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Ram Dass made his mark on the world by teaching the path of the heart and promoting service in the areas of social consciousness and care for the dying. When Ram Dass first went to India in 1967, he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary. In India, he met his guru, Neem...

Ram Dass made his mark on the world by teaching the path of the heart and promoting service in the areas of social consciousness and care for the dying. When Ram Dass first went to India in 1967, he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means "servant of God."

On his return from India Ram Dass became a pivotal influence in our culture with the publication of “Be Here Now”. In fact those words have become a catch phrase in people’s lives for the last 40 years. With the publication in 2011 of “Be Love Now” Ram Dass completed his trilogy that began with “Be Here Now” in 1970 and continued with “Still Here” in 2004. His newest book is “Polishing The Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart.”

Ram Dass now makes his home in Maui and teaches world wide through his website RamDass.org and continues the work of Neem Karoli Baba through the Love Serve Remember Foundation.

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How should we deal with extraordinary mind experiences?

empowered-man-silhouette-picture-id172959551 How should we deal with extraordinary mind experiences?

Many sensations come, many thoughts or images
arise, but they are just waves of your own mind.
Nothing comes from outside your mind.
To realize pure mind in your delusion is
practice. If you try to expel the delusion it will
only persist the more. Just say, “Oh, this is just
delusion.” And do not be bothered by it.

– Shunryu Suzuki

In Brindavan, the sacred city where Krishna dances with the gopis, there is a dudhwalla, a milk seller. He’s a true devotee of Krishna. Once he was selling milk, and because of his purity, Krishna with his shakti Radha came right up to the stand, there on the street in Brindavan, and bought some milk. He actually saw them. His eyes are as though they had been burned out by a brilliant bulb. He can talk about nothing but the moment that Krishna and Radha came to his dudhstand. He’s not worried about how much milk he sells anymore. He’s had the ecstasy of seeing God in the form of light. And that’s who he is this lifetime. It’s a high place to be.

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How can we escape the ego prison through meditation?

meditationego How can we escape the ego prison through meditation?

Initially most people choose to meditate out of curiosity or to relieve psychological pain, increase pleasure, or enhance power. The goal of all these motives is to strengthen the ego. For as the ego gets more comfortable, happy, and powerful, its prison walls thicken. The ego’s motives do not allow examination of the ego itself, nor allow insight that the ego is your prison. These motives paradoxically contain the seeds of freedom, because they lead you to meditate more. Meditation makes you more calm and quiet, and in this new stillness other motives, deeper motives, arise for going further into meditation. As your meditation develops beyond the level of ego payoffs, the prison walls begin to crack.

You might think of these deeper motives in many ways:

to answer the question, “Who am I?”
to awaken cosmic consciousness
to see things just as they are
to rend the veils of illusion
to know God
to tune to the harmony of the universe
to gain more compassion
to reach a higher consciousness
to become liberated
to be born again
to know the truth which lies beyond dualism
to transcend the wheel of birth and death
to abandon desire
to be free

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What is the mystical root of awareness?

awareness What is the mystical root of awareness?

Awareness is not aware of itself. It’s not self-conscious, it’s just awareness.

In that sense, the entire universe is awareness. It is not self-consciously aware; it’s just awareness, and that’s when if you want to understand how a spiritual master with Siddhis [powers] knows the universe, they know the universe from inside itself.

Here’s a great one, this is Rilke, and I’m sure many of you love Rilke like I do. It says, “I love ‘in-seeing’,” Can you imagine with me how glorious it is to ‘in-see’ a dog, for example, as you pass by it? By ‘in-see’ I don’t mean to look through, which is only a kind of human trick that lets you immediately come out again on the other side of the dog, regarding it merely so to speak as a window upon the human world lying behind it. No, not that.

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How can you use your heart to transcend your thinking mind?

woman-walking-through-the-wheat-field-with-guitar-on-back-picture-id1146456569 How can you use your heart to transcend your thinking mind?

This path takes you out of your mind and into your heart.

Imagine feeling more love from someone than you have ever known. You’re being loved even more than your mother loved you when you were an infant, more than you were ever loved by your father, your child, or your most intimate lover—anyone. This lover doesn’t need anything from you, isn’t looking for personal gratification, and only wants your complete fulfillment.

You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success— none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.

