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:
- THE POWER OF NOW. A GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT.
- THE PRACTISE OF THE POWER OF NOW
- A NEW EARTH. CREATE A BETTER LIFE
- STILLNESS SPEAKS
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 when a reported 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.
Exclusion of those with a low income
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. Many benefit from watching his teachings on Youtube. There is a real difference between Youtube teachings and sitting in the same hall with a much-loved teacher. A wealthy man can offer the teachings from time to time for those in the low-income category. There is no substitute for being in the presence of a teacher. Direct oral teachings resonate deeply.
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) https:/
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.”
Mr Tolle lacks the experience and understanding of men and women living a life of intentional renunciation or a complete lack of interest in materialism. Monks, nuns, sadhus, swamis, spiritual communities, spiritual seekers, meditators and more explore a different way of life. His claim that those who live such a way of life are ‘trying to suppress their desire by having no possessions” tells us about a judgemental mind.
As a former Buddhist monk in the East, I would suggest Mr. Tolle spends some time in a monastery to experience such a way of life. In my experience as a monk, there are very few ordained who suppress desires. The vast majority can’t see the point in a materialistic way of life and accumulation of wealth with death never far away.
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.
The Power of Donation
Mr. Tolle, You are on the world’s Rich Man List. You are very wealthy. From now on, please offer all or many of 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. Your wealthy devotees will still give you a generous reward for your fine teachings.
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 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.
Note to Readers. This is a critique of the fusion of spirituality with accumulation of immense wealth. There is no intention to deter readers from listening to Eckhart Tolle on YouTube or reading his books.
May all beings understand the Timeless –
unbound to the past,
unbound to the now
and unbound to the future.
PS. I wrote the blog in 2014. At that time, his wealth was estimated at $15,000,000. In 2021, the net worth of Eckhart Tolle is currently $80,000,000 according to the WealthyPersons.com website.
The global pandemic has currently blocked the opportunity for all, regardless of income, to attend public events of spiritual teachers, and others. The wealthy and the poor unite on YouTube.
Christopher, I think your premise for the article is off. It’s not about how much money Eckhart Tolle makes, it’s about what sort of lifestyle he lives. The article doesn’t provide any factual information about that. You do pose some good questions for Eckhart, but they seem nosey and could obviously lead to problems (solicitors, cons, thieves, etc) if he discloses all of his financial information.
I follow Eckhart and have never paid a penny to do so. I was given the book and I watch his free YouTube channel, free website, and other free sources. If people are willing to pay money to attend his classes so be it. I paid money to attend a class at a Buddhist center last week and thought it was well worth it.
If a Wall St banker pays $5,000 for a class and Eckhart donates the proceeds isn’t that more virtuous than not having any wealth to donate?
It’s jumping the gun to assume he’s using his wealth to increase his own lifestyle / possessions instead of having a greater, more positive impact on humankind.
If it is a stumbling block for you, try and speak to Eckhart about it…
How do you know what Eckhart plans to do with the money, he might be giving it to the hungry and less fortunate people ….
Best not to judge, assume and make assumptions…
The most important thing is Eckhart points to truth ..to find out our unmediated true Nature of self …and that is freedom silence from the serpent mind , realizing im not the person in my mind…
and the most amazing thing about it all, there is no need for a teacher or a student, we are able to transcend beyond the thinking mind body, all is confirmed inside our heart as truth…..life doesn’t worry about life only mind does that….just keep working on ourself ,the Universe happens of it self…the same self seated in the heart of all beings……..
I suspect you may be pointing to something under the surface with this post (and your later post in reply to emails). In your second post you say:
“What much of the West offers in the way of enlightenment belongs to the kindergarten of spirituality.”
There is a personal reflection published on the internet from a former friend of Tolle. In that reflection she states:
‘… if I could continue–about this aspect of him being unhealed. In all my years being alive I have come to see that there is a huge discrepancy between this “spirituality” so many seem to be seeking and unhealed inner emotional issues. It’s strange. But the two shall never meet or mix. This seems to be very true about people no matter their spiritual path. And it’s true about Tolle. He had a very complex relationship with his mother. His father was a much better parent to him. But his mother was another story. There were times when he spilled his emotions out to me, and it saddens me because he’s really a very lonely person. An extremely, and I want to say, dangerously isolated individual, who has become worse, far worse since his fame.’
It is my experience that, both in the realms of “spiritual development” and psychological healing, many people get a certain way down the path before reaching an impasse they are not psychologically prepared to face: some issue that is too dangerous, so to speak, for their ego to face with clarity.
Over the years I have met many teachers and many psychotherapists, and associated professionals, who definitely have deep healing work left undone – and psychological signs that are not hard to read which show this to be so. For a long time Tolle’s presentation convinced me that he was one such person – and reading the personal account above has underlined that point.
I believe he has work that is yet to be done on the fairly basic level of relationships and attachment that means, though he is exceedingly clever and his books touch many, that there is an absolute limit on his ability to ‘live in truthfulness’ and to truly embody that which he teaches.
