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82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you wanted to know on advaita
A marathon 600-page compendium, in English, of the entire philosophical field of spiritual knowledge known as `Advaita' (Non-duality) -- that is `Back to the Truth' by Dennis Waite. It is in fact more than a compendium; it is a masterly thesis presented by Waite from scratch all the way up to the dizzy heights of whatever peak you have heard about in Vedanta. It is a...
Published on March 25, 2007 by Visvanatha Krishnamurthy

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sacrificing sense to sound on the bizarre procrustean bed of ITRANS
Back to THE TRUTH - 5000 Years of ADVAITA. By Dennis Waite. O Books: Winchester UK and Washington USA, 2007. Paperback, xix + 620 pages. ISBN 9781905047611

Although in some ways this book is a competent in-depth survey of Advaita, I'm sorry to say that (despite the effusive gushings of Mr. Waite's groupies) for me the book, besides being terribly dry, is marred...
Published on January 14, 2010 by tepi


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82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you wanted to know on advaita, March 25, 2007
This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
A marathon 600-page compendium, in English, of the entire philosophical field of spiritual knowledge known as `Advaita' (Non-duality) -- that is `Back to the Truth' by Dennis Waite. It is in fact more than a compendium; it is a masterly thesis presented by Waite from scratch all the way up to the dizzy heights of whatever peak you have heard about in Vedanta. It is a classic, unique in several respects.

Its first, and greatest, uniqueness is its strategy of presentation. The author strides like a colossus on the shoulders of all the giants of this ancient philosophy that was originally formally streamlined from the teaching of the Upanishads, by towering authorities like Gaudapada and Shankara, then supplemented and strengthened by a whole lineage of Masters over the centuries down to the times of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, now propagated worldwide in the twentieth century by Seers of the stature of Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Atmananda Krishna Menon, and the like and expounded resoundingly by Swami Sivananda, Swami Ranganathananda (and others of the Ramakrishna Mutt), Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Dayananda and scores of others through lectures as well as writings almost up to the present time. We hear the words of these originators and expositors all throughout the book. Further, the book testifies to the power of the electronic media of modern times most dramatically in the fact that, in addition to this time-tested foundation on which the author stands high on a pedestal, there are elaborate quotations of diverse writings (with most proper acknowledgments, of course) on the web by various modern authors on anything even remotely connected with advaita. Tons of credit are due to the author for his masterly handling of all this varied material and for his insightful stringing together of all of them - each one in its place, at the right time, in the right context, for the right purpose and with the right effect. Excerpts from traditional and modern teaching are presented in a wide variety of styles, says the author, "in the hope that something will click". Rest assured, everything clicks!

The second uniqueness of the book is the large spectrum of its coverage. The secondary title of the book, "5000 years of Advaita" is amply justified by this coverage. The first chapter looks at who we are not. We are neither the body nor the mind. The second chapter is about action, Karma, reincarnation and free will. Action involves the concept of a `doer' and this originates from the mistaken identification of ourselves with the intellect. What is the motivation for action? It is pursuit of happiness. Desire, motivation and purpose form therefore the subject of discussion. Then comes the difficult portion of advaita: knowledge, ignorance, superimposition, reality, `mithyA' and means of knowledge. The various spiritual practices advocated in order to prepare the mind on its spiritual ascent are examined in the next chapter, which is the longest. Chapters 6 and 7 take up the core of advaita: Who we really are; the nature of reality, Consciousness, cause and effect, `mAyA'. This listing of the chapters cannot however do the least justice to the extent and depth of topics dealt with in these seven chapters. The author takes the reader leisurely through the labyrinths of advaita step by step through all these discussions - now quoting a scripture, now excerpting from a modern writer, now interposing with his own synopsis of the argument, now prefacing a difficult logical breakthrough by an introduction, and now reproducing a whole passage from Ramana or Shankara or Ramesh Balsekar or any of the hundred (or so) authors he quotes with conviction. We get to go through the difficult terrains of pancha-kosha-prakriyA (methodology through the five sheaths), bhAga-tyAga-lakshhaNa (pointer through the giving up of contradictory parts), dRshhTi-shRshhTi (seeing is creation), adhyAropa-apavAda (denial of erroneous attribution) and such concepts galore. Think of anything in the advaita terrain, it is there, -- with all the distinction of precision and scholarship.

