I found many personal book about Buddhism; witnessing; life story; spiritual encounter, experiences, meditation. I never found however a book that explain and summarize the classical Buddhism : a consensus clear that none Buddhist can read to understand that philosophy better.

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    I recommend deeply that you try www.accesstoinsight.org There you can find good texts
    – DLV
    Nov 21, 2014 at 4:19
  • East Asian Buddhism. I am assuming this is Zen Buddhism steaming from Japan, Korea, China, and possibly Vietnam. Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by Classical Buddhism. When I think Classical I think of Buddhism from India, but I have no real reason to support why I think that way.
    – Thien
    Nov 21, 2014 at 15:47
  • There is an awesome book in Russian, iph.ras.ru/uplfile/root/biblio/2003/Lysenko_Buddizm.pdf
    – Andriy Volkov
    Nov 22, 2014 at 23:32

6 Answers 6


Science is really the Scientific Method.

The Scientific Method is:






As a Zen Buddhist, specifically Vietnamese Engaged Buddhism here is what I see.

Most all of the studies (book, dharma talks, dharma sharing, sutra) have the elements listed above. A typical dharma talk (whether oral or written into a book) discusses observations. These observations lead to "insight" or a hypothesis/predictions about the true nature of reality/the mind/etc. Every dharma talk I have ever heard in zen has always asked us to take these insights and test them. Apply them in your life and see the outcome for yourself. I am not just told theories but asked to practice them. This is the Experiments phase. Then I am always asked to examine the practice to see the fruits of my effort. This is Analysis.

So basically I find that Zen Buddhism follows the scientific method quite perfectly. Thus I would say any Zen text could be considered a scientific text by the standards of the scientific method.

Now of course you are asking for a single book that "none Buddhist can read to understand that philosophy better". As a Zen Buddhist, this is pretty all-encompassing of Zen Buddhism: The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. I read this book with non-buddhist weekly, as well as read this book with monastics. The approach in this book follows the methods I described above and is written in a way that is very approachable regardless of your skill level in the practice.

Here is the Table of Contents of the Book so you can see what is all covered.

Part One The Four Noble Truths

Chapter One Entering the Heart of the Buddha

Chapter Two The First Dharma Talk

Chapter Three The Four Noble Truths

Chapter Four Understanding the Buddha's Teachings

Chapter FiveIs Everything Suffering?

Chapter Six Stopping, Calming, Resting, Healing

Chapter Seven Touching Our Suffering

Chapter Eight Realizing Well-Being

Part Two The Noble Eightfold Path

Chapter Nine Right View

Chapter Ten Right Thinking

Chapter Eleven Right Mindfulness

Chapter Twelve Right Speech

Chapter Thirteen Right Action

Chapter Fourteen Right Diligence

Chapter Fifteen Right Concentration

Chapter Sixteen Right Livelihood

Part Three Other Basic Buddhist Teachings

Chapter Seventeen The Two Truths

Chapter Eighteen The Three Dharma Seals

Chapter Nineteen The Three Doors of Liberation

Chapter Twenty The Three Bodies of Buddha

Chapter Twenty-One The Three Jewels

Chapter Twenty-Two The Four Immeasurable Minds

Chapter Twenty-Three The Five Aggregates

Chapter Twenty-Four The Five Powers

Chapter Twenty-Five The Six Paramitas

Chapter Twenty-Six The Seven Factors ofAwakening

Chapter Twenty-Seven The Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising

Chapter Twenty-Eight Touching the Buddha Within

  • I've read a tiny bit of plumvillage.org but I don't know Thich Nhat Hanh's writings so I couldn't upvote your answer before. But that Table of Contents looks convincing: on-topic, "classical"; so thank you for adding that and +1 now.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 21, 2014 at 15:53
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    As a member of a plum village sangha I am pretty subjective to Thay's writings. However if you search for "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh pdf" in google you can find the book for free. The intro chapters are a short read that really give a good feel for Thay's writing style and intentions.
    – Thien
    Nov 21, 2014 at 15:55

The question asks or literature about Buddhism which is:

  • orthodox
  • the most ancient form
  • classical

This is probably "the Pali canon" (and/or the "Theravada" school of Buddhism). I say that because someone asked about the 'Buddhism which Siddhartha taught', and I tried to answer that here with an introduction to the earliest schools and extant literature.

Other questions whose answers are references to the early literature (which I therefore recommend you read as anwering your question) include:

A very popular classical summary is the Dhammapada (there are many translations available online).

You might also like What teachings do all schools of Buddhism share?

I don't know what you mean by a "scientific" book. In my opinion "science" just means "knowledge" and Buddhism is its own branch of science/knowledge. The clearest introduction to Buddhism might be the Buddha's, which is The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma.

You might find that Wikipedia provides quite a good summary, of classical terms like,

Apparently or allegedly a lot of the early canon is intended more for monks than for laypeople. This answer summarizes a book I read recently, written by a monk for laypeople. I found it surprising because its message (i.e. "prosperity" instead of "renunciation") is unlike the message you would normally/easily/naturally get from casually reading from the Pali canon.

