Eckhart Tolle

I envision the spiritual landscape as an ecosystem in which teachers occupy varying niches. When one passes away, another moves in to fill the niche. Eckhart TolleEckhart Tolle fills the niche left by Jiddu Krishnamurti: that of world-travelling teacher trying to spread the message of a new way of living to as many people as possible. Like Krishnamurti, I think Eckhart Tolle will be with us for many years.

A look through Eckharttolle.com reveals an organization devoted to making money: $25 for an audio download of “Know that I Am”, card decks, calendars, music, a bewildering array of cd and dvd boxed sets, and his books — The Power of Now,Stillness Speaks, A New Earth, and Milton’s Secret (a children’s book which I have not read). Coming soon: EckhartTolle TV with loads of Eckhart Tolle goodies for subscribers. The site does have a few YouTube excerpts for free, and a small selection of articles.

The preceding paragraphic prelude reveals my main concern about Tolle — the profiteering! A 2009 Australian two-day retreat costs $685 (USD); nets you three hours a day of Eckhart lecturing, an hour-long introduction Friday evening, plus two hours of “movement meditation” with his girlfriend. Accommodations and meals are extra and you better not try to record the lecture.

Yet almost no one seems to take Eckhart to task on his profiteering. Instead, they excuse it by pointing to his penniless past and how he never set out to make money. His big paychecks are simply payoff for his good work. How much money does one person need? Certainly he could retire comfortably from the profits off of the best-selling The Power of Now.

So here I am, harping on money-making, again. Why? Because I still maintain that anyone who has truly seen through the illusion of the world and mind, would not be interested in profiting from helping his fellow-man. Yet my feeling, when I read his material, is that Tolle has seen through the illusion. I can’t explain my conflicting reaction. My advice is to avoid the organization: don’t become a Tolle worshipper; don’t buy the calendars…. Instead, read The Power of Now, Stillness Speaks, and A New Earth, then practice his suggestions with all your heart. They may not take you all the way, but will carry you a long way down the interior road toward our True Self.

Here are some key quotes from A New Earth:

  • What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that. The awareness that is prior to thought, the space in which the thought or the emotion or sense perception happens. [I consider this the core of Tolle’s teaching.]
  • Ego is no more than this: identification with form, which primarily means thought forms.
  • Make it a habit to feel the inner body as often as you can…. Body awareness not only anchors you in the present moment, it is a doorway out of the prison that is the ego.
  • Nonreaction to the ego of others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also dissolving the collective human ego.
  • All you need to know and observe in yourself is this: Whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.
  • Strictly speaking, you don’t think: Thinking happens to you.
  • If you don’t mind being unhappy, what happens to the unhappiness?
  • It is through knowing who you are not that the greatest obstacle to knowing who you are is removed
  • If you can sense an alert inner stillness in the background while things happen in the foreground — that’s it.
  • Here is another way of finding inner space: Become conscious of being conscious. Say or think “I Am” and add nothing to it.
  • Being aware of your breathing takes attention away from thinking and creates space.
  • It is not the thoughts you are interested in, but the act of perception itself. Can you take the thinking out of the perceiving? Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out? …When consciousness is no longer totally absorbed by thinking, some of it remains in its formless, unconditioned, original state. This is inner space.
  • Take two or three conscious breaths. Now see if you can detect a subtle sense of aliveness that pervades your entire inner body.
  • A purely intellectural recognition or belief that “I am not this form” does not help.
  • Inner space also arises whenever you let go of the need to emphasize your form-identity.
  • Becoming conscious of stillness whenever we encounter it in our lives will connect us with the formless and timeless dimension withn ourselves.

Eckhart Tolle is wildly popular, though I’m baffled by that as his message is generally quite confrontational. At the beginning of A New Earth he states, “The ‘normal’ state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness.” In one of his recorded lectures, he tells the audience that their life is nothing more than the space between two dates on a tombstone… and the audience laughs. It seems everyone thinks Tolle is talking about the clueless fool in the seat next to them. Perhaps Tolle’s demure personality causes some of this reaction. In a way, it’s hard to take him seriously — he’s so soft-spoken, so relaxed. If he held a gun to your head, you couldn’t imagine him pulling the trigger.

A final note: when the day comes to move deeper than Eckhart Tolle’s current teaching, look especially to Nisargadatta’sConsciousness and the Absolute. There you will find the next step.

I leave you with an excerpt from The Awakening West where Eckhart Tolle describes the moment of his realization:

…for many years I lived in a state of great fear and continuous fluctuation between states of depression and high anxiety. This was to the point of becoming almost unbearable. One night I woke up in the middle of the night, as I had many times before, in a state of even more intense dread and fear. The mind had lots of reasons why I was feeling fearful, and yet that state was continuous no matter what my external situation was. It became so unbearable that suddenly the thought occurred to me, “I cannot live with myself any longer.” That thought was the trigger for a transformation. The thought kept repeating itself many times in my head and then suddenly there was a stepping back from the thought and a looking at the thought. I asked, “Who is the ‘I’ and who is the self that I cannot live with?”

