Thoughts from Eckhart Tolle

Conscious death, from "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle
Apart from dreamless sleep, which I mentioned already, there is one other involuntary portal. It opens up briefly at the time of physical death. Even if you have missed all the other opportunities for spiritual realization during your lifetime, one last portal will open up for you immediately after the body has died.

There are countless accounts by people who had a visual impression of this portal as radiant light and then returned from what is commonly known as a near-death experience. Many of them also spoke of a sense of blissful serenity and deep peace. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it is described as "the luminous splendor of the colorless light of Emptiness," which it says is "your own true self." This portal opens up only very briefly, and unless you have already encountered the dimension of the Unmanifested in your lifetime, you will likely miss it. Most people carry too much residual resistance, too much fear, too much attachment to sensory experience, too much identification with the manifested world. So they see the portal, turn away in fear, and then lose consciousness. Most of what happens after that is involuntary and automatic. Eventually, there will be another round of birth and death. Their presence wasn't strong enough yet for conscious immortality.

So going through this portal does not mean annihilation?

As with all the other portals, your radiant true nature remains, but not the personality. In any case, whatever is real or of true value in your personality is your true nature shining through. This is never lost. Nothing that is of value, nothing that is real, is ever lost.

Approaching death and death itself, the dissolution of the physical form, is always a great opportunity for spiritual realization. This opportunity is tragically missed most
of the time, since we live in a culture that is almost totally ignorant of death, as it is almost totally ignorant of anything that truly matters.
Every portal is a portal of death, the death of the false self. When you go through it, you cease to derive your identity from your psychological, mind-made form. You then realize that death is an illusion, just as your identification with form was an illusion. The end of illusion - that's all that death is. It is painful only as long as you cling to illusion.


I recently saw people I hadn't seen in 15 or 20 years. It's a little shocking what time does to the human form. On that level yes it seems to exist. And I almost felt inclined to say "My God what did time do to you?" (laughter)

Yes, on the level of form, you , as this form, you are subject to time. And subject to the impermanence which implies time. Short lived, fleeting, all forms. Everything, every form is quite fleeting.

When you're totally identified with the form, you don't really know that. You only exist in a state of fear and desire because you're so identified, you don't know. And it's an amazing realization when you realize how fleeting all forms are...that knowing... is already the beginning of liberation. Not as an intellectual fact or belief, but to see how short lived all forms are. And when you grow older you see it very clearly, when you reach the age of 60, 65, 70, 75, people around you begin to die. (he scrunches up his face in a look of fear) One after another. My mother says "there's nobody left now that I know". "They're all gone".

And of course, you see it everywhere in every natural form. Now the seeing of that, when you see it, realize it, that is already liberating. Because that seeing arises from that which is beyond form.

If the entire world were green, the colour green would not exist because there would be nothing to differentiate it from. If everything were fleeting you wouldn't even know it. But the fact that you know means that there is something that is not fleeting.

And that is why to contemplate the short lived impermanent nature of all forms is already liberating. And when it's contemplated and allowed to be and this may mean at this moment a form in front of you is showing signs of the passing of time. It's become wrinkled, it could be a mango, it could be an apple or it could be the human form, it doesn't matter. It's very similar what time does to an apple and what time does to a human. A fresh apple and a fresh young 20 year old, all shiny and then time does it's work. And 50 years later which isn't very much, it's old and wrinkled and .... ( he makes an old sad face)

But with humans, there's the potential in that of the flowering of consciousness through the fading form. Now I don't know about the apple...the apple can only speak for itself. But I know that for humans that there is great potential here and there is another portal here into the liberated state and that portal is this form that is moving toward dissolution. Of course all forms are. And suddenly you see it, not only here (pointing to his own body) but you see it everywhere. And when there's no reaction, you allow that, there's something incredibly peaceful in watching the form arise and dissolve. And that which knows that is beyond form.

So what one could say is what we are talking about is death. A form dissolves. Now there's a saying in a famous scripture that says "Die before you die". And there's deep truth in that and in another way this is another perpective on why we are here, what this gathering is about. One could put it like this, death will find you, it's found you already because we are all slowly dying (he giggles). And eventually it will catch up with you. Now find death before it finds you. And that's the essence of spiritual practice, is finding death, embracing death...which is the end of identification with form. The end of deriving your sense of self, identity, from form. Because that is the normal state of consciousness. And the identification with form is twofold, the physical form identifying with the appearance of the body and some people have that very strongly. A large part of their sense of self has to do with identification with their physical form and then you have the psychological form that you identify with, as thought structures and emotions that accompany those thought structures, accumulated content of the mind, images of who I am, what the world has taught me about who I am , the surrounding culture has taught me about who I am. Or I may have reacted to what the surrounding culture taught me about who I am but I'm still not free in that because the reaction is a conditioned reaction.

So there is the psychological form of me which is me and my story which may be a personal story or may be mixed up with a collective story of us. Me and my tribe, my nation, my religion. It's the story of me. That is the psychological form of me. And everybody has their story that is the me. And everyone knows that the me lives in a state of dissatisfaction with it's story. (he giggles) It is a characteristic of the story not to be fulfilled or at ease for very long. It is not in the nature of that story based identity to be at peace, fulfilled or free. The very structure of it goes against that. The very structure of that kind of identity doesn't allow it. It's based on fighting something or someone. Being at odds with something or someone. It's based on a sense of separateness, it needs that.

~ Eckhart Tolle