Advaita is a spiritual philosophy based on the Upanishads, older than most other religious systems we know about but also the most logical and scientific in its approach. The literal meaning is "Not two". There is only one truth - but, it has to be said, there are many teachers. So how is a "seeker" to choose between them? This book is a systematic treatment of Advaita which demystifies it, differentiating between approaches and teachers, enabling you to decide which approach is most suitable for you. It compares the scriptures of traditional Advaita with the words of contemporary sages and neo-Advaita. Should we ignore the mind? Is the world real? Is there anything we can do to become "enlightened"? These questions and many more are addressed, with explanations given in their own words from those who discovered the truth. A massively comprehensive, definitive work.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
Back to the Truth: 5,000 Years of Advaita by Dennis Waite is a wonderful tome on Advaita. This book is easy to read and accessible. It is a wonderful book for newcomers to Advaita as this book makes these subject accessible and easy to understand. It also gives an overview of Advaita from the past to the present. It is wonderful for long time students and seekers of the truth as a refresher and a way to see the subject in a new light.
In this book through the light of the Advaita we are taught who we are not, who we are, and the nature of reality among other things. This book is over 600 pages and every page is worth reading. I fell in love with this book and would definitely recommend it to those new to Advaita and those who have studied it for awhile now.
~ Tiffany , LoveToread
The first volume, entitled The Book of One, consists of three sections, dealing with various aspects of the classical Advaita Vedanta and the views of the neo- advaitins. The first section is divided into various chapters, where topics, such as "What I am not," "Nature of Man," "What we think we can know," "The driving forces of our lives," "Actions and Results," and "Lord or Ishvara" are dealt with.
In the second section, issues such as mental preparation or sadhana for the spiritual path, meditation, acharyas are discussed. The third section is a treatment on appearance and reality, creation and time, nature of the Self, enlightenment and the postulates of neo-Advaita. The first volume also has three useful appendices and a long bibliography. Appendix 1 gives a list of sources for more information, Appendix 2 mentions texts for further reading and Appendix 3 lists the introduction to Sanskrit and ITRANS.
The author has employed simple and straight-forward language, without bringing in too many technical terms, though occasionally a few Sanskrit terms and their import have been given. Certain terse precepts of traditional Advaita philosophy have been explained in detail with illustrations and anecdotes. For instance, the well - known statement from the scriptural text, 'neti, neti', has been explained, while describing "What I am not." By the process of reductio ad absurdum, the essence of beings, i.e. Self or Pratyagatma as described in Vedanta vocabulary, following the deductive principle of Sherlock Holmes, is stated interestingly. The two streams of the Brahman, inherent in individual Self,--the theory of reflection (bimba pratibimba vada) and the theory of containment (avaccheda vada) in the interpretation of the Brahma Sutras, is brought out very clearly.
Again, the concept of drik and drisya (the seer and the seen) or the Upanishadic statement of
tattvamasi has been dealt with in a facile and easily graspable manner. Cross-references to various scriptural texts and the commentaries of great masters like Gaudapada, Sankara, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, as also modern preachers and teachers of Advaitic philosophy find mention in these books.
In addition, exponents of Western philosophy have also been introduced, to compare and contrast with the concepts in eastern (Advaita) philosophy. Extracts of interviews between exponents and audience so as to clear common misconceptions have been cited wherever relevant, and these greatly help clear doubts in our minds. For example, to a question by a modern day exponent that Hindus worship several gods and goddesses, the answer is: "Hindus worship only one god, but in several names and forms". This statement draws support from the Vedic assertion, ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti. The compatibility of bhakti in the scheme of Advaita has been clearly established.
The excellent quote from Yoga Vasishta that life is but an elongated dream--deergha svapnam imam viddhi-is the opening quote for the chapter on enlightenment, where it is said that "suffering just means you are having a bad dream. Happiness means you are having a good dream. Enlightenment means getting out of the dream altogether."