In this regard he embodies belonging in the “kindergarten of spirituality”.
PS I too am blessed to live in Totnes – next time I see you in a certain coffee shop I shall say hello.
I think Christopher is not asking him to teach for free, but donation based. Not an easy thing to do these days anyway…
We all know that seminars and books and etc cost money, but there are already people doing it e.g Vipassana retreats are donation based, even for free if you decide that the teachings are not useful.
There are a lot of options and spiritual paths for us to take, just follow your heart and what you feel resonates with your truth, no matter if you have to pay $1000 or it is free.
My spiritual path has taken me to a point where I am living a very simple and honest life, I can´t pay a big amount of money for a retreat so there is not so much to choose from for me, but I know other people who are very wealthy and can travel here and there and pay to this and that guru and that has helped them a lot to advance in their paths, and I feel really happy for them.
May all beings find real peace, real harmony, real happines.
Postscript to above comment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkAH2R3BNkg
Above link is an interview with Eckhart. At 36:50 the issue of money is raised.
I realize this is an old post but I’m late to the party. The video you referenced is not available and I’m sure that happens with a lot of his videos that are shared. A few months ago, someone opened an account in the name of his publisher and was turning in any account that showed and or shared, ET videos. He was actually posting in the comment sections that the showing of those videos was theft and that the person was going to be getting bad karma.
ET may not even be aware of this, I don’t know.
Christopher, I have attended a retreat with you and respect you greatly. I observed that you are very outspoken and at times seem impatient with injustice and ignorance – perhaps a little too vehemently for me to accept as coming from a place of love. But at least you are speaking out – and there does need to more of that and I thank you for your fearless questioning.
I also question Eckhart Tolle’s pricing policies. I gained so much from his teaching at an early stage. To me his teaching about the ego so well sums up the human condition and he has taken ancient teachings and brought them alive and relevant for today.
And yet this money gathering seems incongruent and excessive. But then I also wonder at our having no qualms about paying a fortune for someone to heal our body – but balk at paying for the far greater service of healing our minds or hearts. Why is the most beneficial service to be given for free? There is something a little puritanical and religious about this attitude. I feel at least that is the case for me.
But yet – Eckhart charges so much – and only the well off can access his personalised teaching. One inquiry I made on this with his people was met with the response that the venue organisers are the ones who charge so much. I don’t really buy that. They also said he gives a lot of money away. Maybe – I really don’t know so cannot judge.
His career is not over yet. Who knows maybe he will change direction. He is not alone in his gathering of money for spiritual teaching.
I would end by saying before any of us judge, check whether we ever have a different attitude toward those who can give us something. There are many ways we expect people to pay for our services – be it gratitude, loyalty, quid pro quo etc etc. Speaking for myself, I’m not clean, so I cannot judge.
There are chances many of us have yet to fully comprehend what Echkart Tolle is teaching. If you and me have the opportunity to read his books, we can bring awareness to others around us by our own actions, they necessarily dont have to read his books.
I have read Ekhart and listened to him on YouTube. I am in violent (TOTAL) agreement with is message. But a person should practice what he preaches, else people will not have the faith to follow. Sure detachment is all mental. Yet if I have an orgy with a bunch of partners and claim I was internally detached would anyone buy that!
One must walk the talk. I still read his teachings and have benefited by it, but the way his organization is run (Tuition is almost full profit), leads me to suspect that he has not really reached the state he talks about. We know in our own personal lives, that if a parent who is a smoker tells his children do not smoke, it will not be very influential, and if parent really has the concern for the children then parent should set an example. Else little chance of the children heeding the advice, even though advice is sound. It is for this reason that the great masters of the past lived their lives in inner and outer detachmen t so they could have maximum impact for the benefit of others. Maybe Eckart has another 20 years left. How many more millions does he need?
I think this is all coming from egnositic mind who engage all the time with other people business
I believe Eckart’s teaching to be the truth and his interpretation and explanations are superior and second to none. However I too have great difficulty in coming to terms with great wealth amassed in the name of spirituality. I hope it will not be his downfall. Who knows he may have a plan for a charity or foundation to promote the cause of spirituality in under privileged parts of the world. He is an intelligent enlightened human being so he most certainly will have given it great thought. There is no other spiritual leader of our time with his ability to explain and put into words in an easily understood fashion such complex spiritual concepts. His humility and ego free presentations are genuine and touches the heart and soul profoundly. I hope he also sees fit to share with the world what he plans to do with his wealth for his own sake before people start thinking of him as a fraud and turn against him.
Yes I agree with you, my thoughts and sentiments too.
I would say to the person who compiled this web site that your ego is getting in the way, just a hint 🙂
Sorry should have read before posting, this is the same post with some edits:
I haven’t investigated to see how much of what is said here is true, but I came across Tolle a few years back and read the power of now. The book is a good book therefore I searched on the internet and listened to some of his talks and then went to his website, and his TV channel, you have to pay to become a member?! The first question came to my mind why is he charging for this? Enlightened people don’t charge for their teachings! I have lost interest in this man, I understand he will earn from books but to charge for his talks and videos is too much.
So reading this article I am not surprised as I thought he was moving in that direction of wealth gathering. Makes me wonder how much of the stuff he says about his follower are true, they might be just marketing tools, where he says people write to him and say their lives have changed or a prisoner who was freed after reading his book………
Many years ago an Indian musician Bada Gholam Ali Khan went to Afghanistan to perform. People bought tickets and watched his performance. When he came out of the stadium there were thousands of people who either didn’t have Money to buy tickets or couldn’t buy tickets due to limited seats. He told his team they are performing for these people, and he sat on a hill and performed for the enthusiast for free.
Respect to those who care about all people equally and shame on those who sell spirituality.
If you are in search of enlightenment read from Nisargadatta (I am that) and Krishnamurti (freedom from the known and others) free on the internet.
I have some doubts about his teachings because, he said after his “enlightenment” for a while he didn’t know what had happened, then he started reading books from enlightened people, (Nisargadatta, Krishnamurti….) so is he just repeating what others have said in a different way?!
Of course he is doing just that. His teachings are in no way original.
It is universal truth available to all seekers, and in no way should these teachings be given for profit.
Money and greed are the gods of this planet
Such a bullshit. If he sends his life time teaching people he should be earning a living. If you become enlightened that dlesnt mean you need to teach with a new method. He just simplified teachings for the mainstraim readers or spiritual beginners.
When everyone commenting here works for free or donation is when any of this will be relevant. It’s his business what he charges and does with his money, not mine, not yours. To go to his talks or not is your choice.. Who is it that is so interested, concerned, critical and judgmental. Discover that. Blessings _/\_
I haven’t investigated to see how much of what is said here is true, but I came across Tolle a few years back and read the power of now. The book is a good book therefore I searched on the internet and listened to some of his talks and then went to his website, and his TV channel, you have to pay to become a member?! The first question came to my mind why is he charging for this? Enlightened people don’t charge for their teachings! I have lost interest in this man, I understand he will earn from books but to charge for his talks and videos and talks is too much.
So reading this article I am not surprised as I thought he was moving in that direction of wealth gathering. Makes me wonder how much of the stuff he says about his follower are true, they might be marketing tools, where he says people write to him and say their lives have changed or a prisoner who was freed after reading his book………
Many years ago an Indian musician Bada Gholam Ali Khan when to Afghanistan to perform. People bout tickets and watch his performance, when he came out of the stadium there were thousands of people who either didn’t have Money to buy tickets or couldn’t buy tickets due to limited seats. He told his team they are performing for these people, and he sat on a hill and performed for the enthusiast for free.
Respect to those who care about all people equally and shame on those who sell spirituality.
If you are in search of enlightenment read from Nisargadatta (I am that) and Krishnamurti (freedom from the known and others) free on the internet.
I have some doubts about his teachings because, he said after his “enlightenment” for a while he didn’t know what had happened, then he started reading books from enlightened people (Nisargadatta, Krishnamurti….) so is he just repeating what others have said in a different way?!
I found out about Eckhart Tolle through the web. All of the videos I saw were free via youtube, etc. You can try out his website for a few days for a $1, and you can sign up for $20 and have unlimited access to all the videos, etc. he has on there now. So not every way to access his talks and content is so pricey. I feel like you didn’t address that in your post and its very relevant, as some reading this might think that the only way to hear what he has to say is by attending his events and retreats. Thanks.
Also, I don’t know what he does with all that money. If he really desires to overcome his ego, he could be giving it all away and in the name of true altruism doing it in such a way that no one could ever know that the money is coming from him.
Just another possible story to make up about Mr. Tolle.
You pose interesting questions about Mr. Tolle’s spiritual path. I put forth that his path is his own to manage.
As far as access to his teachings, his videos and audio lectures are all over youtube for free. His books, DVDs and CDs are readily available at the local library.
As Papaji said, those claiming enlightenment, yet charging for “satsangs” etc, cannot help but be corrupt. Money automatically brings corruption. Selling books or materials is one thing. Charging people for “workshops”, or to hear you speak = corruption. We have many examples of pure souls to look at from the past. Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, the list goes on and on. People are engaged in psuedo-spirituality and what they “desire” to hear. Such is the time of Kali Yuga in which we live. Waste no time in paying attention to these men and women lost in their desires of comforts. Instead, stick to the pure truths taught and demonstrated daily by those such as Ramana Maharshi.
Where am I to find a man who has forgotten words?
I would like to have a word with him.
Isn’t that true? Instead of getting more lost having conversation with these people who got lost in their own words? (coming from their interpretations)
Reading his books and have taken some good from them but it is concerning to find he is not just making a decent living (no problem with this) but has made the Worlds Richest Man list (big difference). If wealth was not that important he would reduce costs so he could reach people from all social circles not just the ones who can afford to see him. Do understand information is now on line but to some it is not the same or readily available for various reasons. On another note maybe he is giving it to better the world who knows, but if you put things out for people to follow & aspire to you need to be transparent.