Thirdly, the author brings to focus the differences in the teachings by different Masters by broadly classifying everything (in terms of its teaching method) either as `traditional', or `direct approach' or `neo-advaita'. The first one goes back to the scriptures and all the commentaries. The third one, `neo-advaita' does not take the different levels of reality advocated by Shankara as of any value, and so the absolute level is the only level for them; there is no seeker, no ignorance, no path, no enlightenment, because Reality is One. The second one, the Direct Approach, is somewhere in between the other two.

And fourthly - this is really a superlative uniqueness - in order to help all those who are unfamiliar with the Sanskrit script or language, there is a 12-page brief introduction to the script and pronunciation as well as to the transliteration of Sanskrit writing.

Several other excellences are worthy of being highlighted. A pointwise bulleted summary at the end of each chapter helps the reader not to miss the wood for the trees. The encyclopaedic value of the book is further enhanced by

* the use of the bold type, in the text, of the name of every author who is quoted there,

* a detailed 40-page glossary of Sanskrit terms

* a list of around two hundred current teachers of advaita with web references for them

* a complete list of all web sites dedicated to advaita and organizations devoted to advaita,

* a long list of Recommended Reading, with brief notes on each item,

* a list of 378 references, and finally,

* an index.

In sum, this landmark book provides an enjoyably pleasant reading, inspite of its necessarily heavy content. It should be in the hands of every spiritual seeker, whether of the advaita school or not.
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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, the book you have been searching for, March 8, 2007
By 
Linda (Tasmania, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
This book is a comprehensive compilation explaining clearly for a western audience the practical teachings of Advaita, these teachings have stood the test of time and rightly so.

For those that would like a bit more guidance than "you are that", this IS the book. FULL STOP with this one, submerge yourself in it, change the way you see the world and your self.

This book will make sense of the various teachings you may have already encountered, put them in perspective, clear confusion and correct misdirection. This book explains the direct path and how it works.

Knowledge is everything and here you will find the knowledge that provides clear pointers back to the truth of that which you truly are.

Non-duality, Advaita and Zen are all at home here and the material is supported by a massive amount of quotes from modern and traditional sages and teachers.

This is an excellent read, a substantial resource and I am sure will remain amongst my favourites.
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DEFINITIVE WORK ON ADVAITA VEDANTA, March 15, 2007
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This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
In the book Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita, Dennis Waite's magnum opus, the definitive study of Advaita Vedanta (from "A" to "V") has been penned. While providing the most scholarly work to date on the subject matter of Nonduality, the author's style assures an ease of readability that will make the content in this comprehensive volume readily assessible to beginners. At the same time, when Waite shares his unique and masterful take on the Teachings, he offers new elucidations of ancient understandings that will also make the book appealing to advanced seekers and to Advaitin teachers as well.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ken Wilber of Advaita, June 10, 2007
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This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
The most refreshing thing about Dennis Waite's books is the fact that he makes no claims for himself as to whether he is `self realised' or not during his forays into the great nondual teachings. (Indeed, it has always been a mystery to me that as soon as anyone `gets it', they can't wait to tell everyone that this is the case.) So here, for the first time to my knowledge, is someone who has spent a great deal of time researching and documenting the Advaita tradition from both ancient and modern sources, without the obligatory first chapter on how he `became one with the universe'. Essential reading for serious students of the mystical path.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hang Your Hat, May 17, 2007
By 
Jerry Katz "Nonduality.com" (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
Back to the Truth is an extensive overview of Advaita, a teaching whose source is the Upanishads. Advaita is the philosophy and teaching that reality is "not two." Dennis Waite quotes nearly 150 teachers of Advaita, about half of whom are living, and 378 sources are cited as references.

