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

Ramana gave many varied teachings to those who approached him. He naturally and spontaneously adapted the teachings to the level of the seeker before him, and some of these teachings therefore seem contradictory, and this can give rise to confusion about what Sri Ramana’s actual teaching was. However, in the short texts that Sri Ramana himself wrote, we see a very clear, unambiguous and consistent teaching that outlines the direct and true path to liberation.

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 and Supplement – 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 above three texts can also all be found in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, which also contains other beautiful works including Sri Ramana’s translation of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, itself another recommended text (see below).

The Path of Sri Ramana

This is the text I most commonly recommend reading and the book I recommend you read first: The Path of Sri Ramana by Sri Sadhu Om. Sri Sadhu Om spent several years with Sri Ramana and many consider this book to be an authority on Sri Ramana’s teachings and how to put them into practice. This text explains in detail the entire path to liberation in a way that is easy to understand.

Whilst the three texts from Sri Ramana Maharshi mentioned in the section above 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.

The Path of Sri Ramana also is one of the few texts that not only explains the path of Knowledge (Jnana) but also clearly outlines the path of Love & Devotion (Bhakti) and the path of Karma (action) in a clear and logical manner.

Another text that is also of value is the wonderful Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Sadhana or Spiritual Practice), also written by Sri Sadhu Om. This text contains many gems and the teachings are given through a series of verses grouped by topic. I recommend you read the Path of Sri Ramana Parts 1 and 2 before you read Sadhanai Saram to gain the full benefit of the text.

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…

Sri Ramana Gita

I also recommend the Sri Ramana Gita

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, Srimad Bhagavatam, 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. It is also of historical interest as it is one of the few Vedanta Scripture that clearly gives us an idea of what Vedanta was like prior to Shankara. 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 highly 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.

Best wishes and Namaste

Tom

TIRED OF IT ALL? THE GIFT OF TOTAL DISILLUSIONMENT

If we are earnestly seeking, relentlessly seeking, honestly seeking, it can be quite easy at times to loose faith in the spiritual path. After some time of seeking we can become disillusioned with the whole thing and question it totally, especially if we are a long-time seeker. This is actually a great gift to us. We are taken back down to solid earth with a bump and can start afresh with new eyes. We may ask ourselves questions such as:

-Does enlightenment even exist?
-What if all these teachers are just deluding themselves?
-What if this whole spirituality thing is utter nonsense?

In the light of our disillusionment, as we have discovered that our seeking has not thus far worked, we can assess things in a more sober light. We may start to have thoughts such as:

-Spiritual practices have not really got me anywhere. They may have improved my life somewhat and given me glimpses of something beyond, but they have not given me lasting joy-peace-love that I so yearn for. At most they have given me fleeting joys, and this is not enough.

-Spiritual teachers, despite their promissory words, spiritual airs and smiling faces, have not really taken me to the place where suffering has ended. And all I am left with are empty second-hand words, mere dust in my hands.

-I find Spiritual books to be tiresome. They say similar things in different ways, and these words now no longer nourish me. I want more than this. This is not working. These teachings no longer touch me or move me deeply. I am fed up of all these words and paper. I want more.

-The so-called spiritual people I know are no better off than me. Beyond the thinly veiled smiles, baggy clothes and Namastes I can see they are just as caught up in illusion as I am, suffering as I am, groping in the dark as I am. What can they really give me in terms of enlightenment/self-realisation?

At this point we have essentially had enough of all the central aspects of the ‘spiritual journey’: we are fed up of spiritual teachers, teachings, practices, books and spiritual people/groups. We are questioning our very concept of spirituality. We are now wondering if there is such a thing as spirituality or enlightenment or self-realisation.

Hopefully, together with the disillusionment in seeking fulfillment in spiritual things, we are also disillusioned in seeking absolute fullfilment in the so-called world, eg. through relationships, wealth, pleasure, society, etc.

Having come ‘this far’, if we are lucky, we may start to lose faith in one more thing: our own mind. We can also realise that not only can teachers/ teachings/ practices/ communities NOT bring us to the enlightenment we desire, but neither can we ourselves get us there. Our own minds, our own thoughts, ideas and ideologies are also equally as useless as everything else as they too have not worked. Despite listening to our self for this long, where has it got us? Are we not still as ‘unenlightened as ever’?

Now we are totally disillusioned. We have no faith in anything. We know that teachers, teachings, practices and the mind – none of them work. We no longer rely on spirituality, the world or on our mind. All seeking here just continues the struggle, the labour, the burden…

We no longer lean on external authorities, we no longer hand our authority over to them, we no longer rely on thought as a means to escape suffering.

At the same time, the teachings are firmly implanted in the mind. We know them back to front due to our time seeking – we can trot off the words like ‘there is nobody here’, ‘there is no mind’, ‘all is one’, ‘separation is an illusion’…it’s just that these words do not do it for us anymore.

So now what do we do? What can we grab hold of? Are you waiting for a teacher to tell you what happens next, or are you done with all of that? Is there even anyone here to do anything? What’s going on?

There is a great gift here for one who has travelled this far…

🙏