Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Book Extract

the Path through the Jungle

Dennis Waite

Educated in Chemistry, he worked until 2000 in computing, after which he began writing.

His books to date are: The Book of One (2003), extensively revised in 2010; The Spiritual Seeker's Essential Guide to Sanskrit (India, 2005); How to Meet Yourself (2007); Back to the Truth (2007); Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle (2008). His most recent book is ‘Advaita Made Easy’,which is scheduled for publication in 2012.

Dennis maintains the most popular website on Advaita at This is in the process (2012) of being renovated and extended, following a two-year absence while he helped to establish the Advaita Academy Trust and its associated website at


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French translation:
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Indian Version:
Purchase from Indra, Bhopal, India. Read endorsements etc.


Publisher: O-Books, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-84694-118-4
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
List Price: £12.00, US$23

This book is also available in an Indian edition, from Indra Publishing House, 2009, ISBN 9788189107307, price RS150. And it is available in a French translation, published by Le Lotus d'Or, 2009, with the title L'illumination: Le chemin dans la jungle ISBN: 978-2917413036, cover price €16.

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(The claim that there is) No Doer


It is fundamental to the final teaching of all non-dual philosophies that there are no separate entities.


Consequently, in reality (paramArtha), there is no one who ‘does’ anything.

The apparent ‘doing’ is simply the changing names and forms of the (apparently) manifest creation in accordance with causality. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that we are the awareness in which action takes place but we ourselves do not act (IV.18); we believe ourselves to be a doer but action is performed by the guNa-s (III.27). [Nature is ‘made up of’ three guNa-s or ‘ingredients’ in sAMkhya philosophy – see glossary.]


However, although in reality there is no doer, at the relative level (vyavahAra) I appear to be a doer through the medium of the body-mind upAdhi. At this level, events take place and there are individuals with free will who perform actions which have consequences. [upAdhi is often translated as ‘limiting adjunct’. It literally means something that is put in place of another thing; a substitute, phantom or disguise. Effectively, it refers to one of the ‘identifications’ made by ahaMkAra that prevents us from realizing the Self.]


The neo-advaitin view only acknowledges the absolute, ultimate, pAramArthika viewpoint, insisting that there is no person; only a ‘story’ about a person. This story may include following a spiritual path and becoming enlightened or not – it makes no difference to anything.

Needless to say, this position is not very helpful as far as the seeker is concerned. She still feels that she very much exists and wants to escape from her suffering etc. Furthermore, this is a very misleading statement for the seeker. The truth of the situation is that ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ is the one thing about which I can be absolutely certain. I may negate everything else but I could never negate this, since ‘I’ would have to exist in order to do the negating. Therefore, in order to understand such a statement, the seeker must be able to differentiate between ‘I’ and ‘me, the person’. The neo-advaitins never provide the teaching that would enable the seeker to do this, since such a distinction can only be made in the context of vyavahAra.


Since there is no one, argues the neo-advaitin, there cannot be such a process as ‘identification’ to bring about the false notion of separation.

This is effectively a statement about the ontological status of self-ignorance. The unarguable fact of the matter is that there is self-ignorance in vyavahAra. It is, however, not possible to say how or when this arose – it is said to be anirvachanIya, meaning that it is inexplicable. This may be seen in the rope-snake metaphor. If you ask when the rope-ignorance began and the snake appeared, you will find that the question is unanswerable. If you claim that it began in the moment that you looked at the rope, this would have to mean that before that moment there was knowledge of the rope. This would make no sense. We have to say that the ignorance is beginningless – anAdi.


To the extent that enlightenment means anything at all, say the neo-advaitins, we are already enlightened.

This mistake was pointed out in the definition at the beginning of the book – the Self is already free but the mind does not know this, long as we believe that we are the mind, ‘we’ are not enlightened. The knowledge that there is no need to seek is lacking. The ‘liberation’ is from the notion that we were ever bound.The claim that there is no doer and no one who can choose to do anything is frequently used by neo-advaitins to conclude that no spiritual path can be chosen or could be effective in bringing about enlightenment.

But this is to confuse levels of reality as explained in 166 to 197. The jIva, who is the one who needs the path, is at the relative level of the world. It is only brahman who, in reality, is not a doer that does not need any path.


