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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 Karoli Ba...ba, 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. More

How can we add more dimension to our spiritual existence?

How can we add more dimension to our spiritual existence? How can we add more dimension to our spiritual existence?

This is a great story: Every month a disciple faithfully sent his master an account of his spiritual progress.

In the first month, he wrote, “I feel an expansion of consciousness and experience my oneness with the universe.” The master glanced at the note and threw it away. The following month, this is what he had to say: “I have finally discovered that the Divine is present in all things.” The master seemed disappointed. In his third letter, the disciple enthusiastically explained, “The mystery of the One and the Many has been revealed to my wondering gaze.” The master yawned. In his next letter, he said, “No one is born, no one lives, and no one dies for the self is not.” The master threw up his hands in despair.

 

After that a month passed by, then two, then five, then a whole year. The master thought it was time to remind his disciple of his duty to keep him informed of his spiritual progress, so he wrote to him. The disciple wrote back, “Who cares?” When the master read these words, a look of satisfaction spread over his face, and he said, “Thank you God, at last he’s got it.”

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How can we be more gentle with ourselves on the spiritual path?

How can we be more gentle with ourselves on the spiritual path? How can we be more gentle with ourselves on the spiritual path?

Question: “A lot of us are putting a lot of effort into being more fully present and to being ‘here now’ and we head towards the fire, and in the process, I know for myself, I lose my sense of humor, and I wonder if you could talk about ways of taking care of ourselves in the process?”

Ram Dass: See, if I were in a more Zen state, I’d say, “Take care of whom?” or, “Which self do you want to take care of?” I’d just take it obliquely right out of that question, because that is psychological, it’s like, here is this little self trying to do good and get enlightened, poor thing, it should take a vacation, it should go to Hawaii and maybe surf a little, you know?

Don’t do it too heavy, because that fire is hot. Like, I should say nice things and make you feel comfortable, but another part of me just says, “Go deeper into the fire if you really want to take care of yourself – burn baby, burn.”

I’m showing you the different levels of the way this whole discourse could be going. I’ll tell you, from where I’m at in this place, I’ll say that in Buddhist tradition it is thought that because a human birth is so precious and so rare that you should not waste a moment, and you should work just as hard as you can and make real effort, and not let a moment go by.

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How can you have plans and goals while remaining in the present?

How can you have plans and goals while remaining in the present? How can you have plans and goals while remaining in the present?

There was one question I was asked by someone who was shy, because I think maybe she thought it was too simple of a question to ask, but I think it’s one worth noting, which is, “How do you have plans and goals and still stay in the present?”

I may be overly simple-minded about this kind of stuff, but on the short term, I have my date book. Somebody calls up and they say, “Would you do something next November?” and I’ll look in my book, and there’s either space or there isn’t, and then I’ll listen to their voice, and listen to my economics, and listen to the world, and listen to where I would imagine I would be next November. What state of mind would I be next November? Would I really want to do it when that came? And then I either say yes or no. If I say yes, I put it in the book, if I say no, I don’t.

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How can we hold both the good and the bad within us?

How can we hold both the good and the bad within us? How can we hold both the good and the bad within us?

Question: “How can a soul know another soul, and can an ego know a soul?”

A soul can know a soul. An ego cannot know a soul. But souls like Maharaji, for example, draw out your soul, and then you see him. Otherwise, you see an old man without a blanket. Am I saying it right? I have discovered this when I visit sick or dying people.

When I used to do it like, “I’m a kind man who’s visiting sick people, so therefore, you must be a sick person,” I was caught in my role, and therefore, all I did was keep them caught in their roles. When I stood outside the bedroom door, and felt myself to be a soul, and then I went into the room, I was able to see it clearly. I went in and massaged the sick man’s feet. And there we were as soul friends. He didn’t find my mind reinforcing his model of himself, so I thought, “Hey, you can fluff a pillow or put a blanket over someone and you are helping people.” But Krishna in the  Bhagavad Gita is, “Do what you do, but put the flowers at my feet.” It’s doing God’s work, doing these things. So when I went to see that fellow, characterizing him as a spiritual person, I felt I was doing God’s work. Maybe that’s just psychotic.

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A new perspective on motherhood…

A new perspective on motherhood… A new perspective on motherhood…

I have been thinking about my mother and how Maharaji gave me a present.

