James Swartz – A Review and Critique by a Seeker

I recently stumbled upon the website http://www.shiningworld.com and went through some of the articles by James Swartz, an old guy who is teaching the age old Vedanta and claiming himself to be enlightened. There are many so called enlightened teachers in the West who are offering satsangs, courses and retreats and James Swartz is one of them. But he is not teaching neo-advaita (and  I dont think neo-advaita is really helping people towards realizing the Self either.. That is just another big joke); He is teaching the traditional Vedanta and he was a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda in India.

I usually don’t write long articles or posts criticizing the spiritual teachers and questioning their enlightenment. I am completely aware that trying to find out if somebody is enlightened is not going to help me towards my own liberation. But this post is somewhat like a question; I am not saying any conclusive statements about his enlightenment. I just find it questionable. Even though this post is not going to help me towards my liberation even a little bit, I don’t care..

I also want to stress on the fact that a person who is not enlightened cannot really help others towards realization; It will be like a blind man leading other blind men. At the same time, one must be aware that if he or she is a true seeker and have a real thirst to know the truth, being with a false Guru or unenlightened teacher is not going to be a problem. But most of the time, in reality, the people who get stuck with unrealized teachers don’t make any progress at all but fall under the illusion that they are getting some valuable help towards spiritual enlightenment.

Also, there is also a well known saying: A Guru will appear when a disciple is ready. You don’t have to really search for an enlightened person to guide you. It will automatically happen.

But, there are people who get impressed with the talks of so called enlightened people who are not really enlightened. And, usually, there is really no way to tell if a person is enlightened or not; Only a true liberated person can recognize another liberated person. But there are some signs which may indicate that somebody is not enlightened. In this post, I am going to talk about those signs that I have observed in James Swartz’s teachings and attitude.

Also,  Vedanta just read as a piece of theology is not going to offer much help. In India, so many books are published on Vedanta and thousands of people read them. All that reading doesn’t make much difference in their lives, except that their egos may feel good because now they know something that others don’t know. There is also a good feeling that generally comes from knowing things and committing them to memory, which is not in anyway going to offer lasting fulfillment in a person’s life. But if there is no transformation at all, then not only Vedanta, any doctrine will become a bunch of concepts and ideas in people’s mind, strengthening their ego further. So, there needs to be a presence of a realized Guru to guide the people.

Now, Let us get back to James Swartz. The first thing that I want to talk about is the enlightenment quiz that he has in the website. It has 34 questions and just by answering the quiz, he says, will give you an idea if you are enlightened or not.Here is the quiz: http://shiningworld.com/site/index.php/resources/enlightenment-quiz

Before I came across this quiz, I had read a few articles written by James and also watched a couple of short videos. Then I answered the quiz and scored 87, which means that I am enlightened. But this seems to be a big joke and utter nonsense. If you are a little intelligent and if you read some of his articles, you can score above 90, especially if you are good in answering quizzes. The quiz only tests your ability to understand things and your memory. Why would a real enlightened person will have such an unnecessary and misleading quiz in his website?  James also says in an interview that he comes to know about at least a number of enlightened people every year based on this quiz. (The Quiz doesn’t really have an interactive form where people can submit the answers. The results of the quiz are not stored in the database. So, I assume he says that based on the emails he might be receiving from people who answered the quiz with a score more than 80 or 90.)

Also,when it comes to the usage of words, each and every person might use a word in different sense. For Vedantins , everything is Self but for Buddhists, there is no self at all. So, even if somebody who is truly enlightened takes the quiz, he still might not pass the quiz because he might be using the words mentioned in the quiz in a slightly different sense.

I found a lot of criticisms by James Swartz against Osho. But a lot of things he says about Osho is completely incorrect. For example, here is one passage where he talks about Osho (from http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/trad_neo/neo_vedanta_swartz.htm):

“The Neo-Advaita movement owes a considerable debt of gratitude to the teachings of Bhagawan Rajneesh who rechristened himself as Osho when his bad karma became unbearable.  Rajneesh perverted the tantric concept that the essence of every experience is Awareness.  Tantra is a very broad concept that applies to every conceivable kind of experience and insists that its practitioners enjoy the same qualifications as those practicing Vedanta sAdhana.  But Rajneesh focused his attention on the sexual aspect, not that much focusing was required, and opened wide the gates of tantra to tens of thousands of immature disaffected Western hedonists with his brilliant concept ‘Zorba the Buddha.’  Zorba the Greek was the literary creation of a Greek writer Nikos Kazantzaksis.  Zorba was not a bad guy but was he emotional!  He was the original party animal: lusty and enthusiastic in his pursuit of pleasure.  As is well known the Buddha was a holy ascetic.  By wedding the two ideas he provided a clever ‘spiritual’ justification for the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure in the name of spiritual growth.  Wags not unfairly called his sAdhana the ‘fuck your way to God’ path.  I was once told in all seriousness by a devotee that Osho ‘’gave us permission to do what society forbids us to do.”  When he died thousands of his disciples gravitated to a relatively unknown guru”

First of all, Osho didnt pervert the tantric concept. Osho has talked about all 112 techniques of Vigyan Bhairav Tanra, which includes various techniques and only about 5 or 6 techniques talk about sex. Many people misunderstand Osho as a sex guru and James is criticizing Osho based on the incorrect public opinion. Osho just taught a way to go beyond our unconscious cravings, including sex, by bringing awareness in what we do. But people understood it the wrong way and thought that Osho was preaching people to do more sex. That notion is completely wrong.