But the statement is a fallacy in any case. We may not accept the traditional view that free will is available at the empirical level of existence or that grace is ‘earned’ as a result of past action. Even so, a path can still be effectively chosen as a result of the combination of the nature of the seeker and the (chance) happening of external events, e.g. reading a particular book, hearing about an Internet Egroup and looking to see what is being discussed there etc.


Such activities could be considered to be automatic, carried out without there being ‘anyone’ or any free will and yet lead inexorably to a wearing away of the self-ignorance.


Conversely, the mere stating of the absolute truth will have no effect. Even if they can accept it intellectually, seekers still believes deep down that they are a separate body-mind.


The simple truth is that the techniques of traditional advaita are effective in removing the delusion that ‘I am a separate individual’. If ‘I’, believing myself to be a person, follow such a path, the outcome is the loss of this delusion, not the augmentation of it.

Again, it must be emphasized that, at the relative level, I do exist and do act. There is a mind that suffers and seeks to remove this suffering. This is the ‘seeker’. Traditional teaching specifically aims to enable us to ‘see through’ the ahaMkAra. The ego-sense is resolved as a result of understanding, not via edict or choice. You cannot choose to have the akhaNDAkAra vRRitti or give it to someone - it arises when the mind is ready. One does have the limited ability to choose actions which will influence the quality of the mind which will then be more conducive for the occurrence of akhaNDAkAra vRRitti.


Conversely, not doing anything will not achieve anything – no cause, no effect – and the seeker remains trapped at her current level of ignorance, with the concomitant frustration and suffering.


The logical implication of the ‘no cause and effect’ position is that anything can happen any time. If this were the case, there could never be any point to any action, since the result would be totally unpredictable.


The fact is (and this is in accord with everyone’s own experience) that things in this world happen strictly according to natural law, one of which is that effects have causes. Consequently, false notions are dispelled through the logical teaching methodologies which Vedanta employs, and these lead the student’s mind to the direct seeing of what is actually true.


Even neo-advaitins have to concede that things happen, even if they claim that there isn’t actually an entity present that brings them about.

Thus, for example, even if one denies the existence of free will, exercise keeps the body fit and healthy; over-eating tends to make it fat and unhealthy. This is the operation of the simple law of cause and effect. It makes no difference whether or not there is actually someone ‘choosing’ or ‘doing’ anything.


Traditional advaita uses the theory of karma to explain why it is that outcomes are sometimes unexpected – we are reaping the fruit of past actions; i.e. a clear cause and effect mechanism even when none can be clearly discerned.


The claim that there is no seeker or teacher is effectively negated as soon as the neo-advaitin teacher holds satsang. He gives lie to the proclaimed beliefs as soon as he speaks, for this assumes another to whom the words are addressed. It also seems that the neo-teacher is admitting something might change in the seekers as a result of ‘teaching’ them. Otherwise, what would be the point of ‘teaching’?


Since they deny the existence of a seeker or enlightenment, neo-advaitins obviously also deny the value of mumukShutva (the intense longing for enlightenment, to the exclusion of all other desires.) But this is one of the key requirements of the seeker according to Shankara.

mumukShutva is a desire to satisfy the highest need of man – to know himself. In just the same way that we desire food when hungry and water when thirsty, when all of those basic desires are satisfied to some degree, we may discover the desire to understand the nature of ourselves and the universe. Traditionally, the scriptures exist to satisfy this need. Once this final desire is realized, one is free from all desires and thereby ‘liberated’.


Despite all these negations, neo-advaitins often imply that the ‘seeing-through of the story’ brings with it a sense of freedom, light, love, etc. The inference is that there is a state ‘prior’ to this event, when there is the sense of being an individual and a state ‘after’ it, when there is no longer any sense of separation. It does seem that this event in time could usefully be called ‘enlightenment’, for want of a better word.


Speaking of enlightenment as ‘the story is seen through’ might appear to make some sort of sense but the use of the passive form begs the question of who is doing the seeing. The usual way out of this is to say “It is seen by no one that…”, which of course makes no sense at all. To perceive requires a perceiver and a perceived and this is firmly in the realm of appearance (vyavahAra). Who we really are is That which illumines the body/mind and all cognitive perception.


This concern with the paradox of there not actually being a ‘person’ to become enlightened need not be a problem. The point is that, if advaita is taught in a logical and graduated way, the explanation comes about quite naturally. (See 105 - 109 for clarification of the term ‘person’.)

Page last updated: 17-Jul-2012