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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What are some techniques for finding freedom within ourselves?

freedom

I view spiritual practice as the freeing of awareness from identification with anything. That’s a spiritual practice. How that is done is through a wide variety of means. It can be done, for example, in the heart through a devotional practice. In other words, I can bring my mind through to love using some icon, or some being, or some person, and loving it so thoroughly that it frees the mind from all the rest of the stuff. Then I can go into that love so deeply, that I go into the formless love. I go through form into formlessness, and I come to that place of free awareness through love.


For example, I use mala prayer beads. This is a technique for reminding me that you and I are only relatively real. I’m keeping another plane of reality going simultaneously to remind me of the formlessness inherent in the form. In other words, I’m doing a practice while I’m talking to you.


Now the whole idea of a meditative practice is the process of very simply extricating awareness from the identification with thought and sensation.

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What are the implications of labeling our sexual orientations?

What are the implications of labeling our sexual orientations?

I grew up in a time where I was a closet homosexual. That was what I called myself. I had a girlfriend, and I did the whole double life thing.


I was a psychotherapist in the University Health Services, and they began to see that I was quite successful with people that were easily confused about sexual identity. So pretty soon, they gave me all the homosexual cases. They had no idea about my sexual orientation. I mean, this is in the therapeutic counsel, and at one point a young man who I had met, and who was staying at my apartment, I loaned him my car for the day, which was a rather distinctive car.

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How do we address the lack of environmental awareness?

How do we address the lack of environmental awareness?

Someone asked me if the earth will still be habitable when their three year-old grows up, and is that a part of the cosmic perfection?

More than ever we are awakening to being an integral part of earth’s ecosystem. As inhabitants of this planet we have some responsibility for the nest we live in and maintaining the nest. The same way we clean up our house, we also have to clean up our environment.

Environmental consciousness seems to be happening too slowly. Some people are motivated to keep it from happening. There are economic costs in that awakening — not in the long run, but in the short run – in ways that cause realignment of economic power. People who have that power have a lot of inertia, they want to hold onto it. A company like General Electric may not be ready for dramatic shifts unless they are forced into it because it may change their stockholder dividend.

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What are some tools we can use for positive transformation?

Ram-Dass-What-are-tools-for-positive-transformation

The tools for positive transformation that I’m most aware of are the nature of the human mind, and the nature of the human heart… the quietness of mind and the ability to sit in a place where you’re not in a reactive mode.


In the old days kings used to have elders that didn’t have a line to power, but they would be there, as they were, to keep the space, or keep the vision. There’s just none of that now in the political environment. Talking to my friends in the political world, there’s nobody that’s not reactive, or rather there’s nobody that’s responsive rather than reactive.


Part of what I’ve done is a book on conscious aging, which had to do with the role of elders in a society. This role is known well in Native American cultures. It’s known in many indigenous cultures and other historical cultures. However, because our technology has moved so fast, and we are so focused on knowledge as opposed to wisdom, people become obsolete very quickly. And that obsolescence is throwing out a resource that the society needs. We end up missing the whole model of what to value. It takes an older person to accept the fact that they have a unique curriculum, because our society says that the older person who is valued, is the one that has stayed young. See, because youth is such a focus of the society.


So part of what I see as tools for transformation have to do with honoring what you are as an instrument for transformation – and that has to do with the mind and the heart and the skills.

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How do we optimize our connections to ourselves and to the world?

Ram-Dass-Connections-to-world

I’ve been asked many times whether this is the aquarian age and it’s all just beginning, or if this is armageddon and this is the end, and I have to admit I don’t know.


The way I’ve usually copped out in dealing with it is saying, “Whichever way it goes, my work is the same. My work is to quiet my mind and open my heart and relieve suffering wherever I find it.” That seems to be what my life is about, and it doesn’t matter which it is- it’s the beginning of everything or the end of everything – regardless, that’s still what I gotta do.


I prepare for death… and so from a spiritual point of view, from the point of view of our spiritual evolution, and depending on which way the karma is going to go for the humanity on earth – it’s grist for the mill.

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What is the importance of respecting each other’s differences?

ramdass_respect

Back in the early 70’s my audiences were all between 15 and 25 years old. They wore white, they all had flowers in their hair, and they all smiled a lot, and we would meet so that we could review the maps for our inner journeys.


So one night I was lecturing to my constituents, and in the front row was a women about 70 years old with a hat with strawberries and cherries on it. She had a black patent leather bag and a print dress and solid black oxford shoes. I looked at her and thought, “This is not an ‘acid head’, what is she doing here?” I figured somebody brought her for some reason and how bizarre. I started to talk, and talk about these very far out places of the mind and everywhere I went, she’d be going like this (nodding), and I got absolutely obsessed with her, you know. I tried saying different things, and she’d be going along.

