James Swartz

August 25, 2010

I have just finished reading James Swartz’ book How to Attain Enlightenment. It has taken me nearly a month to read it, which for me is a very long time. I usually churn through a book in a matter of hours, not weeks or months. But this book was different. It required slow, deliberate consideration.

The book is about Vedanta which is the science of self-inquiry – using the intellect to understand that you are already free from your circumstances. Swartz is a clever, educated man with a lot of experience and the ability to convey his learning to others.

He addresses self-inquiry in a slightly different way to others, which is only going to be noticed by those who already have a strong grounding in self-inquiry. He puts more emphasis on some points and less on others.

For example, he makes it quite clear, as do the Vedic texts on the matter, that self-inquiry is only for qualified seekers. It is not for everyone. A clear mind is required and this clarity comes from spiritual practices such as the mental and physical techniques found in yoga.

He spends next to no time addressing the theories of creation – such as ajata vada – the theory of non-creation. He figures that there is little advantage in telling seekers that they don’t exist, or that this world doesn’t exist – despite the truth in these statements. Instead he presents logical arguments that have been proven over hundreds of years to turn ignorant seekers into self-aware finders. Thus the ancient knowledge of Vedanta is a systematic method for purifying the intellect so that it can appreciate the self that is already here.

At the end of the book he has a small chapter about “enlightenment sickness” which often occurs after awakening. He also discusses neo-advaita – the modern non-teaching that offers no technique, no teaching, no path and results in confused seekers. His unflattering comments about Tony Parsons, Papaji, Kalki and others can be found here in an interview with Non-Duality Magazine.

I always learn a lot when I read excellent books like this. It is a great insight into how knowledge is gained. But there were parts of the book that I hold differing views about – mainly because I have been exposed to specialist knowledge. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi made a good comment about this. He said that you can’t know everything, but you can know enough to be very happy.

Real knowledge means knowledge of the Self. It is this kind of knowledge alone that sets us free from the bondage and smallness of the hamster wheel of life.


August 24, 2010

This word collage is from Wordle.net. I entered this blog’s address and hey-presto! Click on the image to enlarge it.

What is Compassion?

August 17, 2010

According to James Swartz in his truly excellent book on self-inquiry How to Attain Enlightenment:

Compassion is the understanding that nobody, including you, would be who they are if they could help it.

Wisdom from a Wise Man

August 8, 2010

This is Adyashanti expounding his great wisdom. Unfortunately, it cannot be embedded so you’ll have to follow this link to YouTube.

And because I know you all like wisdom, here is a quote from Rumi, a 13-century mystic from Persia (ie Iran):

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about
language, ideas, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

August 6, 2010

One of the most well recognised non-dual mystics in modern time: Nisargadatta Maharaj. He was very intelligent and articulate – one of my favourites.

*The mind covers up reality, without knowing it. To know the nature of the mind, you need intelligence, the capacity to look at the mind in silent and dispassionate awareness.

*This attitude of silent observation is the very foundation of yoga. You see the picture, but you are not the picture.

*Love says “I am everything”. Wisdom says “I am nothing”. Between the two, my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both the subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am both, and neither, and beyond both.

*Once you accept time and space as real, you will consider yourself minute and short-lived. But are they real? Do they depend on you, or you on them? As body, you are in space. As mind, you are in time. But are you mere body with a mind in it? Have you ever investigated?