I think this is a most valuable work for the serious aspirant who wants to understand the weakness of Neo-Advaita as opposed to the traditional teachings of the great Sages. I agree with the summary of your findings and wish the book well. I am sure it will assist many who are becoming increasingly confused and disillusioned by Neo Advaita, and may turn to the traditional approach.
Alan Jacobs, President of the Ramana Foundation UK and author of numerous books, including "The Principal Upanishads" and "The Bhagavad Gita".
When in the Nineties the Neo-Advaita satsang movement burst on the spiritual scene many enlightenment seekers took heart. Here was a teaching in harmony with the fast paced pulse of modern life, one that that did not require effort and promised instant enlightenment. As the new century began to unfold, however, it became apparent to the discriminating that the bloom was off the rose. Although it served to familiarize the public with the idea of non-duality, Neo-Advaita, like so many 'movements', proved to be little more than a lifestyle fad and probably will not rate more than a miniscule footnote in the annals of the spiritual life of the planet.
No harm done? Hardly. As a result of the many ill-considered half-truths it served to propagate it has reinforced any number of enlightenment myths. leaving tens of thousands of seekers disappointed and confused. Dennis Waite's excellent new book, "Enlightenment: the path through the jungle" sets the record straight by comparing Neo-Advaita with traditional Vedanta, a means of enlightenment that has passed the test of time.
This critical but fair book clarifies what enlightenment is and what it isn't according to the traditional definition. It shows why a gradual, systematic, time-tested method of inquiry is necessary. It explains how mixing the relative and the absolute levels causes great confusion. It also provides a valuable service by distinguishing the path of action or Yoga, the techniques used to prepare the mind for enlightenment, from Vedanta, the path of knowledge, the direct cause of enlightenment. It makes it clear that enlightenment is for the mind and that the cursory dismissal of the mind, or the 'story' as it is called in Neo-Advaita, is spiritually counterproductive. It deals with the issues of path and no path, doing and non-doing, appearance and reality, the qualifications necessary for enlightenment, the need for a teacher and other important topics of interest to sincere seekers.
I heartily recommend this book.
James Swartz, teacher and author of numerous books, including "Meditation: An Inquiry into the Self" and "Self Knowledge", a commentary on Shankara's 'Atmabodha'.
I welcome Dennis Waite's book Enlightenment: the path through the jungle as a breath of fresh air amidst the quagmire of new books on neo-Advaita. Finally, someone has done their homework, and made the effort to create powerful distinctions about what Advaita is and what it isn't. So many are hungry for truth, yet so very few are willing to pay the price. Dennis Waite offers necessary help to sincere seekers who wish to learn how to discern between the diamond-like brilliance of authentic Advaita-Vedanta, from the rhinestone approaches represented by popular neo-Advaita.
Mariana Caplan, Ph.D., author of "Halfway Up the Mountain" and "Do You Need a Guru?"
Over the past ten years or more, many people have been confused by the various interpretations of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and other recognized gurus in India who teach Advaita according to the traditional values and principles. A number of would-be teachers have misrepresented the teaching, apparently for their own personal glorification. Dennis Waite has presented a clear and informed step by step analysis of what Advaita truly means and shows how the teaching has been subverted by those whose understanding is, to say the least, limited and misguided. He has cleared away the half-truths and the misperceptions about Advaita and shown the correct approach. This is a valuable addition to Advaitic literature and should be read by all those who are perplexed as to the truth of this noble tradition.
The Mountain Path, Tiruvannamalai.
Dennis Waite's newest book is his most succinct and, I daresay, by far his most brilliant and cogent work. This is simply must-reading for any teachers or attendees of the imbalanced pseudo-satsang movement rampant in our era. In a cascading shower of liberating, purifying and healing wisdom, Dennis gives us an elegantly systematic and even beautifully logical presentation of authentic, classically traditional Advaita Vedanta. Clearly, without harangue, yet with ample debunking of many myths, are presented the severe shortcomings of neo-advaita. Some proponents of the latter may find this book 'square.' I found it to be filled with sublime, even sometimes hilarious though subtle wit. A plethora of truly wise, useful distinctions and deliciously quotable quotes are served up here. Any aspirant interested in genuine Self-Awakening is well-served to read "Enlightenment: the path through the jungle." Thank you, kindred soul Dennis--with this dazzling bright gem you've helped distinguish True Dharma from falsehood and mediocrity. Namaskaram and love to you and to all beings.
Timothy Conway, author of "Women of Power & Grace" and the forthcoming 2-volume "India's Sages".
