There are numerous books available on the subject of meditation and spiritual life, and volumes are being added daily by the New Age machine. Each religion and philosophy tends to proffer books that encourage meditation from its own particular perspective; it is therefore necessary to exercise some discrimination in one’s study, otherwise there is a risk of confusion with apparent contradictions in the many disparate systems competing for the reader’s attention. The following list is offered as a simple guide to books of wide appeal but is in no way intended as exclusive.
How to Know God (Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood)
A most lucid and informative commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and probably the best available book on the subject for beginners (available free from the Centre for Dhyana Yoga course students).
Raja Yoga (Swami Vivekananda)
A deeper look into the Yoga Sutras by a great yogi and spiritual master. The book consists of a commentary on the Sutras plus transcripts of some excellent lectures he gave on the topic of meditation.
The Science of Yoga (Dr. I.K. Taimni)
A thorough study of the Yoga Sutras by a well-known theosophical teacher. Dr. Taimni also wrote profound commentaries on various yogic/Shaivite scriptures which are recommended for serious students.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Edwin Bryant)
Probably the most in-depth edition of the Yoga Sutras currently available, it also collates insights from other commentators to present a comprehensive study. Best for those already familiar with the Sutras.
Awareness (Anthony de Mello)
The quintessential work of a modern Christian master, published posthumously. Deep but humorous and very readable.
Open Mind, Open Heart (Thomas Keating)
This best-seller is one of the classic books on meditation in the Christian tradition, including ‘centering prayer’ and use of the Sacred Word.
Learn to Meditate (Dr. David Fontana)
A clear and concise introduction to meditation and its basic methods, including practical exercises and guidance.
The Meditator’s Handbook (Dr. David Fontana)
An excellent compendium of meditation techniques from various traditions around the world.
Passage Meditation (Eknath Easwaran)
A common-sense and often humorous introduction to meditation in daily life. Sri Easwaran also translated and commented on many of the world’s great scriptures and his works are amongst the finest of their type available eg. the next item…
The Bhagavad Gita (trans. Eknath Easwaran)
This is certainly one of the most popular versions of the Gita in print. Not the most literal or poetic translation but modern and clear with superb commentaries on each chapter. Highly recommended.
Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (David Godman)
The best available introduction to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, covering a wide range of his philosophy and practice (including meditation); written by a leading authority on the subject.
Happiness and the Art of Being (Michael James)
A comprehensive and systematic guide to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, with emphasis on his well-known meditation technique Atma Vichara/Self-Enquiry. This book is an excellent follow-on to ‘Be As You Are’.
Autobiography of a Yogi (Paramahansa Yogananda)
A classic introduction to the Indian yogic tradition by a great modern master. For many, this has been a life-changing book. There are several follow-on books by Yogananda such as ‘Man’s Eternal Quest’ and ‘The Divine Romance’.
God Talks with Arjuna (Paramahansa Yogananda)
Yogananda’s monumental commentary on the Bhagavad Gita which reveals the esoteric yogic side of this wonderful scripture. A stunning work and recommended for all serious students of yoga.
The Art and Science of Raja Yoga (Swami Kriyananda)
An integrated course covering postures, breathing exercises, meditation, yoga philosophy, affirmations, diet and more. A thorough and easy-to-follow introduction to the yogic life by a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Being Aware of Being Aware (Rupert Spira)
A modern, simple yet comprehensive introduction to the Non-Dual/Direct Path teachings, written in a style that is both lucid and compelling. See also the author’s collection of essays on “The Nature of Consciousness” for a fuller exposition.
Ancient Wisdom for a New Age (Terry Hunt & Paul Benedict)
A modern introduction to the ‘wisdom teachings’. Recommended as the best available primer for theosophical students.
History of Mysticism (Swami Abhayananda)
A modern compendium of mystics world-wide and their universal contemplative experience of the Divine. A fascinating and inspirational history.
Meditation & Spiritual Life (Swami Yatiswarananda)
A full and detailed exposition of many aspects of the meditative life by a senior Swami of the Ramakrishna Order. This book is a goldmine for the sincere aspirant.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (Mahendranath Gupta)
Finally, no yogic reading list would be complete without this book, surely one of the world’s greatest spiritual tomes. [If you are new to Ramakrishna’s life and teachings, Christopher Isherwood’s book “Ramakrishna and his Disciples” is recommended as the best introduction].
Out of print, available online
Sri Shivabalayogi: Life & Spiritual Ministration (Lt. Gen. Hanut Singh)
The official biography written by a close disciple with Swamiji’s co-operation and originally published in 1981. The book has a chapter that details Swamiji’s teaching on meditation and his unique dhyana technique (now usually referred to as Jangama Dhyana).
Yoga study guides
New translations of the two most important yogic scriptures, the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, have been published by the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Both authored by Dr. Nicholas Sutton, these are intended as study guides and highly recommended for anyone who would like a more systematic approach to personal study.
The following books, while not specifically about meditation, are recommended as powerful spiritual works in the modern idiom and have “opened the eyes” of many earnest seekers:
- I Am That (Nisargadatta Maharaj)
- Conversations with God: Books 1 – 10 (Neale Donald Walsch)
- The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle)
- The Spiritual Heritage of India (Swami Prabhavananda)
- Tantra Illuminated (Dr. Christopher Wallis)