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What if we could view death as just another stage of life?

RamDass_deathasstageoflife

My mother died in very early February of 1967, and I was at her hospital bedside. I had been sitting there quietly while she was sort of resting, I was just being spacious and aware, and noticing what was happening. As the relatives, doctors, and nurses came into the hospital room, one woman came in and said, “The doctors just told me there’s a new medication that we think will help,” and I just listened to the cheery tone of the nurse, realizing my mother was being surrounded by a conspiracy of denial.


At one point after this, when nobody was in the room, my mother turned to me and she said, “Rich, I think I’m gonna die,” and I said, “Yeah, I think so too.”

Can you imagine what that must have been for her to have somebody just affirming what she knew, but couldn’t get anybody in the whole situation to validate for her?


She asked, “What do you think it’s gonna be like, Rich?”

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“If you think you are free, you can’t escape…”

RamDass_Escape

You realize as you start to come into awareness that you are experiencing other things as if you are them, rather than in a dualistic way, as if you are separate from them. Prior to experiencing that plane of existence, when you’re still seeing it as separate, you experience things like sympathy, kindness, pity, caring, however these are all dualistic concepts, and the term compassion is something else all together.


The term compassion manifests when you come to the plane where you see everything is all part of one thing. You start to ask, “Well whose suffering is it anyway? Whose helping is it anyway?” And the whole idea that, “I’ll help you,” is seen as nonsense. It’s like the left hand is caught, and the right hand pulls it out and the left hand turns to the right and says, “Thank you!” It doesn’t work that way, because they’re both part of the same body. Who are you thanking? You’re thanking yourself, so that on that plane, you realize it’s not ‘her’ suffering, or ‘his’ suffering, or ‘their’ suffering. It’s one level, you go up, and it’s ‘OUR’ suffering.

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What is the power of the breath?

What is the power of the breath?

The idea behind following the breath is that you have this web of thoughts which you are working with at the same time. They are these models that underlie our behavior and there is also the “stuff” of our experience. What this technique does is to take one thought and ask your awareness to stay with that thought, and thus extricate yourself from identification with all the other thoughts. It’s very simple.

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How does your reaction to change affect your life experience?

How does your reaction to change affect your life experience?

At this moment, you and I are living in an information age. We are living through shifts in the meta-structures of the game that are very profound. We haven’t even begun to grow into it.

Our mythology is so based on our previous ages and consciousness, that we haven’t even understood it yet. I mean, we’re just beginning the dance of understanding what it means when we have a collective unconsciousness, when we have information moving at the rate it is. We’re still getting overloaded trying to collect it. But it’s obvious – you can’t collect it.

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How do you honor your identity as a member of an ecosystem?

How do you honor your identity as a member of an ecosystem?

The quieter you become inside, the more you will pull back a little and remove yourself from the reactive mode that you are in. We all are in reactive modes with each other; I mean, we all have these incredible stories to play out. The quieter we become inside, the more we get established in that witness or the soul.


As you develop this quiet place inside from which you see the unfolding of your life story, you begin to understand how your ego identity is made up of your participation in the web, in a kind of horizontal web that involves your roles and all of your reference groups. They help define your identity.

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Why does spiritual awakening require a shift in our priorities?

Why does spiritual awakening require a shift in our priorities?

Fear is what excites the adrenaline. Just look at the daily news. Look at what’s on it. Look at what’s there. Love doesn’t sell, no matter how hard you try. It doesn’t sell. People can’t slow down enough to taste it. Folks go out and see the stars and it slows you down but how many times do you even do that? How many times do you go in and turn on the lights and you turn on the television or turn on something instead?


You turn on, and you tune in, and you drop out, but what you drop out of is the deeper truth and drop into a linear storyline.


Now if you see the nature of this metaphysics that we’re talking about, about ego and the different levels of self.. Ego, and soul, and awareness, or god, or whatever… If you see those then you begin to see what the nature of your curriculum as a soul is, that having taken birth on earth, the work is to awaken out of the karmic illusions that you keep creating, and you draw your awareness back through whatever practices you use to do that.

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How do you use boredom as a vehicle for awakening?

How do you use boredom as a vehicle for awakening?

The beauty of a true spiritual journey is that it keeps unfolding from inside yourself, and if you just wait a little longer you’ll see how hungry you are for integrity inside yourself, for a certain quietness, for a certain clarity.

The tendency in our society is when there’s dis-ease, to grab another experience in order to reduce it.

I remember when I got into my cell in Burma. I spent the day in my cell, the first day of my two months, meditating righteously and getting my sleeping bag right and my food containers, and studying the spider at the window, and all the things you do. Then I realized I had months yet to go, and I was bored. I was really bored. Boredom became my object of meditation. I looked at boredom. Instead of the identification, “I’m bored,” I thought, “What is boredom? What does it feel like? What is it like? What does it mean to be bored?” Instead of, “Oh I’m bored.”