He has talked to professionals about the days when he did workshops for free or donations only. He was perplexed by people who could well afford to help fund the room rent and such not do so, even while they said how much value they got from the experiences with him. I suppose he has done his time. I read all the Forbes lists and he is not on any of them. He also has had employees and now pays Sound True, a company of about 50, to handle most of his business, marketing, publishing and workshop logistics. I think they take quite a bit of what looks like profit. Before Sound True did all the the workshops, he tried having them handled by some people that had been doing such work at the Omega Institute, and they did some weird marketing stuff. The decision came forth to have Sounds True perform most all his management and marketing. I have been Interested in how people do this kind of business for long time. I have been disappointment when I get caught up in it. But I enjoy learning from them any way and just leave it at that now. It takes money to get around the world.
Maybe we could all learn from the fact that Eckhart was brave enough to spread a message. I run a company, I do not do it for greed but for pleasure and I happen to help people by providing them with information they would not have had. In turn they can fulfill their dreams and hopefully live a comfortable life.
If we listen to Eckhart we too can benefit spiritually and if we wish financially as he teaches us to succeed. I say leave him be. His teachings are free for all on the Internet, the audio books are also free on YouTube. He may give money to charity… We don’t know?
If we are focuses enough and privileged enough to see him person, wonderful. If not his message is abundant, let the man enjoy success!
Where do you find his teachings free for all on the internet? There are a few recordings on YouTube but not many, and most of those are posted by others. His website charges $20/month for membership, and extra if you want to download. I actually appreciate his teachings greatly, but I must say I am having the same questions about his financial situation. Doesn’t he have enough money now to make his teachings available to everybody, whether they have money or not?
Enlightenment is a state of inner explosion
Is Tolle ‘attached’ to his wealth or are you ‘attached’ to your concept of how a spiritual person should behave?
Thank you for your post. I don’t want to criticize Tolle, but as a yoga practitioner now since 1975 with Swami Gitananda; Swami Visnudevananda and Ambu, from Pondicherry, India, I must say that the second one, Swami Visnu, was immensely rich and famous, owning ashrams all over the world, but lived, as Iyengar from India, a very simple life, free of detachment. I can personally confirm this as I have lived in his ashram back in 1977. The late Krisnamurti also had the same notion about wealth. Who knows if Maya is taking over. You must choose: you cannot have both. There isn’t a single speck of dust nor gold in the abode of the Eternal Self.
living “simply” with your wealthy world…is very easy.
Can be, if you say so. I am not one of those people…
It is morally unconscionable today to be making millions when there are sick, suffering, hungrey and homeless, billions of our fellow humans beings. Materialism is difficult for me to wrap my head around and so disheartening in these spiritulal leaders, Tolle, Maryanne Williamson, Depak Choprah, Gary Zukav and Oprah, Own TV, it is hard to see such wealth made and the teachings and feel they are from a truly honest source for me. Look at the difference Mother Thersa and the current Pope did their spiritual practices and Jesus BIG difference.
I added this youtube vid about materialism……please let me know your thoughts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk1i7UGBz1Q&feature=player_embedded
Q – Why do your events cost money?
Eckhart would like to spread the teaching around the world at no cost. With a number of internal expenses including salaries, office space, rental fee for locations of events, airfare for Eckhart to travel to each destination etc., it is necessary to charge admission at lectures in order to continue to spread the message.
Maybe it would be an idea just to do local events and connect people via webinar? That would cut down on expense and reach more people. You can still take Q & A’s. that way too. True spiritual teachers have no interest in accumulating wealth or fame which often leads to their downfall as this is the ‘classic temptation’ test which has befallen many teachers.
Some people want to see him in person? Should he hide himself away?
Doesnt explain why his net worth is several million. If he want to cover for venue expenses, travel and hosting, it can be run as a not-for-profit organization. The user fee would be miniscule and possibly none since there may be donors to cover expenses anyways
I agree that it is “morally unconscious.” However, we shouldn’t throw the teachings out with the teacher. The teachings are helping and freeing people, whether or not they come from a place of honesty or desire for wealth.
I don’t know any of these teachers personally, but if a part of their personality is attached to wealth, even in the face of the suffering of those with so little, that’s part of their trip. We all have our attachments, shortcomings, and moments of unconsciousness. And it doesn’t negate every teaching or bit of wisdom they have shared.
That said, there is a big difference between when Eckart Tolle talks about altruism, loving awareness, w/e and someone like Ram Dass who sold Be Here Now for the exact cost of production, or these other beings like Jack Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other who are teaching in prisons for free, or devoting 100% of their retreat costs to charity.
Mother Teresa and the Pope have the enormous wealth of the Catholic church behind them.
Eckhart is showing a perfect example of how to not be attached to an image or concept of what an enlightened person should be like. We all have our own ideas of what an enlightened person should/shouldn’t do, look like, act, etc. But theses are all just concepts that we have no way of proving true or not. Eckhart goes against many preconceived ideas of an enlightened person-He wears normal (some may even say boring) clothes, has a lot of money, has a partner (Kim Eng), doesn’t belong to a particular religious tradition, etc. In other words, he is actually accessible to modern people.
