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Table of contents :
“Now is Then”......Page 11
Rameshwar Das......Page 13
Murari (Thomas Spiritoso)......Page 17
Jai Hanuman......Page 21
Krishna Das......Page 23
Raghu Markus......Page 27
Parvati Markus......Page 29
Paul Singer......Page 31
Mirabai Bush......Page 34
“Love Power Truth”......Page 41
David Silver......Page 42
Jon Seskevich......Page 44
Judith Sookne......Page 46
Joe Cicero......Page 49
Christine Truhe......Page 50
Hanuman (Ed Fissinger)......Page 52
Shava Nerad......Page 53
Dr. E. Stone......Page 55
Mark Ekwall......Page 56
Melissa Copeland......Page 58
Bob Skutelsky......Page 59
Eric Lang......Page 60
“No Clinging, No Suffering”......Page 61
Pat & Dianne DeLapp......Page 62
Lynda Tanaka......Page 63
Thomas Hoffmann......Page 65
Joyce Lively......Page 66
Wendy Moore......Page 67
Renee Davenport......Page 68
Jai Ram Ransom......Page 70
Jessie Senibaldi......Page 71
Sandy Janaki Gaal......Page 72
Robyn Tom (Shaw)......Page 73
“Being Human”......Page 76
Cat Anderson......Page 77
Jo Clarkson......Page 81
Beverly Morgan (Uma Mayan)......Page 95
Tony Kadikoff......Page 100
Elaine Tognazzini......Page 102
Carrie Adler......Page 105
“Conceptual Mind”......Page 108
David Whittaker (Arjuna)......Page 109
Siward Mullens......Page 110
“A Fellow Soul”......Page 121
Kevin Light......Page 122
Brent Field......Page 123
Sharon Roll......Page 127
Nancy Eckert......Page 129
Janette Holland......Page 130
John Miller......Page 132
Cheryl Lynn Krunkoski (Ramachandra)......Page 133
Holly Cedar......Page 134
“Blanket Story”......Page 135
Ken Sandin......Page 136
Jack van Maas......Page 137
Sean Collins......Page 139
Jessica Slade......Page 140
Elizabeth Severino......Page 141
Denise Coates......Page 143
Maria C Salomone Gabelberger......Page 144
Tracy Peng......Page 145
Shanti (Stephanie Reiter)......Page 146
Carla Lockwood......Page 149
Christa Melde......Page 152
Saraswati Markus......Page 153
“Maharajji’s Heart Turned on my Heart”......Page 156
Back Cover......Page 157
Copyright © 2011 Love Serve Remember Foundation All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review. ISBN 978-0-615-54873-9
D This book is dedicated to the devotees of Neem Karoli Baba. It is said that those who are dear to the one who is dear to you, become dear to you also. This is true, and we realized this in those early days when we gathered together as Babaji’s devotees… We were all included in Babaji’s family and we were entitled to have our share in everything. He played his game so skillfully that most of us felt we were his near and dear ones, and he could not do without us… The great lesson we learned was that happiness would come only if we learned not to shut anyone out as a stranger, or deny anyone his share and place in the family.
From The Near and the Dear by Dada Mukerjee The editors would also like to acknowledge and dedicate the spirit of this book to Thomas Spiritoso, who, when the Be Here Now social network was created on RamDass.org, became one of the first people to share his stories, pictures and letters about his meeting with Ram Dass. Soon
after he posted this content he died suddenly in Philadelphia in 2009. His contributions inspired other to share their stories and love through this book.
Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass Compiled by Raghu Markus on behalf of the Love Serve Remember Foundation
Introduction 1960s Video: "Now is Then" Rameshwar Das Murari (Thomas Spiritoso) Jai Hanuman Krishna Das Raghu Markus Parvati Markus Paul Singer Mirabai Bush
1970s Video: “Love Power Truth” David Silver Jon Seskevich Judith Sookne Joe Cicero Christine Truhe Hanuman (Ed Fissinger) Shava Nerad Dr. E. Stone Mark Ekwall Melissa Copeland Bob Skutelsky Eric Lang Video: “No Clinging, No Suffering” Pat & Dianne DeLapp Lynda Tanaka Thomas Hoffman
Joyce Lively Wendy Moore Renee Davenport Jai Ram Ransom Jessie Senibaldi Sandy Janaki Gaal Robyn Tom (Shaw)
1980s/1990s Video: “Being Human” Cat Anderson Antonio Jo Clarkson Beverly Morgan (Uma Mayan) Tony Kadikoff Elaine Tognazzini Dana Carrie Adler Video: “Conceptual Mind” David Whittaker (Arjuna) Siward Mullens Joseph Video: “Understanding Coming Together” Rick Julianne
2000s Video: “A Fellow Soul” Kevin Light Brent Field Sharon Roll Nancy Eckert Janette Holland John Miller Cheryl Lynn Krunkoski (Ramachandra) Holly Cedar
Video: “Blanket Story” Ken Sandin Chris Jack van Maas Sean Collins Jessica Slade Elizabeth Severino Durga Denise Coates Maria C Salomone Gabelberger Tracy Peng Shanti (Stephanie Reiter) Carla Lockwood Christa Melde Saraswati Markus Video: “Maharajji’s Heart Turned on my Heart”
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
Introduction In the late Sixties, when Ram Dass first returned from India, he began to share with American audiences his personal transformation from Richard Alpert to Ram Dass. After hearing Ram Dass’s words of his direct experience with Neem Karoli Baba, or Maharajji as we came to call him, we were deeply affected and drawn to the experience of “hanging out” with Ram Dass either on his lecture tours or at his father’s farm in New Hampshire.
As we started meeting each other and sharing our stories of how we met Ram Dass, we realized that there was a common theme or understanding - a connection through Ram Dass to unconditional love, to an honest direct awareness of the foibles of being human, and to having a sense of humor about it all.
The sharing of our stories became a way of recognizing our interconnection, that we are all in this together. It foretold what we were to feel upon meeting Maharajji, which Larry Brilliant described this way: “The miracle was not that Maharajji loved me; it was that I loved everyone around me when I was with Maharajji.” That experience is the essence of how Ram Dass transmitted Maharajji’s love.
So, to continue what Ram Dass started with the publication of Be Here Now, we decided to publish an e-book in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of his first sharing his story in print. And it is even
more fitting that these new stories are from people who are part of Ram Dass’s online satsang, also called Be Here Now. They are very similar to the stories we shared in the late Sixties, but also unique to each person within the collective heart. It is indeed awe-inspiring that the power of the unconditional love can connect us all over this wide expanse of time and bring us into the collective spiritual heart that Ram Dass has represented over the last four decades.
Please accept this small offering as a tribute to the willingness of Ram Dass to share what he learned in India in 1967 from Maharajji. May that willingness to share compassion and love continue to light our path and others for generations to come.
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view this and other videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
New York City 1969
Spring, 1967. I was twenty, a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. I had just spent my first extended time out of the country on a semester abroad in Franco’s Spain. The Vietnam War was raging and there was upheaval fomenting on campus.
Freshman year I took a seminar on “Freedom and Liberation in Ancient China and India” that stirred an interest in Taoism and Buddhism. I started smoking pot and experimenting with mescaline, DMT, LSD. The visual and lyrical currents of psychedelics stimulated my artistic, philosophic and poetic intuitions and expanded my inner and outer horizons.
That spring a flyer appeared for a lecture by Richard Alpert Ph.D., formerly a psychology professor at Harvard. He’d done some of his graduate work at Wesleyan. Two of his former students, Sara and David Winter, were teaching psychology and had invited him to speak.
Dr. Alpert’s talk began at 7:30 p.m. in one of the student lounges. I expected a pep talk on “Better Living Through Modern Chemistry” (then an ad slogan for DuPont Chemical). About fifty people were spread out in couches, chairs and on the carpet. Instead of a tweedy Harvard type the guest speaker entered wearing a scraggly beard, sandals and a kind of white robe. Dr. Alpert was just back from India. His name had been changed to Ram Dass. He said it meant servant
of God. He looked like he’d gotten off a soapbox in Hyde Park in London.
Instead of psychedelics he began to talk of living in an ashram in the Himalayas. He described meeting a guru who had a cataclysmic effect on his consciousness, so much that he sequestered himself for six months in the guru’s ashram to learn yoga and meditation. There was rapt silence.
After awhile someone turned out the lights and Ram Dass continued to speak in the womb-like dark. His disembodied voice fairly crackled with a kind of energy. It permeated the room. He combined the excitement of a scientist with a new discovery and an explorer in terra incognita. He continued describing his experiences and responding to questions until 3:30 A.M.
As Ram Dass talked about his interior transformation I began to experience one too. For me it was like a figure-ground flip in one of those high contrast images where suddenly you see the space instead of the shape. Subjectively I went from being the center of my own universe to seeing myself a tiny spark of awareness among billions, a dim star in the Milky Way. In that moment I understood that we are all on an evolutionary journey toward realization through infinite time and space.
It was more than a conceptual understanding, more like meeting together in a deep space of love, and compassion for what Ram
Dass called “our predicament”. Two and a half years later when I traveled to see the guru in India I experienced precisely this feeling again, like a déjà vu. That evening, however it happened, an old man in a blanket in India, Maharajji, reached out through Ram Dass. Maharajji’s love and compassion and oneness had moved to Connecticut.
That there were other beings who had actually made and completed the inner journey of exploration which I had only imagined was revelatory. Maybe the journey wasn’t quite so personal after all.
The next day I sought out Ram Dass where he was staying. I needed to know more. Whatever state that was I had experienced, I wanted more of it. I felt awe and gratitude, though as we talked I realized Ram Dass was on his journey just as I was on mine.
In the two years that followed I drove up to visit Ram Dass periodically from Wesleyan, following I-91 from Connecticut through Massachusetts to his family’s summer place, a farm on a lake near Franklin, New Hampshire. In warm weather he stayed in a tiny guest cottage without water or plumbing that he made into a cozy retreat, or kuti, where he meditated, did yoga and cooked a daily pot of kedgeree, rice and dal mixed together. In the winter he moved into the servants’ quarters in the attic over the kitchen.
Ram Dass taught me the basics of yoga and meditation and passed on some of the writings of the saints and yogis he had been
come to know of in India. Pranayama and mantra became part of my routine. I learned how to cook kedgeree and make chapattis.
Ram Dass’s father, George Alpert, was a lawyer who had been President of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. He and his fiancée, Phyllis, were often at the house when I came up to visit Ram Dass in Franklin. They were extraordinarily hospitable. I felt like extended family. Clearly Ram Dass’s new manifestation had left them at a loss after his career at Harvard. But they loved who he had become and they didn’t really care why. George continued called him Richard, and seemed bemused by the assortment of mostly young people that kept turning up. It was all a bit of a mystery but the love had infected them, too.
By his grace, I’ve come full circle.
Murari: In 1969 I was a Psychology Professor at a major university when one of my students, Jim, said he had an audiotape of a psychologist ( Richard Alpert ) who had some interesting experiences in India and that I should hear it. Until this time our ‘experience’ was limited to Hatha Yoga classes and a few books ie.
those of Yogananda and Ramakrishna. I guess if we must pick some point as a beginning, this was it. Rukmini and I invited Jim over and played the tape. It turned out to be Ram Dass’s story of his journey to India and his subsequent change into Baba Ram Dass.
As the story unfolded and he was on his way to see the guru I naturally imagined a wise old sage sitting on a mountain. Then I started to feel that he actually did know something, something I always wanted to know. Namely, what is this really all about? What’s really going on? As an academic I was never satisfied with scientific, philosophical or religious explanations of existence since each tended to exclude the others and they could never integrate the divine consciousness into the picture. The story reached the point where Maharajji was telling Ram Dass that he had been thinking about his mother the previous night and how she had died of Spleen disease. . . which of course blew Ram Dass’s mind. As Maharajji said “Spleen!” in English, Ram Dass fell over sobbing. I also had a tilt moment. I felt a clarity and awareness, as if my head went through the clouds and emerged into bright sunlight. I said to myself and then to my wife, Rukmini - Maharajji is the guy I want to see. We’ve got to find him. He really knows. Ram Dass’s tape blew us out.
Rukmini: Soon we saw an announcement that Ram Dass was coming to Philly to speak. When he came to Philadelphia that winter, we ran to the experience. And again, the following spring. Both times the scene was packed, totally focused on Ram Dass, totally tuned into the energy that flowed through him to us. At the end, or actually since there was no “end” but merely the movement of our physical bodies, no one could speak. Ram Dass got up, some beings sat, still totally immersed in the powerful vibes, while the rest of us followed him. Attempts to speak came out all muddled. What really could be
said? So, that was this lifetime’s introduction to Maharajji through Ram Dass It took another two years and many, many trips to ready us for meeting him in India in physical form. During this period, we had no further direct contact with Ram Dass. I had written a few letters and he had responded. He had assured me of his help if ever there was a time and space and a need. So, in attempting to ‘see where it was all at,’ Murari (then Tom) and I took off for India. This was in June 1971. At this time I had no idea where Ram Dass was and had received no response to a letter I had written him.
Murari: When we arrived in India we didn’t know anyone or where anyone was located. In his talks, Ram Dass said that Maharajji told him not to tell anyone his name or his locations. But after the talk he showed us a small photo of Maharajji.
In Allahabad after several weeks in India in blazing heat and culture shock, we were about to split up and go our own ways. But first I had to buy a pair of pants so we went to a clothing store. As the clerk handed me the package across the counter, I happened to look up and on the wall in front of me near the ceiling was a large picture of Maharajji. I recognized it from the small photo Ram Dass has shown us after his talk. I asked the clerk, “Do you know that guy?” He said “Oh yes, that’s my guru Maharajji, Neem Karoli Baba.” I then asked, “Do you know where he is?” He replied, “He should be in Kainchi now. Here are the directions.”
So, just like that, the next day we were on our way to see the man! After a few days travel we reached Nainital in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. That morning we took the bus to Kainchi
to finally meet Maharajji. But that’s another story. That photo turned out to be our link to Maharajji and Ram Dass in India. But that’s another story. We both love Ram Dass. He is a great spiritual friend and teacher.
In the fall of 1969, at a lunch hour presentation at the University of Southern California (I was a student at the School of Business), I heard Ram Dass talk for the first time. I remember little about what he said, only that he was incredibly energetic and intense, and I wanted to hear more! The following night, I went to see him at a church in Hollywood. To my surprise, many in the audience were wearing white clothing. Ram Dass was about to begin his presentation when a young man came running down the main aisle with tears streaming down his face and threw himself at Ram Dass’s feet. It was quite the scene!
What content I do remember from that talk is now classic Ram Dass stuff. I remember being blown away by the fact that here was someone who understood what I had been experiencing but could not put into words. It had been four years since my first encounter with LSD, when I was fifteen years old. Since then I had lived a “double life”; on the one hand, I was an average teenager who went to school and played drums in a band. On the other hand, I would steal myself away to read Allan Watts, or the Upanishads, and occasionally go alone to the Mohave Desert or the high Sierras to trip on psychedelics. It was a wonderful relief to meet someone who had taken more LSD and more psilocybin than I could ever do, and to understand that he was pointing to something beyond all of that, even though at the time I had no way to conceptualize what that might be.
After his talk, and after most of the audience had left, Ram Dass stayed and interacted with people who came up and sat before him. Most had questions, and as he did for many years, he would say wise things (what he called playing “Dr. Dass”), all the while looking at them so very lovingly. I decided to take the chance and go before Ram Dass. However, once I was sitting in front of him, looking into his eyes, I couldn’t find any words. I was sort of stuttering, struggling to say something, while gesturing with my hands. Ram Dass started mirroring my gestures back. Then he took hold of my hands and we gazed (even deeper) into each other’s eyes. Time stopped. A surge of energy ran down my arms and seemingly all through my body. Our arms began to shake, almost violently. Finally, I said I needed to leave, “before I forget where I parked the car!” I remember walking out of the building and actually having trouble remembering where my car was parked. My senses where “lit up,” much like I had experienced on acid, my visual perception distorted, my emotional body dancing with joy and love. The next morning, when my mother asked my why I had been out so late, I told her, “I met someone last night who is as close to being Jesus as anyone I imagine I will ever meet.”
Needless to say, that evening with Ram Dass changed the direction of my life.
If there is one day in a life that was the end of one thing and the beginning of another thing that was the day I met Ram Dass. Before that I was running around to every yogi who came to America. I remember doing asanas with some guy, some crazy yogi, on the floor of this lower East Village apartment with cockroaches running over my body and mice scampering around with some guy, some crazy yogi. But nothing ever really touched me.
I was living in upstate New York with these maniac Jungian acidhead mountain climbers. And they were saying they were going to see Richard Alpert who had just come back from India and did I want to come? Now they call him Ram Dass. American yogis? Come on,
give me a break. I said I’d stay and take care of the goats. So they left. I can still see their car. They had this old beat-up Jaguar sedan. English racing green.
They were supposed to be gone two days and they were gone like three or four days. They returned and drove their car across the dirt road through the field just as I came out of the goat shed. We had two goats: Alice Bailey and Madame Blavatsky. I had just milked them. The car pulls up and stops and the guy whose place it was comes out of the car and he’s like totally insane. There was light shooting out of him. I just said, “Write down the directions. I’m leaving now.” I ran out to my cabin, got back into my old Volvo, and I hit the road through the coldest snowstorm night of the year. It was freezing. I had to drink hot mocha coffee all night long just to stay up. It took me like 14 hours to get there. It was a five-hour drive.
