We continue with Ram Dass, formerly Dr. Richard Alpert, who ignited a revolution some forty years ago with his book, Be Here Now. Our conversation focuses on his new book, Be Love Now: The Path of the Heart co-authored with Rameshwar Das. He was in Maui via Skype and phone line and four friends and associates were in our Santa Fe studio. If you missed Part One you can view it here.
Ram Dass’ teachings, the sharing of his journey and the wisdom of his guru, Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaji), are available through his website, www.ramdass.org. We pick up in the conversation where Ram Dass answers a question about love being enough for a consciousness revolution now, as compared with what transpired in the sixties and thereafter.
Ram Dass: Love is enough! Period: Especially, unconditional love. First of all, this time period is a complicated time period, because we were having a pendulum swing from the 60’s and the 70’s to now. The pendulum swung a different way; and we were responsible for [polarizing] the far right. We were yelling how we were changing the [mainstream] culture. The culture wanted to hit back: The conservatives hit back.
Now, it’s important to know that the 60’s and 70’s didn’t go away. Those times are in our hearts and our psyches: In the hearts and psyches of everybody; in our spiritual makeup. I would like to see that spark fanned a little bit. Each person has to go inside and see the love, that same love that is inside Maharaji, inside God, inside The Real Self: That love for everything in the world; every-thing, every being. Even when you don’t like people, love them, really love them.
Alan: Yes. Whether we have a psychedelic or a shamanic or spiritual revolution, love is still the answer underneath it all.
I have in front of me some excerpts and quotes from Be Love Now. I thought we would have a little bit of fun together: I’ll read these and you can expand on the content. In the first you say this, Ram Dass,
“I no longer even have a desire to be enlightened. I’m not interested in being done in that context. It’s not a realistic thing for me. It may happen or it may not. I don’t know. More and more I am less and less in evidence to myself. More and more I’m just whatever it is I am doing in the moment. It’s just happening, I’m just action. I’m not acting self consciously; but it’s different from the unconscious action I’ve performed most of my life.”
So, take that and particularly this very charged word in our society, enlightenment. Is it a fixed state; or is it an ongoing continuum one of awareness that one continues to grow into, and not a fixed state of enlightenment?
Ram Dass: It’s a goal, it’s an attachment. I feel that in this moment, I’m going fast and slow. I’m right here with God; right here. And I know that if I can appreciate this moment, where the spirit is, without time and without space; just infinity…that’s where I want to live, in the infinity.
I’ll tell you something so interesting, Alan. Hari Dass, who was my teacher, back then [in India], teaching me yoga, said, “Maharaji gave his asherbad for your book.” I said, “Well, I’m not writing a book and what’s asherbad?” He said it was “A blessing.” I came back to America wanting to write a book. The first draft was really “schlock.”
Then I started traveling around the country; to Esalen, to the Lama Foundation [in New Mexico], to New York and other places, giving lectures. Each place added something to this book; which eventually became Be Here Now.
Alan: So, 2 million copies later…
Ram Dass: Can you imagine, 2 million, Holy Mackerel!
Alan: Be Love Now should sell twice as many as that: In the next 10 or 15 years, when it’s really needed here; because it’s kind of a transform or die scenario on this planet. As Barbara Marx Hubbard said in an interview with me [Evolve Or Die]. I am paraphrasing and adding some embellishments, like; “We’re in an evolutionary spiral either we’re going to make it collectively or it’s going to hit the fan.”
Ram Dass: Yes, she’s right.
Alan: I want to go to another excerpt from Be Love Know, particularly because I know a lot of people are type A, if you know what I mean. They’ve got goals! So, you say the following:
“You can only go at the rate you can go. When you’re done you’re done. The only thing you can ask is that you keep awakening at the fastest rate at which you’re capable. You can’t go any faster than that. Whether you think you’re going to make it [enlightenment or Self-realization] in this lifetime or not, doesn’t really make that much difference as long as you keep going.”
