Spirituality is hopefully coming of age in the western world. James Swartz contribution in his previous books and now in his latest book: The Essence of Enlightenment, is a landmark and deserves to become a spiritual classic. But do we, our day generation of spiritual seekers, deserve it?
Modern consumerism has increased the desire for instant solutions, quick fixes and immediate gratification. A growing tendency of superficiality has also affected the spiritual world turning it into a super marked of exotic experiences in search of the ultimate orgasmic liberation obtained in a weekend or at the feet at the next guru coming to town. For satsang junkies, bliss groupies and others trying to live in the now, James Swartz, no-nonsense, teaching of Vedanta is a cold and unpleasant bucket of water. Also for serious seekers who have been on the path for years, living in ashrams, hanging out with gurus and reading all the books, this is a radical and provocative teaching as well.
A fundamental insight is that enlightenment is not an experience, but should be based on knowledge. Here 95 percent of the spiritual world falls by the wayside. Even yoga with its promise of samadhi, liberation and ecstatic bliss, which I have believed in ever since I started yoga and read my Patanjali over 30 years ago, needs to be seriously ajusted according to the traditional teaching of Vedanta. Many in the guru business and spiritual pop stars who have build their empires, reputation and status based on their specialness, their exclusive experiences and their own personal teaching will not like this book. Neither will all their devoted followers. They will risk to be looking for something else to do.
The Essence of Enlightenment is an update and rewriting of the previous book: How to Attain Enlightenment. Although James Swartz is addressing and freely criticizing several misconceptions in the spiritual world, and particularly among the many modern non-duality and Neo-Adviata teachings, this is a small part of the book. Based on his years of teaching Vedanta he is able to articulate and compose the teaching in an even more clear and systematic fashion, making it a delightful read from cover to cover. The new version is a great improvement and making Vedanta even more accessible. This is not a book, it is a treasure.
Unfortunately Vedanta and this uncompromising and direct approach seem to be reserved for the few. Hopefully this is going to change, as truth and real spirituality will always prevail. The old saying, when the disciple is ready, the guru appears, still holds up. Vedanta seems to be this kind of teaching that you do not find, but it finds you.
After buying this book, a lot of your spiritual books can be thrown out. It can be nice with some more shelve space, leave a couple of the classics, and keep this book close at hand. I missed one sentence from the first book. «Do not read this book, immerse yourself in it.»
The Essence of Enlightenment
Ps. More info about James Swartz: www.shingworld.com