Back in the late 1980s I was in San Francisco on business. My hotel room had, of course, a Gideon Bible but surprisingly to me, it also had a book on Buddhism, I think it was called "The Way of the Buddha" but I'm not sure. It was put out, I believe, by an organization called something like The Buddhist Society of San Francisco.

I took and read it multiple time years later. It served as my really basic introduction to Buddhism and it led me down the path to discovering mindfulness meditation. Note, I don't consider myself a Buddhist now but I'm open to learning.

I'd like to find that book again. I'm not sure it was a Dhammapada but some googling suggests that it may be. I may be wrong but a Dhammapada sounds fairly scholarly, this book had an easy reading feel to it. It did remind me some of a Christian Bible, containing stories about the Buddha.

4 Answers 4


My best guess: What the Buddha Taught, by Walpola Rahula. It's early enough (published in '59, and revised in '74), and is widely respected as an introductory text. If I were going to put something in a hotel drawer, that's what I'd choose.

Second guess: The Teaching of Buddha, a collection published by the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism. It is (apparently) extremely common to find these texts in hotels in Japan, but I'm not much of a traveler, so I can't speak to that, or to how far that practice might have spread internationally. But it is possible a translated edition made its way to San Francisco.

  • No, that's not it. I own it and have read it many times. It is the first book I bought on Buddhism. Aug 31, 2020 at 11:56
  • Huhn. Well, I'm going to edit my post with a second guess I just discovered via google. Aug 31, 2020 at 15:49
  • I'm pretty sure that "The Teaching of Buddha" is it. I downloaded it to my Kindle and just read the first 15 pages or so, through "The Last Teachings" and skimmed randomly through the book. It really does feel like the book I first picked up in San Francisco so many decades ago. Thanks! Sep 2, 2020 at 12:07

Did some googling.

The Buddha Way by Harper San Francisco


Is this it?

  • My book certainly didn't have illustrations. Aug 28, 2020 at 12:09
  • "Wind Bell: Teachings from the San Francisco Zen Center - 1968-2001" maybe?
    – Danny
    Aug 28, 2020 at 12:32

Wild guess: The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts.



I can't help you find that specific edition.

The Dhammapada can be an easy read. It's a collection of verses, they're a kind of (a partial summary of) Buddhist doctrine. There are several translations (on paper and online), including an example here. The Preface starts ...

The Dhammapada is the best known and most widely esteemed text in the Pali Tipitaka, the sacred scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.

... and the Introduction ...

From ancient times to the present, the Dhammapada has been regarded as the most succinct expression of the Buddha's teaching found in the Pali canon and the chief spiritual testament of early Buddhism.

I like it as a summary. It can be easy to understand at least superficially -- more difficult in detail as a first and only introduction, so it's often published with some introduction and explanatory commentary.

I once found a book too (as well as a Bible and a Koran): in a hotel room in Singapore. Not about "mindfulness meditation", this one was structured as a "Life of the Buddha" -- a biography or hagiography -- including some of the most important lessons or doctrines (things he said). I think there are several books (in English) like that.

In case you're interested there have had a lot of questions on this site, almost too many, asking for various book recommendations -- see here.

  • My book did not go into meditation at all, it just opened the door for research which lead to that. I also just picked up two Dhammapada's on amazon, I'll dive into them. Thanks for the encouragement! Aug 28, 2020 at 12:10
  • 1
    @PaulCezanne Getting two is good : they are both translations and will convey the text differently. One may be more academic, another capture the poetry. Thomas Byrom manages that quite well while being very straighforward and easy to read. Aug 28, 2020 at 21:34

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