Learning how to face death is important because we all have to go through it at least once or most often various times in our lives, whether it is the death of a pet, a friend, a family member or even our own eventual death.
Having recovered from decade-long suicidal depression, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle reminds us that there is no real death, except the death of the ego and physical forms. And if one is contemplating death or suicide, he recommends “practice dying” first, that is to let the ego die first and then see what happens.
We have collected his most powerful quotes on death and loss that will help you cope with grief and eventually find long-lasting peace.
What is death?
1. “Nothing that was real ever died, only names, forms, and illusions.”
2. “Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. Death is the opposite of birth.”
3. “Your entire life only happens in this moment. The present moment is life itself. Yet, people live as if the opposite were true and treat the present moment as a stepping stone to the next moment – a means to an end.”
4. “Death means that a form of life dissolves or that the imminent possibility of dissolutions exists, whether through our own death or through illness or old age.”
6. “The end of illusion – that’s all death is. It is painful only as long as you cling to illusion.”
8. “A culture that denies death inevitably becomes shallow and superficial, concerned only with the external form of things. When death is denied, life loses its depth.”
Related: Eckhart Tolle Quotes on Ego
9. “You need to observe whether there’s negativity in there … when you feel you don’t want to live anymore, is it a resistance pattern that is egoic because things are not going the way you want them to go? Or, maybe a kind of tiredness of life? Instead of committing suicide, practice dying, by surrendering completely to the present moment. Don’t demand the present moment to be different. It is what it is, then the ego dies. Try surrender then see what happens. That means no complaint of anything anymore, complete acceptance of this moment as it is.”
Related: Dalai Lama’s Quotes on Happiness
On Peace after a Loss
10. “You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
11. “Nothing real can die. When you see a dead body, you realize that this is no longer who you knew. This is only a shell. So nothing real can be threatened. There is no such thing as death.”
12. “There were tears and there was sadness and at the same time, there was a realization that ultimately, there’s no death. Who they were in their essence had not been destroyed.” Eckhart Tolle talking about the death of his parents
13. “In the face of death, especially violent death, things don’t make sense anymore. So death is the dissolution of either physical form or psychological form. And when a form dissolves, always something shines through that had been obscured by the form. This is the formless One Life, the formless One Consciousness.”
15. “The natural way of being after death of a loved one is suffering at first, then there is a deepening. In that deepening, you go to a place where there is no death.”
16. “Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form.”
17. “When great loss happens – deaths close to you or your own approaching death – this is an opportunity for stepping completely out of identification with form and realizing the essence of who you are, or that the essence of anyone who is suffering or dying is beyond death.”
18. “Your mind [when facing death] says “I should not be feeling peace, that is not what one feels in a situation like this”. But that’s a conditioned thought by the culture that you live in. So instead we can recognize when this happens, when that thought comes – recognize it as a conditioned thought that is not true. It doesn’t mean that the waves of sadness don’t come back from time to time. But in between the waves of sadness, you sense there is peace. As you sense that peace, you sense the essence of your children as well – the timeless essence. So death is a very sacred thing – not just a dreadful thing. When you react to the loss of form, that’s dreadful.”
20. “You will experience the two levels, when somebody dies who is close to you. Yes it’s dreadful on the level of form. It’s sacred on the deeper level. “
21. “Death can help you find the sacred dimension of life – where life is indestructible. Because the form is gone, your mind becomes still when you surrender to death.”
22. “It’s not through explanations that you accept death. You can have explanations, mental explanations that say, well, he or she will move on or reincarnate, or go to some place of rest. That can be comforting, but you can go to a deeper place than that, where you don’t need explanations – a state of immediate realization of the sacredness of death, because what opens up when the form dissolves is life beyond form. “
23. “When you go deep enough into the formless, the dreadful is no longer dreadful, it’s sacred. Then you will experience the two levels, when somebody dies who is close to you. Yes it’s dreadful on the level of form. It’s sacred on the deeper level. Death can enable you to find that dimension in yourself. You’re helping countless other humans if you find that dimension in yourself – the sacred dimension of life. Death can help you find the sacred dimension of life – where life is indestructible.”
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Acceptance of death
24. “The acceptance of suffering is a journey into death. Facing deep pain, allowing it to be, taking your attention into it, is to enter death consciously.”
25. “Equating the physical body with ‘I’, the body that is destined to grow old, wither, and die, always leads to suffering. To refrain from identifying with the body doesn’t mean that you no longer care for it. If it is strong, beautiful, or vigorous, you can appreciate those attributes—while they last. You can also improve the body’s condition through nutrition and exercise. If you don’t equate the body with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes, or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect your sense of worth or identity in any way. In fact, as the body begins to weaken, the light of consciousness can shine more easily.”
26. Excerpt: Conscious death, Chapter from The Power of Now, p. 91-92
“[An involuntary portal] 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.”
Related: Cat Loss Quotes to help you deal with grief
Bonus: What happens at the time of death? (video)
Related: Watch more Eckhart Tolle talks on YouTube
Fun facts about Eckhart Tolle
- What is Eckhart Tolle’s real name? Ulrich Leonard Tölle. Born in Germany, he changed his first name to Eckhart in homage to the German philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart who stressed internal spiritual development as the way to reach God.
- Is Eckhart Tolle married? Kim Eng is his partner. But they rarely talk about their relationship.
- How did Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng meet? Kim met Eckhart in 1998 attending one of his retreats in Vancouver. After years of spiritual training, she went through a transformational spiritual experience. She has become Eckhart’s partner and associate since then.
- Why did Eckhart Tolle move from the UK to North America? He said: “One morning I woke up and I realized, ‘I have to move. I have to move to the west coast of North America.’ “
- When he was writing The Power of Now, he was living on savings, which were swiftly running out. Yet, “everything fell into place beautifully. I ran out of money just when I was getting close to finishing writing. I bought a lottery ticket and won $1,000, which kept me going another month.”