Even it is obvious that we are living in the golden age of humanity with personal freedoms taking over the world, science and technology progressing by flourishing our societies, there just seems to be something wrong with the humanity in general – our inclination towards violence, greedy destruction or aggression in deep personal level is something that bothers each individual. Not surprisingly, this mass confusion finds its projection in various aspects of our daily lives. Take for example the movies we watch. Maybe you never paid attention, or never thought it this way, but most of the movies we watch and enjoy watching are full of violence. How come that we enjoy one human being causing pain and destruction to other human beings, often to countless number of them. Why it is so joyful to watch? Is it something normal to enjoy seeing other people suffer?
I hear you saying “Pff, come on, it is just a movie, relax”. But, is it just an innocent movie or it tells something about ourselves that we are trying to not speak of? Although that extreme level of violence is not that obvious in our daily lives, at least we don’t notice it externally, our not-so-distant history shows us that this quite form of mass hunger for aggression and destruction can pop up time to time, and get out of control. You all know the scale of World War 2, right? How many millions got scarified to one person’s diluted fantasies? Or the internal repression of Soviet Russia? Have you heard about it? Right, similar massacres are not happening these days, at least not a “global world war” scale, but even today, greed and hate get their incarnation as a violance towards other species, nature and Earth itself. We destroy forests, pollute the air and water, and mistreat and slaughter animals in factory farms.
One of the most renowned Indian sages, Ramana Marshi, once said that “mind is maya”. In Hinduism, the world Maya describes a form of collective mental illness. Buddhism takes this idea a step further and makes it, how I call it, “actionable”. It describes mind’s natural state as dukkha – state of suffering and misery. Why I call it actionable? Because, Buddha noticed this dukkha in himself, and this gave him quite deep insights about the nature of mind. This lead to a great and liberating teaching, that eventually became Buddhism.
So, you might ask, what is the connection between violent movies, wars, aggression and corrupted nature of mind? They sound quite unrelated. Yes, unless you have read a book called “The New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.
In this phenomenal book, Ekhart Tolle – German born spiritual teacher, talks about self-delusion caused by our ego, and how that personal misconception of self and identification with ego can take a mass scale, by producing suffering in our societies, or even worldwide. He says that identifying yourself with your ego – that flow of thoughts that are coming and going without your own control keeps us floundering in our thoughts, feelings and desires to connect with anything outside of ourselves. It basically perpetuates our misunderstanding of the world. The problem with the ego is that it tricks us into thinking that knowing ourselves is the same as knowing about ourselves.
When you read this book, you cannot stop appreciating Tolle’s great ability of explaining extremely complicated ideas in a very simple manner that makes his teaching accessible to everyone. He argues that the world today feeds on ego. We maintain the myth that our identity is defined through our accomplishments, backgrounds and material possessions. Take a moment and think. When you meet someone new, what are you asking first thing after knowing that person’s name? What do you do? Which means, what is your profession. and then you are trying to learn about this person through his background experience, some facts of his or her life and so on. It is kinda playing with a surface, but people usually don’t really get to know other true self. At least not immediately. Let’s philosophize this a bit – our ego explores other person’s ego… that is the whole story in most cases.
Author says that letting go of the ego, however, is far more than simply giving up our attachment to our experiences, background, or material goods. Mostly it requires the recognition that what we normally refer to as the self – the I, or the stream of consciousness that feels, things and forms opinions – is not who we are. Totally radical idea, but makes sense when you digest it. At the end of the day, Ego is a mental construct – a story we tell ourselves about who we are. The true self is the state of being that observes the stream of thoughts and consciousness by not reacting to it.
While being a college student, Tolle noticed a women on the subway who was oblivious to her surroundings, and talking loudly and angrily to herself. The author observed the woman, thinking “I hope I don’t end up like her” and immediately caught himself saying these words out loud. At that moment he had an insight – he was just like this women, ego-driven and self-absorbed, lacking awareness in the present moment! Another moment of eureka came when he thought that if she was mad, everyone else was mad too, as all of us are having similar loud and angry thoughts conflicts with ourselves, but most of the times , we don’t speak them out loud as that woman did. Therefore, it doesn’t make us any different. The only thing we can claim is that, she had a bit higher level of madness than us, but it doesn’t make us sane. It makes as less madder than her.
The New Earth is one of the rare spiritual books that brings their effects immediately – right after finishing the book, or even while reading. As you go from page to page, you’ll start noticing how harsh your internal monologue is on you. On top of that, this book equips you with essential tools, or rather say, mind tools to capture your mind drifting away under the influence of your ego, and how to bring it back.
Another great idea Tolle introduces in this book is “Pain Body”. What is it? The Pain Body is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. Similar actions leave behind a sort of a mark in person’s overal energy, or psyche as an emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a “painbody,” an entity consisting of old painful emotions that is with you all the time and causes you deep level of damage.
Alright, I’ll just stop here, as don’t want to spoil the whole book. I read this a couple of years ago and it helped me a lot. I can even say that it transformed my life at some degree. Time to time I go back to this book, refresh my memory about the ideas that are indicated there and use it as a tool to tame my ego.
Who should read this book?
Anyone who is interested to learn more about the concept of ego
Anyone who is interested in meditation and spirituality
Also, absolutely anybody who wants to have control over his or her mind and stop the uncontrolled flow of thoughts – inner monologue.
That is it for The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Hope it will help you in your own journey of enlightenment!