Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression
James Lough, Ph.D., Editor of Sites of Insight: A Guide to Colorado Sacred Places
Russill Paul, author of Yoga of Sound
Reviewed by Andrew Clement in The Mountain Path, October 2007 Issue
With all the endless talk about you are the Self and how all is One, it is refreshing to read a book in which nothing is taken for granted. Gary Weber is a successful businessman and dedicated meditator who has pursued over many years various paths and practices of hatha yoga, Zen and Hindu and Buddhist philosophy
The book is a practical guide for beginners as well as they who further along the path want both an overview and specific instructions to facilitate their practice. He starts with an introduction to what we consider to be our ‘I’ and how to awaken to happiness. The emphasis is very much on doing the practice rather than empty talk. With chapters on asanas, breathing, chanting, the concept of surrender in regard to scientific research on the brain the author competently guides us through an array of tools which help us to deepen our practice. Just as important, Mr. Weber understands that happiness is the key to well-being and applies the teachings of Ramana Maharshi to cut through our long held and cherished beliefs to that end.
The second half contains translations of three spiritual texts: Upadesa Saram, Sankara’s Nirvana Shatakam and selections from the Bhagavad Gita. Though one could be pernickety with some of his interpretations of Upadesa Saram, on the whole he is faithful to the text and his commentary is quite effective. The book is not a stale set of overworked ideas but rather the author’s practical intent is strongly communicated in a voice that is original and clear using traditional wisdom as the fundamental ground.
Review by Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression
Weber writes seamlessly and his Non-dual wisdom is clear throughout. Happiness Beyond Thought is a practical book that offers strategies for seekers on the road to enlightenment. Weber generously and passionately shares every trick in the book, a book that began more than 2,500 years ago, and includes the many practices and queries that have supported him on his own journey to becoming a self realized in Self. For Weber, his realization has meant the dissolution of the individual "I." Although he acknowledges that the awakening experience may be spontaneous, he argues that for the experience to be sustained, preparation is necessary. Without "preparation of the neurological structure" and a "context in which to support the experience," the "apparent enlightenment" soon fades. Weber includes asana, breathing, chanting, meditation, self-inquiry, affirmation and diet as steps that prepare the seeker to settle in to an awakened state once enlightenment has been experienced. The practices quiet the mind for deep inquiry, which in the tradition of the enlightened masters Weber has studied, he himself has used to awaken. In the spirit of this awakening through practice and inquiry, a question precedes each offering, be it Weber's, Ramana Maharshi's, Shankara's, or the Bhagavad Gita's.
The book proceeds through a series of logical questions as section headings. For example in the section, How do you use physical postures (asana) for awakening?, Weber recommends a meditative approach to practicing Hatha Yoga through the practice of flowing sequences coordinated with the breath that, once learned, can be practiced with the eyes closed. In the next section, he elaborates on three recommended sequences. What makes his approach unique is the development of meditative awareness in the asana, first through counting the exhalations as the pose is held in order to develop concentration, and then through the use of inquiry. He suggests several useful questions in poses, questions that Ramana Maharshi guided his students to ask of themselves in meditation, like "Who am I?", "Where am I?", "What is doing this asana?", and recommends finding the one question that serves you. "This is not about getting the right intellectual answer," says Weber, "or saying it over and over again as a mantra. It's about feeling the question deeply within."
With commentary and poetry, Weber explicates core teachings that he feels are essential in both their power to awaken and their accessibility. He begins with Ramana Maharshi's Upadesa Saram or Essence of the Teachings, a practical guide from a nearly modern (within the last 100 years) awakened master. Gary's interpretative instructions are clear in their advocacy of practice as the doorway in, i.e. a way to still the mind in preparation for an inquiry that may reveal your true nature.
Next, he translates and comments on six verses written over 1200 years ago by the realized master Shankara. This is a beautiful rendition of the Advaita Vedanta practice of neti neti, "not this, not this,"-the practice of negating identification with narrow aspects of self, while affirming the truth of who you really are. If you're interested in non-dualism, I would encourage you to consider Happiness Beyond Thought for your library, if for nothing else, Weber's clear explanation of these two awakened masters.
