There is nothing so good that it cannot be improved upon, apart from the absolute truth.
I welcomed the opportunity to produce a new edition of The Book of One because it gave me the opportunity to read it afresh. And it is a novel experience, reading one�s own material over six years after having written it, so that it seems almost as though it had been written by someone else. It is especially satisfying because I discovered that it is actually rather good � and it seems that I can say that without immodesty because of the time lapse. I have read very many books on Advaita and reviewed quite a number of these. I know how rarely it is possible, unreservedly to endorse a book. There are always niggles and queries and the thought �I could have explained that much better�. But this book was relatively niggle-free! And there is a very good reason why that should have been so. Up until a few years prior to writing it, I had been a member of the School of Economic Science (School of Practical Philosophy in the US), where I had been studying and teaching for many years. And, for a large part of that time, I had not known exactly what it was I was studying. The word �Advaita� was not used in the early days and I had searched through Western philosophical texts, looking for the source without success. More significantly however, when I did eventually discover Advaita and begin to read about it for myself, I found numerous mismatches and aspects of the School�s teaching that did not seem reasonable.
For example, the classes at the School were separated into �Gentlemen� and �Ladies� groups after a number of years because, it was explained, gentlemen were of the nature of puruSha (spirit), while ladies nature was that of prakRRiti (primary matter). It was only very much later that I discovered that this strange idea belongs to the dualistic sAMkhya philosophy and has nothing to do with Advaita. Also, they made much of �sound�, putting considerable emphasis on this as a motive power in the universe (which was literally �spoken into creation�). Again, I discovered that this belongs to another alien philosophy called sphoTa vAda. The terminology used by the School often did not seem to tally with that used in the books that I read. Eventually I realized that, although Advaita might be the central teaching, this was mixed to a considerable degree with concepts and terms from sAMkhya, yoga, sphoTa vAda and others so that the net result was confusion. I left in 1998. (It should be noted that the school has continued to develop, now being guided by a different source in India and many or all of these problems may now have been rectified. I freely admit that I do not know and certainly would not wish to criticize them unfairly. After all, they were the principal impetus for my truth-finding mission and for this I will always be grateful.)
Accordingly, my primary purpose in writing this book was to set down clearly, for my own benefit, the key aspects of Advaita according to the traditional sources, endeavoring to avoid as far as possible introducing any alien teachings. I wanted to supplement those ideas by borrowing from any sources that I had encountered, which I had found particularly illuminating. And I wanted to make the presentation as readable as possible, using the best of all of the stories, metaphors and even jokes that I had come across so that a reader unfamiliar with Advaita would find the book entertaining but also be encouraged to pursue the subject further. And I like to think that this succeeded.
But all of this is not to say that something that is �rather good� cannot be improved upon. It was bound to be the case that I was sometimes mistaken and put forward a topic as being Advaita when it wasn�t really. Also, although I had learned a great deal, there were still aspects about which I was unsure. I now have the benefit of more than six years more reading and study, several more books written, and several hundred �difficult� questions answered at my website. I now felt confident that I could correct any errors, clarify any aspects that were previously insufficiently well explained and add new topics where they might have been unintentionally omitted. So, given the opportunity by my publisher, that is exactly what I have done!
Briefly, the categories of changes that have been made are as follows:
- New chapters on Ishvara and Neo-advaita.
- New topics: Sheaths, Behavioral Tendencies, dharma, dream metaphor, gold ring metaphor, mithyA, What is Enlightenment, jIvanmukti. Other topics have been rewritten or much expanded.
- Any parts that I thought confusing, misleading or superfluous have been deleted or re-written.
- New stories, metaphors and quotations have been added.
- Many topics have been expanded where this enhances the overall presentation.
- A number of new extracts have been added (from books read since the first edition) to provide additional interest, clarity and reinforcing argument.
- The Sanskrit Glossary has been considerably expanded and also now shows the actual Sanskrit script (Devanagari), which was not possible in the first edition.
- The Appendix of Internet Links has been revised, updated and considerably expanded � there are now many more websites than existed when the first edition was written.
- The Appendix of Recommended Reading has been revised, updated and expanded.
- Italicized ITRANS spellings of Sanskrit words have been used throughout (i.e. the Anglicized versions that were used in the First Edition have been removed), apart from a few exceptions such as proper names and the word �Advaita�.
- The spelling has been changed to US English (apologies to UK readers but this is to suit the majority of readers).
- The text has been reworded throughout wherever there was potential confusion or poor sentence structure.
- Corrections to grammar etc. have been made as appropriate.
- Overall, the word count has increased from around 115,000 to over 150,000 and the Bibliography from 69 books to 144.
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