Duality and Non-duality
We live in a world of apparent duality. There is “I” and there are other people, objects, ideas and emotions. Time, space, causality and language all depend upon and relate to this world. Whilst every “thing” else changes, however, “I” who witnesses and knows all of these experiences remain the same.
This separation is grounded in our use of language. At the earliest age, we are taught to differentiate and “name” the things around us – “me”, the subject, and “something else”, the object. But these names are actually “attributes” and not things-in-themselves. We refer to a “golden ring” with “ring” as a separate noun but the ring is actually only a transient form of the gold – we should really call it “ringy gold.” Form is the “attribute” of the object and should be expressed as an adjective and not a noun.
But gold is only a particular and temporary configuration of protons, neutrons and electrons, so that it too is an adjective or attribute. Similarly, protons etc. are themselves made up of still smaller particles, called quarks. Ultimately, everything is only name and form of that fundamental reality which is changeless – the only noun which is not an attribute of something else.
There is a famous quotation in the Chandogya Upanishad - sarvam khalvidam brahma - all this (universe) is verily Brahman. By following back all of the relative appearances in the world, we eventually return to that from which it is all manifest – the non-dual reality.
Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita
Advaita is a spiritual philosophy based on the Upanishads. Though older than most other systems, it is yet the most logical and scientific in its approach. This systematic and comprehensive coverage differentiates between approaches and teachers and reveals the clarity behind them all.
Published by O-Books .
You can read extracts from the book by clicking
on the links at the bottom of this page.
Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita (Paperback), Dennis Waite, O Books, Feb 2007, ISBN-10: 1905047614, ISBN-13: 978-1905047611.
Order from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Big discounts available: US normally $49.95, currently $32.97; UK normally £19.99, currently £13.19. Also order from Infibeam, India.
The symbolism of the swan:
The swan is particularly symbolic in Advaita. Its ability to move through water without wetting its feathers alludes to the life of the realized man living his life totally unaffected by the world. In its flight it represents the supreme spirit escaping the bondage of saMsAra. The Sanskrit for swan is haMsa and the title parama haMsa is given to the highest ascetics, as in Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. If the word ‘haMso’ is repeated as a mantra, it mutates into ‘soham’, meaning ‘I am he’. Since ‘aham brahmAsmi’ – I am Brahman – haMsa also stands for the non-dual reality, Brahman.
When we read a book, or even listen to a tape recording of a lecture or dialogue, we are receiving only a particular viewpoint, aimed at a student of a particular level. It may resonate or it may not. Even the method of expression is crucial. Whilst one person may appreciate logic and intellectual analysis, another may need sympathetic reassurance and practical guidance. Some benefit from the crutch-like support of a personal God, others from the karate-chop of a Zen koan. Ultimately, the truth is one and everything else that might be said is only at the level of appearance, using a language that is necessarily objective and dualistic. What is needed is a teacher whose words and style “click” with our particular mental conditioning. This book aims to present excerpts from traditional and modern teaching in a wide variety of styles, in the hope that something will click."
Endorsements received to date:
Dennis Waite has written a comprehensive work on the subject of Advaita that connects its more recent expression in the West with Advaita’s long tradition in the East. He has taken this deep and complex subject and clearly explained it in his own words and further illustrated it with quotes from a wide variety of teachers and sages. His book provides a rich experience for those who enjoy pondering the deepest questions, not only regarding Advaita, but ultimately the Truth beyond all labels.
Nirmala (Teacher and author of “ Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self”) and Gina Lake (Counselling Psychologist and Author of “Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening”)
A wonderful book. Encyclopedic in nature, and destined to become a classic. This text could accurately be called “Everything you wanted to know about Advaita from the beginning of time, and from all angles and all viewpoints.”
James Braha (Author of “ Living Reality: My Extraordinary Summer with ‘Sailor’ Bob Adamson ”)
I don’t think I have seen anything quite like what you are attempting in the book, and I think it will fill a gap, specifically, presenting ancient and contemporary versions of Advaita along with some original source material and some critical analysis.
John Wheeler (Teacher and author of “Awakening to the Natural State ” and “Shining in Plain View”)
We must congratulate Dennis Waite on his highly researched study of Advaita which comprehensively states all the different aspects and angularities of this Great Teaching. It will surely prove to be a most helpful guide to the contemporary reader.
