March 5, 2014

Film Review: Cultivating Intuitive Faith & True Surrender with Ram Dass.

Ram Dass

“You can’t do surgery and find it. It isn’t on this plane. So, we’re going to take a mysterious journey of planes of consciousness into the final one, oneness.”

This was taken from Ram Dass’ new film Cultivating Intuitive Faith and True Surrender, which is the second film in the Cultivating series, but it could have been pulled from nearly any Ram Dass lecture. Unfortunately, statements like this have come to define Ram Dass. I say ‘unfortunately’ not because I disagree with this sentiment, but only because he is so much more than “planes of consciousness.”

There is a place for such discussions, and if anyone is qualified to talk about “planes of consciousness” it is, after all, Ram Dass, but such language fails to capture the value of what Ram Dass has to offer the modern age.

For those of you who do not know, Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert. His career began, not in 1971 with the publication of Be Here Now , but following a rigorous education which began at Tufts University where he earned his bachelor degree.

Then he went onto Wesleyan University where he was awarded his masters, and finally onto Stanford University where he earned the title doctor of psychology. Following a brief stay at UC Berkley Alpert went east to Harvard where he worked side-by-side with Timothy Leary on the famed Harvard Psilocybin Project.

I will not go into the project in detail, but suffice it to say that it is well worth a read and there is plenty of material available on the subject to satisfy your curiosity. I say all of that to say, if you want to get to the core of Ram Dass’ dharma you must look closely at the transformation Richard Alpert underwent in India.

In contrast to the Harvard professor Richard Alpert, Ram Dass stands as a reminder that the intellect is not the seat of spiritual experience.

The heart of Ram Dass’ message is the Heart. We can’t think ourselves through life. In fact, his transformation from Dr. Alpert—”a learned person”— to Ram Dass— “a servant of God”—is the square peg for the square shaped hole in modern man’s soul.

Modern man is trapped in his head, and Ram Dass’ biography, so to speak, is the Gospel he has to offer the modern world.

The transformation from Dr. Albert to Ram Dass has become a story of legend. In 1967, after walking away from academia, he traveled to India where he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba or “Maharaj-ji,” as Ram Dass affectionately refers to him. “Maharaj-ji” gave him the name Ram Dass.

Throughout the course of this film, his wondrous journey from Richard Alpert to Ram Dass is brought to life with story after story about the time he spent with his guru in India. But at no point in the film is the essence of his journey made more apparent than when he says “If you will shift your identification, you will see what the world looks like to the One.”

As he slowly moved his hand down from the center of his forehead to his heart, he closed his eyes and added, “It is quite different than through your ego. It is a fun thing to surrender.” The trip to India is the outward expression of an inner-journey. Not all will make the outer journey, but we are called to our inner adventure. With this simple gesture or mudra—the movement from  the head to heart—Ram Dass points out the universal path, the path that is at the heart of all the world’s wisdom traditions. This, in my opinion, is the pith instruction of Baba Ram Dass.

The immeasurable value of surrender is what Ram Dass has to offer our willful modern world and this film brings this to light. However, like the first film of this series {Cultivating Loving Awareness}Intuitive Faith and True Surrender features not only Ram Dass, but Sharon Salzberg, Krishna Das, Rameshwar Das, Mirabai Bush, Raghu Markus and this time, special guest KK Sah, a close Maharaji devotee. And each one, in their own way, helps to cultivate both true faith and surrender within the modern age.

“Surrender is not a capitulation to the will of another or to another force,” KK Sah explained, “but to God within.”

Adding further distinction, which is often necessary when using the word ‘God’ in the West, Ram Dass said, “Not God with a beard. You surrender to God within.”

Not only does the film manage to bring the notion of surrender into a modern framework, but, with the help of Sharon Salzberg {author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience} it manages to successfully recast the word ‘faith’ in a 21st century light.

She talks about two different kinds of faith. First faith, as if it were the realization of surrender as previously defined by KK Sah. Salzberg said, “Faith is knowing something so deeply that we simply are it; we live it.” Then Salzberg shifted gears, describing a more intuitive faith.

But instead of describing faith as a blind disregard of reason and common sense, she described it as an invitation, of sorts, into the richness and precision of our own experience. Salzberg, channeling Bruce Springsteen, describes faith more as a reverence for possibilities or an open-mindedness that deconstructs our fixed ideas.

Recalling Springsteen’s first impression of Bob Dylan, she said, “It was like a boot came down and kicked open the door of my mind.” This is the brand of faith on display in this film.

Cultivating Intuitive Faith and True Surrender is a great addition to the resources available, not only for beginners, but for people like me who like to think and are prone to mistaking theory and philosophy for the path itself. For some one like this the film is an exercise, a practice in and of itself. It was an invitation to surrender to the experience of faith—to feel my life, rather than think about it.

Click here to stream the film Cultivating Intuitive Faith and True Surrender in its entirety

Ram Dass’ Love Serve Remember Foundation is a non-profit, so please make a donation if you are able. 



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