I watched the first chapter as presented during a 90-minute session with Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle. For technical reasons I had to download a video of the event the next day. The audience for the first presentation was estimated at 500,000. This is unprecedented in internet history and technical issues could not be overcome, although they claim everything will run smoothly for the next week’s class.
Tolle is a simple and unassuming person and his natural innocence came through. There was discussion of humanity’s dire situation: it is time for individual’s to “awaken to life’s purpose” before humanity destroys itself. A number of callers asked questions either through Skype (video cam service) or by telephone. Tolle gave elaborate answers to each question. So far, so good.
I have been reading through the class book, “A New Earth”, and find myself in general agreement with much of what he wrote. We differ on one major point: Tolle, like many others, believe that a sudden awakening is a rare event (Tolle himself awoke with such an event). For most of us we must work on awakening as a process, with the hope that one day, and by grace, we will become fully awake. From my observation, the real awakening is sudden and often traumatic. Tolle would say that we cannot awaken by our own effort and therefore must become more aware and live in the moment on a daily basis. He calls this process the beginning of awakening. But what about the end of awakening?
Compare what Tolle is recommending to what monks do. A monk leaves the world and stays at a monastery or other religious place. For them, it is a process that will take many years. But they are not left on their own; they have a spiritual guide so they do not go in the wrong direction or get caught in traps. The western spiritual aspirant has no such guide. Ten weeks of Tolle’s advice (or any spiritual master) is not a substitute for face-to-face guidance.
My view is that a lengthy (or lifetime) process towards awakening may never reach its goal. There are too many distractions and traps in world, and without a little help, one is not likely to fully awaken.
I have observed (from my own awakening) that it is possible to take an active role in your own spiritual awakening. I have written up this process in the “Freeing the Inner” category. So, in opposition to conventional thinking on spiritual awakening, it is possible for the individual to take an active role in their own awakening.