Alan Jacobs, former President of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK and author of “The Principal Upanishads,” “The Bhagavad Gita,” “The Wisdom of Balsekar” and others
Dennis Waite ’s book “Back To The Truth” is a superb exploration into the vast subject that is Advaita philosophy. As a student of the Sanskrit language he is well qualified to delve more deeply into the background texts, which make up traditional Advaita, than most people who are interested in the subject. This excellent and long awaited book also takes an extensive look at modern teachers and writers on Advaita, and, I would say, is essential reading for anyone at all interested in the subject. It is a clear and refreshing overview of the whole genre that is Advaita - not just one aspect of it - offering the facts, from the historical past right up until today, when non-dualistic teachings abound but often emphasise different aspects of the historical teachings. This is a book for anyone who genuinely wishes to gain a thorough comprehension of Advaita .
Roy Whenary (author of “The Texture of Being”)
A beautiful, articulate and extensive, yet compact anthology of pointers adverting to Truth. This compilation in itself is all that is needed for true understanding.
Justus Kramer Schipper s (Teacher and author of “Living from Neutrality”)
This work is well written and meticulously researched. It forms a valuable and much needed basis for an in depth investigation into the ancient Advaita Vedanta teachings. It is a major achievement and should appeal to a wide audience of serious seekers and other students of life.
Möller de la Rouvière (author of “Spirituality Without God”)
A book on advaita that combines its theory, its practical implication, and its history can be very heavy reading. But this book does all that and yet remains eminently readable. This is definitely one of the most complete and exhaustive books on advaita ever, and is the first book that I have seen that not only deals with advaita but also expands upon the various different types and styles of teachings including contemporary ones, analyses and compares them and helps the seeker in selecting the one that matches his temperament the most. A rare book, of great practical value to any sincere spiritual seeker, and a must for anyone interested in advaita.
Dr. Nitin Trasi, author of “The Science of Enlightenment”
“Back To The Truth” is a comprehensive treatise on Advaita for those with an abiding interest in this subject. Dennis Waite is an experienced seeker and author who has the knack of imparting an immediate and satisfying sense of the underlying themes. The text is lucid, the references relevant and wide ranging, and the overall effect expansive and clarifying. This book is recommended to experienced Advaitins, as well as to those whose initial interest has led to a desire for a comprehensive review of the principles underlying this remarkable philosophy.
John Lehmann, Principal, Advaita Meditation Center, Waltham, Massachusetts , USA
Dennis has poured his love of Truth and humanity into this precise and luminous work. Highly recommended.
Isaac Shapiro , Teacher and author of “Outbreak of Peace”
I had that delicious feeling you get once in a while when you’re reading a book where you know you’re a party to something truly profound… I think what you have written is absolutely brilliant - you manage to combine an ease of writing with a water-tight argument outlining the greatest universal truths. Each time you made a point, my mind rather precociously said, ah yes, but what about - and lo and behold, in the next paragraph you had answered my question! It will do wonders in dispelling all the confusion and myth surrounding this subject. I have no doubt that your book will become the standard reference work for the advaita movement, both past and present.
Paula Marvelly , author of “The Teachers of One” and “Women of Wisdom”
Using a variety of relevant sources, Dennis Waite brilliantly succeeds in challenging the validity of the beliefs we use to protect our non-existent ego from total annihilation.
Chuck Hillig , Author of “The Enlightenment Quartet”
Dennis Waite in his new book on Advaita has given us a detailed, clear and balanced study of what this ancient wisdom means to us modern seekers, particularly with respect to the differences between the traditional school based on the scriptures and the more direct approach which finds favour with many spiritual seekers today. He has cleared away unnecessary verbiage which surrounds this abstruse subject. Mr Waite deftly and cogently outlines the complex richness of the Advaitic view of the world and our relationship to it with a simplicity that only a person in command of his subject can reveal.
