Realization: “‘Awakening’ doesn’t change the appearance. Contrary to what some seem to claim, the world does not effectively disappear. Everything is seen as before; the difference is that it is now known not to be separate. All the ‘people’ are still there, living out their apparent lives, still acting as though there were free will, including the body-mind in which ‘awakening’ has occurred.”
Teaching Style: Books, Yahoo Group participation, one-on-one emails, blogs, website, monologues, dialogues and group discussions.
Legacy: He is a moderator of the Advaitin Email Group (Chief Moderator in 2007) and a member of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation in London, for whom he produced and maintains the website at www.ramana-maharshi.org.uk.
His own extensive website is www.advaita.org.uk . This contains essays on topics relating to the spiritual path of Advaita Vedanta and other material, together with links to relevant organisations, teachers and resources. He still reads extensively on the subject, though no longer actively ‘seeking’. He is the editor of the Advaita sub-category for the Open Directory Project on the Internet.
Educated to degree-level in Chemistry, he has worked for most of his life in computing. Since 2000, he has devoted his life to writing. He completed a philosophical/ecological thriller in 1999 (extensively revised in 2007-8) and a book on Earned Value metrics in March 2001. His first book on Advaita, ‘The Book of One’, was written for students of that path and published in 2003. An introductory book on Sanskrit (‘The Spiritual Seeker’s Essential Guide to Sanskrit’) was published in India in 2005.
His book ‘How to Meet Yourself’, published in 2007, was aimed at the non-specialist reader and addresses the fundamental topics of meaning and purpose in one’s life and the nature of happiness. Though not intended for the ‘spiritual seeker’. its intention was that, by the end of the book, the reader will wish to become one! It approaches the subject from the standpoint of western philosophy, sociology and psychology but increasingly introduces Advaitic concepts so that the last two chapters explain in some detail the non-dual nature of self and reality.
His major book on Advaita, also published in 2007, was entitled ‘Back to the Truth’. This is a systematic treatment of Advaita which, by using examples from many sources, helps the reader to differentiate between approaches and teachers. It compares the scriptures of traditional Advaita with the words of contemporary Sages and with the modern ‘nothing to be done’ teaching of 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 and explanations given, in their own words, from those who discovered the truth.
His most recent book, published in 2008, was ‘Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle’. This aimed clearly to define the term ‘enlightenment’ and dispel the many myths about it propagated by ‘new-age’ books on the subject. It endeavoured to set down the proven methods, passed down for over a thousand years in the traditional teaching of the subject and contrast these with those of modern ‘satsang’ teachers and the non-teaching of neo-advaitins, demonstrating in the process that only the traditional methods are likely to bring about enlightenment.
“If you are looking for personal happiness or an end to personal unhappiness, then advaita is not the answer. Advaita is about the realization that there is no person, that who you really are is already limitless, full and complete. One comes to advaita when it has been accepted that lasting happiness is never going to be found in people or things – how can anything that is transient and ever-changing bring lasting happiness?”
“The teaching of Advaita regarding the existence of free will (or any other topic for that matter) really depends upon the current level of understanding of the student. For one who believes that he or she is a separate person, Advaita teaches that it is possible to exert self-effort in order to discipline the mind, acquire self-knowledge etc. and ultimately attain liberation. As you know, the ‘bottom line’ of Advaita is that everything is brahman and you are that. There are no persons who could choose to do anything. The world-appearance is simply the ever-changing form of the never-changing reality. So, clearly, in the end the concept of free-will is meaningless. Apparent individuals are just following a chain of cause and effect at the level of the appearance.”
“On the topic of Near Death Experience (and the rest): First of all, I cannot emphasize enough that such subjects have no relevance whatsoever to advaita and studying them will not help in the slightest. Who-you-really-are was never born and will never die so that ‘near-death’ has no meaning. Secondly, there is no value in seeking experiences of any kind. You already have the experience of being your true Self; you already have the experience of advaita or non-duality – in deep sleep. No further experience will bring you to the realization of your true nature. The reason you do not appreciate this is that you have self-ignorance and the only remedy for this is self-knowledge. Knowledge of anything in the vyAvahArika realm (or the prAtibhAsika!) will not bring about self-knowledge.”
“The questions as to why the world appears, why there is ignorance etc. are not ‘valid’ questions in advaita. From the vantage point of reality, there is no creation, there are no minds, there is no ignorance. The confusion is only in the mind of the person, which concepts (confusion, mind, person) only have validity in relative reality. Yes, it is all paradoxical from the mind’s point of view but all is resolved in self-knowledge.”
“On the subject of ego, whilst you believe yourself to be a separate entity, a doer and enjoyer, the concept of ego has validity. And a teacher has to begin from where you believe yourself to be. All of what a teacher tells you has provisional validity only and is ALL rescinded in the final analysis – this is the technique of traditional advaita.”
© Dennis Waite:Quotations are from a forthcoming book, provisionally entitled ‘Answers in Advaita Vedanta’, scheduled for publication in Spring 2012.