Confusions in Advaita Vedānta: Knowledge, Experience and Enlightenment
This is being published by Indica Books at Varanasi and may be purchased directly from them (PayPal accepted) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It will also be available to buy from Amazon and I will post the links as soon as this is possible. (Note that it may still be cheaper to buy from Indica, even with postage costs, but it will obviously take longer to arrive in the West.)
This book is for all spiritual seekers who are (or think that they are) following the teaching of Advaita but who are unsure of the ‘correct’ understanding of specific aspects relating to knowledge, experience and enlightenment. It has been said by many teachers that the particular route does not matter as long as you reach the final understanding. The key teaching method of Advaita – adhyāropa-apavāda – shows us that all the ideas which lead us there must be dropped anyway; they are all mithyā. But there is a problem. Whilst we are still in the early stages, we can easily be confused and even led down fruitless cul-de-sacs by mistaken concepts. It is important that we correct these wrong notions as soon as possible if we are to optimize our ‘path through the jungle’.
Both beginners and long-term seekers will have some difficulties with this book.
The beginner will find lots of what appear to be very subtle ideas, that may not have been encountered before and whose value may seem questionable. There are also lots of seemingly obscure Sanskrit terms. It is not necessary to learn all these terms but they are included so that the reader may look them up in other books if desired (whether to confirm, consolidate or repudiate what I am saying!). The benefit is, however, greatest for the beginner because this will enable him or her to proceed more quickly, avoiding some potentially dangerous confusion later.
The experienced seeker will have different problems. He or she may have to let go of some cherished concepts that were believed to be sacrosanct. The benefit, however, is similar to that for the beginner. Ideas that were held erroneously may have been preventing further progress. Once removed, the way once again becomes clear for the progression to full understanding.
The book is written in a readable manner, matching the style of my previous books, even though some of the topics might be considered ‘academic’. I use the IAST representation for Sanskrit, unlike the ITRANS used before. All Sanskrit terms are explained when first introduced and there is a comprehensive glossary.
When I began this book, I had no idea of how long it might turn out to be. This was because I was unaware of how many issues there were. Anyone who read the posts on pratibandha-s in 2020 will appreciate this. It began as 6 parts and finished as 12! Similarly, the arguments between Venkat-Ramesam and myself, on the topic of whether or not the world disappears when one gains enlightenment went on for months! The potential pitfalls of misunderstanding on virtually any topic in Advaita seem almost endless. Accordingly, there now have to be three volumes. This first covers specifically the topics of knowledge, experience and enlightenment. The second will address ignorance, its removal by teaching, and what ‘happens’. The third will deal with creation, causality and reality.
Throughout all three volumes, I raise the various issues and present all sides of the arguments, endeavoring to indicate the origins of the various misunderstandings. I refer everything back to Shankara where possible. If not, I refer to the ‘nearest’ authoritative source and acknowledge the shortfall. There are many instances where sources that may have been thought to be unimpeachable have been found questionable. ‘Convenient’ mistranslations of shruti and Shankara are not as uncommon as you might think!
Below, you will find the ‘Contents’ list from this first volume. N.B. Please ignore the page numbering. The index is copied from my MS Word document and pages in the printed book do not hold as much text. The actual book in 451 pages long.
If you want to read some sample material from the book, the long ‘pratibandha’ topic is largely unchanged for the book and begins at https://www.advaita-vision.org/pratibandha-s-part-1-of-6/. And the sub-topic of ‘Desire and Enlightenment’ can be read at https://www.advaita-vision.org/desire-and-enlightenment/.
This looks to be an extremely valuable resource for seekers, beginner or more advanced as you have noted. Looking forward to reading it soon! Is the book in print already?
I join Charles in sending you my congratulations for what promises to be a most helpful book – and certainly not only for beginners. I am ready to eschew all my misconceptions, mistakes, and wrong or partial understanding of Advaita Vedanta, preventing myself as well from misleading potential others.
Best wishes and warm regards,