Osho’s main focus was awareness, not sex. Also, out of over 600 books of talks by Osho on various topics, there is only one book which talks about sex, which is called ‘From Sex to superconsiouness’. Even in that book, Osho teaches the way to go beyond the sexual desires by bringing awareness to it. When we become more and more alert and aware, the desires stop by themselves. In all the other books of Osho, he covers a wide range of topics from different traditions like Yoga, Zen, Vedanta, Buddhism, Christian mystics, Hasidism, Sufism and more.. He has talked about devotion, love, compassion, meditation and thousands of other topics and the talks about sex are not even 2% of them.

Also, his understanding of Osho’s concept of Zorba the Buddha is completely wrong. Osho said that it is not completely necessary to abandon the family, renounce everything and stay poor to realize ones true nature. He says that one can be rich both in the inner and the outer world. For example, King Janaka, the father of Sita in Ramayana was a realized being but he was the king of a whole empire. Osho simply says that one can be like Janaka or Zorba and can still realize their own self. Zorba is just a way to exaggerate his point on this. He picked up the extreme example of Zorba in a poetic way. In my opinion, when Zorba and Buddha is brought together in a man, he actually gets balanced in the middle. It doesn’t mean that he is asking to follow the way of Zorba. He is actually asking people to follow the way of Buddha without suppressing the part of Zorba who is in each and every individual.

To put it in one sentence “You don’t have to abandon the material world in the pursuit of spiritual world” is what Osho says.

Here is an excerpt from Osho’s talks:

“Zorba can sing, dance, enjoy food, drink, love. He will have a life, but he will not know who he is. He will not know the meaning of existence. He will never come to experience the deathlessness of life, the eternity of his existence — that he has been here always, and will be always; only forms change. He will never enter into his own center. He will always remain in the cyclone, very busy, concerned with everything except himself. And the center of the cyclone is the most ecstatic experience, the ultimate experience of human consciousness. Beyond that there is nothing; you have arrived home. But I don’t see that there is any problem, there is no contradiction. You can arrive home, you can be at your center — what prevents you from laughing? In fact, you should be the only one who can really laugh, can become laughter; who can really love, can become love itself — where the lover disappears and only love remains; one who can dance and dance to such abandon that the dancer is completely gone, there is only dance.

This is my effort:
To bring ‘Zorba the Buddha’ into the world.

 That will create a unity in you; your body and soul will have a unity. If you are one, you would like to dance in the open air under the sun. That will be your real prayer. Nothing is said, nothing is asked, but you are showing your gratitude to existence. Zorba the Buddha will not only destroy the split in man, it will destroy the split in society.

There is no question of escaping from anything. Every moment everything has to be enjoyed without any guilt, without any inhibition. But all the religions have been against it.
I proclaim with this manifesto a totally new sky for religious consciousness: the sky of completion, the joining of the inner and the outer, of the material and the spiritual, of Zorba and the Buddha.”

James is not only criticizing Osho but many other teachers. By the comments about Ramana Maharishi whom he doesn’t consider as a perfect teacher in spite of being a self realized person, James also implies that he is a better teacher than Ramana. He also devalues the way of Ramana Mahirishi’s teaching through silence. James believes that being in the silent presence of a master doesn’t have much value at all but many people know that there is a lot of transmission that happens from a master to disciple in pure silence. The transmission between Buddha and Mahakasyapa is a perfect example.

In an email by James to a questioner, he says the following:
(From http://www.shiningworld.com/site/files/pdfs/satsangs/Silence_versus_Words.pdf )

“The Vedanta sampradaya does not have a problem with Ramana’s moksa. In fact, it accords Upadesa Saram the status of an Upanishad. However, Ramana was not a teacher. He said so himself. He spoke to whomever was in front of him according to the understanding of that person. So there are apparently contradictory statements in his “teaching.” Statements made at different times to different people do not mean that the person that uttered them didn’t know who he or she is. Nor does it mean that either statement is untrue, given the context. But when you put them together they seem to contradict each other. So there should be a way to resolve these apparent contradictions. Ramana’s apparently contradictory statements are the words of a jnani, which can be resolved with reference to Vedanta’s teachings. Many people are confused by Ramana’s statements, not because Ramana was confused.”

This clearly shows that James is trying to stick to an organized teaching where as a true enlightened master will really talk to a seeker according to his level. What is the use of reading some mere information and committing them to memory from an organized teaching alone? I am not devaluing Vedanta, but I am saying that a generalized organized teaching alone is not going to be of much help unless there is a realized Guru  available to impart the teaching according to the level of the seeker. James may say that he is already doing that, but from what I have observed he only seems to give more importance in just the load of information alone. In fact,from what I have seen, a realized Guru gives an organized teaching only a secondary importance. A realized Guru always speaks from his own authority and he only uses the information available in an organized teaching as an additional device. James’s interest in criticizing other teachers and putting them down as not perfect teachers simply shows that he is trying to make himself superior, though he doesn’t directly say that.

While James Swartz dismisses most of the so called spiritual teachers as self-deluded (May it is true, but I am pointing out that his desperate interest in doing this only shows his interest in showing himself superior), he himself has authorized some of his students to teach and declared them as enlightened. I think it is very easy to convince James that you are enlightened, you just have to parrot what he says but show some confidence on what you are saying and act as if it comes from your own understanding. If what you say agrees with what he says, then James Swartz will probably declare you as enlightened. Because, from what I have observed, how much of what you say is aligned with traditional Vedanta is the only criteria that he will use to decide if you are enlightened or not. His enlightenment quiz is a perfect example for that.

I also came across something from Ted Schmidt, one of those guys who have been declared as enlightened by James. In that excerpt, Ted comments about J.Krishnamurti and Ramesh Balseker. While I doubt Ramesh’s enlightenment, I don’t have any doubt that J.Krishnamurti is a liberated person and he is also a great orator who has been admired by a lot of people for his clarity and wisdom.

Here is what Ted Schmidt says about J.Krishnamurti and Ramesh Balsekar:

“I am familiar with both of these teachers, but to be honest, it has been quite a while since I last delved into their teachings, so I cannot really give you a comprehensive critique of either. I can say, however, that while both gave voice to the non-dual nature of reality, neither employed a teaching methodology that systematically unfolded the implied meaning of scriptural statements or utilized any of the traditional prakriyas (i.e. methods of inquiry) to guide one through a logical analysis of one’s own experience by means of which all erroneous notions concerning it would be laid to rest and the irrefutable truth of one’s essential nature would stand revealed. In addition, neither offered any practical means of preparing the mind for the assimilation of self-knowledge. To the best of my recollection, both Krishnamurti and Balsekar repudiated the necessity for spiritual practice as a result of their confusion concerning the nonreciprocal relationship between paramarthika satyam, Brahman’s non-dual being (i.e. pure, limitless awareness) and vyavaharika satyam, the seemingly dualistic apparent reality of which Brahman, pure limitless awareness, is the adhishthanam, the substrate. Though the apparent reality is entirely dependent on pure awareness for its existence, pure awareness is entirely free of and uninvolved in the apparent reality. Moreover, in terms of the law of karma, the whole purpose of the apparent reality is to provide an arena in which limited entities execute limited actions and enjoy limited results. Thus any attempt to impose such principles as limitlessness, attributelessness or actionlessness on the limited entities that exist within the dualistic context of the apparent reality, whose very existence is defined in terms of distinguishable attributes and discrete actions, is completely untenable. In short, in their best moments both Krishnamurti and Ramesh Balsekar spout the highest truth, yet fail to provide any viable means of assimilating it.”

This again shows the same interest of their whole group in putting down other teachers, especially people like J.Krishnamurti. Ted goes on saying that J.Krishnamurti had a confusion in understanding absolute reality and relative reality. While I agree that much of J.Krishnamurti’s teachings were from absolute point of view, I won’t agree that he had a confusion on absolute and relative reality.  J.Krishnamurti did uncover the true essence of meditation and taught people to be aware of their body, mind and emotions which is helpful for modern men. In fact, the world has changed so much in the last thousand years  and people’s mind have become more complicated. In the modern world, J.Krishnamurti’s teaching of bringing awareness to our everyday life can be much helpful than the practice of Sravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana of traditional Vedanta.

I have gone through many other criticisms of the spiritual teachers by James and his group, and as far as I have read, they have not accepted anybody, not even a single person as a perfect ‘teacher’ and they always criticize about how incomplete the teachings are.. (They probably accept all the Vedanta teachers who just repeat the teachings of Vedanta as it is  as complete teachers) Do they mean to say that James, his Guru and his authorized teachers are the only people who give out perfect and complete teaching? All I find in their way of teachings and satsangs are deep theoretical discussions and Sanskrit jargons. They are trying to create pundits and scholars but not enlightened people.

I also went through some excerpts from James Swartz book “How to attain enlightenment?” and he has given the same criticism about Osho and many other teachers in his books. He brings up those criticisms whenever he finds a chance.

It is very much appropriate to quote a message from Ramana Mahirishi here:

“The scriptures serve to indicate the existence of the Higher Power or Self and to point the way to It. That is their essential purpose. Apart from that they are useless. However, they are voluminous, in order to be adapted to the level of development of every seeker.
As a man rises in the scale he finds the stages already attained to be only stepping stones to higher stages, until finally the goal is reached. When that happens, the goal alone remains and everything else, including the scriptures, become useless.The intricate maze of philosophy of the various schools is said to clarify matters and to reveal the Truth, but in fact it creates confusion where none need exist. To understand anything there must be the Self. The Self is obvious, so why not remain as the Self? What need to explain the non-self? I was indeed fortunate that I never took to it (i.e. philosophy). Had I taken to it I would probably be nowhere; but my inherent tendencies led me directly to inquire ‘Who am I?’ How fortunate!”

