These cover the now classic dialogues of sages such as Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi.
Link to the Advaita Bookstore to read other reviews of these books, buy them from Amazon.com or generally browse.
Atmananda Krishna Menon
Atmananda Krishna Menon
The main works of the Sage Atmananda Krishnamenon, who
influenced both Jean Klein and Francis Lucille, are
'Atma Darshan' and 'Atma Nirvritti'. Both are very
short, originally in verse form in the Malayalam language,
and translated by the author. So simple, straightforward
and logically presented, yet presenting all of the
key issues of Direct Path Advaita. Excellent! Both
books may be purchased from Inner
Quest in Paris .
"In one's experience - strictly so called - there is neither thought nor external object present. It is the state in which all alone one abides in one's Self"
for publishing Jean Klein's books has been taken over
from Element and Third Millennium Publications by Non-Duality
Press and all are now available.
They take the form of short questions followed
by longer answers on topics typically raised by those
seeking answers to spiritual questions. His teaching
is very much Direct Path and attempts to provide answers
that can give some satisfaction to the intellect. He
often brings a refreshing lightness to the mind with
its tendency to become mired in irresolvable logical
analysis. This book in particular is full of insightful
observations. (Buy US or UK)
"The 'I am' shines in its glory when you are free from the two volitions: doing and not doing."
"There is no aim. God is perfection and beyond improvement. If we want to talk in terms of an aim, the world and objects are there only to reveal the ultimate subject, 'I am'."
Be Who You Are
Klein’s words carry the authenticity of a true master, not preaching but sharing a direct apprehension of the true nature of reality. Not always easy to follow on first reading, they are nevertheless a true reflection of the Direct Path teachings inspired by the sage Atmananda Krishna Menon, one of Klein’s major influences. This book is one of the four recently republished by Non-Duality Press and it is very good indeed. As with all of his books, each chapter consists of a short talk on a particular aspect followed by questions and answers that are not always related. Topics specifically addressed are: Direct Path teaching including a comparison with Yoga and meditation, objects and attributes, presence and being in the present. If you only tend to read books by current satsang teachers, you should definitely try this for a change! (The extract comparing yoga and the experience of samAdhi with the Direct Path will be included in the Discourses section shortly.)
On meditation: “There is no necessity to do something in order to do nothing. There is just nothing to be done.”
Nisargadatta Maharaj - I am That
This is probably the best known book by any modern day Sage and justly so. It consists of short dialogues that he had with visitors, who travelled from around the world to listen to his blunt and forceful answers to questions on a variety of topics of concern to those still trapped in the illusory world. There are many wonderful, direct and unambiguous statements from this illiterate seller of cigars in the back streets of Bombay. It is an essential buy. (Buy US or UK)
"The mind is but a collection of states, each of them transitory. How can a succession of transitory states be considered real?"
"You cannot have freedom in creation, only freedom from it."
Pointers From Nisargadatta Maharaj - Ramesh S. Balsekar. Though based upon actual discourses, these have been supplemented by other material so as to present each topic in more depth. Presentation is mostly in the third person rather than the question and answer format of most of the books of Nisargadatta's teaching. Ramesh also ensures in his translation that the intended meaning comes across much more clearly than a simple literal rendition would achieve. Accordingly, this is a very worthwhile addition to anyone's library. (Buy US or UK)
If I were to ask you to tell me something about your state before you were conceived in your mother's womb, your answer must necessarily be "I don't know." This 'I' who does not know that state (in fact the 'I' who knew nothing until consciousness appeared), is what we really are - the Absolute, the noumenon, spaceless, timeless, impreceptible being; whereas, relatively, phenomenally, finite, timebound, perceptible to the senses, is what we appear to be as separate objects.
Some will take exception to including Osho in a list of “recent sages” but there is no denying that some of his recorded material is extraordinarily perceptive. He is also capable of transmitting it in a very clear manner, interlaced with many (often rude) jokes to keep one awake. There are so many books by him that it is very difficult to recommend just one or two (even assuming that you have read them all). They are principally transcriptions of the talks he gave over many years or of the question and answer sessions that he held with his disciples or “sanyasins,” as he called them. Many are based around a particular classical work such as an Upanishad. Whilst the philosophy that he propounded was usually commensurate with that of Advaita, he drew his inspiration from many other sources, including Buddhism, Sufism, Hassidism.
