07 November 2014

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you worship a dog?

No. The Most churches play religion as a team sport, with God as their mascot instead of their Captain. We live our religion, with the Blind Chihuahua as our totem, and God as our co-pilot. (We think God wants us to pilot our own lives, but that God is always available to help. We first saw the phrase "God is my co-pilot" emblazoned on the back of a garbage truck that ran over a neighbor's dog in the 1960's.) The Blind Chihuahua reminds us that "now we see through a glass darkly." — 1 Cor 13:12

What do you mean by "The Courage to be Ridiculous before God?

Conservative churches emphasize that people have gone bad, liberal churches emphasize that people were created good. We emphasize that people are funny, and that God has a sense of humor. "The Courage to be Ridiculous before God" is part of what it takes to admit the truth about ourselves, namely that sometimes, even when we are at our most serious, we humans are just plain silly. This is a form of confession, made endurable, even enjoyable, by humor. It also pokes fun at Paul Tillich's book, The Courage to Be.

What about VCBC's other slogans and its Logo?

"We can't be right about everything we believe. Thank God, we don't have to be," is a re-statement of the mainstream Protestant tenet that the source of Salvation is God, not one's own efforts or opinions. Good works and good opinions are expressions of salvation, not a cause of it. So relax. You don't have to get is exactly right. Which is a good thing, because we humans can't get it exactly right. We are all like little Blind Chihuahuas.

"There is more to Religion than pleasing your Imaginary Friend," is a caution against the idolatry that contaminates belief. In so much of Religion, believers project elements of themselves and their cultures onto their concept of Divinity, and then, based on obedience to that projection, proceed to sin against themselves, their fellow humans, Nature, and God. We recommend a little humility before trying to do God's Service. As we said, we are all like little Blind Chihuahuas.
With that as preamble, the Blind Chihuahua is a totem that does not stand for God. It stands for us. For the evolution of our Logo's appearance, click here.

Is VCBC a real church?

VCBC is a collection of magnetized micro-domains on a hard disk spinning in a vault owned by our web service provider. At your request they are translated into voltage pulses and sent to your computer, which displays them on your screen as colored dots. What your eyes and brain do from there is your business. In other words, VCBC is all in your mind. If your mind is real, that's good enough for us. Right. Here's a serious answer.

Does VCBC have members?

Since every sentient being is a virtual Blind Chihuahua with respect to God (or Ultimate Reality), everyone is a member of The Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua. We find that VCBC members are usually:
  1. In Denial. Most people are scandalized by VCBC, or would be if they knew about it. They deny that they are members, and we agree with them, so as to reduce church conflict. Since our opinions do not count, this makes them members.
  2. In Virtual Reality. Many people like VCBC, or would if they knew about it. In one way or another, they acknowledge that when it comes to God (or Ultimate Reality), we are all like little Blind Chihuahuas, as we said above.
  3. In Real Virtuality. Some people do things like recommending VCBC to their friends, giving us money, buying and wearing/displaying our stuff, or posting comments on our blog(s), or even contributing their creative works (in digital format) to our sites. They not only acknowledge their chihuahuahood, they celebrate it. BTW, we are seeking bi-lingual moderators so that we may offer our forum in more languages and provide translations of sites like this one.
Does VCBC have priests?

We have priests, pastors, bishops, metropolitans, popes, imams, yogis, monks, shamans, etc. Your religious credentials are as valid in VCBC as anywhere.

If VCBC is so inclusive, what's with all the Christian stuff?

This (the first, and so far the only) manifestation of VCBC is predominately Christian, because its maintenance person (aka the Pooper Scooper) is Christian. Other manifestations may predominately express other religions. (In the unlikely event that you wish to manifest VCBC in another language or religion, contact us and we'll work something out.) If this website's inclusion of the wisdom of other faiths seems in your eyes to water down its Christianity, try somewhere else. It's a big web and the standard stuff is easy to find.

Then what's the point?

We are all doing our best to be faithful to God according to our various religions. Unfortunately, that best needs help. Look at all the conflict in the world, much of which is about matters of belief. Rather than fight over religion, we want to help each other to be as honest as we possibly can to God, ourselves, each other, and our world. If you respond to this by changing your religion, don't blame us. We are not responsible for what you believe. What you believe is between you and God, even if you're an atheist. Since Fundamentalists think they are responsible for what you believe, which leads them to try to control what you believe, we believe they are legitimate targets for humor, as are we all.

