According to Advaita-Vedanta, God or Brahman is identical with the inner self (the Atman) of each person, while the rest of the world is nothing but ob- jective illusion (maya). Shankara maintains that there are two primary levels of existence and knowledge: the higher knowledge that is Brahman it- self, and the relative, limited knowledge, regarded as the very tex- ture of the universe. Consequently, the task of human being is to reach ab- solute unity and the reality of Brahman-in other words, to reach the innermost self within his or her own being, discarding on the way all tem- porary characteristics and attributes.
"The book is extremely interesting and easy to follow. It will be a landmark work in the study of Shankara. No one else in the last fifty years has had courage to tackle the whole of Shankara's work in the con- text of India's other philosophical traditions. The Comparisons with other Indian traditions are often brilliant and the comparisons with modem Western thinkers illuminating and suggestive.
"Well-organized, clear, and coherent, it builds on the work of other Indologists, proceeding by way of analysis of original texts. By comparing Shankara's thought first with the thought of those systems most alien to it (for example Lokayata and Sarvastivada), the larger context and picture of Advaita comes clearly into view. By then going on to compare Shankara with allied traditions (for example Mimamsa, Vishishthadvaita, and Dvaita Vedanta), the subtleties of his thought are brought out. Throughout, the reader gets a sense of the lively en- counter of ideas that characterize the development of India's philosophical traditions."