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#2816 - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

The Nondual Highlights -  

One: Essential Writings on Nonduality:    

Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita

by Dennis Waite


Reviewed by Jerry Katz


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.


Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita

by Dennis Waite

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