Dennis Waite triumphs yet again with the definitive exposition on the fundamental differences in contemporary non-dual teaching, principally between 'traditional' and 'neo' advaita. Elegant and lucid, "Enlightenment: the path through the jungle" will dispel all illusions with regard to the myth of quick-fix enlightenment, re-establishing once and for all the respect the traditional teaching truly deserves.
Paula Marvelly, author of "The Teachers of One" and "Women of Wisdom".
If you teach, study or practice Advaita, Dennis Waite's latest book on how Advaita should be taught is essential reading. Presenting Advaita in the traditional manner in the West raises difficulties, including the required level of commitment, the inevitable cultural dissonances and the scarcity of accessible, well trained and enlightened teachers. "Enlightenment: the path through the jungle" systematically lays out the relevant issues in sutra format, with a clear indication of the author's views regarding the benefits of the traditional approach and some of the potential faults of the satsang and Neo-Advaitin assumptions and methods. This book will be of interest to the entire Advaita community and is sure to stimulate controversy; with any luck the ensuing dialogue will prove useful and demonstrate the participants' real appreciation of Advaita.
John Lehmann, Philosophy Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts
In this instant age, it may be tempting, when you are offered instant enlightenment, to jump on the bandwagon of the latest self-proclaimed 'non-dual sage' and to unquestioningly chant his or her mantra, like some latter day Jehovah's Witness. In the writings of Dennis Waite, we don't find someone professing to be a sage ... we find someone who is offering us the full body of a tradition spanning many hundreds of years, so we can see that this teaching of Advaita is not just a one-dimensional homespun philosophy, but an inspired body of work, built on the foundation of some of the greatest sages who ever lived. To totally ignore this tradition, in favour of a more convenient, though also much more shallow, teaching could be considered an expression of both arrogance and ignorance. In his new work: ENLIGHTENMENT, Dennis Waite rises to the challenge of this modern spiritual dilemma ... confronting the key issues between the traditional and modern approaches to Advaita/Non-Duality head-on. In this regard, he is a lone, rare voice, and should be commended for his diligent work.
Roy Whenary, author of "The Texture of Being"
With Enlightenment: the path through the jungle Dennis Waite voices a bold and much-needed clarion call that really strikes a chord with me. He accurately describes the many ways in which Western Advaita is a jungle densely entangled by confusion, complacency and half-measures. This insightful and comprehensive book will be invaluable to anyone who wishes to begin blazing a workable trail here in the West for this and for future generations.
Nathan Spoon, Ganapati-Advaita Ashram
Thank you, thank you for your book, which just arrived in the mail today. I picked it up and read it right away, as it was so timely. I'm seeing more and more of the confusion that neo-advaitins are leaving in their wake. I greatly appreciate the distinction you made in your book between satsang teachers (like my husband, Nirmala) and neo-advaitins, which seem mostly to claim Nisargadatta as their lineage, if anyone. When I read the galleys of this book quite a while back, I was just discovering for myself what neo-advaita teachers were teaching, as I never ran across such ridiculousness before in my experience of satsang and satsang teachers. Now, there are more neo-advaita teachers than ever before, and it is causing a lot of confusion, and frankly, a lot of arrogance, as their students scoff at anyone who doesn't use their nonsensical language (like me!). There is quite the elitism in these circles.
Bravo for having the courage to speak the truth about those who are teaching distortions, such as"there is no meaning, nothing to do, nothing to practice, and what you do doesn't matter." There could hardly be a more un-spiritual message. These teachings are confusing and harmful, and yet they seem to be quite the trend in satsang these days. Thank you for putting this out so clearly in your book.
As Nirmala and I were trying to understand what these teachers are doing and how they can say what they say, we felt that it was a matter of them seeing really clearly through the egoic mind/false self, while perhaps not having opened the Heart yet. The open Heart would bring them into the world as a willing servant to itSelf in disguise as individuals, rather than detached from the world and dismissing it as a dream. We wonder if these teachers feel joy and love and a drive to serve because these would be an indication of Truth. They seem free of the mind but instead of embracing this beautiful world, they remove themselves from it. This is perhaps due, as you suggested, to a lack of mental preparation and study, and I would add healing, prior to enlightenment. They think they are complete and enlightened, but they haven't fallen completely into the Self, which would be an experience of love and comopassion. They are stuck in a place of no-self and emptiness and haven't experienced the fullness of the Self, which would bring them back into life to serve. Just wanted to share these thoughts with you and my gratitude.
In this book, Dennis Waite seeks to provide (1) A counter-argument to the modern ‘neo-advaita’ perspective, and (2) An in-depth explanation of the background to the traditional ‘Advaita’ teaching - as it was, and as it is.
