So can anyone recommend a book, in the Theravada tradition, that looks at Buddha's life and Buddhist teachings?
The Buddha's life:
-- Bhikkhu Nanamoli: The Life of the Buddha
-- Helmuth Hecker, Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi: Great Disciples of the Buddha
The Buddha's teaching (introductory)
-- Bhikkhu Bodhi: The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... toend.html
-- Narada Mahathera: Buddhism in a Nutshell: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... shell.html
The book you would take if you had to spend the next 20 years in the wilderness
What I would take to the wilderness would be different to what I would recommend to someone starting out on the path. For me, it would be:
-- A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
-- A translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
-- Visuddhimagga by Acariya Buddhaghossa translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli
-- A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi
If I'm going for 20 years then I'll insist on the above four and not one!
Last question. Is this something I should be worrying about now? I am assuming there are major differences between Zen and Theravada, and learning Zen without a teacher...well I really want to learn more about Theravada.
This is getting a bit off-topic and should be raised in a thread of its own, But what I will say is that at the beginning there's no problem with becoming familiar with different traditions. In time, you may wish to settle down and follow the teachings and instructions from one teacher within one tradition.
Now lets get back to topic!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725Compassionate Hands Foundation
(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief