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How to Attain Enlightenment: The Vision of Nonduality Paperback – Feb 16 2010

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  • Paperback: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications (Feb. 16 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591810949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591810940
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #126,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Strand on July 24 2013
Format: Paperback
"How to attain enlightenment: The vision of non-duality" by James Swartz presents the ancient science of self-knowledge known as Vedanta in a way that it easily accessible and which can be readily understood by everyone. That's not to say that this book is in any way lightweight or undemanding. It is very likely that it will be quite challenging for most of us. The science of self-knowledge is not the spiritual equivalent of a fast food meal, so it's not necessarily something that can be immediately assimilated and digested by anyone. It would appear that it really does require time, effort and perseverance to fully understand and live the message that is presented in this book. It's not that Vedanta is difficult to understand, but rather that for many of us our spiritual and cultural conditioning might make it harder to allow this teaching to fully flower in our lives.

James Swartz has given the world a great gift by writing this marvellous book. With "How to attain enlightenment" he has managed to distil the world of Vedanta into one single very readable volume that seems complete in itself. This book may very well prove to be the last or only spiritual book you'll ever need to read. The philosophy and methodology of Vedanta are clearly explained and unfolded, and the way it's presented leaves the reader in no doubt about the supreme importance and efficacy of this ancient spiritual teaching. It should be noted that James Swartz is no spiritual neophyte. He studied and practiced extensively under the personal guidance of such spiritual luminaries as Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda, who were two of the 20th century's greatest exponents of Vedanta and non-duality.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 41 reviews
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Real Avaita March 11 2010
By Michael Heun - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is quite an honor to give the first Amazon book review for this Swartz book as it just might be the best Advaita/Vendanta (Science of Self Inquiry) written by a Westerner. I have read numerous Neo-Advaita books and 90% of them leave my head spinning with concepts that blow the mind (i.e. `You are no thing', `Just look, its right in front of you', `There is nothing for you to do, you are already IT' and on and on). This book will stop the spinning remarks and get you anchored in real Vendanta (knowledge). Swartz asks that `you become immersed' in the book and that is what happened in my case. If you think you have to drop the Mind, the Ego and the Intellect to become enlightened you had better read this book as these tools are the vehicle that will help you get there.
Why can't I see that `I am pure, unlimited Awareness'? Swartz will tell you exactly why and offers the proven methods to realize Awareness [Self]. These concepts are not Swartz's concepts; they go way back to the ancient Indian scriptures. They are proven, scientific methods of realizing the Self. Swartz has an excellent understanding of these methods and his presentation is easy to follow. I copied his triangular illustration of Self Awarness to keep handy as I read the book and I marked it up [as well as my book!] with notes as I progressed through the book. It summarizes quite well the condition of the 3 bodies all wrapped up in ignorance [Maya] through the 3 energies. There is so much more I can't begin to adequately summarize it. If you are serious about Advaita Vendanta, then you better get serious about getting this book. And don't forget his website at [...]. He has some of the key scriptures you can print off.
Thanks James, I was getting pretty dizzy! Now I know what to do.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Finally, a method! Oct. 26 2011
By Natalie - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
(Update below)

Tired of the line, "There is no 'you' to do anything"? Those days are over. Finally, we Westerners have a real, traditional Vedanta teacher, a dyed-in-the-wool Shankara Vedantin who has been studying and teaching scripture for forty years, since his self-realization in his late twenties under the discipleship of Swami Chinmayananda in India. James Swartz is not like the others; he will not tell you there is no "you" -- quite the contrary. First he'll tell you to grow up and get qualified. According to traditional Vedanta -- a teaching that actually works, as opposed to the vague, uninformed fluff that passes itself off as teaching nowadays -- you need to get qualified for self-inquiry, and you need to apply a means, and it takes time and effort. There is quite a bit of "doing" involved.

Swartz's book will affirm rather than deny what you instinctively know: that there is a person having experiences and suffering in ignorance. The person is not real in the sense of being eternal and unchanging, but he does exist. He is able to seek, mature, clean up his lifestyle, grow spiritually, and finally hear the highest message of the scripture from the level it is intended to be heard: from Self to Self. Swartz gives you a detailed road map for accomplishing all of this. Aren't you about ready for a map? I know I was.