Thank you Eckhart for your realizations and your teachings!
This is an interesting topic.
I’ve also noticed that Mr. Tolle is accumulating a lot of wealth. However, we don’t know yet how those funds will be put to work; therefore, it is too early to pass judgement.
Instead of giving much attention to how spiritual teachers live there lives, I personally, focus on their teachings. When it comes to Eckhart’s teachings, I’m deeply impressed.
I wish you all success in your practice…
And how do you know what Eckhart desires? Many judgments are made of Eckhart’s desire in this article. Be careful on who and how you judge. If you look at Eckhart’s fruit, it is hard to deny his detachment form ego.
Many thanks for the variety of comments, both approving of the blog and those disapproving or rejecting. Eckhart Tolle makes an immensely valuable contribution to spiritual awareness but I know people who would love to attend one of his retreats but cannot afford the cost. It is a matter of concern.
Dont often react, every one may have his own view, pro or con, except this time I have two questions for Christopher :
1. why do you not respond to any posting “against” your opinion (or even “in favour”) ?
2. I looked at Amazon.com and your work is sold there, isn’t that a contradiction to the above?
People who tell the world about their generosity are always suspected of being more egoist than generous
People pay thousands of $ to psychologists and psychiatrists for therapy and help all the time… what’s the difference, especially if it helps?
When the teachings are available on internet and when they are very useful, why worry about the money he makes. Take what is good , true and useful, and be thankful for the inspiration.
Ideally, it would be free and we would live in a gift economy. Maybe spiritual leaders should push for a new system but I don’t hear much of the banging. But anyway, where do you draw the line of what is free and what is not? I think the real issue is if you get caught up with money. Generally speaking (as I don’t know where Tolle spends his money), if you can help people, make money and direct it towards causes that help more people, is that a bad thing? A high price would filter out to the few who can afford to pay. With the right programs in place, it’d be wealth redistribution.
It’s just money. Seems it hasn’t affected him or his teaching. He’s still the same.
It’s just money! Wonderful that he is doing well. I doubt it has changed him or his teaching one iota.
Your article is an important one yet the big picture may shed a different light than the negativity the article tries to convey.
1. YouTube has an endless – literally hours and hours of Eckhart’s videos for free.
2. His audio books are available – read by himself – on YouTube totally free too.
If you also want to hold a hard copy of his books, you can get them 2nd-hand/like-new for as little as $2 on Amazon and guess what? – Tolle does not get even one penny of those proceeds.
3. EckahrtTolleTV.com posts much of their content on YouTue for free as well. They also send Monthly free content and all you need to do is provide your email address http://www.eckharttolletv.com/stay-informed/
If they also include invites to register for a fee, just ignore those. Focus on what matters to you.
4. Many sessions of Eckhart with Oprah are available for Free including Oprah’s 10-week series of shows with him here:
5. I reached out to EckhartTolleTV and they shared with me that Retreats and seminars are put together by various private organizations who sometimes also provide a number of discounted tickets.
6. This is not Buddha’s or Socrates, or Confucius times where most people were poor and the gatherings were very local. Nowadays putting together a Retreat starts many months ahead of an event, requires a lot of coordination, security, insurance, advertising, location costs and numerous people to make happen.
7. Even if such events offered tickets at ‘cost’ prices and are in Italy for example, how does that help people who don’t have the extra money anyway if they also need to fly in and pay for lodging?
8. Getting the message to those who pay full price usually translates to relaying Eckhart’s teachings through more influential and connected people further out to a larger audience, hence adding to the sharing of these important teachings.
9. Tolle does not need a larger bank account and that is not what he is seeking. It’s the nature of modern society and the structure of supply (Eckart’s time) and demand that is in play here as well. He does not acquire yachts and posh properties anywhere. He also does not plan on building ‘worship temples’ and he offers his message to empower people to independence and not to create further attachment to him.
10. Just like we surrender to the Now by avoiding getting lost in thought, we all need to take a deep breath, acknowledge that value is allowed to be met with cost in modern societies and also be grateful that technology offers 100% of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings in print, video and audio for no cost or next to nothing.
11. With all that said, it’s time to let the technically fantastic mind take a break and return to the ever vibrating non-judgmental and dynamic stillness that is our essence.
I liked your insightful response to this topic. After many years of spiritual interest through my teacher who was enlightened, as well as the work of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharashi, I would say that Tolle is the genuine article. As you point out his work is very available on the internet for free. I would suspect that the monies are distributed in a charitable manner though it really does not matter in this world of appearance. Cheers.
Thank you. I appreciate the links to his free teachings online, as I have had trouble finding them.
what??? you think he should just give books and seminars away for free and pay out of his pocket?? It costs $$$ and time to put seminars and books together. He has to pay for venues and all the wages to helpers. He has hours of free talks online and has given so much of value. His seminars are inexpensive and I think it isn’t right to associate spirituality with a vow of poverty. Why shouldn’t he be rich?? I resent rap stars or gun manufacturers or other protagonists of violence being rich but ECHART??? He deserves every penny
..the point is though, that the prices are high by any standard of live event.
