Recommended Reading: Books for Enlightenment, Liberation and Self-Realisation

Whilst there are many wonderful books and texts to read, I want to focus here on books and scripture that:

  1. comprehensively deals with the path to liberation
  2. in a clear and unambiguous way that is easy to understand for the true and genuine seeker of liberation
  3. with few/minimal detours
  4. but still provides the necessary depth of teaching
  5. in order to effectively bring about Liberation

I have provided a link to each of the books recommended in the sections below:

Texts by Sri Ramana Maharshi

Many state that the short text, Who am I?, written by Sri Ramana Maharshi contains all you need to attain liberation. And I would agree!

Together with two more of Sri Ramana’s writings, Upadesa Saram (The Essence of Instruction) and Ulladu Narpadu (40 verses on Reality) – click on the links for downloadable PDF versions – a comprehensive set of teachings for liberation is given to us in concise form by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

The Path of Sri Ramana

I also highly recommend reading The Path of Sri Ramana by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Sri Ramana. This text explains in detail the entire path to liberation in a way that is easy to understand.

Whilst the above three texts from Sri Ramana Maharshi contain all the teachings needed, I have found that many people are unable to understand or even see what these short texts are saying despite it all being laid out. This may be in part due to the concise nature of Ramana’s own words, together with some technical terms and a language barrier, but also because the ego-mind will not always allow the true teachings to be seen.

The Path of Sri Ramana explains all the teachings clearly and in detail so the true teaching cannot be missed or ignored by the ego-mind that may be trying to distort or alter the teachings in order to avoid its own demise. It also clearly explains what the path is NOT, and so keeps the seeker away from paths that seem or appear to be similar to the true path, but are actually routes to more delusion rather than Liberation.

Guru Vachaka Kovai (Garland of Guru’s Sayings)

Whilst not strictly written by Sri Ramana, the text Guru Vachaka Kovai was extensively checked and amended by Sri Ramana. It was written by one of his closest devotees, Sri Muruganar, and is widely considered to be the most authoritative collection of verbal teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. The foreword of the book published by Sri Ramana Ashram states the following about Guru Vachaka Kovai:

[Guru Vachaka Kovai] provides the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Bhagavan’s teaching, explaining step by step the theory, the practice and the experience of jnana, the Truth supreme which is Being as Life Eternal, Pure Awareness, Perfect Bliss. Thus, the most comprehensive collection of the Maharshi’s sayings is Guru Vachaka Kovai…

Traditional Vedanta Texts

Whilst there are many wonderful traditional scriptures that one can read, there are a few traditional texts that clearly explain the entire path unambiguously for the genuine seeker of liberation, with minimal detours as possible.

Traditionally the most important of these is Vivekachudamani written by Sri Shankacharya. This is arguably the single most important scripture in Advaita Vedanta. Whilst Vedanta is primarily based upon the Upanishads, the teachings in the Upanishads are not always clearly and systematically explained. There are also different ways of interpreting these texts, and many Traditional lineages themselves have very questionable interpretations of the texts, and this can give rise to doubts. One danger is that one may end up engaging in too much extensive scriptural study, which in itself may take decades – even then one may still have doubts!

Vivekachudamani summarises and systematises the teachings of the Upanishads and has been used as a gold-standard for Advaita Teachings since it was written approximately 1400 years ago. The repetition present in the verses, the way the same topic is often spoken of in different ways, and the way the teaching is present throughout the text (ie. the teachings are given at the beginning, middle and end of the text) means that the true meaning of the text cannot easily be misunderstood or wrongly interpreted.

Sri Ramana Maharshi also translated the entirety of Vivekachudamani into Tamil and wrote an introduction to the text in which he states that Vivekachudamani reveals the direct path to liberation. Both of these by Sri Ramana are also recommended. Many other sages over the centuries have also praised Vivekachudamani as clearly showing the true path to Liberation.

Another traditional text that shows us the complete path is Advaita Bodha Deepika. It too is a text that was recommended by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, and so I also recommend you read it. Whilst Vivekachudamani clearly explains the correct path, this text not only does this, but it also describes why other (false) paths do not work and how to avoid them. Some people find it to be more accessible as it is written in a question and answer format in prose, rather than in verse (Vivekachudamani is written in verse form).

There are many other wonderful traditional Advaita texts such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Avadhuta Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Ribhu Gita, Uddhava Gita, etc, and these are also well worth reading, but the last one I want to mention here is the wonderful Yoga Vasishta. This is one of the most important traditional texts in Advaita Vedanta in which the teachings are clearly and unambiguously explained in a systematic way. You can read about it more in the link I have just provided above and you will also find further links to key teachings from the text which are also well-worth exploring.

Other contemporary books

You may find that some of your favourite spiritual books do not feature on this list. It may be that I simply haven’t come across that book, but it also may be that I have come across it, but have not included it here as I do not feel it fulfils the criteria I have set out at the top of this post.

As you (hopefully) become familiar with the teachings presented in the above texts – they all present the same essential teaching by the way – you may start to see how these teachings are often NOT the same as other teachings that are more widely available in today’s contemporary spiritual marketplace. Initially it may seem that all non-dual teachings are pointing to the same essence in their own way, but as you become more familiar with the teachings, you will start to see differences emerge, and these differences can make all the difference!

