Born Ulrich Leonard Tolle in Lünen, near Dortmund, Germany, Eckhart Tolle lived with his father in Spain from about the age of 13 to 19, approximately between the years 1961 and 1967, after which he moved to the United Kingdom. He had no formal education between the ages of 13 and 22, refusing to go to school because he felt it was "hostile environment"; instead, he pursued his own interests, such as literature, astronomy and language.
Tolle graduated from the University of London and entered, but did not complete, a doctoral program at Cambridge University, having studied literature, languages and philosophy. At the age of 29, Tolle experienced what he calls an "inner transformation" after suffering long periods of suicidal depression.Since 1996, he has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Tolle's non-fiction bestseller The Power of Now emphasizes not being caught up in thoughts of past and future as a way of being aware of the present moment. His later book A New Earth further explores the structure of the human ego and how this acts to distract people from their present experience of the world. He asserts that it is the feeding of the human ego that is the source of inner and outer conflict, and that only by examining the ego may people begin to see beyond it and obtain a sense of spiritual enlightening or a new outlook on reality.
At about the age of fifteen he received five books that were written by a German mystic, Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken, also known as Bô Yin Râ. Tolle responded "very deeply" to those books. He said the first texts with which he came in contact after the awakening and in which he found deep understanding were the New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching and teachings of The Buddha. In The Power of Now, he mentioned the writings of Meister Eckhart, Advaita Vedanta, A Course in Miracles, the Bible, mystical Islam, Sufism, and Rumi's poetry, as well as Zen Buddhism's Lin-chi (Linji in pinyin ) (Rinzai) school. In the book Dialogues with Emerging Spiritual Teachers by John W. Parker, he has acknowledged a strong connection to J Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi and stated that his teaching is a coming together of the teachings of both those teachers, and it is a continuation of that. In addition, he states that by listening to and speaking with the spiritual teacher Barry Long, he understood things more deeply.