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Eckhart Tolle on Death, Life and the Formless

Explore Eckhart Tolle's profound insights on death, life, and the formless in our in-depth article. Discover recommended books by Eckhart Tolle that can guide your journey to enlightenment.

eckhart tolle on death

Eckhart Tolle's thoughts on death have profoundly influenced contemporary spiritual thought with his teachings on mindfulness, presence, and the nature of consciousness. Best known for his best-selling books "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth," Tolle emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment and recognizing the illusion of the ego. In his exploration of death, Tolle delves into the concepts of life and the formless, encouraging individuals to perceive death not as an end but as a transition into a deeper, timeless state of being. In this article, we discover the topic of death and loss of loved ones in the light of Tolle's teachings.

Eckhart Tolle's perspective on death

In his interview for “Science of Mind” magazine, Tolle shared his thoughts on death and spiritual awakening. According to him, modern people consider death something terrible that should not happen. Usually, people deny it. In Western culture, we do not understand that death has a redemptive aspect. 

"Western culture is deeply embedded in a denial of death. People rarely speak about it, and there is a collective avoidance of anything that reminds us of our mortality." 

Eckhart Tolle quotes

Whether death comes as a result of violence against a large number of people or an individual, prematurely from illness, accident, or old age, death is always an opportunity. 

"To die before you die means to let go of your identification with the content and structure of your life. When you let go of that, you discover that you are consciousness itself, not the form to which consciousness is attached."

Tolle on Christianity and Jesus' Teachings

Eckhart Tolle shares some aspects of the Christian or biblical perspective, although he does not adhere to Christian dogmas, especially the redemptive death of Christ. He explains the Kingdom of Heaven as a dimension, comparing the sky with some spaciousness, without form, that people can not touch. 

“God is the source of all life, the transcendence source of all life. It has no existence in space and time.” 

Eckhart Tolle quotes

There is a point that death is not an end. Tolle teaches about this, and the Bible says there is life after death. It is the beginning of something new and beautiful. The Bible says Jesus Christ, as God on earth, died on the cross for all people's sins and transgressions. Tolle admires the crucifixion as the transcendence of suffering. He compares it with a person's life when the past has left; now, it is time for consciousness and awakening.

“Suffering is a cross, and the cross is the symbol of the divine.”  

Tolle on the Buddhist insight

Although Tolle does not identify as Buddhist, many of his teachings resonate with Buddhism, such as mindfulness, meditation, and the ego as an obstacle to enlightenment. He cited Buddha's saying: “I teach suffering and the end of suffering,” as a focus on transcending the ego.

Tolle suggests that consciousness evolves through various forms and experiences, which can be loosely related to reincarnation as a process of growth and development. He talks about reincarnation during life, not after death, because Tolle explains reincarnation as an experience of physical feelings. However, his teaching is about changing form as a death without physical form. 

Core Eckhart Tolle's teachings on death

Death is the dissolution of either a physical or psychological form. When the form disappears, the obscured light always begins to shine through. By recognizing and moving beyond the ego, we can experience Oneness. This is the formless One life, the formless One of consciousness. Death is the moment of dissolution of form. When this dissolution is not resisted, a passage appears into the dimension of the sacred, into the One, formless, unmanifested life. Without death's dissolution, there is no transformation of human consciousness.

Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey have discussed death in their conversations, particularly during the webcasts they conducted for Tolle's book, "A New Earth." Both Tolle and Oprah highlight that understanding the impermanence of life can lead to a deeper appreciation for the present moment. By living fully now, we can transcend the fear of death. Tolle offers practical advice on how to experience Oneness in daily life, such as through mindfulness practices, meditation, and conscious awareness of our thoughts and actions. 