I pulled up. It was a beautiful snow-covered scene. I pulled up in the driveway, turned the engine off and it was like silence. Total silence. My heart went blump. It just leapt, you know. I thought, that was weird. What was that?
Then I went up to the door and knocked. This guy opens the door and he just smiles and points upstairs and I thought I’m getting the fuck outta here. This is too weird. Anyway I went upstairs and Ram Dass was there and we spent the whole day together.
The minute I walked into that room, I felt something that I had never felt before. It was an inner knowing. Without a word being spoken, I knew that whatever it was I was looking for, and I didn’t know what to call it at that time…EXISTED. It was real and was in the world. I didn’t know if I would find it or not, but just knowing that it was real changed my life.
And then it was late afternoon and he said, “You can stay for the evening if you want or you can leave, but whichever it is now is the time to do it.”
I said, “Well I have to drive my school bus in the morning so I have to drive home.”
He had given me a mantra at one point during the day and he says, “Whatever you do, your mantra will protect you.” I thought that’s a weird thing to say. I had to go.
I get in the car and I hadn’t slept the whole night before. I started driving and I got really tired. I drove for maybe an hour or so, then I pulled off the road and I set the alarm clock and put it on the dashboard. I set it for an hour and I went to sleep. The next thing I know I am driving along the road and I dont know where I am. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where I came from. I don’t know where I’m going. I woke up driving!!! I had woken up in my sleep, turned the alarm off, and hit the road, all the time totally ssleep. Finally I realized I was driving and I remembered him saying, “Your
mantra will protect you.” I screamed that mantra all the way from New Hampshire to New York.
But the thing was my whole life changed that day because everything I had dreamed of and hoped was true. Everything that I longed for and wanted but couldn’t really believe was real I realized was real when I met Ram Dass. I didn’t know if I would ever really get a piece of it or not, but I just knew it existed in the world, you could find it, that it really was there. And that made such a difference . . . It was completely different after that.
In the late Sixties I, like many others, had experimented with LSD and found a reality that I had always knew existed but never had been revealed to me in a way that I could articulate in my mind. That changed when I met Ram Dass. I was working as a program director for a free-form rock radio station in Montreal and I was asked to advertise his lecture at McGill University. I said “Who or what is Ram Dass?” and they said he was Richard Alpert, Tim Leary’s partner, and had come back from India changed into this yogi, Baba Ram Dass.
I loved Tim and Richard, so I agreed to help promote the event only after hearing a previous taped lecture that they were to send over to me at the radio station. I thought I would listen to the tape and then decide if it was worthy of promoting. Every word was a revelation—it was everything I had been looking for as far as an understanding of an alternative reality to the world as I knew it. I was absolutely riveted by Ram Dass’s story of transformation and his meeting with Maharajji. Really, life as I knew it ended there and then.
I immediately put it on the air in the middle of the day and the switchboard lit up with people wanting to know who was this man? Later that day I went to where Ram Dass was staying and brought him to the radio station for an interview. He had these striking blue eyes full of presence and love; I was truly captivated. Over the next year we would play Ram Dass tapes on the air next to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. It was a very unusual rock radio station from that point on.
In the following months I visited Ram Dass at his father’s farm in New Hampshire. Finally I wheedled out of him Maharajji’s location in India and left for the foothills of the Himalayas shortly after that. The very first moment I met Maharajji, I had several very instantaneous thoughts. The first was Oh, that’s what Ram Dass was all about. He was just vibrating this energy from Maharajji. The second thought was a feeling of being home and knowing I had always been with Maharajji. It was all due to Ram Dass’s love and compassion, his caring to share what he had received in his search for the truth.
It was July of 1969. Three weeks after my first acid trip—a “cosmic consciousness” experience of our essential Oneness—I found myself at Ram Dass’s father’s “farm.” I had met a guy at a party who asked me if I wanted to “go meet a saint.” Three weeks before, I would have said no, not interested. After taking the LSD (and being handed the Tibetan Book of the Dead on my way down), I was ready for any new spiritual connection.
Ram Dass was standing by the front door, wearing a white robe, barefoot, with a strand of wooden beads rotating slowly through his hand. I hadn’t smoked or dropped anything, but I actually saw light coming from him. I was speechless. That night, we gathered in the barn. As I listened to Ram Dass speak, for the first time in my life I felt like I was getting answers instead of just more questions. The next day, I moved into a pup tent in the backyard near his father’s 3hole golf course.
Even though I didn’t have a clue what namaste meant, I had found my tribe in the dozen or so people who were gathered there. At an early morning Mu tea gathering, Ram Dass asked if anyone knew how to type, and so I became his private secretary, using an old typewriter in the barn to type up his taped replies to the letters he was getting from young seekers across the country who had heard his talks.
Woodstock happened just down the road a piece; I was content where I was. Summer ended. I went to work for a New York advertising firm so that someday I, too, could go to India and find the source of the light that I had seen in Ram Dass. During this time, he was writing what would become the His-story part of Be Here Now. He sent me his handwritten pages and I typed them up, editing gently along the way. Then he was off to Lama Foundation in New Mexico, where the rest of the book came together. Be Here Now was the first book I ever “worked” on, no matter how small my role; in the decades since, I’ve edited many books, but none has had quite the same impact on my life.
Two years later, I was indeed in India at Maharajji’s feet, as was Ram Dass. We were now gurubhai—devotees of the same guru. Maharajji told me I was no longer Ram Dass’s “private secretary”; I was his. But it was only through my meeting with Ram Dass that such grace entered my life. It is a debt I can never repay.
It was 1970 in Washington, D.C. When friends played a tape recorded lecture in which Ram Dass described his journey to India and his transformation from Harvard professor to intrepid explorer of the mind to spiritual seeker and discoverer in terms, tenor and language that confirmed tenets i knew to be true, but had never heard anyone utter so convincingly.
The words were bright and clear, without artifice or guile, delivered free of personality through the heart of a being whose life had been profoundly opened to a mystic reality.
The words gave certainty to ideals long taught and believed but infrequently seen in a post-war western culture dominated by conspicuous consumption and separation from its underlying unity.
They offered the possibility of attaining those ideals. They gave impetus to the search for realizing them.
After reading Ram Dass’s book, Be Here Now, and the cookbook for a sacred life it contained, the path had become clear and the effort worthwhile. And so I embarked. I left an impending career in law in abeyance, to be resumed in a few years but from a much different perspective.
Later, after many months of meditation and yoga practice, I learned that Ram Dass was speaking one evening at a nearby university. As Is entered the auditorium there on the stage was a chair, a floral arrangement and a color photograph of Maharajji large enough for anyone to see his beaming presence from any place in the audience. The lecture was moving, almost as if Maharajji was delivering the meta-message through Ram Dass.
And after it ended, way beyond the scheduled time, many people lingered to hear more, myself included, but mostly to stay in the presence of that moment. Upon taking leave and thanking him, the same light emanating from Maharajji’s picture could be seen radiating from Ram Dass in a most impersonal yet transcendent manner that made his words seem superfluous. That was my first meeting in person with Ram Dass.
Many months later I saw him at the Lama Foundation after a retreat in which I had been advised to set out for India. I told him that
story and asked what he thought of this advice. His reply was wise. I was exactly where I needed to be for the next step in the journey. After a lengthy pause in which he undoubtedly could see the disappointment in my face, he suggested that if I happened to find myself in India that summer I should seek out S.L. Sah and tell him that Ram Dass sent me.
So that’s what I did. And three weeks later I found myself facing Maharajji. It was like looking at the sun. Here was the source of what we all came to understand as the unconditional love that had transformed Ram Dass. And there I remained for months in a timeless state of bliss and discovery, and in the profound experience of being always in Maharajji’s presence.
All this is because of Ram Dass.
1970, Bodh Gaya, India. I was there because I had met Sharon Salzberg on the street in Delhi, my second day in India, after a long journey overland from London. She and I had been at the same university at home, and she told me that a Burmese teacher named S.N. Goenka was going to teach the first-ever meditation retreat for Westerners in the very place where the Buddha had been enlightened. It sounded like simply the best thing to do in India, although I had not before that ever thought about learning to meditate. A few days later, with my then-partner John, I took the train and a rickshaw and landed in Bodh Gaya.
Back then, Bodh Gaya was a tiny, dusty Indian village, home of the Mahabodhi Stupa—a stupendous monument erected by Emperor Asoka some 250 years before the time of Christ, situated beside a living offshoot of the actual tree under which the Buddha
sat in meditation more than two thousand years ago. Other than the stupa and a few small temples, there were few facilities other than the old Burmese vihara, a collection of monks’ cells clustered around a main hall. This was where the retreat would be held, and the rickshaw wallah dropped us right in front. As I climbed out and onto the dusty road with my backpack and bedroll, I saw a westerner in Indian clothes talking to some young men. He was clearly the center of attention, and as I moved nearer, I heard what they were discussing—how many cookies to buy from the chai wallah before the retreat began. John recognized him immediately—Ram Dass had given him his first LSD in Buffalo in the Sixties, not something one forgets. So I met Ram Dass there, outside the monastery wall that would keep us all inside for several months, and he was magnetic and charismatic even talking about cookies.
We sat that retreat together, many of us, including people who became my lifelong friends. Ramesh, Krishna Das, Danny Goleman, Wes and Mudita Nisker, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon, Tukaram and Sita, Dwarka, Hari Nam and Mariam…. of course, back then we all had names like Jeff and Jim and Jody and Linda, which was my name before Maharajji changed it.
The retreat, and those that followed, were in silence, but in between the10-day silent sessions there would be a few days of talking and getting to know each other. We had all traveled there on a quest for truth, and we wanted to hear each other’s stories after sitting close together for so many days and nights without speaking. Ram Dass kept trying to return us to being here now and letting go of the old identities. When we would tell the stories, he’d call us “The Used-to-be’s.” I used to be a Catholic girl, an editor, an Air Force wife, an aerospace consultant, a graduate student, a hippie. And that was just me. “I used to be a Harvard professor,” Ram Dass would
say, “but now I am intoxicated with God” (even though we were in a Buddhist monastery). Once, on an in-between evening, he began to sing Sri Ram Jai Ram, which seemed very radical at the time, since Goenka had cautioned us about Hindu gurus, and we all dropped into a space of devotion, which felt sweetly familiar to me even though I didn’t understand it yet.
I was beginning to realize that there was much I didn’t understand. Sitting and watching my mind for days and weeks, I was questioning everything I had thought or believed in before arriving in Bodh Gaya. One night under a new moon, I was standing next to Ram Dass on the roof of the Vihara, a flat roof where many of us slept on mats. We were talking about our lives and how everything we had experienced was what he later called “grist for the mill.” It was all so that we could wake up, see things as they are. I sort of understood that, I thought. It sounded good. And then I looked up at the stars against the dark sky—there seemed to be millions of them—and all of a sudden everything made sense. The interconnection of everything—I got it, right there in that moment. I looked at Ram Dass, thinking but not saying “Oh my god, this is what it’s all about?” He knew what had happened, and he looked back at me, and said, “Yes.”
In the days between courses we also explored Bodh Gaya. We visited the holy bodhi tree and Mahabodhi Temple, which was buried for a while under sand until a British archeologist restored it. There were other temples there too, and we met teachers from these traditions—Japanese Zen, Thai, and some of the first Tibetan teachers in India, Lama Zopa and Lama Yeshe. It had only been about 10 years since the Dalai Lama and others had escaped over the mountains.
It was during those months in Bodh Gaya that the first copy of Be Here Now, in the boxed form of the first edition, arrived in India. Only one copy, and at a time when there were no copying machines, let alone e-books. Everyone wanted to read that one copy. I was near the bottom of the list, because unlike many of the others who had known Ram Dass in America, I not only didn’t know him then but I had actually never heard of him until I reached India.
But then the Goenka courses, which began as one and stretched into one after another, came to an end, and it was time to leave. I still hadn’t read Be Here Now. Ram Dass had agreed to meet Swami Muktananda, with whom he had traveled to Australia and other places, in Delhi. It was for Shiva Ratri, the annual festival honoring Lord Shiva with an all-night chanting of the name of Shiva, “Om Namah Shivaya.” Ram Dass was really on a journey to find Maharajji again, but his first stop would be Delhi. Many of us wanted to go along, so we found the driver who had brought us overland across the Hindu Kush and his big Mercedes bus, which could hold all 18 of us who wanted to go.
Between Delhi and Bodh Gaya, if you went that way, was Allahabad, the place where three sacred Indian rivers converge—the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the Saraswati, which runs underground. It is believed that at this place, the Sangam, a few drops of the nectar Amrit Bindu fell, making its waters truly magical. It is during the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years, that the Sangam truly comes alive, attracting sadhus and seekers from all across the country. 1971 was one of those years. Danny had left the monastery for a few days and visited the Mela and wanted us all to at least see the site, although the Mela was over. There was much discussion of this possibility—Ram Dass wanted to go directly to Delhi; this seemed
like a distraction. But Danny was adamant. The place was sacred. The event had been historic. We shouldn’t miss it. Ram Dass finally relented and the bus made its way toward Allahabad..
It was on the bus that it was finally my turn to read Be Here Now. I loved it! It described just what I was learning, and Ram Dass’s own story—his story—was very familiar. Although the externals were different, it perfectly described what I had gone through—the unsatisfactoriness of material life in the West, the yearning for meaning, the desire to live a life that was true to what I was beginning to see were my deepest values.
I had just reached the part of the story when Ram Dass meets Maharajji, who sees him and knows him and loves him. Wow, I thought, maybe Goenka wasn’t exactly right about gurus. But of course if it’s all within us, what do we need a guru for? (Chogyam Trungpa later said, You need a guru to tell you it’s all within you.) I was mulling over these thoughts as we pulled into Allahabad. “We’re almost there,” Danny said, “the place where the saddhus had all bathed to purify themselves.” Next thing I heard, Ramesh said, “There’s Maharajji.” And there he was. In front of the Hanuman Temple, at the auspicious site, just standing there, wrapped in a blanket. Ram Dass became radiant—he leapt off the bus. Maharajji! Maharajji! The others followed. I was nearly the last. I had the utterly self-absorbed thought, “Oh Maharajji, you didn’t have to do this for me. I would have believed!” I stumbled down the bus steps. And then I, the intellectual graduate student of literature, who carried Mao’s Little Redbook around for a year, found myself prostrate at the feet of an Indian guru, and my life changed forever.
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view this and other videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
Miami, FL 1974
I first met Ram Dass about thirty-five years ago at the Hilda Charlton Thursday night teaching and kirtan. A hundred seekers at St. Luke-In-The-Fields Episcopal Church on Hudson Street in Manhattan. Ram Dass had taken my friend and neighbor, Danny Goldberg, to the meeting a week or two before, and Danny had so immediately fallen in love with it that he strongly exhorted me to go. Despite my lingering British bloody-mind skepticism, I went.
It simply changed and rearranged my whole life, no hyperbole. Out of the visions and wisdom of Hilda, the Masters came through that meeting in a line, from Maharajji to Yogananda, from Ramana Maharshi to Shirdi Sai Baba, from Anandamayi Ma to St. Francis of Assisi, and all the other saints in between. It put me on the path. I was swept up in the Maharajji satsang very soon after that, and instantaneously, felicitously, became a happy part of their amazing multidimensional, multi-talented, multi-devotional family. And, kinda crucially for me, they were the most fun, wisest, and wittiest spiritual types around.
I was so so FORTUNATE to have this happen to me. I wasn’t there, in India with Maharajji. But I was present at countless meditations and kirtans where it felt like the guru was there. And Ram Dass’s experience became ours for free, and his very presence elevated my mood and left me with an altered, richer awareness. Krishna Das’s killer chanting was the cream in the coffee.
When Ram Dass returned to Hilda’s, after Maharajji’s mahasamadhi in 1973, his words were precious and moving. Nothing sentimental, just solid sentiments. How do you go on when your guru is gone? The loss was inestimable, but Ram Dass effortlessly assured us of His continuing presence that night and has ever since.
In May of 1976, I went to a Bob Marley concert at the Beacon in New York City. Ram Dass and other friends were there, and by the end of an astonishingly riveting and healing show, we all literally fell out on to Broadway. Ram Dass was so completely elated and inspired by Marley’s music that he just took off on to the street divider and danced and leaped around like Nijinsky. We followed him, equally stunned by Bob’s brilliant high chakra reggae music. Then, in that moment, that being there then, still in the magnetic trance of The Wailers’ music, Ram Dass became yet again the light-filled Pied Piper, leading us out of our conditioned rodent-like repressions, like he often did and does as a friend, as an unparalleled orator, as a seminal author, as a blessed and eloquently communicative witness of the guru.
Ram Dass was just totally taken by Bob’s music that warm night and was so innocent yet grown-up about the way he danced on the street. There was nothing remotely hippie dippie about it. It was the dance of the human carbon-based upright biped totally in the present, being here now big time, and the whole tableau of all of us high as kites stays with me to this day, this second.
Towards the end of the Seventies, I went through an extraordinarily painful decline-ofmarriage and then divorce. My head was on fire with anger; my body was feeling the effects of depression, despair, Debbie Downer par excellence. One night in our Upper West Side apartment, I just was having a time of it with crowds of tamasic, unpleasant thoughts rolling around in my mind, got freaked out and nervous, and felt like I needed to talk to someone. I called The Hanuman Foundation (had never done this before), twenty blocks uptown, and Ram Dass answered the phone. He knew my basic situation but when he heard the sadness and low energy in my voice, he unhesitatingly suggested we talk immediately at the Foundation. I cabbed up there and Ram Dass spent a potent two hours with me, going through my shit and cleaning up a lot of it. It helped me immeasurably. There are millions of others who have been helped, need I add.
