Eckhart Tolle is on the Rich Man’s List. Is this the price of enlightenment?

Eckhart Tolle is on the Rich Man’s List.

Is this the price of enlightenment?


In August, 2000, a meditator at the Spirit Rock Meditation Centre, Marin, California, kindly gave me a copy of The Power of Now (price $21.95) by Eckhart Tolle that had been published the year before. She told me she had bought a dozen copies to give to her friends. She wrote on the inside cover:

“Thank you, Christopher. I am grateful for your guidance and your support in my awakening.  May this book be a blessing to you.  It is changing my life.”

Many people worldwide express immense appreciation for the spiritual teachings of Eckhart Tolle. His teachings have made a difference to people’s lives. He has the capacity to communicate his spiritual/psychological insights in ways that make much sense to those who follow his approach.

Within a few years of writing his first book, Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher brought up in Germany, formerly worked in Britain and currently living in Canada, has become one of the best known spiritual teachers in the Western world offering retreats, public talks as well as appearing on various television programmes.  Millions have read one or more of his four books:


Published in 35 languages, these four books have gone onto sell some 12 million copies or more between them.  The cover of my 2009 copy of A NEW EARTH states “The 6 million-copy worldwide best seller.”

Mind the Gap

Is there a growing gap between the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and his immense wealth? Is this the price of enlightenment? Eckhart speaks regularly of the illusions people live in. But is he aware of the disillusionment that people feel when spiritual teachers become incredibly wealthy?

In October 2013, Eckhart and Kim Eng gave a five day retreat in Italy. His website said the retreat cost $995.00. I took a second breath when I saw the price for the retreat. And that was before I noticed the dreaded asterisk. On the asterisk below, it read:

*Tuition price only. Accommodations and meals package is additional.

Eckhart and Kim Eng charged $995.00 (£600, €725) for their tuition of participants for their five day retreat, plus sales of books, DVDs, calendars and so on. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to work out how much money they receive if 500 attended. They could have made for themselves about half a million dollars in five days.

Participants booked through Eckhart Teachings to pay to stay in nearby hotels, ranging from $500 to $1000 for the five nights – a walking distance to the huge conference hall to listen to Eckhart. If participants make their own housing arrangements, then they pay Eckhart Teachings, a “commuter fee of $295 including meals and yoga mat.”

Eckhart gave a two day retreat in Australia in 2011 to hundreds of people. Eckhart charged $695.00 for two days of intuition. It’s seems to be a money spinning guide to enlightenment.

Eckhart charges individuals between the cheapest seats at £50 to £75 for the “platinum seats” to listen to him give a two talk with questions and answers. In an evening programme in a theatre in the East End of London in October, 2013, more than 2500 people attended.   It meant that the commercial arm of Eckhart Teachings probably received around £150,000 gross from tickets sales, plus sales of his books, his DVDs, his calendars, cards etc. Costs include rent of the theatre for the evening etc.

Eckhart gives talks addressing the suffering of clinging to ownership. Yet, it is stated on his website: “Absolutely no recording devices of any kind are allowed at the retreat.” Eckhart Teachings keep a tight control over recorded access to his words.

The cover of The Power of Now tells readers that the book is a guide to spiritual enlightenment. For whom is this spiritual enlightenment? It would seem this enlightenment is for those with disposable income, mostly middle class people in their 50’s and older.

The door charges and retreat charges effectively exclude many teenagers, single mothers, the poor, the unemployed, the low income, backpackers, people in debt, people struggling to pay bills for sickness and the elderly living on a state pension. The cover of A New Earth tells us his book is to “create a better life.” For whom?

Around 13 million people or 20% of the population in Britain live below the poverty line. Far too many families have to choose between food and heat. Figures are probably similar in other Western countries.  The poor can’t afford to buy a CD or go to an Eckhart Tolle talk, let alone a retreat

Yes, his teachings are freely available on YouTube, as his followers regularly point out. This is welcome. Yet, there is no substitute for being in the presence of a teacher. Direct oral teachings resonate more deeply than watching on screen.