Weber shares and interprets twelve verses from the 2,500 year-old Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God, that have been seminal in his own awakening.
After logging in thousands of hours of Yoga practice, meditation, mantra chanting, and study, Weber's own enlightenment occurred during a pose. "I went into it one way and came out of it completely transformed," he says of his experience. "Thought as a continuing phenomenon just stopped. The 'I' was blown out like a candle in the wind." He goes on to discuss the stages of settling in when one has had an awakening, but he warns against fixating on a model. "As long as there is a mind or an 'I' trying to construct such a state with its tools, enlightenment cannot happen." This book is not a formula for enlightenment, however it helps the seeker prepare the ground so that when the personal "I" dissolves, the foundation of self remains solid.
Happiness Beyond Thought offers a treasure chest of practices for the serious practitioner seeking liberation. On your own journey towards awakening, savor these simple, easy to follow practices culled from Weber's study with his primary teacher Ramana Maharshi, his on-going exploration of Zen meditation practice, and the life-enhancing results of his experiments on the laboratory floor of his yoga mat.
Review by James Lough, Ph.D., Editor of Sites of Insight: A Guide to Colorado Sacred Places
If your desire to awaken is sincere, and you want a seasoned guide to help you along the way, Gary Weber's guidebook, Happiness Beyond Thought, is as direct and useful as they come.
I have read many books on "spiritual growth," but several qualities set this one apart. First, many books about awakening address the need to get beyond the mind. This one does too. But this one happens to be written by someone whose "mind" is excellent!
Second, many books are vague about this thing called "enlightenment," either because the author isn't there yet, or because some people believe that you shouldn't talk about such things: "Anyone who says they're enlightened obviously isn't," the thought goes. In this book, Gary Weber not only admits his own awakening, but writes about what it's like afterwards. This short section is a gem - hugely useful in demystifying a topic that has puzzled me for a long time. And it has encouraged me that I, too, can have it - or prepare myself to be had by it!
Third, this book focuses not on abstract philosophical ideas but on the pragmatic, real techniques that are available to encourage awakening. Also, Weber doesn't tout one single technique, superior to all others. He recognizes that different methods work better for different people.
And finally, Weber gives credit to those who came before him. He provides a fine interpretation of Ramana Maharshi's little classic, the Upadesa Saram. I especially enjoy the short poems that interpret Ramana's verses. They're honest, pithy, and often funny.
I find myself returning often to Happiness Beyond Thought. I re-read a sentence or two and realize, this time, how deep it really runs. This is a sign of a profound piece of writing.
Review by Russill Paul, author of Yoga of Sound
Without doubt, spiritual awakening has become the number one priority of our times. Without such awakening, there is no hope for our species. However, like most success stories, it takes place one person at a time and Gary Weber’s book is an effective tool to aid the process.
A deep student of the now deceased Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, Gary uses Ramana’s cogent spiritual concepts to help us awaken to our true Self. In a simple yet highly effective question and answer style, similar to Ekhart Tolle’s Power of Now, Gary guides us, step-by-step, through the internal maze of obstructions that prevent us from witnessing the simple luminosity of the Self beyond thought.
Chant plays an important role in his method, especially mantras, and Gary offers insights born from his many years of assiduous personal application and the teaching of meditation. The icing on the cake is a lucid section on the Upadesa Sharam, Ramana’s most prominent work on the state of enlightenment.
Happiness Beyond Thought is recommended to every student of the spiritual journey as it can prove to be an indispensable tool in these times of crass commercialism, when we are constantly bombarded, cajoled, and allured, by the promise of happiness outside ourselves. Here, we are taught to find independence through awakening to our own immortality, from thinking outside the box to “being outside the box”, a league all of its own.
About the reviewer: Russill Paul, author of The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant (New World Library) and music producer of several acclaimed chant CDs through The Relaxation Company, NY. www.russillpaul.com
“In a league of its own, Happiness Beyond Thought takes spiritual “thinking” outside the box to “being” outside the box. Well done!” -- Russill Paul, author of The Yoga of Sound.