Eckhart Tolle is one of the most influential spiritual teachers nowadays. His books are selling in millions, his lectures and courses are always full, and is teachings become the source of inspiration even for those who never thought of spirituality before. At the same time he has already turned into a highly commercialized brand, making profit out of his simple message in every possible way. He doesn’t have much to say, but his company has much to sell.
Eckhart Tolle was born in Germany right after the world war. He describes his childhood as unhappy; his parents separated, he felt alienated a school, and often experienced fear and anxiety. At the age of 13 he moved to live with his father in Spain, and a few years later he moved to London. For a while Ekchart taught german and spanish at a language school. Troubled by “depression, anxiety and fear”, he began “searching for answers” in his life. He decided to enter the University of London to study philosophy, psychology and literature. After graduation he went to Cambridge to do a postgraduate. At this time he had an experience of “inner transformation” – his “self” dissolved and just the sense of presence remained. His long-time depression was gone, and he experienced a deep inner peace. He dropped out from the university and spent the next two years sitting on the park benches, sleeping in the houses of friends or just in the open. He changed his first name to Eckhart (his original name was Ulrich), presumably after the medieval german mystic Meister Eckhart. Eckhart started working as a counselor and spiritual teacher. He moved to Glastonbury, well-known for its New Age community. In 1995 he moved to Canada, where he met his future wife. Later she became his associate, working and traveling with Eckhart. In 1997 Eckhart Tolle published his first famous book called “The power of now”. It became a bestseller and was translated into more than 30 languages. High sales were boosted by the collaboration with a famous show host Oprah Winfrey. Eckhart established a company to sell products related to his teachings called Eckhart Teachings. He continues touring and giving lectures, seminars and retreats.
All the teachings of Eckhart Tolle can be summarized in one sentence “Live in the now”. All the rest of what he says is basically an explanation and extension of this simple idea. All human suffering is due to the mind which is always either in the past, which is not there anymore, or in the future, which is not there yet. If we can remain in the present moment, we can be free from all anxiety, pain, and fear and experience ourselves as a pure being, which is naturally blissful. You can keep on going around this idea and elaborating it endlessly. Then whichever question comes you can always say the problem is because “you are not in the now”, another variation of what modern “neo-advaita” teachers are doing “yes, but who is asking this question?” It can seemingly explain everything, since the mysterious “now” is always slipping away from us. Then, Eckhart’s teachings lack originality. None of what he says (except for the questionable idea of the “pain-body”) is actually his – the whole concept of presence and “separating the process of thinking and awareness” was extensively developed in the buddhist philosophy. Though Eckhart Tolle acknowledges it, calling his work “a restatement of the timeless spiritual teaching”. And he did it well, thanks to him the idea of presence reached millions of people, and many of those who didn’t even think of spirituality before. But again, it is branding and packaging – probably it is the trend of our times to present and sell the old product in a new way. It sells well – like 700 USD for two days retreat. Eckhart Tolle says his teachings are “to transform our consciousness for spiritual awakening of humanity”, then why does he charge so much? In fact he doesn’t have much to offer except for talks, but he sells them in all possible ways.
Eckhart Tolle is rated as one of the most spiritually influential people of out times. He definitely did a good job by putting complex eastern spiritual teachings in a simple comprehensible language. Yet it is doubtful, whether his teaching has become his life. If you see any of his videos, he looks just like any ordinary old intellectual with a terrible posture. If he is constantly present and aware of everything he is doing, somehow he should be showing a bit more strength and grace… that was always attributed to the spiritual masters. He never declared himself enlightened. Is he aware and awakened himself? Is he qualified to teach awareness? If this is how a man of awareness looks… would you like to become like him?