Talk a little bit about that quote and also the idea of grace: Like the grace of a guru or grace of a saint, who somehow “finds us,” adding their presence to our life, like Maharaji did in your life. Does that speed up or help the process in some way?
Ram Dass: I think you go from moment to moment to moment. Then, deeper into the moment: Then into the “juice” of this moment, now! And then…ahhhh — yum, yum, yum, and there will be God. There will be the spirit. There will be Maharaji. There will be you! In your spiritual guise; which has in it wisdom…compassion…love…peace…and joy. That’s in all of us…every-one of us…One of Us!
You know, I go to places where they “peace rally.” (Gruffly and loudly following with…) God we want peace! Oh Boy — it’s all so peace-less, peaceless! You want to say to them; “go inside, go inside and then bring your peace outside.”
So, the thought of enlightenment, is just a thought: Just a thought. And all the thoughts of your past and your future, those are all thoughts: They’re all just thoughts. You need to just get into the moment. You can get used to identifying with thoughts; but we have to identify with our spiritual hearts. Then, our spiritual hearts can witness our thoughts. The thoughts of our future, even hope, is a side step from going in deeper and deeper and deeper.
Alan: Another quote from Be Love Now is:
“Love is a natural human inclination. People in other times and places have found this path and in many different cultural situations. In India it’s called Bhakti Yoga, finding ultimate union through love, a tradition that stretches back many centuries.”
Yet, our Western culture is so fear based. We have been co-opted by this contracting energy, of fear, through media, through television, through radio…
Ram Dass: Through our minds. Our minds have all these thoughts: The thought of who we think we are; the ego, that’s all in there. It’s all… thought, thought, thought, thought, thought, thought… And the spiritual heart is peaceful! Wowww, yeahhh… And because we center in our rational mind and our thoughts, we ignore the heart; not the beating heart, but the spiritual heart.
Alan: The HeartMath Institute research is showing that this heart here (holding the center of the chest), this Fourth Chakra, has more intelligence and more wiring and neurological stuff related to it, than the organ or the brain.
Ram Dass: (laughing heartily) That’s wonderful!
Alan: They’re working in their way with the science.
Ram Dass: It’s wonderful, because I think to get down there [into the heart] to the center, to the realistic I…then you can say; I am…I am…loving awareness. It’s the silent heart of me. People come up to me and say; Be Here Now has changed my life. I think to myself, Maharaji got you. He sent his net out and he got you, you little fish.
Alan: And more of that to happen with Be Love Now! The net is going out again.
Ram Dass: We didn’t get “grace” into your question.
Alan: It’s right here in this quote. You say,
“Grace lubricates your way, smoothes it out and makes it easy, speeds it up. It’s like having ball bearings instead of wagon wheels. It’s like having the wind through your sails or walking downhill. It’s like perfumed air, the subtle smell of spring. Obstacles are reduced to a manageable scale. The way to God is graceful. Grace has humor too, making things lighter, so we don’t take them so seriously. You’re aware of the spiritual meaning and perspective on your life, but it’s a light touch, it’s not heavy. Grace makes it lighthearted, the heart full of light”.
Ram Dass: Oh boy! From the time I met Maharaji my life was graceful: Grace-Full. Just full of those [metaphors]; full of spring, full of the wind, full at every moment. He is grace, he is grace.
When I had my stroke, I ended up in the hospital and I didn’t know what had happened to me. There were people around me saying, “He’s dying. Ohhhh, Oooh, Mmmm:” They had serious faces and then they started to work out that I had a stroke. Then they said; “You have a stroke… Ooooh, Ohhhh.” And I got a feeling of what they were transmitting from their minds. I’m getting a stroke! Then I saw a picture of Maharaji on the wall and I said to him; “Where were you? I was having a stroke. Where were you? Were you out to lunch or something?”