The author's purpose is twofold: (1) to compile within a single volume the most complete and up-to-date treatment of Advaita. He succeeds at that. It is clear that Waite is a voracious reader of nondual subjects. Dennis told me, or I read somewhere, that he reads with a pencil and makes notes in the books he reads. That is the only way Back to the Truth could have been compiled. It had to be written by a student and a scholar who knows "everything" written on Advaita, including emails posted especially to the Advaitin email list, and who is a gatherer and an organizer of themes.

And (2) to bring about a shift in the attentional direction of the reader. The latter is the primary aim of the book. That only makes sense. If a sage has any purpose at all, it is to get you to awaken. That is Waite's primary purpose. It's not a chosen purpose; it's the way it is. Dennis provides a number of hooks to hang your hat on.

What does it mean to hang your hat? When you've hung your hat, you've turned your attention around toward truth. Lots of hooks in this book. Even the curved neck of the swan on the cover looks like an inverted hook. Yes, these hooks should be inverted since they are associated with the turning around of attention.

Hooks in this book come in the forms of teachers of Advaita, a variety of themes (e.g., karma, death, desire, happiness, spiritual practices, enlightenment, nature of reality, methods of teaching, science, grace, creation.), metaphors, scriptural passages, and concise, detailed chapter summaries. Another hook is the voice of Dennis Waite himself, who gives this monumental work perspective:

"I began my own seeking on a traditional path and then moved into Direct Path, also dabbling in a neo-direction. Ultimately, however, I found it necessary to go back to the roots in order to really understand what is being said (not always clearly) by all teachers."

To back-up the book are 7 exceptional appendixes. In addition, there is a bibliography, an extensive glossary of Sanskrit terms, and an index which is good but does not present the themes as integrally and flowingly as the main text or even the appendixes. Shambhala Publications publishes excellent indexes, judging by the few I have on my shelves, especially for Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa.

Jerry Katz
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall Excellent - A Little Biased, A Lot Anti-Science, March 3, 2009
By 
Gary Weber (Pennsylvania, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
Dennis Waite's book is a must buy for the serious student of nondualism/advaita interested in a comprehensive review of different viewpoints applied to the many different aspects of this approach.

Everything is covered; Discovering Who We Are Not, Karma, Meaning and Purpose, Knowledge and Ignorance, Paths and Practices, Who We Really Are, Nature of Reality, and Teaching Methods in a fairly balanced way. While there is some author's bias towards what Dennis calls "traditional advaita", it is not strong.

Dennis does a wonderful job categorizing the different teaching approaches in a very useful way between "traditional", "direct" and "neo". He does seem to go a little far in trying to appease Tony Parsons, the current iconic "neo".

The summaries at the end of each chapter are well done and very useful.

There is also great value in the 180 pages of appendices. Sections on the advaita "timeline", teacher lineages, modern teacher listing, internet resources and recommended reading are noteworthy. It is unlikely that teacher lineages will mean much in the future as knowledge is now so ubiquitous that the classical model of studying with just one teacher and approach will be rare, but it is interesting history.

A criticism would be with Dennis' using the iTrans transliteration of Sanskrit, which is infrequently used. ITrans was created to make Sanskrit keyboard-friendly in that capital letters, tildes, and "h"s are used with typical Roman alphabet characters in place of the Devanagari characters.

As few readers will know or learn the Devanagari, what is typically done is to approximate the sounds with Roman characters, without resorting to iTrans. ITrans requires making the same Roman character be two different characters/sounds, depending on whether it is a Sanskrit word, or an English one, which can be overly confusing without being illuminating.

Interestingly, Dennis' favorite advaita book from a teacher he regards very highly, Swami Dayananda's Vivekacudamani, does not use iTrans, nor do any publications from that particular lineage that I have seen.

