Most helpful critical review
1,045 of 1,150 people found the following review helpful
Don't get me wrong...
on April 30, 2010
... I do in fact like this book, despite the rating I gave it. I agree with basic teaching in Tolle's book. Enlightenment can be found in releasing attachment to the mind and by experiencing life directly in the moment. By letting go of the past and the future, we abide in the present, until even that fades into a luminous emptiness.
My problems with the book do not stem from the lessons so much as with how they are presented. First of all, Tolle presents the material as if he has pulled out all of these amazing tools for enlightenment out of a hat, like some kind of magician's rabbit. In my opinion, that is just a little dishonest. Instead of just suggesting "watching the watcher" so offhandedly as if he had just made it up on the spot, it would have been nice for him to acknowledge the use of such a method existing in India for thousands of years. Or when he teaches the method of bringing attention to the "inner body," as he calls it, he could have at least brought up the mozhao and shikantaza methods of meditation in China and Japan respectively which do just exactly that.
Also, Tolle has this really terrible habit of making simple mindfulness much more mystical than it actually is. It's a little misleading. And he makes the mind sound Evil with a capital "E." He should have emphasized more strongly that it is not our thoughts and emotions, but our relationship to them that is the problem. There is no "pain body," only bad habits learned over a lifetime. Why the need to make is so mysterious and magical? Why the need to disassociate our learned behavior and neuroses and make them into some parasite inside you with an agenda of its own? Much better to teach that thoughts are simply thoughts. You can choose to let them go, or you can think of them as some nasty monster inside you. What sounds the most healthy to you?
Tolle clearly wrote this for an audience that has never studied Hinduism and Buddhism, and that's fine. Everyone needs an introduction. I just wish that he had come clean that that was what he had learned, what he decided to teach, and not mislead his readers into believing that he came out of some vacuum in space, fully formed and fully enlightened.
Read the book if you like. It will probably give you some clarity. But consider supplementing it with Buddhist and Hindu books that aren't watered down.
I would recommend:
A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield,
The Method of No-Method by Sheng Yen,
Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana,
Wake Up Now by Stephen Bodian,
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn,
and Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner.
In my opinion, these books are the real deal. Happy searching, brothers and sisters.
Steven A Martin-Nunez