In Zen they have koans and it’s almost as if a koan spontaneously appeared in my mind. A koan’s purpose is to destroy conceptual thinking because it has no answer on a conceptual level. So, I asked, “Who is the self that I cannot live with? Are there one or two? If I cannot live with my self, who is that self?” And then, beyond thought, there was a recognition of the “unhappy me,” as I later called it, as being something completely non-substantial and fictional. Then consciousness withdrew completely from identification with that “unhappy me.” At that moment the whole structure of the “unhappy me” and its pain collapsed because the withdrawal of identification was so complete. What was left was simply beingness or presence. There was still a moment of fear. It felt like being drawn into a hole within myself, a vast whirlpool, and a realization arose in my chest, “Resist nothing.” That was the key. Then resistance was relinquished and I don’t know what happened after that.

Here’s a relatively unknown, but comprehensive site that includes several interviews of Tolle: Eckhart Tolle: a fan site

A thoughtful Satsang Report from a Eckhart lecture courtesy of Sarlo’s site (scroll down the page for the Eckhart review).

To get a feel for the criticism of Eckhart Tolle, visit this Guruphiliac page or this humorous essay on Sarlo’s site. Also, here is a YouTube video where a reporter gives a half-hearted attempt to question Eckhart about his money-making activities:

13 thoughts on “Eckhart Tolle”

  1. If you read the power of now (a few times) from your local library and actually grasp it, you’d no longer need his guidance and cd’s or retreats. These extras are for the dumb and “not ready” crowd. You can argue(question) why is he doing the money making when it pearls is fallen on the swine?
    So you can get his teaching for FREE! or you can spend a fortune and remain ignorant…the answer is because he can…..

    1. Hi, Here’s why I think ET is okay with money: Oprah. She encourages all of “her people” that it’s really okay to accept money and then she teaches them how. Who are we to judge. Not me. I think you should elevate ET to five-stars with an asterisk talking about how you feel about the money. C’mon you know he deserves it! : )

  2. I really liked Eckhart when I first discovered him way back when. I was put off by the $-seeking & photos of himself for sale. He helped to open me up, but I have found more peace through Ramana. I think ET is beneficial for starters, and then one can move on to Ramana, who ET cites, and others. I never saw the interview with the Aussie TV show — nice to see how he handles legit criticism. Interesting stuff nonetheless and can be very helpful, but there are some definite barbs that Ramana cleared up for me. Thanks, Shawn!

  3. Do you think you could stop harping? Tolle has helped countless people and so big deal he’s making money! I am so tired of the negativity on good things.

    1. Hi N,
      It sounds like you stopped reading the review at the point where I call myself out for harping. I think it you read the rest of it, you will find it quite balanced.

  4. Personally, I don’t think money making is wrong for spiritual teachers provided they are upfront about it, especially if they have no other means of supporting themselves. However, since Eckhart probably no longer needs to worry about his meals, the commercialization does seem a bit crass. But then again enlightenment is supposed to be about “realizing the true self” and “ending suffering” rather than achieving sainthood. So I don’t think the (ostensible) profiteering detracts from his realization.

    Amit

  5. his networth is $10m, deepak is $80m, do you realize how small that is for a person of his significance? 7m books sold and who knows how many dvds and appearances on retreats. You grudge him a dollar for each product that sells itself, he doesnt push anything, its super soft sales, he is not pushing in the standard retail channels, this is all organic, or the publishers want to push as they GET THE BIGGEST cut! Please dont criticize unless there are people returning their copies of power of now saying, “no there’s nothing in here of use to me”, or in tune with your criticism, “i dont need this book, i could have got the same info from reading all spiritual texts from all religions and eastern mystics and gurus and doing a comparative and distillate process in my head over a six year period”.
    I see you want to have a “balanced” review. hmmm, not everything in life HAS balance. To enforce balance is to deny reality.

  6. There was a time I was a fan of Eckhart, and felt he was helpful. I imagined him to be without fault. I even paid for the most expensive tickets to hear him talk in Vancouver in early 2016. Basically he repeated in various ways ‘you are what you are seeking’ throughout the entire evening. Didn’t notice any special Shakti, in spite of getting the premium seats. It occurred to me at the time – if it was as simple as that, everyone present should have been awakened that evening. I’ve since come to see him in a different light.

    I think he has a charisma which has attracted millions of people to spirituality and also get some valuable insight into the cause of their suffering. And that is a great thing! However, he seriously shortchanges people by making ‘effort’ seem like a dirty word and making snide remarks about practices. This was also the shortcoming of Krishnamurti. Tolle took the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and even more so Sri Nisargaddata Maharaj, watered them down, repackaged them, and then monetized them to the max.

    It is indeed difficult to understand how anyone who is genuinely Self-realized, could so shamelessly take these teachings freely given and capitalize on them for personal gain. Given this incongruence, I doubt Eckhart to be as enlightened as many take him to be. There is a lot of ‘theatre’ in his presentation. In videos, I also find the answers to questions from the audience, often lame. Who knows, perhaps it is because he isn’t highly awakened, he can speak and be heard by those in lower states of consciousness?

