Q: I am new to Advaita I am currently reading Drg Drsya Viveka and the works of Swami Vivekananda. I also sometimes listen to commentary from Swami Sarvapriyananda from the NY Vedanta Society. And I frequently read thru your website, but my internet connection is poor.
Which book of yours and maybe others would you recommend to help?
A: Don’t read Vivekananda. He is, unfortunately, a source of much confusion in Advaita, rejecting some key aspects and embracing teaching from Yoga (which is a dualistic philosophy). Here is a list of recommended books for beginners that I produced recently for someone:
- Vedanta: the solution to our fundamental problem, D. Venugopal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 2012. ISBN 81-7276-457-X. (Both readable and authoritative by a student of Swamis D and P.]
- Introduction to Vedanta, Dr. K. Sadananda, Srath-Visual Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-99917-040-3. [Edited by myself, so I know it is good!]
- The Living Gita, A commentary for modern readers, Sri Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Publications, 1988. ISBN 0-932040-27-6. [This is actually a Yoga book of course rather than Advaita but beginners will not really see the differences and it is so readable and inspirational that I overlook this! The other 40 or so versions I have are not so likely actually to be read. ]
- Self-knowledge, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, 2003. ISBN 0-9748000-0-7. [Transcription of 9 introductory talks – excellent.]
- How to Attain Enlightenment: The Vision of Nonduality, James Swartz, Sentient Publications, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59181-094-0. [Especially good for a Western reader and quite likely to prompt them to read more.]
- Be As You Are – The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Edited by David Godman, Arkana, 1985. ISBN 0-14-019062-7. [Again readable and inspirational, although my latest book has to complain about some of the wrong ideas stemming from Ramana.]
- A Natural Awakening, P. T. Mistlberger, Tigerfyre Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-97334019-0-4. [I expect I might find things to complain about if I re-read this now, but I thought at the time it was an excellent, readable introduction.
- Awakening to the Dream, Leo Hartong, Trafford, 2001. ISBN 1-4120-0425-X. [Neo-Advaita! But very readable, original, provocative for a beginner.]
- Book of One (2nd Edition), Dennis Waite, O Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84694-347-8. [Modesty aside, still the best book on Advaita by a Western writer…]
First of all, I would have to recommend my own book, since obviously I trust what I have said in there!
My consolidated Q &A book, with added summaries and explanatory sections, will be out in March 2020, entitled “The Difficult Questions… for the Spiritual Seeker”.
Swami Sarvapriyananda is excellent incidentally, from what I have heard of his talks. But, as a disciple of Ramakrishna/Vivekananda, there is always a danger of mistaken notions creeping in. Listen to talks of Swami Paramarthananda if you want authentic material.