Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

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  • Jenny
    Member
    • Jan 2008
    • 62

    Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

    I wonder if anyone is watching Eckhart Tolle discussing his book A New Earth with Oprah on http://www.oprah.com
    This is a 10 week series and this week Chapter 5 is about what he calls our "pain-body". I think this particular talk is excellent.

    Gassho Jenny
  • John
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 272

    #2
    Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

    Yes, I was wondering that too. He isn't exactly Zen, but having read two of his books, 'The Power of Now' and 'A New Earth' I haven't found much that contradicts Zen teachings. Only thing - although he mentions meditation, he doesn't seem to say much about establishing regular meditation practice. Maybe that's because he became 'awakened' through a process of mental suffering himself and not from years of zazen practice. I especially like his description of the way we get caught up in the 'egoic mind' - very lucid.

    Gassho,
    John

    Comment

    • will
      Member
      • Jun 2007
      • 2331

      #3
      Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

      Well, right now. I sit. Don't really know much about that philosophy stuff. Does he sit?


      G,W
      [size=85:z6oilzbt]
      To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
      To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
      To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
      To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
      [/size:z6oilzbt]

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39477

        #4
        Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

        Please give me a few days, as I want to watch the Oprah series before commenting. I have read some of his books, and have had some opinions, but I want to see this before offering a perspective. Gassho, Jundo
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • chicanobudista
          Member
          • Mar 2008
          • 864

          #5
          Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

          Originally posted by will
          Does he sit?
          G,W
          Actually............



          he does. :mrgreen:
          paz,
          Erik


          Flor de Nopal Sangha

          Comment

          • Jenny
            Member
            • Jan 2008
            • 62

            #6
            Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

            In answer to Will's question "Does he sit?" - no, he probably doesn't sit in shikantaza as we do, but he does speak of entering into silence in various ways. There is a list of exercises for beginners on the website provided by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield and Bro. David Stendl-Rast.
            Many of the million or so listeners to the programme may be unfamiliar with the teachings of Zen or other forms of meditation, and perhaps this is a good introduction to a wide audience of a different way of living one's life.
            Jenny

            Comment

            • will
              Member
              • Jun 2007
              • 2331

              #7
              Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

              Thanks Jenny.

              Al said

              I'd like to hear more thoughts from the group on Eckhart
              I couldn't really say much. I just know sitting practice. Philosophy was mentioned which I don't invest much in. Forgive my persistence Like I said. I'm just a beginner.

              This is a Zendo right? :roll:


              Gassho Will
              [size=85:z6oilzbt]
              To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
              To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
              To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
              To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
              [/size:z6oilzbt]

              Comment

              • Hans
                Member
                • Mar 2007
                • 1853

                #8
                Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                Hello Treeleaves!

                Not for one second do I claim to be an Eckhart Tolle expert....I read some articles about him and his teachings and listened to one of his lectures via you-tube a while ago. My gut reaction is however that he seems to be doing at least something right, otherwise Christian extremists wouldn't feel the need to edit together whole videos to fight against the Church of Oprah. I agree with alot of what seem to be his core teachings (Buddhism anyone???....and before anyone shouts Advaita-Vedanta, I guess it's good to remember that Hinduism had to wait until Shankara came along before they really got their own non-dual philosophy thingie completely together....and still believed in Atman), however unless I am very much misinformed, he never really knew how he came to be the "enlightended" man that his PR-people make him into. His major experience of awakening just happened, which is nothing too unusual really. How can he help people on a path, when he needed years to re-examine his own key-experience that just happened? I mean it's nice of him to offer everyone a share of his "on top of the world"-view, but isn't he just guessing as tohow he really got there. Shakyamuni Buddhas didn't offer just his experience and a few helpful exercises, he gave us (or however was responsible for the Nikayas etc.) the eightfold path, which in turn blossomed and developed into a variety of teachings like our Shikantaza.

                This whole thing seems to be a double-edged sword in my view....even if he promotes some very positive and important key points, he's only reflecting partially the splendour of one of the three jewels, the dharma (at least some bits of it). But without the other two jewels, a lot of extra problems can potentially arise. Is the Oprah-community feeling really all that one needs in terms of Sangha? I simply do not know...

                Diffrent strokes for diffrent folks....yet how much of a risk is it to introduce people to certain ideas without the possibility of receiving direct help from more experienced practitioners, a community etc. Does the Oprah-patchwork-spirituality approach (if taken to its extreme) offer any stability? Where is Eckhart during the "dark night of the soul" of one of his followers? It sure seems like a good first step to open up people's minds to the possibility that there is more than one way to Rome, but if the result of that is that people end up without anything to hold onto....well, I just don't know.... Last year the Dalai Lama visited Germany and actually made a point of saying in one of his lectures, if I remember correctly, that western people are in a lot of cases better off to stay with their own religious-culture (meaning Chrisitianity) instead of embracing some neither-this-nor-that kind of consumer-style Buddhism.