The Mountain Path (Journal of Sri Ramanasramam)
Dennis Waite ’s strength as an author and scholar of Advaita really shows. He is thorough and exhaustive in his examination of the Advaita teachings, a sort of Ken Wilber of the Advaita world. He leaves no stones unturned, and examines the body of teachings from all possible angles. He is not concerned with putting his own view front and center either, as he frequently draws on the views and words of other teachers. In the end, his writings leave one with the satisfied sense that the whole story has been told, and that no intellectual loopholes remain in one’s understanding of the matter.
His book is excellent for “beginners” and newcomers to Advaita simply because he covers all the bases with scrupulous honesty. But his writing is also excellent for long time seekers and those who have already “gotten it,” those who have already had a profound opening and may wish to compare notes and sit back and sip the wine of a fine overview of this most ultimate of spiritual pathways to the Home that we never truly left.
Philip T. Mistlberger, Teacher and Author of “A Natural Awakening: Realizing the True Self in Everyday Life”
This is the most comprehensive, academic book on the so called “tradition” of non-duality we have seen. It is even more thorough than David Loy’s research. The questions, and curiosity within, may assist in turning over every rock. Hopefully, this book will invite readers to actually inquire into their real nature, rather than memorizing some new concepts. The material here may be like a mirror-snake that reflects on itself, while eating its own tail - a disappearing act.
Brian Lake and Naama Livni, Teachers
A profoundly astute and masterful guide to the field of Self-discovery. An authoritative scholar, Dennis writes with supreme clarity as he skilfully expounds, logically analyzes and insightfully integrates the wisdom of classical and contemporary teachers with the principles of Advaita.
Katie Davis, Teacher and author of “Awake Living Joy: The Essence of Spiritual Enlightenment”
Dennis Waite is the West’s pre-eminent explicator of Advaita Vedanta. In driving home his point that our nature is Awareness, Dennis brings to light many of Advaita’s “hidden” teachings, which have never been circulated outside of specialist schools. He also does something I’ve never seen anywhere in print. He opens a critical dialogue between the ancient and the modern paths, whose exponents don’t always agree. Fascinating!
Dr. Gregory Goode, PhD (Philosophy), Philosophical Counselor and non-dual teacher.
Rigorous and exhaustive; a grand tour of the advaita world, both ancient and neo.
Robin Dale, author of “Noticing What You Already Know”.
Dennis Waite has rendered the complex concepts of Advaita in terms that can be easily absorbed and appreciated by the western mind. The presentation is logical and educational, simple yet profound.
Dr. Kuntimaddi Sadananda , disciple of Swami Chinmayananda and a principal teacher at the Washington Chinmaya Mission .
In the last few years Advaita (non-duality) has become of increasing interest in the West, with thousands of students flocking to the hundreds of established and emerging Advaitic teachers. And although the number of Advaita teachers grows daily, very, very few of them have a thorough understanding of the philosophical depth and background behind it. Dennis Waite has given us a comprehensive understanding of what Advaita is; a book that will be invaluable to the many students of Advaita, and more importantly, to many of the teachers as well.
Aja Thomas, director of the Atma Institute in Oregon, teacher of Advaita and Sanskrit, author of “In This Moment – Teachings on the Nature of Consciousness”.
In Back to the Truth, Dennis Waite provides an introduction to Advaita Vedanta, as a living tradition of spiritual enquiry. As the title suggests, this book is about old questions that are very much alive today. The questions are raised systematically and comprehensively, for an ordinary reader, by well- informed quotations from old texts and from a variety of modern teachers and students who are asking those questions now. The value of this book lies in that combination of the old and the new.
Dr. Ananda Wood , disciple of Atmananda Krishna Menon and author of “From the Upanishads” and “Interpreting the Upanishads”.
This book is essential reading for all who are walking the path where every step is destination.
Karl Renz , teacher and author of “The Myth of Enlightenment”
Scholarly, accurate and precise, Dennis’ books are a tremendous contribution to the field of Advaita, particularly because of his ability to sift through and sort all the material and make sense of it in a clear and consistent way. Clear thinkers are very rare in this business; Dennis is one, being able to hold a clear center amid the chaos of fuzzy thinking rampant in the field.
David Carse , author of “Perfect Brilliant Stillness – beyond the individual self”
Dennis Waite explains Advaita with delight and rigor. Sages and teachers from ancient to dot-com days address the desire for non-duality and confess the recognition that there is reality alone. The author does not swerve, so the reader remains focused on the essence of Advaita.