How does VCBC define Christianity?

Lean and mean, like St. Paul: "I knew only Christ, and him crucified." We think that to be a Christian means to experience God through Christ. We believe that Christ was God experiencing life and death (at our hands) as an ordinary guy, and that Christ rose from the dead to lead us to eternal life. However, since those who focus exclusively on the life to come often neglect to care for those they meet in the here and now (think what a jerk Tolstoy was to his wife, for example) we tend to focus on the path immediately ahead of us. We trust God to take care of our ultimate destination.

Does VCBC maintain that the Bible is true?

We believe that every word in the Bible is as intended by God for us to receive, including all the contradictions, redactions, and factual errors which have been noted by the last two centuries of archaeological and literary-historical critical analysis of the Bible and extra-biblical texts. All of those little problems are puzzles for the reader that enhance the Bible's power to awaken the Light of Truth within you. They also serve as a sign that we should worship God, not our Scriptures.

What about the Scriptures of other religions?

God's Truth is infinite, and therefore cannot be confined to any finite string of words, no matter whose Scripture it is. God's Truth is everywhere. It leaks into the Scriptures of religions other than your own. It lives in your personal experience and in your heart. It is stamped into every aspect of the cosmos, and it cannot be confined even to that. And it is a living Truth, who seeks you. You cannot escape it forever.

What are VCBC's politics?

If the shape of the political spectrum can be compared to a dancer's butt, then we have been flatulated up from the center. We vociferously oppose both right-wing and left-wing fundamentalism in politics. We also support the appearance of "None of the Above" on every ballot for elective office.

Who's in charge of VCBC?

Since VCBC manifests itself only on the web, the maintenance person for this site, aka the Pooper Scooper, is in charge. He consults other people on matters of taste, style and content, but ultimately he gets the blame for what goes on here, because he controls the site and writes most of the material. When the time comes, he is counting on God to stop him dead in his tracks.

How long has this been going on?

VCBC was launched on 4 July 1996.

Is VCBC subversive?

Besides being a church, VCBC is also a miniscule conspiracy to help virtues like civility, honesty, kindness, and common sense achieve world domination, one mind at a time. Our weapons are humor and irony guided by faith and reason. We make no apologies, and take no prisoners. Resistance is futile.

Is the Blind Chihuahua theme a send-up of Shoko Asahara, the blind leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that released nerve gas into the Tokyo subway?

Absolutely not. The original Blind Chihuahua lived in Austin, Texas in the late 1970's. If we wanted to parody these folks, we would create a ficticious character called Shocko Assahola and run with it. However, since these people are extremely dangerous kooks, we decided to let sleeping dogs lie, as it were.

Is the Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua affiliated with any recognizable religious denomination?

This manifestation of VCBC is an unacknowledged, ecumenical boil on the bum of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Some have speculated that this is the ELCA's way of attempting to reproduce asexually. Others deny this, on grounds that it would elevate VCBC to the status of bastard child. Most believe that VCBC is a non-serious local infection of the ELCA body politic that will go away by itself.

Did you know there is Another VCBC?

Yup. They're a conservative Baptist congregation just down the road. If you don't like us, maybe you'll like them.

What's with the advertising? Are you just a bunch of capitalist tools?

Actually, Capitalism is one of our tools. We use it because the others don't make any money. If you think we go too far in trying to serve both God and mammon, try visiting The Church of Cash. In any case, our goal for ads, sales, and donations is to pay our web-hosting expenses. If we ever make more than that, we reserve the right to use it for whatever we wish, including but not limited to bicycle parts, books, chocolate and beer. Oh, maybe a nice dessert wine, or even a shrubbery.

Is the Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua affiliated in any way with Taco Bell?
No. Our Chihuahua appeared first, and ours always wears dark glasses, speaks without an accent, and has a penis. (Taco Bell's Chihuahua is a female cross-dresser.) The Blind Chihuahua displays his penis to honor those religionists who behave as if that organ were an antenna that lets the bearer hear directly from God. We suggest that they try another channel.

09 January 2014

A Religion Reading List

We recommend reading from a variety of religious traditions to shake loose our prejudices gain a deeper understanding of our faith. Therefore we provide this list, to be read or not in the order that the spirit moves you.

Bible Translations

The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible, NRSV version. The best of Protestant scholarship in translation and footnotes. The KJV in modern idiom. Woody recommends using the HarperCollins Study Bible (another NRSV translation) alongside for its valuable reference material.

The New Jerusalem Bible, Regular Edition, 1985. The best of Catholic scholarship in translation and footnotes. Probably represents the Hebrew Bible more accurately than the NRSV or the KJV.

The Jewish Study Bible, JPS translation of the Masoretic text with scholarly annotations. Draws upon 2300 years of Jewish Bible translation and commentary, gives insights that you just don't get from the other translations listed here. This is more like the Bible that Jesus knew.

The Holy Bible, King James Version. The most beautiful translation when read aloud, the one we all quote from, but the one easiest to misunderstand. The English is that spoken just after Shakespeare's time.

The Message: New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, Eugene H. Peterson, ed. A vigorous paraphrase from the vernacular of the past into the vernacular of the present. Recommended by Woody. There are also Message paraphrases of the Old Testament.


Man is not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The grounding of faith in existential awe and wonder. By far the best non-scriptural book on religion VCBC's site maintenance person has ever read.

God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Written in 1955, a somewhat disappointing sequel to Man is Not Alone. Rather than a comprehensive philosophy of Judaism, it is a philosophy of fulfilling the mitzvot, the commandments, which is at the heart of observant Jewish religious life. While he makes a good case for being observant if you are a Jew, he shies away from dealing head-on with the Holocaust. He ignores the question of whether to resort to violence against evil, as well as perhaps the most urgent question posed by post-Holocaust Jews: "The personal, interfering God, who cares about what happens to me, died in the concentration camps," a relative once told me. Here Heschel is silent, and lets Hitler have his victory.

This is my God, Herman Wouk. Probably the best short introduction to Judaism in English. If you weren't raised Jewish, read this before delving into major works of Judaica, or before attending your first Seder.

Zohar Anotated and Explained, Daniel C. Matt. Brief and "lite" introduction to Kabbalist (Kabbalah is a branch of Jewish mysticism) thought in the Sefer ha Zohar (Book of Radiance) written by Moses de Leon, a Spanish Jew, around A.D. 1280. In Kabbalist thought (believed to have originated in 12th century Provence) the single God is envisioned as a dynamic interplay among 10 components or emanations called Sefirot. And you thought the triune God of Christianity was complicated.

Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, Frederick Buechner. Pathos and humor in the Bible for those who didn't know it was there.

The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Defines the Christian ideal largely fallen short of in the 20th century.

Dynamics of Faith, Paul Tillich. Existentialist Christian definition of faith and its varieties. Tillich defines faith as a state of ultimate concern — whereas Heschel defines faith as a human response to God's concern for us. Read both and let the two tango.

The Courage to Be, Paul Tillich. Existentialist Christianity defined and explored. Too thick for most readers, but very worthwhile for others.

A History of Christian Thought, Paul Tillich. A readable history of how church dogma evolved. Marx and Hegel deserved his discussion of socialism and theology. Should perhaps be read alongside Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity.

Survival in Aushwitz, Primo Levi. What good men do to survive bad situations. No moral philosopher writing after 1960 deserves to be taken seriously if he or she has not read this book.

The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi. More thoughts on what good men do to survive bad situations. No moral philosopher writing after 1990 deserves to be taken seriously if he or she has not read this book. Should be required reading before assuming positions of spiritual leadership, such as the papacy.

The Eclipse of God, Martin Buber. What the modern age has done to religious consciousness, and why this need not (and must not) be.

Who Wrote the Bible, Richard Elliot Friedman. The JEDPR (Jahwist-Elohist-Deuteronomist-Priest-Redactor) theory of the history and politics surrounding the construction of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses in the Old Testament) explained.

The Book of J, Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg. The J (Jahwist) part extracted and meditated upon. Bloom thinks J was a woman in King Solomon's court.

Who Tampered with the Bible, Patricia Eddy. The politics and history surrounding the construction of the New Testament. Eddy was a professional intelligence analyst, rather than a theologian, historian or a literary critic. However, the skills from her previous career serve her and the reader well in sleuthing out the various influences that came to bear on producing the NT canon.