You see, I was a Freudian, and that’s a bad place to be in relation to mothers. Sometime after I had been with Maharaji, I was having a darshan and he said something to me: “Your mother is a very high being.” Now my mother had died. So I perceived my mother in a new way. I had seen her as a Jewish middle-class woman filling the role of mother with all her personality things. But that person is all gone. So he said that about her, and I asked the translator to clarify whether he meant to say “is” or “was.” So, the translator went back over, and Maharaji got angry and said, “Is!… Is!”

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What is the significance of truthfulness in relationships?

What is the significance of truthfulness in relationships? What is the significance of truthfulness in relationships?

I want to talk to you about this word truth.

If you are with another human being and you want to awaken and get free, you can do it by dealing with the people around you without expecting that they will also want to get free. But if you’re lucky, you’ll get to be around people who also want to get free. In Buddhism it’s called Sangha, and in Hinduism it’s called Satsang. Every religion has the fellowship, the spiritual community of people who are seeking together, and it’s very reinforcing to those qualities in you that want to awaken to be around other people who similarly want to awaken. These relationships help remind you of it.

We look for people that are simpatico to those values. The highest one of those is where two people have consciously and intentionally said, “Yes, let’s get free and let’s use our relationship with one another as one of the vehicles for doing that. In order to do that, since we know that in freedom there is truth, let’s be truthful with one another.” That is a very high and very special relationship. It is very rare.

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How Can We Use Our Familial Relationships to Get Free?

How Can We Use Our Familial Relationships to Get Free? How Can We Use Our Familial Relationships to Get Free?

There are two kinds of relationships that we enter into. I tend to call them, “Given” and “Acquired.”


Given relationships are your parents, your children, you can’t trade them in. They’re given. Friends on the other hand are acquired. You can drop them. Marriages are an ambiguous place; you can look at it either way. We changed marriages from a given karmic situation into an acquired karmic situation, where you can change it if it doesn’t work well.


When you have relationships that are “given” karmically, you have people that are from all different levels of consciousness. You’ve been thrown together with them, and it becomes about, “I can’t understand why we’ve been thrown together.” It’s the chance to see the way in which you have catered to your personality, and a chance to push against it a little bit.


I’m playing with such a delicate and uncomfortable edge, which is the idea that fulfilling roles brings freedom, and the roles are not just responding to your personality desires and yourself.


Gandhi once said, “Civilization is the art of voluntary renunciation.” Which means you give up certain things in yourself in order to be able to play a part in a dance.

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What is the importance of investing in family?

What is the importance of investing in family? What is the importance of investing in family?

Over time we have ended up with a lot of confusion in ourselves about our roles in relationship to our families.


So why would you invest in the family?


You would invest in the family because you understand that part of your incarnation and part of being in the way of things is to find your function within family. Now it doesn’t mean lockstep, it doesn’t mean that every mother is the same mother or every father is the same father. You have to hear your unique way through, but unique doesn’t necessarily just mean personality desire. What is appropriate in view of my skills, opportunities, needs of the family, economics, political situation, and so on?

When you’re poor, and a family of six is living in one room, it’s a very different set of roles and demands than if you’re living in a situation where everybody has their own room they can go in and lock the door. It’s hard to face, because we think we won that affluence which has given us the privacy to have our own rooms, but it’s really a mixed bag. It’s given us the privacy to become very isolated and cut off from each other and very private and very secretive and very ashamed and very embarrassed and very uncomfortable, with a whole lot of stuff to carry around with us.

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What is the difference between knowing and being?

What is the difference between knowing and being? What is the difference between knowing and being?

When you walk down the street you see other beings who are doing things, who are thinking things, who are wearing things, who are older or younger, who have personal lives. You see all the individual differences, but you also see them as packaging which holds that being.


This is a 1931 body and it’s decaying at a certain rate. It’s inevitable. I mean, I may prolong it or slow it down, but it’s inevitable. The personality of this being has a lot of residual little neuroses hanging around in it. It’s also charming, it’s delightful, it’s warm, it’s intelligent, it’s a personality, and those are my vehicles for being here on Earth.


It’s like a space suit, when you see those guys on the moon, and they’re encased in these suits. Those suits allow them to be in that particular element, and so we are in an element which requires that we be sheathed in a body and a personality.


