Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shining On The World Of Neo-Advaita

File under: Gurubusting

Today we endured a gentle slap from a reader named Gregory. But then he turned us on to shiningworld.com, which is the work of one James Swartz, a guy seemingly as fed up as we are with all the nonsense the big-time gurus keep trying to shove up our asses:
I'm still paying off my Visa for all the weekend enlightenment intensives I've taken the last few years. And it so happens that everyone I've met who has had an awakening has fallen back to sleep, myself included. Maybe you'd like me to become a 'devotee' of one of the recent crop of avatars? Don't bother. Avatars are a dime a dozen it seems. Every person with a couple of epiphanies under his or her spiritual belt is an an avatar these days. I also hope you're not going to try to sell me on tantra. I fell for that in India in the Eighties and all I got for my trouble was veneral disease, a lot of heartbreak and a unholy cravng for sex. And for God's sake don't tell me there is someone out there who can 'transmit' enlightenment at will; if that were possible the whole world would be enlightened by now. I've been blessed with more than my share of shaktipats, satoris, epiphanies, and fleeting samadhis direct from the third eyes of all the so-called 'great masters'... and I still don't know who I am. Finally, if you ask me to 'surrender' I may become violent; it's one of the most despicable cons in the guru's bag of tricks.
We likey, especially the part about that falsehood known as the transmission of enlightenment.

James seems like our kind of guy at first glance. Please let us know if you find anything contrary to the stated goals and principles of this outfit.



At 8/28/2007 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What makes James any different than the teachers he is putting down. There are some real good teachers out there, if you look hard enough, you just have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who go from teacher to teacher and go to all those intensives, just don't have the right discernment. Buyer beware, especially in the world of neo-advaita.

At 8/29/2007 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone else read the crap that James Swartz posted on his site? It's some of the most pretentious, self-conscious writing (he's obviously thinking of publishing his memoirs)I've seen in a long time. No wonder he never found out who he is in all his long life -- he's too busy thinking about what to say next, how to sound cynical. The stuff reads like a bad version of Dash Hammett (if anyone reads old noir around here -- it's very cool -- Swartz is not cool, just old)
"she draped her leg over the armrest....she was so deliciously filipina..." Truly embarrassing James.

At 8/29/2007 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is obvious from James' (overly long) description and windy explanations of all aspects of Hinduism that he is attempting to explain everything Indian away so westerners won't be confused or troubled by it and will blow it off as nonsense. Too bad James -- all your time in India was a waste. Clearly you did not even touch on the beautiful mysteries that don't need your explanations, and can only be experienced deep within. Your simplistic takes on temples, idols and Hinduism in general is very telling of your need to control everything. You can't. That made you feel nuts. So you went about categorizing all sorts of things that can't be explained so easily as you think.

Maybe you did too many drugs in your old days? Your writing makes an interesting travelogue for westerners, but is terribly misleading in terms of meaning and effect. You spent so much time studying this subject, yet you don't know more than the surface! This is what happens when someone relies too much on their mind and never enters the heart. In your case, by your own admission on-line, you relied on some lower than heart areas for information as well :-))

Sorry, but James is one more charlatan. His gig is "I'm not a guru. Now listen to me, because I know the REAL truth about all that Hindu shit they are trying to fool you with!....." Defacto guru.

At 8/29/2007 8:25 AM, Blogger jody said...

This is what happens when someone relies too much on their mind and never enters the heart.

And that, Sri Chuckji, is your bonafide, holier-than-thou, head-stuck-straight-up-the-ass condescension.

At 8/30/2007 10:35 AM, Blogger yomamma said...

the initial writing on the home page is not any more cynical than the writings here on GP. I found the article Shankara to Kalki Avatar to be very thoughtful and informative and helpful!!! hey I'm glad somone has a brain and the will to us it. he not only covers the clearing of the mind and the importance of knowledge, he also includes the importance of Bhakti and devotion to God , So I say he's got it covered. Heart and emotion are fine until you find yourself swimming in a sea of reactive and defensive thoughts and emotions, but maybe you can't see it, too busy swimming. thanks for pointing out this website. Me likey

At 8/30/2007 6:00 PM, Blogger CHUCK said...

anonymush said...The stuff reads like a bad version of Dash Hammett (if anyone reads old noir around here -- it's very cool --

I will have to stand and agree that Dash Hammett is one great men of words! He is second only to His Holiness Louis L'Amor in inspiring this bloated old cowboy! I also tried to read the life story of James Swartz and gave up because I couldn't stand to read about the man doin all the things I dreamed of before entering my mule shed monastery!

At 8/30/2007 11:42 PM, Blogger taman said...

Too many people fall for the same thing over and over and over again.
What needs to be realized is that only a person him/herself can clean up their inner selves (by that, I mean keeping the 5 vices under control).
Second, a human guru cannot pass on the enlightenment to another human being.
Third, Gurus who go on about their being enlightened are big time fakes. What does a Guru have to do with the world and the popularity? If the guru cannot free him/herelf from the vices, how the fuck do they think they are going to help us?
P.S: It's just too hard to post. It belong to some board of pomposity. :|

At 8/31/2007 11:12 AM, Blogger taman said...

Correction: I feel like I belong to some board of pomposity.

At 9/02/2007 8:10 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

taman said... I feel like I belong to some broad of pomposity.


Interestin statement from teaman. Some have said yours truly is pompus. When I drive out in my blue 52 Chevy wearin my antique stetson that is the color of milk left outside for starved dogs with the mornin sky laid down on it, some have been known to suggest that I am pompus. My high heeled ridin boots each bears a eagle, cactus, the lone star of Texas, steer horns, and the winkin eye of the good Lord stitched and colored into polished leather. Then I have my shirt and pants which was both bought in 1975 but because of the polyester and stetchy stuff in them are still in perfect shape and still fit, the britches havin been let out by momma a year or two back. Shirt and britches match, havin a moteef of rattlers coiled around a youngesh eagle. The snakes have the appearance of both protectin the eagle but also himmin it in and threaten it... which brings me back to what a lot of gurus do. Are they protectin or are they threatnin. Each must judge for his or her own selves.

So teaman, I also belong to a pompus broad. In her day my momma pushed around a shoppin cart of opinions. Now that job is left to yours truly... but under my stetson is a turban visible only to the naked eye and under that is a perfectly round head devoid of hair and completely empty inside. In that emptiness I am most at home! The whole world is my mule shed!

At 9/03/2007 1:00 AM, Blogger yomamma said...

Dear chuck , if you haven't read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kenndey Toole you don't really need to. What is you some kina comunis?

At 9/04/2007 8:22 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

yomamma said...Dear chuck , if you haven't read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kenndey Toole you don't really need to.


Dear Miz Yomamma,

No I have not red this book, though I did find it once on the lid of the toilet bowl used by Chuck JR. I did not put my boot heel down on the boy or demand the boy not to read it--him bein nearly 30 at the time--- but I did show bottom lip and he got the point! You see yomamma, I am a loyal Texan of a certain age and I refuse to read material that will put into close proximity the word "Confederacy" with the word "Dunces", even if it be true... In fact the first fight I had in elementary school was with a yankee kid whose family had moved to Dime Box from Michigan. The boy claimed that my hero, His Holiness Robert E Lee was an alcoholic! This was somethin I could not and did not let pass!

So I can understand why children like this Gregory from the souljerkoff blog could defend his guru heroes!

At 2/09/2008 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad to be able to tell you about James Swartz, aka Sunny Jim, or as we all knew him—Rama. I lived in a communal situation, (ashram?) with this man for two years and knew him for two years prior to this. Let’s be clear, like other false gurus, Jim is very charming and charismatic. He has a good Vedantic rap and I believe he has developed a siddhi or two. If you are naïve and have no prior knowledge of Vedanta he can seem very impressive, and can even trigger altered states that may mesmerize you. But be forewarned. Like many false gurus he is also a chronic liar and once he has lured you into his web with his rap, he can be verbally and emotionally abusive—all in the name of giving you a teaching. His little speech in his story about not knowing about ‘crazy wisdom’ would be laughable, if he hadn’t disappointed and messed up so many peoples’ lives. He has a knack for messing with people’s minds and sending them right off the deep end. The parts of his ‘autobiography’ that I was a witness to are so inaccurate that I am now wondering if he is delusional. He also forgot to mention the time he spent studying with a black magician in India. Another good story he forgot to mention was the time he was told he was no longer welcomed at the Chinmayananda Mission Summer Camp because it became known that he had seduced and then ridiculed a young woman that came to him for teaching. If you meet this man, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

