Eckhart Tolle is a gifted spiritual teacher. In the opening chapter of his book, A New World, he identifies two common themes shared by mankind’s greatest religions and spiritual teachings. The first is the idea than our normal awareness is flawed. In our normal state we are missing the mark, or missing the point of reality. Given our history of war and violence, it is hard to argue with this first theme. We seem to be always on our way somewhere, often unhappy with someone or something over perceived wrongs. So much of our lives are spent looking for the next person or event to make us happy. Seldom do we find what we are looking for and when we do it seldom lasts.
The flaws in our normal awareness are not hard to see. It is not to say we do not have our moments of great joy. It is the point that joy seldom lasts. I love Tolle’s example of the unhappy guy who wins the lottery and lives the same unhappy life in more luxurious surroundings. Spiritual wisdom teaches that true joy comes from within.
Eckhart Tolle says that the world’s great religions share two common themes. What then is the second? The second is the possibility of transformation. Redemption, salvation, awakening, or enlightenment – all refer to one core idea. The idea that man has the capacity to change his normal state of awareness and to wake up. Waking up is the clear goal of most spiritual seekers and the hidden goal of most of us who just want to be happy.
Paths to truth are varied, but there is likely only one absolute truth about our reality. Tolle believes he found it through unbearable pain. Others have found it though near-death experiences. My humble suggestion is not to wait for intense pain or a brush with death. If you agree our normal state leaves something to be desired, look for a way to wake up.
In the end we are together. If a path teaches you to blame or find causes of suffering outside yourself, avoid it. Change the world by changing your own mind.