Notice what I’m doing. I’m suggesting that we are not an identity with our personalities or our bodies, we are something more than that, and the predicament we face in recognizing this part of ourselves is that it isn’t ‘see-able’ with our eyes, isn’t ‘tasteable’ with our tongues… isn’t recognizable by any of our external senses.


So do we take this whole part of ourselves and assume it isn’t real?

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What does it mean to see God in everyone?

What does it mean to see God in everyone?

Many years ago, back in the early 70’s, I had a Buick limousine that I had made over into a camper.

I opened the trunk up, and I lived there, and I was driving across the country. I started out from Boston and I had been in India. I had developed certain practices that I just loved doing and at the time I loved doing mantra, or just saying the names of the Beloved over and over again, “Ala, Yahweh, Krishna, Ram.” I would just take the names and keep repeating it, and I sometimes sit with beads and I could go into these extraordinary states of deliciousness.

I was driving across the country, and I wasn’t listening to the radio, and the car is big. It was like a tank, and it just went slowly. I had one leg tucked under me, and I was just driving along in New York, doing my “Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,” just keeping enough consciousness to keep steering the wheel. I was doing this when I became aware of a flashing blue light, which might have been the blue light of Krishna, but it looked like a state trooper, so I pulled over and I stopped, and this being got out. He came up to the window and he said, “May I see your license and registration?” Turned out I was going too slow. 

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How Do We Liberate Ourselves from the Power of Others?

ram-dass-how-do-we-liberate-ourselves-from-the-power-of-others

Recently I was at a conference, and one of the men at the conference was very powerful, and very preoccupied with power, much like a teenager might be occupied with power, except that he was considerably older.

I experienced this as he was introduced to me and he said, “How ya doing Ram?” I spent time with him and saw that he had decided in his mind that I was irrelevant. Everything I stood for was irrelevant, and I felt my irrelevance in his presence, and I watched that pour through me. I watched myself get caught in it at first, so that I started to crunch up into irrelevance and get slightly deviant. Those are the ways I responded to irrelevancy in his mind about me.

Then I saw my predicament, saved by my meditation bell, and I saw what I was doing. I saw my mind buy his model of myself, and just the noticing of that started to loosen its hold over me. He had brought me into the dimension of power, and found me wanting. He found that I was not powerful enough to be important in his eyes, and I just sat with it, and I felt what it felt like to be irrelevant and somewhat litigious. I just noticed all this, and slowly as I noticed it, and just allowed it. I didn’t push it away, I didn’t make believe that it didn’t exist, I just noticed and allowed it.

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If you had an open heart, what would you do with it?

If you had an open heart, what would you do with it?

When I talk about opening the heart, what exactly do we do? Well, one thing you do is acknowledge that you feel closed. That’s the first thing. You don’t make believe you’re open hearted, which most people do much of the time, when they are actually a little more aloof than they’re feeling themselves to be. They always feel a little hypocritical.

First thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling. I’ll tell you there are numerous practices for doing this, and you have to find one that’s comfortable for you. For example, I work a lot with my breath, and I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out in my heart, I allow whatever love I can muster for anything to be offered to people, to beings around me, and when I’m breathing in, I’m taking the existence of the universe into myself. I keep feeling this breath going back and forth and the breathing out is, ‘may all beings be free of suffering, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy.’

I’m just saying to myself that no matter how hard-hearted or closed hearted I am, I am going to use my energies to the extent that my mind and my heart can do it for the benefit of others. I’m gonna wish them well, and I start out very uptight, you know, so I start out and then I watch.

 

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Will Your Relationships with Others Create Unity or Isolation?

ram-dass-will-your-relationships-create-unity-or-isolation

Our relationships with each other can be vehicles for our unity and they can be vehicles for our entrapment.


They can be vehicles for bringing us more into the universe, into the moment, into the flow of things, or they can be vehicles for isolating us more into our separateness. In my relationship with you, who I think I am affects who I see you to be.


Say I’m driving down the street and I’m in a rush to get to an appointment I’m a little late for. There’s a car in front of me that is slowing down at a corner unnecessarily. I experience anger at the person that’s driving. I swerve to go by the car with anger in my heart and I look and I see that it is an older, confused looking man who is lost, and then I feel guilt. My attachment to getting to my appointment made me see that person as an obstacle.