The Apocryphal Old Testament, H. F. D. Sparks. The definitive collection and translation into English of writings from the Old Testament period that never made it into the Old Testament canon. Some of these works were known to and supported by early church Fathers, such as Origen, and others are referred to in canonical Old Testament passages. But they never won over most of their Jewish or Christian readers.

The Apocryphal New Testament, M. R. James, translator. The definitive collection and translation into English of writings about Jesus and the Apostles that never made it into the New Testament canon. Once you read a few of them, the reasons for their rejection will become clear. They simply convey no profound spiritual meaning that one might teach or preach from. They are uninspiring, and therefore presumably uninspired.

The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Geza Vermes. Some of Jesus' statements in the NT seem to be targeted against or derivative from the beliefs and practices of the Essenes, an ascetic Jewish cult that left its literature in caves above Qumran. Vermes seems to provide the most authoritative translation into English.

The Nag Hammadi Library in English, James M. Robinson, editor. Translations of early pre-Christian and Christian Gnostic writings. Had the Gnostics survived, Christianity would be a lot more like Zen Buddhism that it is now. Notable is the "Gospel of Thomas," a non-narrative collection of sayings of Jesus.

The Talmud: Selected Writings, translated by Ben Zion Bokser. The fast track through the spirituality in the great written commentary by which Rabbinic Judaism emerged from the destruction of the ancient Temple Cult. Indicates cross-pollination of emerging modern Judaism and early Christianity.

Confessions, St. Augustine. Essential reading if you want to understand St. Paul, or anyone else who has had the "Born Again" experience. Lest however, you become too enamored of the Augustine, you might also check out City of God. Valuable for its insights into Sin, it also contains Augustine's arguments against the existence of the antipodes. More than any single person, Augustine was responsible for Western Civilization forgetting that the world is round.

People of the Lie: Hope for Healing Human Evil, M. Scott Peck. A psychiatrist's view of evil as a spiritual disease. Nice discussion of individual and group evil, including My Lai Massacre. See also The Road Less Travelled about psychoanalysis as a form of confession, and A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered, a practical guide to loving one's neighbors as oneself.

The Origin of Satan, Elaine Pagels. Development of the Christian idea of Satan as the early church struggled against its enemies. Nice account of how St. Augustine used politics and power to further his ideas. Pagels, a Princeton professor of Religion, is generally excellent. See also The Gnostic Gospels, and Adam, Eve, and the Serpent.

The Death of Satan, Andrew Delbanco. Development of the American idea of Satan, and its demise as America loses its moral compass. Beautifully written, yet very scholarly.

The American Religion, Harold Bloom & William Golding. A good companion/background volume to Delbanco's book.

Dirt, Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and their Implications for Today, William Countryman. Makes it clear that none of Jesus' contemporaries considered him to represent "Family Values."

The Sexuality of Jesus, William E. Phipps, 1996. An exploration of the tradition of celibacy, the Palestinian views of women & marriage, & the historical Jesus. Captivating remarks about the effects of the "celibate Jesus" myth upon the West. Recommended by Jonathan Hoyt Harwell.

A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, John P. Meier, in four volumes, with a fifth in progress. This is a massive review and commentary on the field of research into what we can know of the historical Jesus. Meier's careful and exhaustive scholarship make this currently the definitive introduction to Jesus research for both the scholar and the layman. For a review click here.

The Divine Comedy, Dante. The cosmology is way off, but the taxonomy of Sin and Salvation is unmatched. John Ciardi's translation is the most readable and poetic one generally accessible, although it departs rather widely in places from the original Italian. Jeremy Shomer's is breathtaking but hard to get.

Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis. An easy introduction to non-Fundamentalist Christianity for beginners.

The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis. A "lite" 20th century revision of Dante's journey. Notable for its interpretation of lust as a perversion of the desire for God.

L'Attente de Dieu, Simone Weil. English translation Waiting for God. Recommended by Matthew Smith.

The Anti-Christ, Frederick Nietsche. A Lutheran pastor's son explains what is wrong with Christians. A must read for anyone who professes the faith.

The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine. Patriot, deist, and skeptic, Paine skewers the preposterous in popular Christian belief — e.g., why Milton's Paradise Lost is such a groaner.

