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Awakening experience

CURRENTLY the top-selling author of Western books that correspond most closely to the teachings of Sankaracharya's Advaita Vedanta, Eckhart Tolle is a slight, quiet German teacher from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who will be giving a free public talk today at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore, at 6-30 p.m.

Tolle bears little resemblance to the flamboyant, charismatic teachers, both eastern and western, who have drawn the most attention from seekers in the past century. The former research physicist at Cambridge University chucked a prestigious future for two years spent largely in bliss on a park bench after his awakening experience. Like a number of other Western teachers (as well as some famous Indian sages like Ramana Maharshi) he says this epiphany struck him suddenly after an especially "dark night of the soul," not via the years of studying scriptures that once were considered the quid pro quo of the transformed consciousness.

Tolle makes a very low-key impression as he begins speaking to the huge audiences he now draws. Soon, however, his originality in dramatising avenues out of the human predicament suitable for the world-weary of all continents makes clear the universal appeal of his book "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment," recently released in an Indian edition.

"Many times people feel, `Yes, now I have arrived,' and then they realise that, no they haven't arrived then the striving continues," he says. `"Seeking' has its place in the world but not for the spiritually inclined. Time, and needing to add something to who you are, these are the obstacles."

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