Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Recommended Reading
Books by neo-Advaitin Teachers and Writers

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Link to the Advaita Bookstore to read other reviews of these books, buy them from or generally browse.

Neo-Advaita is a term that has become increasingly widely used over the past ten years, although it is not universally accepted (especially amongst those teachers to whom the term is applied). It is actually a misnomer, since there cannot be 'varieties' of Advaita, new or otherwise. It is used to refer to the (non-) teaching which states that there is no person, no seeker, no teacher, no path etc. and, in particular, no 'levels' of reality.

There are also an increasing number of neo-Advaitin teachers and writers in the West. Cynically, one might say that this is because the essential 'message' can be easily learned and any reasonably intelligent and charismatic person can pass themselves off as one who has 'seen through the story'. It has to be said that, if you are a serious seeker, wanting to gain the self-knowledge to remove the ignorance that obscures the truth about reality, you should avoid such teachers - they do not have (or if they do, they do not make use of) knowledge of the methods of teaching that will enable this process. Essentially, all that they do is repeat the 'bottom-line' statements about non-duality, as if from the perspective of absolute reality. This can only be of value to advanced seekers, if at all.

Providing that all this is fully understood, some of the books by these writers are actually quite good. These include ones by the best-known of these teachers - Tony Parsons and Nathan Gill and by many others who have explitly or implicitly followed their lead.

It is also the case that the teaching style and content of some of those satsang teachers claiming affiliation to the more traditional lineages are coming to resemble those of the neo-advaitins. But, to avoid further confusion and disagreement about who fits into which category, I have limited this section to those teachers who claim no such connection.


Leo Hartong - Awakening to the Dream
Leo ’s teaching is usually regarded as neo-Advaita, influenced as he has been by both Tony Parsons and Nathan Gill (below). Nevertheless, it retains some of the best traditional metaphors and styles. It is a marvelous exposition of non-dual teachings, straight from the heart. Read the chapter on the subject of free-will to see how brilliantly Leo puts across the message. Excerpts and endorsements may also be read at his own site. Highly recommended! (Buy US or UK)

Read an extract from the book.

"The final and insurmountable problem with words is that, like the compass, they can point from, but never at the centre from which the pointing is done. To those who will look both to where and from where the compass points, the realisation of their true nature is directly available. In this knowing, the knower and the known are realised as inseparable and dissolve into the undivided space of Pure Awareness."


Tony Parsons - The Open Secret
Tony Parsons is possibly the most widely recognized of the modern neo-Advaita teachers (though this term is not one which they themselves use). This is a short book relating the experiences of the author in a candid and unpretentious manner. It is a refreshing antidote to the tendency of many books to over-intellectualize the topic. It is repeatedly made clear that there is “no separate identity.” His second book is now available (below) and seems likely to be even better.

See Tony's essay on 'The Hypnotic Dream of Separation'


As It Is: The Open Secret to Living an Awakened Life (8 pages available to read on-line). (Buy US or UK)

Tony claims that the following quotation encapsulates his teaching:

"There is only Source appearing. All that manifests is always and only the appearance of Source - the apparent universe, the world, the life story, the body-mind, feelings, the sense of separation, and the search for enlightenment. It is all the one appearing as two - the no-thing appearing as everything. The drama of the search is totally without meaning or purpose; it is a dream awakening. There is no deeper intelligence weaving a destiny and no choice functioning at any level. Nothing is born and nothing dies. Nothing is happening. But this, as it is, invites the apparent seeker to rediscover its origin. When the invitation is accepted by no one, then it is seen that there is only Source - the uncaused, unchanging, impersonal stillness from which unconditional love overflows and celebrates. It is the wonderful mystery."


