I thought I would never finish this book. It seemed the impossible feat. I am still not very clear why.
I resisted reading Eckhart Tolle for a long time. Although I am always inclined to pick from the shelf the latest spiritual teaching, this time the Oprah involvement made me think twice. What made me pick it up finally, was an article I read online, which, although clearly defamatory towards Oprah and Tolle, brings up very interesting ideas. The one that I loved was the part about a new personal spirituality, that takes place outside the churches, outside defined religions.
With the book in my hands I found myself confused. First I could not reconcile the photograph of the author on the back cover with the image (preconceived as it is in my head) of a spiritual master. Later, going deeper into the book, I realized that there was nothing I could grab on to. It seemed like a lot of things about the ego and the mind, the though process, but nothing coherent. What’s the new earth? What’s my life’s purpose? There was something about that only in the last chapter.
Eckhart Tolle likes to state a few times in his book that reading it might bring some closer to enlightenment. Really? It just takes a book? If it were that easy I think more competent folks, the likes of Buddha and Jesus, would have written the book long ago. They didn’t. There is no such book, I am afraid.
While reading, I was being reminded at every step of Osho – only one of many enlightened spiritual masters who has crossed continents and religions to bring his message to a larger public. I happen to be familiar with Osho through my husband, who is a big admirer. Compared to Osho, who had his own shortcomings, Eckhart Tolle seems to be just the young and eager disciple who repeats the lessons of the master, bringing no new insights, no new ways. I was fine with that for a while – just a new voice uttering the same, ultimate truth, I thought. There is but only one truth out there, right?
Later though I became unpleasantly aware by the fact that he is contradicting himself many times. The ultimate contradiction – his books themselves. He believes that thoughts, words create just obstacles in our spiritual paths, that we should go beyond the names, beyond any thinking. All very good and nice, but then why does he write books to proliferate his message? Why does he employ the oh so harmful words? At least Osho never wrote a book. He just gave talks and all the books in his name are compilations made by his disciples from those talks.
One thing that upset me terribly was that he states we cannot do anything to achieve realization/enlightenment (another contradiction because if we are to believe him from just a few pages earlier, one obvious thing we can do is read his books). One cannot make himself worthy, he says. One cannot make himself deserve enlightenment. It is a gift, given to whomever. Well, that would kill me if I believed it. I do acknowledge that enlightenment is in everybody’s reach. I do realize that some work towards it for years, never to obtain it, while others just wake up enlightened one sunny summer day. But we need to have the openness for it. We need to be ready. Enlightenment thrown upon an unprepared soul can be damaging and I don’t think it happens very often. We need to walk through life ready, prepared and open. That makes us worthy. I do believe in being worthy because only when we feels deserving we can let go of the struggle. Only when we have done everything in our power can we let go of the control and simply wait for “it” to happen, because “it” does not depend on us anymore.
I am deeply disappointed and upset after reading this book. I am not giving up hope, though. I am thinking that maybe I will pick it up again, some time later, and I will be able to see it for the gem that it is. I truly doubt it, but a shred of hope is always welcome. The funny thing is that I can pick up this book whenever I want, because due to an unfortunate accident at the playground, involving a water bottle placed too close to the book, I am now the proud owner of a copy (one in a pretty bad shape, but still usable). I cannot help but wonder why did that happen to me and what does it mean? That I should own this book and go deeper into it, or that I should destroy it because it is worth nothing? Just mixed messages from the Universe, I tell you.