I have never gotten over how G-R-E-A-T a public speaker Ram Dass is. His chock-full-ofanecdotes talks were sometimes a rollicking, verbally genius journey down something that was going on with him back then and sometimes they were pure teachings of bhakti realization, the balm-like directness of the effects of guru and kirtan, the ineffable but tangible power of darshan. So Ram Dass’ lectures were as exquisite as Proust, as smart as Lenny Bruce, as gentle and healing as Yogananda. Even though I hung out with Ram Dass, when he spoke in front of lots of people, his insights penetrated my psyche and cleared up the emotional statics of guilt, remorse, disappointment, confusion, on and on.
So what you got was the mix of high plane consciousness articulation and absolutely downto-Earth exegesis of daily, erring human life. Ram Dass’s honesty was always like a flash of lightning for me—it cut through the confusion and allowed you to release yourself from unnecessary anxiety. The two streams of Ram Dass’s speeches at that time created a unique
whole, holy guide diary for us all. It amounted to a medicine man transformative effect. A shaman with the verbal skills of Spalding Gray, the flashing, incisive humor of Richard Pryor. No kiddin’. You left the place clearer and lighter than when you came in.
That frighteningly gifted side of Ram Dass was one side of the coin. Talking about Maharajji was the other, lovely and thought-provoking side—putting you right there in India during the days of the guru and the Westerners. Replete with Maharajji epiphanies. And always the interlaced funny side, just to keep things in perspective…
In recent years, I have been extensively filming Ram Dass in Maui and what a pleasure! What a total pleasure! Still learning and laughing with him, still here with his guru and mine.
I read Be Here Now in 1972 and carried it around like my “bible.” I would open it up and it was as if God was talking to me. In 1973 or early 1974, a friend Richard gave me Ram Dass’s address in California and so I wrote a letter of connection and shared an experience I had had with love and paranoia when I was tripping. I still have the little letter he wrote me...
JonConnectedness to the earth, your body, your heart and the hearts of those around you is such a grace-full route to God. The LSD trip just shows you more stuff of personality to let go of. Richard’s right. So simple, if paranoid just love others. It works. Good to be sharing this journey with you. Blessings to you, your lady & Richard. Shanti, Ram Dass
I shared with him a few more letters over the years. I would like to share one more with you all, as I’m now looking through my little scrapbook. It was a response from Ram Dass as I struggled with my Christian background.
Jon, I share your feeling that the Way of Christ is not followed exclusively by Christians. And certainly when Maharajji said “Christ lives in the hearts of many” and to some he said “Christ is your Guru”—he was speaking of the Real Thing. Each time we meet you are stronger + more beautiful. Be well, be patient. I love you. Ram Dass.
The next year I called Ram Dass’s family’s house in New Hampshire and he invited me to come up to a satsang there in a month after he returned home from a private retreat in NYC. In
his interviews with the East West Journal at the time, Ram Dass was encouraging his followers not to go to India, so I instead tried to spend as much time with Ram Dass as I could.
During the gathering in West Franklin, Ram Dass had spoken about the need to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Later, during the question-and-answer session, I could feel my heart beating, but I still raised my hand and asked, “How do we open our hearts to the suffering of others?” As he paused in silence, I noticed my heart really pounding and he responded, “Your heart is already open…” He spoke more and I don’t remember exactly what he shared, but for a low self-esteem person to hear those positive, complimentary words from someone I cared so much about, was profoundly healing.
In the next few years I was able to stay connected to Ram Dass by listening to his tapes, attending or sponsoring lectures, and participating in multi-day retreats. At one retreat Ram Dass invited me to come to NYC to have a private interview. Three months later, sitting in a room on Riverside Drive, Ram Dass’s opening query to me was, “If there is anything you are afraid to tell me, if there is anything you are ashamed to tell me, anything you don’t want to tell me, tell me now.” The love he radiated as I poured open my soul was transformative.
At the end of the session, I was invited to join a special monthly class with him, first in NYC and then in Cambridge Mass, which lasted for over a year. After this class ended I ran a national prison pen pal project founded by him.
Later, in 1979, the biggest realization and gift Ram Dass gave me was that of putting together the book Miracle of Love. In reading it, I fully experienced Maharajji’s love and spiritual Darshan. I understood that Ram Dass and I were gurubai, spiritual brothers in Neem Karoli Baba’s Satsang of Love, Service, and Remembering God. Thanks for this opportunity to share! Ram Ram
I turned 23 at the end of 1970. One morning around the New Year, driving back to DC from the Virginia mountains with my boyfriend Jon, our lives were saved in a manner that felt miraculous to both of us. We both felt as if we “should have been” dead, but had been given a new life by some mysterious means, and we walked around in an enchanted daze for several days afterward. Many years later, reading one of the books about Neem Karoli Baba, I felt I understood the “mysterious” force that had saved us. I’ll write about that below.
Jon’s father was a gestalt shrink who had trained at Esalen, among other places. I wonder if he met Ram Dass there. In 1971, the father, “T,” and family were living on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and T was the therapist at the local community health clinic. Jon and I went to visit them in the summer of 1971, and worked at a salmon cannery. T and his wife just happened to have a copy of Be Here Now, which I had never heard of.
I read the book, worked in the salmon cannery, and soaked in the experience of the wilderness. I had grown up camping often in the Appalachians, but Kodiak was another thing entirely, unfamiliar and powerful. Working all day with the incredible bounty of the ocean, seeing and handling the beautiful, iridescent fish, was mind-blowing in itself, and became a daily meditation. But reading Be Here Now pushed me through some barrier in my mind and I came out on the other side. It felt as if my mind was cracked open permanently, but I think my heart cracked open, too. I felt awake for the first time in my life.
Reading about Baba’s miracles seemed to be a big part of the opening. Ram Dass has said that he first was impressed by the miracles, the siddhis, but later realized it was the love that was the real miracle. For me, I think the stories of miracles let me believe that there truly is more to existence than what we perceive with our physical senses, and I had been longing to know that. I had been wandering brokenhearted through this life looking for the deeper and higher dimensions. Be Here Now told me that there was at least one Being on earth at that moment who embodied that truth, and made me feel connected to him. For me, the siddhis and the love came together in one transmission.
One of the great saints quoted by Ram Dass in Be Love Now said something like “I give them what they want so that they may want what I have to give them.” I can’t find the exact quote now, sorry for that. But it was referring to the miracles shown by a saint that helped draw people in to the love and connection to God. I felt that way when reading Be Here Now—struck by the miracles, drawn to the love.
After that opening, I started practicing yoga and had a growing awareness of the connection to Spirit, God, Guru—whatever you want to name The One.
The miracle that saved our lives 40 years ago seemed simple but felt profound. We were driving on a divided highway on a sunny, cold winter morning in Virginia. The terrain was hilly and the road was empty; it was still early on a holiday. We were coming up a long slope and Jon switched from the left lane to the right lane, and immediately a car came barreling over the top of the hill and down the left lane, going in the wrong direction. It seemed to us that there were only a few yards distance between our car and the other one—a near miss. We were in a tiny sports car; the other car was a large one, possibly a Cadillac, going well over the speed limit. We both said “Did you see that?” not quite believing it. But we realized we would have been crushed if Jon had not changed lanes. He said that he had no idea why he did it and it was for no particular reason. We were blown away and not sure if we were actually alive or not. It took several days to come back to normal consciousness.
This was before we went to Alaska and read Be Here Now, but it woke us up to how life is a gift. We talked about being “born again.” Looking back on it, having read a few stories about how Baba saved lives, our experience has the same flavor. When I read those stories, I get the same feeling, a sense of overflowing wonder and gratitude, plus a chill down my back. It feels as if Baba’s hand was on the steering wheel that day and saved us, which led us to Alaska and Be Here Now. I don’t know for sure, but that’s how it feels. I think he must have saved many people secretly that way. Certainly we were not unique, and other instances have been documented in the books about Baba.
I have loved Baba and Hanuman ever since 1971, though at times I have almost forgotten them, which was painful. They have turned up in my life unexpectedly, reminding me to remember them. When my son was very young, we traveled to Omega Institute one summer. I had signed up for a workshop on conscious parenting. The workshop leader, Michael, turned out to be a devotee who had been in India with Baba. He spent some of the workshop telling stories, and one story hit me very hard, about riding in a bus on the twisting mountain roads in India. The bus was full to overflowing with people. They came to a sharp turn on a cliffside where the outer part of the road was washed out. Another vehicle came along in the opposite direction, so the bus driver could not avoid the washout and the bus started going over the cliff. The outside wheels were off the road, the bus was tilting, and Michael found himself looking out the window, down very far. Then he looked up and saw Hanuman flying through the sky toward them! Hanuman righted the bus and put it on the road; the bus continued on as if nothing had happened, and no one said a thing.
As I was listening to the story, I almost felt I was there and could see Hanuman flying to our rescue. This story pierced my heart and helped me feel more connected to Hanuman at a time when I was preoccupied with practical but mundane concerns.
When I moved to this town 25 years ago, my first friend, who lived across the block, had a big photo of the New Mexico Hanuman murti on her bookshelf. She had been there herself and took some of the best photos of Hanuman I’ve ever seen. It felt as if he had followed me, as I had half-forgotten to remember him at that time.
Someone else had the same experience from that photo. I bought a piece of furniture from my friend and hired a local moving company to take it to my house. The mover who came with the truck walked into my friend’s house, staggered and almost fell backward. Turns out he had been a devotee of Hanuman and had forgotten for a while. He was floored to see Hanuman staring at him from across the room, and quite shaken, but happy about it.
I’m grateful for Ram Dass, who has been a wonderful teacher for most of my life. Ram Dass, thank you for sharing so much. Hanuman, Ram, Baba, let me always remember you in joy and in pain, in life, death and rebirth. I bow at Baba’s feet, at the feet of Ram, Sita, Lakshman, and Hanuman, and thank them for their Grace.
Be Here Now introduced me to Ram Dass & Maharajji. I had a strange encounter with the book itself. In a similar way to other stories, the book itself was put in my hands and, after a few quick glances, I tossed it aside until I or Maharajji was ready.
While at college in Albuquerque, NM in ‘77, I was with a group of friends talking. One friend asked Paul about his new job. He told us that he was working at the printing press, chopping the uneven edges off some weird book called Be Here Now. He had some extra copies in his trunk and gave a few of us a copy. I looked at the strange pictures for a while and put it on by bookshelf and forgot about it.
Six months prior to getting a copy of Be Here Now, I was very angry with God for being born. (It’s interesting that I didn’t know of, believe in, or talk to God except when I was angry or suffering).
With the psychological pain of parental stuff in the background, I demanded to know from God why I was born. What was the meaning of my life? Instead of meditating under the Bodi tree until I was enlightened, I decided that I would drop acid until I was enlightened. (No Bodi trees were available and it was snowing in New Jersey)
On the third day of tripping, while sitting with a group of friends, I was forced to look into a light in the middle of the room. It as if someone grabbed my head and MADE ME look into the light. What happened next was similar to many stories of “seeing the light” that we find in many “near death” stories or from Paul of Tarsus when he “got knocked off his horse from seeing the light.” During the experience I was convinced that I was “losing my mind” and did not know how to talk about it or how to relate to it. I kept it to myself for a long time.
Back to Albuquerque, six months after “seeing the light.” Late at night, after hanging with friends and a long day of tripping, my girlfriend was asleep and I was wandering the house looking for something to do. As I was standing in front of the bookshelves, for the second time in my life, my head was forced to look up and take Be Here Now off my bookshelf. I grabbed it and read it from cover to cover. It answered my questions. It changed my life. Little by little, I became more comfortable in sharing my journey to the other side with others
It was a perfect storm of sorts when I found a craft that would carry me through it all. In 1975, I was 25 years old—just coming into my adult life. I completed college, had a job, a husband, friends; it was all exciting, lovely really . . . and it felt empty. During this time I was enjoying adventuring with the chemicals that were around.
It was the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s and the “cultural revolution” was alive, though flickering. I was the right age at the right time with the right food for discovery. I was finding my experiences in psilocybin and LSD, especially among the drugs I tried, a vibrating, shimmering reality set in a sense of timeless peace in which I felt at home, empowered, and yet rudderless and with no compass in hand.
My heart, though, was opening wide. The natural state of loving that I enjoyed my whole life poured forth with my students, friends, and every being with whom I came in contact. After all, I could see them in me and me in them and us all in the hands of God. Yet I was alone, not quite singing the same songs as my friends and family. Then the little purple book appeared on a table at a youth organization where I gave my time and love to high school students who were in pain.
The leader of this group was Alan Cohen, a Yeshiva-trained, young holy man who loved Jesus. It was Alan with whom I first felt this gentle, open, loving, accepting, non-judging embrace like no other; it was not familial, not romantic, not even a friendship, but deeply unattached loving that allowed me to feel nakedly exposed and awkwardly slowly calm in his love. Alan brought Ram Dass to me.
I read the book voraciously—the brown pages, not the white. The brown pages were experiences. They were my experiences, well, most of them. So much was a mirror of my inner and outer life that I naturally thumbed past the pages I was not ready to understand. I am not alone! I am not crazy! Deeply heartfelt loving in a world of the spirit is real and possible! It doesn’t belong clamped with the heavy doors of churches and dusty, crackly pages of bibles. We talked for hours about Be Here Now, rosy with joy. We visited spiritual teachers such as Hilda Charlton and others who came to the Church of St. John the Divine in NYC. I studied Kundalini at an ashram in Princeton and gathered up books mentioned in Be Here Now, reading each one with care to know, I wanted to know, had to know, how to live with this newly awakened restless snake within me.
I was blessed into this life with a deeply passionate heart and joie de vivre that led me to take an enormous leap and walk away from my life as it was to explore the REAL world, or a less distorted illusion than the one I was raised in. I left my job where I had just gotten tenure. I left my friends and family to move to California. And I left my good, kind, handsome, hardworking husband because I had learned just enough to be dangerous and unable to grow personally within our marriage. So off I went, by myself, driving across country to stay with friends.
Without going further into my life, I’ll just say that I went into a pit of suffering, though it did not appear so to most of those who looked on. The book was with me, deep inside my backpack along the way where I had forgotten about it for a time. I went to the very brink of death as I searched, teacherless, to resolve the meaning of this life. Then I rose up, purged of all the illusions of the cultural and personal expectations into which I was born.
It was right after the first addition of Be Here Now came out that I asked my good friend Orc what he thought “all this is.” He recommended BHN and I went out in search of a copy. Even in those early days Maharajji had a long reach around the world. I found a copy in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
A very few years later, I figured out how to write to RD and asked him about some severe headaches I was having. I was only slightly surprised when I got an answer... a brilliant answer involving kundalini, pranayama, posture, spinal nerves, and all that. And at the end he added, “and it might have something to so with your sexual scene.” Huh? Finally I got myself to a chiropractor who correctly diagnosed and treated the problem. By this point in my life Maharajji and RD were deep inside me.
I had not yet met RD nor had Maharajji appeared in any dreams or visions. I had used BHN as my manual for awakening and had a daily practice. Several times I went to where RD was speaking and listened, amazed, as he looked right into my soul and read my thoughts.
In the early 80’s my wife and I divorced and I was left with two young daughters to raise while finishing grad school. I wrote to RD and asked if I could have a private meeting to discuss how to handle my feelings and deal with being a single parent. He said he was going to be in St. Paul, MN, and to come look for him afterwards. This was my first face to face with him. He was wearing all white and he seemed to just glide up to me. He gave me a hug and said, “Tell me your story, Ed,” I poured my heart out and stopped, waiting for some amazing advice from my spiritual teacher. He paused and then suddenly grabbed the front of my shirt... pulled my face close to his and said, “What did you expect?!!!” . . . and then he walked away.
I must say that I was very surprised at this teaching. It took me years to understand. What he meant was that I had put my hopes and dreams for happiness in the material world and under the control of another human being, in a western-style romantic relationship. Besides, this is earth where our karma has dragged us and we are here to learn, not to be comfortable. In 2004 when I saw him at the Christine Center in Wisconsin and 2007 on Maui, we discussed this meeting and advice and he feigned forgetfulness of it . . . smiling . . . and said, “I did that?” Completely innocent. Yeah right.
I love Ram Dass for that tough love and for all he has done for me. Especially bringing me to Maharajji.
Between 2004 and 2007, I had three visions involving Maharajji that can be read at Maharajji.com under Recent Experiences. They were not dreams, for sure. But they were slightly different from normal waking events. Since then, after talking to RD and doing some research on this sort of thing, I have concluded that they were visions. I told RD that after these experiences I no longer felt like “Ed.” He said “We will be quiet now” After a few minutes he said, “Do you heal people? Serve people? Love people?” I answered yes. He stated, “Maharajji says your name is to be Hanuman.” I said “Hanuman Das?” “No. Hanuman. You serve people.”
