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Some of My Favorite Mahāyāna Sutras

The Vimalakīrti Sūtra: not just a beautiful compendium of core Mahāyāna teachings, but a really great and humorous piece of literature. Go for Étienne Lamotte's translation. This sutra at times is quite cryptically and poetically formulated, yet it is one of the first Mahāyāna Sutras to value the practice of laypersons on par with that of the ordained. The hero of the text is of course a wealthy, rather unruly layperson, who is completely comfortable with all the sensual aspects of life.

The Diamond Sūtra: This is the core of Mahāyāna teaching in a rather abstract presentation. Not easy for beginners.

The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra: A really great exposition of core Mahāyāna ideas. The writing style of the last chapter (on vegetarianism) is suspiciously different from the rest of the sutra, and leads me to think it was patched on by someone at some point. Red Pine's translation and comments are helpful.

The Heart Sūtra: The most condensed version of the Mahāyāna teachings. I really like Red Pine's commentary on this .

Early Buddhist Texts

My main interests in early Buddhist texts have been in the meditation instructions, which you will find (among other places) in:

From the early Pali Canon:

Later Theravada Texts:

  • Buddhaghosa's  Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), written around the 5th Century in Sri Lanka. 

A Few Buddhist Teachers and Writers Who Have Influenced Me

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: This guy has the potential to revolutionize contemporary Buddhism. My favourite quotation: "Western New Age esotericism has done more to harm the Buddhist Dharma than the entire Chinese Cultural Revolution". 
Listen to some of his great lectures: "Projecting the Dharma", and "TwoTruths": Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche:  I love her insightful and heartwarming talks on youtube, such as the series on bodhicitta. I am still trying to figure out when she actually inhales during her talks.

Daniel Ingram: his  book, "Mastering the core teachings of the Buddha" contains so much no-nonsense practical information. You still don't have to believe everything that he says. 

Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi: showed me things I can't express in words, and planted a time-bomb in my mind, which went off (in increments) decades later. 

Sokei-an Sasaki: one of the most interesting and mysterious modern writers on Rinzai Zen. You can find some of his books at the First Zen Institute site in New York. Look also at some of his talks in the Zen Notes on the same site. You will also find early talks by Josh Sasaki Roshi in the Zen Notes.

Bill Porter: who under the pen name, Red Pine, has published wonderful translations and commentaries on central Mahāyāna texts.

Sallie B. King: her book "Buddha Nature" was recommended in a book by Red Pine, and it really is a superb study, which,  next to the great scholarship, l find sensitive to experience as well.

Robert Sharf: a critical Buddhist scholar, who is never afraid to offend you. A harsh critic of Western (and many Asian) Buddhist meditation practices, though I actually think he often misses the point on that topic. His work is enormously valuable.  Listen to this great talk: Do Buddhists Believe the Moon Is Still There When Nobody Is Looking?

Donald Lopez:  a scholar with a remarkable knowledge of Buddhist history. He has (among many other things ) written and given critical talks about  the history of  Western reception of Buddhism, and how Western misinterpretations found their way back into asian Buddhist discourses, such as the the idea of "Buddhism as a science".

A Few Western Thinkers and Writers Who I Value

(there are far too many to list them all)

Donald D. Hoffman: has done amazing and provocative work in the cognitive sciences.

Thomas Metzinger: has been brave enough to promote consciousness studies as an academic endeavour, and has become one of the major figures in the philosophy of mind today.

Jacques Derrida: I enjoyed many years (after graduating in so called "analytic philosophy") reading his texts. My favourites are "Speech and Phenomena" and "Given Time".

Noam Chomsky: the relentless cultural critic and linguist.

Leonard Susskind: who's online course series,  "The Theoretical Minimum", taught me so much about modern physics.

Nima Arkani-Hamed: the rising star in theoretical physics who gave us the amplituhedron.