Back to the Truth is an extensive overview of Advaita, a teaching whose source is the Upanishads. Advaita is the philosophy and teaching that reality is “not two.” Dennis Waite quotes nearly 150 teachers of Advaita, about half of whom are living, and 378 sources are cited as references.
The author’s purpose is twofold: (1) to compile within a single volume the most complete and up-to-date treatment of Advaita. He succeeds at that. It is clear that Waite is a voracious reader of nondual subjects. Dennis told me, or I read somewhere, that he reads with a pencil and makes notes in the books he reads. That is the only way Back to the Truth could have been compiled. It had to be written by a student and a scholar who knows “everything” written on Advaita, including emails posted especially to the Advaitin email list, and who is a gatherer and an organizer of themes.
And (2) to bring about a shift in the attentional direction of the reader. The latter is the primary aim of the book. That only makes sense. If a sage has any purpose at all, it is to get you to awaken. That is Waite’s primary purpose. It’s not a chosen purpose; it’s the way it is. Dennis provides a number of hooks to hang your hat on.
What does it mean to hang your hat? When you’ve hung your hat, you’ve turned your attention around toward truth. Lots of hooks in this book. Even the curved neck of the swan on the cover looks like an inverted hook. Yes, these hooks should be inverted since they are associated with the turning around of attention.
Hooks in this book come in the forms of teachers of Advaita, a variety of themes (e.g., karma, death, desire, happiness, spiritual practices, enlightenment, nature of reality, methods of teaching, science, grace, creation.), metaphors, scriptural passages, and concise, detailed chapter summaries. Another hook is the voice of Dennis Waite himself, who gives this monumental work perspective:
“I began my own seeking on a traditional path and then moved into Direct Path, also dabbling in a neo-direction. Ultimately, however, I found it necessary to go back to the roots in order to really understand what is being said (not always clearly) by all teachers.”
To back-up the book are 7 exceptional appendixes. In addition, there is a bibliography, an extensive glossary of Sanskrit terms, and an index which is good but does not present the themes as integrally and flowingly as the main text or even the appendixes. Shambhala Publications publishes excellent indexes, judging by the few I have on my shelves, especially for Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa.
Jerry Katz , author of "One: Essential Writings on Nonduality" and owner of Non-Duality Salon
It has been my pleasure to be associated with Dennis Waite as a co-moderator of the Advaitin list (a mailing list of 1500 members with the focus on Advaita philosophy) for the past 7 years. He has been an active participant and contributor to the list, leading discussions on Advaita topics such as ‘fate and free-will.’ He possesses an impressive writing style and articulates complex ideas with scholarship and humility. His long-time association with the Advaitin list is reflected through this wonderful book – which truly provides everything that one wants to know about the philosophy of non-duality. I always believe that that the best ambassadors for spreading philosophies of Indian origin are westerners with a strong conviction, as Dennis has. I want to congratulate him for completing a great encyclopedic book on Advaita.
Ram Chandran, owner of the Advaitin Egroup
Definitive work on Advaita Vedanta: In the book Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita, Dennis Waite's magnum opus, the definitive study of Advaita Vedanta (from "A" to "V") has been penned. While providing the most scholarly work to date on the subject matter of Nonduality, the author's style assures an ease of readability that will make the content in this comprehensive volume readily assessible to beginners. At the same time, when Waite shares his unique and masterful take on the Teachings, he offers new elucidations of ancient understandings that will also make the book appealing to advanced seekers and to Advaitin teachers as well.
Floyd Henderson, teacher and author of FROM THE I TO THE ABSOLUTE (A Seven-Step Journey to Reality).
Everything you wanted to know on advaita: A marathon 600-page compendium, in English, of the entire philosophical
field of spiritual knowledge known as `Advaita' (Non-duality) -- that
is `Back to the Truth' by Dennis Waite. It is in fact more than a
compendium; it is a masterly thesis presented by Waite from scratch all
the way up to the dizzy heights of whatever peak you have heard about
in Vedanta. It is a classic, unique in several respects.