It is clear that much of scriptural knowledge, even though intended to serve as tools, always end up creating more confusion. Ramana Mahirishi also says how fortunate he was in not learning those. While James claims in most of his talks that he is also not trying to give a philosophy, he is actually giving more importance to the theoretical knowledge about reality.

One thing that really convinced me to write this post was a discussion that I had on an online forum with a person who is learning from James Swartz. I was surprised to see how much influence James has made on her because all her discussion reflected the same attitude that James has:  Finding faults with words and usage of words, finding faults in spiritual teachers etc. The worst thing was, she had the same prejudice against Osho. Whenever I posted something that was said by Osho, she kept posting stuff that said something against Osho. When I asked her why she was doing that, she said she wants to help people by asking them to be wary of Osho’s teachings.That was something that I couldn’t accept because Osho has done extraordinary work in explaining each and everything about spirituality in detail and he has also brought out the real essence of all the major spiritual traditions in the world.

You might argue that Osho also criticized many spiritual teachers. But his criticism was really based on his genuine interest in shattering the false beliefs that people had and leading them in a proper way towards enlightenment. He didnt do it out of hatred or to assert his superiority but he did that out of his compassion on people. He has spoken positively about authentic spiritual masters like Ramana, J.Krishnamurti, Buddha, Mahavira, J.Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, Kabir, Nanak, Meister Eckhart, Jesus Christ, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Patanjali, many popular Zen masters and the great sages of Upanishads.  Also, my post is not about whether criticism is right or wrong but the intention behind the criticism and the discrimination between a real enlightened person and a fake one.

To the students of James Swartz: You may feel impressed not because James Swartz is impressive but Vedanta is impressive. (James Swartz might be a great guy, I am not against him but I just want to give you guys something to think about). Vedanta is still new to the Western world but it is an age old tradition in India. But if you are really interested in ending your suffering and knowing your true nature, you need the presence and guidance of a true enlightened master and not just somebody who thinks he is enlightened. It is possible to walk in the path without any Guru, but it is very difficult. It is going to further complicate the process if you are in the hands of somebody who has not yet made it.

I have no doubt that James is an excellent writer. He speaks a lot of things with great clarity which shows that he has taken his time to read many scriptures. That is the only advantage that he has over the other people who call themselves as enlightened. He can help you to learn stuff and become well versed with Vedanta and its scriptural base but I really doubt if he could help you towards your enlightenment.


Author: Shanmugam P

I am a blogger and a self-published author. My book "The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta" is a guide to the ultimate freedom, bliss and oneness. The book is based on my own experience. My book "Discovering God: Bridging Christianity, Hinduism and Islam" shows how all three major religions of the world lead to the same truth. I am a past student of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli District.

32 thoughts on “James Swartz – A Review and Critique by a Seeker”

  1. beautifully written….. people like james have always existed. It is really a courageous thing to accept that
    “I don’t know” and someone Knows.


  2. I don’t agree with critisisms of other teachers in any way, as I feel that it is pointless because when the person reaches the appropriate level of spiritual maturity he/she will be lead to a real mahatma, so in this way I disagree with James. However James actually is “Enlightened” meaning he knows he is pure awareness- the light. He was with Swami Chinmayanada for more than two years non-stop, who was a great being and excellent teacher of truth/Vedanta.


  3. Also I must add one more thing. James has never said that he is enlightened, only that Swami Chinmayananda set him free, meaning he revealed to James the simple truth that this is a non-dual reality made of consciousness/awareness and that everyone and everything is “enlightened” or in the light by default. A so called enlightened person simply KNOWS this.


  4. James Swartz teaches Vedanta very much in the tradition of Shankara. I am reading “Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination”, James’s teachings are very much in line with this book. However, James also intersects a lot of his own opinions about the world of spirituality which are very easy to identify and he is quite open about it. It’s these opinions that tend to rub people the wrong way plus he deliberately does not put on the air of a saintly person. Something many seekers would find off putting if their seeking includes a desire to be healed. I have great respect for James because his is totally dedicated to disseminating the teachings of Vedanta. He sees the role of the guru as a friend not as some holy transmitter of mystical awakening. That’s a person I am far more able to trust. The power of Vedanta is its ability to transform a seeker’s view of reality through knowledge and end needless suffering. I can attest to that and I am enormously grateful to Shankara and those who followed in his teaching tradition like James.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You say you had a “tremendous awakening experience” in 2014….yet you consider yourself qualified to write a long critique of a Vedanta teacher and question his “enlightenment”? You better go sit in a cave for the next twenty years because you’re already on the road to delusion, merely 3 short years after your so-called epiphany.

    I know James, obviously you don’t. He does NOT claim to “be enlightened”…he simply knows who he is. Your notion of “mystical transmission” is proof of your naïveté. James is an excellent teacher of traditional Vedanta but you would not know that…you are enamored of your own ideas, imaginings and experiences (even dated to the day…why not the hour?) You completely lack the comprehension of what he is doing and what the teaching of traditional Vedanta entails.

    btw…do you also go by the name Cristoval Jesús Amado?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You need to understand that James Swartz didn’t introduce Vedanta to me.. I am familiar with the teachings of Vedanta ever since I was a boy. I was also exposed to other schools of thoughts such as Yoga, Zen etc. After my awakening, I see things in a very different way.How I see reality fits clearly with how reality has been described in Vedanta and many other schools of thought.

      But does that mean that this is all there is to what has been normally described and believed to be enlightenment? But this is where people go wrong… After people go through a certain kind of epiphany or realization of knowledge, people at least indirectly, start to imply that they are enlightened.

      James may not say that he is enlightened.. But if you say that he is enlightened, that means he has somehow, at least indirectly implied that he is enlightened…

      Now, your reply was just an emotional reaction to my blog, because you know James. The appeal that Vedanta made in you and how James own personality impressed you makes to react to my blog this way. But I am just questioning his claim of having enlightened. I don’t have any intention to put him down..

      Vedanta is just a system of thought arranged by scholars in a logical way based on Upanishads. After Shankara appeared, a whole new subset of Vedanta school based on Shankara called Advaita Vedanta arose. Only the scholars try to maintain an organized system called Vedanta and strictly follow its syllabus when teaching it to their students. In India, a teacher who does this teaching is most often just a scholar and not necessarily an enlightened person. But an enlightened person like Ramana, doesn’t really worry about Vedanta and its syllabus, they just talk to the seekers in a more personal way and guide them towards their realization without following the scholar’s way of teaching Vedanta as it is. Believe me, I have seen hundreds of scholars teaching pure Vedanta and James may agree that all these scholars are enlightened. His enlightenment quiz can make any such scholar to believe that he is enlightened.

      James just appears to be such a Vedantic scholar. He goes on to say that Ramana was not a perfect teacher, which raised my question towards his claim of enlightenment in the first place… Just because Ramana didn’t teach Vedanta as James does now, doesn’t make him an imperfect or less perfect teacher than James. In fact, in Indian tradition, we have a different word, Guru and we don’t really use the word teacher. Ramana was a perfect Guru. I am from the same state where Ramana was born in and speak the same language that Ramana spoke in. Ramana’s language was Tamil, which is my own mother tongue. So, I have access to authentic resources of Ramana’s teachings in his own language that neither you nor James has access to. That way I know Ramana better than you do or James does.

      James’s idea of a ‘perfect teacher’, rejecting anybody who is enlightened as not a ‘ perfect teacher’, but acknowledging a few of his own students as perfect and qualified teachers (and allowing them to answer to satsang questions in the website) raises a red flag. That seems to be a subtle game of ego to me.

      My notion of mystical transmission is still something that I view with skepticism. But there are many people who have said that Ramana liked to teach in silence. There seems to be a correlation between silently sitting in presence of an enlightened being and meditation. It has been talked about by many people, who are also believed to be enlightened. In fact, the whole meaning of Satsang is to be in the presence of a Guru, not answering questions and posting them in a website as James does. So, James says that there is no correlation between a meditative calmness in the mind and sitting in the presence of a Guru, which is contradictory to what many authentic sources of enlightenment say. So, either James is correct or the other sources are correct.. At this point, I would rather trust the other sources than trust James. This raises another question about his enlightenment. The only thing that I can infer from this is, he has obviously concluded that some kind of progress he had made in understanding the absolute reality is what enlightenment is.

      I don’t have any preconceived ideas about enlightenment as you believe. But at the same time, I will not be too quick to reject any idea about enlightenment saying that is not true. When it comes to my own spiritual development, I approach it with open-mindedness and don’t let those ideas come in the way. I just keep those ideas aside, treat them as clues so that I can verify them when I get my own enlightenment.


      1. If you truly knew the traditional Vedanta, or even the essence of Ramana Maharshi, as you claim to….you would never say “when I get my own enlightenment”. It is obvious that you do not understand what James Swartz is teaching (traditional Vedanta) therefore your critique and assessment of what he is teaching is very flawed. Good luck with “your enlightenment”…may you one day see how wrong you are about James and may you laugh heartily at your ignorance.


        1. I see your point.. I am well aware that enlightenment is not about getting something… However, when I use language, I use it more casually.. From what I have observed, James is making a lot of fuss about trivial things and most of his arguments are linguistic, not spiritual. He seems to be a lot obsessed with words… For example, he has a really strong aversion towards the word ‘yoga’ for some reason.. His definition of yoga would be some kind of experiential thing… I don’t know where he got this idea because yoga essentially means ‘union’.. It is synonymous with advaita because yoga essentially unites everything that is dual… And he thinks samadhi is a mere experience.. But samadhi is a phenomena in which experience, experiencer and experiencing all merge together… He also criticizes Vivekananda for describing Vedanta as Gnana yoga… All this arises from his misunderstanding of the term ‘yoga’… Gnana yoga essentially means realizing the non-dual nature of the reality by using intellect, which is what vedanta and self-inquiry is all about.. And it is not Vivekananda who classified vedanta as gnana yoga but it has been called by this name for centuries… I see his linguistic arguments every where… In fact, all James is doing is teaching traditional vedanta with his own weird opinions of how words should be defined… I can go on and on about all this because as an Indian who was born and brought up in this culture I know what I am talking about…