Osho - Mustard Seed
This particular work is based upon the Gospel according to St. Thomas, the Christian work discovered amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although this document may not be universally accepted amongst Christians, he uses it to bring out very clearly the non-dual teachings of Christ. It is quite a long book - nearly 500 pages - but it is nevertheless amazing how many topics are covered. Always readable and provocative, it is often very funny too. Extremely good. (Buy US or UK)
As with many of these books, this one is currently out of print and selling at exorbitant prices through some Internet outlets. Osho World offers the books readable free of charge online, however, though my patience ran out waiting for this particular one to load.
Also highly recommended are Heartbeat of the Absolute and I Am That. Both are discourses on the Isha or Ishavasya Upanishad. The former is based on talks given in April 1971. The latter is published under Osho’s previous pseudonym, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and is based upon talks in October 1980. If asked to choose between them, I would probably prefer Heartbeat (although I am That contains more jokes!).
Osho - What is Meditation?
Unlike most of his books, this is very short. It consists of brief extracts from his other work, which are relevant to the subject of meditation, telling us what it is and what it isn’t, how to deal with thoughts, the nature of silence and much more. He is a master of metaphor and example and, if you are learning to practice meditation, this is an ideal prompt for relevant issues. (Buy US or UK)
"Meditation is a state of clarity, not a state of mind."
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
This is the classic book of conversations recorded by Sri Munagala S. Venkataramiah over the period 1935 - 9. Previously published in three volumes, they are now available in a single book of over 600 pages, published by Sri Ramanasramam. Very readable, yet full of wisdom. It has a comprehensive index and glossary. Another essential buy! Click on the title above for the American version from Amazon or on Sri Ramanashramam for the cheaper Indian version. Also available for free download. (Buy US or UK)
"Find out from where this 'I' arises. Then this 'I' will disappear and the infinite Self will remain. This 'I' is only the knot between the sentient and the insentient. The body is not 'I', the Self is not 'I'. Who then, is the 'I'? Where from does it arise?"
Be As You Are - The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Short, but full of the wonderfully clear teachings of probably the most important teacher of the past millennium. This can be recommended whole heartedly as one of the very best books on Advaita. David Godman researched many sources and combined the material so as to provide fuller answers to the various questions, which are sorted into topics. You can read 15 sample pages at the Amazon link above. (Buy US or UK)
"Bliss is a thing which is always there and is not something which comes and goes. That which comes and goes is a creation of the mind and you should not worry about it."
Michael Reidy recomends 'The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi' edited by Arthur Osborne. This also receives 5* at Amazon and is pretty well guaranteed to be just as valuable as the above. It also has some of Ramana's poetry. There are 11 sample pages here. This is also available for free download.
(Buy US or UK)
This book has been so well used that the cover has been mostly destroyed and therefore cannot be photographed!
Maha Yoga by 'Who'
This is essentially a book about Advaita as taught by Ramana Maharshi who, to my mind, bridges the gap between traditional and direct path methods. The author, only identified as 'Who' on the title page, was Sri K. Laksmana Sarma, who studied for over twenty years with Ramana. He defines Maha Yoga as 'the Direct Method of finding the Truth of Ourselves'. The key topics addressed are happiness, ignorance, world, soul, god, the nature of the Self and the means for realising this, and the role of the Sage and devotion. Some difficult concepts are explained with transparent clarity and the entire book is readable and authoritative yet written with obvious humility. Highly recommended. It can be purchased from Sri Ramanashramam. Also available for free download.
"The Sage is often loosely described as 'one that knows the Self'. But this is not intended to be taken in a literal sense. It is a tentative description, intended for those that believe ignorance to be something that exists; they are told that this ignorance is to be got rid of by winning 'Knowledge of the Self'. There are two misconceptions in this. One is that the Self is an object of knowledge. The other is that the Self is unknown and needs to be known. The Self being the sole reality, He cannot become an object of knowledge. Also, being the Self, He is never unknown."
