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Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-neng (Shambhala Classics) Paperback – November 8, 2005. From Amazon.com: "The Diamond Sutra, composed in India in the fourth century CE, is one of the most treasured works of Buddhist literature and is the oldest existing printed book in the world. It is known as the Diamond Sutra because its teachings are said to be like diamonds that cut away all dualistic thought, releasing one from the attachment to objects and bringing one to the further shore of enlightenment. The format of this important sutra is presented as a conversation between the Buddha and one of his disciples. The Sutra of Hui-neng, also known as the Platform Sutra, contains the autobiography of a pivotal figure in Zen history and some of the most profound passages of Zen literature. Hui-neng (638–713) was the sixth patriarch of Zen in China, but is often regarded as the true father of the Zen tradition. He was a poor, illiterate woodcutter who is said to have attained enlightenment upon hearing a recitation of the Diamond Sutra. Together, these two scriptures present the central teaching of the Zen Buddhist tradition and are essential reading for all students of Buddhism."

Tao Te Ching: A New Translation by Lao Tzu  (Author), William Scott Wilson  (Translator); Paperback – July 30, 2013. From Amazon.com: "The classic Taoist text freshly translated using the original Chinese script from Lao Tzu's time, and beautifully illustrated with seventeenth-century artwork. Renowned translator William Scott Wilson has rendered Lao Tzu's classic in the most authentic way possible, using both the ancient text and the even older Great Seal script used during Lao Tzu's time. The result is a new and nuanced translation, accompanied by gorgeous Chinese ink paintings and fascinating ancillary material. Wilson includes an introduction that tells the story of Lao Tzu, the "old man" and the "keeper of the archives," and wonderful notes to illuminate the text. He also includes two short essays--one explains the relationship between Taoism and Zen, and the other explores the roots that link the spiritual aspects of the Tao with the practice of Chinese and Japanese martial arts. Wilson's version of this ancient classic is wonderfully fresh and readable." 

The Bhagavad Gita (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 28, 2008. From Amazon.com: "The Bhagavad Gita is an early epic poem that recounts the conversation between Arjuna the warrior and his charioteer Krishna, the manifestation of God. In the moments before a great battle, the dialogue sets out the important lessons Arjuna must learn to change the outcome of the war he is to fight, and culminates in Krishna revealing to the warrior his true cosmic form, counselling him to search for the universal perfection of life. Ranging from instructions on yoga postures to dense moral discussion, the Gita is one of the most important Hindu texts, as well as serving as a practical guide to living well."

The Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs Paperback – December 26, 2008

by Timothy Freke  (Author), Peter Gandy  (Author)

 

From Amazon.com: The first easily accessible translation of the esoteric writings that inspired some of the world?s greatest artists, scientists, and philosophers. Here is an essential digest of the Greco-Egyptian writings attributed to the legendary sage-god Hermes Trismegistus (Greek for thrice-greatest Hermes)?a combination of the Egyptian Thoth and the Greek Hermes. The figure of Hermes was venerated as a great and mythical teacher in the ancient world and was rediscovered by the finest minds of the Renaissance. The writings attributed to his hand are a time capsule of Egyptian and Greek esoteric philosophy and have influenced figures including Blake, Newton, Milton, Shelley, Shakespeare, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Jung. Providing a fascinating introduction to the intersection of the Egyptian and Hellenic cultures and the magico-religious ideas of the antique world, The Hermetica is a marvelous volume for anyone interested in understanding the West's roots in mystical thought.

The Complete Gospels, 4th Edition Paperback – September 1, 2010. by Robert J. Miller (Author, Editor). From Amazon.com: "The Complete Gospels is the first publication ever to collect the canonical gospels and their extracanonical counterpoints under one cover. The selected extracanonical gospels date from the first and second centuries, are independent of the canonical gospels, and significantly contribute to our understanding of the developments in the Jesus tradition leading up to and surrounding the New Testament gospels. Two additional texts, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of the Savior, and a new text of Q are found in this fourth edition. Each gospel begins with an introduction that sets the text in its ancient and historical contexts and discusses the overall structure and central themes. Cross references point out the numerous parallel passages, intratextual indicators, and thematic parallels so the reader can see how the individual passages of a gospel fit into the rich tapestry of Jewish and early Christian texts. Notes explain important translation issues, supply necessary background information, offer guidance to difficult passages, and honestly indicate problems in the text or in our understanding of them. This volume is the premier publication of the Scholars Version translation of the gospels a fresh translation from the original languages into living American English that is entirely free of ecclesiastical control. The Scholars Version intentionally drops the pretense that academics have all the answers. It strives to avoid both talking down, and over the heads of readers. The goal is to make these fascinating texts intelligible and inviting to all who want to study them."

The Screwtape Letters Paperback – April 21, 2015. by C. S. Lewis  (Author). From Amazon.com: "The Screwtape Letters by C.S.  Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to "Our Father Below." At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written."

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: First Complete Translation (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, January 30, 2007. From Amazon.com: "Graced with opening words by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, the Penguin Deluxe Edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead is "immaculately rendered in an English both graceful and precise." Translated with the close support of leading contemporary masters and hailed as “a tremendous accomplishment,” this book faithfully presents the insights and intentions of the original work. It includes one of the most detailed and compelling descriptions of the after-death state in world literature, practices that can transform our experience of daily life, guidance on helping those who are dying, and an inspirational perspective on coping with bereavement."

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary Paperback – October 19, 2009. From Amazon.com: "A cornerstone of the scriptural canon, the Book of Psalms has been a source of solace and joy for countless readers over millennia. This timeless poetry is beautifully wrought by a scholar whose translation of the Five Books of Moses was hailed as a “godsend” by Seamus Heaney and a “masterpiece” by Robert Fagles. Alter’s The Book of Psalms captures the simplicity, the physicality, and the coiled rhythmic power of the Hebrew, restoring the remarkable eloquence of these ancient poems. His learned and insightful commentary illuminates the obscurities of the text."

Paperback – December 15, 2010 by M. L. West (Author, Translator)

Zoroaster was one of the greatest and most radical religious reformers in the history of the world. The faith that he founded some 2600 years ago in a remote region of central Asia flourished to become the bedrock of a great empire as well as its official religion. Zoroastrianism is still practiced today in parts of India and Iran and in smaller communities elsewhere, where its adherents are known as Parsis. It has the distinction of being one of the most ancient religions in the world: only Hinduism can lay claim to greater antiquity. The foundation texts of this venerable system of belief are the founder's own passionate poems, known as the Gathas (""Songs""), and a short ritual composed soon after his death, called the Liturgy in Seven Chapters. These hymns are the authentic utterances of a religious leader whose thought was way ahead of his time, and are among the most precious relics of human civilization. After so many millennia they continue to speak to us of an impressively austere theology and of an inspiring and easily understood moral code. Yet existing translations are few, divergent in their interpretations of the original Avestan language of Zoroaster, and frequently hard to access. M. L. West's new translation, based on the best modern scholarship, and augmented by a substantial introduction and notes, makes these powerfully resonant texts available to a wide audience in clear and accessible form.

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Reading books is not an effective way of reaching a state of optimal psychological and physical health (otherwise the best place to find enlightened people would be at universities). There is too much of a risk of philosophy, religion, metaphysics, or psychology taking over. Having said that, there are a handful of books that capture many essential truths and can provide great insight to anyone interested in what the wisest humans to have lived had to say about achieving lasting happiness and ending suffering. The Serena syllabus therefore include the following classics.

 

BOOKS

Readings From The Serena Syllabus On Meditation, Mindfulness & More