At 2/10/2008 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have know James Swartz personally.
He is incredibly charming and very intelligent.
He knows a-lot but but lives literally nothing that he
has come to know. He is a chronic lier and if you get even for a moment on his bad side, well, watch out because he is tiger toothed and claw ripping with outlandish
stories he creates. Then he loves to gossip, loves to gossip about people he is tearing apart.
I wonder why the Guruphiliac states that they are fed up with teachers or gurus and then praises James Swartz?
Must not have done your home work.
The great Robert Adams said “ the students get the guru they deserve”.
NO ONE deserves James Swartz.
How accurate is that? VERY on target!
He is an all-time-never-changing
gossip that loves to hurt people again and again and again
and then, once more.
You certainly are not doing anyone a service by glorifying James Swartz. You will loose lots of credibility with this one!!

At 12/22/2008 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting posts - i've never heard such viscious criticism of James. I have been in touch with James for a year or 2 now.

From my experience - he is extremely level headed, fair, intelligent & an excellent communicator (in English) of extremely subtle Vedantic truth's. But don't take my word for it - go & check out his writings on his website for yourself & make your own judgement. I find them to be the most impressive & clear Vedantic teachings I have come across in English (other than that of Swami Dayananda).

I find it hard to believe that someone who can articulate such incredible vedantic insights in their own words, can be the insincere person some have claimed him to be. Either way, i've learned a heck of alot from him.

At 1/11/2009 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it is possible that he has learned something over the years.
But as they say, "its hard to change a leopard's spots."

At 1/11/2009 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of us have learned a heck of alot too!!
Just what we learned was to stay away from J.S.

At 4/23/2011 8:03 AM, Anonymous Jeanna said...

Quite an amazing collection of comments. Having recently met and studied under James, I'm fairly surprised by the judgements and yet can accept the possibility that they have some factual basis. The strange thing is that James claimed nothing personally about himself in the time I was in his company. Quite the opposite. So perhaps the teaching and the Truth is beyond/above where it appears or how it is transmitted. What I took from the time spent with him was an utter recognition of Self - which I cannot explain nor conceptualise but which has remained as a real liberation (thus far.)

At 7/23/2011 9:55 AM, Blogger Laurence said...

Read his stuff. Read lots of the Satsangs on his site. He is really cool. Getting free of the belief you are limited and that the world outside is valid but you are not, is VALUABLE. He can totally help. Great stuff. Keep reading.

At 7/25/2012 9:55 PM, Anonymous af64 said...

I have read Jim's satsangs on Shining World and watched many of his videos. He really does have an ability to convey Vedanta in a clear and concise manner. He also seems to have a helluva lot more patience than I would have judging from the detailed letters he writes to people.

He probably CAN be a real pain in the ass...and maybe even at least as condescending and petulant as some of the people that posted about him here. It's funny how the "spiritual crowd" can be some of the most intolerant and unforgiving people I have known, especially when they're roasting each other over a fire.

At 1/22/2013 4:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much criticism. James Swartz is the finest teacher I've ever come across and I've worked with a LOT. He is gifted at unfolding and explaining traditional vedanta in all its beauty, subtlety and transformative power. Yeah I can imagine he has a chequered past, he admits it himself. He may even still be a difficult character! But he does NOT purport to be a guru and nor does he make any deal out of being enlightened. He's just a teacher and a damn fine one. Stop judging the guy - it's not about him. It's about the teaching. Which is not even HIS teaching. He teaches pure vedanta in about as accessible a way as you're likely to find and check out his website....thousands upon thousands of pages of teaching and hundreds of hours of audio ALL FREE. Credit where credit is due - he's not out to make a quick buck. Yeah he's cranky and sometimes goes overboard criticising other teachings (although his criticism is justified). but I've seen nothing but integrity from him.

At 2/10/2014 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ended up on this page not even recalling that I had already left a comment here in 2012 about James Swartz, who I had just recently discovered then. The comment is still there...af64.

Since then I have attended 2 webinars, and have watched hours of video of James teaching Vedanta. He is an amazing teacher and can elucidate Vedanta, explain its subtleties and make it seem so simple. Granted, one must be prepared and there is no way around it. The comments here dissing James are so incongruous with my experience that I think those people were not really interested or prepared to study Vedanta. So instead they attack the teacher.

James never claims to be a saint and he openly admits his own shortcomings in the course of teaching. I could not care less when he gossips or criticizes other gurus. Ha! It's often done in the context of the topic of discrimination.