  6. Hi Shanmugan,

    Intelligent dispassionate blog. I don’t disagree nor do I completely agree with your points of view. The Enlightenment Quiz is just a teaching tool and a joke. Nobody is ‘enlightened’ including me, although I not unenlightened. My only claim is that I am the Self which is in line with the teachings of the Vedanta sampradaya. The criticisms of other so-called teachers is not specifically about the teachers themselves but about the lack of a complete teaching that provisionally accepts duality and bridges a logical bridge to non-duality and self knowledge I also make the difference between my opinions and the teachings of traditional Vedanta, although I have considerable contempt for so-called teachers, like Osho who I met, who violate dharma and dualists who imagine that they are non-dualists. You must be aware that Vedanta is a critical teaching tradition and attack non-Vedic or hertodox Vedic systems on the basis of an analysis of the sruti, which we accept as a valid means of knowledge for the Self. Evidently the criticisms I level are reasonable because I have been told by thousands of people over the forty five years that I have been teaching that they were what attracted them to Vedanta. The basic problem with the modern spiritual world is anti-intellectualism; most teachers and seekers don’t know how to deal with their thoughts so they try to dismiss them without inquiring into their basis.



    1. Thank you for taking your time to comment… The problem I find is that you seem to dismiss any teacher or teaching that doesn’t teach traditional vedanta as it is… I believe the whole school of Vedanta have been organized and created by scholars who are not necessarily enlightened… The problem with an organized teaching is that it tends to produce more scholars than enlightened people… (you may find a mistake with my casual use of language here.. Of course, I understand that everyone is already enlightened) After going through the syllabus of Vedanta, they think that they are enlightened because now they know that they are the non-dual limitless awareness…

      In the ancient India, especially during vedic period, vedanta and yoga were not considered as two different schools… Vedanta was the theory and yoga was the practice… Many texts like Yoga Vashista teach them together as a single thing..The word Vedanta was just used to point to Upanishads, which were in the end of each of the four vedas… But only in the later centuries, people who were just interested in mere information categorized these schools, solely based on various terminologies which only appeared to be contradictory.. (For example, many people would regard Samkhya as dualistic and contradictory to Advaita, but just the terminology appears dualistic; the essence is the same… The 2nd chapter of Bhagwad Gita is all about Samkhya concepts… And all the chapter names of Gita end with the word ‘yoga’, the term which you probably dislike… (I remember you criticizing Vivekananda for naming Vedanta as Gnana Yoga, but this is how it has been called for many years… Vivekananda did not coin the term Gnana yoga, yoga just means ‘union’ )

      Traditionally in India, we have seen teachers not following an agenda or syllabus, but were guiding seekers according to their own individual level and progress.. That is exactly what Ramana maharishi did.. Just to show humility, he didn’t openly admit that he was a Guru.. But he was a perfect Guru in my eyes.. He didn’t start out teaching Vedanta from the basics to advanced like a college professor, but he simply guided the seekers according to their own levels.. He has composed many poems in Tamil which put together the true essence of Vedanta as a kind of perfect teaching that you would agree with. But when it comes to answering the seekers face to face with their questions, he was very careful in what to say and what not to say. He just said what was needed.This doesn’t mean that he was not a perfect teacher/Guru…

      Regarding Osho, I understand that there were a lot of controversies and no one knows exactly what happened. But I found his talks very helpful which helped me in my own transformation that i have described in https://nellaishanmugam.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/the-journey-of-a-seeker-my-story/ … His teachings did help me, not only towards my own transformation but also in understanding all the major traditions of the world. So, I don’t understand what makes him an imperfect teacher. Of course, I myself have criticized Osho in that article that I just gave you the link for, but his teachings were still useful to me and a lot of other people who have read the books of his transcribed talks have also found his teachings a true guidance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found James Swartz after 30 years of seeking. He’s the real deal, meaning that he is a highly qualified teacher and a fully liberated person. I spent six months day and night immersing myself in the teachings very carefully revealed by him in the correct order to defeat the ignorance that clouds the clarity in the intellect, resulting in what is labeled “enlightenment.” August 21, 2013. There are many misconceptions about what “enlightenment” actually is in any number of teachers or gurus, which is a major problem in realizing it. His motives in criticizing other teachers are not self-serving but to save you from countless years of frustrated attempts. Because the very nature of language itself is to make objects out of everything, “enlightenment” becomes an object that one seeks. The truth is, there is no such thing as “enlightenment.” What happens at the moment of liberation is the realization that, “I am neither enlightened nor unenlightened.” I have always been that which I have been seeking. ” This happens in the intellect and is not like the notion of liberation being a transcendental spiritual experience. It is more like a default setting where hearing the pure unadulterated truth erodes the ignorance that is obscuring your true nature from being known to you.


  7. James is an imbecile. He can’t even explain the different types of Samadhis when I tried to test his knowledge. James Swartz is a circus buffoon. The only people to have been enlightened and realized the Self in recent times have been Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Anandamayee Maa. Just the two and none else. All others including the other famous ones like Sri Nisragdatta Maharaj, J. Krishnamurti, Osho Rajneesh etc. have just had a glimpse of enlightenment, they did not attain moksha and so had to have had subsequent rebirths.


