Erkhart Tolle does not shy away from the big questions- and there are many videos and extracts of him talking to audiences and answering questions on the experience that all of us will have to inevitably face. The death of those around us, especially loved ones, and our own death.
Tolle sees death not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity. He sees it as an involuntary portal that opens up briefly at the time of physical death. He says that even if you have not grasped opportunities for spiritual realisation during your life, one last portal will open up at the point of death. And Tolle reminds us that death is not a mistake in the human make-up, or even a problem to be overcomer and forever avoided. It is the most natural of occurrences, and as natural as birth.
He relates to that final portal in the context of his teaching that there is a difference between the imagined ego-self; the person we imagine ourselves to be; and the real state. There is a façade, a mask, and the mask is of the self that is afraid of death, that has been defined by the identity adopted and adapted during time on Earth. Behind the mask is the more authentic essence- that watches ourselves play the self role. That authentic part of us can observe and recognise the fear of death from the self, but is at peace knowing the fear is misplaced and mis-projected.
Tolle quotes from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, where the point of death is described as “the luminous splendour of the colourless light of Emptiness,” which it says is “your own true Self.”
The final portal opens up only very briefly, and unless you have already been enlightened into seeing your authentic reality in your lifetime, you will possibly miss it. This is because the unenlightened carry too much residual and earth-bound resistance and too much reliance to sensory experience, which causes fear and panic. So upon seeing the portal, they may turn away in fear, and then lose consciousness. However nothing of value, and nothing that is real, is ever lost in death.
The opportunity for spiritual realization when the physical form becomes bereft of life tragically missed most of the time, because most of us live in a culture that is almost totally ignorant of death and even denies death. The final portal of death, brings with it the death of the false self, the mask of ego. When you go through the portal, you no longer derive your identity from your psychological, and mind-made form. You then realize that death is an illusion, just as your identification with form was a mask. So death, and the final portal is merely an end of an illusion – the mask is removed. Do you want to continue as you were, and adopt a new mask when re-born? Or continue to reject illusion and embrace the one everlasting life that you are and that you are part of with all other life.
Many expressions that are in common usage, and sometimes the structure of language itself, reveal the fact that people don’t know who they are. You say: “He lost his life” or “my life,” as if life were something that you can possess or lose. The truth is: you don’t have a life, you are life. The One Life, the one consciousness that pervades the entire universe and takes temporary form to experience itself as a stone or blade of grass, as an animal, a person, a star or a galaxy.
So, Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The removal of the mask with the eyes and senses sewn shut. The secret of life is to “die before you die” realise the illusion of death, and then find that there is no death.
Eckhart is totally consistent in his advice and view on death and the final portal, and as can be seen from the many videos and Q&As, he brings much comfort and enlightenment to those who have been bereaved, or who fear death themselves.