Why can’t wealthy spiritual teachers enable the poor to attend their live programmes? Are they obedient to the will of those who run their foundations and business enterprises?

The Business Company

Eckhart Tolle has established a huge worldwide commercial enterprise through his business company, Eckhart Teachings. Last month, Watkins Bookshop in London named Eckhart as the world’s second most influential spiritual teacher after the Dalai Lame and immediately ahead of Pope Francis.

Tolle’s highly successful commercial activities have put him firmly on the world’s RICH MAN’S LIST in the space of  15 years.

It is surely appropriate to question whether his growing personal wealth, and his desire for more, is compatible with his spiritual teachings.

If one of his books sells for roughly around $10.00, then then total  income from his books alone amounts to $120,000,000. Eckhart would receive a percentage (probably around 7.5% – 10%) of this from royalties.

His commercial activities in the UK alone include Eckhart Tolle TV Live Stream  for six months. $99.65, New Earth Card Deck for £19.00, New Earth Calendar for £11.00, Inspirational Selections from A New Earth £18.00, Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat (2 DVDs and a book). £27.00, Eckhart Tolle’s Music to Quiet the Mind £13.00, In the Presence of Mystery (Audio) £22.50 and much, much more. Bulk production of a DVD with box, label and inserted jacket costs less than a $ per item.

Some Eckhart Tolle fans will defend these substantial charges. Concerts and sports events cost much the same amount of money for the same amount of time so why should not a spiritual superstar charge top prices for admission? There is a difference. And it is a big difference. Entertainers and sports stars do not offer spiritual teachings on letting go, dropping desire, living without attachment, trusting in the now and enlightenment.

Data on Eckhart Tolle Foundation, classified as a religious organisations, provided by the IRS (Inland Revenue Service – US tax department)

Wealth and Spirituality

When asked about wealth and spirituality, Eckhart replied on YouTube:

“Many in traditional religions have renounced material things did not realise that they have not renounced desire in their mind. So they tried to suppress desire by having no possessions. The true renunciation is about attachment to which operates on an inner level.  It is the inner that matters.”

Is Eckhart Tolle honestly trying to claim that he has renounced desire while desiring to charge exorbitant tuition fees to listen to him? Some of those renunciates in religious traditions, who have little or no possessions, include such Buddhist monks as the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, the fourth most popular spiritual teacher in the Watkins Bookshop list. Another renunciate from the Christian tradition, Pope Francis chooses to live in simple rooms in the Vatican.

In A New Earth (page 46), Eckhart writes about the problem of the ego. “I don’t have enough yet” by which the ego really means “I am not enough yet.”

“Having  – the concept of ownership – is a fiction created by the ego… Wanting keeps the ego alive much more than having. It is an addictive need….

“The thought forms of me and mine…I want, I need ….pertain not to content but to the structure of the ego.”

Fine words, Mr. Tolle. You have made $millions in the last 15 years. Do you really need to own so much money? Why do you still want to make even more money?

May I humbly suggest that you reflect on your insightful words for your readers on page 99: “My God. Is this what I have been doing? Once you see what you have been doing or are doing, you also see its futility and the unconscious pattern, then comes to an end by itself. Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

  • Please explain to your many followers how your desires and needs to make so much money from your talks, retreats and commercial sales contribute to a new Earth.
  • Please let your followers know what you do with your immense wealth?
  • Do you use your money to create a better life for people?
  • If so, what organisations, trusts, charities do you give to?
  • Do you invest you invest your money in the financial markets? If so, which?
  • Do you leave your money in your bank? If so, why?

If the thought of such transparency is too difficult for you to handle, then I have a small suggestion.

You are on the world’s Rich Man List. You are very wealthy. From now on, please offer all your public talks and retreats on the basis of dana  (a Pali word meaning the act of giving, the offering of a donation) and minimise the price of your books, cards, calendars etc.