    1. My goodness you are being so judgemental!!!! What makes you so sure you know definitively?
      Who can say who is truly enlightened? And is it even necessary to say who is enlightened or not?
      I met James Swartz years ago in India at an ashram. He certainly knows the ‘lingo’ to talk about spiritual matters. It was helpful at the time. As have other teachings from different paths. The spiritual journey is a personal one. To think about who is enlightened is a distraction. And there are many pitfalls when you look at how many ‘teachers’ have abused their position.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I see the clown James even responded to your posts here. Lol! That idiot will not get enlightened even at the time when Lord Shiva swallows the entire Universe with its infinite creatures into his Infinite throat. Just look at the ridiculous title of his nonsensical book “How to attain enlightenment”? Lol! As if the stupid selfish egos like James Swartz and his imbecilic blind dummies of followers can really ever get enlightened. Did not Bhagavan Sri Ramana teach us to erase our egos first by tracing it back to its Source, the Heart and then let enlightenment take care of itself? That mad fool James Swartz needs to be locked up in a loony bin where he really belongs.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sri Shanmugam,

    Look at Kathi’s post and she says she was a seeker for 3 decades before she met James. This is the kind of B.S. stuff as posted by her that even neo-advaitists talk about. See how James is misleading his students like Kathi. This is very sad and dangerous. He is saying, do nothing you are already free, liberated and enlightened. Kathi’s ego, the jiva has convinced itself that it is the Self. This stuff which they preach is 180 degrees way off true Self-knowledge as taught by sages like Si Adi Sankara, Sri Ramana and Sri Ramakrishna and all others like them.



  10. Sri Shanmugam,
    You said : I believe the whole school of Vedanta have been organized and created by scholars who are not necessarily enlightened… The problem with an organized teaching is that it tends to produce more scholars than enlightened people… (you may find a mistake with my casual use of language here.. Of course, I understand that everyone is already enlightened) After going through the syllabus of Vedanta, they think that they are enlightened because now they know that they are the non-dual limitless awareness…

    My thoughts also. Well said. Except, I don’t agree that everyone is already enlightened. No. They are not. Bhagavan Sri Venkataramana for example was not enlightened before his death experience at age 16.



  11. Hey Habib,
    is everything ok with you?
    You talk like a crazy teenager! Too much acid? too much dope?
    C’mon! Be a man


    1. Hey Jacko aka wacko, not as crazy like you as to believe I am enlightened like your James and yourself pretend to be and who are always on acid and dope. You have the experience of consuming acid and dope, don’t ya? Be humble and wise Mr. Wacko.


    2. Hey Wacko,
      It is that buffoon James Swartz who is on acid and dope just like you. Because he got way high on acid and dope he got confused and mistook that for enlightenment and then wrote that ridiculous book of his. Lol! Hahahaha!


  12. Respect to all teachers. They’re willing to put themselves out there. While rest of us complain about them. Which any 20 year old behind a computer can do with mouse click away, serving absolutely noone, but exposing quality-texture of own mind.

    James Swartz elegantly teaches Vedanta in a manner that’s graspable and pragmatic. Yes, 30+-% of his delivery is personal opinions and unnecessary. If one can ignore that, and only extract the teachings, then James Swartz may be the one who ends your Spiritual Search, as Mr James has done for this writer. Then, if you wish or not, may move on to some Traditional schools which maintain Vedanta curriculum.

    You will only truly know and respect all teachers when you teach yourself, and see how hard it is to please everyone, despite doing your absolute BEST. In fact, one who hasn’t taught, will even disagree to this statement. Just like a child, no matter what parent says, how hard parent tries, child simply isn’t capable of understanding or appreciating yet. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Has James realized the Self and attained sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi like Bhagavan Sri RamanaMmaharshi did?. No, he has not. James has not even attained nirvikalpa samadhi. James is just preaching mediocre and misunderstood theoretical traditional Hindu vedanta advaita.

      James is a quack and is spitting out his mediocre and imbecilic theoretical book knowledge. Shanmugam is absolutely right to have posted the article. Hats off to him. In fact Shanmugam can explain advaita vedanta far better then this imbecilic nincompoop James Swartz who will be reborn to samsara once gain after his death because he has not attained moksha like Bhagavan Sri Ramana Mahrashi did.


      1. Why such anger?!!!!!
        How about ‘live & let live’?
        If you don’t find JS helpful, then move on. Let others make up their own mind.


    2. I only give tremendous respect and regards to authentic and genuine rishis and sages like Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. I give a hoot to bogus frauds and quacks like James Swartz who have not yet realized the Self and have not yet attained moksha.


      1. Good point. However this is about YOU. Not anyone else. It’s obvious you’re writing several posts to prove a point. Why? You’re identified with your thoughts, hence voicing them to the world, because they are important to you.

        One day, you won’t see difference between James, nor a cockroach, nor Ramana, nor yourself.

        That’s the point. One only gives themselves away, since there is only you. This is basics 101 in Vedanta, learned from James. Or any Vedanta school.

        Keep inquiring. Find a teacher. One day, your search will stop.

        P.S. Doesn’t matter to me you call me small, big, nobody, somebody. You’re only talking to yourself.