The three levels of reality- paaramaartika (really real), vyaavahaarika (phenomenally real) and the praatibhaasika (the apparently real) have been neatly presented. Examples, anecdotes, illustrations, etc., enhance and exemplify the content.
The Book of One has a glossary of Sanskrit terms for easy understanding of the key words that occur in Advaita texts.
The second book, titled Enlightenment, contains around 540 points which appear in the form of propositions and comments. They cover a variety of topics, such as ignorance about Self, reality, satsang teaching, neo-Advaita, criticism of traditional teaching, the need and characteristics of the teacher, etc.
Whether there is a need for a path to attain liberation (Self- knowledge) is also discussed. The author mentions that there is no need for a path. This is as it should be, because the Self is already attained but it is the ignorance that veils it for the individual soul, due to maya. Therefore, what is required is "realisation". The popular statement runs: praapthasya praapanam na samlchlnam bhavati, kintu apraaptasya praapanam eva samlchlnam bhavati. The illustration given by Vidyaranya about the wearer of a necklace searching for it and somebody (guru), pointing out to him that it is already around his neck, is also mentioned.
The arguments and counter-arguments regarding the traditional Advaita and the neo-Advaita are brought out in detail, as also the untenability of neo-Advaita. The book concludes with a summary of the main points.
Book Three contains eight sections and is also arranged topic- wise. The topics covered are: "Discovering who we are not" (not the physical body, senses or the mind), "Karma and Freewill," "Knowledge and Ignorance," "The Various Spiritual Paths, such as Karma Yoga", "Who Really is the Individual Soul" and "What is Absolute Reality" and a few others. There are three useful appendices. There is a glossary of Sanskrit terms, with an index, which is very helpful. The first book contains the fundamentals of advaita philosophy and the subsequent volumes are a kind of supplement and complement, with detailed explanations.
These three volumes make for heavy reading. Considerable thinking and mulling over the concepts are called for. But it is as it should be, considering the depth and dimension of the topic. An excellent effort by a foreign author, who has taken pains to study eastern philosophy and also articulate it with clarity and precision.
~ C. L. Ramakrishnan, Tattvaloka Magazine, December 2012
His book provides a rich experience for those who enjoy pondering the deepest questions, not only regarding Advaita, but ultimately the Truth beyond all labels. ~ Nirmala, Teacher and author of Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self
This is definitely one of the most complete and exhaustive books on advaita ever, and is the first book that I have seen that not only deals with advaita but also expands upon the various different types and styles of teachings including contemporary ones, analyses and compares them and helps the seeker in selecting the one that matches his temperament the most. ~ Dr. Nitin Trasi, Author of The Science of Enlightenment
Dennis has poured his love of Truth and humanity into this precise and luminous work. Highly recommended. ~ Isaac Shapiro, Teacher and author of Outbreak of Peace
A profoundly astute and masterful guide to the field of Self-discovery. An authoritative scholar, Dennis writes with supreme clarity as he skilfully expounds, logically analyzes and insightfully integrates the wisdom of classical and contemporary teachers with the principles of Advaita. ~ Katie Davis, Teacher and author of Awake Living Joy: The Essence of Spiritual Enlightenment
Dennis Waite is the West's pre-eminent explicator of Advaita Vedanta. In driving home his point that our nature is Awareness, Dennis brings to light many of Advaita's "hidden" teachings, which have never been circulated outside of specialist schools. He also does something I've never seen anywhere in print. He opens a critical dialogue between the ancient and the modern paths, whose exponents don't always agree. Fascinating! ~ Dr. Gregory Goode, PhD, Philosophical Counselor and non-dual teacher.
This is an extraordinary book. The scope represents a real tour de force in marshalling and laying out an encyclopaedic amount of material in way that will appeal both to the seasoned and to the introductory reader. This book will surely be the definitive work of reference for many years to come. ~ , Network Review
A wonderful book. Encyclopedic in nature, and destined to become a classic. ~ James Braha, Author of Living Reality