The Buddha spoke frequently of the power of dana. Dana covers many aspects of the inner life:

  • An important aspect of spiritual enlightenment 
  • The power to let go 
  • The practise of generosity 
  • To abide in trust 
  • To be established in the now 
  • To be free from greed 
  • To end measuring of one’s worth through fixing a charge 
  • To live without desire for financial security in the future 
  • To see through egoic needs and identification with wealth 
  • To show compassion to many people with financial hardship 
  • To treat teachings as truly priceless 
  • To support creating a better life for everybody.

Your teachings have given much support to the spiritual journey of your followers. You deservedly receive a lot of goodwill from people. You can make a contribution towards developing trust in spiritual teachers and their teachings. Your practise of dana would dispel the growing widespread disillusionment with spiritual teachers who accumulate vast sums of money. This is not a hair-shirt philosophy but an act of kindness and support for all regardless of their financial status.

If you developed trust in dana, you would show to yourself and your followers the power of now to let go of old desires. I am sure you would agree.




  • Christopher Titmuss: Do not ever stop speaking your truth about the many hypocrisies associated with the person known as Eckhart Tolle. People who hang onto Tolle’s every word will attack you like a savage beast. LET THEM! I have never met such a level or Arrogance that protrudes from Eckhart Tolle. The fact that he would be endorsed through Oprah is enough to convince me that I would never personally consider a word he has to say. If the students who worship Tolle had “truly arrived” at the state of mind that Tolle states we need to arrive at, then they would never be motivated to attack you. No one who defends Tolle has found enlightenment in any way and nor will they ever. One cannot follow another person into enlightenment. One can only follow themselves.

  • This is an appalling analysis Mr. Titmuss… sounds like YOU have a problem with Eckart’s money and success… ? See I’m just an ordinary person living on a small health pension but Eckart’s fortune doesn’t bother me… he is a great teacher and his success has brought him fame and fortune. So what ? At least it is not in a dishonest way like many… As the saying goes, the problem lies in the person who feels disturbed… I would suggest you go and look inside yourself what it is that triggers so much reaction and criticism.

  • You’re a very troubled man. Don’t associate your thinking with Buddhism or Dharma for their sake, please.

  • I can’t say for sure if Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra have actually reached enlightenment or not. There is no doubt that both have had deeply personal spiritual experiences, but that is not enlightenment by itself. Given the fact that both have worked very hard In order to profit from the God given truth that we are all a part of, I tend to suspect that both are somewhat fraudulent. However, what any truly enlightened individual knows is that it doesn’t matter. If their experience of life is meant to show them that wealth isn’t important, and if your experience of life is meant to show you that you that you don’t need to concern yourself with the life paths of another, then both needs are being fulfilled. What is, is. It’s that simple. Opinion is irrelevant as is any “thing” else. It is all just patterns of energy doing what energy within the realm of duality does. You mustn’t concern yourself with such things, they only distract you from the real truth, which is what you seek.

  • Mr. Titmuss, I’m baffled by your subtle attack on Eckhart Tolle. First of all, your outlook rides on a very narrow principle of what a person should/should not do with their personal wealth. The personal wealth that they have worked for their whole life.

    But more importantly, two pieces of crucial information have escaped your research, somehow:

    1. There are literally thousands of free Eckhart Tolle material anyone can access on the web, including YouTube videos, articles, free mini-series, etc.

    2. The Eckhart Tolle Foundation provides scholarship and volunteering opportunities to those who would like to attend his retreats but are not able to afford to. Similarly, it offers scholarship towards online courses, as well. The application process is ridiculously easy. You basically write a couple of paragraphs to explain why you are passionate about Eckhart’s teachings and attending the specific retreat/course, and why you need the scholarship.

    I’m not even going to go into the wisdom and absolute necessity of his teachings. I’ve seen many people express that here in the comments, including how they were affected personally. More people like Eckhart Tolle is exactly what we need in this world.