                Gassho,

                Hans

                Comment

                • Ryumon
                  Member
                  • Apr 2007
                  • 1706

                  #9
                  Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                  Wow, I hate to sound negative, but what I've read (parts of one of his books) and heard of him (a number of YouTube videos) shows that he's just a spirituality supermarket huckster, tossing together a bunch of basic, non-offensive new-agish ideas that are easy for anyone to swallow. His "philosophy" is a combination of stoicism (in the original sense of the term), Buddhism and a few other isms. He seems to be more of a product than anything else.

                  Kirk
                  ---
                  Ryūmon (Kirk)
                  流文

                  SAT/LAH

                  I know nothing.

                  Comment

                  • Shohei
                    Member
                    • Oct 2007
                    • 2854

                    #10
                    Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                    Interestingly enough(lol well perhaps just to me), but a co-worker is currently reading his newest Opra-rific book and was telling me i too should pick it up as its talks about meditation etc. She then explained what he was suggesting one would do (it was kinda like "think of your hands and what they do" was her explanation).
                    She was "warned" by here priest that it was a good book with some bad spots and to be wary. I have not read the book and i probably will not, i have seen a lecture given by this guy via a zencast podcast (Video #116 for reference sake), and i found he covered a lot of 'spirituality'. doesnt do much for me and id rather have the hour+ i spent watching that vid, spent on the zafu.
                    just my 2 pence

                    edit: have to add that if its helpful to whomever (which it seems to be for my co-worker) then fill your boots, just not my cup of tea

                    Gassho
                    me (but you can call me Dirk)

                    Comment

                    • John
                      Member
                      • Sep 2007
                      • 272

                      #11
                      Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                      Interesting comments. I also noticed that there are parallels between Buddhism and Stoicism, e.g. that it's not what happens to us but how we react to what happens to us....A lot of Buddhist ideas are also in other religions, I think. Maybe I don't see any problem with and enjoy reading Tolle because I have a good firm background of zen practice and have studied a lot of philosophy, so I know how to read critically. So I appreciated the extra understanding I gained through the way Tolle explains concepts like the importance of living in the present moment, attachment, impermanence, the idea of no self etc.

                      I agree that although his teachings might be a good way of helping people to find a way out of suffering, they lack a dimension that could deepen and stabilise their experience, one that that would be provided by a sangha. On the other hand, I think his teachings are valuable because they provide some kind of relief for some people's suffering - and there sure is a lot of mental suffering out there. And some of these people might then look for and find deeper teachings.

                      I'm also a bit wary of slapping labels like 'new age,' 'only for baby boomers' and the like that can put prejudicial barriers in others' paths. Wouldn't it be better to discuss the parts of the books you/we disagree with? I certainly don't like the way he assumes we can totally dispense with the egoic mind just by becoming aware of it - I think that's need lots of work on the cushion. But I wouldn't rule out the fact that others can be awakened via a different route.

                      Gassho,
                      John

                      Comment

                      • Jenny
                        Member
                        • Jan 2008
                        • 62

                        #12
                        Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                        I initially started this thread because I felt that Eckhart Tolle's way of explaining part of our suffering which he calls "the pain-body" was very helpful and I wondered if anyone else had read or heard his explanation.

                        Very briefly he describes an energy field in our bodies which is the remnants of pain left behind by every strong emotion that is not fully faced, accepted and then let go of. This usually begins in childhood but also continues into adolescence and adulthood. He calls it the false sense of self which is the basis of our life and can cause not only ourselves to suffer but those around us, mostly our nearest and dearest.
                        It thrives on negative thinking and drama in relationships, and when it arises it wants to make others miserable in order to feed on their negative reactions, and of course awakens their own pain-body. ( Many rows within marriage can testify to this.)

                        Hopefully for those of us who sit zazen we can learn to open the hand of thought and let the negative thoughts dissipate before real harm is done.

                        I'm not leaping to Eckhart Tolle's defence because I don't have to - he is as he is. What is interesting is the various ways people have responded, which shows a lot about us and nothing about Eckhart Tolle!

                        Jenny :?