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How do we remain mindful within our anger and righteousness?

ram-dass-how-to-remain-mindful-in-our-anger-and-righteousness

So it turns out there’s no rule book to take with you in life that says, “When I get into this condition, do this.” My rule is actually really simple, I continually work to quiet my mind, to stay mindful.

I continue to work to soften my heart, to stay ‘heartfelt.’ I work as well as I can to keep the energies moving in my system. I mean this is energy. I am constantly opening and watching and listening and tuning. I am listening my way into the universe. I am hearing my way, not listening actually.

You can feel that when you really listen, you almost start to dissolve into the other person’s storyline. You can feel that when you really listen, you tune your way into the universe, and when the fear arises, you sit with it. I sit with it and I don’t push it away. I don’t grab at it. A know what my limits are, and I often say, “I can’t handle that one just yet,” and I don’t end up feeling guilty about it.

I stopped holding myself to a standard of where I should be as a means of beating myself up when I’m not there.

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How can we create a culture that supports our process of transformation?

How can we create a culture that supports our process of transformation?

You and I are a part of a process that’s going on in our culture at this moment.

And to that extent we are conscious of that process, it’s easier for us to let our acts support that process while simultaneously holding the confusion we feel because the process is leading us in uncharted ways into feelings we have not had before. It seems to me we are all traditionalists, we are all modernists, and we are all ‘cultural creatives.’ To the extent that you bring it all into consciousness, you can feel the way it affects all of it. I often feel like Kahlil Gibran, the prophet: “Speak to us of love, speak to us of pain, speak to us of child rearing…” all of the aspects of life that he taught about.

To the extent that you bring each aspect of your life under scrutiny, there is an opportunity to have that aspect of your life be something which supports transformation.


I mean a lot of people are incredibly generous in the world, but with their family, they are very, very tight, and yet they’re bringing offspring into the world. Many people have greed in one corner of their consciousness and philanthropy in another corner of their consciousness. I’m not knocking them, but just to be conscious about it, to cope with it, to be with it, that’s the first thing.

I’m not arguing for everybody to give up everything, It’s not gonna solve the problem.

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How can we positively embrace change in our future?

How can we positively embrace change in our future?

It’s interesting to observe your own reaction when change presents itself in life.


It may be economic change in your circumstances, it may be a change in the way you spend your life. A lot of people, as their children grow, have an opportunity to change their lives, but they have such strong habits in how they’ve always done things and who they’ve always been, that they get frightened at the freedom to change when an opportunity presents itself.

Up until now, they justified their existence by what their karma commitments are; “I have to be this way,” and I would say that doesn’t have to be the case. They don’t have to wait for their kids to grow up, because that waiting becomes their daily routine.

How much of who I was yesterday is defining who I am today? How much can I allow who I am today to be totally open and tuning and responding to the situation, which includes everything I was yesterday, but also all that I will be tomorrow?

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What is the significance of having (or not having) a guru?

What is the significance of having (or not having) a guru?

I find that in this culture, every time I say I have a guru, I feel like I am holding up a red flag to people, because they say, “Well, I wouldn’t want that,” or, “Why don’t I have one?” or something else, so all I’m doing is creating suffering every time I mention it. It’s hard to have something you treasure so much, that you can’t share with people for fear of the impact it’s going to have on them. But I see that what I have to get rid of is my own reactivity to that issue. I am a member of this culture also, strange though it is.


The words that come to mind are that true surrender is no surrender, and the way it was put to me by one of my teachers in the old days, Baba Hari Dass was, “You can’t rip the skin off a snake. When it’s time, the snake sheds its skin.” If it’s a situation where somebody says,“Surrender to me” and you say, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” forget it. It’s not gonna work anyway, because even if you say, “I’m surrendering to you,” that’s ego saying, “I’m surrendering,” which is not surrender. There is a point where your surrender becomes just so obvious and absurd, that you’d be a fool not to – it’s not something where you decide, “I will surrender.”


