Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher who is influenced by Christianity and Buddhism etc. Now he says that there are Buddhists who claim that his teachings are not really Buddhist. But in what way are his teachings not really Buddhist?

  • I think you're saying that Eckhart Tolle himself said that, "there are Buddhists who claim that his teachings are not really Buddhist"? Where did he say that, where did you find that quote?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 18:56
  • I'm not sure but it could be in this video do not know exactly where youtube.com/watch?v=3zcurl7QUCw
    – Marijn
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 19:05
  • 2
    The Buddha taught us to always verify anyone's teaching, no matter how well-respected s/he is. See the guideline in a similar thread at: buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/12649/…
    – santa100
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 22:53
  • OP please produce areas where ET misappropriated the Dhamma, or example of Buddhists criticising him. I've down voted this. Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 8:53
  • I don't know but that is what he told himself. But I'am interested to in knowing that and it is even the main question of this question
    – Marijn
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 9:14

5 Answers 5


If you call something Buddhism it will be attributed to the Buddha and should be inline with the doctrinal system the Buddha taught. If something is not what the Buddha said then it is wrong to miss attributed something to the Buddha as this is what the Buddha taught. A summary of the majority of Buddha's teaching is encompassed in the Wings of Awakening, 3 Marks of Existence, 4 Noble Truths, Dependent Origination. So if what Eckhart Tolle writes does not have these aspects and if what is found in line with the doctrinal system then you cannot call it Buddhism.

Also some of the core teachings of Christianity and Buddhism are not compatible with each other, so any philosophy influenced by both is neither Christianity nor Buddhism.

See: -ism

  • I would question the idea that some of the core teachings of Christianity and Buddhism are incompatible. It's a murky area though, since it's possible to disagree on what is 'core' and what isn't . Do you have a couple of examples?
    – user14119
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 12:52

There are also Christians who claim he doesn't teach Christianity very well either. Instead, he draws off sources the general public would typically understand. Eckhart Tolle and his teachings are more Taoist than Buddhist. His favorite book to read is the "Tao Te Ching" by Lao tzu. He explains this in his talk called, "Eckhart Tolle - Tao Te Ching and a previous global evolutional era". Although he has very similar teachings to Buddha, he neglects the primary teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, the Three Gems, the Eight Fold Path, and so on...

  • But if he neglects those teachings does it mean also that there isn't any other way in which he explains or teach those 'rules'? Aren't they hidden in his teaching? I know that his interpretations of christianity is bit more gnostic so there is a lack concerning that but do you know essential lacks concerning buddism or misinterpretations of him which can't stroke with buddism
    – Marijn
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 13:34
  • 1
    Buddhism teaches something known as, "Universal Truths". This means they are truths which can be found outside of Buddhism. As Suminda explains in his comment in order for something to be Buddhist, it must follow the teachings of Buddha. Taoism and Soto Zen are very similar but different because they come from two different teachers. One comes from Lao Tzu and the other was Buddha. Eckhart Tolle teaches a lot on what Buddhism believes, but it doesn't mean it's Buddhist.
    – Soto
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 13:52
  • Ok, so a buddhist can totally agree with his teachings and besides that nothing more is needed besides the teaching of Tolle. So the teachings (Tolle and buddhism) are actionally the same?
    – Marijn
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 13:58
  • From a practical approach, yes. In a more theological approach, no.
    – Soto
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 14:00
  • 'theological'? you mean 'theoretically'?
    – Marijn
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 14:03

I've read Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" and if I compare it with Buddhism, I would say Tolle is teaching some form of samatha meditation, that might help someone reach the first or second jhana. Being established in the jhana is being present in the "now" in my opinion.

The experience that Tolle had, which he considers to be enlightenment, is probably just the piti, sukha and samadhi experienced in jhana. I think those who are familiar with Buddhism could read Eckhart Tolle's Enlightenment Story and come to their own conclusions.

Of course as we know, there's a lot more to Buddhism than attaining jhanas. In fact, being addicted to jhanas could be an obstacle to Nirvana.

In his book, he talks about focusing on breath or sensations in the body. These are of course, samatha objects of meditation to induce concentration.


I disagree with those who says that Eckhart's teachings are not Buddhist or Eckhart is not enlightened. It can be true that Eckhart didn't become a Sakadagami immediately as he describes in his books(but it is possible that he became a sakadagami immediately too). But whether he immediately become a Sakadagami or not doesn't matter, it is not a difficult thing to recognise his purity right now. Also Eckhart teaches mindfulness in essence in his teachings, but also teaches things like inner body awareness, or breath awareness to make the beginner meditator's mind calm a little bit. But the core of his teachings is mindfulness. He leads people to give attention to whatever they are doing. Looking, listening, walking, washing the hands, driving, observing the emotions or whatever..This is clearly mindfulness So just looking from this side, Eckhart's teachings are very aligned with the Buddha's teaching.

Ofcourse Eckhart's many descriptions about the nature of the reality fits more with Hinduism. He speak about one consciousness, god etc. So yes from just looking from this side Eckhart's teaching is not aligned with Buddhism.

But we must not forget that Buddhism's main goal is to make people experience the nature of reality themselves. That's why Buddha who was a very intelligent being wanted people to avoid transforming Buddhism to a kind of a worshipping or studying based conceptual belief system.

To sum up, from the experience level Eckhart's teachings are very aligned with Buddha's teachings and from the conceptual level Eckhart's teachings are partially aligned with Buddhism.


As I see it, Buddhism is working through the process of generating a fourth wheel of the dharma — a wheel integrated with the modern, scientific, Christianity-rooted secularism that predominates in the West — and people like Tolle are part of that process. Remember, Buddhism has only been active in the West for a bit more than a century, which is practically nothing in the timeline of a faith.

Of course, traditionalists will always balk at the idea of a new wheel, and will tend to see people like Tolle as interesting curiosities rather than proper teachers. And of course, there's no way to tell if Tolle's influence will withstand the test of time. This is a period of flux, so the status of everything is subject to change without notice. Such is life.

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