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

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Editorial Reviews


The Vision of Nonduality explains methods of Vedanta in his survey of spiritual techniques, pairing theory with practice and explaining the myths and realities behind an enlightened state. From reflections on moving to a larger living space and clutter to assimilating experiences, How to Attain Enlightenment is a powerful survey any new age library needs.
(The Bookwatch, May 21, 2010)

How to Attain Enlightenment explains and focuses on Vedanta, the science of self-inquiry, and considers the myths behind the state of enlightenment and its connections to happiness. The ancient teachings of Vedanta form a foundation of knowledge and practice that has questioned the nature of reality itself, and this survey of love, lifestyle, experience and more offers a fine survey perfect for new age libraries.

(Midwest Book Review)

Though based on the ancient wisdom and knowledge of Vedanta, it comes as a breath of fresh air. A biased outlook may regard this information as old and musty, but the modern perspective displays a new approach to this gleaming and invaluable treasure.

Any worldly and material knowledge is incomplete, for it is merely a minuscule part of the whole Universe. But self-knowledge, which emphasizes oneness and the non-dual, presents knowledge which is complete and whole.

This book goes through the entire gamut of topics covered by the Vedas, making use of yoga, detachment, the ego, karma, dharma, love, meditation and much more, to bring about an inner growth, wherein is visible the enlightened and luminous self.
(East and West Magazine)

Sentient Publications presents its next best-seller, How to Attain Enlightenment:The Vision of Nonduality by acclaimed author James Schwartz, who offers his ample wisdom on the ancient teachings of 'Vedanta.'

In Hinduism, Vedanta is a system of philosophy that further develops the connotation in the philosophies that add to the theology of ancient Hinduism.

In his first chapter, Inquiry into Object Happiness Schwartz holds the key to what it means to discover enlightenment… rather, a higher sense of awareness and consciousness to receive guidance and be in unison with the power of the Universe:

'What we call reality is governed by the uncertainly principle,' writes Schwartz, 'Because our source of food, animal or vegetable, is unconcerned about our need to survive, we are forced to either pursue it or cultivate it. Shelter does not simply happen on its own but requires effort to obtain.' The same principle holds true in what he further elaborates that even when material needs have been met, individuals often find that they are still not completely fulfilled or satisfied in their lives—this is where having and maintaining a state of Vedanta helps soul seekers to be at one with the self and with the Universe, regardless of life circumstances.

If you are on a quest for wisdom and are ready to manifest a heightened state of consciousness so that you can become liberated and freed from the limitations that negate your personal and spiritual happiness, then gain the knowledge you need that Schwartz offers in his book How to Attain Enlightenment through a vast array of teachings, meditations, and more.


Would you like to learn how to attain enlightenment? Well regardless of the semantics of whether enlightenment is something to be attained, welcome to the review of How to Attain Enlightenment by James Swartz.

This really is a handbook of enlightenment. He covers what enlightenment is not, such as not an experiential state, and then gets into what enlightenment is. He talks about qualifications, or a background of spiritual maturity the seeker needs to have. And he explains what self inquiry really is.

Swartz also spends time debunking enlightenment myths and exposing the inaccuracy of the teachings of neo-advaita (primarily western) instant enlightenment spiritual teachers.

The book reminded me of how it is to enter a relationship. It started off well, but then you reach a point where you ask yourself whether you want to go on. There was a period where I was wondering what kind of point he was trying to make and if it was actually going anywhere. Like weathering a relationship through the tough times, I went on, and I’m glad it did.

Swartz is very funny in parts of the book, and it was refreshing to see a guy write in a fashion that uses descriptive terms that don’t have you reading the words consciousness, awareness or pure being in every paragraph. There are too many spiritual books full of that crap, and Swartz is a very pleasant departure from that.

The writer has a very keen understanding of self inquiry and other methods on the spiritual path, and he discusses the benefits of each. Swartz spent considerable time in India learning self-inquiry and has a chapter dedicated to questions about Ramana Maharshi. Swartz’s teacher was not a Ramana follower so there are areas where he differentiates from Ramana. He also discusses how one’s lifestyle has a major impact on enlightenment and he differentiates terms awakening and enlightenment as being two different things.

Overall, if you can get through the slow parts, this is an excellent and comprehensive book. You’ll realize when you get through it that slow parts actually were part of a plan and have importance. highly recommends this book, and gives it an 8 out of 10 on our infinity scale.

About the Author

James Swartz grew up in Montana and attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and the University of California at Berkeley before finding his niche in the world of business. He saw great success as a businessman, but in 1967 he experienced a major epiphany that turned him away from that path. Instead, he traveled to India on a spiritual journey, searching for the path to enlightenment. It was here that he learned of the famous Indian sage Swami Chinmayananda, whose knowledge and teachings proved to be the means to set James free. Now a disciple of the sage, James travels extensively to cities in America, Europe, and India to hold seminars on Vedanta, the science of self-inquiry. He provides resources for understanding non-duality through his website, James has previously self-published two non-fiction books: Meditation: An Inquiry into the Self (1998) and The Mystery Beyond the Trinity (1998).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591810949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591810940
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Michael Heun on March 11, 2010
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.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By V. Binette-Lamb on April 2, 2011
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.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan D. Walker on October 21, 2010
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.
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