    Here is an excellent video clip from YouTube of David Godman speaking about Papaji not charging money or accepting donations. https://youtu.be/Ux5bY3UqQrY

  7. What’s the point to bring down Eckhart Tolle to a concept, to a point of view, a bad press. In fact, i’m not surprised at all.

    He help thousands of peoples and he were an inspiration for me as well. If he made money out of that, there is nothing bad about it.

    He is a soft spoken man with an helping message. Not a guru or any kind of this monster the press is try to making out of him.

  8. Am quite mystified and intrigued by the public declaration of anyone who intimates to have understood ‘the fundamental teachings of spirituality’ but then in the next breath articulates a strong judgement – which is so clearly an egoic mind driven thought! In what biblical or spiritual ultimate scripture / directory / code of conduct does it emphatically stipulate that to be a source of spiritual guidance and support means you have to relinquish all material comforts? The choice to live without material compensation is a preference / choice. Are the teachings of Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dryer any less meaningful than the Dalai Lama in terms of their quality of impact? NO – each teacher chooses their own way to actualise their teachings. Some forgo material compensation completely as part of their spiritual practise, others are materially compensated for it…Does it change the essence of the teaching? In my view, NO. So am struggling to understand what you’re saying actually. You got significant value enough in Eckhart’s teachings to attend his talk…But yet you thought he would be ‘without fault’…Why? Firstly what reasonably and truly spiritually awakened person would imagine any human being to be without fault? He’s not a god – he’s a human being, who had a human experience, and is simply sharing his experiences / insights with others for whatever it’s worth. No one is forced to go, or to even pay for this! It’s a personal choice…To furthermore imagine for one second that another human is capable of giving you the golden key solution to your own life is surely ludicrous! So where is the fault you seem to have identified in him? The fact that he charges for his time? The Catholic church and many others are some of the wealthiest institutions in the world? If you don’t ascribe to organised religion…then maybe consider only your own personal life. On the presumption of your being more spiritually aware and ‘in tune spiritually’ than the average person – what proportion of your income do you personally forgo monthly to social causes? Being so ‘spiritually awake’ (that you feel justified criticising Eckhart for any of his commercial gains), how happy are you to work for minimal payment in whatever work you do in your own life, or how much of your monthly income do you give to other causes? I would hazard a guess probably not a whole lot. Your intimation furthermore that based on the ‘premium seats’ you paid for, you expected what? A higher level of inspiration / content than people that had paid less??? Something different to what he’s been saying all along? This is (my apologies if rude) but is truly bizarre to me!!! I recently attended a retreat by Eckhart in Norway, I paid top dollar for this experience (out of my hard earned savings), travelled hundreds of kilometres from the other side of the world to do so…and for me the experience far exceeded expectations. And in reality WHAT he said was of far less importance than the silences between the wise words he spoke. Because if you REALLY understand the essence of Eckhart’s teachings – you will understand that his teaching is about the EXPERIENCE of the profound silences between the words. THAT’s the magic of his teaching. To connect to power of the NOW of the UNIVERSE – where you to STOP THINKING and suspend ALL MIND JUDGMENT, and connect instead with the essence of now, which is an immensely compassionate, generous, non-judgmental and empowering joyous space that is beyond what you think / judge it to be with your human mind. In sum I can’t judge you for your view – but I cannot in all good conscience allow a review like this to go unanswered. Eckart yes earns whatever he does for his time, but do me a favour unless we are personal willing to do whatever we do work wise in our own capacities for min pay – we have no right to judge him! He has a great deal of value to impart – that’s worth every cent he earns as a consequence – for me…Love and light…

  9. One day you realize, that your obsession with money is not his, but yours, so you impose it on whoever you encounter. You suffer from that obsession, so you believe that true realized one should be free from money – that would conform your idea based on your sensation of lacking.
    Tolle is quite a simple man. Being self realized doesn’t make you into superhuman. He doesn’t care much about things – he lives his life and fulfills his role. Organization around him make all these events and prices and other stuff. He doesn’t care about money, doesn’t care about having it nor about not having it. You do (as most of other people). So if someone has a lot of money – lets criticize him. So focus less on others people money, but on you and what is the source of your trouble with that.

  10. In terms of Eckhart’s personal experience and his ability to communicate Universal spiritual concepts he is the real deal.
    Is it wrong for him to profit it from it?
    My doctor charges me for his help and I don’t mind paying for that.
    I guess it comes down to your level of trust, and the result they help you achieve.
    Certainly heightened levels of spirituality and consciousness are not easy to achieve as there is work involved and we know most people won’t do the work.
    There are (and have been) a number of genuine spiritual teachers who “get it” and experience a calling to share their experience and knowledge.
    Unfortunately, there are probably more who are not so genuine.
    Michael Singer stands out as someone who is totally the real deal and who doesn’t do it for the money. On his spiritual journey he also became the Chairman of a $Billion software company so I doubt he needs it!
    Oprah is largely responsible for popularising Eckhart and other spiritual teachers.
    She is a billionaire but I am very grateful that she introduced me to both Eckhart and Michael Singer.
    The world, in my opinion, would be a far worse place without their influence.
    I’m a skeptic by nature but overall give a big tick of approval to the three of them!

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