This has not been an easy name to carry around. Especially when I visited the Taos Ashram in 2010, it usually evoked a laugh and the question “really?” I am certainly not worthy of the name, but I feel that RD and Maharajji knew this when they named me, so I will continue trying to live up to the name.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Ram Dass in person. When I was 13, my parents sent me to yoga and meditation classes because they thought I had insomnia and it would help. (What they didn’t know was that I was desperately bored in school and reading science fiction
books by flashlight all night!) But the classes took, and I started reading more about the traditions surrounding meditation and yoga. My father, a Unitarian Universalist minister, had an extensive library on world religions and various philosophical/spiritual traditions, so I had a lot to read in my own attic on the ranks of utility shelving that housed the thousands of books in my dad’s library!
I also started sitting in satsang with the devotees of Maharajji, in Montpelier, VT (almost all of whom were associated with the UU church!). I never took this group very seriously, as I found more centeredness in my yoga/meditation teacher, and my modern dance teacher. The satsang was practicing in near isolation, and with not much experience.
My father had a copy of Be Here Now on his desk in his office, and I picked it up one day. I was very arts-oriented, as well as heavily into the sciences and social sciences. The story of Ram Dass, and the nearly animated book, resonated with me. I remember thinking it was pretty wild that my dad had this book living on his desk in the white-clapboard fussy New England church. I approached the book different ways at different times, working my way through it, puzzling through particular bits, showing pieces off to friends and asking their thoughts, using it for “bibliomancy” (opening to a random page, and assuming that’s your lesson for the moment).
Many miles passed, 33 years along. I have studied with the Kagyu Buddhists and many other groups. I have been a yoga therapist and helped people who experimented with things they couldn’t handle, like taking kundalini yoga classes thinking they were like aerobics (contextless and without possible disruptive consequences), I have danced with neo-pagans, and studied Ken Wilber, but mostly I’ve been engaged for 30 years in helping at the intersection of computer technology and social issues, as a profession and a jnana path of sorts.
Recently, an old friend said he thought that of all the people he’d ever spoken to, Ram Dass would perhaps best understand the work I am doing now. I’ve recently started a company that helps people get some of the benefits of meditation through a computer game environment. The day after that, I ran into Ram Dass’s Twitter account (very funky). Today, at a used bookstore, I ran into an old copy of Be Here Now, a bit dog-eared, and it followed me home. I’ve started to re-read the book. Amazing how different a book it is at 50 than at 17, yet very fresh and fun! I thought, someone should do a flash animation of this book, and animate it as I have always seen it in my mind’s eye, cascading and dancing on the page. Maybe they already have? So I plugged in “ram dass be here now multimedia” into Google—and here I am! The modern version of bibliomancy: plug a search into Google and assume that the page that comes up is your lesson for the day. ;)
D . E. S
I have had the great pleasure of first conversing with Ram Dass through the Heart2Heart conversations we have had. I am deeply grateful for these opportunities to connect with someone who has had a profound impact on my life.
I first became aware of Ram Dass when he was still known as Richard Alpert through reading his book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, co-authored with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner, and LSD, which he co-authored with Sidney Cohen, both of which were at my local community college library. These books came to my attention after seeing an anti-psychedelic propaganda film shown to our ninth grade high school class in 1968. I was blessed to have been raised by my father to question authority. During those years, we were also very inspired by the courage of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the principle of non-violence was becoming a shining light in our consciousness. Naturally, with these influences at work, coupled with my awakening adolescent rebelliousness, I was deeply suspicious of the ideology driving the Vietnam War. At 13 years of age, I had also already had the experience of attending public funerals of older friends who had been drafted and subsequently lost their lives in that conflict. It was very clear to me that this could also eventually become my fate, unless I resisted. Upon seeing the government propaganda films against psychedelic drugs, I was absolutely certain that there must be something very interesting in the psychedelic experience that the leaders of our country didn’t want us to know about. It was this that led me to find all the literature available to me in my somewhat isolated rural cultural surroundings. The awakened consciousness of Richard Alpert reached out to me through those first books and I became determined to explore these consciousness-transforming experiences and find out for myself. Thus, my interest in psychedelics became a spiritual quest and, as is always the case, what my intention settled upon soon came my way.
In undergraduate college, in 1972, I was introduced to Be Here Now by a roommate who had actually spent some time with Ram Dass when he was at Naropa Institute. Reading his new book further reinforced my desire to continue the quest. I was particularly intrigued by his descriptions of death and rebirth while under the influence of psilocybin. Psilocybin, at that time, was very hard to come by, at least in my locale, but, amazingly, once again, forming the intention soon brought some rare experiences that lit up my inner life. I became determined to explore this sacred plant in its fullest sense and, with the aid of Terence McKenna (O.T. Oss & O.N. Oeric, 1976) (btw - otoss & oeneric - an acronym for “auditory dreams”), soon was able to
explore this in a deep way. I also had been influenced by John Lilly and was plying the depths of the mushroom trance in a Samadhi isolation tank, starting around 1979. As my inner consciousness transformed under the influence of the sacred mushroom, things kept getting more interesting. All this eventually led me to shift my outer life through pursuit of a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. I had received the idea from the mushroom that this professional role would afford me the vehicle most suited to my temperament to exercise transformative work in the world.
I also took the decision to explore the spiritual transformative traditions that I resonated with. This led me through the Gurdjieff work and, eventually, to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Reading his translations of some samples from the vast archive of Buddhist literature, my interest was piqued. As a voracious reader, I have greatly enjoyed and benefitted from studying Bikkhu Bodhi’s translations of the core Pali Canon sutras available through Wisdom Publications. Learning the practice of vipassana with Thich Nhat Hanh, most inspired by Arnie Kotler and Therese Fitzgerald over the course of several retreats with them, has proven very helpful. At the root of all this, of course, the inspiring example of Ram Dass.
During my clinical psychology training, I also came across the work of the enlightened chemists in our community, Sasha Shulgin, Dave Nichols, and others. These tools, though interesting, and full of therapeutic potential, never quite had the spiritual depth, at least for myself, as the mushroom. Perhaps because it was my first spiritual plant teacher, it always will hold a special place in my heart.
Though all these years, I would read Ram Dass’ works as they came out and have always benefited from his insight. I was deeply touched by Still Here and his video, “Fierce Grace.” I was utterly delighted when I discovered that he was now directly accessible through his online community. I am deeply grateful to be able to connect with other people whose lives have also been touched by Ram Dass. I feel very much at home in this spiritual community.
I became aware of Ram Dass in the early 1970s through Be Here Now. An avid member of Dick Alpert’s explorers club, I had the opportunity to see Ram Dass talk in NY and Philadelphia
and also had some friends at that time who studied with Ram Dass, so I was shown certain meditations and practices that Ram Dass was teaching at that time. I did have the opportunity to sit with Ram Dass for a personal interview and that was major for me.
By the end of the 1970s I had committed myself fully to spiritual practice and was living on an ashram convinced that enlightenment was imminent. That didn’t work out so well. One day I woke up realizing I owned no shoes, so I returned to NY to pursue my livelihood. Over the next twenty years I did Gurdjeiff work, practiced Sufism, and then Zen Buddhism. I had some remarkable teachers and met many fine people, but in the end I stopped practice and focused on business development and family life. My day-to-day life became my spiritual practice.
And then to my surprise along came Ram Dass, with Baba in tow, or should I say Baba with Ram Dass in tow. Not sure. At my first heart-to-heart interview, Ram Dass asked me what my sadhana was, and I told him it was paying attention moment to moment. He then gave me “I am Loving Awareness.” After another heart-to-heart interview, I realized I never left, only went away for a while. Happy to be home, which is right here, right now—always has been Loving Awareness. Namaste.
I had the good fortune to be introduced to Be Here Now very shortly after it was first published back in the early 70s, as I had a friend who owned a progressive bookstore in a fairly conservative Midwestern college town. Both Ram Dass and Steven Gaskin entered my life, awakening my consciousness and feeding my soul. Like many young women of that time, I had already started having children, long before it ever occurred to me that I might plan on doing something different with my life. Over the next few years, I dropped out of college, married, had another child, divorced, moved every year or so. By the time I was pregnant with my third, that old copy of Be Here Now was one of the few constants in my life.
Sometime during that third pregnancy, an insight arose in me that my first child, Lee, had taught me Love. And the second, Sara, had taught me to Serve. The third, Raven, would remind me always to Remember God.
And thus it has been for thirty or so years now. (I read several more of his books in the meantime.) I was blessed with an opportunity to briefly share this little story with Ram Dass a few years ago in Tucson, at which time he took my hand in his and kissed it. We had a heart2heart a while back, and I reminded him of our exchange, and we shared a laugh when I told him I haven't washed my hand since!
My heart sings to be in satsang with RD and all of you.
This goes back 40+ years and memories fade, but this is my story as best as I can recollect. It’s 1970 and I’m a 20-year-old Brooklyn boy, kind of a strange hybrid of jock and hippie, playing college basketball, experimenting with psychedelics, and very attracted to Buddhism. I am also a devoted listener to WBAI, New York City’s community radio station. Paul Gorman, who later co-authored How Can I Help with Ram Dass, had a show called Lunch Pail and at some point he began playing Ram Dass tapes. I believe these were some of the early recordings from talks Ram Dass gave at his Dad’s farm in New Hampshire when he returned from his first trip to India.
The tapes were extremely popular and Paul received a lot of feedback from people who wanted to somehow connect (pre-internet days of course) around these tapes. So one day, on the air, Paul announced that there would be a meeting of people interested in the Ram Dass tapes and it would take place at the WBAI studios. On the appointed day, somewhere between 50-100 people showed up and we began discussing ways to embody the spirit of love, community, and freedom that Ram Dass so eloquently and humorously transmitted. Towards the end of the meeting, an Indian gentleman stood up and invited people to attend a meditation at his apartment.
A few weeks later, those of us who showed up at the apartment were introduced to Hilda Charlton. Hilda, an amazing English woman and spiritual teacher, had a small circle of students at this point, a circle that would later grow to several hundred as her weekly meditations attracted more and more seekers. One of her early students was a Brooklyn salesman, Marty Mahavir Das Malles. Marty was also close to Ram Dass and was organizing a Ram Dass talk at
Hunter College. I volunteered to sell tickets for the event and wound up manning a table at Samuel Weiser’s Bookstore, where I later wound up working for most of the early 1970s.
I cannot exactly recall the first time I met Ram Dass. He would occasionally show up at Hilda’s classes. We also had a weekly Brooklyn satsang at Marty’s apartment that I seem to recall Ram Dass attending once or twice. My most vivid memory from this time, however, was the talk he gave at Hunter College and the incredibly high space his energy created. It felt like everybody in that auditorium was in a state of grace and love. Nobody wanted to leave, but when we finally had to, I remember floating down Park Ave with a group of friends, enveloped in a bubble of joy. Of course it was also around this time that Remember, Be Here Now came out. I cannot recall how many copies I went through and how many I bought for friends and family, but I may have been personally responsible for helping to sell out at least half of the first edition. I still have a hard cover edition and read it fairly regularly.
In 1977, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and started doing some radio and had a few opportunities to interview Ram Dass, as well as organize some public talks. In fact, a benefit that he did for Boulder’s community radio station, KGNU, helped save the station from going off the air at a time that it looked like it might not survive.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent some time in RD’s orbit in those days and even to have had some experience of the “neurotic” Ram Dass as well, as that served as an important teaching as well. I could go on and on, but have a sense that the space for these recollections is limited. So I’ll end with many thanks to our great friend and teacher. Long may you run.
I shed my atheism and materialistic philosophical point of view that saw all spirituality as delusion the first time I tripped on LSD, and experienced everything as one consciousness, one being, that is everything. And, although everything was interconnected and interdependent, beyond all planes of consciousness, there was a true love that unconditionally loved all of itself. Yet I could only realize this being on psychedelics, so I was naturally into Tim Leary and Aldous
Huxley. Knowing this, my meditating Uncle recommended Remember, Be Here Now. When my copy arrived in my dorm room, the first time I looked at it, it had a glow or aura like I was tripping.
It was a magical book, it seemed. I sat down and read the beginning story of Ram Dass, crying, and feeling my heart open to the experience of oneness not on a drug but through a presence that mirrored in me finding my own presence. When I got to the brown section of the book, it was read to me by a divine voice. Thus, I began practice to be here now, and find methods that were always available in the present. The book has been a bible to me since then. And when I got to meet Ram Dass for the first time in Austin, Texas, in 2004 at an Omega retreat, I realized Neem Karoli Baba as my guru. Even today I see visions of the pages of the brown section when I run into a situation that needs the book’s guidance. It is a living book and it lives in my soul.
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view this and other videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
Joshua Tree 1979
I first heard of Ram Dass while I was managing rock bands back in 1973. My brother-in-law gave me a copy of Be Here Now and I set it aside until I dropped some wonderful Orange Sunshine. During this trip I read Be Here Now from cover to cover. What a wonderful time. After several hours of reading and laughing and tears, my life was literally changed forever. After being raised in a strict denominational church and even spending time in a seminary, reading about Ram Dass’ journey was and continues to be like a breath of fresh air to us.
The day after reading BHN I wrote to Ram Dass at the Lama foundation and offered to help in any way I could if he ever came to the Northwest. Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later I received the first of many letters from Ram Dass allowing me to co-ordinate his first lecture in Seattle, WA. My wife and I were living in Seattle at the time. I had so much faith in the truth and energy of Ram Dass that I only put up fifty fliers in the whole city.
I booked Ram Dass into the Hub ballroom at the University of Washington in 1973. The Hub holds about 1,000 people, so imagine my surprise when I arrived two hours early to set up the PA system, etc. There was a line almost six blocks long and I knew that everyone would not fit in the ballroom. I immediately called one of the rock bands I was managing and asked them to please bring their PA system to the UW. We set speakers in the windows for the people on the lawn who could not fit in the ballroom. What followed was one of the most beautiful evenings of my life.
All in attendance felt the love and living Spirit in and around the hall. That evening after Ram Dass’ appearance, he spent the night in our humble home. Over the next few years we put on another four or five lectures and workshops with Ram Dass and also some events with Stephen & Ondrea Levine and Dale Borglum. What a great joy it was working with these gentle and kind souls.
Our most recent contact with Ram Dass was a half-hour phone conversation last month through the wonderful Heart2Heart program. We were very happy he still remembered us after his stroke and the passage of time. Even Ram Dass said he was a little surprised he remembered us after all he’s been through.
Ram Dass has been and will always be one of the greatest teachers in my life. He was the first spiritual teacher who encouraged me to find my own path. And he said that whatever path we chose to follow would only be as useful as what we brought to it. And he said a true teacher sets his students “free.” We love Ram Dass and he is in our hearts and minds daily. It’s such a pleasure to “hook up” with fellow fans of Mr. Dass.
At an early age, I recognized that I was a seeker. During my youth, I often felt alone, misunderstood, and mystified. I religiously pondered such universal questions as: “Who Am I?” and “Why Am I Here?” Such questions led me on amazing journeys—both worldly and otherworldly.
As I write this piece, it is hard to say where it all began. When one begins to think and recall, each piece of memory is connected to numerous pieces of history, and they are all linked, like one long thread that sews our life-story together.
As I recall my first encounter(s) with Baba Ram Dass then, let us realize it is part of a very long continuum of connections leading to other connections.
During my college years (1967-1971), I, like many other young Baby Boomers, was transformed by the 60s revolution. A World Religions class sparked my inquiries into global spiritualities. I met intriguing spirits who had traveled the East, bathed in the Ganges, and studied with the famous archeologist Louis Leakey. I was surrounded by anti-war protesters,
political voices, and religious converts spreading their gospels and inspirations. I was wide open to absorbing and learning. I tested the waters of Transcendental Meditation, Krishna Consciousness, and the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda; I read books by Carlos Castañeda, Anäis Nîn, Baba Hari Dass, and Baba Ram Dass.
Somewhere in my travels, I acquired Be Here Now, by Ram Das. It spoke to me and I had to have it. I carried that book with me for some considerable time in my journey through life. It was the messages in Be Here Now that made me finally feel at home. Perhaps it was my spiritual hunger, a genuine seeking, and the periodic assistance of hallucinogens that helped me feel the deep messages of Ram Dass. I often cried both tears of joy and tears of pain—at the same time.
Eventually, I amassed a large library of spiritual books, including those authored by Ram Dass. One of my favorites was Grist for the Mill. I happened to be reading this book while attending a spiritual retreat at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, July 10-21, 1978. I discovered by accident (or was it?), that Ram Dass was a special guest there to offer “Hindu Devotional Meditation” as part of the program with Joshu Sasaki Roshi. It was a serendipitous moment—a gift!
I attended Ram Dass’s session outdoors in the San Bernardino mountains with the other beautiful holy hippies, gathered to sing a meditational chant to the Pachelbel Canon. It was one of the simplest, most beautiful, and most delightful spiritual memories I have.
There was one other time I got to see Ram Dass in person. He was scheduled to speak in Santa Cruz, CA, at the SC Civic Auditorium for “Here and Now with Ram Dass” November 16 (year not recalled). As usual, he drew a large audience. However, this time, Ram Dass was in a very different physical state—recovering from a 1997 stroke that left him partially paralyzed, affecting both his physical abilities and his speech. Yet, he was ever full of love, grace, humor, and compassion for himself and for his audience.
Namaste Ram Das. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I came across Be Here Now in the early 1970s in high school, and it immediately became my guidebook to life. Around that time I went to a talk by Ram Dass in Madison, WI. I put my name on a mailing list and received a flyer advertising a Ram Dass Ashram at the Lama Foundation near Taos, NM. So in 1975 at age 19 I sold my coin collection and anything else I could hock to get enough money for the two-week tuition and a bus ticket—44 hours one-way from Wisconsin!