But who stayed around to hear the WHOLE THING? Grow up, you complainers!

At 7/25/2014 4:15 AM, Blogger Marc Vlecken said...

James is a great teacher, one of the clearest teachers on (traditional) advaita (together with Greg Goode and Gary Weber. I'm not interested in gossip and rumours. And I find it a bit cowardly to attack somebody anonymously. If you want to criticize him, no problem, but then address the man directly. Anyone can spout gossip about other people on the internet. So easy to do, and so cowardly... (M. Vlecken)

At 9/30/2014 3:58 PM, Anonymous Beregond said...

I have been emailing with Swartz and reading his stuff for a couple of years. Today we mutually decided he is not the teacher for me. I found that whenever I questioned anything he said, or suggested alternative ideas, he would slap me down, saying that I was not prepared. Like every spiritual teacher I encounter, he doesn't want a dialogue, just a sponge to absorb whatever he puts out there. That's not for me. Also, I have yet to see any evidence that he is "enlightened." It certainly hasn't improved his character any if he is. And he has a very lax attitude regarding morality, virtually sneering at the idea of compassion. I did learn a lot from him, for free, and I appreciate that. But I need a teacher who will work with me, not preach AT me.

At 9/30/2014 5:33 PM, Blogger Jody Radzik said...

Beregond, thanks for the comment. I agree with everything you say save for one point. There is no evidence of "enlightenment." Swartz or anyone who makes that claim cannot put their phenomenological envelope on the table for inspection. Any ideas you hold about how an enlightened person would or should behave are based in conceptual notions you hold about enlightenment. I recommend rubbishing those post haste, because if there is only one thing you cannot do in the world, it would be to have an accurate expectation about nondual realization, IMO.

At 11/05/2014 3:50 AM, Blogger Ian said...

OK. So some of these posts are from 2007. Changes in opinion since then? "Buyer beware"? James isn't very expensive. Free satsang galore on his website.

At 5/17/2015 10:52 AM, Blogger Kate said...

To beregond..James isn't there for dialogue..he teaches Vedanta. You have to be qualified and you're obviously not. Good for him for sending you on your way to someone you can argue with. He's not here to argue beliefs or your point of view..With Vedanta you either get it or you don't. He's not trying to prove to you or anyone else that he's enlightened either. He's simply teaching Vedanta. Have fun in your seeking!

At 12/22/2015 5:24 AM, Blogger shanti said...

How interesting to read about someone I knew long before there was the internet and before James Swartz became more known as a teacher of Vedanta. I first met him in India, at Pondicherry, at an ashram around 1985. It looks like he 'made it', i.e. as a teacher. He implied he was 'enlightened' back then, whatever he considered that to be. I was very naive, then, and had much to learn.

Yes he knew how to speak and sound knowledgeable, but he also had characteristics that I don't think are appropriate as a teacher. I went to the US and spent a summer at his then US woods hideout. He then came over to Australia and we spent time together here too. I got to know him fairly well, before we parted ways.

I have been interested in all aspects of spirituality since I was young. Whilst in India I became interested in Buddhism and I spent the next 20 yrs developing and deepening that interest. I did a lot of growing up and understanding in these years.

Today, I'm less in need of labels, or wondering who's enlightened, or not. I'm content with who I am, what I'm doing with my life, and so on. I don't follow gurus or aim to be enlightened. I help others where and when I can, and I have a good understanding of what makes for happiness and unhappiness.

It's up to each person to seek out what they need, and to take care with the teachers you meet along the way.

Teachers take many forms. I enjoy the simple things of life these days. I have less need to wander to faraway places like India.

Good luck in your search. Namaste

At 8/21/2016 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been practicing Advaita Vedanta for about 35 years now. I have a bunch of friends who are acolytes of James Schwarz. I've seen his videos and have endured 2 week long (~30+ hr) satsang rants (one that ended yesterday). Although his seemingly carefully selected and edited YouTubes are impressive, he comes off as the Donald Trump of the modern guru-world during his satsangs. If your knowledge of Vedanta and other related spiritual philosophies is limited, he sounds great (that's called indoctrination), if you do have background and do know the Sanskrit terminology and ontology regarding Vedanta and other systems, sitting through his stuff quickly becomes appalling. Not only do his redundant and convoluted lectures include constant and unnecessary harping on questionable celebrity gurus, and "the neos," but every other tradition is fair game. This past weekend, he announced that Patanjali's Classical Yoga is nonsense as is the Buddhist boddhisattva tradition. He also blamed Swami Vivekananda for the rise of the "neo" scene and the "misguided" idea of universalism within reformed Vedanta. After the sessions, I could barely hold a non-contentious conversation with anyone because they were busy erroneously throwing around Sanskrit terms, judging other people using those terms, and looking at me as if I were pathetic and an enemy because I knew that the emperor had no clothes. I came home to search the web to find out if I am the only person who feels this way.