I thought, ‘a stroke couldn’t be his grace.’ Well, I kept working with it, working with it and working with it. I started to think of the stroke as his grace. This then is a very subtle point, Mickey Lemlie’s film called Fierce Grace [about Ram Dass; his life before, around and after the stroke. See 33 minute clip at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2540710401213738527# ], got to India and to Siddhi Ma, the women who runs Maharaji’s temples. She later told me that, “Maharaji would never give you a stroke.” So, I said “Well, let me think about it.” I concluded that he didn’t give the stroke. The stroke was my nature; my body’s nature: But he did grace me with seeing the stroke, as grace. Then she and I could agree.
Alan: I’m going to add my brief personal experience about the book, Be Love Now. I received a proof copy late. It came yesterday via UPS. I started reading it in bed last night and went back to the same transmission of love, of vibration, that we have all been talking about from reading Be Here Now or listening to a talk or tape by you; forty years ago, more or less. I stopped reading and thought, “Is that you Maharaji? Is that your essence coming through?” The answer inside was yes. It was like reading Be Here Now in the seventies.
Ram Dass: That was very nice of you to say.
Alan: My pleasure.
Ram Dass: (Laughing deeply…knowing at the time that I had the only proof copy) But you have the book and I don’t! (We all laugh)
Alan: You tell such good stories; so I want to tell you a short one. Sometime after Be Here Now came out, maybe in 1974, my wife at that time bought me a copy. We were living in Langhorne, Pennsylvania and she knew I was kind of waking up out of a consciousness stupor. I was reading a lot of Alan Watts and I was more into Zen than Bhakti. I hadn’t had a deep heart opening yet and I just couldn’t get myself to read Be Here Now. I was still in my corporate “executive” days and those funny cartoonish pictures in the brown pages were kind of driving me crazy. I couldn’t grasp the deeper essence of it all, yet. So I put the book down.
Sometime soon after, I left on a flight to San Francisco to go to a tax conference which was then my profession. My wife, with a joking sense of humor, stuck the copy of Be Here Now in my briefcase, which ends up under the seat in front of me on the plane. After takeoff, I open up the briefcase and there is Be Here Now. I’m stuck, you know, five hours coast-to-coast from Philadelphia to San Francisco; so I started reading the book and that transmission that we all have been talking about happened for me on the plane. I was never the same!
After reading the rest of your books out at the time, I started looking for you. It took a while to find you, a sometimes circuitous journey; but it finally happened, many years ago. I am always amazed when I think back about how this thread of unconditional love, emanating out of Maharaji, came together for me and so many others.
Ram Dass: Yeah yeah.
Alan: You know, I speak for many, many people saying how much we love you; better, we love with you!
Ram Dass: We love WITH you!
Alan: We love WITH you!
Ram Dass: There are so many of us, so many of us, so many of us: And they are going to change the world.
Alan: Yes! I want to see some of those many in Washington, DC, maybe infiltrated into Congress. I want to see it happen at that level because then we do have a win-win change scenario possible.
Ram Dass: Well, we now have a U.S. President, that when he was campaigning, doing the speeches before he got in…that I saw his soul in every word. He was seeing The One. He got in because he was a representative of a nation and the nation is an ego. Then he had his soul undercut. Yet, I know he’s got in his pocket a Hanuman1 that his father gave to him. Boy, that’s a telling thing. (Laughing knowingly)
Alan: That’s really good to know! I’m going to mention that to people who start arguing about his change of thought or mind, now that he is somewhat co-opted in the White House. I’m going to say, “Look, Ram Dass told me, that he still has a Hanuman in his pocket,” so don’t give up hope.
(Note that the complete audio interview is now available at: http://transitionsmedia.com/interview-gems/ram-dass-on-be-love-now/ and the You Tube Video of the same at: http://transitionsmedia.com/videos/ram-dass-be-love-now/
Alan Hutner is the founder of Transitions Radio Magazine (TRM), and co-hosts AgeNation Radio Magazine with George Cappannelli.