Hi Emmanuel, Here
is a thread that discusses Tolle in some detail.
Based on biographies available on the internet, Adyashanti aka Steven Gray studied Zen Buddhism with a teacher in California. Zen buddhism comes from Japan. This guy left the tradition and apparently struck out on his own taking up the name "Adyashanti" (primordial peace), a Sanskrit word. He is very popular and on the web, his teachings often get grouped together with Advaita (non-dual) Vedanta, a school of thought coming out of India. Just a note that Advaita and Buddhism hold different irreconciliable views regarding reality - both cannot be true together (from a logical standpoint). New Age circles have adopted some concepts from Advaita Vedanta in their own way and it is a huge crowd-puller as are teachers with Indian/Sanskrit names. Zen people are usually more conservative, disciplined and their ways are hard on the body and mind - consequently they usually do not top the metaphysical charts.
One "interesting" snippet in Adyashanti's biography from _http://www.kktanhp.com/adyashanti.htm
He was born to a great family with two sisters, one older and one younger than he. His parents were good people. His childhood was extraordinarily happy. Although his family was not particularly religious, one of his grandparents was very spiritual, and thus spirituality and religion were often part of the discussion. As a child he did not partake of any of the talks, but he merely listened with fascination. So there was this early attraction to spirituality and religion.
As a child he used to experience some mystical phenomena. A ball of white light used to visit him at the end of his bed. He found it intriguing but not unusual. He would find himself merging with his dresser drawer. Again, he found it pleasurable and intriguing but not unusual.
During his teens, ‘in one of those days’, he would wake up and find that everything that he sensed was one thing. And sometimes it felt like something different was looking through his eyes. This mysterious something was very ancient and eternal. He had to be careful not to look at people too closely, as this power through his eyes would shock the people he was looking at. The other people became afraid and looked away. This phenomenon would last one to three days, during which he felt eternal and timeless. These episodes would occur three to five times a year. He never talked to his parents or teachers about them.
At one time a thought would push a child aside in the playground. It felt like his eyes were that of eternity: it was ancient and yet young and innocent. This was really startling and it lasted for a day. He was about eight or nine years old then. The experiences were foretastes of awakening, glimpses of certain aspects of awakening.
He was a loner and quite different from other children, although he played on the bars and always had a few friends. When he was in grade school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He could not concentrate very well, but had a lot of energy. His mother had a great sense of humour. She used to tell him that the whole family was weird, and being weird is wonderful.
This may not be the official version of his biography but if what is written is factual, I would not take the signs in bold above as a "foretaste of awakening".
I did go through some of his writings, which as these types of writings go, mixes in elements of truth with a lot of vagueness.
Everything Comes Back to Nothing
The incarnation is nothing more than a thought. A thousand incarnations are but a thousand thoughts. And this amazing miracle of a mirage we call the world reappears as it was before, but now you know. That’s why you usually have a good laugh, because you realize that all your struggles were made up. You conjured them up out of nothing—with a thought that was linked to another thought, that was then believed, that linked to another thought that was then believed. But never could it have been true, not for a second could it have actually existed. Not ever could you have actually suffered for a reason that was true—only through an imagination, good, bad, indifferent. The intricacies of spiritual philosophy and theologies are just a thought within Emptiness.
And so at times we talk, and I pretend to take your struggles seriously, just as I pretended to take my own seriously. You may pretend to take your own struggles seriously from time to time, and although we pretend, we really shouldn’t forget that we are pretending, that we are making up the content of our experience; we are making up the little dramas of our lives. We are making up whether we need to hold on or surrender or figure it out or pray to God or be purified or have karma cleansed—it’s all a thought. We just collude in this ridiculous charade of an illusion pretending that it’s real, only to reveal that it’s not. There is no karma. There is nothing really to purify. There’s no problem. There is only what you create and believe to be so. And if you like it that way, have at it!
But we cannot continue this absolute farce indefinitely. We cannot continue to pretend this game we play, indefinitely. It’s impossible. Everything comes back to nothing.