  13. Sri Shanmugam,

    Since you are not letting me reply comments or post comments, kindly delete all of my comments which I have posted in your blog. I sincerely appreciate it. I am sorry I started posting in you blog and that it has annoyed you. Thank you kindly.



    1. Dear friend,

      I didn’t approve your comments because you have been sending the very same message often.. While I certainly welcome any comments that give your opinion, I don’t encourage people to vent their frustration over here.. It is not good for you either. So if you have anything to say without being abusive on anybody, you are certainly welcome. I hope you understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sri Shanmugam,

        Kindly delete all of my comments that I have posted thus far. Since there is no option for us to delete or edit our comments by ourselves in your blog, I sincerely appreciate if you would delete all of my comments.

        Thank you,


  14. The article boils down to “James Swartz says some teachers and teaching methods are more effective than others, therefore he’s just an egomaniac trying to make himself look good.”


    1. Rob Harrison, you’re not a teacher. James Swartz literally saved you from the ocean of confusion by introducing you to Vedanta.

      He has done the greatest service to you then even your own parents.

      And how do you repay? By dissing him, then pretending to be associated with “better” teachers. Then arrogantly calling yourself a teacher and trying to establish a reputation.

      You don’t even know the Sanskrit language, not Indian culture little Western fool.

      Without James, you’d be nothing. Still in prison of your mind.

      You little child. Haven’t understood anything about Vedanta or your inner psychology, not humility. It’s revealed just in your writing.

      A. Vidya center has already been notified of Rob Harrison’s attempt to create false association to Swami D.

      Incoming. Robs ego is about to respond so he can protect his non-existing reputation…


  15. I prefer to simply tell the truth to be honest. And I can back it up with screenshots, . Are you able to do the same in your assertion I am not permitted to teach in my lineage?

    Unfortunately for you, I have permission to teach from Swami Dayananda’s ashram. As always, trolls, hiding under anonymity do not know what you are talking about. But hey, you can read their own email which I enclose. Just click the link:


    Regarding reputation. Once again you simply dont know what you are talking about. I have no reputation, and am not interested in one. Some Vedanta teachers will be very active, others less so, some very, very little. It’s a matter of karma, and no big deal. You are severely missing the point, why would a free person want or need a reputation. It’s a foundational teaching regarding karma to be able to go with the flow. I couldn’t care less about reputation. You are projecting Swartz’s ideal onto me.

    It is interesting you speak of Swartz teaching Vedanta. No he does not. Once you include material that is not Traditional Vedanta then it is no longer traditional Vedanta. This is because what makes it traditional is the way that it taught. I regularly take apart what he teaches. Yes, for someone who doesnt know any better, it will seem ‘amazing’, but he is not regarded as a traditional teacher of Vedanta. He is actually regarded as a philosopher who may lead someone to the Upanishads (even though he claims to teach them). Yes, that was actually said bout him by a prominent Swami.

    I wrote in great detail to Swartz, inviting him and his wife to go head to head with me in video debate, but he has refused. Not even two against one was enough to get him to face me. I have asked him to provide any proof whatsoever he was gave permission to teach from Swami Chinmayananda. And he has not given any. I told him I would show my proof from numerous Swami, in the end I made it publicly available anyhow. Swartz has been caught out lieing regularly. What he says in emails is different from what he says publicly. We’ve had access to mountains of emails. I mean, you have also just been caught out telling lies about me. Do you understand the truth matters? What is wrong with all of you. Actually, coming on here and being caught out telling lies, you are the perfect ambassador for Shiningworld. That’s what happens in modern Vedanta, they by-pass the truth.

    …There is an assumption, that just because Swartz says he was gave permission to teach, that he actually was.
    Myself and others have looked into this in great detail, and we are challenging that he was gave permission at all. He does not associate with Chinmaya Mission, which is curious. In my lineage we use the name of it clearly in association. And we will also be interacting with other teachers in our lineage. It appears that Swartz went out on his own to teach, which is very different from the guru-shishya relationship, because you dont give yourself permission to teach in the parampara. To do so is modern Vedanta, and we are back to him teaching his own way.

    The other thing is, that I am a teacher with permission to teach. I was careful to get that from multiple Swami. I am also a person who has not done anything wrong. Swami are not stupid, they’ve told me that people can say things about others out of spite. Permission cannot be taken away once gave, the lineage doesnt work like that. Particularly when I tell the truth. You are wasting you time.

    I reported James Swartz and some others to the police for harassment. I have the online screenshot report. This is because if lies are published repeatedly about someone it can fall under harassment. The police tell me that I am contact them if he publishes anymore lies.

    Lastly, I have made successful legal challenges to Google regarding Google listing the defamation in Shiningworld. This has been upheld in my favour. So, I have screenshot of Google de-listing defamation on Shiningworld. And you talk to me about reputation? IT is a stain against Shiningworld that Google has delisted their lies in various countries. Your own credibility is also blown, as you have just been caught lieing about me. I expect your apology, unless of course, the truth doesn’t matter to you.

    But here is an in-depth investigative article that I created that exposes James & Isabella Swartz as cult leaders:


    Liked by 1 person

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