The End of Suffering – Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now

Anger, and its flip-side, depression, are caused by our belief that our minds are our true essence. This misidentification of our deepest spiritual Being with Mind is the root of all our neuroses. Or so says Russell E. DiCarlo in his Foreward to Eckhart Tolles philosophical work, The Power of Now, a book awarded the “Kindred Spirit” Spirituality Book of the Year, 2001. At an advanced level of spirituality, we would not be at the mercy of the incessant and destructive chatter in our minds, an ongoing drama that can make us miserable.

There are good reasons why we should not believe ourselves to be our minds; that we should strive for separateness so that we can watch that mind-chatter and comprehend it for what it is.

But, naturally, we ask for some proof of this greater reality, a proof that is elusive and that cannot be pinned down. “Ultimately, proof lies not in intellectual arguments, but in being touched in some way by the sacred within and without,” says Russell E. DiCarlo. The most stunning revelation in looking at the way human beings operate is that many ways to Enlightenment turn out to be just one way – but by slightly different paths.

Eckhart Tolle: Thinking is Out of Balance

Eckhart Tolle says he has little use for the past and doesnt think about it. Instead, he seeks personal transfomation, devoid of illusion, where everything that is false is discarded. To begin with, we need to look at the way Tolle uses terms of reference. “Being” for example, is your deepest self, your own true nature, the eternal, ever-present One Life. It is beyond and also within every form at its indestructible essence. It can be felt but never fully understood.

“Thinking has become a disease,” says Tolle. “Disease happens when things get out of balance… Used wrongly the mind becomes destructive… you usually dont use it at all. It uses you.”

Buddhism says that life and death are in the mind, and nowhere else. Mind is the creator of happiness and of suffering, of what we call life and death. The mind is a dualistic, thinking mind that can only function in relation to a falsely perceived external reference point. “This is the mind that thinks, plots, desires, manipulates, that flares up in anger, that creates and indulges in waves of negative emotions and thoughts,” says Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibertan Book of Living and Dying.

Tolle explains that most human pain is unnecessary and is self-created from non-acceptance, or unconscious resistance, to what is. Emotionally, it is negativity. Our minds want to escape the Now, to identify with our past, or to contemplate a future where everything will suddenly come right. This denial prevents our Now from functioning without time. Time and mind cannot be separated.

We Abandon the Now for the Past and Future

What happens is that while our minds try to escape the present moment by dwelling in the past, or striving towards the future, we are depriving ourselves of the precious Now. Tolle accepts that while there may be pain in the Now, that pain can be accepted and acted upon, but only if we allow the present moment to be. Yet all too often, the accumulated pain of the past is carried within us, creating a negative energy field, or a state of “unconsciousness.” This is the default position of most people in the world and the reason for wars, conflict, inhumanity and suffering.

But being free of your past is not enough. You also need to be free of striving towards the future for your fulfilment. If you live in the Now, then tomorrows bills, disputes, or even death, are not the problem. Time is an illusion and your past and future are not your identity.

Tolle advocates techniques of meditation, the most accessible of which is a simple breathing meditation as practised in many religious and community centres across the world. It also helps learning to watch the thoughts that go on in your head, in a detached way, as though you are an observer. Once you make things conscious that were formerly unconscious, you are in charge of your life. “To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment,” says Tolle.

The Revolutionary Insight of Buddhism

Rinpoche describes the nature of mind and its innermost, hidden essence that is untouched by change or death, and he uses the delightful metaphor of the clouds being shifted by strong gusts of wind so that we can see the sun shining and wide-awake in the sky. But this innermost essence, Rinpoche asserts, is not exclusive to our minds only. It is in the nature of all things, described by Christians and Jews as God, by Hindus as the Self, Shiva, Brahman and Vishnu, and by Buddhists, the buddha nature.

By following this path to enlightenment, your mind loses its compulsive quality to judge and to resist what is, so that conflict and new pain cannot arise – you have made room for love, joy and peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *