Coz, thanks for starting this thread.
The social and economic context in which ideas of all kinds are marketed these days can undercut the efforts of the kindest and most well intentioned teacher, unless that person is aware and is constantly, and strenuously taking precautions to ensure that social context and the pressures of marketing dont undercut the integrity of his or her teaching career.
In their publicity outreach, it appears that many gurus present their teaching in the framework of a personal narrative about the guru's pre-enlightement life and subsequent transformation.
Often, this narrative is the story of a story of a cure.
Many of us begin spiritual practice because we feel unhappy and seek a cure.
So when we read of some spiritual teacher who was in a state of severe misery and then suddenly 'dropped it' or 'woke up' and was suddenly cured, and went on to become rich, adored and a famous spiritual celebrity, this story will make us crave the same magic for ourselves.
By listening to that teacher or even following that teacher, we hope to achieve a similar cure.
Part of what makes Tolles story so interesting is the story of his sudden healing from suicidal depression.
The book, and ET's public appearances contain teachings which invite us us to become free of suffering by transcending personality and past history. But the book and its author are being promoted through a marketing context which emphasizes the author's unique personality-linked past history.
These cure-narratives and the way they are marketed/glamorized trigger ego-driven craving--craving for seats at the lectures, craving for cure, and perhaps in some persons, craving for the success enjoyed by ET and those like him.
This craving is incompatible with enlightenment. Craving generates suffering in the form of mental and emotional turmoil and this turmoil is a hindrence to insight, not an aid to it.
A teacher can have great intentions and excellent material, but if he or she relies on American style marketing to do outreach, that teacher, may without realizing it, create a social context that sabotages his or her best efforts---a Sorcerer's Apprentice situation.
The medium may offset the message.
All this can happen when a teacher has the very best of intentions, but runs smack into cravings instigated by the way enlightenment has become glamorized in seekers' minds--[b:43d54b8e6f]before they've even left home. [/b:43d54b8e6f]
Just to be a seeker of enlightenment, all too often means being socialized to have certain expectations, to hang out with persons who share tehse same cravings, with the result that you're in a state of craving before ou even meet your first guru.
When a marketing driven social context is added, this just makes it worse.
As soon as you crave something, you've made an ego-driven distinction between your self and the state of mind you crave to acquire.
Once this split occurs, you're trapped, unable to realize enlightenment, though you may have plenty of amazing experiences along the way.
Result: When enlightenment is fetishized, glamorized, commodified, you're in a state of mind in which enlightenment becomes impossible. The whole situation puts you in a state of craving. Its an unwinnable game.
It would be good to know where Tolle studied with to develop or refine his insights. Deep insights are beyond language, but to talk and write about them, a teacher has to acquire a vocabulary and set of concepts--and those are usually obtained from existing traditions.
([i:43d54b8e6f]If Tolle has published this information, could someone please post it, along with citations or URLs where it can be fact checked?)[/i:43d54b8e6f]
No enlightement experience can be coded into language, and shared with others unless that person has a vocabulary and set of concepts--and to get those, you have to use other people's material.
That is why it is imporant for people to tell us who their teachers have been.
Its also worth asking how Tolle was fed, clothed and sheltered during his years sitting on the park bench--was he homeless, did he manage to keep working? Did he have some money saved up?
Ramana Maharshi went through a time when he became ill. He survived because a man in the neighborhood admired him, regularly went to Maharshi's cave, and made sure M had what he needed. Anonymous benefactors like this should be honored remembered and honored.
If Tolle was unable to work during that period, and needed someone to take care of him, that means enlightenment (or early stages of it) could put some of us at risk of homelessness or severe social disability--and bring hardship to those who care about our wellbeing.
Most of us have to employed to pay rent and dont have a family or friends willing to support us while we are blissed out & unable to work.
On Sarlo's Guru Rating service, if you scroll down you will find one person's description of attending an Eckhart Tolle event in Southern California which seemed to trigger a great deal of craving in participants--to get a seat!
([i:43d54b8e6f]At 75 dollars a shot. In other parts of the country, seating for Tolle events costs less. Google around and do some comparison shopping)[/i:43d54b8e6f]
Cos mentioned depersonalization. THis article is a good read
There is a discussion on the Google listserve that raise intersting points
[i:43d54b8e6f]'A cessation of mentation as a result of intense concentration _may_ be
a precursor to Awakening in some "accidental" enlightenment
experiences (e.g. Eckhart Tolle's, or John Wren-Lewis'), or in some
very thorough systematic approaches (like the Theravada), but it is
not Awakening itself: or, put it this way, it isn't a _necessary_
precursor to Awakening. In fact, Awakening is a BREAK in any form of
samadhi-like concentration (taking "samadhi" in its lesser meaning -
for it can also mean the Result itself, in some systems). It's at
complete right angles to anything you've ever experienced or imagined.
(I say this based on your writings - you may be playing a game of some
sort, but I am responding to your words as they stand.)
It's like this: if you fix your gaze, the saccades (the little
jerkings about) that your eyes constantly unconsciously make cease,
and because the visual system normally sees things by noticing
borders, edges and differences, the visual system "whites out". (This
fact is taken advantage of in some Daoist practices, and some Dzogchen
Longde practices, if I'm not mistaken - right Namdrol?)
Since the whole mental system works in an analogous way, by noticing
differences, I believe something analogous may happen if the _whole
mental system_ is "frozen" in a concentrative state - it ceases to
experience anything at all. BUT THAT IS NOT AWAKENING.'[/i:43d54b8e6f](from)
Getting back to the practical issues:
All consuming bliss is survivable if you have someone to support you, (Ramana Maharshi had someone who brought food to him in his cave and took him in for medical care when he got sick).
In all these guru legends, they rarely talk about the family members who supported these people--or who were abandoned by them. Too often the focus is on the marvellous wisdom of the guru, but nothing is said about whether his or her family or friends had to pay a price supporting that person.
(One of the few who ever gave full credit to his family for saving his life was Gopi Krishna. Krishna was incapacitated for many years by a cripplling mental and physical ailment that befell him as a result of his strenuous yoga practice. He describes the kind of nursing care he needed from his wife, and tells how his father went mentally off balance from yoga practice and reduced his family to poverty. It was G Krishna's mother who took over the family and her son pays her full tribute--all this and more in [i:43d54b8e6f]'Living with Kundalini' [/i:43d54b8e6f]by Gopi Krishna)
Without a support system, an enlightenment experience of the kind Tolle describes could leave us homeless. The social welfare network is not as good as it was, back in the 1960s.
If enlightenment means someone else has to be your caregiver, and for an extended period of time, that's a little scary--and seekers need to know about that. And they'd better find out if their family or friends are willing to be their caretakers.
The older traditions warn us that realizing enlightenment is only the start. All kinds of deep reaction patterns still linger in one's body and central nervous system, along with social biases and traumas one has incurred while growing up.
You can have valid enlightenment and then still have to do lots of intentional work to extend that new found awareness into these blind spots and neuroses. This process takes time and cannot be rushed. And everybody needs a different approach--no one method works for everyone.
Agehananda Bharati in his book [i:43d54b8e6f]The Light at the Center: Context and Pretext of Modern Mysticism[/i:43d54b8e6f], interviewed many people who had had enlightenment experiences. Bharati had had a number of 'zero experiences' himself. He reported that enlightenment does NOT automatically endow a person with infallibility and it doesnt automatically heal pre-existing neurosis or educational deficits. As Bharati put it, if you're a nice or a mean person before enlightenment, your temperament will remain nice or mean afterwards. Enlightenment doesnt automatically cure people of sexism, phobias, nor does it give superhuman powers.
In India, Bharati met people who assumed he knew higher mathematics just because he was a renunciate monk, and, presumably enlightened. Time and again, Bharati had to tell them that was nonsense, enlightenment doesnt make you infallible, any more than mastering the piano or some other fine art. He'd still have to take classes and do the homework if he wanted to learn calculus.
Regarding Poonja, this dialogue is intriguing.
I am not aware that anyone has disputed the veracity of this account.( If they have, send in the citation or URL so we can post it. )