    • I’m poor, I was able to access a scholarship to his new teaching of conscious manifestation which had a value of $300 just by asking. But I do see your point in grappling with the teachings of Jesus as Eckhart refers often and charging such prices to see him in physical form. I myself would like to think if given such vast amounts of money, I would take what is needed and only do good with the rest ? have a great day

  • As a complete contrast to the high prices charged by Eckhart Tolle and others for their seminars etc. one has only to look at the beautiful books Theravada Buddhists give for free and the monasteries in the lineage of Ajahn Chah in the U.K. and elsewhere that are wonderful and completely non-commercial! I find that really inspiring, though I admit that they have the advantage of having support from local immigrant populations of Thais and Sri Lankans.

    • I’m in AA and joined a book study group thinking it would be based on their literature. It turned out to be a study on The Power of Now. So I plonked down my 10 bucks and sat down and listened. I have grown more uncomfortable the further I read. AA is self supporting through member contributions. The groups cannot make a profit, or own the buildings they meet in, or endorse any church or treatment facility. We say you have to give it away to keep it. We seek to stay sober and sane by living our lives by a few (12) time tested spiritual principles. I think I’m going to leave the book with the book study group and use my time to help another alcoholic stay sober.

      • That’s unusual that such a book that has nothing to do with AA, its members or its program would be approved for use within the program, unless it was an independent group that was meeting outside of AA. That would bother me too. In Alanon we use conference approved literature because we know a lot of eyes have looked at it and know the message of recovery isn’t being bastardized. If it happened in Alanon, and it was a book study under the umbrella of Alanon, someone would probably speak up and say it’s not our literature, we should not be using it. If one wants to meet somewhere outside the program feel free, but if we’re meeting as an Alanon family group, we need to have literature that we trust. That’s how the program stays on track and doesn’t get derailed. There’s nothing the matter with reading other books but there’s a time and place. I would not want to read Tolle’s book in an Al-Anon group. I do understand where you are coming from and glad you shared what you did. I think Tolle is a lightweight and I would rather read heavyweights, the most humble of sages whose words have stood the test of time. I’m sick of these self appointed so called enlightened pretenders. You and your cohorts in 12 steps have far more wisdom I am betting than Tolle and what does a meeting cost a person – a $1 donation?

  • Time to reread his books. Often with the passage of time….we suddenly understand.
    Pick it up asap…and reread. If it still doesnt resonate with you, then, like the rest of us, you may take all the “time” you need.

  • The anger of the Tolle worshippers is hilarious! They are so lacking in ‘The Power of Now’ that they are writhing and frothing in rage at the very thought of criticism of their ‘lord and saviour’.

    I have read some of his drivel and seen some of his YouTube videos, yet have never got further than a few pages or a few minutes before finding something better to do. I met Tolle in the early ’90s, and he talked drivel then, too.

    Good for him: he proves that a sucker is indeed born every minute!

    And if sad people who are incapable of finding meaning in their privileged lives are happy to throw some of their excess cash in Tolle’s direction, then why should he refuse it? And the same sad people will damned well believe it because they have paid for it. That’s how modern consumerism works, and that’s how the ‘New Age’ movement has always worked; and both movements have been around for about the same length of time (C.100 years or so).

    But let’s not forget that money is just a form of energy, and all energy ultimately comes from the ‘higher divine oneness’ that resides within everything, even if YOU don’t realise. And if YOU don’t know this as your ‘spiritual’ experience, then that’s because YOU have not attained the ‘higher levels of consciousness’! BUY MORE OF MY BOOKS, LOSERS!

    Anyway, I must go and engage in Supreme Tantra for a few kalpas!

  • A good point that people get deluded when they see spiritual teachers have wealth but Eckhart at least acknowledged that he asked the universe for wealth in one of his videos so it’s not like he’s hiding anything. Moreover he has spent considerable time in his life with uncertainty about money.
    And the most important thing is that his books are enough to instigate awakening unlike a few other teachers who only write theoretical stuffs about spirituality and in order to get practical understanding you must attend their programs but in case of Eckhart his books are enough. Of course the programs would be better but it’s law of nature that as you become better in what you do you the high demand raises the money value of what you’re offering.

