What is enlightenment? What is it not? – Dennis Waite’s latest work exposes the myths and defines this misused term.
Which teaching methods will get you there? And which will not? – Enlightenment: the Path Through the Jungle clearly explains how the traditional methods work and why the modern, Western approaches are most unlikely to.
This book is one of the clearest and most powerful works to date on the subject of enlightenment - it provides a detailed examination of the satsang phenomenon (and its more extreme, neo-advaita variant), contrasting these approaches with the traditional methods passed down from teacher to disciple for over a thousand years. Waite’s lucid and engaging writing indicates what is needed in the way of preparation and methodology in order to gain enlightenment, with special attention given to the problems created by modern teachers’ statements to the effect that there is ‘no person’ and ‘nothing to do’.
With a Foreword by Dr. Greg Goode, philosophical counselor and a recognized expert on the subject of non-duality.
Extracts from the Book
From ‘What Enlightenment is Not’
213. Enlightenment has nothing to do with ‘merging with the Self’ or ‘becoming one with God’. In reality, we are already the Self so that these expressions could have no meaning. Nor is it a ‘feeling of unity’.
When a pot is broken, the ‘pot space’ does not merge with the ‘total space’; the ‘total space’ is entirely unaffected by the presence of the container and remains the same before, during and after the temporary appearance of the pot.
216. Enlightenment is not about ‘experiencing the Self’ – otherwise everyone would be enlightened. It is not about experience at all, it is about self-knowledge – the direct knowledge that you are already that which you seek . (See 25 – 97 .)
217. Nor is enlightenment itself an experience – experiences come and go. Enlightenment is not temporary – once it happens, that is it. Consequently, if you had an experience and wonder whether you are now enlightened, you can be sure that you are not. Also, there is no need for a seeker to try to recapture a ‘good’ experience, thinking that it was somehow closer to enlightenment than the usual ‘bad’ experiences. (See 102 to 104 )
219. Enlightenment is not a ‘state’ – these also come and go.
221. It is pedantically true that there is no such thing as ‘gradual enlightenment’. As noted in 94 , however, there is another potential misunderstanding of terms here. It is true that you cannot be ‘partly’ enlightened – you either are or you are not – but the removal of self-ignorance can certainly be gradual.
222. There is much confusion about ‘who’ it is that gains enlightenment. Clearly the non-dual Self, brahman, cannot become enlightened and yet the ultimate truth is that there is no separate entity, no satyam ‘ego’ or ‘person’.
46. Traditionally, the root cause of the beliefs that we are separate, that there is a dualistic world, that we are unhappy and so on is self-ignorance – avidyA.
47. Given the fact that, in reality, there is only brahman, the existence of ‘self-ignorance’ is not easy to explain. It would seem that either brahman or the jIva must be the locus of the ignorance but either poses problems. The post-Shankara vivaraNa school claims the former while the bhAmatI school claims the latter. The essential reason for the diverging views is the ultimate irreconcilability of absolute reality with the empirical world – a problem which will crop up again and again in this book.
48. The bhAmatI-s attribute two aspects to avidyA: a ‘veiling power’, called AvaraNa (which prevents us from seeing the reality of the rope, in the rope-snake metaphor) and a ‘projecting power’, called vikShepa (which projects the appearance of the snake). Our experience is already non-dual; we already are brahman but the fact is covered over by AvaraNa, allowing the mistaken mind to project the illusion of duality.
49. Only self-knowledge can dispel self-ignorance.
50. The self-ignorance is in the mind. The appropriate use of the means of self-knowledge (i.e. presented according to proven, traditional methods by a skilled teacher to a prepared and receptive mind) automatically removes the ignorance.
But receipt of unsupported statements, without any method (e.g. the bare statement that ‘This is it’) is effectively only adding more ignorance about the nature of the self and reality to that which is already there.
51.In truth, we are already the Self; it is the mind that thinks otherwise.
52. Consequently, ‘enlightenment’ is that ‘event’ in the mind that dissolves this self-ignorance once and for all.
“By mind alone can That (brahman) be attained, There is no difference between the two (brahman and the world). He who sees them as different goes from death to death.” Katha Upanishad II.1.11 (Ref. 93)
Following an intense scientific-based education through the nineteen sixties, he emerged with a fundamental dissatisfaction with the perceived values and belief systems of Western society. Thus began his search for a philosophy that could provide satisfactory answers to the universal questions of life. He joined the Ouspensky influenced School of Economic Science in London in 1972 but left after several years, disillusioned with the lack of rigour and the mystical element.
He renewed his involvement with them in the mid-eighties, by which time Shri Shantananda Saraswati, one of the four Indian Shankaracharyas was directing the School along a path influenced by Advaita and Sankhya Yoga. He remained with the School until 1998, by which time he had been acting as a tutor for four years at the Bournemouth branch and was assisting in the teaching of Sanskrit. He left because some of the teaching methods and much of the material diverged from the tenets of pure Advaita.