The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus. Famous French Existentialist demonstrates comvincingly that life without reference to God is absurd. Brilliant.

The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James. Explores the different ways Born Agains, Saints, and others say they have experienced God.

Sadhana: A Way to God, Anthony de Mello. Christian prayer exercises in Eastern form.

The Cloud of Unknowing, Anonymous. Advice from a Medieval Christian spiritual guide on how to meditate. A little book, but a great classic.

The Wounded Healer (a guide to personal ministry) and Life of the Beloved:Spiritual Living in a Secular World, by Henri Nouwen. Recommended by Woody.

Young Man Luther, Erik H. Erikson. A psychiatrist's insights into the personality of Martin Luther. One can gain an appreciation of how deeply Protestantism has been assimilated by its cultural milieu when one realizes that Martin Luther would never be accepted as a pastor in any contemporary Protestant church.

Martin — God's Court Jester: Luther in Retrospect, Eric W. Gritsch. A retrospective look at Luther's life and work, his "neuralgic heritage," and his theological legacy. Gritsch surveys Luther with eyes open to his positive and negative contributions to Christian life and thought, from his celebrated 95 theses to his anti-Semitism, from his doctrine of "salvation by Grace through Faith," and his assertion of the primacy of Scripture to his creation of a schism that has lasted more than five centuries.

The Book of Concord: Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Theodore G. Tappert, ed. The foundational documents of the Reformation, this somewhat dry and lengthy collection of writings defines the original Protestant theology (to which VCBC's Pooper Scooper adheres).

Science and Religion: Historical and Contemporary Issues, Ian G. Barbour, a now retired professor of physics and of religion. Valuable for its history of the encounter between Christianity and Science during the last 300 years or so, but not for its version of Process Theology. For a review click here.

Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity, John Polkinghorne. Much shorter and more readable than Barbour's book above. Polkinghorne, a physicist turned priest, is more traditional in his thinking about God, and more personal in stating his beliefs than Barbour. In a phrase, less history, less philosophy, more faith. A good, short read.

The Language of God, Francis S. Collins. The head of the Human Genome Project and an Evangelical Christian, Collins lays out how he reconciles science and faith. After reviewing his evidence for Divine Providence in Nature, he lays out four options: Atheism/Agnosticism (when Science trumps Faith), Creationism (when Faith trumps Science), Intelligent Design (when Science needs Divine help), and his option, Biologos (Science and Faith in harmony).

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. A Baptist missionary takes his family in 1959 to a remote village in the then Belgian Congo. Recommended by Woody.

A Black Theology of Liberation, by James H. Cone. An oldie, but goodie. A sourcebook for the ideas that have informed politically black Christian rhetoric in America since the 1960s.

Born Again and Again and Again: A Bible-Based View of Reincarnation, by James A/ Reid, Sr. I haven't read this one yet, but Jim wrote and asked me to post it here. Reviews, anyone?

The Probability of God, by Stephen D. Unwin. Unwin uses Bayes' Rule to calculate the probability that God exists given one's prior beliefs about the Universe. He provides an enlightening discussion of probability and statistics, and the Anthropic Cosmological Principle along the way. It's not theologically deep, nor is it a "proof" of God's existence, but it is a way to calculate how consistent the idea of God is with a combination of other things that you either know or believe to be true.

Islamic and Sufic

The Holy Qur'an, translated with parallel Arabic text and footnotes by Maulana Muhammad Ali. The translation has a detectable modernist and Amadhi bias ("Namlites" should be rendered as "ants," for example). But the notes are useful to Westerners. Al-Qur'an, a contemporary translation by Ahmed Ali is much more readable, but lacks the copious notes. Another version with copious notes is The Holy Qur'an translated by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali.

A Manual of Hadith, translated by Maulana Muhammad Ali. The early Muslims observed everything the Prophet did and said, and wrote them down. Here is a basic set that enables you to begin living a life in imitation of the Prophet.

The Way of the Sufi, Idries Shah. A glimpse into the mystical Zen-like tradition in Islam.

The Conference of the Birds, Fahrid ud-Din Attar. The Sufi version of The Cloud of Unknowing, i.e., the stages of prayer/meditation.

The Essential Rumi, translated by Colin Barks. Astounding, breathtaking, religious poetry. WOW!

Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam. Idries Shah claims Omar was a Sufi. Read Edward Fitzgerald's classic translation and judge for yourself.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran. Sufism Lite, but very pretty.

Europe and Islam, Hichem Djait. The historical roots of the present culture clash.

The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong. The history of religious Fundamentalisms in Judaisim, Christianity, and Islam.

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1982), by Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul. A glimpse inside Islamic societies from an outsider. See also his Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples (1999).

The Heart of Islam, by Seyyen Hossain Nasr. See also Forty Hadiths, by Imam An-Nawawi, Understanding Islam, by Frithjof Schuon, and Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, by Martin Lings. Recommended by Ahmed Monib.

And now for the Dark Side. There are strong currents in modern Islam that tend toward paranoia and narcissism. Like a person with borderline personality disorder, those who are absorbed in these cultural currents make everyone else pay for their own problems. See "Li'l Johnnie's Jihad Page" for a list of links and readings in this area. Apologies to Muslims, if we offend here, but not all truths are pleasant.

Asian Religions (Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist)

The Three Pillars of Zen, Roshi Philip Kapleau. Your basic what is Zen, with first-hand accounts of Kensho, the initial Enlightenment experience.

Zen Buddhism, Daisetz T. Suziki. Your basic what is Zen, with a discussion of Zen and Japanese culture. Neglects to point out that Zen took hold in Japan because its emphasis on "suddenness" appealed to the Samurai.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, edited by Paul Reps. Early Zen writings and koans.

The Diamond Sutra, and the Sutra of Hui Neng translated by A. F. Price and Wong Mou-Lam. Just when you think you understand one, the other tells you to try again. The brilliant core of the Zen branch of Buddhism by its founder.

Bhagavad Gita As It Is, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. This is a ponderous rendition, intended for serious students and contemplatives, of a very short section of the much longer Mahabharata, that deals with the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. See also translations by Juan Mascaro, Barbara Stoller Miller, and Eknath Easwaran. It is well worth reading all three of these short translations.

Upanisads, translated by Patrick Olivelle. A very readable translations with helpful, but unobtrusive notes. The Upanishads were composed during the transition from the ancient ritualism of the Vedas to the era of epic Hindu poetry that produced the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Provides crucial background for understanding the imagery of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Rig Veda, 108 hyms selected, translated, and annotated by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. The key to the Upanisads, above. Since the Gita is most accessible to modern readers, I recommend starting with one of the shorter Gita translations, and then working backward through some of the Upanisads, and then trying some of the Vedic hymns. In this way ever more subtle shades of meaning unfold for the reader. Then go back to the ACBSP's Gita translation for a real good look.

Te-Tao Ching, Lao Tzu, translated by Robert G. Henricks. The best English translation. Right relations and right conduct, briefly stated.

I Ching, translated into German by Richard Wilhelm and thence into English by Cary F. Baynes, Princeton University Press. Not useful for predicting the future, but useful stimulating oneself to think more deeply about the present. More on Chinese concepts of right conduct and behavior.

Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh. Exactly what its title says.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated by W. Y. Evans-Wentz. Very esoteric hard to read description of the after-life experience. To be compared with the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection the Body.

thoughts without a thinker: psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective, Mark Epstein, MD. Explains Buddhism to psychotherapists and psychotherapy to Buddhists. A good cross-cultural translation book, like the Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics which explains Taoism to physicists and physics to Taoists.

The Cosmic Revelation, Bede Griffiths. Another cross-cultural translation book. This one explains Vedic Hinduism and Christianity to each other. Good background reading for the Bhagavad Gita.

Ghandi's Truth, Erik H. Erikson. A psychiatrist's insights into the origins of militant non-violent confrontation.

Other Traditions

Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk and Richard Niemark. Native American religion from the mouth of a Ghost-Dancer. Perhaps someday Native Americans will help mend the hoop of our nation. Black Elk converted to Christianity later in his life.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by N. K. Sandars. A Sumerian version of the Flood story that predates Genesis by hundreds of years. Beautiful account of friendship and the quest for eternal life.

The Transcendent Unity of Religions, by Frithjof Schuon. Recommended by Ahmed Monib.

Essential Sacred Writings from Around the World, by Mircea Eliade.