You tagged this question with "east asian buddhism", I'm not sure why, so perhaps you're interested in later Buddhist traditions too (the earliest Buddhism i.e. the historical Buddha was around modern-day Northern India, so the spread to Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and so on happened later): see for example Mahayana.

  • I was always taught that science is anything that follows the scientific method. "Four essential elements of the scientific method are iterations,recursions, interleavings, or orderings of the following: Characterizations (observations, definitions, and measurements of the subject of inquiry) Hypotheses (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements of the subject) Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction from the hypothesis or theory) Experiments (tests of all of the above)" -en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method#Process
    – Thien
    Nov 21, 2014 at 13:47
  • Yes. I had a Physics teacher who taught that the "scientific method" is: a) observations; b) hypotheses (theories about the observations, which must fit and/or not be contradicted by the observations); c) experiments (i.e. further observations to test corollaries suggested/predicted by each hypothesis, to test/probe/prove the limits or edge-cases); d) synthesis of previous theories with new observations.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 21, 2014 at 13:58

The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is a systematic and thorough deconstruction of how we mis-interpret reality. It is considered a classical text in Mahayana Buddhism however I don't think I would refer to it as orthodox because I'm not entirely sure of its relevancy in the Theravada tradition, and it's not a sutra. Its meaning is the heart of the Buddha's message, however it is a difficult read as an introduction. It does kind of fit the bill for what you're asking though.

I highly recommend the foundation of Buddhist thought series for introductory texts. You can find translations of the MMK on Amazon as well as the foundation of Buddhist thought series.


The source most close to the ancient teachings is in the Tripitaka. The Dhamma illustrates a reality and the path is an empirical realization of it. This is what is covered in the Tripitaka. Hence it is also scientific.


I recommend the book "Gombrich, Richard : What the Buddha thought". It is written from an academic point of view and employs a historical method of investigation. Probably "academic" matches your meaning of "scientific".


Of course I am biased, but I would recommend this book: "Quantum Buddhism - Mahajrya Bodhana Sutra, Teachings on Awakening to the Great Field". It is written by Maha Vajra, who is the founder of the tradition I belong to. This book helped me immensely to understand some of the problems as well as some highly interesting correlations. Not necessarily correct or incorrect; merely interesting.

And before you jump to the idea that what he's talking about has been disproved, consider that what he's trying to talk about is an experience, not a proof. That point has caused a lot of trouble because it wasn't made incredibly clear.

Other than that, there are lots of books on Quantum Buddhism, and books that allow someone with a scientific background to understand what they're reading before diving into the up-to-2500-year-old texts. These other books will give you enough of a background to really understand what you're reading. But as I said, I'm biased in this case. :-)

For example in this book, using the holographic universe concept, it offers the idea that universal wisdom could be viewed as universally-pervasive quantum datum, repeated everywhere, at every time, and at various scales. Thus, nonlocal, atemporal, and scalar in nature (three terms that many Buddhists might actually be familiar with in English). We can learn to detach from the limitations of human perceptions of time and space, perceiving the higher wisdom (which is more refined than typical intellectual information) in a way which is more direct and with greater clarity, thus perceiving the quantum world for a moment or two at a time.

But there are also examples given of the double-slit electron experiment, simplifications of the Unified Quantum Field concept, and correlations to Buddhist texts (written both for Buddhists who want to understand quanta and scientists who want to understand Buddhism).

It then leads people through the basics of Quantum Buddhism, such as meditation, fixity, and other practices that help bring about this greater clarity and heightened perception.

Though I don't have a math background per se, a couple of my friends say that the simple equations in this book are philosophically deep and really get your mind going.

  • Thanks, ChrisW, I wasn't sure how much needed to be linked.
    – Vishwa Jay
    Nov 22, 2014 at 10:09
  • A problem is that links can break. If in the future the book is no longer available on Amazon, or if Amazon goes out of business, or if Amazon changes its URL scheme, then a link like this would not work anymore. By including the title of the book here as well as the Amazon URL, then at least someone in the future can know which book you were talking about, can search for the book by title, maybe fix the link with a new URL.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 22, 2014 at 17:07
  • It's also welcome/better to add more than just the title: for examplem explain or show why the link which you gave is relevant to the question. Ideally answers should be "self-contained" with hyperlinked references to further information. Some people won't follow the link but you'll want them to understand your answer anyway. Some people might need to decide whether to buy the book you linked, and information in the answer about why you think the book is helpful/relevant can help them make that decision.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 22, 2014 at 17:25
  • Ah, good advice. However, I didn't want to sound like I was trying to sell the book.
    – Vishwa Jay
    Nov 24, 2014 at 3:56
  • I think the same would apply if you were recommending a free/online PDF file.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 24, 2014 at 13:04

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