Many enthusiastic students of contemporary non-duality teachers
may be under the
The trick is, really, continuing to have the depth of the traditional approach, and the light spontaneity of ‘neo-advaita’. It is my feeling that both qualities are necessary in order to truly comprehend the nature of reality. It doesn’t have to be just one or the other . Life is not only black and white - there are many shades and colours in between.
With the traditional teachings, I feel that there is very much a danger of being caught up in too much knowledge, but knowledge cannot be denied, and it can also be inspiring. A fact is a fact, and the fact is that the key aspects of the ‘neo’ argument have been contained in the scriptures since the very beginning. Anyone who doubts this should read Shankara’s ‘Viveka Chudamani’ (also known as the ‘Crest-Jewel of Discrimination’ and written some 1300 years or so ago). But there is much more than this, because when we study Advaita, we have the benefit of the wisdom of many of the great sages from history. This wisdom is not nonsense, and anyone who suggests it is, I would say, is very much lacking in humility.
In reviewing Dennis Waite’s book: ENLIGHTENMENT, I would strongly urge the doubting reader, and any ‘born-again’ ‘neo’ non-dualists to just take a careful look at each section of this book (it is broken up into 559 short numbered paragraphs). Give time and space to fully receive all the implications of each paragraph, rather than just quickly glancing through and dismissing it as nonsense. Then, perhaps, you may not be in denial of the need for a more rounded view of the history of Advaita.
I am not saying that we should all study the subject to the extent that Dennis Waite has. It takes a peculiar skill and an admirable dedication to do that, but within the pages of this book: ‘ENLIGHTENMENT:The Path Through the Jungle’ there is a rich and rewarding invitiation to Open Your Mind ... it is in truth, an Open Secret.
Roy Whenary (author of ‘The Texture of Being’)
An Expert Scholar of the Philosophy of Advaita
First let me say that Awake Joy: The Essence of Enlightenment that is referenced in this book's Bibliography as an unpublished manuscript has just published and is now available at Amazon. It is endorsed by this author, Dennis Waite.
Dennis Waite, author 'Enlightenment: The Path Through The Jungle' is also author of 'How to Meet Yourself: ...and find true happiness', 'Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita' and 'The Book of One: The Spiritual Path of Advaita'.
Without participating in the generalized, categorical divisions, I recommend this book as an Advaita resource for those who want to explore the philosophy and its methodology.
Dennis is a master scholar of Advaita and the book is well written, organized and intelligent. He begins with key definitions, so that we are all 'on the same page' when he approaches the core of the book's subject matter. Since Sanskrit terms are used frequently throughout, a convenient glossary is at the end of the book, as well as a helpful Bibliography. Finally, the complete Index allows readers to reference particular subjects of interest.
The primary basis for this recommendation is for his overall presentation of what enlightenment is and what it is not according to the traditional definition. I might point out that after awakening 22 years ago, without spiritual practices or teachers, the scriptures provided a welcome confirmation. I do have a differing perception from this book. Enlightenment is not an event within time and experience. The delusion of ignorance is resolved beyond the field of experience and is therefore beyond causality.
Dennis' concern for the student's direct seeing is important. To recognize where the student is 'looking from' and then directly address it seems essential, so that they may directly and consciously recognize that they are beyond their present perception. The remaining delusions are then systematically and progressively eliminated as they surface. In my book, I offer universal reference points of perception, through which the student apparently passes for Self-realization. If these misperceptions are not made conscious, they will resurface again and again for eradication.
I enjoyed the Foreword by Greg Goode, author of "Standing as Awareness."
I applaud Dennis for the depth of his study of the philosophy of Advaita that is a pointer to the very Heart of Advaita.
Katie Davis, Awake Joy: The Essence of Enlightenment, http://www.katiedavis.org/
Take this book to satsang
What is traditional advaita?
Traditional advaita is a process, a culture, and a methodology for achieving enlightenment. It is founded in Indian scriptures, but more important than scriptures are the teacher and the methodology, according to Waite.
What is neo-advaita?
Neo-advaita gets right to the point that so many people already sense, intuit, and know from experience. The point is that "this" is "it." Stop and see. Neo-advaita confesses the truth that there is only "this." Neo-advaita doesn't go through a process of education, nor does it unfold scriptures chapter by chapter. It just says what is, in various ways.
Since it's impossible for people to gather around any interest at all without some kind of organization arising, there are processes, methods, and a culture of neo-advaita that can be identified, but they are very thin compared to traditional advaita..
Some of the teachers of neo-advaita, though they themselves do not use the term neo-advaita, include Tony Parsons, Jeff Foster, Richard Sylvester, Nathan Gill.
