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There is already a question on the best overall books, but many readers/newcomers may be put off (as I have been) by books that discuss for instance rebirth and karma in a literal sense.

So what is the best introductory (but still comprehensive) book on Buddhism as a way of life?

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In my opinion, 'Secular Buddhism' can be problematic since often adherents to this new group (such as Stephen Batchelor, who believes purity of mind is not possible) often misrepresent the Buddhist teachings due to no aspiration to practise Buddhism at a high level. They are like Protestant Christians that seek to modify the Buddhist teachings to suit themselves.

While there is nothing wrong with not believing in post-mortem rebirth, there is an understanding of karma & 'rebirth' that does not involve believing in an afterlife. To write-off 'karmic inheritance' is not particularly wise since there is such thing as karmic inheritance (such as when a murderer ends up in prison for their actions).

I would recommend books by monks such as Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, etc, because these demonstrate both a proper understanding of Buddhism & the 'here-&-now' approach you are interested in.

It is important to understand the Buddha himself taught his teachings are about the 'here-&-now', what in Pali is called: "Sanditthiko, Akaliko, Ehipassiko, Opanayiko and Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi". Therefore, being 'secular' is not contrary to the true Buddhist teachings.

However, if you are interested in a 'watered-down' Buddhism that may help you with ordinary life then 'Secular Buddhism' might be suitable.

I personally would recommend the following books if you want to learn about true Buddhism while not interested in 'post-mortem' rebirth & other unverifiable belief systems:

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books5/Buddhadassa_Bhikkhu_Buddha_Dhamma_for_University_Students.pdf

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books5/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Two_Kinds_of_Language.htm

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Ajahn_Sumedho_Cittaviveka.htm

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/Anatta_and_Rebirth.pdf

more books by these authors are here: http://www.dhammatalks.net/

You are also welcome to read my posts or ask me questions on this chatsite since these are always 'secular'. There is a here-&-now interpretation for the majority of the vast teachings attributable to the Buddha, including those about 'rebirth'.

  • Quite true my friend, good answer. The path of all the wise ones is the same. Inquire deeply into the truth of existence and discover the Buddha nature within. That is the true way of a seeker of truth. One can discover Buddhism from the mountains, from the river, from life itself far better than one can from the words of egotic intellect. – Buddho May 16 '16 at 19:26
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I would then recommend reading the Suttas at www.accesstoinsight.org .

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