  • As long as the spiritual world remaining poor, the greedy and bad business will have the money. Which is not serving anyone.

    Money is just energy if someone is an abundant spiritual being and the money energy will attract to them.
    I believe this is actually a good thing if all the spiritual teachers are wealthy so they can serve even more people in the world
    Rather than a company like Coca-cola, and another business practice is making money from people on addictions.
    I am here today to help merge spiritual and business, so we can really shift the world in a big way.

  • I think it is fair to raise the concerns that you have done about the amounts that Eckhart Tolle is charging for his seminars.

    I’m involved in open source computing and software developers often ask for donations for the good softwares that they produce. However, the level of donations are often quite modest (even from those that can afford it) and certainly not enough to live on. Therefore, I don’t have a problem in anyone charging for their services, Eckhart Tolle included.

    His books and ebooks are cheap and and affordable, he provides the core guidances and course essentials for free on his Youtube channel and his own website. He is also one of the very few modern teachers who supplies powerful binaural beat meditations absolutely free of charge and that really is rare. He does offer extra tuition and support to anyone for a couple of hundred USD a year; that is more affordable and people can stop at any time.

    The people I’ve come across who come from wealthy and privileged backgrounds just do not have a clue about how the rest of us live, e.g. budgeting, having to save, not having enough money to do stuff and so if Eckhart Tolle is taking large sums from such people for retreats then he is doing two very good things – he’s enabling those wealthy people to become more compassionate, concerned and awakened individuals and, very importantly, he’s using those same funds to provide all the free stuff for everyone else who cannot afford to go on the retreats. I just do not see a problem here.

    On a personal note, I did buy his Power of Now book a few years ago but I couldn’t see what he was getting at. Now that I’m watching his free Youtube talks, I’m starting to get it and see the points and concepts that he is trying to make.

    • Tim, this is a very interesting take on his pricey retreats – I quote you with “and so if Eckhart Tolle is taking large sums from such people for retreats then he is doing two very good things – he’s enabling those wealthy people to become more compassionate, concerned and awakened individuals and, very importantly, he’s using those same funds to provide all the free stuff for everyone else who cannot afford to go on the retreats.” – I still think access to him personally would be amazing and so valuable, as Christopher correctly remarked. But you do have a point here – I’m still glad I discovered this amazing human being and got so much out of the little money I spent, am on a shoestring budget like so many people.

    • Well said. And, I also have only experienced him through the many free YT videos. I have the Power of Now, but it doesn’t do much for me. But, his videos show me he’s the real deal. But, Christopher has great questions and a great recommendation at the end of his commentary. But, unlike J. Geils, first I look at the teachings and really don’t concern myself with the purse.

  • Hi Guys, Happy New Year! Just wondering.. have thought about the expenses he might have when he organizes retreats?? Because he’s very unlikely to take all hte money for him. venues, expenses of all sort, plus VAT, plus tax plus insurance…etc you know what I mean? It’s not only how much you earn it’s how much to spend that’s important. If you’re not self employed you cannot really understand. As far as I’m concerned, I’m following a lot of ‘gurus’ Tolle, Hicks, Burt Goldman.. to be honest, every time I feel better, it helps me deal with life, and that’s enough. I never spent anything for a retreat all the contents available on youtube for free are enough, plus the books. just wanted to share my thoughts with you. All the best!

  • This is a terrific blog. Thanks Christopher. My wife and I have often discussed these topics. What are Adyashanti, Gangaji and Eckhart (to name a few) doing with all their millions?! As followers of Ramana Maharshi and other Advaita Vedanta teachers who never lived in extravagance or were involved with money, it is sad to see a gathering of ‘personal’ wealth through spirituality when so many are in great need.

    • @michael, I think that there’s a key test of whether a spiritual teacher has gone rotten.

      That’s when they start to do really extravagant self-aggrandisement expenditures or projects like buying half a dozen Rolls-Royces or building a huge new mansion for themselves that’s full of gold leaf, that kind of thing.