Swartz skillfully leads you through an incredible amount of complicated material, step by step, demystifying it and making it relevant to what you experience as a seeker. He builds a larger picture little by little, until eventually there emerges a beautiful, shimmering collage of the entirety of creation -- the "mandala of existence," as he calls it -- the macrocosm and the microcosm, and where "you" fit into this picture. Gradually it all begins to make sense. From there it is a logical progression to the undermining of ignorance, and the revelation of Self.

I don't know where he's been hiding all these years, but Swartz is certainly a welcome new addition to the spiritual lineup. As many people are finding out, the popular non-dual writings, while helpful in terms of eliminating false notions, are simply not effective in revealing the Self. The revelation of the Self requires a structured and logically consistent method, and Vedanta is such a method. Of course, popular thought holds that there is no "you" to utilize a method, but that wholesale denial of the relative level of existence has proven ineffective and left a lot of people frustrated. Swartz is one of the biggest critics of these "neo" ideas, and he doesn't hesitate to tell you about it. A chapter in his book is devoted to the subject.

As far as I know, Swartz is the only self-realized Westerner teaching Vedanta from such a deep-rooted understanding of it. Because he realized at such a young age, he has had an entire lifetime of studying scripture and honing his teaching skills. He travels the world to teach, and still spends a good part of every year teaching in India. The depth of his knowledge of Vedanta and Vedic texts is impressive. And yet English is his native language, which removes the usual problem of translations and audios that are hard to understand. Swartz's circumstances of birth and self-realization make him uniquely a fortuitous bridge from East to West, and if the West is ready for Vedanta, Swartz is the guy.

***UPDATE January 2013***

James Swartz has become very popular since his book came out and revealed that he offers a complete, guaranteed means to liberation. There is no other teacher or satsang that offers such an effective method - that is why people from all over the globe are starting to flock to James. The good news is spreading. Vedanta systematically reveals the Self, which even the most clear and radical non-duality teaching fails to do because the *means* are missing. I know first-hand that this is true. The teaching of Vedanta is the means. It liberates, if you just let it. I would highly recommend you get some of James' video series from his website, shiningworld (he has some great new ones), listen to them over and over, send James a few emails to clear up your final doubts, and then kick back and enjoy being the Self!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The complete and time-tested driver's manual of Advaita Vedanta April 2 2011
By V. Binette-Lamb - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although provocative, this book lives up to its title, as it unfolds the complete methodology of Advaita Vedanta, which purpose is to attain Self realization. I will not explain what Self realization is, as anyone slightly familiar with Vedanta already knows about this.

After some initial interest in some modern teachers of Non-Duality (namely Tolle), I decided to read a few classics, such as "Be As You Are" and "I am THAT", which moved me deeply but failed to provide me with day-to-day tools. I was then led to James' book, "How to Attain Enlightenment", after quite some consideration about where to go next.

The author has learned from Swami Chinmayananda in India, former leader of a vast Vedanta mission. He has subjected his mind to the full teaching tradition, removed his self ignorance and went on to study numerous ancien texts for several decades. He walks the talk and is quite agile at delivering clear and down to earth explanations about anything related to the topic of interest. He isn't just throwing at you a few Neo Advaita half-truths, feel good methaphors or even his personal experience of the Self. The whole methodoloy is exposed in a practical, logical and meticulous way and all of it makes complete sense as you contemplate it.

To me, this book is like my bible. I have read it multiple times and refer to it constantly. Since initially getting the book a year ago, I have made a lot of progress and my psychology has totally defrosted. This book helped me develop the qualities such as dispassion and discrimination.