You don’t pay more for something like this because of its perceived importance.
We all know there are overheads, but i think they are well covered.
..i’m actually getting a lot of help and advice from Eckharts teachings, i’m just struggling to understand their website, and merchandising.
Someone else is part of this, making a huge profit.
Its just a question that needs to be addressed even if most followers don’t want to ask it..
why such a high price?
maybe we could get self enlightenment a bit cheaper.
I don’t think Echart would say he isn’t any different from rappers or gun makers if you truly understand his teachings as well as his mindset on defensiveness. I think Christopher is just trying to say beware of making Eckart an idol to defend. Jesus and the Buddha were spiritual teachers and charged nothing. The Universe took care of them and I know spiritual teachers now who literally live like that and The Universe takes care of all their needs. It’s absolutely amazing! One is Tom Flack and I could give you his number if you want. He teaches exactly what Echart does for free. There is nothing new under the sun. It is just packaged differently and if people believe they can get more by paying higher prices for it than let that be their delusion. Oprah is extremely wealthy but she shares her wealth with others and that is truly a spiritual action. All talk and no action does not make a person spiritual. I personally love the way Eckart teaches but he isn’t my idol. We are truly all One and No One is better than anyone else. Always remember “by their fruit you will know them”. Not by their teachings or their riches but by their PERSONAL fruit.
Can you give us more details on this Tom Flack as I can’t seem to find anyone on the Internet. Thanks
Not for free, but donation based. Not an easy thing to do anyway.
We all know that seminars and book and etc cost money, but there are already people doing it e.g Vipassana retreats are donation based, even for free if you decide that the teachings are not useful.
There are a lot of options and spiritual paths for us to take, just follow your heart and what you feel resonates with your truth, no matter if you have to pay $1000 or it is free.
My spiritual path has taken me to a point where I am living a very simple and honest life, I can´t pay a big amount of money for a retreat so there is not so much to choose for me, but I know other people who are very wealthy and can travel here and there and pay to this and that guru and that has helped them a lot to advance in their paths, and I feel really happy for them.
May all beings find real peace, real harmony, real happines.
Money is the best and most effective and essential tool humans need to live a beautiful life and have a great experience while on earth. Spiritual teachers should be allowed to charge for their teachings, but when they become money macking machine, this is where people like me question them. All spiritual teachers charge too much and become commercially motivated. If spiritual teachers don’t identify with money as the rest of us do, then why charge tooooo much money. Why not charge reasonable fee.
The obviously overly high price of these retreats and merchandising is something that you question when you are aware.
The teachings are powerful –
Obviously disappointment and defensive thinking kick in when these questions of so much money are raised.
I remember reading somewhere that you ‘never question the grand master’
There’s danger in that, i think we could all agree.
The only time i didn’t feel right about Eckharts thing, was when i saw the price of a retreat that i would have gone to.. The ticket cost more than a
The only part, to be fair, that i would say i’m not informed on, is where the money goes.
But i definitely think we have a right to ask, even if it shows we are not quite there yet, on this path of enlightenment
Thank you Christopher. I read the Power of Now and will always value it highly. However, my email inbox has been gnawing away at me with a constant flow of short samples of Eckhart’s work, intended not to teach but to tempt. I don’t buy this, “if I charge more they’ll value it higher” approach many teachers employ to mask their own egoic greed. Your post here explains perfectly well
I’m not sure I really get any of the logic of this post. It is wrong to earn money if you are spiritual ? Is he hurting anyone by earning this money ? Is he forcing people to pay the sums of money they are paying for books or courses or do they choose to pay this because they see value in the teachings ? Does the author actually have an idea how Ekhart uses the proceeds ?
Spirituality is different for everyone – but I believe the real changes starts with self analyzing the beliefs we hold. The programs that have been instilled in us from childhood. The author here clearly holds a belief that “money is bad” and “Being rich is bad”. These beliefs say more about him then they say about Ekhart.
‘Being rich’ is not bad neither money is bad, but accumulating wealth beyond the necessity points towards the greed to have more and obviously the attachment to the personal self which Echart says is the least important and the most superficial level of existence. I Love Echart’s teachings and the way he explains the subtle tendencies of the egoistic self, but when the topic of money comes … I feel disturbed..too much disturbed. I am not able to conceive the notion that his events and seminars would cost such high expenses. Making reasonable profit is never questionable but making riches is indeed. I hope Echart is as pure as his teachings are otherwise people will stop believing in teachers altogether and there will indeed come spiritual crisis in today’s world where there is so much need of true spiritual knowledge and understanding.