Imagine that being in this love is like relaxing endlessly into a warm bath that surrounds and supports your every movement, so that every thought and feeling is permeated by it. You feel as though you are dissolving into love.

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How does unconditional love help us rediscover our souls?

indiangirls How does unconditional love help us rediscover our souls?

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not “I love you” for this or that reason, not “I love you if you love me.” It’s love for no reason, love without an object. It’s just sitting in love, a love that incorporates the chair and the room and permeates everything around. The thinking mind is extinguished in love.

If I go into the place in myself that is love and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love. Then you and I are truly in love, the state of being love. That’s the entrance to Oneness. That’s the space I entered when I met my guru.

Years ago in India I was sitting in the courtyard of the little temple in the Himalayan foothills. Thirty or forty of us were there around my guru, Maharaji. This old man wrapped in a plaid blanket was sitting on a plank bed, and for a brief uncommon interval everyone had fallen silent. It was a meditative quiet, like an open field on a windless day or a deep clear lake without a ripple. Waves of love radiated toward me, washing over me like a gentle surf on a tropical shore, immersing me, rocking me, caressing my soul, infinitely accepting and open.

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How can we live without creating more suffering?

woman-picking-up-flowers-on-a-meadow-hand-closeup-vintage-light-picture-id910090140 How can we live without creating more suffering?

Seeing through the veil that our senses and our thinking minds make real, seeing behind the mask to true self, feels like the highest aspiration of humanity. Because, as we are able to do that, it’s as if we are able to find our rightful place in the order of things. We recognize a harmony that’s been waiting for us to feel.

Taking our place in the order of things is not only for the life hereafter or for some abstract reason. It majorly impacts the way we live our daily lives.

This awakening to our deepest self is not for later, it’s for now.

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Why is it important to be aware of the breath?

breathing Why is it important to be aware of the breath?

Try these directions for mindfulness of breathing, a basic concentration practice: When you’re ready to meditate, close your eyes and bring your attention to the motion of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Keep your focus at the nostrils, noting the full passage of each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Don’t follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air; just watch its flow in and out of the nostrils. If you can, notice the subtle sensations of the breath as it comes and goes. Be aware of each in-breath and out-breath as it passes by the nostrils, just as the doorman watches each person who comes and goes through a door.

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Is desire useful on the spiritual path?

back-portrait-of-young-fit-and-healthy-attractive-woman-doing-love-picture-id980797902 Is desire useful on the spiritual path?

The desire to become enlightened is still you desiring something.

What happens is you start to touch places way beyond what you ever thought you were. Or you start to awaken, and it’s like the bliss is much more incredible, the understanding is more incredible, and so on, and the craving for it. It’s like a super crave and that desire is what is used to finish all the other desires. Then, near the end of that sequence, you’re left with only that desire, and you see that the desire for it is what’s keeping you from it. Then there’s the having to let go of the desire in order to become it, which is the final process of dying, really.

It’s dying in a psychological sense, because having that last desire is your final statement of who you are.

But the predicament is that who you are can’t go through the doorway. You can get right up to the door and you can knock, but you can’t go in. They say “it” can come in, but “you” can’t. That which desires to get through the door gets right up to the door, and then they say, “The desire’s gotta stay right out here. Sorry, leave your shoes outside, but you can come in.” At that point the desire falls away.

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Exploring the soul’s attachment with the Mother

Exploring the soul’s attachment with the Mother Exploring the soul’s attachment with the Mother

In spiritual life, the basic distinction or separation is the soul from God. That separation is reflected in psychological and physical mediums when the soul incarnates. At the outset of incarnation, the separate soul, when first entering into these planes, does not experience, either psychologically or physically any differentiation from the environment around it. Specifically, the environment of the Mother.

The earliest psychological learning is the development of a separate psychological and physical entity; this learning takes place during the first six months of life. The foundation created is non-verbal and non-conceptual, except in the most rudimentary sense. The soul is then going from undifferentiated matter, physical and psychological, to differentiated matter, physical and psychological.

When the soul seeks liberation during its lifetime, part of the process is extricating itself from the attachment to identification as a separate physical entity, which means merging back into matter on the physical and psychological plane so that only the soul is once again separate.

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How can we bring awareness into parental relationships?

mother-and-daughter-meditating-in-lotus-position-in-rainforest-in-picture-id925756552 How can we bring awareness into parental relationships?