Mountain Path - The Journal of Sri Ramanasramam.
This periodical is published quarterly and mailed from Tiruvannamalai all over the world for an annual subscription of US$15. Although there are always articles relating to Ramana, the scope of the journal is much broader. At the time of writing, there are also articles on the study of Shankara, the life and teaching of Atmananda Krishna Menon and the teaching of the Zen master Bassui Tokusho Zenji. There are also regular book reviews and letters. Authoritative and well-written by a variety of contributors (new ones always welcome), this is highly recommended.
Self Enquiry - The Journal of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK
This is a periodical, which was published three times each year until Feb 2004. See the entry on Ramana Maharshi under 'Organisations' above. You are unlikely to read and enjoy every published article but the variety means that there will usually be something to strike a chord and there are often gems that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Back issues are available via their website.
and the Art of Being - The
Philosophy and Practice of the Spiritual
Teaching of Bhagavan Sri Ramana" by Michael
James. A long title to match an equally
massive book (and this is only Part 1
of a planned multi-volume work). The
index alone runs to 38 pages. This is
an indication of the seriousness and
commitment of the author to analysing
and presenting Sri Ramana's teaching
in a systematic and logical manner. Given
that I am a slow reader and always have
many books in progress at the same time,
it will be many months before I finish
reading this. But I have seen enough
now to want to recommend it to others.
Anyone who is convinced of the value
of Ramana's teaching will want to add
this book to their collection. Difficult
topics are unfolded slowly and methodically
so that readers need not be afraid that
they will not understand. Impatient readers
might complain of repetition or verbosity
and it may be the case that the book
would have benefited from independent
editing. But clarity and readability
are not sacrificed and, when so much
of advaita seems counter-intuitive to
the egotistical and scientific mind,
a little repetition does not go amiss!
book may be downloaded as a PDF file
from his website but,
unless you are prepared to sit in front
of your monitor for a very long time,
you will probably want to buy the paperback
from US or UK.
If you want a modern commentary on Ramana Maharshi�s Nan Yar (Who Am I?), this is it.
If you want an intelligent re-interpretation of the words, rather than a simple and literal translation, read James Swartz�s crystal-clear explanations of some knotty problems (such as the manonAsha � death of the mind concept).
If you enjoy reading fascinating, previously unpublished anecdotes about Ramana�s life, read some of the reminiscences that David Godman learned from speaking with those who actually lived in Ramana�s presence and experienced his frequent �human� side.
There are also chapters containing the autobiographies of the three contributors themselves. David Godman tells of his experiences with Nisargadatta and his curious relationship with Papaji. James Swartz relates the story of his colorful path from reprobate to close associate of Swami Chinmayananda. Premananda tells the story of his travels around the world, by way of Osho and Papaji, to his present community in Germany.
And, if you just want a beautiful book, with lots of wonderful, glossy, full-color photographs of Ramana, his disciples, Arunachala and Ramanasramam, Premananda has put together exactly the book for you. His insightful interviewing elicits some marvelous material, both biographical and spiritual. There is even a pull-out, diagrammatic map, showing the key features around the mountain and a preview DVD of the companion film of Ramana�s life and teaching.
I cannot recommend this superb book too highly if you are at all interested in the teaching of Ramana Maharshi or the stories of seekers who found what they were looking for.
The 'Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna' by M, translated and with an introduction by Swami Nikhilananda documents the teaching of this 19th Century Self-realised 'saint' through his dialogues recorded during the last four years of his life. There is an extensive introduction providing biographical details. I have only read the abridged version (this full version is over 1000 pages) but can highly recommend it. His words are full of compassion and wisdom and many of his stories are used in modern Advaita teachings. There are 37 sample pages to read here. (Buy US or UK)
"The important thing is the mind. Bondage is of the mind, and freedom also is of the mind."
Link to the Advaita Bookstore to read other reviews of these books, buy them from Amazon.com or generally browse.