Eckhart Tolle may be the world's only living
, breathing Enlightened person. His teachings
have the power to fundamentally
change one's perspective from selfish
, from depression
and anxiety to unassailable joy and inner peace
-- from resistance
. Of the many
teachers" I've explored and critiqued in my time, only Tolle stands in my opinion as genuine
, unarguable and incorruptible. I consider it a true honor
to complete this nodeshell. ;)
Eckhart Tolle was born in Germany in 1948, and lived there for thirteen years. He later graduated from the University of London and became a research scholar and supervisor at Cambridge University. It is also known that at some point he was married, but isn't anymore.
Not as much is known about Eckhart Tolle as one might expect for a very public figure. He rarely discusses himself or his past, except for details relevant to his point. And he has a very powerful point.
At age 29, Tolle was a depressed, anxious, unhappy man having philosophical seizures about the purpose of his existence. He describes himself as "this close to suicide" -- and then, something happened.
He says that he had the thought, "I can't live with myself anymore!"--and was suddenly struck by the paradox of the question. Who was he, and who was the "self" he couldn't live with? Were there two of him? Which one was real? He then describes, in the Introduction to his first book, a deeply mystical, very trippy-sounding experience that ended in a revelation spoken deep in his chest: RESIST NOTHING. When he woke the next morning, everything had changed.
Following his awakening, Eckhart Tolle spent several years "sitting on park benches", smiling at the birds, doing barely the minimum required to keep himself alive -- in his words, "It was so fulfilling and so blissful simply to be that I lost all interest in doing or interacting. For quite a few years, I got lost in Being. ... Some people thought I was crazy to have let go of all the worldly things I had 'achieved.' They didn't understand that I didn't want or need any of that anymore."
But enlightened madmen hanging out on park benches don't go unnoticed forever, and it wasn't long before Eckhart found himself with a following of people determined to learn where he got his unshakeable happiness from. He began to teach, and eventually wrote his first book, the bestselling "The Power of Now" (1999), which has been translated into 30 languages now. He has also written a follow-up study guide, "Practicing The Power of Now" (2001), and a second, more detailed exploration of the different aspects of his awareness called "Stillness Speaks" (2003). There is also another book, published recently, called "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" (2005). Eckhart and his friends at Eckhart Teachings Inc. have also produced an awesome amount of audio recordings of his talks, as well as an extensive lecture series and several retreats.
So what does this century's enlightened man have to say? Over years of trying to explain it to people (I've been studying "The Power of Now" since 2000), I've found that the words become unbearably slippery in an unawakened mouth, and nothing one tries to say about what Tolle teaches ever comes out quite right. The words are simple, but they come from a place distinct from the "normal" human consciousness, and their content is, I believe, impossible to fake.
In his descriptions of how he now sees the world, one hears echoes of the metaphors and attempted teachings of Zen masters, Yogis, Sufis, Jesus and many others. He uses examples and stories from Eastern and Western religious traditions as well as clever quotes from New Age testaments such as A Course in Miracles. But Eckhart Tolle belongs to no religion and does not limit his teachings to adherents of any faith (other than the obvious distinction that his revelation was mystical as opposed to numinous). Overall, his style is unbelievably simple, and intellectually very easy to understand -- which is probably part of why it's such a mindscrew. Your false self does not want this to be easy for you to understand, and the experience of having it dawn on you in spite of yourself is something else.
I did worry at one point that Tolle might be another "fake teacher", one more New Ager out to make a buck and get rock star syndrome. To test my theory, I went to see one of his live lectures back in 2003. I was certainly surprised by the experience, and some of the space-cadet screwballs that follow Tolle around sure turned my stomach ("Let's clear our hearts and cleanse the world and pray and sway and heal all the poor people..." Eeeew.) But Tolle himself seemed 100% the real thing. What radiates from him causes an instant reaction in you, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not; it's like being in the presence of a supersonic tuning fork. Even with a thousand other people in the room, being in the same space with this man sent me--and others--instantly into a mild state of meditation, which got stronger the more one listened to his odd, lilting, resonant voice. (Yes, it was eerie. But in a good way.) In addition to the palpable effect of his presence, Eckhart Tolle's refusal to focus on himself as anybody's savior, and his frank admission that no book, teacher or specific experience is necessary for Enlightenment, speaks strongly to the genuineness of his teachings.
I shall refrain from showing my unenlightenment by trying to paraphrase Tolle here (I try it all the time in my LiveJournal -- ouch!) Instead, I encourage anyone who's curious about this modern prophet to read his first book, The Power of Now (the others build heavily on it, so it's really the only starting point--however, it is available for free now in most libraries). His other materials are nice and I'm sure can be helpful (I've read/heard some, but not all) -- but Tolle himself would say that they aren't necessary.
All that's necessary is to understand the core problem: That you are not your mind.
After that, it's up to you.
Sources and Resources:
- Eckhart Tolle's Homepage is at http://www.eckharttolle.com/home.php
- The Wikikpedia article on Tolle is only a stub, but has a good list of publications
- There's a nice interview with Tolle at http://www.ecomall.com
- ...And another good interview in "What is Enlightenment" magazine, http://www.wie.org.