What is the best book on Buddhist mindfulness meditation?
As several titles were published on the subject, I recommend those written by Bhikkhu Analayo, one of the most respected scholar-monks of our time.
His research into mindfulness meditation, or satipatthana, covers both theoretical and practical aspects of this ancient practice, making it an invaluable resource for experienced meditators and beginners.
1.1. Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization
Satipatthana, also known as the Discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is one of the most detailed instructions on how to practice mindfulness meditation.
Ven. Bhikkhu Analayo has produced a very thorough study of this sutra, offering us a complete overview of four meditation objects: body, feelings, mind, and dhammas.
As a scholar-monk, he’s not trying to establish the validity of only one meditation system; rather, his aim is to explore the ancient text as a multi-faceted source of guidance that offers alternative interpretations and approaches to our daily practice.
The words in this book are conveyed in the kindest spirit with the author gently, methodically and in great depth bringing color and life to the Satipatthana Sutta. I can’t imagine a better guide to read and meditate with. I will take a section and read it carefully and then practice exactly what the instructions say. Over the course of days or weeks, I will re-read the section gleaning more insight as a fodder for my sittings until breakthrough after breakthrough the message is alive in me.
1.2. Satipatthana Meditation: A Practice Guide
In the introduction, Analayo writes that the first book, Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization, can be compared to the foundation of the house.
Satipatthana: A Practice Guide, in turn, can be compared to the roof of the house — its pinnacle. It’s dedicated to the actual practice of mindfulness meditation, emerging from the study of relevant material in the first book.
Furthermore, this practice guide can be used as a course that can be completed in seven weeks. It also comes with free guided meditations available for download on the publisher’s website through this link.
[T]his little gem of a book, while it builds on all of the author’s previous work, stands alone for its user-friendliness and concise clarity. It’s the best meditation manual I’ve seen in four decades of Buddhist practice. If I had to choose just one or two books to read for the rest of my life, this one and a selection of the suttas such as Bhikkhu Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words would be my choice.
About the book’s author: Ven. Bhikkhu Analayo was born in 1962 in Germany, was ordained in 1995 in Sri Lanka, and completed his PhD on satipatthana at the University of Peradeniya in 2000. At present, he is mainly engaged in the practice of meditation, and among other things contributes to the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism. He has authored several books on Buddhist practice, including Satipatthana and Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation.
Complement with our articles on mindfulness books by Thich Nhat Hanh and mindfulness books by Jon Kabat-Zinn and then revisit Bhikkhu Analayo on the relationship between mindfulness and satipatthana.