It’s impossible in a short entry to begin to describe the impact of those two weeks with Ram Dass and a small community of journeyers, especially on a teenager. Krishna Das led Sufi dancing and also the kirtans. Srudi Ram led these really “severe” meditation sessions to close out our days. Ram Dass focused on teaching us Kundalini Yoga. Our days were structured and very hard but wonderfully good as we all shared the journey together. Allen Ginsberg showed up for a one-day visit with Ram Dass and it was great to see them walking around the Lama Foundation grounds, just chatting and laughing.
In the second week, after the first wave of retreatants left, those that remained went a lot deeper: silence, no eye contact, no socialization, etc., 24/7, except for necessities. Our daily instruction in all areas was extended, broadened, and deepened. We also had daily personal sessions with Ram Dass. He gave me confirmation of who my guru was (Jesus), which sent me on an amazing trajectory of life.
One day, toward the end of the two weeks, there was a lull in the activities and I was sitting eating melon and just looking at the mountains. I heard someone next to me (which was not expected, because of the “ban” on socialization), and then Ram Dass sat down. This was unusual as he was understandably scarce in between the formal sessions. He said he joined me there because I looked so “free” at that moment and he wanted to share it with me. I didn’t at all feel free, and I told him so. He asked me what it was I really wanted. I knew right away what my answer was, but I was afraid to admit it and asked him if I could reflect on that question. A short while later I hunted him down and blurted out, “I want to go with you back to New York to continue to learn from you.” He meditated on this for a few moments and said, “No. You’ve got some unfinished business back home.”
I was really broken-hearted, but less than a year later I was married to Nancy! Ram Dass and I corresponded occasionally during the months after the Ashram, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be living a celibate lifestyle if I chose the path of a householder. He released me to the
marriage, telling me that things were really good with my heart chakra at that moment and I could and should trust that. Nancy and I have now been married over 33 years and have two wonderful (grown) children. Nancy occasionally reminds me that her beauty (inside and out) is so powerful that it even makes men give up their celibacy (well, at least mine!).
In 2009 it was wonderful to once again have a one-on-one satsang with Ram Dass via the miracle of Skype. His spiritual insight transcended the limitations of failing bodies and variable Internet connections, and it was like we just picked up where we left off three decades ago. It was a wonderful moment of once again being with Ram Dass in the Now.
I became aware of Ram Dass, first as Richard Alpert, when he was with Timothy Leary. I and my friends, now considered old hippies, were experimenting with peyote, LSD, and other psychedelics. Whenever there was any media about the pair, we zeroed in. When Be Here Now came out, it made the rounds through our group.
We were all using LSD for spiritual growth, which was my first opening to something other then the traditional Christian rhetoric, which I had rejected when quite young. We were reading everything we could get our hands on that came out of eastern traditions, reincarnation and meditation. EST, and the transcendental movement were big in the 70s and we followed those paths as well.
A few years later, I moved to Marin County and was invited to a gathering, not having a clue what to expect. Ram Dass spoke for a couple of hours and I was hooked for life, and I’m sure beyond. I fell in love with him that night; I hung on every word, and loved his sense of humor and playfulness about his own and all of our struggles through our path to enlightenment.
It seemed everywhere I went he was speaking and I would be there. I got hugs and books signed, and got that special look he gives you in the eyes, where you know you are truly loved. The last time I was in his presence was in Prescott, AZ, where when at the last minute I heard he was speaking, I was the first one in line. It was after his stroke, and Still Here. I was able to get a hug and had a very profound connecting moment; the love was even deeper that I felt, maybe because I had been working through some “Fierce Grace” myself. Aging along with Ram Dass has been exciting and lovely instead of fearful and scary. Thank you my beloved friend, teacher, and lover of life and death. I love you too.
Here is a story for you.
I was 16 in 1971. It was a very exciting time, and our world was changing for the better – a spiritual awakening was at hand. Young people in America wanted change. Wanting more than the basics of our early religious upbringings, we searched for other paths that felt more meaningful and spoke of love and compassion for our fellow man. A more loving way was important to us.
There were many great teachers along the way; Paramahansa was awesome, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was even more intriguing, but then, along came a square blue book with a really neat cover; a new exhortation to just “be here now” (ya, that’s pretty cool), and it spoke to us in the language we could really relate to. The Freaks—we called ourselves freaks, the media called us hippies—had found their man. Baba Ram Dass had mastered the fine art of communicating the message we wanted to hear in a language we could understand and truly relate to. It was far out, man, and we were hip to the jive.
Forty years later, this book still sits in my living room, as it always has. It has played a significant role as well, in my children’s spiritual growth. They loved the artwork, the yoga exercises were interesting, and the book was generally fun to go through. I have now replaced this book three times, as it was often loaned out to my children’s friends, and found its place in their homes.
These days, when I log onto Facebook and see the dialogue going on between the kids and their friends regarding their spiritual growth and experiences, I feel a profound sense of gratitude and tremendous love for the gift I have been able to experience and pass on—as it was passed on to me through the great love of Maharajji and Baba Ram Dass. On behalf of my children and myself, thank you for the love and the directions to the path.
I feel like I first met Ram Dass in the summer of 1971 right after graduating from High School when I read Be Here Now. I’m not even sure how I came to having a copy of the book, but frequently am drawn to buy books I know nothing about only to find that they speak to my heart in a profound way.
Reading Be Here Now was grounding for a girl becoming a woman in a turbulent time of anti-war protests and a newly learned mistrust of my government’s agenda that seemed to have
nothing to do with what I had been raised to understand as righteous and just. The words of Ram Dass rang out as Truth and were a salve to the effects of coming of age in a shaky and volatile time.
I carried that book with me every time I moved to a new university or city throughout what has been at this point a 40-year spiritual journey. Whenever there was a new book I was eager to buy and read it, never once did I feel I had experienced anything but TRUTH. Many years later I went to the theater to see “Fierce Grace” and for the first time saw a film clip of Maharajji. Just a few seconds long, no sound, but in that film clip he looks directly at the camera and I felt like he was looking directly at me with a little wink and, after searching for years unsuccessfully for a guru, I knew I had found him. Or rather, he had found me.
I think it was in 2005 (I’m really bad with time). I was looking for an experience with Ayurveda. I saw advertised a week-long encounter led by Robert Svoboda to be held in Maui, also hosted by Ram Dass. I was unfamiliar with Robert Svoboda at that time but because I had such faith and trust in Ram Dass, I went. Meeting Ram Dass and having afternoon satsangs with him in our small group was one of the most enriching times of my life. On the first meeting Ram Dass told us that the reason we were there was because Maharajji had called for us to come. His beautiful and inspired stories of Maharajji that afternoon had me in tears that flowed unbridled. When I asked him why I was crying uncontrollably, even though I only felt love and joy, he suggested it was because I had never been open to such unconditional love as the love of Maharajji and shared his story of how he had cried so upon meeting with Maharajji.
Sitting with Ram Dass every afternoon that week opened my heart in a way it had never opened before. Feeling Maharajji’s presence through Ram Dass is quite remarkable, as if he is a bridge that leads directly to the soul of a human being who left his body before I even knew who he was. I came away from that experience with a new understanding of love and service. I came away feeling like I had experienced Maharajji.
I was surprised to see a picture of George Bush on Ram Dass’s puja and he told me he put it there because Baba had told him to love everybody and that Bush was a particularly hard one, but having the picture there helped him practice. Once again, Ram Dass proved to me that he speaks TRUTH and I have taken that lesson with me to this day; whenever I find myself not wanting to love someone or some situation, I remember his words and Baba’s words and try to think of whatever I don’t want to love in a different light until I can come up with a reason to love them or it.
I am forever indebted and grateful to have experienced such love and wisdom and want to thank all who run this Foundation for successfully keeping us in touch with this enlightened
gentle being Ram Dass.
I was literally tripping out in Philadelphia in 1971. The book Be Here Now appeared in my house in a loft bed in a back room. I found it there and read for a while. I tried to find out whose book it was as everyone used to come to our house. My wife, with whom I shared the bed, had no idea where it came from either. So, I just devoured it for a while and realized what you have all realized. That was when I saw the first grainy images of my guru, but there would be many years ahead of me before I would finally realize that.
I wound up going to Denver and actually starting a record company, but what was interesting was a friend and I decided to go see Ram Dass at Loretto Heights College. I remember paying, and as I was hurriedly walking in the door I literally bumped directly into Ram Dass, who was also walking out the door hurriedly. We just stopped and looked at each other. And that was cool. Later we sat on the stage quite close to him. And that was even cooler.
I saw Ram Dass again at South High School in Denver. When I’d seen him the year before, there was a young folk singer lady as his “opening act.” I said to the person that I was with, “Wow I didn’t know he had folksingers opening for him. I’d like to do that next year.” Being a folk singer was my work at the time. It was quite strange because Maharajji must have heard me. About 10 months later a man I didn’t know called me and said, “Would you like to open for Ram Dass?”
When I was backstage before the performance, it was just me and RD. Again, very cool. We got to hang out and talk. Then I walked out in front of 1500 people and sang my songs. What a most wonderful audience. Just the vibration was ever so special. Then we all sat down and hung out with Ram Dass. Over the years we just keep “bumping into” each other. Over the years that Radha and I lived beside Maharajji’s Hanuman Temple in Taos, Ram Dass came and sat and took tea on several occasions.
I really enjoyed talking about Maharajji, computer networking, ashram management, and India with him. It was always nice for Ram Dass to visit. I’ve had fun talking with him and he’s been very helpful to me at times. The message of Maharajji that Ram Dass brought back to America in his own special way is probably one of the most important things that has ever happened to American society. Because when you really listened to what he was saying, is saying, what you hear is that it’s “all okay”; in the long run, no matter what your particular brand of suffering happens to be, love will see you through. Ki Jai.
I lived in Berkeley, California, in 1971, when I was 19 years old and without a doubt part of the counter culture, but feeling I had always been a deep thinker and sought out alternative views on life and what it all meant. After taking LSD a few times, “my mind was blown” as we used to say, and shortly after my brother-in-law brought over the book Be Here Now.
I could not put it down and my heart opened up without fear. I trusted what Ram Dass was sharing with the world and felt a deep connection with Maharajji. I went to classes to learn Transcendental Meditation and began my practice.
Unfortunately, I veered off the path and became buried in drugs, sex, and rock & roll, forgetting about my Soul. But every so often my connection with Ram Dass and Maharajji would somehow surface again and I would read another book and return to my practice. This happened so many times, but there was always this ember of light that remained just waiting for me to surrender to it. In a bookstore in Portland, Oregon, I purchased Miracle of Love and a photo of Maharajji. Spirit led me. I followed Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings and delved into Buddhism for a time.
I was fortunate enough to hear Ram Dass speak on two occasions. Once in the early 1980s and then before his stroke in the 1990s. I remember being surprised when he walked on stage— he was wearing a yellow golf sweater, kahki pants, short silver hair, and a moustache. I guess I expected the long hair, beard, and white robes. I had to laugh at myself. But the message was
the same—love, serve, remember. I loved how Ram Dass would never hide anything and would tell the truth. He shared his own struggles with ego, roles, and games.
The last few years I had been lost spiritually, not connecting with anyone, myself, or practice of any kind. I subscribe to a magazine called Science of the Mind. There on the cover was reference to an article about Ram Dass and his new book Be Love Now. My heart leapt. I went to the website and clicked on a video. I started to sob. I felt I had come home. Not just coming home in passing, like years prior, but a coming home that was all-encompassing.
I knew that I had to see Ram Dass. I live on a fixed income and it was very difficult to find the means to go to Maui this last May for the Sacred Pilgrimage, but I could not ignore the pull. I cannot put into words what my experience was like there. I shed so many tears of joy. So much love, so much love, so much love. I am so grateful to come home to my true Self. Ram Dass has and continues to lead me to God, Guru, and Self.
I appreciate all your stories . . . sharing our gifts, being here now in loving awareness. Namasté.
I wasn’t looking for a guru. I barely even knew anything about spiritual teachers. It was that incomparable era of the 1960s. I was living in San Francisco—talk about being in the right place at the right time.
They say that if you remember the 60s you weren’t really there. But I remember the first time I heard Ram Dass speak. A dear friend of mine heard about a new “far out” spiritual teacher and invited me to go hear a lecture by Baba Ram Dass called “One Man’s Journey To The East.” It was June of 1969. To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember what Ram Dass said. But he touched my heart and my soul and I was drawn to him with an unexplainable intensity. It was far beyond being in love, for it was not romantic. It was the love of a soul who spoke to my soul—a
level of being of which I was not previously aware. He was another being giving words to my own innermost feelings, evoking the yearning for and love of God.
The soul connection I have shared with Ram Dass for 40 years has been exquisitely beautiful. He gave words to the feelings that lay undiscovered in my heart of hearts. In gardening terms, there were seeds that lay dormant in my hirdayam (spiritual heart in Sanskrit). He came along and watered them, creating forevermore the most awesome garden, the garden of the heart that flourishes with the love of God. That love manifests as a love of spirit present in all beings—a love of nature and beauty and life.
I hear his words every day, many times a day, in my mind. Now, there is probably a psychiatric term for “hearing” these messages, but to my mind it is the result of 40 years of love and devotion. I feel sorry for people who don’t know him. Sometimes, when sitting at a stoplight, waiting for the light to change, I look at all the people passing by and know that they have not been blessed to know him. That’s an interesting expression—waiting for the light to change— because that is what he does: he changes the Light. He brings the Light of Consciousness and Spirit into this ordinary plane of consciousness and makes it extraordinary.
Originally, and for many years, Ram Dass provided that “connection” to God. No longer needing an external connection, I have incorporated this divine love and devotion; it is part of who I am.
I see Ram Dass as the most beautiful manifestation of God in form. He is my Beloved spiritual teacher and friend. Ours is a relationship based on truth and love and devotion. It is a relationship that allowed me to know my soul. I am forever grateful for this Blessing.
I was 16 years old back in 1976 and was in a news agency buying a stamp when I was drawn toward a small “Bargain Basement” sale of books. I tend to follow my instincts in matters
like this, so I put my hand right down to the bottom of the bin and pulled out the book that seemed to be on the bottom.
What a prize!
The cover was a brilliant blue and thumbing through I found beautiful pictures. 50 cents. The sticker called to me, so home it came. As I started reading it the next day, I immediately realized I had found a long-lost friend. Not many words were needed; the door was open, always had been.
Over the years I have read more of Ram Dass’s books, and always had a love for him in my heart. He has been a candle lighting the way for so many.
I was graced a few years ago to talk and have a short meditation with him via web cam— a beautiful blessing. In fact, the next day I was walking home after taking my children to school, pondering the meditation and reciting “Ram Ram” under my breath, when I felt the twinkle of an eye looking within me. I immediately felt the presence of Neem Karoli Baba, a very special moment in my life.
Never apart if residing in the heart.
Thank you, Ram Dass, for being you and being part of my life.
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view this and other videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
I feel inspired in reading your newsletter to sing back to you, with you, in a sort of call-and-response kirtan of other words. The Experience I now feel pulsed to share in words is well-known in the subtle realms. I am listening for possible gifts in opening my embodiment to expression in human analytical words, western words, usually so battered in resonance and depth.
This was the Moment: From the back of the small auditorium, I felt myself straining to feel included, to feel as if I belonged, was part of some beauty and truth I had sensed from far away and even longer ago. I had become aware that all around me were women and men whose lives had been immersed in this experience in the history of their lives, and I was a newcomer, a stranger. I stared at the radiant, tall, powerful, famous, magnificent dude on the stage, a little unnerved to be in the presence of the one who had launched so much for so many of us, decades before. I was completing some sort of loop in my mind, of making good on an invitation, an opportunity, so I could feel I was doing all I could to be part of the grand shift.
I enjoyed feeling the great shining coming from the celebrity whose name had drawn me there. I was elated. I could feel it was real, that I, my dark ignorant I, was beginning to be able to really feel these things. Somehow spirit was saying yes to all my work, all my prayers, all my beliefs.
Weird, then, to feel my energy fields being re-routed, remagnetized, re-focused on a tiny picture frame on a small table next to the massive beaming guy. I did not have words or even thoughts about what was happening then, and I feel myself in this moment opening up to a soft quiet joy that the Experience is living in me still, allowing “me” to feel it expand into the more aware perspectives of these new times.
I feel my heart expand in a different vibration, vastly more potent, as I allow the Experience to re-arise in a remembrance that reminds me this was/is beyond Time, happening now, in that room within me. Allowing words to form, now, in this moment, to harmonize with what happened then, the truth is that “I” became aware of being part of a field, a reality, a beingness, that was/is the Truth of all life. Transfixed by an indistinguishable dark-brown something in a picture frame so far away from my body, a something that was somehow holding everything in a tender magnetic embrace, I felt the entire auditorium, all of us, everything, as being that something, an overwhelmingly powerful, preternaturally soft and kind field of existence. I am just barely able to be brave enough to even mention the depths of my thanks for being given other experiences, since then, that let me know this was/is the Divine Love so often spoken of. Amazement fills
me now that “I” was greeted, met, held, welcomed, filled with this love through the grace of the then-exotic-and-mythological Neem Karoli Baba. And his buddy Ram Dass.