Its first, and greatest, uniqueness is its strategy of presentation. The author strides like a colossus on the shoulders of all the giants of this ancient philosophy that was originally formally streamlined from the teaching of the Upanishads, by towering authorities like Gaudapada and Shankara, then supplemented and strengthened by a whole lineage of Masters over the centuries down to the times of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, now propagated worldwide in the twentieth century by Seers of the stature of Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Atmananda Krishna Menon, and the like and expounded resoundingly by Swami Sivananda, Swami Ranganathananda (and others of the Ramakrishna Mutt), Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Dayananda and scores of others through lectures as well as writings almost up to the present time. We hear the words of these originators and expositors all throughout the book. Further, the book testifies to the power of the electronic media of modern times most dramatically in the fact that, in addition to this time-tested foundation on which the author stands high on a pedestal, there are elaborate quotations of diverse writings (with most proper acknowledgments, of course) on the web by various modern authors on anything even remotely connected with advaita. Tons of credit are due to the author for his masterly handling of all this varied material and for his insightful stringing together of all of them - each one in its place, at the right time, in the right context, for the right purpose and with the right effect. Excerpts from traditional and modern teaching are presented in a wide variety of styles, says the author, "in the hope that something will click". Rest assured, everything clicks!
The second uniqueness of the book is the large spectrum of its coverage. The secondary title of the book, "5000 years of Advaita" is amply justified by this coverage. The first chapter looks at who we are not. We are neither the body nor the mind. The second chapter is about action, Karma, reincarnation and free will. Action involves the concept of a `doer' and this originates from the mistaken identification of ourselves with the intellect. What is the motivation for action? It is pursuit of happiness. Desire, motivation and purpose form therefore the subject of discussion. Then comes the difficult portion of advaita: knowledge, ignorance, superimposition, reality, `mithyA' and means of knowledge. The various spiritual practices advocated in order to prepare the mind on its spiritual ascent are examined in the next chapter, which is the longest. Chapters 6 and 7 take up the core of advaita: Who we really are; the nature of reality, Consciousness, cause and effect, `mAyA'. This listing of the chapters cannot however do the least justice to the extent and depth of topics dealt with in these seven chapters. The author takes the reader leisurely through the labyrinths of advaita step by step through all these discussions - now quoting a scripture, now excerpting from a modern writer, now interposing with his own synopsis of the argument, now prefacing a difficult logical breakthrough by an introduction, and now reproducing a whole passage from Ramana or Shankara or Ramesh Balsekar or any of the hundred (or so) authors he quotes with conviction. We get to go through the difficult terrains of pancha-kosha-prakriyA (methodology through the five sheaths), bhAga-tyAga-lakshhaNa (pointer through the giving up of contradictory parts), dRshhTi-shRshhTi (seeing is creation), adhyAropa-apavAda (denial of erroneous attribution) and such concepts galore. Think of anything in the advaita terrain, it is there, -- with all the distinction of precision and scholarship.
Thirdly, the author brings to focus the differences in the teachings by different Masters by broadly classifying everything (in terms of its teaching method) either as `traditional', or `direct approach' or `neo-advaita'. The first one goes back to the scriptures and all the commentaries. The third one, `neo-advaita' does not take the different levels of reality advocated by Shankara as of any value, and so the absolute level is the only level for them; there is no seeker, no ignorance, no path, no enlightenment, because Reality is One. The second one, the Direct Approach, is somewhere in between the other two.
And fourthly - this is really a superlative uniqueness - in order to help all those who are unfamiliar with the Sanskrit script or language, there is a 12-page brief introduction to the script and pronunciation as well as to the transliteration of Sanskrit writing.
Several other excellences are worthy of being highlighted. A pointwise bulleted summary at the end of each chapter helps the reader not to miss the wood for the trees. The encyclopaedic value of the book is further enhanced by
* the use of the bold type, in the text, of the name of every author who is quoted there,
* a detailed 40-page glossary of Sanskrit terms
* a list of around two hundred current teachers of advaita with web references for them
* a complete list of all web sites dedicated to advaita and organizations devoted to advaita,
* a long list of Recommended Reading, with brief notes on each item,
* a list of 378 references, and finally,
* an index.
