March 20, 2014

Interview: Ram Dass on Power, Service, Love, Aging, & the Birth of Dinosaurs.


Ram dass

“First you see love, then you be love. See love, be love…”

This is part two of two of my interview with Ram Dass. Click here to read part one. 

Recently I had the opportunity, privilege, and honor to discuss love, fear, joy, intellectual pride, aging, and eternity with the famed pioneer of psychedelics, renowned spiritual teacher, and the author of more than a dozen books, including Be Here Now and Paths to God.

Part one of this two part interview with the legendary guru Ram Dass ended with him talking about the relationship between separation and our addiction to power:

“The reason we are addicted to power is because of separateness—separate nations, separate states, separate religions, and separate people. When you are separate the whole universe is powerful, and you are so little…so little.”

The connection between separateness and insecurity touched on something else I had been thinking about. “What you said about separateness—that when we are separate we are this tiny little spec and the rest of the world feels like this huge thing coming down on us, which creates the need for power—makes me think of those in positions of power or leadership roles. Often times when I am put in a position where I can be of benefit to someone else, I squander the opportunity by trying to prove something; I will try to show them how smart I am or throw out all these big fancy words and they will walk away confused, wondering what the hell just happened.”

So I asked, “Do you have any words of advice for people in leadership roles—therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers, or parents? Really just anyone in a position to be of service?”

“I wrote a book called, How Can I Help?” he said with a smile. “It answers this question. When you’re in ego you inhabit your roles: the nurse role, doctor role, teacher role, mother role, or the seeker role. They’re all roles. You stand in your role and talk to other people, but because your role is a cover it makes everybody else get in their role. For example, there is the role of nurse and the role of patient. So, the game is to bring your identification from ‘role’ to ‘soul,'” he says as he slowly brings his hand down from his head to his heart. “Role to Soul. The roles have anxiety and fear in them, but the soul came from the One. It came from love. As you go through these planes of consciousness, first you see love, then you be love. See love, be love.”

“This is a perfect segue to a question submitted by one of my friends. She wanted me to ask, ‘It is easy to love those we already love. It is also easy to love those who are loving or of service to others, but how do we love and be of service to those we do not like or those that cause harm to others?’ ”

“I was down in the temple and my Guru called for me one day. He said, ‘Ram Dass love everybody.’ Responding from my ego, I said, ‘I can’t love everybody!’ He leaned in and said, ‘Ram Dass, you are to love everybody.’ Then I tried it. There are politicians I don’t like. Being a democrat, I don’t like George Bush. Sorry, I hope I didn’t step on your toes.”

Nope, my toes are fine,” I replied.

He laughed and continued, “So, I took a picture of George Bush and put it on my puja {prayer} table with all the other saints,” he continued. I would look across and I would say,  ‘Oh, hello Maharaj-ji; Oh, hello Jesus’,” he said with an endearing sentiment. Then in a crass  tone of voice he said, “HEY GEORGE!,” before erupting in laughter. “But through that I saw it was in me, not in him,” he continued. “I saw that these beings were souls and I had never addressed the soul in George. I had only addressed his incarnation—the president, so on-&-so forth. But I looked at that picture and saw his soul. I felt compassion for that soul. It has to go through the incarnation it has.

With people you don’t care for, you can find their soul, but only after you have found your own soul.

You are not able to love everybody when you are identified with roles, but in the soul you  can love everybody.”

“You can’t help it,” I mumbled.

“Yep…yeah,” he replied.

The religious and spiritual landscape in America has changed so much over the last one-hundred years. I wondered where he saw that reformation heading. So I asked, “Do you see the spiritual revolution in the West being lead by Buddhism and Hinduism or do you believe that it will be a reformed Christianity and Judaism—perhaps inspired by yoga and meditation—that leads the way?”

“The social action will be heart to heart,” he began. “It will not be these big sweeping movements. It will be heart to heart. The religions will play a part in it. Some people call spirit from their religions and some do not. Some only take the religion intellectually. I was brought up as a Jew. At that time, Jews were a tribal people. There wasn’t spirit. In the East I found spirit.”

“Did the discovery of spirit in the East rekindle your Jewish heritage,” I asked.

“No.  Now I’m getting interested in Kabbalah, mystical Judaism. But that is a small part of Judaism. Mainstream Judaism is more about Israel,” he said as he pumped his fist. “The churches don’t inspire, not even for their congregants. I love Jesus, but I don’t love Christianity. Jesus is loving, compassionate, and inclusive. My Guru told us to meditate. We asked, ‘How do we meditate, Maharaj-ji?’ He replied, ‘Meditate like Christ.’ When we asked what that was about he said, ‘Jesus loved everybody and that took him up to the Father,’ which is where the love came from.”

“Interesting. Jesus said, ‘These and greater things will you do, because I am going through the Father.’” You could say that Jesus’ greatest work was to love everyone.”

 “That’s absolutely right,” Ram Dass said with a smile.

ramdass and NKB“You are now eighty-two years of age. As you get up there in age is there any nugget of wisdom that you—not necessarily as a student of Neem Karoli Baba or even as a life-long practitioner, but simply as a human being who has managed to live for eighty-two years—would like to depart to the younger generations?”

“Make friends with change. In older years there is change in your body, change in your memory, change in your friends, family, and change in culture.” He sat there silently for a moment, before he quietly said, “wow.” Then he continued, “You might as well be ready for it. Then comes the big change at death.”

I interrupted to ask, “Has this process been exciting for you.

”At the beginning of aging I thought it was fun, but now I have second thoughts,” he answered with a laugh. “I had a stroke which kept me away from outside things I would grab like my sports car, my cello, or golf clubs. Then I had to move inward, and inward was were I found the love, excitement, and joy I craved. So, I treat the stroke as grace from my Guru.” He then asked, “Is a stroke grace,” and then answered his own question, “wow!”

 “Aging gives you perspective,” he continued. “You witness your life—time and space. This plane of consciousness you and I are talking on has time and space, but the next plane, the soul, does not have time or space. I am a soul in this body. I am infinite. People want to celebrate my birthday, but the birthday is for the body. My birthday,” he said as he pointed to his heart, “that goes back to the big bang or something.”

“Wow! What an astonishing thought,” I interjected. “It brings you into that sense of awe and wonder just to contemplate the birth of the universe as all of our birthday. We could all gather ‘round this gigantic birthday cake and blow out an infinite number of candles and celebrate our birthday, the birth of all the stars, trees, and dinosaurs.”

He laughed and swept his hand across his body, as he said, “It is all the birthday cake: the tress and the birds, and oh God…We’re enjoying it. Wow! You see all of it is a manifestation of the One, love.”

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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 Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: RamDass.org


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