buddhist books summer 2023

Real Life: The Journey from Isolation to Openness and Freedom
by Sharon Salzberg
Flatiron Books, April 2023, 240 pp., $14.99, paper

Real Life is insight meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg’s latest installment in her “real” series (previous titles are on happiness, happiness at work, love, and change). Real Life weaves together Buddhist psychology, Salzberg’s own experiences, and insights from other thinkers to help us embrace our daily lives wholeheartedly. In Salzberg’s view, no matter our particular season or struggle, taking steps to ensure an expansive worldview can help free us from habitual patterns and behaviors and put us on the path to living with joy, ease, and, ultimately, liberation.

See “Expansion and Contraction” for an excerpt.

buddhist books summer 2023Living Nembutsu: Applying Shinran’s Radically Engaged Buddhism in Life and Society
by Jeff Wilson
Sumeru Press, Spring 2023, 158 pp., $27.00, paper

In Living Nembutsu, Jeff Wilson, an ordained Jodo Shinshu minister, professor of religious and East Asian studies, and Tricycle contributing editor, connects the insights of Shinran Shonin (1173–1263), the founder of Jodo Shinshu (Shin) Buddhism, to the particular tumults we find ourselves in today. “Radical Shinran,” as Wilson refers to the monk, lived during a time of social and political upheaval, and “understood that the way forward could only be through reliance on dharma and solidarity with other suffering people.” With chapters like “Queer Shinran” and “Refugee Shinran,” Wilson inspires a fresh look at today’s most pressing issues. 

Read an interview with Jeff Wilson about the book here. 

Living Theravada: Demystifying the People, Places, and Practices of a Buddhist Tradition
by Brooke Schedneck
Shambhala Publications, April 2023, 272 pp., $24.95, paper

Lived religion, writes religion professor Brooke Schedneck, examines not authoritative texts or leaders of a tradition but how religion is expressed in the daily lives of ordinary folks. In Living Theravada, Schedneck explores contemporary Theravada traditions through sacred places and objects, people, and practices in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. Schedneck, who has lived and conducted research in Thailand for many years, has also compiled helpful appendices on proper etiquette for visiting temples and attending meditation retreats in Southeast Asia. 

See “Bringing Life to Statues” for an excerpt.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman

Scholar’s Corner

New Perspectives in Modern Korean Buddhism: Institution, Gender, and Secular Society
edited by Hwansoo Ilmee Kim and Jin Y. Park
SUNY Press, June 2023, 348 pp., $33.95, paper

The importance and influence of Korean Buddhism, particularly its attempts to harmonize doctrinal inconsistencies, remain mostly unknown outside East Asia. This edited volume sheds more light on one of the world’s oldest surviving Mahayana traditions. Hwansoo Kim’s account of late Joseon Dynasty Court’s Lady Chon brings laywomen to the fore. And Su Jung Kim leads monks’ secret wives out of the closet. Despite not offering new perspectives from outside the dominant Jogye Order, this monograph is a must-read for contemporary Korean Buddhist studies.

Frederick M. Ranallo-Higgins


The Buddha in the Robot: A Robot Engineer’s Thoughts on Science and Religion
by Masahiro Mori

Do robots have buddhanature? Masahiro Mori (b. 1927), a leading pioneer in the research and development of robotics and president of the Mukta Research Institute in Tokyo, was asking that question decades before ChatGPT could offer an answer. Originally published in 1974, Mori’s book explores the relationship between religion, Buddhism, and science. It quickly became a classic in robotics and artificial intelligence and continues to be cited in scholarship on the ethical implications emerging with the proliferation of robots in our everyday lives. Imbuing his text with relatable, real-life examples, this towering scientific thinker delivers an accessible exploration of many of Buddhism’s most important concepts and teachings.