                        Comment

                        • chicanobudista
                          Member
                          • Mar 2008
                          • 864

                          #13
                          Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                          Originally posted by John
                          So I appreciated the extra understanding I gained through the way Tolle explains concepts like the importance of living in the present moment, attachment, impermanence, the idea of no self etc.
                          So. Yesterday. I wandered in to the Center of All That Is Evil Mart, aka Wal-Mart, and did a quick read of Tolle's books (which btw they had 'em for $9 e/a :shock: Whoa!). I found his take on "the now" and other terms readable. My only criticism is when I started to read more about what he means with the "pain-body" & how that is put into actual "real" day-to-day context is when my skeptical buttons kicked in.
                          paz,
                          Erik


                          Flor de Nopal Sangha

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39477

                            #14
                            Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                            Hi Jenny,

                            I am sorry for the time it took to answer. I wanted to watch the Oprah series, and go back to some of his online talks and books, so as not to give an uninformed answer.

                            I think that Eckhart Tolle speaks much wisdom, and that the general thrust and content of his talks are quite traditional in theme and sound in advice. He has never seemed to me (on the surface anyway) to be like so many of the snake oil salesmen, hucksters, crooks, gurus and new age fluffmeisters out there just seeking to sell books (even though Eckhart sells more than most of them combined ... and will surely sell millions more after appearing on Oprah!). The heart of his teachings is, in fact, the central message in most Buddhist traditions including what we speak of around here. I am not so down on Eckhart as some, even as I think that some depth and practical guidance is lacking.

                            So, you can do much worse in life than reading an Eckhart Tolle book.

                            That being said, I will echo some of the comments raised by Hans and others.

                            For example, reading a book about taming and riding a wild horse is not the same as "hands-on" becoming truly skilled in taming and riding a wild horse. (Of course, I am comparing the human mind to a wild horse). Talking about managing the ego in a self-help book, and a series of short exercises to perform as one turns the pages, cannot be compared to the practice of meditation day in day out. I often compare our ways of Zazen to a daily exercise routine in the gym, the only real way to get in shape ... one does not do that by watching an exercise video while eating cookies on the sofa!

                            And, of course, I believe that reading a book about being present in the present moment, freeing ourselves from ego and the thoughts, allowing the emotions to balance, dropping the past ... well, I believe that the best method for most people in order to learn that is "Just Sitting" Shikantaza, in which we just sit changing nothing, practicing being present in the moment, dropping ego, allowing thoughts to fade and emotions to balance, free of the past etc. etc. I think it is a method which even other forms of meditation cannot hold a candle to (which is why, of course, I teach it around here!) :wink:

                            Second, I do think that there is a bit of the new age fluffmeister even in the case of Eckhart Tolle. Some teachings seem to be dumbed down, and made acceptable pablum, for a "self-help" book reading, happiness seeking, shopping mall worshiping middle class Western audience. Answers are often too pat, too much like simple slogans, without recognizing the ambiguity of life that we tend to recognize in Zen practice. For examples, many self-help teachings seek to provide a 10 step program to being "happy" and "content" and "successful" (in all fairness, Eckhart does not seem to be emphasizing material or business success as much as many preachers and gurus these days). In Zen, we do not promise that you will always be happy, content and successful and, in fact, sometimes all human beings are quite naturally unhappy and discontent. However, our Zen Practice allows us to be happy and fully content with the fact that we are not always happy and content! That is a major difference, and our definition of true "inner peace" ... true "Success" by dropping a thought-scale of "success" and "failure"! (We are also about not becoming slaves to "happiness" "unhappiness" or any other emotion or thought).

                            Third, there is a "new agey" element in his talks (which may be the influence of Vedanta more than New Age teachings) that the purpose of our practice is to "Get in touch with the Cosmic Consciousness", that the "Universe is moving to a higher plane beyond ego", that the purpose of meditation is to allow the inner "energy", or "spirit", or "godhead" or "Cosmic Buddha" or the like to shine forth (by dropping the ego) ... and that when that occurs, we find our "True Self" or "True Being" or "True Consciousness" or the "true way we are to live". Then "Universal Love" will shine forth and the like.

                            Now, such perspectives are present in Buddhism too, including in many strains of modern and ancient Zen Buddhism (some Zen teachers have always looked at "Buddha" or "Mind" as something like that, and the purpose of our practice as being to find that and manifest that "True Self" hidden by the harmful "lie" that is the small, human self ). However, for other ancient and modern Zen teachers, "True Self" includes and lives as the small human self EVEN AS we recognize it as a sometime source of harm and a kind of fiction ... another subtle but very important difference. Our job is not to get beyond being human, but to live well as human beings. We are not trying to get beyond that, to kill that, even as we learn to ride the wild bucking horse well (not leave or kill the horse, just ride the horse).