So recently, when I read a line about how Maharajji would “twinkle at” people, the whole Experience flourished like a thousand lotuses, again, this time in my mind as well as in all my subtle bodies. The wistfulness and vague envy of never having traveled to sit with him “in person” was noticeably absent—noticeably because of all the years of feeling bereft at not being chosen for this or that gateway, this or that teacher, this or that initiation or realization.
I feel myself, right now, expressing thanks to all aspects of the universe that conspired to create that moment for my heart. And this moment. May the infinite joy of it expand in all who read this.
On May 15, 1998, I was living in Oakland, CA, and attended a SEVA benefit show in Berkeley called “Sing Out for Seva” (look it up online, it was a great show!)
At the beginning of the show, someone was on stage and started talking about and praising this man named Ram Dass. I had heard the name before but did not know much about him, expect he had a cool name. After a lot of build-up, the crowd around me went absolutely wild and, to my stoned mind’s surprise, out comes this old-looking guy being pushed in a wheelchair who it turns out could hardly speak (that’s how my mind described things at the time).
Well, much to my surprise again, as Ram Dass mainly sat with us without saying much, something started to happen to me. I began feeling a tingling in my chest area around my heart. I then felt a wave of emotion come over me. I started to cry and noticed others were crying around me too. Being an emotionally bottled-up hippie at the time, I was a little freaked out and initially did not directly attribute what was happening to me to the presence of “that guy on the stage.” I thought I was having a bad day or something as I tried to resist the opening that was occurring. Well, so much for trying to resist anything!
Thanks to the lesson of the opportunity to “let go” that I took from that day, I began finding the courage to surrender more and more into what was showing up in my life. This quickly led to so many blessings revealing themselves and a completely new way of Being and new path of living starting to emerge.
I attribute that moment of being in the presence and love of Ram Dass (and Maharajji, without knowing it) as the seed that grew the courage to face myself. This ultimately led to a profound healing with my Dad in 1999, which was a reclaiming of my heart and a freedom from the suffering I was carrying around with him. This opportunity to Be in Love with my Dad again (and thus be in love with myself and my life) was so profound, I felt like I was given a new beginning as well as able to do a lifetime of living with my Dad in a short time.
And so it goes, that was exactly what happened. On September 11th, 2001, my Dad was killed at the World Trade Center. Thanks to the healing we did together, his heart and his love now remains alive in me and through the service of my life.
Thank You, Ram Dass! Thank You, Maharajji!
I have been so blessed in my life. I chose a great mum, who not only raised me, but also was my spiritual guide and teacher and best friend. She also, in my youth, introduced me to Ram Dass, one of the greatest and most important teachers in my life.
This is the story of how I came to have Ram Dass (and Maharaji) in my life.
Rewind to many years ago, I was probably around 12 or 13. Life was very different, as was my relationship with my mother. I’m an only child, and I was raised pretty much single-handedly by my mum. We weren’t rich, and so my mum worked all hours in order to keep our heads above water. She was a very different person then, very stressed, tired and irritable. It’s fair to say that my mum has never really done (or certainly not enjoyed) the things that mums are supposed to do. She never did like to conform to a cultural norm and was much more happy sharing a glass of wine with a friend while they babysat me than actually doing domestic stuff like the washing up or, heaven forbid, the ironing!
My mum had a hate-hate relationship with ironing, she just really didn’t get on with it and it didn’t get on with her. At an early age I got to understand pretty quickly that, if my mum was doing the ironing, I’d best get out of the room, because she got mega-grumpy, and if I was in the room, the likelihood was that I’d be in for it!
So when I heard the familiar crashing and bashing of my mum setting up the ironing board, I’d leave the room and go upstairs to play.
Around this time, my mum’s own spiritual journey had begun with the aid of her boss at work, Doris. Doris had taken my mum to a retreat centre in Wales (this was in the early 80’s before the real existence of many of these places in the UK). It was called ‘Tan y Garth’ and there she learnt about hatha yoga, and meditation with an enigmatic teacher called Ken.
Ken was a permission-giving teacher, and as part of the weekend retreats in the evening, as they sat around the fire, he would play tapes of a teacher named Ram Dass. He would play a tape and then the group would discuss the teachings contained within the taped lecture.
Ken would encourage his students to take these tapes home to listen to, and that’s precisely what my mum did. She brought Ram Dass home with her, and would play the tapes while doing - wait for it, yep you guessed it - the ironing!
And that’s when I noticed something weird beginning to happen… When I heard my mum getting the ironing board out, I’d do my usual escaping up the stairs trick, but rather than the clashing and bashing and cursing that usually accompanied the chore, suddenly there was
silence, or even sometimes a completely new addition to the ironing experience - LAUGHTER!
This of course captured my interest. I’d sneak down the stairs, and although not brave enough to venture into the lounge (that would be foolhardy until I’d done some proper checking out of what was going on), I did sit at the bottom of the stairs, and listen in. And I could hear this guy talking. After a while I figured out that it was on tape. My mum was listening to this guy talk on a tape, and yep, sure enough, every now and then she would burst out into a great guffaw of laughter.
Now you have to understand that this was a complete oxymoron. My mum laughing WHILE IRONING?? Are you kidding?? NO way José! But sure enough it was true, and so I would sit at the bottom of the stairs listening to the tapes with her, and wondering who this guy was that could make my mum laugh whilst doing the ironing!
Fast forward a little time and I’m 16 or so. My mum is back from a retreat in the South of France, with the guy on the tapes. His name is Ram Dass as it turns out, and she has come back radiant!
Seriously, that retreat with Ram Dass changed my mum for good. My mum became like the mum I always knew and loved, but that didn’t previously come out to play very often. She was more than ever the loving, beautiful wonderful being that she was when she was at her best. No more grumpy, stressy mum, oh no, here was a
mum who cares and loves and listens and is just - well the best mum you could ever ask for!
She still did her ironing to Ram Dass, but now I’d sit with her in the room and listen in. Then one day whilst we were listening and ironing, she said:
“You know, Ram Dass is coming to do an evening talk in Bristol soon, so you could see him for yourself if you’d like”
I gave it some thought, and when reflecting that this guy had a) made my mum laugh while doing the ironing and b) had helped turn my mum into just the loveliest mum you could ever ask for, it was really a no-brainer, so I said yes!
So then we are in Bristol, and it's the evening of the talk. I’m a little nervous and very much out of my comfort zone. I’m expecting (don’t ask me why, but I was...) an old Indian dude to come on stage and sit on the floor cross-legged. I was convinced that the “Ram Dass’ on the tapes was an Indian guy who looked remarkably similar to Gandhi! So when this white, balding, fluffy haired American guy walks on stage, I’m quite taken aback.
But then he began to talk. It’s hard to describe how I felt or what it meant to me, but all I can say is that everything he said just ‘made sense’ to me. It’s like everything he was saying I knew… I found myself going, ‘Yeah, I know that”, “yeah that’s how it is!” Even though his spiritual intellectual language was difficult to understand, I just ‘got it’. I would tell my friends back at school later that he was just a guy ‘who talked sense and told the truth’.
During the interval, my mum told me she wanted to go up to say thank to Ram Dass for the retreat the previous year. She asked me if I’d like to go up too. I said ‘no way!’ - I mean I was a 17 year old goth! I liked all things black and I had my reputation to think of! I didn’t do hugs and touchy feely stuff like that, let alone go up and meet this weird old guy from the States, even if he had done wonderful things for my mum! I was a monosyllabic teenage boy, we don’t do that kinda stuff!
But if I’m honest, I was curious, so I watched from my seat a few rows back from the front. I watched my mum join the back of the queue and move slowly up towards him. Then there she was in front of him, telling him she loved him and thanking him for everything. She pointed in my general direction, and I quickly looked away, in case he got me in his gaze, and just as she was finishing her thanks, he hugged her.
And then the weirdest thing happened… I can’t explain it to this day, but at that moment, I felt Ram Dass hug ME too. And I cried. Not sad tears, but happy tears. I felt his arms around me, and the
love of the universe enfolding me in that moment. All three of us were ‘in love’ at that moment and it felt like home.
My mum came back to our seats with tears in her eyes. “He hugged me you know, and I do so love him!”
“I know mum, he hugged me too!” and we held each other tight and cried happy tears into each other’s shoulders.
I remember that after that night my life changed. It’s like life suddenly became easier. It’s like someone had popped the bubble, lifted the veil and shown me that life was more than the illusion and stuff that was around me at that time. Life was so much more… I knew that I was a spiritual being on a spiritual journey, and now I had had that taste, I wanted more!
So the following year Ram Dass was doing a week-long retreat in Devon, and I went with my mum. It was at that retreat that I finally met Ram Dass, and that’s where I had what I like to call my ‘road to Damascus’ experience, where I was to have my first spiritual awakening.
The retreat was lovely, and I just loved listening to Ram Dass, but I really wasn’t into the other stuff. I tried to meditate, really I did, but
you know a gangly over-energetic 18 year old is not the best at sitting still! Never mind not having any thoughts!! So meditation was a no-no for me! I also gave hatha yoga a go, but again, being a tall skinny thing, well, after numerous attempts I decided that I ‘didn’t do bendy’. I gave T’ai Ch’i a go but that was just too slow… the only thing I did kinda like was the singing, led by Jai Lakshman.
By the end of the week, I was really getting myself well and truly wound up, mainly by getting fed up with the fellow attendees on the programme. I really didn’t like their ‘holier than thou’ attitude. They looked down at me (at least I thought they did). I’d hoped that in this spiritual community I would find like-minded souls who would look beyond my gothic looks and leather jacket emblazoned with band names, and see the soul that I was. But all I got was what I’d got all my life up to that point, that I was the outsider and I’d never be allowed in. It had got to me so much that by the end of the retreat, lovely though it had been, I was being incredibly judgemental of the other people on the programme, and frankly I just didn’t like them! I was getting fed up with it all, and they were ‘ruining my experience’ and I was just so darned angsty I didn’t know what to do.
It was the last day, and mum had arranged that we could spend a little time with Ram Dass. We were to meet on the stairs up from the dinner hall, after breakfast…
Me and Mum waited on the stairs, and then up came Ram Dass. We were sort of half way up the stairs on a kind of landing. My mum went up to Ram Dass and started gushing about how much she’d loved the retreat and was so grateful to have him in her life. I just
sort of hung around like a hanger-on, watching their love fest from a distance, not really wanting to get involved.
You see I wasn’t a perfect 18 year old. In fact I was anything but. I was heavily into my drugs at the time and I although I was a ‘nice kid’, I really didn’t do very nice things to myself. I felt very alone and hated myself. I mean, how could I be an angel or a soul and do these things to myself? I was a mess frankly, and there I was on those stairs seconds away from meeting this holy guy. Who the f**k was I to even ask to meet such an enlightened being???
I was awoken from this internal dialogue by my mum’s voice. She was introducing me to Ram Dass.
“And this is my son, Jo” she said, and before I knew it I was there standing before him.
I didn’t know what to do. So I just looked into his eyes and didn’t say a word. And as I looked into his eyes, I felt more love than I’d ever experienced before in my life. Here I was, this unworthy, unlovable, messed up druggy kid, this f**k up, and yet he loved me totally and unconditionally! It sounds funny, but I knew in the core of my being at that moment that he knew EVERYTHING about me. My drug habit, my life, my future, my murky past, and yet STILL he loved me unconditionally! It was the most incredible experience to be that loved!
I remember us looking into each other’s eyes, and I’m not sure whether anything was said aloud, but I heard a “Hi!” and I saw a flame in his chest, and there was a flame in my chest too, and the two flames were saying hi to each other. And I knew that we’d known each other forever, and that we were two souls reconnecting and hanging out with each other.
At that moment I KNEW who I really was. I had touched the soul that was within me, and I knew from that moment on that my life was a spiritual one, and that I was in safe hands, protected and loved.
I burst into tears. Love was all around me and it felt like home.
I do not honestly know how long we were in that state together. All I know that is I suddenly came back around and there was Ram Dass’ beaming smiling face in front of me. I wiped away my tears, and he held me. He pushed me back, holding onto my shoulders.
“So how’s the meditation going?” he asked, pointedly, and I began to laugh - I’ve already told you how rubbish I was at sitting still and I’d just had my cover well and truly blown.
“Well... not so good actually” I sort of mumbled in response.
“You should meditate, it’d be good for you” he said in a very matter of fact , ‘you better try it kid’ kinda way. And he laughed and turned to leave up the stairs, but then quickly turned back around pointing at me and said:
“You’re very lucky to have your son,” quickly followed by: “Make sure you look after him.”
And then he moved his message to me..
“And you.. you are very lucky to have this mother.” “You should look after your mother!’
We both looked at each other and then at him, and said almost in unison, “We will, we promise!”
And he walked back up the stairs.
But he wasn’t finished.. oh no!
As he was halfway up the remaining stairs, he turned around one final time, as though he’d just remembered something, he fixed his gaze on me and said very slowly and deliberately: “If you ever need me, call on me. I’m serious. If I can ever be of service to you, you just call on me, OK?”
I nodded, dumbstruck. And with that he smiled, and walked back up the stairs.
Me and my mum then collapsed into each other’s arms there on the stairs. We both sobbed, great tears of delight and wonder fell on the stairs that day, and it is a moment that is as fresh for me now as it was then.
I went up to the hall where the retreat was being held. I sat down in front of the communal puja table where everyone had placed things during the course of the retreat. I crossed my legs, closed my eyes, and noticed my breath.
Then I awoke to the touch and giggle of my beloved - Ram Dass was chuckling to himself, putting his hand on my shoulder as he walked past me on the way to the stage. I’d been sat in meditation for some hour and a half… I guess I could do meditation! (with a little help from Ram Dass!)
The final day came to a close, and just as Ram Dass was winding up his final session, I was looking intently at all those people that had been irritating me. But I couldn’t find them - those eager, annoyingly perfect holier than thou people that had annoyed me and frustrated me in equal measure?? They’d all disappeared. Well, I say disappeared, but actually they’d just ‘changed’. You see, as I looked at them, all I could see were the most beautiful people I’d ever seen in my life!
I turned and looked at everyone in the room - surely there must be someone that will still get that teenage rebellious streak out in me, but to no avail! All around me were the most beautiful angels, these radiant souls beaming at me, and it just all became too much, I felt so much love it was going to burst my heart. And then my heart did burst...
I was just glowing and everyone else was glowing, they were the most heart-achingly beautiful beings, and I just loved them all totally and unconditionally. I was sobbing tears of joy, and completely blissing out. I was in ecstasy. I was in LOVE with the whole world
and it was almost too much to bear! I collapsed backwards, lying on the floor in ecstasy, tears streaming down my face. It was all so beautiful, sooo beautiful!
And then I heard this crashing noise - a thunderous explosion of water hitting the floor, and I thought maybe the roof had collapsed and the rain was flooding in, but I looked around and there was no flood, no caved in roof, no alarm in the other people’s face in the room.
I thought to myself: ‘Well where IS that noise coming from?’ The crashing of water was happening in a kind of rhythmic motion, ‘thuddump! thud-dump!’ Was it outside? No, it was definitely inside. Hold on, it’s really close - actually I THINK it’s me!! ‘Thu-dumpp! Thudumpp! Thu-dumpp!’ Oh my god it’s my heart!!!
And sure enough, that god almighty noise was my heart as it was filled with the love all around me.. bursting with the juicyness of love!
I closed my eyes, drowning in this love, surrounded by the savage beating of my heart, loud as thunder. Then the two ladies in front of me turned around and gasped in unison...
“Is that your HEART?? Making that noise?”
“Errr.. yes I think so!” I replied, and then collapsed back to the floor, blissed out in ecstasy.
That experience of seeing everyone as the most beautiful things in the world shifted me for good. I wanted to see that all the time, not just on a retreat with Ram Dass. I wanted to see the beauty in all things, and in all people. I wanted to touch god like that, and see god in all things. God is love, and love is god. I knew that now, and I KNOW that now.
It’s Ram Dass who gave me that gift, the gift, at the tender age of 18, that I was a soul on a spiritual journey. I’m still that soul, and I’m still on that journey, and I thank the universe everyday for the magical life that I have been blessed with, and I thank the universe for getting me and Ram Dass together again in this lifetime.
In 1972, when I was crawling out of a terrible addiction to alcohol and getting straight, with the grace of AA and a lot of helpful people, I realized I was free to do anything I wanted; it was all open to me. I started to do things like study astrology with a well-known astrologer, Johnny Lister, from Idaho, and read books like Your Mind Can Heal You by Ernest Holmes. Still, there was a void in me. I was searching for something, but I did not know what.
In November 1979, all seemed well on the surface. I had a wonderful home and a husband I loved, but I still felt that something was wrong. About that time, and off and on for the next six months, a man came into my dreams. He didn’t have a shirt on and burnt into his chest was a symbol, which I didn’t recognize or understand as I had not yet begun to study anything about Eastern thought. The man in the dreams would talk to me. When I woke up, I felt so calm and peaceful even though I couldn’t remember what he said.
Then, on May 1, 1980, I went to a well-known psychic and friend, Charlize, in Boise, Idaho. During the reading, she told me I was going to study with a master from the East and a master from the West. I thought that was great. After the reading she told me about a man called Ram Dass. When I asked, “Who is Ram Dass?, she almost started to cry. She said, “You don’t know Ram Dass? Oh, he is so wonderful. I’m going to a retreat with him in New Mexico, at the Llama Foundation, and I’m so happy.”