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How do we find balance between embracing our humanity and letting go of our attachments?

How do we find balance between embracing our humanity and letting go of our attachments?

I remember being in India as a renunciate and thinking, “Well, the thing that has obsessed me for the last 25 or 30 years is sex.” I mean, since puberty until I was sitting there, I thought, “My god, think of the amount of time I have spent thinking about sex… Will I get enough? Who is it? Will you? Won’t you? Can I? Can’t I? …Do I really wanna spend the rest of my life doing that?”

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What’s the importance of a ‘maintenance’ practice?

What’s the importance of a ‘maintenance’ practice?

It’s very easy when you have touched great depths of love and beauty and presence and emptiness and clarity and wisdom – it’s easy to assume you’re always going to stay in that, because when you’re in it, it is so totally who you are. So, you’ve got to realize we are living in incredibly seductive times, in a seductive universe. I mean, advertising is only the beginning of the game, which is constantly saying, “Desire me. Desire me. You want me. Get into your desires. You are your desires. You are your attachments. Look at me. Want me. Enjoy me. Fear me. Hope for me. Collect me. Experience me.”

 

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How do we move past feelings of inadequacy when it comes to loving ourselves and others?

 loving ourselves and others

The term “love” is used by many people. Most of the time when they use the term love, they are talking about romantic love. They are talking about love that is fused with need, and if you look at the process of falling in love, it’s an interesting process.


You have a heart that is love, but it’s closed to you by your own mind. So you’re like a hungry ghost, looking all the time.


Then you meet somebody, and they have a key that fits in a lock that opens you to your own heart, and you think, “I am in love.”

 

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How do we break the chain of reactivity with those around us?

How do we break the chain of reactivity with those around us?

As one cultivates more and more of the levels of the strudel, then one sees the whole level of interpersonal relationships as just one level. When I first started to awaken, I would come home to visit my family and my father would say to me, “Do you have a job?” He didn’t ask me if I was the Buddha, or if I was enlightened, and I would get very angry at him because he had caught me in a place where he made the plane real, and I said, “I cannot stay around my family, they bring me down.” Later when I would come home more strong in my faith and inner connections, my father would ask me the same questions, and I would, in the quietness of my being, appreciate his concern and the worldview that he held without becoming reactive, and so my response would not be reactive, and it responded instead to the deeper connection that we had, and it would open the dialogue in a new way.

It is up to the most conscious person in the situation to break the chain of reactivity.

This is our work in the world. We are all living in incredibly reactive webs. If you push against it, it still has you. The art is to be in them, but not reactive to them. You can stay in a marriage in which your partner is not interested in what you value and begin to work with that vehicle for your own awakening by shifting your awareness from that of judging mind to that of an appreciating one. You will see that certain relationships have so much symbolic power for you, it’s very difficult for you not to be reactive. Somebody that is very sexually attractive to you, or somebody that is very powerful, or somebody that has a lot of money. Or if you are afraid of aging, somebody that is very old. Or if you are afraid of dying, someone who is dying. Or if you are strongly identified with your body, somebody who has a deformity.

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Exploring the Power of Intuition

Exploring the Power of Intuition

I experience quietness as an incredible condition. Within the quietness of mind you hear a kind of deeper process, a deeper wisdom.

I remember at Harvard the rational mind was so highly valued and when somebody said, “I intuitively know it,” it was treated as a kind of weakness. I mean it was so sexist, it was absurd, you know? “Men think, women intuit,” as if it were such a horrible thing to intuit. In the course of these years I’ve seen that change, so that intuition is starting to be trusted more. The fact that you could have an understanding of things from a way of being in the universe that is more subjective than objective, that you’re not knowing it as material, you’re being it, and the action is coming out of it.

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“R.D. says we are not our bodies. Amen.”

“R.D. says we are not our bodies. Amen.”

For some years in California, a young man came to my lectures in a bed, brought in a bed. He was a quadriplegic. He could not speak. He was about twenty-eight years old. He was like this (laying back on a slant). His attendant could hold his hand over an alphabet board and there was just enough capacity to point at letters. That was the way he spoke. Each time he came, I went over to him and hugged him, and then I would wait while he spelled out some words. I felt in myself how reactive I was to the immensity of his deprivation state.

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How to Navigate Power on the Spiritual Path

How to Navigate Power on the Spiritual Path

The game of powers is always very simple: Don’t use them. The minute you get a power and say, “I’ve got this power, I will use it,” then you’re stuck again. A new attachment, a new ego trip. Don’t use them, rather let them be used through you.

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