At 8/21/2016 11:51 AM, Blogger Jody Radzik said...

While I'm not necessarily a fan of Schwarz's, and while I'd agree that Patanjali is a lot mythological nonsense and that Vivekananda did indeed found neo-advaita, I can definitely see where you are coming from.

At 10/07/2016 8:57 PM, Blogger Cristoval Jesús Amado said...

James Swartz? LOL! You guys must obviously be such rookies to go after a rookie dude like James. Why not stick with the best of the best who is Sri Ramana Maharshi? Follow his advice and you can't go wrong. I say Sri Ramana because there is no other living teacher alive today who is of his caliber. Sri Ramana Maharshi or bust.

At 1/01/2017 6:22 AM, Blogger Rig said...

af64 - I think the reason spiritual people can be less than tolerant is because in my opinion they are protecting some hard won truths from their own practice. Once you have moments of your core, even first glimpses, you see that there is no way a true spiritual teacher could consistently behave in such self destructive and igornant ways. Yes, nobody is perfect, even spiritual teachers, and compassion is one of the things that brings us to these core insights that we are love itself. But where do you draw the line between compassion and idiot compassion? Idiot compassion is born of mindelessly trying to live up to a spiritual ideal that you must somehow be in a position to take and watch consistent self abuse, abuse of others and abuse of Dharma. It's a gift for a spiritual seeker to be able to see the flaws in the teachers that are supposed to be embodying what were trying desperately to attain. It's wise to leave absuive teachers behind and look for real teachers who walk the walk. Yes James Swartz deserves compassion, but this does not mean he deserves unconditional trust while he violates his own teachings. Criticism is there for a reason, it should be used maturely as a way to inform you of the very real dangers of being indoctrinated by teachers like this. If you didn't have fear of the fire, you would keep putting your hand in it. Projection is only an unconscious mechanism. You can be very right in making judgements about teachers if it's clear to you that they do not live by their own teachings. Funnily enough, that is one of the main recommendations James puts to us - if a teacher is not living his/her own teaching then it's up to the student to either leave or stay at their own risk.

At 1/02/2017 5:01 AM, Blogger Rig said...

The teaching is filtered via his personality. The more you read or listen to James Swartz all you do is pick up his cynicism along with some knowledge. So it's up to you, you can either wise up and find a purified teacher who practices what they preach, or you can spend even more years trying to get his diseased ridden interpretations of reality out of your head. Your life

At 1/25/2017 6:17 PM, Anonymous Donald O'Brien said...

I have been studying Advaita Vedanta under James Swartz for almost 2 years now, and have spent considerable time with him personally. I find him to be truthful, generous, caring, and full of integrity. Sure, his jiva has some rough edges, but separate the wheat from the chafe.

Focus on the teachings rather than the man. It's important to separate the message from the messenger. Regardless of what you think of James, his making the ancient Advaita teachings easily accessible to (western) English speakers is a great gift.

The Advaita teachings as presented by James are setting me free as they remove the ignorance of who I thought I was and provide me a context in which to assimilate the Advaita knowledge. They answer all my questions, and are the culmination of 45 years of my seeking. I find his teachings to be logical, pragmatic, and verifiable. I encourage you to read "The Essence of Enlightenment"; every page contains gems.

I owe James many great thanks. Hari Om

At 2/25/2017 3:34 PM, OpenID shanmugamooty said...

He is just a scholar of Vedanta but I doubt his enlightenment. Here is a more detailed review about him: https://nellaishanmugam.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/james-swartz-a-review-and-critique-by-a-seeker/

At 3/09/2017 4:34 AM, Blogger Ethanol Man said...

Would mention of Rupert Spira be appropriate here? I have spent a few video courses with James and learned a lot about the teachings of Vedanta. I have now hitched my wagon to Rupert Spira's teaching, recently purchasing a set of videos from one of his retreats. He teaches the Direct Path, and I can follow his guided meditations in elucidating the reality of our own experience.


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