Your article is well written but misses the point. The essence of any spiritual teaching is that identification with concepts (concepts of any kind really) causes suffering. “Concept” can be money, power or even something “noble” like charity. Basically if you can name it, it is a concept. The root of the problem is not the content itself (in this case money) but identification with it. The only way Eckhart can be so effective with his teaching given all the money he is making is because he is not identified with it. So go ahead, make all the money you want. You can be as spiritual as the Dalai Lama as long as you don’t identify with it.
what a perspective mr stillman! ‘make all the money you want as long as you don’t identify with it.’ who wants this money and why would you make them?
you really can’t see the discrepancy between the teaching and the doing?! got so engrossed with the theory that you lost contact with the reality [don’t tell me that this is an illusion now…]. the article didn’t miss anything- when even in Vancouver you can see suffering on the streets due to poverty, let alone the realities of the third world, how can you preach detachment from concepts to those whose bellies are growling?!
oh my ! the same tired old buddhist rant against money….! what a cliche.
seriously, we have to stop this…because your whole article is based on the assertion that you know that money is:
1) a corrupting force
2) eckhart stands to corrupt himself
3) or, eckhart is or has been corrupted by money
all those assumptions are yours and yours alone…nothing but a judgment and bias created by your own (buddha) mind.
do you really know Eckhart. do you know him personally ? do you know what he does with his money ?
maybe he lives very frugally. maybe more frugally than you !
so enough with your petit bourgeois judgements !
Are the answers to some of the questions so painful?
Is any master beyond Q&A?
So questioning – not the running of high priced seminars – is “bourgeois”?
My ‘master’ is better than ‘you’?
This is the experience of “Oneness” from the teachings?
Thank you. These are meaningful questions that you are asking. Some students may say, “It is not our business what he does with his money. What is wrong in making money? He is not doing anything wrong.”
However, I feel that spirituality is not separate and cannot be fragmented from “our relationship with the world.” Our actions, our words and thoughts need be to in alignment.
I deeply respect Tolle’s teachings, but I really miss ‘social engagement’ and ‘social embodiment’ of his teachings. I do not hear him talk about race or gender that most solid spiritual teachers are talking about. Even the Buddha was walking from one king to another in the last week of his life, trying to convince them to not wage a war. The Buddha was very much socially engaged and vocal about the issues of his time.
If Tolle has millions of dollars, I feel that as student I want to know where he invests. Is he investing in Monsanto stocks, Coke or Pepsi stocks? Are his investments polluting the earth? Is he donating to charity? Also, why are there not enough scholarships and access to the poorest of poor for in-person teachings?
This is relevant so that I can know if I want to support him as a teacher or not.
Why is his website so super ‘markety’ looking? Does he ever see it, or is it run my his partner Kim Eng without his knowledge? The website in no way embodies the depth or stillness that he talks about in is talks.
Yes, I completely agree. I often read a new earth and find it to be very helpful to remind myself to live consciously but in today’s age I am more interested in how to apply that directly when one’s civil rights are violated, for example. The website also bothers me. I guess I just see accumulating that much wealth as injustice to the “have nots”. Being paid a lot of money isn’t an issue for me, but the seemingly active pursual of more money feels very contradictory. Let him make millions off of his books and be paid for appearances but I don’t understand the need to create a “brand” or sell other things… I dont understand how that can bring anyone peace. That feels a bit icky to me.
Chris, I totally agree with you. I can’t see how several respondents can say that there’s no connection between spirituality and money. Assuming that most of these readers have Christian roots, aren’t they even aware of the encounters Jesus had with money-lenders? Materialism and Spirituality are totally opposing forces. Anyone charging these kind of exorbitant fees is not someone I would like to learn from. During my wanderings in Southeast Asia I came across one Lama Maruth who ran Tibetan Buddhist retreats for about $100 a day or more – which you could attend with your sexual partner! Now that’s the next level – mixing money, lust and spirituality!
I’m not saying you don’t make some good and interesting points Chris, but…
The bottom line is this: WHAT IS THE TEACHING AND IS IT THE TRUTH IN YOUR EXPERIENCE? That is all that matters. As far as I’m concerned Tolle teaches the truth. How do I know? Because I SEE it in my OWN EXPERIENCE. The core of his teaching is NOT “recycled buddhism” etc as his critics like to claim, but his OWN DIRECT EXPERIENCE OF *THOUGHT VS NON-THOUGHT*. And, yep, that’s pretty much it. The greatest freedom anyone can learn about life. So whatever he “makes” out of it is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT. And I mean TOTALLY IRRELEVANT – all that matters is the teaching and whether it works in our lives – not what he gets up to in his personal life.
Totally agree with you Chris. I have to ask myself, where is the humility in this man, he seems obsessed with money for someone who claims to be so realised. I admit to having read some of his work but lately I find his penchant for the limelight has gone in to overdrive. It seems to me that since he did Oprah and all these daytime shows he has begun exploiting his fame to amass as much wealth as possible, somewhat like other new-age spiritual guru’s, mentioning no names… Deepak Chopra!. I was also dissapointed to see that he is doing these seminars for professionals now, obviously going for the corporate sector in order to make big bucks.
Let’s face it, Eckhart’s teachings are basically Buddhism and Vedanta with a little Christian Mysticism thrown in, he simply repackages pre-existing teachings and without due credit. If people want an authentic teacher they should go read the Dharma, there you will find the true master; Gautama Buddha who did the opposite to Eckhart and gave up his wealth for enlightenment. To me that is far more noble a cause.