Normal waking consciousness, dream states, emotional states, and other states of awareness are different realities, somewhat like channels of the TV receiver.

As you walk down the street you can tune your "receiver" into the world on any number of channels. Each way of tuning creates a very different street, but the street doesn't change; you do. You see what you look for. If you are primarily preoccupied or tuned to the physical body, as you look at people you see them as man or woman, fat or thin, tall or short, attractive or unattractive. When you are busy looking at personalities you might see them as introverted or extroverted, hysterical or paranoid, happy or sad. If you were tuned to the astral identities you'd see a Leo or a Taurus, an angel or a demon. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. Christ could walk up to you and you might see him as a pleasant carpenter, dressed plainly. You might think: interesting teacher, he has a nice vibe. If you were looking beyond that, you might see Him as Living Spirit.

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Changing Lenses: Essential Teaching Stories from Ram Dass

hand-holding-camera-lens-at-sunset-picture-id1064163632 Changing Lenses: Essential Teaching Stories from Ram Dass

I really worked for a number of years at getting high and not coming down. And I learned a lot of different techniques for getting high by changing the lenses through which I see the world.

If you put on lens 1 and look up here, you see a 55-year-old, balding, attractive-looking gentleman. That’s the physical plane – the plane where lust is, where you just see physical bodies. When you lust, you see everybody in terms of physical bodies – as a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant. As I’ve gotten older, it’s interesting – I’m sure there are streets in Worcester where that lens is worn. I can walk down that street and be totally irrelevant now, like a walking lamppost.

Lens 2 is the psychosocial lens. That’s the lens of personality and social role – of mothers, fathers, lawyers, doctors, social workers, students, seekers after the light, meditators, all the social roles. And all the psychological stuff of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory: happy, and sad, and depressed. You look up here and you see a warm, charming lecturer, a mild manic-depressive.

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What does union feel like in the moment?

kissing-in-the-rain-picture-id638677636 What does union feel like in the moment?

We try so hard to overcome separateness with others in the moment.

More intimacy. More rubbing of bodies, exchanging of ideas. But it’s always as if you are yelling out of your room and I am yelling out of mine. Even trying to get out of the room invests the room with a reality. Who am I? The room that the mind has built.

We spend so much effort to get out of something that didn’t exist until we created it. Something that is gone in a moment. We’ve all had moments when the room disappeared and we freaked out, or explained it away, or ignored it, or let it pass by.

A moment. The moment of orgasm. The moment by the ocean when there is just the wave. The moment of being in love. The moment of crisis when we forget ourselves and do just what is needed.

We each come out again and again. We turn and look and realize we’re out, and panic. We run back in the room, close the door, panting heavily. Now I know where I am. I’m back home. Safe. No matter how squalid the room is, no matter how unmade the bed, no matter how many bugs are crawling around the kitchen, it’s safe.

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See Everything as the Divine Mother

divinemother See Everything as the Divine Mother

At one point Maharaji said, “See everything as the Mother and you will know God.” What was he talking about? seeing your mother in everything?

We, Westerners. Have our share of relationship complexities with our mothers. With interpretations galore courtesy of Dr. Freud. The view of the mother in India is different. The country is called Mother India. A Western devotee once told Maharaji he hated his mother. And nobody understood what he was saying. The concept didn’t make it across the cultural barrier. In India the mother is so deeply respected and revered, there was no way that statement could be understood. There is an Indian saying that there may be bad children. But there are no bad mothers.

The Divine Mother, the Goddess, has many dimensions. In the broadest sense consciousness and energy. Eternal spirit and matter are male and female. Out of the One in the first glimmer of duality comes Purusha. The formless spirit. Prakriti, the cosmic energy that coalesces into form. As God and Goddess. They are Shiva. Who personifies pure absolute consciousness and the seed of procreation, and Shakti. Who manifests infinite forms.

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Featured Book: ‘WILD MERCY’ by Mirabai Starr

Durga Featured Book: ‘WILD MERCY’ by Mirabai Starr

“Ever since I met her when she was a teenager at the Lama Foundation, Mirabai Starr has been absorbed in the teachings of the great mystic saints, especially the women. Like her namesake, the poet-saint Mirabai, she brings to her work an intense love of God and a passion for the Beloved. My Guru said, ‘Love is the best medicine.’ Mirabai will help open up your heart to love.” – Ram Dass

Mirabai Starr writes creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. She has received critical acclaim for her revolutionary new translations of the mystics, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich.

