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on 26 October 2010
One of the most extraordinary books on non-duality to emerge over the last few years is "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" by David Carse. This book takes a very direct, honest and uncompromising approach to spirituality and spiritual awakening, and reading it means embarking on a journey beyond the individual self, to a place of stillness, oneness and clarity.

In the world of spirituality all words are but pointers to the ultimate truth, but David Carse comes closer than virtually all other authors and teachers in giving expression to that which truly is beyond words. "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" is an unusually profound and far-reaching work, and there's enough highly explosive spiritual dynamite in this book to enable it to act as a powerful catalyst to the reader's spiritual understanding and awakening.

David Carse is a writer of incredible clarity and depth, yet has a rather unusual way of writing and expressing himself. There is something raw and unpolished, wild and untamed about his writing, and this very unique style gives the book a freshness and vitality that's quite rare. This also helps to make the book virtually free from the many clichés and banalities often found in writings on non-duality, and it is almost as if it's consciousness or stillness itself that speaks through this book. "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" is a work of exceptional spiritual maturity, so much so that it deserves a place amongst the best books on non-duality ever written.

David Carse plays down the importance of his own person to such an extent that he even refers to himself as 'the david thing', yet in spite of this he skilfully interweaves aspects of his own journey into the book. We learn that he died and was reborn while staying with an indigenous tribe in the heart of the Amazon jungle, and that it was only after his spiritual awakening that he started reading books on non-dual spirituality. He also started meeting some of the leading teachers of Advaita today, and had a close spiritual relationship with Ramesh Balsekar for more than two years.

This book was written by somebody who clearly doesn't want to draw too much attention to himself. It is stated quite specifically that he does not teach and even after 'the thing in the jungle' and all that followed on from that, yes even after writing this excellent book, he still works as a carpenter in Vermont.

The spiritual awakening that David Carse went through happened quite spontaneously, and without much in the way of previous spiritual practice or knowledge about non-duality and suchlike. He had never practiced meditation or any other spiritual disciplines and was never affiliated with any particular spiritual teachers before his awakening occurred deep in the Amazon jungle a few years ago. He was on his way to becoming a catholic priest many years prior to all this, but that seems rather irrelevant in the context of the kind of radical and total spiritual awakening he went through later.

"Perfect Brilliant Stillness" contains not only some of the most stark and direct statements of spiritual truth ever written, but also a lot of very interesting and enlightening comments on the current state of spirituality and spiritual practice in the western world. The text is sprinkled throughout with plenty of relevant quotes from many excellent spiritual teachers and authors such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Wei Wu Wei, Tony Parsons, Adyashanti, Jed McKenna, Robert Adams and Ramesh Balsekar, celebrated poets like Hafiz, Rumi and Kabir as well as a number of classic Zen masters from the more or less distant past.

"Perfect Brilliant Stillness" is an extraordinary book in all respects, yet it is clearly not a book that will be suitable for everybody. This book is a true gift for people who have gone beyond the ego or individual self or who are in the process of doing so, but the vast majority of spiritual seekers, people who are mainly trying to improve themselves or become better or more spiritual people, will probably not find it particularly helpful. It's certainly not a self-help book, in fact it would be more accurate to say it's a book that is more likely to dismantle the self altogether.

To give potential readers a taste of the flavour of Perfect Brilliant Stillness, it might be useful to quote the first few paragraphs from the author's preface, which he calls 'The fine print':

"There are many books out there that will help you to live a better life, become a better person, and evolve and grow to realize your full potential as a spiritual being.

This is not one of them.

At the time of this writing, almost every popular spiritual teacher in America and Europe is teaching that ultimate spiritual enlightenment, once attained only by certain yogis, gurus and other extraordinary beings, can now be yours; that reading their book or attending their seminar will help you toward that end.

This book will tell you that these ideas are absurd, because it's quite obvious that neither you nor anything else has ever existed."
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on 11 June 2006
The Self cannot be described but David Carse makes a very good effort. Quoting from Sufi and Taoist sages as well as Advaitin ones, he helps uncover the non-dual truth that is the essence of the phenomenal appearance. The language he uses is direct and carries the conviction of experience. In many books on Advaita there is the distinct feeling that what is said is in the realm of theory or based upon what has been read elsewhere; one is left in no doubt that this is not the case here. Although nothing new is being said, the material comes across so clearly, simply and self-evidently. And I think this is the key to why the book succeeds. The words carry the understanding to those seeking the explanations but they cannot prevent the heart-felt, mind-less, direct `knowing' from shining through and piercing the merely intellectual.

Although much is said about the inadequacy and ultimate failure of language to speak of reality, David's writing is very good. I have said in my own books that it is not possible to talk clearly about this subject without using the correct Sanskrit terminology but this book seems to give the lie to that statement. There are some very original metaphors and many brilliant, quotable observations. Sometimes, every other paragraph seems to contain a new profundity.

David is not a teacher of Advaita and specifically states that he does not teach. Beginners will probably not benefit and should perhaps look elsewhere to begin with. But, if you think you know it all already yet feel that `it' has still not clicked, this is definitely for you. It is the book for those who want to differentiate between intellectual understanding and realization. I have also noted that it seems to receive praise from both traditional and neo-Advaitins - and that is praise indeed!

The only adverse comment that I would make - and it is a warning for potential readers as much as anything else - is that the early chapters do go on a bit! So, if you find that, don't be put off and give up; keep reading - it just gets better... and better!

Dennis Waite, author of "Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita"
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on 22 October 2009
I love everything about this book: the length of it (this is complained of in a couple of other reviews); David's story of awakening / liberation in the Amazon jungle -- and suggestions that trotting off to said jungle will not do the trick; the way he clarifies confusions in relation to advaita, 'the path,' and how we view 'enlightened people (he does not give us anything to idolise, or make a set of rules out of); what it means to be liberated and how that messy old character with all its flaws can still persist after liberation; the many quotes from different sources; his sense of humour: everything. However, I can see that the book may not be for everyone; hopefully, all those who may find benefit in it will come across it... There is 'perfect brilliant stillness', it's there, lurking somewhere, ah there it is!
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on 27 February 2009
Here is a book which describes not prescribes. Inside, David Carse opens up this non dual reality we all fundamentally are. There are no methods and instructions here but there is a compendium of heartfelt streaming or outpouring. The strange thing is that the message of this book operates so deeply that you may not come out the other side...
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on 5 September 2013
I found this book very helpful. The subject is very difficult to write about yet David Carse has managed to impart his wisdom in such a way that you get a real grasp of what it is that he has awakened to - what it is that many others including great Masters such as Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj were speaking about. I find this author's writing illuminating, inspiring and encouraging. He has succeeded in giving the subject a clarity that is not often found in books about Advaita and he has done it with sincerity and honesty.
If books can be said to radiate a "Transformative" energy then this one has that special something, especially in the later chapters.
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on 23 July 2015
Enlightentainment at its very best. Heard about this book a few months before reading it and I was not disappointed. At times a little depressing, at others most uplifting, David writes in a contemporary style and approaches his subjectless subject in a playful, down to earth, uniques and at times extremely humorous way. If you are an old hand at the Advaita teaching there is plenty of space to learn an old dog new tricks. If you are new to the game, you can save yourself some time and cut to the chase, and avoid many pitfalls if you listen to a man who is speaking the truth.
Yes, David Cares, to all intents and purposes, appears to have awakened. Over the years many of my contemporaries appear to have done just that, in particular students and disciples of HWL Poonja. Some are now mini gurus, others have returned to the drawing board, having realized their enlightenment was just another passing cloud. Could be the same for David, but for the eternal moment he most definitel has it, although, quite correctly, he makes a strong point of letting the reader know in no uncertain terms that there is nothing to be had.
For me the book was unputdownable. Saying to myself, I will just read one more chapter and then reading several more. In particular I could relate to the writing style, in the sense that Davd comes across like one of the boys. The book confirmed for me much which I already understood to be true, and yet there was plenty of room for checking out new perspective. All good clean fun. The book concludes with some gossip, scandal about, I do believe, Ramesh. I could have given that a miss, as I was already aquainted with it and not particulary impressed with the tale. In my opinion this is one of the only flaws in an otherwise excellant book. Having said that, there is a valid point in that particular account.. Even when awakening happens there is a residue of individual prsonality left, most probaly needed to function in life. Scandals abound in the guru dimension...be it a fascination with Rolls Royces or getting off on the chicks. When it come down to it, none of it matters. When it comes to gurus, take the best and forget the rest. Same goes for David's book and there is a lot of gold to be mined and very little dross, although a little repetative at times, especially so for such a long book. Could have been cut back 50 pages. All in all, one of the best books I have read in a quite some time. Mind you, one choice chapter from the beedie wallah's 'I Am That' is better that a truckload of PBS. I Am That is, of course, the gold standard in Advaita and unsurpassable as a book. David's book, even though he claims to no longer exist, receives my highest recommendation and hats off to David Cares for writing it. A truly marvellous book.
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on 7 December 2013
I first read this a few years ago and have kept on coming back to it (as well as the audio version). It is a stark perspective on radical nonduality (advaita) and is an amazing insight into an experience of the collapse of the separate self. It rings true especially as the author had not been into advaita at the time of his "awakening". For those familiar with Ramesh Balsekar it is very much worth reading for his insights into the shift in Balsekar's teaching in his last years. For me, it was worth buying for his epilogue on Meister Eckhart alone. Some reviewers have observed that the book is lengthy and repetitive - but I think a lot of repetition is necessary as the message is so radical from the perspective of the ego that it needs repeated emphasis to begin to sink in. I found it one of the clearest books on nonduality that I have come across ( 'I: Reality' and Subjectivity' by David R Hawkins is clearer still but Hawkins uses a frame of reference that may put off some readers). Its main limitation from my point of view is that the way that the author describes his experience seems somewhat too influenced by "neo-advaita" and it adopts the "all or nothing" view of "sudden enlightenment" seemingly denying all notion of a path of gradually dismantling the ego (which would be more in accord with traditions such as mystic Christianity.) But despite this limitation it is a very illuminating book about life beyond the individual self.
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on 19 August 2013
Having chased the tail for several years, read the Works, sat with the Teachers, drank the Tea, I stumbled upon this brilliance. A Most direct and clear pointer that resonates deeply in the heart of no-one here!
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on 29 July 2013
took a while to get there but the book says it all......I feel the need to say that when you read this you will understand there is nothing else
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on 11 June 2013
Somehow David Carse manages to find a way to express the inexpressible in this rarest of books. It is not a cosy self-help book for the masses. Rather, it is about annihilation of the separate individual self, which may only appeal to the few who are driven in that direction. For those few, it is simply perfect!
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