Theme and purpose:
The theme of this book is that you can become enlightened through traditional advaita, while it is unlikely you will become enlightened through neo-advaita and satsang.
Dennis writes about the book's purpose: "The purpose is specifically to address the concerns of seekers who are dissatisfied with the satsang or neo-advaitin approaches to the teaching of advaita and to answer related questions." Waite says, "I am not primarily criticizing neo-advaita in respect of the truth or falsehood of its actual statements but as regards its utility as a teaching methodology."
The evolution of advaita:
Neo-advaita is less than 30 years old and evolving. Traditional advaita is 1200 years old and it too is evolving. For example, one organization, The Philosophy Foundation in Waltham, Massachusetts, is dedicated to traditional advaita and offers an Eckhart Tolle reading group. Swami Chinmayananda's ashram offers youth camps and senior citizens homes. Both those organizations are mentioned by Waite in his book and their recommendation is implicit.
Dennis Waite has freeze-framed the evolution of neo-advaita, analyzed it, and suggested it bend and graft onto traditional advaita. More than anything else, that suggestion makes this book controversial. It sounds as though he is asking Tony Parsons to teach classes in the Upanishads. That is unnatural. Kindly allow me to ask, When did Dennis Waite become the Pope of advaita?
This is an important book in the nonduality genre for several reasons. Dennis Waite makes a distinction between neo-advaita and traditional advaita that is detailed and clear. Well-known players in the nonduality game back Waite's thesis. Also, Dennis Waite has developed a potential force for the evolution of neo-advaita. If his book is read by people who attend Western satsang and if they ask the right questions, that force could be absorbed by neo-advaita and a new faction might split off that looks like a neo-traditional advaita.
Jerry Katz, author of 'One: Essential Writings on Nonduality' - http://www.nonduality.com/
A Necessary Addition to Everyone’s Library
Dennis Waite’s book “Enlightenment: The Path Through the Jungle” is a necessary addition to everyone’s library because it can serve as a checklist against which they can test their understanding. Have you ever had the experience of trying to do something new, struggling with it to no avail, and then someone comes over to you and shows you what you have been doing wrong and suddenly – voila! – you understand? This book is that someone. Dennis has collected together over 500 ‘pointers’ and categorized them under aspects of understanding Enlightenment, going to great pains to clarify the meaning of words used in nondual writings, the purpose of and need for practice, and the necessary value of scriptural teachings and guidance from an experienced teacher within Advaita. This makes it easy to find the pointers needed when questions arise for you – you can always find what you are looking for in Dennis’ Index, if not in Reality!
While there will be some that take his assertions about the necessity of effort on the part of those who wish to find enlightenment and end their suffering, and his criticism of certain “neo-advaita” teaching methods, as negative, I feel it is worth the time of everyone to read what he has written and pause to digest these gentle assertions and see if they do not ring true. There is that old adage: “You get what you pay for,” which, if you see your efforts to reach understanding as the payment, holds just as much in this realm as in any other.
Of course there will always be those who are in too much of a rush to “queue up,” and they don’t listen to anyone anyway. This book isn’t for them.
There is a disturbing current finding favor in modern Nondual circles, which Dennis points to, which I characterize as anti-Intellectualism. Concepts, more and more frequently of late, are considered to be wrong in all cases. And it is this judgment that leads to teachers today presenting an understanding of ultimate reality as requiring nothing more than a short tagline, such as “you are That!,” to achieve. As Dennis explains, this is the reason that effort is rejected and scriptural authorities are ignored. But it isn’t that easy to dispel ignorance, and if you spend the time to contemplate the good feelings of being together with your satsang and how you were before, you will see that all you have done is replace one misunderstanding of reality, coupled with whatever suffering, or dis-ease, this brought on, with assertions that you really don’t understand when you try to make sense of them, coupled with the good feelings of companionship that one finds in satsangs. And it is this failure to make sense of these assertions that is today esteemed because they mean that one is not “lost” within concepts. Yes, but one is also bereft of understanding!
You are That, and nothing needs to be done to change you, but until you understand what that little tagline means you are not enlightened. It is the conceptual wisdom of a long tradition like Advaita that has proven effective in moving individuals like you and I to this understanding. It is the ignorance that must be dispelled, as Dennis points out, and that does require effort. Understanding is not like coins in the pocket – something that you have – and you do not get $200 for just passing “Go”. Understanding is something that you are, and this book will help you realize what you are “doing wrong” to become that!