Following Vedanta's tradition, you find all relevant topics such as the limitations of object happiness, the qualifications for self realization, the three yogas (karma, bhakti and jnana), the gunas and so forth. The author's real life examples are quite entertaining too and the reader can easily recognize him or herself in them. At first it may be hard to grasp all the teachings, as it can get quite dense and everything is totally interconnected. Over time, if you expose your mind to it consistently, the truth will stick to it more and more and you will find yourself agreeing with what is taught, because your own experience and logic will point towards the same understanding. This book delivers the template from which to conduct your life if you are interested in developping a pure mind, one which will be able to understand and assimilate the knowledge that culminates in the realization "I am the Self".
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Nathaniel Merritt - Published on
Format: Paperback
Before reading How To Attain Enlightenment by James Swartz I had been a Buddhist priest for over a decade and a Buddhist for over two decades. However, the Advaita Vedanta of James Swartz destroys Buddhism just as Advaita Vedanta did in the seventh century when Sri Adi Shankaracharya rid India of Buddhism, the very land in which Gautama was born. Buddhism had supplanted Advaita Vedanta in India, and Advaita Vedanta was almost unknown. Shankaracharya defeated and destroyed Buddhism via debate with the great Buddhist masters and teachers of his time. Most of the defeated Buddhists embraced Advaita Vedanta and the few who did not left India with their defeated and discredited doctrine. To this very day India is nearly devoid of Buddhism.

How To Attain Enlightenment thoroughly defeated and destroyed my Buddhism. As a result Buddhism has been banished from within me. Having read many other books on Advaita Vedanta I thought I really understood it. I did not. Not until I discovered genuine Advaita Vedanta presented by James Swartz--a disciple of the great Chinmayananda and Abhedananda--in a step-by-step "How to" manner that results in genuine understanding and genuine realization. Swartz is a realized being and a master of Advaita Vedanta. My eyes were opened to the fact that Advaita Vedanta is the Truth that enables one to realize enlightenment. I began to watch cherished Buddhist errors fall and be replaced by the Truth. Therein lies the vast difference between reading an abstract book written by a mere academic and reading a book written by a realized being, a living master (the best kind).

If you're serious about enlightenment and are tired of "always learning but never arriving at a knowledge of the Truth" then obtain How To Attain Enlightenment. Read it, study it, contemplate it, discuss it, and make this Truth your own. Advaita Vedanta is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Let James Swartz, a realized being, teach you. Visit his extensive, multifaceted, and engrossing web-site at shiningworld dot com

James Swartz is seventy years old and in apparent good health. Nonetheless, you should consult him as best you can while he still walks among us. Of course, if you're a mere dabbler, a dharma-fly, the solid no-nonsense presentation by Swartz is probably not for you. Swartz does not pander to the zeitgeist or any spiritual fad or the confused, aloof, and lazy mindset of the average seeker.

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Lives Up to Its Title Oct. 21 2010
By Jonathan D. Walker - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hesitated on this book at first because of the title but, having read through it once I can say it does deliver on its promise. On going back through and highlighting my original highlights I can see how there are enough gems, and a wide sweep of valuable ideas, to make for an extended and valuable study.

As I began reading the first chapter or two I found myself feeling impatient for the author to "get to the good stuff." Having read it all I can see how the beginnings were laying the groundwork for a patient, in-depth and very thorough exploration and preparation for what is to come--and it does come. I don't feel like anything was held back; it's all right here.

The last chapter explores what the author considers to be some of the shortcomings of "neo-advaita." The critique is thoughtful and insightful, and the body of the book as a whole furnishes enough in-depth background to understand the basis of his point of view. His occasional characterizations of seekers and teachers is delightfully snippy, bringing a smile and an occasional cringe when the snippy approaches the all too familiar. His website,, is full of very good content as well. I had to explore the whole site before I finally bought the book.

What always used to put me off about yoga and vedanta was the inferred exclusivity of it all, "only for the truly dedicated seeker," etc. And then there was the solace of a possible "payoff" if only one were willing to be patient for what might be just a few more lifetimes. I just never was a gung-ho "seeker-type." But the inner drawing, on the other hand, the mystery that has sustained my curiosity for all these years, has never diminished. Whatever IT is, I used to think, is certainly already right here, right now. And this eloquent book clearly seems to agree.

"Neo-advaita" has brought the ultimate human issue into the immediate present for many of us, and in a language that westerners can relate to. So personally I really have no criticism of it. But in my opinion, this book provides the missing backstory. If you feel drawn to the promised payoff that the title infers, get this book. I'm sure you'll enjoy it and appreciate how James Swartz has laid it all out so beautifully. Clearly, a lifetime of heart went into this work.

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