The following is an excerpt from her latest book, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce & Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (April 2019, SoundsTrue), available for pre-order here.

Join Mirabai and kirtan artist Nina Rao for a Wild Mercy book launch event on April 23 at Deepak HomeBase, on the mezz at ABC Home in NYC.

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What is the true meaning of a soul mate?

personal-perspective-of-couple-relaxing-on-hammock-feet-view-picture-id910783248 What is the true meaning of a soul mate?

Question: The problem seems to be that when you are in a relationship, in the beginning everything is happening, but when you marry that person it changes.

I’ve been in several relationships, major relationships, and been married and divorced twice and I’m searching for something special. Something I’ve been told has been called a soul mate. Do you believe in such a relationship or person and what would that mean? How would I know that?

Ram Dass: Got it! Keep looking! I’ll give you the farthest out answer first and then we’ll come back to something that everybody can handle. In the farthest out answer, we have all been around so many times that every one of us has been everything with everybody else. So when I look at you, you and I have been in so many relationships together. It’s just that we don’t remember.

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The predicament of the Separate Self

separateself-970x400 The predicament of the Separate Self

How does who we think we are affect what we have to give?

How does our delusion of a ‘separate self’ narrow the range of our compassion? What different understanding of our being might nourish and deepen what we have to offer one another?

All of us seem to be born into the experience of separateness. During infancy, we come to distinguish between “self” and “other.” As we develop, we devise a complex group of ideas about who we are, which is our ego. This includes our identity on a variety of planes in which we function simultaneously – as bodies, personalities, citizens, and souls. We have many roles to play in the course of a single day, each of which is functional and calls attention to itself.

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How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

compassionateheart How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

We all know our humanity too well.

That is why we put the focus on recognizing the part of us that isn’t stuck in the human-ness. Not to deny our humanity, but rather to bring it into balance through a compassionate heart.

That’s what you offer another person. When I look at some of you, I know you have problems with addiction and sexual obsessions, problems with loneliness and problems with anger, diseases and frigidity. I see the whole sea of stuff and you tell me about it, and I see curriculum after curriculum.

I see a group of beautiful souls on earth, each having its own karmic work to do.

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How does righteousness cut us off from truth?

angerreality How does righteousness cut us off from truth?

When I start to get angry, I see my predicament and how I’m getting caught in expectations and righteousness. Learning to give up anger has been a continuous process.

When Maharaj-ji told me to love everyone and tell the truth, he also said, “Give up anger, and I’ll help you with it.” Maharaj-ji offered me a bargain: “You must polish the mirror free of anger to see God. If you give up a little anger each day, I will help you.” This seemed to be a deal that was more than fair. I readily accepted. And he’s been true to his end of the bargain. I found that his love helped to free me from my righteousness. Ultimately I would rather be free and in love than be right.

If you feel a sense of social responsibility, first of all keep working on yourself. Being peaceful yourself is the first step if you want to live in a peaceful universe.

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How do you reconcile faith and reason?

angel-in-meditation-picture-id117146656 How do you reconcile faith and reason?

We have come out of a period on the evolutionary journey of us as beings, where man evolved these great frontal lobes and this capacity for rational thought and self-consciousness. And this is, in the Hindu system, what would be called a siddhi or a power. That power can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used in the service of what I call the third chakra, that is, in terms of a man’s control over his environment, which is the way we’ve been doing it, which the rational mind controls. It’s man over nature in the anthropological Florence Kluckhohn differentiations. She talks about societies that are man over nature, societies that are man in nature, and societies that are man under nature. Attachment to the siddhi of the rational mind put man in the group of man over nature.

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How can we consciously stand up to social injustice?

socialinjustice How can we consciously stand up to social injustice?

The wisdom of the game is that you can protest against who you are protesting the minute you can genuinely love them as much as you love yourself.

You may not love their acts, but you better love who’s behind it, and you better see it as another manifestation, because otherwise you’re getting caught up in with ‘them’ in the ‘them-ness.’ As a result, you are getting stuck and then you’ll end up feeling unfulfilled because you’re feeling separate, you’re separating yourself.

The whole act is meant to build upon a feeling of unity that comes from breaking through the separateness.

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