When she was finished I said, “Well, I’m going, too!” She told me she didn’t think I’d be able to get in, since it was only a month away and they were only able to take 200 people. I said, “Well, I’m going anyway.” I felt a fire inside me. She gave me a form to fill out and send in, to see if I could get in. Then she said, “You should read first,” and handed me this book with an odd-looking person on the cover who had several hands. The book was titled, The Only Dance There Is, by Ram Dass.
I left, and threw the book and the form onto the back seat of my car. When I got back home in Burley, ID, and reached back for the book, it flipped over to the back cover. Right there, on the back cover of the book, was the man who had been in my dreams for six months! I immediately called the Llama Foundation and told them I wanted to come to the retreat and meet this man called Ram Dass. They said they were sorry, but it was already filled up. Hearing that did not faze me at all; I just knew I was going. I left my phone number and I hung up. One week later they called and said there was an opening, someone had cancelled.
When I got to Llama, which was so beautiful, I helped the two girls I would share a tent with, open up the tent. It was shaped like a cocoon, which surprised me because I had never seen a tent in the shape of a cocoon before. After that, I went to the top of a hill and sat, wondering what I was doing there.
Then, all of a sudden, I saw this huge orange butterfly the size of a human being fly down the path in front of me and go into the bushes. I was shocked to see such a large butterfly, so I jumped up and ran after it through the bushes. When I came out on the other side, there was another path, and the butterfly was gone.
I began walking up the path towards “the dome” (the main hall) and came upon three men standing at the side of the path, talking. One of the men had his back to me, but as I got closer, he turned, and there was Ram Dass, wearing an orange shirt. In the center of his shirt was the symbol I had seen on his chest in my dreams. I learned later that the symbol was OM.
Each day Ram Dass would sit with groups of 20 of us attendees in a circle in the forest. Later that week it was my group’s turn. He asked each of us our name and what we were doing there. When it came my turn, I told him my name and said, “I don’t know you, I don’t know who you are, but you are the man who has been in my dreams for six months, and I want to know why.”
He replied, “I hope they were sexual,” and everybody laughed. I looked straight at him, and very soberly said, “They were very sexual, but they were not sexual at all, and I am so thirsty.” He said, “Gotcha!” and went on to the next person.
Before getting in the circle, I had acquired a book from the bookstore, From Bindu To Ojas, made of brown paper bags, which
later became Be Here Now. So, I thought that after the circle was over I would ask him to sign the book. As I waited while other people talked to him, I got paranoid. “What if he thinks I’m a spiritual materialist, if I ask him to sign it?” Then I thought, “What do I care if he thinks that, I don’t even know him.” I was the last one; everyone else had left, and I asked him to sign the book.
He said, with such kindness and with such loving eyes that I had never experienced in a person before, “I’d be happy to.” He signed it and handed it back to me. As I started to walk away, he said, “Hey, how about a hug?” I had been to so many seminars, like EST, I was used to hugging. So, I said O.K. and we embraced.
In the moment of that hug, I experienced a profound spiritual happening. In that instance, the mountain disappeared, then Ram Dass disappeared, and I saw that I was pure vibrating energy. It’s hard to explain this spiritual experience, but I saw how One everything is—pure energy. I saw I was this energy. I mean, it was the essence of me, and I saw that it was all one. This is it! It split my heart right open. And I have been romancing that “hit” ever since.
What he wrote on that brown paper bag book in 1980—“On the mountain all becomes more clear and we recognize one another in love”—is becoming more and more clear as the years go by.
There are four people in our small town of eight thousand who are on similar paths and we share a lot of our spiritual experiences and material within this group. One of the four came across Ram Dass, kind of by accident, and he purchased CDs to share with us. He had dropped off some Ram Dass CDs for me and for a while I never thought much about them. I already had a lot of material that I had not covered yet. I usually have 3 or 4 books on the go at the same time.
But then one day I pulled the CDs out and set to work in my garage. It turned out to be a very spiritual event for me. His voice, his love, is so radiant, honest, and deeply moving that I now consider him a personal friend. In times, when I need comfort or a friend, I listen to Ram Dass’s teachings that are so down to earth but so divine. I have spent a lot of time listening to other speakers, who speak on similar topics, but find Ram Dass so easy to understand. I enjoy his humor, his laugh, his silence, and his human-ness. His love for everyone and everything inspires me, because he speaks to my heart.
I shared my experiences with friends (a Rabbi and his wife) who came from Boston to visit one summer. My friend said he remembers Ram Dass from the 60s, back when he was just a young Rabbi. He
had been marrying people barefoot on a mountaintop at that time. He knew Ram Dass back then. It was wonderful and exciting to share our video “Fierce Grace” with him. That happened to be a very moving experience for us all, a very spiritual experience that had us all in tears. I also shared the letter that Ram Dass wrote to a family after the death of their young daughter with a relative whose own daughter died at a young age.
Ram Dass has helped us all through many difficult times. My wife and I have watched the live streams, and we both agree that he does not even need to speak; his presence and his love radiate with just one word. Ram, Ram, Ram. We consider ourselves very blessed to have come to know him and we are thankful for his teaching, his guidance, and his love.
I had a teacher in high school who had the book Be Here Now in her home. I thumbed through it and thought it was a bit weird at the time. I didn’t really like the drawings either. I grew up in a strict household and went to a Catholic High School. This type of book and the freedom of the hippie era seemed unusual and forbidden.
A few years later I was in a state of detachment from my body. I thought it was neat to leave my body at first: it felt so free. (Done without the use of drugs...) Then a year of being in this state I realized, oh this is not such a good thing. I didn’t feel free at all, and I didn’t know how to get back into my body or even how to describe to anyone what I was experiencing. I felt in despair. I couldn’t understand how I could be a part of the world and yet not part of it at the same time.
One day I was in the public library searching through the card catalogue and came across the name Ram Dass. I thought it was such a strange name that I looked into it further and found the books, The Only Dance There Is and Grist for the Mill. I was hooked. Here was someone who was describing my experience and putting it into context. That was in the mid 80s. Since that moment I attended Ram Dass lectures as often as I could. I felt such calm when he spoke. I felt I was exactly where I needed to be. I felt, this is somebody who is onto something.
I think it was back in 1995. I was visiting Amsterdam for the first time with my then boyfriend who I had a very tumultuous relationship with. I remember on the second day of being there, he pulled out a number of old-fashioned cassette tapes and told me he brought them for me as a gift, he felt I would like them. I popped one in the tape player and sat down on the floor of the rented apartment we were staying at.
I remember listening for no more than 10 minutes when I started to weep and weep and weep. I wasn’t weeping out of sorrow or even joy. I was somehow just so moved by Ram Dass’ voice and the energy he projected that I felt I finally came home. I was at peace perhaps for the first time in my life. I was 22 then.
After that I would carry the tapes with me everywhere I went and listened to them whenever I could. Later on, when I visited the U.S. for the first time, I bought a few books and read them through one by one, slowly, and repeatedly. The tapes, though, were always my favorite. In 1996, I think, I decided to write Ram Dass a little note in which all I said was “I love you, Ram Dass.” I sent it to the record company who released his tapes. I couldn’t believe that he actually got my note and a couple of months later I received a beautiful letter from him, thanking me for the note and wishing that “I would be a light for many.” I have that letter carefully wrapped and carry it everywhere I move to.
In February 1997, I was visiting San Francisco and I heard on the radio that Ram Dass was going to speak in the Grace Cathedral. I
couldn’t wait to see him and meet him. I arrived an hour early and was clutching on to this piece of paper, a schedule of the talk I guess, that the ushers gave out. I didn’t look at the paper until the official start of the lecture when this guy came out and said that Ram Dass had just suffered a stroke and he would not be attending. The blue sheet of paper I was clutching had the same information on it.
I was devastated and worried about how Ram Dass was doing. Later on I was happy to find that he was recovering, even if very slowly. Then, I think almost 10 years later, when I was living in Boston, I found that Ram Dass was going to speak in Boston in the Arlington church. It was on the day of my birthday and I went and finally was able to experience his presence and his lecture live. I will never forget standing in the long line of people who wanted to say hi to him and thinking of all the things I wanted to say.
Finally, when I stood right in front of him, all I could say was “Thank you, thank you so much.” He looked into my eyes, with a focused, quiet, unwavering look, and said, “No, no, thank you.”
My story is a little unusual because I first met Ram Dass in the flesh, not at a lecture or at a satsang, but rather when he scooped some ice cream for me! It was 1994 and I was 25 years old. I had moved to the Bay Area, was really into the Grateful Dead, and was immersing myself in all of Ram Dass’s books, particularly Journey of Awakening, The Only Dance There Is, and Grist for the Mill. Ben and Jerry’s was opening a new store in San Francisco, and they were having a “Celebrity Scoop-a-thon” to promote it. I had heard that both Bob Weir and Ram Dass would be there, and I simply couldn’t resist a chance to meet two of the most influential and inspiring figures in my life.
When we arrived at the store, I saw a rather lengthy line of folks queued up to get “scooped” by Bobby, but literally no one in front of Ram Dass. I couldn’t believe it! There was Ram Dass!! And no one rushes up to speak to him!!! I felt a strong pull to go over to him; his writings were truly at the core of my spiritual being, but then I felt an even stronger, almost manic force, pulling me towards the back of Bobby’s line. It was like I just couldn’t help it. I mean, it was Bobby!!!
I felt ashamed, not only for myself, but for all of us in the store. Here was standing Richard Alpert/Ram Dass (did I mention that I was formerly a Harvard psychology student?), and yet, given a chance to bask in his presence, we—the masses—were flocking like lemmings to the “Rock Star.” I felt embarrassed, but I also noticed that I felt “bad” for Ram Dass. I suppose I was worried that his feelings would be hurt. No one coming over to talk to him; he was overshadowed by the “Celebrity.”
Well, I got my chance to say hi to Bobby, and it was wonderful. I was surprised to discover that he had a humble and sweet presence, as he asked me “What flavor would you like?” and “Would you like a cup or a cone?” with his wry smile. It was a fantastic experience for my young Deadhead self, and it turns out that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
After talking to Bobby, and after taking a few minutes to collect my swooning young self from the experience, I got up the courage to go over to Ram Dass, who was still just standing alone. What hit me first was his smile. No, not just his smile, but the fiery glow emanating from his eyes. I guess I was expecting his face to appear “peaceful,” but in my youth I associated that idea of inner peace somehow with a lack of intense highs and lows, and I was worried that achieving internal peace might mean a boring existence. Well, as soon as I looked in Ram Dass’s eyes and saw the passion and intensity shining out, those fears were obliterated. It made an incredible impression on me, and I can still see the blissfully alive expression on his face as we spoke.
I was still feeling shame and pity, though, about the whole Bobby thing, so I said to him, “Sorry.” He asked why, and I said, “That we’re all just rushing over to the rock star.” He just beamed back and me and said, “Yes. Bobby is beautiful, isn’t he? You know, he has been extremely generous in giving to SEVA.”
I learned so much that day, about humility, fame, and ego, but what really has stayed with me all these years was the intense,
dancing joy in Ram Dass’s eyes.
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JFK University 1986
Early 90s, 10th grade Earth Science. A girl who was new to our high school was sitting in front of me. She was outwardly gorgeous, but also resonated this different type of vibe from anyone I had ever met before. Her name was Elizabeth. At that time, I was all about girls—girl crazy, I suppose you’d say. So I tried to talk her up a bit, tried to get her to go out on a date with me. She always just sort of kept this solid, steady presence—loving and compassionate whilst completely turning me down!!! Taking the hint that she wasn’t interested, I gave up my ill-fated adolescent pursuit.
A few months later, I was at a bit of a low point in life in general. Too much partying, never enough gratification, altercations with authority/school figures, a lot of 10th grade-type drama. I was sitting in the far corner of a study hall alone, feeling quite sorry for myself (head in hands, bedraggled, slouching), and Elizabeth walked over. I was in such a state that I couldn’t even muster my then notorious energy to try to flirt, but was only receptive to that loving,
compassionate vibe that I had noted in her before. She didn’t say a word.
She reached in her homemade felted bookbag and extracted a copy of Be Here Now, which she gently sat on the table in front of me. She smiled. And she walked away. I just stared at it. Interesting looking book. I stared at it some more. I took it home. And I read it. Despite my typical 10th grade macho, I was surprised to find myself weeping at several points in the book. What the hell? It was like my heart doors blew open, right off their hinges, and try as I might, there was no shutting them.
The following week, I decided I would return the book to Elizabeth, with a letter describing to her what it had done for me. But she was gone. Like many new kids in our high school, she had moved on. Transient. Nobody had gotten close enough to her to know where she had gone. I inquired with as many of my cohorts as possible, but to no avail. I never even knew her last name. But I still have that copy of Be Here Now. It has been there for me in good times and bad for two decades. And those heart doors are still wide open. Thanks, Elizabeth. Thanks, Ram Dass. Love to all...
Ah . . . it must be about 12 years ago now. I think I was in a car going somewhere in North Wales with this guy I’d just met a week or so earlier. Anyway, he was all excited about this drug guru chap called Ram Dass and I think he just wanted to talk to someone about it, so he put a tape on for me to hear him. I’m not sure if I was stoned, (twas not uncommon in those days) but I experienced it at a feeling level as something that was true and trustworthy. Everything he said seemed to resonate with a place in me that always knew this stuff but had never bothered to put it into words. It left me with a notion that all was well, even if I couldn’t explain how.
About five years later I came upon Be Here Now, and was gently led to Miracle of Love and Maharajji. Ahhhhhh, what can I say. Nothing ever felt so right.
The guy in the car by the way became a dear brother and has been sharing the journey with me ever since.
I’ve never met Ram Dass in person, but in spite of this I consider him to be one of the most inspiring spiritual guides in my life. I was raised in a family of Southern Baptist ministers. Both my father and grandfather (on my mother’s side) are ordained. Naturally I grew up a conservative fundamentalist Christian. I am lucky that this was not a hindrance because I was blessed with a very loving family who engaged with their spirituality on an authentic level. And so spirituality was always something very real to me, and it has always been the most important part of my life.
The year was 1999. I was 14 years old and I started questioning my religion. I could not reconcile one definitive question: If the only way to go to heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, then what happens to those who never hear his story? They just go to hell? I could not accept that. And so I lost my faith in my religion. I became interested in comparative religious studies and eastern philosophy. My entire worldview was shattered. I became open to experimenting with mind-expanding drugs and had an indescribable mystical experience on LSD in which I truly did experience the unity of Life. It was through this experience that I realized that spirituality is about going inward. Christianity, as I had been raised to understand it, required grasping on to concepts outside of yourself. This experienced changed my life and opened me to a new dimension of spiritual experience and awareness.
After this I especially became interested in Ram Dass. The fact that psychedelics played such a significant role in his awakening made me feel a special bond with him. The way that he told stories,
his voice, the place from which he spoke—it all felt so personal to me. Like he was speaking my language. Like he was speaking directly to me. I could really feel his words resonate in my heart.
As I continue down my journey, I see more parallels. Ram Dass has devoted his life to the service of others. I am working in San Francisco as a caregiver, and I feel that my life’s purpose is to give love and compassion to others. It has taken me a while to come to this realization within myself, but it all comes down to living from the Heart. The Heart is my center. The Heart is Ram Dass’s center. In this way I feel like we connect at an eternal transcendental spiritual place. He affirms the truest part of my Self. Thank You, Ram Dass, you have made such an impact on my life!
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Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
How was I introduced to Ram Dass? I cannot answer that question without putting it into the context of my whole spiritual journey. So here goes. I will try to be as brief as possible.
In high school in the 70s I was a bona fide Jesus freak. As I matured intellectually, I could no longer believe in a God who would allow beings to suffer eternally for not assenting to the correct conceptual propositions. So I dropped my Christian practice rather abruptly. I turned to the East, discovering the Tao Te Ching and Zen. Read a lot of books in college, but no real practice. In my thirties I was introduced to Zazen at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and got hooked.
As a beginning residential Zen student, now at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in 1993, I was in the student lounge and came across a book entitled From Bindu to Ojas, the first incarnation of Be Here
Now, complete in a cardboard box. Some of it I really liked, especially the references to Jesus, whom I continued to love, in spite of my feelings for the Christianity of my teens. But Be Here Now seemed a little wild, and I had found a clear and sober path in Zen.
I saw the movie “Fierce Grace” maybe five or six years ago, and while watching it I felt that here in Ram Dass was a living spiritual teacher who was real and had integrity, but I didn’t think any more of it at that time.
About two years ago, I started feeling like Jesus was calling to me pretty strongly—a somewhat problematic experience for a Zen Priest, which I had then been for some years. But he wasn’t calling me to be a Christian, thank God. He was calling me to live more from my heart. (Zen, with its emphasis on non-duality and suspicion of emotionalism, can sometimes leave one stuck in their heads.)
I am now partnering with my best friend who 27 years ago started a Franciscan community serving homeless and marginalized in Salinas, CA. I am here as a resident Zen teacher. (I received Dharma Transmission in Suzuki Roshi’s lineage last year.) Now Zen students can come and live and practice Zen in a Soup Kitchen.
Not long ago, Robert asked me what I had been reading and I told him that I had been reading the Gospels a lot recently. (Jesus just won’t leave me alone) I asked him what he had been reading and he said “Ram Dass.” A light went on. I remember reading in Miracle of
Love that someone asked Neem Karoli Baba what he thought of Jesus, and in response Maharajji just wept. Seemed like an appropriate response to me. I thought, maybe Ram Dass’s teaching can help me get more into my heart, and then maybe Jesus will get off my back a little.