                            Furthermore, we do not dare impose on the universe our small brained ideas of what it means to be the universe. For example, some say that if we do find this "Cosmic Consciousness" or "God" or "Buddha", then it/he/she is found "Perfect, Good and Just" as humans understand those terms. Thus, by manifesting in our lives that inner "Consciousness" or "God" or "Buddha", then our lives will become more "Perfect, Good and Just" as humans understand those terms.

                            Well, assuming that such a "Cosmic Being" exists (our Zen Practice does not care so much), how dare we tell the "Universal Consciousness/God/Buddha" what it has to be, and that there is something "wrong" if it and our lives do not perform as we expect them to perform. This is a subtle, but very important point. So, instead of expecting that that universe be "Perfect, Good and Just" as human subjectively and Self-ishly demand, we are closer to embracing all as "perfectly beyond all thought of 'perfection' or 'imperfection', perfectly "good" at being "just" what it is". We are one with the universe on its own terms, a true "Peace" beyond all thought of "peace" or "disturbance". We do not demand that God (if she exists) be who we demand her to be ... or even that she exist at all!

                            As well, instead of rejecting the "wild bronco" of human life and the ignorance of "not knowing" which is the human condition, we say, "Well, since I somehow, mysteriously, have been born with a human brain and body, I guess I am to live as a human being. I am not to reject that or seek for something other than being human." It is almost as if we say, "well, I am born ignorant of the deep inner workings of the universe ... perhaps something wants me to be ignorant and to live "not knowing", without need to know all the secrets ... assuming there are secrets". Even though, in our mediation, we can come to perceive that which is not obvious to the ordinary mind (such as new perspectives on life, death, why there is suffering, why "bad" things happen to "good" people, the nature of the "small self" and the "Big Self") a human brain ... even in the highest planes of meditation ... is simply incapable of knowing every darn "answer" about the universe.

                            So, we live with our "not knowing" ignorance and that is fine.

                            Is there a "Universal Consciousness/God/Buddha"? If so, live human life, fetch wood and carry water. Is there no "Universal Consciousness/God/Buddha"? If so, live human life, fetch wood and carry water. We do not reject the human condition and mind (the wild horse) even as we learn to ride her skillfully (for example, rejecting the more excessive and harmful aspects of being human such as greed, anger and ignorant actions).

                            Anyway, I have gotten a little off the topic ...

                            Jenny wrote:

                            I initially started this thread because I felt that Eckhart Tolle's way of explaining part of our suffering which he calls "the pain-body" was very helpful and I wondered if anyone else had read or heard his explanation.

                            Very briefly he describes an energy field in our bodies which is the remnants of pain left behind by every strong emotion that is not fully faced, accepted and then let go of. This usually begins in childhood but also continues into adolescence and adulthood. He calls it the false sense of self which is the basis of our life and can cause not only ourselves to suffer but those around us, mostly our nearest and dearest.
                            It thrives on negative thinking and drama in relationships, and when it arises it wants to make others miserable in order to feed on their negative reactions, and of course awakens their own pain-body. ( Many rows within marriage can testify to this.)

                            Hopefully for those of us who sit zazen we can learn to open the hand of thought and let the negative thoughts dissipate before real harm is done.
                            While I have a bit of a problem with fluffy talk of inner "energy fields" and such, I think his basic description of how we are bound by our emotions and thoughts is correct. Thus, so much of our Buddhist practice around here is about facing those emotions and thoughts, learning to manage or drop them. I have no problem with this, including the way he describes how many of us "enjoy" wallowing in the pain, depression and suffering ... and come to learn to love pushing others' "pain buttons" (yes, I confess to this too in my marriage). This is Karma.

                            So, in conclusion, one could do worse than reading one of his books or watching one of his videos. But one can also do a lot better than such "spiritual bubblegum" and get down to actual Practice. I think.

                            Gassho, Jundo

                            PS - The foregoing should not be confused with my feelings on Oprah, who I think it a true seller of fluff ... all kinds of nonsense from the "Secret" ...

                            http://skepdic.com/lawofattraction.html

                            to the "Prayer of Jabez" ...

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prayer_of_Jabez
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • John
                              Member
                              • Sep 2007
                              • 272

                              #15
                              Re: Eckhart Tolle and the Pain-Body

                              Originally posted by Jundo
                              ......The heart of his teachings is, in fact, the central message in most Buddhist traditions including what we speak of around here. I am not so down on Eckhart as some, even as I think that some depth and practical guidance is lacking......
                              Thanks Jundo. The above quote encapsulates how I see it.

                              Gassho,
                              John

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