James M. Corrigan, author of 'An Introduction to Awareness ' - http://www.anintroductiontoawareness.com/Awareness/Introduction.html
Comments by Readers
Best, clearest , and most thorough book ever written comparing traditional and non-traditional teachings of nonduality - Durga Moffitt
I would highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to know more about the traditional teachings of Advaita/Vedanta.
It would be especially useful for those who have been exposed to the recent satsang method (or non-method) of teaching, or any other non-traditional teachings of non-duality, and who have begun to wonder why after so many years of listening to various teachers, they don't seem any closer to the goal than when they started.
The teachings of Advaita/Vedanta offer a tried and true methodology which enables the student to understand and reach the goal of self-knowledge. The other newer non-traditional teachings of non-duality have no informed knowledge of, and therefore cannot offer, this approach.
Dennis's book clearly compares and contrasts the traditional teaching of Advaita/Vedanta with the various and numerous non-traditional approaches to the subject. In a logical step by step fashion, Dennis illustrates why and how traditional teachings work as an effective means of self-knowledge, and why non-traditional teachings are very unlikely to bear fruit.
Anyone who has a sincere interest in this subject will no doubt be greatly benefited from reading this book.
It's all in the seeker... - T.G.
I recently read a short debate between Tony Parsons and Dennis Waite on this very topic.
For whatever it's worth, I tend to agree with Dennis Waite about the lack of depth or 'efficacy' in modern teachings. Yet, I don't necessarily agree that the traditional teachings are 'better'. The actual teaching itself is quite simple - self-enquiry, just BE-ing and direct seeing.
There really isn't that much to 'teach' - it's all in the sincerity and dedication of the 'student'. From here the traditional teachings have *much* more to offer the sincere, but neither modern nor traditional teachings have a single, solitary thing to offer the half-arsed, uninterested and/or uncommitted seeker.
This book will get genuine seekers on the right path - Dr. C. Patel
This is a bold attempt by Dennis Waite to layout the fundamental differences between traditional teaching and that of the proponents of direct path and to dispel the myths regarding Enlightenment. In this respect it is unique and bound to arouse much discussion/controversy. However the statements made in the book are not personal opinion of the author but reflect the core teachings of a long established , proven and verifiable (alas , this requires considerable effort) methodology set out in Vedanta and Mandukya Upanishad. In this respect, it will be of immense benefit to seekers if read with an open mind. Vast majority of misconceptions and confusion arise due what is termed as "Level Confusion" i.e. whether the statements regarding the absolute reality "Brahman" and Enlightenment are made from the viewpoint of the Non-Dual Reality or from the viewpoint of the Duality which is dependent and relative reality (Mithya), same goes for questions asked and answers received during satsangs. This message is embodied in the passage 343 of the book. This single concept is at the heart of confusion, controversy, misconceptions and paradoxes facing an aspirant and not fully grasped by the Neo-Advaita teachers and warrants further indepth study and investigation on the part of the reader prior to coming to any conclusions regarding the contents of this book.
Vedanta at the outset proclaims "Thou Art That" which
is what the Teachers of One announce to the seekers also, however,
than the latter go on to advise that since one is already enlightened,
there is really nobody there, nothing to be done, no effort
, no training of the mind, i.e. no preparation of any kind
is required. This obviously is appealing in this age of instant
gratification as it unfortunately caters to our inherent tamasic
(inertia) tendencies. Many of these teachers have no doubt
gone through some spiritual epiphany which has been mistaken
as genuine Awakening having failed to grasp the fundamental
difference between Experience and Knowledge. Hence before we
embrace that, we need to examine experiences in our real life
and inquire , are there any easy paths devoid of hard work
and effort to achieving anything in life in a legitimate way,
e.g. say graduating as a Quantum Physicists, or a brain surgeon,
or becoming a successful businessman, obviously the answer
is "No", then how can we expect the highest goal
of human existence to be accomplished without the required
effort and mental preparation.
Hence in the traditional teachings, after having stated the
Ultimate Truth "You are That", the student then is
instructed to embark on a "Systematic, consistent study
of scriptures for a length of time under the guidance of a
competent teacher" The Vedas do not dissuade seekers from
attending satsangs, in fact communal rituals, prayers, pujas,
meditation etc are encouraged as they tend to trap the mind
and focus attention, however this is just the initial step.
A student who aspires to be a Physicist, joins classes with
other students first in a school, then college and finally
University, however during all these phases he or she has to
go back home and revise, cogitate to remove all doubts and
understand what was taught in the class and finally to assimilate.
The same processes or stages are emphasized in the scriptures,
i.e. listening, discussing, reading (sravanam), removal of
doubts (mananam) and assimilation of doubt free knowledge (niddidhyasana).