In sum, this landmark book provides an enjoyably pleasant reading, inspite of its necessarily heavy content. It should be in the hands of every spiritual seeker, whether of the advaita school or not.
Professor V. Krishnamurthy, Author and owner of the website "Gems From The Ocean Of Hindu Thought Vision And Practice".
Ever since I picked up Back to the Truth, I've hardly been able to put it down! There is something of real interest and substance on almost every page. I feel a great service has been done for the cause of truth through your authorship and I thank you for being so fully available for what was obviously an enormous and comprehensive task.
Peter Sumner, Gurukula Books.
A Gift of Grace - Well, finally, a flawlessly researched, complete and brilliantly articulated view of the seeming contradictions and many paradoxes in the Teachings of Nonduality. This scholarly Work resolves the issues of this path vs. that path. The potential is here for a dawning of one's True Nature as the ever-present Being - Sat-Chit-Ananda, Being-Awareness-Bliss.
This fascinating tome is a must for any serious student of Advaita. Dennis dispels many myths, exposes the fallacies of certain concepts about "right paths," and importantly, exposes the folly of belief in the idea that "there is nothing to do" as an incomplete pointing to Truth.
Clearly, the author must BE what he is pointing to. I find this work to be one of the most liberating of the many, many books I have read on the subject. Thanks for this Font of Grace, Dennis.
Ishan (Charlie Hayes), author of 'Life after Death', 'From I am to I am with Love'.
A valuable resource for anyone interested in Advaita at any level. Dennis covers every aspect of the subject, incorporating writings from teachers ancient to modern. An academic treatment of an enormous amount of material, while preserving the magic and beauty of the message. Nothing like this book exists, and it is destined to become a "must-have" for students and teachers.
Annette Nibley, teacher (disciple of John Wheeler and Stephen Wingate).
This is an extraordinary book. The scope represents a real tour de force in marshalling and laying out an encyclopaedic amount of material in way that will appeal both to the seasoned and to the introductory reader. This book will surely be the definitive work of reference for many years to come.
Scientific & Medical Network Review
This is one of the best books on Advaita I have seen. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Advaita as a must-have. In fact, would heartily recommend it to anyone who is a seeker of truth.
Burt Harding, teacher and author of numerous books on Advaita and ACIM.
Comments by Readers
At last, the book you have been searching for (Reviewer - Advaita Rules - Australia).
This book is a comprehensive compilation explaining clearly for a
western audience the practical teachings of Advaita, these teachings
have stood the test of time and rightly so.
For those that would like a bit more guidance than "you are that", this IS the book. FULL STOP with this one, submerge yourself in it, change the way you see the world and your self.
This book will make sense of the various teachings you may have already encountered, put them in perspective, clear confusion and correct misdirection. This book explains the direct path and how it works.
Knowledge is everything and here you will find the knowledge that provides clear pointers back to the truth of that which you truly are.
Non-duality, Advaita and Zen are all at home here and the material is supported by a massive amount of quotes from modern and traditional sages and teachers.
This is an excellent read, a substantial resource and I am sure will remain amongst my favourites.
Over the past week, I have been reading your book ‘Back to the Truth: 5,000 years of Advaita’ (having previously read ‘The Book of One’). I felt that I really must contact you to express my admiration of such an erudite and scholarly, but at the same time very readable, work. It is particularly valuable to have traditional Advaita teachings compared (and in some cases, contrasted!) with those of various contemporary teachers; although any classification must perforce be somewhat arbitrary, I found yours of traditional Advaita, Direct Path, and Neo-Advaita to be clear and helpful. Peter Cook
Dennis has done it again! - Madathil R. Nair
When I read his previous work "The Book of One", I thought he had exhausted himself, for he had said in it, so it seemed to me then, all that there was to be said about Advaita. Besides, Advaita being all about the secondless One, I had been silly enough to think that not much can be written about it and plurality of words was rather counter-productive. Dennis has proved me utterly wrong with another riveting classic.