It’s very interesting that my relationship to my guru is not one that my rational mind shows. In fact, the whole thing was very abhorrent to me in the beginning. When I met Neem Karoli Baba, the whole idea of a Hindu guru was absolutely absurd. I didn’t like Hinduism. It was day-glow paint and calendar art and I didn’t like it, you know… I liked the cleanliness of Buddhism. I mean I was really, you know, a Southern Buddhist. And here I meet my guru, you know, a big fat guy in a blanket, and what the hell is this all about? The fellow I was with was lying down touching the man’s feet and I’m sitting with my arms crossed standing there thinking, “I’m not gonna touch his feet.” You know, I mean, it was just, that symbol of the whole thing, and I wouldn’t do it.


An hour later it was all I wanted to do.

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How does consciousness affect the direction of our daily lives?

Ram-Dass-how-does-our-consciousness-give-direction-to-daily-lives

There are big changes that are happening in terms of the information age, with travel, with movements in psychology. You are a member of a large number of people who are starting to see the world differently from the socialization process they grew up with, the way they were cultured.


The question is, “How do you deal with change?” Or really, “How do you deal with the unknown?”


I watch people who understand that the economic disparities in this culture are creating destabilization and seeds of discontent, hatred, ill will, revolution, and everything. Some of these same people have a lot of money, and so they have the discomfort of realizing they are a problem. They are anxious because they grew up in a value system where they were taught that money is important for happiness. I watched some of those people begin to realize that keeping that disparity the same, in terms of excess and unnecessary expensive stuff, is cutting them off. It’s hurting them and it’s isolating them from the rest of the world, because they’re busy having to ‘not see certain things in order to stay happy’ and hold onto what they have.


I was teaching a course around homelessness at St. John the Divine some years back, and everybody in the class, a couple hundred people, had to go out and do service with a soup kitchen or shelters or something, or helping with street patrols.

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How can we can stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

How can we can stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

You and I are in training to be free. We’re in training to be so present, so spacious, so embracing, we’re in training to not look away, deny or close our hearts when we can’t bear something. The statement, “I can’t bear it,” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and contracting, it’s the contraction that starves you to death.

When you close your heart down to protect yourself from suffering, you also close yourself off from being fed by that same life situation.

If you can stay open to both the suffering and the joys and the stuff of life, all of it, then it’s like a living spirit. It just connects to your living spirit and there’s a tremendous feeding going on.

Once you see all this, what else is there to do but keep working on becoming conscious? You’d be a fool not to. You’re only going to perpetuate your misery and suffering and everybody else’s if you don’t. I’ll give it one year, I’ll settle for two, for you to live on two planes of consciousness simultaneously. The other thing is to do it joyfully! When you meet somebody that’s suffering, what do you have to offer them? You could offer them your empathy. That’s a good thing to offer because they feel somebody else is listening to them. The other thing you can offer them is your joy, your presence, and your ‘not getting caught in it all.’

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Ram Dass Explores the Illusion of Time Passage and Aging

Ram-Dass-explores-the-illusion-of-time-passage-and-aging

Now, when you get older one of the things that happens is the change of the meaning of time, in a whole raft of ways. First of all, time gets short before you get ready to leave your body, and that has a certain way of ‘making it all more significant.’ Not that this is the last picnic, but I mean you just start to feel it differently. There’s this agitation and there’s a whole chemical thing in it that makes you experience time as moving faster. When you’re a child spring is a big thing, and summer is ‘summer’ and then, I mean, you know, the feeling of each season is really present. Autumn is going back to school, at least it was in my day, and for adults, it runs a pace.


We seem not to have enough time for anything, and then we get older, the years go by very quickly, and that’s one dimension of time.


Then there’s another interesting dimension of time when you say to friends, “How old do you experience yourself being?” instead of, “How old are you chronologically?” or, “How old is your body,” it’s, “How old do you experience yourself being?”


There are different kinds of responses. People like me would say, “No age at all, I don’t experience myself as age.” Some people would say,” I have always felt like I was 14 years old. I’ve always felt like a little girl up in a tree.” I think for the first 35-40 years of my life, I felt like I was a precocious child. I was a child who was living in over my head. This may be alien to all of you but bare with me. It’s just my pathology. Then I began to feel like I had gotten through puberty. I was about 40 and I started to experience this change in my psychological age. There were a lot of things that occurred in those years, of course, and I got up to the point where I started to feel that I was just who I was. I mean, I was this age at that time, 50-55, and it felt fine and comfortable. Then I went deeper, and I started to feel no age.

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