Another criticism is Dennis' refusal to entertain any possibility of a role for science in advaita, a typical "religious" argument, which is surprising in something as arguably "scientific" and logical as advaita. In the 50 page section on "Knowledge and Ignorance", Dennis covers "Science" disparagingly in less than one page.

In a recent workshop I had with one of the senior swamis in Swami Dayananda's gurukulam, a Ph.D. in chemistry, he readily acknowledged the importance of modern physics, and folk like Einstein, in supporting and validating the claims and teachings of advaita. To write "science" off in such an uninformed and cursory manner as was done in this book, is really unfortunate. Dennis needs to read up on his "science".

All in all, this is a fine book, and well worth the purchase.

Gary Weber
Happiness Beyond Thought
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Approach, August 12, 2007
This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
This book, while almost encyclopedic in its coverage, is still very readable, especially for the person who has at least some background in non-dual thought. As I read it, I bit off a good chunk at a sitting and found I could chew it for a long time.

I especially appreciated the author's fair approach to the various ways of understanding Advaita, which like so many other spiritual viewpoints is like the proverbial blind men trying to describe an elephant by touching it's various body parts.

There are many references in the comprehensive appendices that are truly useful for the person who wants to do more study.

At first I was a bit turned off by the author's use of the Sanskrit transliteration method known as ITRANS, designed to help properly pronounce Sanskrit words, which usually come into play whenever the historical aspects of non-dualism are discussed. However, he includes a helpful explanation of how to use this technique in an appendix, if you're interested.

Most of the historical references are from Indian sources with very little acknowledgment of the Chinese (Ch'an) and Japanese (Zen) contributions to non-dual expressions. However, if these had been included it would have required multiple volumes.

This is the best and most readable book I've seen covering the full range of thought on this topic from many different perspectives, filled with quotations from a wide variety of writers, both ancient and contemporary.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dennis has done it again!, April 28, 2007
This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
When I read his previous work "The Book of One", I thought he had exhausted himself, for he had said in it, so it seemed to me then, all that there was to be said about Advaita. Besides, Advaita being all about the secondless One, I had been silly enough to think that not much can be written about it and plurality of words was rather counter-productive. Dennis has proved me utterly wrong with another riveting classic.

Well, we have been talking about Advaita for over 5000 years. Dennis has made good case and cause of it. His approach is all-encompassing and meticulous. The result - a Herculean success palatable to the traditionalists as well as the neos. Dennis provides the right blend for the West and East, mixing apparently divergent ideas drawn from sources as far apart as Shankara and Nathan Gill. That indeed is some commendable expertise. The reader enjoys a scholarly reconciliation of different schools of thoughts served on the silver platter of simple language - an endeavor never attempted by any of our scholarly authors before. Dennis's personal exchanges with some of the profound minds of the present day add addictive flavor and aroma to the recipe.

The book presents an array of widely open widows and peepholes - profound quotes from the lofty Upanishads, wisdom coming down from ancient as well as modern teachers and miscellaneous Advaitic tidbits collected from present day electronic debates. When Dennis pushes your neck through them, you simply can't fail to discover the Truth. The effect is kaleidoscopic and colorful; yet, the revelation is unmistakably that of One!

The bibliography, references and teacher lineage charts are an excellent guide to students of Vedanta. These represent very exhaustive improvements and updates on information previously provided in "The Book of One". Dennis has also been very considerate to provide accurate transliteration keys and a very helpful glossary of Sanskrit terminology. Readers are thus assured that their steps don't falter as they traverse the wide vistas of Vedanta he opens up before them.

All interested in Vedanta and libraries across the world must go and get a copy of this.