  • I only recently listened to him. One reason I have not is when I saw oprah was his new best friend. I found his teachings spiritually enlightening, yet it one pursues this path, he is not stating anything new. Then I looked up his worth, truly appalling. I thought maybe he gives most away, hopefully, yet one can not find much about that. Seriously no one needs that kind of money. Another aspect in this is mainstream, mostly if pushed by that,something is geing manipulated. I agree, if he truly cared about humanity, he is beyond wealthy enough to provide his insights to those who can not afford his retreats.

  • I’m not here to denigrate Tolle’s image, because I know all his books and I like it.
    If he wants to be a billionaire, it’s his decision, I have nothing to do with it.
    But his teachings are not definitive, there are others that are not publicly proclaimed and more assertive.
    I would never pay values like this to be in front of Tolle, I trust myself and I am enough.
    There is another spiritual teacher who claimed fortunes: Osho.
    I have never covered for teaching because I know that everything comes to me and I can guarantee that many need help, ie, being a teacher is not my profession and I do it with great care and care.
    In fact, the true teacher just needs to sit on a square bench and stay in the now and let new potentials and new energies permeate creation.

  • This Eckhart Tolle is just another shrewd cunning money maker who hung a new coat around old wisdoms dug up from many old scripts, got them published and through personal charisma and the gift of gab, hey presto, his polished up cliches went over the counter like hot cakes, bit by bit the millions fell for his “wisdom” and thus we see what we have seen so many times before: the humble preacher is now the multimillionaire who fleeces the wealthy and gives his critics half baked avoiding answers which don’t strike a match. Let the poor be happy they never gave a penny to this fraudster.

  • This was such a nice article to read. I hope more people become aware of the huge hypocrisy behind some of these pseudo gurus.

    Money is not bad per se, but if you are in a “spiritual” carreer, where your main focus is to help others in a selfless way, then it’s absolutely unacceptable to create a business around your teachings.

    I remember seeing an old interview where Tolle is asked about all the money he earns, and he clearly looked uncomfortable with the topic… not quite an “enlightened” attitude from him at all.

  • If you want as much Eckhart as possible, am not content with what is available for free (watch partys on FB host videos, endless material on YouTube, you name it) and want to visit a retreat, it’ll cost you – I find the prices too steep, would not be able to afford those retreats. However, I find the line of thought / arguing that Christoph, himself a great human being, suggests here rather unconvincing. Because becoming wealthy as a spiritual teacher does not lessen the quality of the teaching or makes it in itself questionable aka “if it’s not 100% free, it’s shady”. There are dangerous cults out there without a doubt, the so called “church of $cientology” comes to mind – which try to sell enlightenment in increments – “Pay us 200k US$, and you have reached the highest level we offer” – which of course is a scam ! But Eckhart repeatedly emphasizes that there should be no attachment to him or other teachers, that words are only pointers. “In the end, every technique has to be let go off” – Eckhart in his own words. I personally feel Eckhart has given us a gift by making spirituality accessible to laymen for a very modest price. If you buy his main books, “The power of Now” and “A new earth”, it’ll cost you around 15 GBP … doable I think for everyone.

  • This is lack mentality. Perhaps his wealth allows him to reach even more people? To donate even more money to causes he feels close to?
    Spirituality does not mean poverty. It’s not the 1593 and he is not a monk.

  • As you notice it reads “All proceeds will benefit the Eckhart Tolle Foundation”…. not all “All proceeds will be donated to the Eckhart Tolle Foundation” or “50% of proceeds will go to the Eckhart Tolle Foundation” rather…. “will benefit”…… What does “will benefit” even mean? It’s deliberately ambiguous and you have to ask why? Whatever new-age clap trap about abundance and entitlement you use to justify it, its greedy and hoarding to retain so much personal income when you promoting and message of oneness and non-attachment. There is a reason St Francis of Assisi renounced all his personal wealth and took a real vow of poverty. Times may have changed but fundamental principles remain the same. Great article by the way, really nails the issue.

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