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The Essential Vedanta * Eliot Deutsch & Rohit Dalvi (editors) (2004)

For a long time I had wanted to read texts of the Advaita Vedanta and a while ago I ran into this title. The title is promising. The subtitle is too: “A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta”. That sounds like some sort of ultimate collection of Vedantic texts. It is published by a Traditionalistic publishing house which was also a reason to purchase it.

The back cover quotes Richard Brooks saying: “[This book] is overall an excellent collection of Advaita philosophic literature”. Indeed it is “philosophic”. The book proves again that I do not have a whole lot of feeling for philosophy, whether Western or Eastern. I guess I expected more religious type of texts, but the texts are actually very much philosophical.

The best part of the book are the 80 page introduction and the short summery at the end. These texts are written by the editors, nicely to the point and well-structured. The rest of the book is filled with texts of Vedantic thinkers from many upto a few centures ago. The names are well-known and lesser-known (at least, to me), the most famous of course being Samkara. Especially in the first part of the translated texts, they are very long. Towards the end there are some shorter texts. There are translations that have been published before and translations that were not available until this book came out. The editors compiled the translations and did not make them themselves. Inspite of the number of different translators, the translations are nicely consistent in style and choice of words/terms. Perhaps the book costed quite some editing.

Like I said, the texts are very philosophical. Different views are combed through, other ways of thinking analysed and all that in (mostly) long stretched texts with many repetitions. I found it hard to keep my attention on more than a few occasions. I prefer to read more to the point texts or -like I said in the beginning- religious texts.

Perhaps this book is indeed the (or: an) ultimate book about Advaita Vedanta and I just had other expectations of the sort of texts that this ‘current’ produced and I should just get myself a translation of Vedas. When you are interested in Eastern philosophy, this book may be a good one to read up on Advaita Vedanta from very old to old.

2004 World Wisdom, isbn 0941532526

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