Here are some more contemporary books that I also recommend. Again, the same essential teaching that is given in the above texts are also given in these.

First is The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss by Michael Langford. This book’s tone may not be for everyone, but wonderful teachings are presented nonetheless. As well as outlining a path to liberation, this book take care to go over various strategies the ego-mind uses to ‘prevent’ liberation from occurring. Also recommended by the same author are the books ‘Seven Steps to Awakening’ and ‘The Importance of Practice and Effort’.

Another book I’d like to tentatively recommend is Happiness and the Art of Being by Michael James. I hesitate to and only tentatively recommend this book as it is the one book on this list I haven’t actually fully read myself – I’ve only skimmed through it and read the first few pages of the introduction – but I have been very impressed by what I have read thus far, so hence it makes this list. I feel the author has a wonderful understanding of Sri Ramana’s teachings and manages to shines a light on the true Vedanta rather than many of the ‘drier’ intellectual (ie. false) versions of Vedanta that are currently in circulation. He also studied Ramana’s teachings directly with Sri Sadhu Om, who wrote the Path of Sri Ramana (see above), and has made his own translations of Sri Ramana’s works including Guru Vachaka Kovai, so I feel fairly confident the teachings will be in line with the above teachings. There are also many gems and detailed insights in this book I have found when skimming through that I have not found elsewhere, which is another reason this book makes the cut. The author has made the book available for free online on the link above, but if you are able to, I encourage you to make a donation to help support the author.

Lastly, if you enjoy and have received value from this website’s content, please consider making a donation to me too, via the ‘donate’ tab above.

Best wishes and Namaste

Tom

What does Ramana Maharshi mean by ‘I-I’?

Questioner:

Please can you explain what is meant by the last line in this quote from ‘Who am I?’ by Sri Ramana Maharshi?

‘By a steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind, the mind is transformed into That to which the ‘I’ refers; and that is in fact the Self.

Mind has necessarily to depend for its existence on something gross; it never subsists by itself. It is this mind that is otherwise called the subtle body, ego, jiva or soul.

That which arises in the physical body as ‘I’ is the mind. If one enquires whence the ‘I’ thought in the body arises in the first instance, it will be found that it is from hrdayam or the Heart. That is the source and stay of the mind.

Or again, even if one merely continuously repeats to oneself inwardly ‘I-I’ with the entire mind fixed thereon, that also leads one to the same source.’

Tom:

It means to turn away from objects towards the Self; the mantra ‘I-I’ just being a means to point your attention Selfwards.

‘I-I’ means ‘I am I’ or ‘I am that I am’. This is because in most Indian languages ‘I’ and ‘I am’ are essentially the same word.

In the Path of Sri Ramana Part One it states on p.114:

The consciousness ‘I am’ when felt along with an adjunct (upadhi) as ‘I am so-and-so’ becomes a thought. Of all thoughts, this thought is the first. But the consciousness which shines alone as ‘I-I’ without any adjunct is Self (atman) or the Absolute (brahman). This is not a thought. It is our ‘being’ (that is, our true existence)

and on page 133 it states:

But as we have already said, it is to be understood that the consciousness mixed with adjuncts as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is the ego (ahankara) or the individual soul (jiva), whereas the unalloyed consciousness devoid of adjuncts and shining alone as ‘I-I’ (or ‘I am that I am’) is Self (atman), the Absolute (brahman) or God (iswara).

We can see that I-I (and the variants of this such as ‘I am that I am’, etc) simply refer to the Self, that is consciousness without any objects, as per the quote on page 133.

What’s wrong with ‘neo- advaita’? Why is it so fiercely attacked and mocked by traditional Advaita followers?

For the most part we can define ‘neo-advaita’ (or radical non-duality) as those teachings/communications that state all is already one/whole and there is no separate individual self, and as there is no separate self, there can be no useful practice as all practices reinforce the notion of an individual self that is carrying out the practice; therefore, according to neo-advaita, there is no path to liberation, no practice that can help one attain liberation, and no separate self to be liberated, and to say the contrary is inaccurate.

This is in contrast to traditional-type Advaita teachings that for the most part acknowledge all is already one, but often state there is some kind of process or path that one can engage with and engaging with this teaching and path will in some way help ‘you attain direct realisation/liberation’ of the oneness/Self that is already present.

Which view is correct?

I think most seekers that have explored this can see the potential benefits of both approaches, but most neo-advaita types reject the practice/progress orientated paths, and vice versa.

My own view is that the neo-advaita types for the most part have only a very superficial realisation and they also do not usually point to suffering ending (unlike traditionally orientated paths), but that does not make neo-advaita entirely worthless of course, as different things resonate at different times in our journey.

I have written several posts on this which may be of interest to you, best wishes:

False enlightenment

Are spiritual teachings prescriptions or descriptions? Sudden vs. gradual teachings. Is a practice required?

Who or what does Self-Enquiry? Why still the mind? Isn’t this more mind? More beliefs? Neo-advaita | Radical non-duality vs Traditional teachings and practices

The evolution of Tony Parsons | Radical non-duality | Neo-Advaita | Advaita Vedanta

The problem with radical non-duality or neo-advaita

Ramana Maharshi on Neo-Advaita | Radical Non-duality | Are practices really required?

Neo-advaita myth: The ‘me’ is an energetic contraction