Tolle emphasized the ego death. The death of the ego is a change, rebirth, and liberation from the fears and desires of our flesh, which prevents us from growing spiritually and causes the fear of death. People tend to see the world materially and in a certain form. Thus, it is essential to fully live in the present, here and now, understand death as a transition, not an end, and accept that the inevitability of death helps to grow spiritually because you learn how to be fully in consciousness. 

Eckhart Tolle's quotes on death

Here are some thoughts from Tolle's books to help you better understand this specific topic from his point of view:

"The death of the mind-created sense of self, the ego, is the precondition for the emergence of your true nature."

Eckhart Tolle quotes

One of the key ideas of Tolle's teaching is the human ego and the struggle with it or ego death. The ego is an obstacle to growth because it has desires and weaknesses. People suffer because of their ego, and they feel unhappy about themselves. However, denying the ego will open a person's true nature.

"When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even argue with you, no matter how hard he or she tries. You cannot have an argument with a fully conscious person."

Eckhart Tolle's teachings on the state of consciousness emphasize the importance of being present and aware, free from the constant mind chatter. 

"The secret of life is to die before you die—and find that there is no death."

Eckhart Tolle quotes

Tolle teaches about our own ego death. It means to be free from any limitations and fears. Tolle encourages a profound inner transformation that involves transcending the ego and realizing the eternal, formless nature of one's true self.

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."

Tolle's “The Power of Now” main point is to live in the present moment, be fully conscious, and accept yourself beyond the form. According to Tolle, living fully is experiencing life with a sense of presence and inner stillness, including accepting mortality.

"When you realize that death is not the opposite of life but a part of it, you can begin to live fully."

Eckhart Tolle quotes

By realizing that our true nature is beyond the physical form and mind, individuals can transcend their fear and find peace. The acceptance includes recognizing that physical death is a part of the natural flow of life.

"The fear of death is really a fear of losing the self. The ego believes in its own solidity and continuity and cannot comprehend its own non-existence."

The deeper self, or true self, is eternal and not subject to birth and death. Moreover, as long as you identify yourself with the mind, your life is controlled by the ego. "Realize deeply that the present moment is the only time you have," advises Tolle.

Read more quotes from Eckhart Tolle here.

Coping with loss

In the book "Stillness Speaks," Eckhart Tolle talks about coping with loss. According to him, when something ends, such as a pleasant meeting with friends or relatives, a vacation, or the kids just leaving the house, you experience a small death. The form that appears in your consciousness as this sensation dissolves. This often leaves people feeling emptiness they never want to experience or face. If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, the feeling of emptiness initially perceived as uncomfortable turns into a sense of inner spaciousness where deep peace reigns. By learning to die daily, you open yourself to life.

“Whenever any kind of deep loss occurs in your life — such as loss of possessions, your home, a close relationship; or loss of your reputation, job, or physical abilities — something inside you dies. You feel diminished in your sense of who you are. There may also be a certain disorientation. Without this...who am I?”

Eckhart Tolle quotes

When a form that you have unconsciously identified with as part of yourself leaves you or disappears, it can be extremely painful. This leaves a hole in the structure of your existence. 

“When this happens, don't deny or ignore the pain or the sadness that you feel. Accept that it is there.”

Tolle advises understanding loss, such as changing form. On a deep level, death is sacred. The form is gone. A person moved or reincarnated. This can comfort you, but you must completely accept that the person is gone. It is just another dimension of life.

Spiritual growth through understanding death

Tolle believes many people grow because of their own life experiences if they have suffered a lot, if they have experienced a significant loss, or if they have somehow encountered death - their own psychological death or the death of a very close person. Some form of suffering often leads to readiness. Suffering can crack the shell of the ego-driven mind that many identify with the self. Life suddenly breaks this shell, and as soon as a crack appears, it becomes easier for spiritual teaching to break through to us. We suddenly become open to it because it penetrates the deeper levels of our being. 