Dennis Waite aka [..] has become an institution!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar Comprehensive Compendium of all Things Advaita, June 14, 2007
This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
Being a student of Advaita (non-duality) Vedante (the culmination of The Vedas),can be a daunting task for the western student. There are a myriad of resources, many in apparent contradiction to each other: traditional Indian texts, promoted by many different splinters of religious thought within and without the Hindu community, a highly self published group of western contemporary teachers espousing hybrid interpretations of "The Direct Path" as well as interdisciplinary sects laying claim to teachings which result in "enlightenment".
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Additionally,traditional Advaita teachings are encumbered with prolific use of Hindu and Sankrit terms which make the task of comprehending them even more daunting.

Emerging from this choatic assemblage of information comes Dennis Waite, a highly educated and prolific author, who has spent a career inventorying and attempting to survey the entire arena. "Back to The Truth" is a continuation of the effort he began with the publication of "The Book of One", considered by many to be an essential reading on Advaita.

The effort required to traverse Waite's new book is well worth the effort. In addition to explaining the many paths available to the student, Waite has painstakingly referenced hundreds of resources available for further study. The book assembles an abundance of quotes of both contemporary teachers and the original texts, complete with appendices which detail how to locate the source material. Waite has compiled website links, bibliographies,a glossary of common Sanskrit terms, even teaching lineages to assist in the readers search.

The great irony is that Waite offers this road map to enlightenment while repeatedly noting the obvious:"enlightenment" can not be achieved by the conceptual mind. As Jim Swartz [...] so aptly put it: "In spiritual circles it has become an article of faith that a the quest for spiritual knowledge is an 'intellectual' and therefore misguided pursuit."

Thus, as some neo-advaitins love to point out, some may decide that the effort of study is unnecessary.

Ultimately, this conclusion is a fallacy. More by Swartz: "...it should be noted that anyone seeking enlightenment through the 'heart' or other paths would necessarily be motivated by the intellectual belief that he or she was limited, inadequate and incomplete i.e. unelightened. To pursue experience is natural but to pursue it at the expense of understanding is foolish because it is only misunderstandings about our true nature that make us think we are unenlightened in the first place. The Self realized beings who went before left a vast body of information to help us purge erroneous concepts that stand in the way of appreciating who we really are."

Dennis Waite has provided the penultimate resource to assist readers in this pursuit. It is first and foremost a service to humanity. If you have a serious interest in discovering your true self and uncovering the nature of reality, this is as close to an road map and instruction guide to the apparently confusing world of Advaita as you will find. I strongly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Landmark Achievement, September 23, 2007
By 
Sagesmoke (Berkeley, CA.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita (Paperback)
What can I possibly say, that hasn't already been said, and said with better style, by all the wonderful reviews of this Landmark book?
It's an incredible, awe inspiring work. Dennis Waite is truly a gift to the World. His web-site, Advaita.org.uk, has been my lifeline since I discovered it.
It is an bottomless source of Wisdom, knowledge and resources, and a truly enormous amount of work goes into maintaining it--to do this, write books, especially a Masterwork like "Back To the Truth", while still responding to emails with hapless questions from, I'm sure, many `miserable seekers' like myself, in his quiet, totally accessible way, in incomprehensible to me.

The style of Back To The Truth--his ability to draw from so many varied sources, from the most traditional of ancient Vedic Scriptures, to the most current (so called) `neo' Advaitin writings, What a skill! Then factor in his knowledge of Sanskrit.
The appendixes are nearly overwhelming--offering more resources and reviews, plus a glossary of Sanskrit terms. OK. I'm done; this review could go on and on...but I must end it.
I have to say this, however, before I do. To me, it is not the many quotes, and words of wisdom, past and current, that make this book so powerful, but Dennis's own words...his writing has a simplicity and clarity that is deceptive; like the gentle surface of a lake, there is great depth there.
Don't be put off by the size or the scholarship of this book. The best thing about Dennis, his web-site, and his writing, is his generosity and his Integrity. It shines through everything he touches.
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Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita
Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita by Dennis Waite (Paperback - January 12, 2007)
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