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 can your intellect serve or hinder you?

focus How can your intellect serve or hinder you?

It requires inner work for you to cultivate a perspective within yourself that sees your intellect as a servant, not as your identity.

To the extent you are capable of doing that, you can then play the game of academia, do the work that only can be done in that analytic fashion without being trapped in it, and have your interaction with other people through the game.

It’s like Monopoly in which you’re the top hat and I’m the thimble, but behind it you’re here, I’m here, and you’ve gotta be there. The predicament in academia is many people identify with their thoughts so much that they think they are an academic, instead of being a being who’s doing academics.

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How can we begin to wake up in each moment?

wakingup-730x400 How can we begin to wake up in each moment?

A soul takes human birth in order to have a series of experiences through which it will awaken out of its illusion of separateness, in each moment.

The physical experience of being incarnated is the curriculum, and the purpose of the course is to awaken us from the illusion that we are the incarnation. Spiritual practices are tools to help us accomplish these goals.

You start from innocence and you return to innocence. A sage was asked, “How long have we been on this journey?” He replied, “Imagine a mountain three miles wide, three miles high, and three miles long. Once every hundred years, a bird flies over the mountain, holding a silk scarf in its beak, which it brushes across the surface of the mountain. The time it would take for the scarf to wear down the mountain is how long we’ve been doing this.”

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How can we find humor through meditation?

humor How can we find humor through meditation?

“If it were not laughed at, it would not be sufficient to be Tao.” – Lao Tzu on Humor, - Tao Te Ching

Did you ever have a bad day? Everything seems to go wrong and you are completely lost in anger, frustration and self-pity. It gets worse and worse, until the final moment when, say, you have just missed the last bus. There is some critical point where it gets so bad the absurdity of it all overwhelms you and you can do nothing but laugh. At that moment you up-level your predicament, you see the cosmic joke in your own suffering.

Meditation, because of the space it allows around events, gives you the chance to see the humor of your predicament. Awareness of the passing show of one’s own life allows a lightness to enter it where only a moment before there was heaviness.

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A Breath Exercise for Suffering and Joy

woman-in-water-picture-id540717970 A Breath Exercise for Suffering and Joy

In the 11th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna shows Arjuna all the forms of the Universe, turning back into the pure form from which they were manifested.

The forms of the Universe: Breathe them in. Take in the baby’s crying, the sound of traffic, it’s all energy, it’s all shakti in form. As you draw it into your being, let the forms go, let your concepts about it all go, turn it back into pure shakti. Sit straight, draw it all into your chest.

All of your thoughts now, your memories, think of the political world, a breath for that.

See all the candidates, all of the international intrigue, all of the genuine seeking for peace, a breath for that.

See it all; the play, the dance, the forms, the mother, the mother at play, all aspects of the mother. Draw it back into its pure form within you, Mother shakti. Draw it into your heart.

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How can we balance suffering and joy in our lives?

balancelife How can we balance suffering and joy in our lives?

“The Sage does not talk – the Talented Ones talk, and the stupid ones argue.” – Kung Tingan

Though the numbers are proportionally few, many thousands of us have, through discipline and persistence, arrived at a view of our lives that is open, clear, and detached. In this new space we have lightness, an ease in carrying out our daily lives. An ability to keep a certain sense of humor about our predicaments. We find that because of the quietness of our minds it’s easier to relate to acquaintances, to family, to employers, to friends. It’s also easier to bring together our economic scene and the other aspects of our lives.

We begin to feel a little bit like gods on earth. Where we see sadness and suffering around us, we are able to empathize and still feel lightness and joy.

It’s as if the world is made for our delight, and even our own troubles become a source of amusement. When we look one another in the eye there is clarity and honesty. We have a certain degree of inner peace. Many of us never thought possible this level of equanimity, fullness, and delight in life. We have a sense of self-acceptance, spaciousness, and fullness in the moment that makes each day enough. In many ways it seems like liberation.

As I look around at people I know who have been working intensely on themselves for some time, there is a dramatic change.

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How can you face the fear of suffering?

fearofsuffering How can you face the fear of suffering?

Suffering seems to be a fact of life. How do we face it?

Clearly it is a stranger to none of us. Perhaps we’ve not experienced the corrosive pain of illness, persecution, starvation, or violence. We may not have lived with the deterioration and loss of a loved one. Few of us have seen the charred face of a burned child. But each of us has experienced our fair share of not getting what we want or having to deal with what we don’t want. In this, we all know suffering.

The way in which we deal with suffering has much to do with the way in which we are able to be of service to others.

Of course, not all helping revolves around suffering. Much of what we offer may be in the nature of simple support or guidance. Moving a friend’s new furniture, teaching a child to read. But it is the affliction of others that most directly awakens in us the desire to be of care and comfort.

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How can we begin to heal the world?

healingtheworld How can we begin to heal the world?

If we are to help heal the world, we need to remember that it is a sacred place.

Our actions need to be positive statements, reminders that even in the worst times there is a world worth struggling for. We need to find ways to keep the vision alive, to acknowledge but not get caught in the dark side. To remember that even the worst aspects of suffering are only part of the whole picture. We need to enter lightly.

Entering lightly means not ignoring suffering but treating it gently.

We don’t want to ignore another’s pain, but our becoming depressed or angry about it doesn’t relieve it and may increase it. The delicate balance is in allowing ourselves to feel the pain fully, to be sad or angry or hurt by it, but not be so weighted down by it that we are unable to act to relieve it. It is a matter of ends and means again: to create a caring, loving, peaceful world, we need to act with care and love and peace.

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Qualities of the Beloved

child-hands-formig-heart-shape-picture-id951945718 Qualities of the Beloved

Once you have drunk from the water of unconditional love, no other well can satisfy your thirst. The pangs of separation may become so intense that seeking the affection of the Beloved becomes an obsession. When we were with Maharaji, we were intoxicated with his form, the colors of his blanket, the buttery softness of his skin, his tapering, almost simian fingers, the long eyelashes that so often hid his eyes, the red toenail on his big toe. As with any lover we, too, became fascinated and enamored of every detail, although these cues triggered spiritual bliss instead of physical desire.

In their way intoxication and addiction are analogies for devotion.

Once you experience unconditional love, you really get hooked. The attraction is to that intimacy between the lover and the Beloved.


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Ram Dass’ Experience of the Sixties

praying-for-world-peace-picture-id171347375 Ram Dass’ Experience of the Sixties

There was a major shift that occurred in the 60’s, the shift from what you call absolute reality; thinking that what you saw and what your thinking mind thought it understood was only one kind of reality. And there was another experience of reality. William James, of course, had said that many years before, if you remember his quote,

“Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We might spend our entire life without knowing of their existence, but apply the requisite stimulus and there they are in their completeness”.

It’s interesting that William James said that when he was a professor at Harvard. I was thrown out of William James Hall for doing what he said.

Up until the 60’s, the primary spiritual containers were the organized religions of this culture. They were primarily the holders of the ethical constraints of the culture. They motivated people to behave ethically through fear and through internalized superego. The primary mediator between you and God was the priest, so there was a priest class. What the 60’s did through psychedelics, initially, was blow that whole system apart. Because it made the relationship to God a direct experience, once again of the individual. Of course the Quakers have had that, and had a long history of it as did other traditions. But in terms of mainstream, this was a new concept coming into the culture, which was spiritual and not formally religious.

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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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