With respect my friend, no he doesn’t just “repackage” pre-existing teachings at all. You said you read his work. Then you would know he came to his teachings through suicidal depression. He teaches his OWN DIRECT EXPERIENCE OF LIFE and actually makes this very clear in much of his work – he THEN brings in “sprinkles of teachings” from elsewhere when it is necessary to exemplify a point. This is very different from “repackaging”. If something is the TRUTH, then it will always be the truth, no matter what “angle” one may use to guide the listener.
As I said above, all that matters is whether the teaching is true and resonates with you or not? Why should he live how YOU want him to live? That’s just more of the mind’s projection.
I have practiced Vipassana meditation as taught my S. N. Goenka for about 20 years now. They offer 100% free 10-day meditation retreats. During this course, one thing that Goenka said that still resonates with me is “there should never be a price for the teaching of Dhamma”. Tolle should learn from this, and shut down his tolle-booth and lead people onto the road to enlightenment at not cost.
I totally agree, his teachings are exclusive for certain group of people, i just went to take a look at his website and if i don’t have a credit/debit card i cannot get in, there is a free trial, how ridiculous that can be, just imagine Jesus or the Buddha with a free trial!!. It has become exclusive to the high class, now it has “exclusivity” “How Ironic!! just as he mentions in his teachings, when i took the bus and look at poor people on the streets i always thought “if they could just have access to this, the world will start to change for them and for others” and now i think that Eckhart’s answer will be “their moment is not yet to find enlightenment”, well no!! I wasn’t looking for enlightenment when i found the power of now in youtube, (channel that was closed for copyrights not too much time afterwards and only this audio book was in there, as if that will hurt their wallet), i even didn’t know what enlightenment was, some people don’t understand that for others spend something online is luxury . So it is no about their time, it is about the people that their business is targeting, I had this dream to save money in order to assist to one of his retreats, up to just a few minutes ago i thought they were at the other side of the world, so i went online looking for it just to realize, that he actually comes to my country for retreats, information i will paste literally…”Eckhart Tolle comes to Costa Rica but locals were not allowed to hear him. It was too expensive for locals and the locals weren’t invited. Spirituality as a business.””
I agree with much of what you were writing and I appreciate your compassion with all the people in need!
I think, Christopher’s article is also about self-empowerment, empowerment of the seeker:
there is no need to follow the marketing people for more than an inspiration.
It is also possible that the fundamental practice cannot be found there: people are just reading or listening to and repeating Eckart’s (or somebody elses…) words and how Eckart (or somebody else…) has found some truth.
That is why it seems like “kindergarten”:
practice and inquiry can be done anywhere and at any time.
My 5 cents.
if he is smart he is investing it, which will compound in a lot more of money- and than hopefully he uses it in benefit of the world
I agree with Chris analysis. I am not shocked by the fact that I have to pay something to buy a book or watch videos. But last Eckhart 5-day retreat for helping professionals (June 2015 in California) was charged $1495 (tuition only); and a monthly subscription to ETTV costs $20/month. The same as a daily subscription to New York Times! It simply does not make sense when you compare the effort of production between ETTV and NYT (I am not comparing the content).
I think that Eckhart teachings are profound and sincere, but I am uncomfortable with his website, which is so business oriented (with promotions, teasers, etc.). Is it to sell a product? Or spread a spiritual message? Am I just a customer (with a hot line, customer service attendance hours, etc.)? Or a spiritual student, follower?
I would consider interesting for Eckhart Teachings Inc. to publish an annual report or financial statements. In a simple act of conscious transparency.
Agree with Chris, for a spiritual person who concentrates his teachings on non-material matters, he seem to be making an awful lot of money.
Again so does the catholic church, right?
They all seem to me like a good businesses pretending to aim at the higher ideas. I do not trust them like I do not trust fat body builders teaching how to get slim.
Yes indeed, intellect vs being. If you are so enlightened you are only concerned with helping others, going full into synergy and altruism. Like a cell in your ody, is it trying to collect anything for itself? No it is not, it is just function for a higher organisational unit: the organism constituted of all cells in synergy. A cell in an organism only takes what it needs to operate and maintain homeostatis. Building up money/material wealth has nothing to do with that.
$10 for the main book is not a lot of money. A poor person could possibly scrape it together, it would be worth it to him.
There’s nothing wrong with making money, as long as it’s not the most important thing. I think Eckhart would agree with that.
Poor peopl… what about third world countrie people who are living or have come from war torn countries.
Single parents? Eckhart Tolle does not care about others wellbeing as he has basically said, we are all just manifestation of the one consciousness. We are all at different levels of awareness… that is fine for the people who are not starving, or being abused or dying. His whole philosophy is wrong to me as it relieves people of their responsibility to their fellow human, it’s ok because really nothing matters except the one consciousness? ? This is an exscuse and abhorrent.
So what does he do with his money… did you not investigate that far?