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Commenting a post on “free will” ( a while ago, +Rolf Tschochohei…
August 12th, 2012
Commenting a post on "free will" ( a while ago, +Rolf Tschochohei asked "If you start to study Buddhism as a laity where would you begin? What is your advice for a self-study?"

In fairness, I am simply not qualified to answer such a question. I can only give a few pointers, based on my subjective experience (which is far from encompassing reading all books on Buddhism in order to identify the best ones), but it won't be said I chickened out ;-)

I take "self-study" as heavily based on reading. So a list of introductory books I personally recommend is:

basics of Buddhism:
• What the Buddha taught (W. Rahula)
• Buddhism Without Beliefs (S. Batchelor)
• Sayings of the Buddha (R. Gethin)
     [forget this one if you intend to acquire the Nikāyas listed below]
• An introduction to Buddhism (P. Harvey)
• Way of Zen (A. Watts)
• The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma (Bodhidharma)
application in daily life:
• When things fall apart (P. Chödrön)

To go further, I recommend:
Theravāda and early Buddhism (fundamentals):
• Long Discourses of the Buddha: … "Dīgha-Nikāya" (M. Walshe)
• Middle Length Sayings: … Majjhima-Nikāya (Bodhi & Ñāṇamoli)
• Theravarada Buddhism (R. Gombrich)
• What the Buddha thought (R. Gombrich)
• Early Buddhism: … The I of the Beholder (S. Hamilton-Blyth)
• Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime (S. Batchelor)
• Buddhist Phenomenology: a philosophical investigation… (D. Lusthaus)
     [ very dense (you've been warned)]

There are an enormous number of books on Buddhism, so this is ultra-subjective and, again, I do not pretend to have read even a significant fraction of all available. I could list many Mahāyāna sūtras but their access is usually not as straightforward as many think (words 'encode' meanings inherited from earlier Buddhism) so I tend to recommend some study first prior to even read the sūtras, hence their striking absence from the lists above. I'm confident other posters would have make a different choice on such point.

As for the web, I have a few decent links in my public '+1' list. Again, this is very subjective and based only on the tiny fraction I've seen from the whole that is available. Moreover, my earlier posts contain links and videos that I hope might be useful (such is the intention behind their posting!).

I hope this helps.