Already Awake: dialogues with Nathan Gill. Nathan is another teacher of Neo-Advaita and this book is an excellent example of the style. For the most part, what he says is clear and (that adjective applicable to many modern teachers) “uncompromising.” One can certainly imagine that a mature seeker might have some remaining vestiges of confusion removed by these words. Unfortunately, it does occasionally fall foul of that bane of neo-Advaita – gobbledygook – when there is an attempt to pass off the duality of vyavahAra as the non-duality of paramArtha. (e.g. “The seeing through is not dependent on any happening in the play, although it may appear that understanding arises in the story of the character prior to knowing being revealed.”) As long as this problem is recognized, I can definitely recommend this book. (Buy US or UK)

Read an extract from the book.

book cover Simply This

Simply This by Liz Jones. I don’t read very much poetry at all. Apart from T. S. Eliot, I have never really appreciated any, probably because anything worthwhile needs to be read many times before you start to appreciate it. Having been sent this, however, I did make the effort and found it not very much effort at all. These were easy to read, yet clever, perspicacious and enjoyable. Sharp, clear, neo-Advaitin observations on life – its delusions and its resolution in non-duality. Simply This!

Read an extract from the book.


book cover

Perfect Brilliant Stillness by David Carse.

The Self cannot be described but David Carse makes a very good effort. Quoting from Sufi and Taoist sages as well as Advaitin ones, he helps uncover the non-dual truth that is the essence of the phenomenal appearance. The language he uses is direct and carries the conviction of experience. In many books on Advaita there is the distinct feeling that what is said is in the realm of theory or based upon what has been read elsewhere; one is left in no doubt that this is not the case here. Although nothing new is being said, the material comes across so clearly, simply and self-evidently. And I think this is the key to why the book succeeds. The words carry the understanding to those seeking the explanations but they cannot prevent the heart-felt, mind-less, direct ‘knowing’ from shining through and piercing the merely intellectual.

Although much is said about the inadequacy and ultimate failure of language to speak of reality, David’s writing is very good. I have said in my own books that it is not possible to talk clearly about this subject without using the correct Sanskrit terminology but this book seems to give the lie to that statement. There are some very original metaphors and many brilliant, quotable observations. Sometimes, every other paragraph seems to contain a new profundity.

David is not a teacher of Advaita and specifically states that he does not teach. Beginners will probably not benefit and should perhaps look elsewhere to begin with. But, if you think you know it all already yet feel that ‘it’ has still not clicked, this is definitely for you. It is the book for those who want to differentiate between intellectual understanding and realization. I have also noted that it seems to receive praise from both traditional and neo-Advaitins – and that is praise indeed!

I have mentioned elsewhere that I always pencil in the margins of any Advaita books that I read these days. Positive comments are marked: ‘good’, ‘!’ and Q (for ‘quote’); things that I don’t understand are marked ‘?’ or, if I disagree, ‘x’. There are very few ‘?’, only a couple of x’s and many Q’s and good’s. What more can I say? The only adverse comment that I would make – and it is a warning for potential readers as much as anything else – is that the early chapters do go on a bit! So, if you find that, don’t be put off and give up; keep reading – it just gets better… and better!

Whatever is not present in deep sleep does not exist.

I assure you, as long as there is an 'I' to say "I am That", that 'I' is the ego.

What is being asked is whether it is possible to awaken while remaining comfortably asleep.

Read a sample chapter from the book. Read two other reviews and a response from David.

(Buy US or UK)


I Hope You Die Soon - words on non-duality by Richard Sylvester. This is a book about liberation, using the usual terminology of neo-Advaita. If you haven’t read one before, this is one of the better ones in terms of readability, being light and reasonably well written (though there are a few contradictions). If you have read others, there is nothing new here and, indeed, this fact is not disguised. There are all the usual observations about there being no seeker, nothing to find etc. and these are clearly and simply explained. As the author states at the front of the book: “It is not easy to write a book about nothing.” He also notes that there is “nothing to teach about this” so that one should be “quite wary” of people calling themselves ‘teachers’!
(Buy US or UK)

The word ‘I’ in the sentence “I am happy” has exactly the same force as the word ‘It’ in the sentence “It is raining.”

See entry on Teacher pages.

Book cover

This Is Always Enough - John Astin. A mixture of poetry (none longer than 1 page) and short paragraphs of prose. John is very good at expressing the wonder and mystery of the non-dual reality (from the vantage point of the world!). Through his poetry, he conveys a sense of the ineffable, recognizing how the more linear and logical approach to the truth so often founders.
(Buy US or UK)

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Page last updated: 09-Jul-2012