Finally, a Method

Swartz Book Cover
The following is an Amazon review I wrote in October 2011 for James Swartz’s book, How to Attain Enlightenment:

Tired of the line, "There is no 'you' to do anything"? Those days are over. Finally, we Westerners have a real, traditional Vedanta teacher, a dyed-in-the-wool Shankara Vedantin who has been studying and teaching scripture for forty years, since his self-realization in his late twenties under the discipleship of Swami Chinmayananda in India. James Swartz is not like the others; he will not tell you there is no "you" – quite the contrary. First he'll tell you to grow up and get qualified. According to traditional Vedanta – a teaching that actually works, as opposed to the vague, uninformed fluff that passes itself off as teaching nowadays – you need to get qualified for self-inquiry, and you need to apply a means, and it takes time and effort. There is quite a bit of "doing" involved.

Swartz's book will affirm rather than deny what you instinctively know: that there is a person having experiences and suffering in ignorance. The person is not real in the sense of being eternal and unchanging, but he does exist. He is able to seek, mature, clean up his lifestyle, grow spiritually, and finally hear the highest message of the scripture from the level it is intended to be heard: from Self to Self. Swartz gives you a detailed road map for accomplishing all of this. Aren't you about ready for a map? I know I was.

Swartz skillfully leads you through an incredible amount of complicated material, step by step, demystifying it and making it relevant to what you experience as a seeker. He builds a larger picture little by little, until eventually there emerges a beautiful, shimmering collage of the entirety of creation – the "mandala of existence," as he calls it – the macrocosm and the microcosm, and where "you" fit into this picture. Gradually it all begins to make sense. From there it is a logical progression to the undermining of ignorance, and the revelation of Self.

I don't know where he's been hiding all these years, but Swartz is certainly a welcome new addition to the spiritual lineup. As many people are finding out, the popular non-dual writings, while helpful in terms of eliminating false notions, are simply not effective in revealing the Self. The revelation of the Self requires a structured and logically consistent method, and Vedanta is such a method. Of course, popular thought holds that there is no "you" to utilize a method, but that wholesale denial of the relative level of existence has proven ineffective and left a lot of people frustrated. Swartz is one of the biggest critics of these "neo" ideas, and he doesn't hesitate to tell you about it. A chapter in his book is devoted to the subject.

As far as I know, Swartz is the only self-realized Westerner teaching Vedanta from such a deep-rooted understanding of it. Because he realized at such a young age, he has had an entire lifetime of studying scripture and honing his teaching skills. He travels the world to teach, and still spends a good part of every year teaching in India. The depth of his knowledge of Vedanta and Vedic texts is impressive. And yet English is his native language, which removes the usual problem of translations and audios that are hard to understand. Swartz's circumstances of birth and self-realization make him uniquely a fortuitous bridge from East to West, and if the West is ready for Vedanta, Swartz is the guy.

Update January 2013: James Swartz has become very popular since his book came out and revealed that he offers a complete, guaranteed means to liberation. There is no other teacher or satsang that offers such an effective method – that is why people from all over the globe are starting to flock to James. The good news is spreading. Vedanta systematically reveals the Self, which even the most clear and radical non-duality teaching fails to do because the *means* are missing. I know first-hand that this is true. The teaching of Vedanta is the means. It liberates, if you just let it. I would highly recommend you get some of James' video series from his website,
ShiningWorld.com, listen to them over and over, send James a few emails to clear up your final doubts, and then kick back and enjoy being the Self!