Tuesday, November 4, 2008
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (Hardcover) by Eckhart Tolle (Author)
Eckhart Tolle is a brilliant human being. His ability to hold complex concepts in his mind about enlightenment, human nature and behavior while weaving in examples from the Bible, Buddhism, Taoism, as well as the world's greatest thinkers and artists, is impressive and illuminating. In addition to being a spiritual teacher, Tolle is also a scholar. The richness of his ideas and the way he presents and ties them all together reminded me of philosophy & religion classes I took in college (though none of those classes taught what Mr. Tolle is teaching!).
In "A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose," Tolle carefully and thoroughly describes all the facets of living your life with presence and awareness, rather than living out of the roles and inner thoughts by which we define ourselves. At first, I found his ideas difficult to follow because of the terminology he uses ("egoic dysfunction," "pain-body," "form" vs. "formless," etc.), but he always defines clearly what he means. Hanging in there to fully understand all of the lingo was worth it! In fact, I really enjoyed some unexpected, simple and beautiful explanations of concepts that are often hard to describe. For example, his explanation of a human being:
Human is "...the functions you fulfill, whatever you do--all that belongs to the human dimension". Being is "found in the still, alert presence of Consciousness itself, the Consciousness that you are." "Human is form. Being is formless. Human and Being are not separate but interwoven."
"A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" is an exciting and important book to read, not just for your own personal enlightenment, but for the implications it suggests for the world at large. If you are interested in both of these factors, then two other authors that are essential to read are Ariel & Shya Kane. Their books Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment and Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: A Book About Instantaneous Transformation dovetail Tolle's in a way that is so wonderful and congruous: the Kanes talk about very similar concepts, but in a very simple, clear and profound way that actually allows you to experience enlightenment and awareness. I strongly recommend reading the Kanes' books, in addition to Tolle's, to truly 'awaken to your life's purpose'!
About the author:
Tolle's non-fiction bestseller The Power of Now emphasizes the importance of being aware of the present moment as a way of not being caught up in thoughts of the past and future. His later book A New Earth further explores the structure of the human ego and how this acts to distract people from their present experience of the world. It is the feeding of the human ego that is thought to be the source of inner and outer conflict. Only in examining one's ego may people begin to see beyond it and obtain a sense of spiritual enlightening or a new outlook on reality.
In Tolle's view, the present is the gateway to a heightened sense of peace. He states that "being in the now" brings about an awareness that is beyond the mind, an awareness which helps in transcending the ego. The ego means here the false identification with forms and labels: body, mind, thoughts, memories, social roles, life-story, opinions, emotions, material possessions, name, nationality, religion, likes and dislikes, desires, fears, etc. If one is present, one recognizes oneself as the space of consciousness in which the thought or impulse arises. One doesn’t lose the self in thought, nor does one become the impulse. Being present is being the space, rather than what happens. He says that the mind is to be used as a tool, but not let the mind use the person.
In Tolle's view, the "pain-body" is the emotional component of ego; it is created by the accumulation of suppressed emotions, the suffering of non-acceptance of what is. The size of "the pain-body" differs from person to person; it originates in the person’s past conditioning, usually early childhood.
Tolle says that our true "identity" is the underlying sense of I Am, which is consciousness itself. Awareness of Being is self-realization and true happiness. He states that we people are very important, because we are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold.
In Tolle's view, all wanting implies that the future is more desirable than the present. As long as you want something, you are seeking to reach some point in the future that promises fulfillment. Thereby you are making the present moment, as well as other persons, into a means to an end. You don't need the future, or future lives, to find yourself, and you need to add nothing to you to find yourself.
Tolle believes that the New Testament contains deep spiritual truth, as well as distortions, which are due to a misunderstanding of Jesus’ teaching. He teaches that when you are present, you access your inner knowing and you will sense what is true and what was added on or distorted.
In Tolle's view, love comes into existence when you know who you are in your essence and then recognize the "other" as yourself. It is the end of the delusion of separation, which is created by excessive reliance on thinking.
In Tolle's view, this shift in consciousness for most people is not a single event, but a process, a gradual disidentification from thoughts and emotions through the arising of awareness.
Tolle is aligned with the teachings of an emerging religion which has been called interspirituality or New Age. In the book Dialogues with Emerging Spiritual Teachers by John W. Parker, he has acknowledged a strong connection to J Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi and stated that his teaching is a coming together of the teachings of both those teachers, and it is a continuation of that. In addition, he states that by listening to and speaking with the spiritual teacher Barry Long, he understood things more deeply.
At about the age of fifteen he received five books that were written by a German mystic, Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken, also known as Bô Yin Râ. Tolle responded "very deeply" to those books. He said the first texts with which he came in contact after the awakening and in which he found deep understanding were the New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching and teachings of The Buddha. In The Power of Now, he mentioned the writings of Meister Eckhart, Advaita Vedanta, A Course in Miracles, the Bible, mystical Islam, Sufism, and Rumi's poetry, as well as Zen Buddhism's Lin-chi (Linji in pinyin ) (Rinzai) school.
* The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, New World Library, October, 1999 ISBN 1-57731-152-3 (HC) ISBN 1-57731-480-8 (PB)
* Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from The Power of Now, New World Library, October 10, 2001 ISBN 1-57731-195-7 (HC)
* Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, New World Library, August, 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X
* A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, Dutton, October 11, 2005 ISBN 0-525-94802-3
* What is Meditation?
* Practicing the Power of Now
* Companion to the Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, June 2001
* Living the Liberated Life and Dealing With the Pain Body, October 2001
* The Realization of Being: A Guide to Experiencing Your True Identity, October 2001
* Know That "I Am", January 1, 2002
* Even the Sun Will Die: An Interview With Eckhart Tolle, September 2001
* The Eckhart Tolle Audio Collection, September 2002
* The Essence of Now, 2002
* Choose to Awaken Now, 2002
* In the Presence of a Great Mystery, 2002
* Realizing the Power of Now: An In-Depth Retreat With Eckhart Tolle, June 2003
* Entering the Now, August 2003
* Gateways to Now, September 1, 2003
* Whispers, January 1, 2004
* The Flowering of Human Consciousness, May 2004
* Living a Life of Inner Peace, October 10, 2004
* Practicing Presence: A Guide for the Spiritual Teacher and Health Practitioner, November 1, 2004
* Eckhart Tolle's Findhorn Retreat: Stillness Amidst the World, October 10, 2005
* Through the Open Door: Journey to the Vastness of Your True Being, January 30, 2006