Well, we have been talking about Advaita for over 5000 years. Dennis has made good case and cause of it. His approach is all-encompassing and meticulous. The result - a Herculean success palatable to the traditionalists as well as the neos. Dennis provides the right blend for the West and East, mixing apparently divergent ideas drawn from sources as far apart as Shankara and Nathan Gill. That indeed is some commendable expertise. The reader enjoys a scholarly reconciliation of different schools of thoughts served on the silver platter of simple language - an endeavor never attempted by any of our scholarly authors before. Dennis's personal exchanges with some of the profound minds of the present day add addictive flavor and aroma to the recipe.
The book presents an array of widely open widows and peepholes - profound quotes from the lofty Upanishads, wisdom coming down from ancient as well as modern teachers and miscellaneous Advaitic tidbits collected from present day electronic debates. When Dennis pushes your neck through them, you simply can't fail to discover the Truth. The effect is kaleidoscopic and colorful; yet, the revelation is unmistakably that of One!
The bibliography, references and teacher lineage charts are an excellent guide to students of Vedanta. These represent very exhaustive improvements and updates on information previously provided in "The Book of One". Dennis has also been very considerate to provide accurate transliteration keys and a very helpful glossary of Sanskrit terminology. Readers are thus assured that their steps don't falter as they traverse the wide vistas of Vedanta he opens up before them.
All interested in Vedanta and libraries across the world must go and get a copy of this.
Dennis Waite aka [..] has become an institution!
Thank You - Maraya Golden
This book has helped me to clarify the bumps I have hit with the neo-Advaita/modern approach. It is insightful to see "I do nothing" and yet, there ARE practices that are helpful if one really wants the truth in an uncompromising and undiluted way. I feel refreshed, educated, and empowered, after years of reading "neo-Advaita" teachers who are wonderful, yes, but who don't give the practical tools that us seekers really, truly are seeking. (We can rephrase this all we want and still we want the truth.) This book has helped me to stop denying the fact that I am earnest enough to be willing to do what needs to be done for the awareness of truth to undo the obstructing tendencies, rather than to just see these obstacles as 'what is' and 'do nothing' (without looking deeper into what this actually means.) Thank you, Dennis.
I will also add that it is a wonderful book even for people who are curious to learn about the philosophy of Advaita in a comprehensive way, but who might not be 'seekers'. I would recommend this book to my friends who might be turned off by the books that leave out certain steps of logic. The spiritual and the skeptical can both find help here.
Stellar Comprehensive Compendium of all Things Advaita - Christopher Hebard
Being a student of Advaita (non-duality) Vedanta (the culmination of The Vedas) can be a daunting task for the western student. There are a myriad of resources, many in apparent contradiction to each other: traditional Indian texts, promoted by many different splinters of religious thought within and without the Hindu community, a highly self published group of western contemporary teachers espousing hybrid interpretations of "The Direct Path" as well as interdisciplinary sects laying claim to teachings which result in "enlightenment".
Additionally,traditional Advaita teachings are encumbered with prolific use of Hindu and Sankrit terms which make the task of comprehending them even more daunting.
Emerging from this choatic assemblage of information comes Dennis Waite, a highly educated and prolific author, who has spent a career inventorying and attempting to survey the entire arena. "Back to The Truth" is a continuation of the effort he began with the publication of "The Book of One", considered by many to be an essential reading on Advaita.
The effort required to traverse Waite's new book is well worth the effort. In addition to explaining the many paths available to the student, Waite has painstakingly referenced hundreds of resources available for further study. The book assembles an abundance of quotes of both contemporary teachers and the original texts, complete with appendices which detail how to locate the source material. Waite has compiled website links, bibliographies,a glossary of common Sanskrit terms, even teaching lineages to assist in the readers search.
The great irony is that Waite offers this road map to enlightenment while repeatedly noting the obvious:"enlightenment" can not be achieved by the conceptual mind. As Jim Swartz [...] so aptly put it: "In spiritual circles it has become an article of faith that a the quest for spiritual knowledge is an 'intellectual' and therefore misguided pursuit."
Thus, as some neo-advaitins love to point out, some may decide that the effort of study is unnecessary.