And then it’s a bit harder to hold a straight face consistently for the rest of your life.
Sounds good for self-calming; lacks any substance imo which is not surprising since "it is all illusion" after all.
Here is a link to someone's critical reflections after attending Adyashanti's retreat in person.
Despite the pretensions of his name, (Sanskrit for “primordial peace”) Adyashanti encourages people to call him “Adja.” He reports with amusement that his audience tripled when he switched from his given name (Stephen Gray). He trained for many years as a Zen Buddhist with Arvis Joen Justi, a (female) student of Taizan Maezumi Roshi of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. But he left this tradition and has gone out on his own. His retreats are now in such demand that access is by lottery. There were 350 people at this retreat.
Part of his appeal results, I think, from his presenting himself as a kind of “regular guy,” one who enjoys playing cards, riding his motorcycle, and watching sports on TV. He sits in a comfortable chair rather than on a traditional mediation cushion. And he says he does not like burning incense or doing other conventionally “spiritual” things—all in all, a very “nonspiritual” spiritual teacher, in his own words.
Consistent with this image, he disdains many of the formalities and rigors of Zen practice, such as maintaining a rigid posture even to the point of intense pain (he reports that such practice led him to do serious damage to himself by tearing a ligament). And he has little patience with the hair-splitting ideological wars within different schools of Buddhism or among other religions.
But although there were a number of exchanges that seemed productive and some that I found personally helpful, at many other times I felt troubled by the interaction between Adyashanti and the people who came forward. Many described their problem in such abstract terms that it was hard for me to understand what they were asking, and equally hard for me to imagine that he understood them either. Sometimes the description didn’t go beyond metaphors, e.g., “I’m like a dog that won’t let go of a bone, and the bone that I’m chewing on is my own leg.” In this instance Adyashanti deftly invited the speaker to consult his own inner wisdom, which seemed to work very well, and didn’t require that the teacher understand the literal content of the metaphor.
However, in most cases he began offering commentary, often without asking questions, or very many questions. Rarely did he ask for concrete examples. Instead he tended to move quickly to dispensing advice, sometimes even before a question had been posed. I often found the advice to be quite abstract and as unclear as the questions. People usually reached a point where they seemed satisfied, but I wondered whether they felt too embarrassed to say that they, like me, didn’t get it. (I recognize that these critical observations would carry more weight if they were supported by concrete examples, but I failed to note any at the time and couldn’t recollect any later. I recognize that others might have interpreted the interactions differently).
Although I liked his approach to meditation, I was less fond of his name for it: “true” meditation. Doesn’t this name imply that other approaches are not true, or less true? And if so, isn’t Adyashanti doing precisely what he criticized others of doing when they declare their approach to be “better”? To his credit, he more than once said, following the Buddha, “Don’t take my word for anything. Try it out in your own experience.” But some of his teachings are so abstract that I find it hard to imagine how I, or anyone, would test them out. E.g., his definition of “true meditation” contains a number of sentences like the following:
“Silence is the non-state from which all states arise and subside.” I have no idea how I would find out through my own experience whether silence is a “non-state.” How indeed could I determine whether/how a nonstate is different from a state?
Most troubling of all, one person asked him whether his approach depended on beliefs. Among the things he said in response was: “beliefs are about things that you aren’t certain are true. If you know they are true (for which he gave the example, ‘that I am speaking into this microphone’) then they aren’t beliefs, rather they are ‘truths’.” I found this a deeply disturbing assertion. Apparently he would have us see his approach to spirituality as consisting of “truths” rather than “beliefs.” This suggests that he regards his own approach as self-evidently true and beyond dispute, presumably in contrast to other systems, which are based on “beliefs” that can be challenged. If I heard him correctly, he would seem to be taking a selfrighteous stance not unlike that for which he had mocked other traditions.
Persons with pathologies are also known to pronounce "truths" which are to be taken as self-evident. Laura's post here
which has extensive quotes from Political Ponerology may be useful reading in this context.