddhist deity Red Tara personifies the earthy, sturdy energy of Life.