According to Eckhard Tolle, there are two ways of growing:

  1. One lies through suffering. The essence of human suffering is the internal resistance to the beingness of a given moment. You experience loss in your life—a loss that includes death in one form or another. You lose your home, your sense of belonging, and your self-identity. Loss enters your life in one form or another, and you resist because the situation seems unacceptable. This increases the suffering and becomes so acute that you cannot bear it. Then something happens inside you. You suddenly stop responding. You don't resist - you accept. Thus, through suffering, through facing death in one form or another, life pushes you towards the cessation of struggle, with which comes deep inner peace. This happened to Tolle. Suffering, especially acute suffering, is always an opportunity. It carries within it the potential for liberation.

  2. The second option of growth can be pleasant, not painful. People can understand their need for peace and acceptance. They are seeking it, and they can get answers. Tolle proposes that his teachings can help them reach enlightenment.


Here are descriptions of two meditations by Eckhart Tolle that will help you feel and deepen the present moment. Other practical exercises are in Eckhart's "The Power of Now." As we discuss in this article, living fully now can help us fight the fear of death. 

Start your day right: Practice meditation upon waking up in the morning

We don't notice so much in the present because, from the moment we wake up from sleep, we find ourselves completely immersed in our thoughts, fears, and desires related to the coming day. Tolle proposes to try this simple, short exercise of observing and experiencing sensations before you leave bed in the morning. You will be surprised at how different your day will be after this exercise.

"The key is to create moments of stillness throughout the day. Even a few conscious breaths can bring you back to the present moment. Practising mindfulness in everyday activities, such as walking, eating, or listening, can also help anchor you in the now."

Eckhart Tolle quotes

Breath-watching meditation

Before meditating, sit comfortably with your back straight and close your eyes. Bring your attention inward and pay attention to your breathing. Don't try to make your breathing deeper. Let it be natural. 

As you observe your breathing, your inhalations and exhalations will naturally become deeper and longer. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Feel your stomach rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. If thoughts arise in your mind, you simply notice them and then return your attention to your breath. If a stream of thoughts distracts you, thoughts cease to have power over you as soon as you notice it. You simply let them flow and return your attention to your breath.

Presence in accepting mortality

Eckhart Tolle teaches that perceiving and interacting with the world from a place of deep silence can help us connect on a deeper level, seeing the essence of life in everything. Understanding formlessness can help us accept mortality; the key to freedom from the past and future is being present now. 

"When you live in surrender, something comes through you into the world of duality that is not of this world."

Eckhart Tolle quotes

Tolle suggests that by surrendering and letting go of personal ego and control, you allow a higher, transcendent force to work through you, bringing a profound, otherworldly influence into the daily, dualistic world.

"Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it."

Eckhart invites you to approach life as though you have intentionally chosen your current circumstances. By adopting this attitude, you take ownership of your experience and reduce resistance to what is happening. He advocates for a mindful and proactive attitude toward life, not frustrated about what can happen to you in the future.

Explore more of Tolle's teachings for your personal growth

Eckhart Tolle, a prominent spiritual teacher, had a life-altering near-death experience that transformed his understanding of life. In his books, "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth," he emphasizes living in the present, accepting life's impermanence, and viewing suffering as an opportunity for growth.

Dive deeper into his profound insights and practical wisdom on the Headway app to enhance your mindfulness, presence, and understanding of life and death. Listen to or read detailed summaries of Eckhart Tolle's books. The Headway app has a great library of non-fiction literature, and you can easily discover the key ideas of books and grow every day, spending just around 15 minutes per book. 


What religion is Eckhart Tolle?

Eckhart Tolle doesn't affiliate himself with any religion. His teachings mix Christianity, the Islamic movement of Sufism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism ideas.  

What is meditation by Eckhart Tolle?

One of the meditations offered by Echart Tolle is "Guided Meditation for Deep Relaxation and Awareness." It is available on his official YouTube channel. It suggests exploring "the inner depths of your consciousness, allowing you to release stress and connect with a sense of peace and clarity." 

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