James Swartz: How to Attain Enlightenment
Like the man himself, the title of James new book, How to Attain Enlightenment, is controversial. Who is there to be enlightened? Who is attaining? The questions may prompt an initial suspicion regarding the book's contents; we would counsel you to look beyond the intellectual paradox to the source material itself, which is a stellar accomplishment.
This work is born of James lengthy and intimate relationship with Swami Chinmayananda, a Indian venerable icon of contemporary Vedanta. For over three years, James travelled with Swami, learning, as they say, at the feet of the master.
The result is memorable. This read will make anyone wishing to become familiar with traditional Vedanta, quickly conversant.
A warning: some may be particularly offended by James comments regarding "neo-advaita."
This is the view from this perch: James owes a deep debt of gratitude both to his Teacher and the Vedanta system of teaching, truly a step by step roadmap to Self Realization.
Living part of each year for decades in Tiruvannamalai, India, home of the Ramana Maharshi Ashram ( James' other recently published book on Ramana Maharshi is entitled, Arunachula Shiva written with David Godman and Premananda), James is critical of what he perceives to be incomplete teachings which create as much confusion as clarity regarding the Self.
To James,Tiruvannamalai is under a siege of Western spiritual tourists seeking a "feel good experience" or shakipat. In that all experiences come and go, he is adamant that the knowledge that can be taken away from these experiential events is it's true value and this knowledge can be taught under the careful direction of a well trained teacher.
Some of his comments may appear overly broad and uninformed about contemporary nondual teachings. Having said this and knowing the author as I do, James is not nearly so exclusive, expressing respect for the deep understanding of some contemporary Western teachers.
Having said this, reading "How to obtain Enlightenment" is both an entertaining and educational read; we can certainly certify that this one book alone can give you a clear grasp of 2500 years of Indian wisdom in one fell swoop.