Ultimately, this conclusion is a fallacy. More by Swartz: "...it should be noted that anyone seeking enlightenment through the 'heart' or other paths would necessarily be motivated by the intellectual belief that he or she was limited, inadequate and incomplete i.e. unelightened. To pursue experience is natural but to pursue it at the expense of understanding is foolish because it is only misunderstandings about our true nature that make us think we are unenlightened in the first place. The Self realized beings who went before left a vast body of information to help us purge erroneous concepts that stand in the way of appreciating who we really are."
Dennis Waite has provided the penultimate resource to assist readers in this pursuit. It is first and foremost a service to humanity. If you have a serious interest in discovering your true self and uncovering the nature of reality, this is as close to an road map and instruction guide to the apparently confusing world of Advaita as you will find. I strongly recommend it.
This note is simply to say a heartfelt "thank you" for your book, Back to the Truth. Your book is like finding a mine filled with all sorts of glittering gemstones. Your presentation of this material is well organized and encyclopedic, readable and stimulating. The quotations are highly relevant and flow with the rest of the text. I find that I must bite off a relatively small amount at a time and chew it as well as I can before moving along, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the process and want to extend my congratulations and thanks for tackling such a daunting task as using words and concepts to reach out to the inexpressible and non-conceptual.
Russ Havens, webmaster of Lotus and Rose.
I just finished reading your book Back to the Truth and am writing to express my appreciation for your great effort. I am at present writing a dissertation on Jungian psychology and Advaita Vedanta for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychologyand find the references in your book very valuable. Your book brought together the concepts of Advaita in such a clear manner all in one place. Thank you.
A Landmark Achievement - S. Engel "Sagefire" (Nashua,
What can I possibly say, that hasn't already
been said, and said with better style, by all
the wonderful reviews of this Landmark book?
It's an incredible, awe inspiring work. Dennis
Waite is truly a gift to the World. His web-site,
Advaita.org.uk, has been my lifeline since I discovered
it. It is a bottomless source of Wisdom, knowledge and
resources, and a truly enormous amount of work goes into
maintaining it - to do this, write books, especially a
Masterwork like "Back
To the Truth",
while still responding to emails with hapless
questions from, I'm sure, many `miserable seekers'
like myself, in his quiet, totally accessible
way, in incomprehensible to me.
The style of Back To The Truth - his ability
to draw from so many varied sources, from the
most traditional of ancient Vedic Scriptures,
to the most current (so called) `neo' Advaitin
writings, What a skill! Then factor in his knowledge
of Sanskrit. The appendixes are nearly overwhelming
- offering more resources and reviews, plus a
glossary of Sanskrit terms. OK. I'm done; this
review could go on and on... but I must end it.
I have to say this, however, before I do. To me, it is
not the many quotes, and words of wisdom, past and
current, that make this book so powerful, but
Dennis's own words... his writing has a simplicity and
clarity that is deceptive; like the gentle surface of
a lake, there is great depth there. Don't be put off by
the size or the scholarship of this book. The best thing
about Dennis, his web-site, and his writing, is his generosity
and his Integrity. It shines through everything he touches.
A Comprehensive Overview
of Advaita - Richvh
This is my first book review, but when I
received my copy of Back to the Truth I felt a sense of
wonderment at how much had been covered and the extensive
quotes which enrich the content. I rarely recommend books
to others, but I have recommended this one often and given
it as a gift to my very first teacher. It is an invaluable
resource which you would want own if you are interested
in Advaita and nonduality.
Back to the Truth - Alberto Martin
This excellent book is a complete exposition
in very clear language of all aspects of Advaita Vedanta,
attested by its more than 600 pages plus six very helpful
Appendices, a full Bibliography and a Glossary of Sanscrit
terms. One cannot ask for more! The arrangement of the
eight chapters is superb, not to mention the fair and
balanced treatment of all subjects, which is done with
much competence and flair. It is obvious that the author
is not only extremely well read in both classical and
new forms of Vedanta, but is also well experienced in
communicating the knowledge that he has assimilated. All
of this is in contrast with the inherent difficulty of
the subject matter, which becomes transparent, if one
may say so, to the intermediate or advanced reader. A
feature which attracted me is the wealth of long quotations
- many of them about half a page long - from a great variety
of authors, many of them quite recent. I am sure this
will also attract many prospective readers. I highly recommend
this excellent book for those interested in Advaita Vedanta.