My intuition was right. Ram Dass’s teachings have been a tremendous blessing on my life and practice (sadhana). At age fiftythree, after over thirty years of spiritual groping, I have finally actually tasted a little of the Living Water of Cosmic Love. (See the Gospel of John, 4:7-10)
I am writing this while listening to Krishna Das leading kirtan, and tears of joy frequently flow.
I get kinda emotional lately.
I’ve never met Ram Dass physically; however, we are joined in a chain with three links. From 1992 through 1996, while I was studying for my Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in counseling psychology at Suffolk University in Boston, I served as the graduate fellow (translate that to student assistant; the other just sounds more glamorous) to a professor named Stephen. In his undergraduate days at Harvard, Steve had been the student assistant to a professor named Richard Alpert. He always told his educational psychology class, with which I assisted, the story of going to the Arlington Street Church in Boston to see his former “boss,” now transformed to Ram Dass.
At the beginning, everyone sat in silence, as Ram Dass looked one by one at each face. When the gathering was over, all walked past Ram Dass. Steve wasn’t quite sure what to say, but before he had the chance, Ram Dass simply looked him in the eye, nodded, and said “Stephen,” and that was enough.
A year or two into the program, one of my co-workers on a locked psych ward brought in her textbooks; one of them was Be Here Now. Light dawned, and I realized that THIS was the first book by HIM. My co-worker saw my interest, and after hearing my explanation, she surprised me with the gift of my own copy. I wrote to Ram Dass, who (of course) still remembered Stephen. After his stroke, I wrote again, and his assistant told me that when he saw the note, he pointed to my signature as best he could and said “Stephen.”
Now that I am unable to work, although I volunteer when and as I can, I have time to try to make my spiritual life and my daily life one and the same. The two people who have had the most positive and forceful impact on my beliefs and thinking are the Dalai Lama (whom I did hear speak and later saw from less than ten feet away) and Ram Dass, whom I “hear” and “see” in my heart in addition to the audio/video archives. After more than a dozen years, Ram Dass seems far closer, although I never physically stood in his presence and received his smile.
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Santa Fe, NM 2002
... first a little backdrop to frame the story that follows...
We all experience Maharajji in our own personal way. The infinite and the intimate . . . it’s hard to wrap your head around it. Maharajji used to say, “It’s better to see God in everything than to try to figure it out.” Many of the ways we experience his Presence are consistent among us. He’ll come to some in dreams, to others through their imagination. He’ll amplify old song verses buried deep in our subconscious; there are countless possibilities. At times when we are gathered together and I’m looking at a guru brother or sister, I’ll be overwhelmed with a feeling of love so strong, it’s as if in that moment Maharajji were looking though my eyes.
We often feel his caress in the form of a breeze. Hanuman, being the son of the Wind, this seems to make sense. It’s not just any breeze though; it only happens when the mind is still and the heart is open; that peaceful, elevated state, which we sometimes reach through chanting, meditation, and grace. A breeze will swirl around us. There will be birds and butterflies riding the waves of consciousness and wind. Chimes and bells will ring and the light will take on another dimension. It’s not the kind of wind that bounces off you, it’s more like a gentle breeze that flows right through you, touching the deepest recesses of your soul. You become lost in the feeling of breathless fullness where crying and laughter become one and the same.
A Moment In Kainchi...
It was our first morning in Kainchi. The year was 2004 and Ram Dass had not been here for a very long time. He used his walker to go down from his room and enter the Temple area. There were about 15 of us with him. He sat in a chair next to Maharajji’s tucket and we all sat on the ground around him.
It was a crystal clear, beautiful sunny day in the foothills of the Himalayas. So clear and crisp it seemed surreal. The moment was rich in stillness, all of us connected and sharing in a very deep and silent meditation. Every so often RD would say just a few words. He reminisced on the story of the first time he tried to give Maharajji a foot massage, “Maharajji was a lot of fun” he said laughing. We were quiet for a while longer and then RD broke the silence and said, “He was pure Love. He is pure Love.” It grew quiet again.
All at once we heard these beautiful sounds; people speaking softly in Hindi, children laughing, and the ringing of temple bells. A busload of Indian devotees had just arrived and they were going around to the different temples making offerings and prayers. The women dressed in their saris looked like elegant butterflies. The beautiful mixture of sounds, so pure and clear was like the tinkling of crystal. Everything began to merge, a harmonious blending, a timeless moment. I thought of how much Baba loved these village people and was suddenly overcome with that feeling of love. Just then the breeze arrived and I recognized Maharajji’s caress. The group of us visibly swayed in unison, as if we were stalks of wheat blowing in a field. That feeling of fullness . . . my heart blown open. No one spoke a word, but we all felt it. Ram Dass rocked forward in his chair, sobbing, tears streaming down his face.
I dedicated almost exactly all of the 1990s to obtaining an education in neuroscience. I had simultaneously gotten interested in meditation. There was a period of time when I was in graduate school in the late 1990s when I was meditating in what I now recognize as several different methods as shamatha practice. If I was lucky I would meditate several hours in the morning and obtain a clarified, often ebullient, and (for lack of a better word) thin perspective on the world. This state of mind would last for hours and perhaps even spill over into the next day. I thought “Hah, this is a powerful psychological perspective changer. Neuroscientists need to figure out what is going on here.” Around that time, James Austin’s Zen and the Brain came out, which I immediately got and attempted to read.
When the end of graduate school was becoming visible, I looked around for post-doctoral jobs that would use brain imaging to do meditation research. I never found anything of interest. Separately, various traumas that had occurred during my graduate years had left me burned out, and so upon graduating I accepted a position at Microsoft Research and left neuroscience behind.
I did not forget my interest in meditation, however. If anything, seeing the lack of correlation between the financial status of Microsoft mega-millionaires that I worked with and their emotional well-being made me more interested in that bliss state I had experienced during and following meditations in grad school. Several years into my time at Microsoft, the neuroscientists Hanna and Antonio Damasio visited Microsoft. Antonio Damasio suggested that I get in touch with Richard (or Richie) Davidson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, suggesting that we might have similar interests. I did not take action on that suggestion right away.
Subsequently, I attended the first “public” meeting of the Mind and Life Institute at MIT in 2003. The Mind and Life Institute had previously sponsored a number of private dialogs between leading western thinkers (largely scientists) and Tibetan scholars such as the Dalai Lama. These meetings had explored how the philosophical systems compared in their explanations of cosmology, biology, and psychology. At MIT, for the first time in a large venue the Dalai Lama engaged with other intellectual luminaries. I found the meeting quite invigorating, particularly the Dalai Lama’s call for the development of a secular ethics grounded in an understanding of human emotion. On the plane ride home, I wondered why I was still at Microsoft when there was such interesting work to be done.
One reason I was inspired by the meeting was it was the first time I had been able to get a sense for the Dalai Lama’s personality. I had no basis for judging claims that he was a “realized” being, but even in a mundane way he was a remarkable presence.
Several months later I attended the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. I decided to make an appointment with Richie Davidson (who had organized the MIT meeting). I recall hitting it off pretty well with him, and he invited me to come visit him in Madison. Sometime in the winter of 2004 I did so. We hit it off well again. He mentioned that his friend Jonathan Cohen at Princeton University was interested in this line of research. Jon and I had had several exchanges over the years, and with Richie’s encouragement we began to discuss the possibility of my moving from my comfortable life at Microsoft to Princeton to chaperone such a program.
Now I will start a parallel autobiographical storyline. During the early 2000s I had learned a bit about Ram Dass though a friend of mine.
Eventually I came into possession of one his taped lectures, which I found different and refreshing. Sometime in 2003 I decided to write him a letter to get his thoughts on the potential fruitfulness of dedicating one’s career to mixing spirituality and science. I was having a major identity crisis over this issue: How could I balance my interest in those meditation experiences (which unfortunately came from religious cultures) with my interest in science? I arranged for my letter to be sent to him via someone who administered his library of taped lectures. She told me
Ram Dass was not currently meeting with many people, but occasionally he hosted events at a bookstore in San Rafael, California. Should I ever find myself in the Bay Area, I should look up whether he would be at the Open Secret Bookstore.
Time went on. I didn’t hear anything. I thought one or two unkind thoughts towards him having not gotten a response. But for most part I forgot about Ram Dass.
The better part of a year later (April 2004, I believe) I found myself attending a conference in San Francisco. The conference began on Saturday. During the afternoon of the preceding Thursday it occurred to me that I should check to see if Ram Dass would be at Open Secret. After a little bit of Googling (I did not remember the name of the bookstore) I learned that he would appear that Sunday. I spent some time considering my options. Could I attend? I would have to skip quite a bit of the conference. But there was nothing critical on my calendar apart from my graduate school mentor receiving an award, and that was in the evening. However, did I want to pay for a rental car and, more-to-the-point, arrange parking in downtown San Francisco for a number of days just so I could drive up to San Rafael for a few hours? I decided that I would not attend.
Some minutes after I made that decision, the friend who initially introduced me to the world of Ram Dass called me. He said something like, “You remember that guy Ram Dass that I mentioned to you before? He is going to be at a bookstore this Sunday. I know you will be attending this meeting at the Embarcadero Center. If you have the time, you should consider taking the ferry that leaves from right across the street. It stops in Larkspur. My house is just a few blocks from there. I can scoop you up and take you over.”
I was equal parts surprised by the timing and surprised that I could see Ram Dass for so little effort or expense. I felt obligated to go.
We walked into a room that I estimated had somewhat more than one hundred people. People were singing Hindu songs, which was a novel and challenging experience for me. At the front was Ram Dass in his wheelchair, smiling to no one in particular, a small picture of Maharjji on the platform next to him. We slotted ourselves into spots on the floor some rows back and drank in this cultural challenge.
Sometime later the singing ended. Ram Dass said something like, “This is how things are going to work. You can ask questions, if there are any, and I will attempt to answer them from the deeper wisdom that we all share. Are there any questions?”
A lot of hands shot up. I found that my hand had shot up too. “This is the asshole that ignored my letter,” I thought to myself. “Now I can get back at him in public for ignoring me.” But then I thought “Wait, there are a lot of people here. What, concisely speaking, was the question I had for him?” So I quickly put my hand down. As I recall it, I spent the next ninety minutes or so processing on what my question was. I largely tuned out the other dialog and just tried to think of a clever distillation of my previous letter. My identity crisis flared up. Eventually a sentence popped into my head.
At that moment Ram Dass was answering another question. He stopped, turned, and pointed in my direction. He said “You have a question.” Since my hand hadn’t been up, I thought he was pointing to someone behind me. We were far enough back that it was hard to tell exactly who he was pointing to, though. I sat there patiently assuming someone would speak up. A few awkward moments later he said with a smile, “You have a question,” and again pointed to me.
Now I started to realize that something outside my normal experience had happened. A startled response began. Reflecting back on it, I recall experiencing several things in confluence. To use a computer metaphor, there was the “buffer overrun” factor—the worldview that I had loosely affiliated with had suddenly crashed at an inconvenient moment. Then there was the everybody-staring-atme factor, which of course trumped the others. I had to look cool in front of the others. So I asked my question.
I have a less-than-perfect memory for language, but I said something pretty close to this: “I have the opportunity to study the brains of adept meditators with some top brain scientists. Is there anything to be gained by doing this?”
Banter followed. I will set aside most of that discussion for another day, but one thing Ram Dass said was “Real yogis use their hearts.” I heard that as a lack of endorsement to my secret desire to become a “contemplative neuroscientist.” I have since worked a lot with that utterance and see it as less of a value judgment. Curiously, it was repeated almost verbatim by a well-regarded Bhutanese meditation practitioner. He waited until after I had completed two days scanning his brain to gingerly mention that I was studying the wrong organ.
After the formalities at Open Secret were over, I managed to chat with Ram Dass further. Amongst other things, I mentioned that I had really enjoyed reading his book Miracle of Love. He lit up. “That is my best book.” Then he got excited, and tried to articulate something. “There is a new book.” Pause. “An Indian devotee.” He motioned to a woman across the room. “She can tell you.” Upon returning to Seattle I obtained a copy of the book Divine Reality. That led to a series of interesting events, but which go beyond the intended scope of the current essay about meeting Ram Dass.
I took something else out of that day. It seemed as if someone had known my mind, which is against the rules of science as I understood them. Having already read some about Maharjji, I began to suspect Maharjji was the puppet master behind this. Later on I was fortunate to spend some days visiting Ram Dass and was left strongly with the impression that Ram Dass was indeed the puppet in that instance (but the Buddhist in me wants to argue that there is no puppet master, it just is). Ram Dass almost certainly saw the episode from a totally different perspective, and in any event had no memory of it. Regardless, the entire experience including the synchronous travel arrangement was too much for my poor rational mind to take. While I did end up engaging in the scientific study of adept meditation practitioners, I have found that I see the enterprise more as a form of the universe than as an effort that will unravel the deepest mystery of the universe.
In September of 2000 I was enrolled in a month-long yoga teacher training program at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. I went there as an atheist but that is not how I left. My girlfriend was looking to start a camp for special needs children and I thought I could help out by becoming a certified yoga instructor.
At the time I had never heard of Ram Dass, but the few days before he was to arrive at Omega everyone seemed very excited. Nearly everyone was asking, “Ram Dass is coming, aren’t you
excited?” I would smile and nod a bit but think, “Ram Dass, who is that?” So I was merely happy because everyone else was happy. One person told me if I bought Ram Dass’s book and asked for his autograph, he would sign it in exchange for a hug! I like hugs, I thought.
One day, Ram Dass was speaking down at the lake and while he was talking I was in one of my training classes, still “unaware” of who Ram Dass was. During this class something happened to me that eventually took me years to understand. I lay in Savasana at the end of class when suddenly three waves of energy surged through my body, from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. One, two, three . . . and “I” was gone! I felt no separation between me and everything, from a billion years past to a billion years in the future; “i” was gone.
When I came back into my body, tears were streaming down my face. After sorting myself out, I left the Lake house. My physical body was sweating and hungry; to the right of me were showers, to the left was the lake where that dude Ram Dass was still talking. I was swept up in a flow of energy I could not see, so left it was. When I got to the lake I noticed everyone had rainbows streaming out of them. I rubbed my eyes. Surely the tears were still hanging on to my lashes. On the stage was an old man in a wheelchair radiating the biggest rainbow of them all. I don’t know what he was talking about; I was too busy rubbing my eyes and marveling at all the rainbows. I dabbed and rubbed my eyes over and over, but still there were rainbows everywhere.
After I listened and marveled at the colors around me, Ram Dass was wheeled away. On the way to showers is the Omega book store, so I stopped in and bought his book Still Here. The only thought I recall while getting the book was “I like hugs.” Somehow I found food and a shower before kirtan was to start in the main hall. Whatever that was.
I stepped in to the crowded main hall, Ram Dass’s book in my backpack. There he was, seated at the Puja Altar surrounded by lots of people still sporting rainbows. At that moment I felt fear. Me, the atheist. I closed my eyes and asked, if I am meant to be with Ram Dass, then I am going to need help because my legs were not moving.
When I opened my eyes and looked across the hall, Ram Dass was alone (when does that ever happen?) I took my first step across the abyss and the next thing I knew I was kneeling next to him telling him my story. He smiled and laughed, clapped, signed my book, gave me a big hug and kiss. Looking into his blue blue eyes, it happened again. Sucked right back out into the universe, “i” was gone right out into everything.
My next recollection was sitting with my back supported against the stage looking at the puja table. On the altar were lot of pictures, mostly of people, and at the top was a large picture of a
smiling man wrapped in a blanket. I know now that man is our beloved Neem Karoli Baba, but I did not know then. Gazing up at his picture, my heart flew open. I was in love, literally in love, and it was palpable. It was in me, around me, emanating from everyone and everything . I looked at all those rainbow-infested beings around me and they were in love, so I thought I would join them.
The music, the kirtan, came into my awareness as love. I got up and danced. I danced in love and joy. My life had changed and I had changed. Ever since I have been dancing that dance of joy and love. Oh there are pitfalls and I stumble, but my beloved Ram Dass helps me through. Whether I’m talking with him, reading his teachings or closing my eyes and seeking him in my heart, he gives me compassionate loving council. Ram Ram
P.S. I know who Ram Dass is now.
I’m less than a month aware of Ram Dass and Maharajji. I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of him in the 70s, as I was a spiritual seeker then. The only thing that I can think of was that I judged the use of drugs to go within although I used marijuana myself. Isn’t it interesting how we can do that?
My life’s experiences were based on plunking myself into an incarnation of a consciously based world where I didn’t fit. So much of my awareness was brought to me through unconscious levels. I was aware that so much of “me” was happening on other dimensional levels, as it does all of us, but I knew it and was aware. So most of my life was trying to figure out why I was different and that I wasn’t crazy :)
A few weeks ago I had an out-of-body experience where I was in a big city. A bunch of people were ushering me to this brownstone. I didn’t understand and didn’t want to go. Fear is a big karmic issue that I deal with. In this brownstone there were two men. One was dressed in spiritual robes and sat and received people in a prayer room. I can remember the cloth draped over his arm, bare chest, and it wrapped below his waist. The other looked very American and was busy kind of organizing people that wanted to see that man. They both seemed to be on an equal level of understanding.
When I got there the first man said no she wouldn’t die. He seemed to be unsatisfied with me. Then that man that was in the prayer room yelled out NO! Don’t turn her away. She can do the work!! She can do the work!! And so they let me in.
I remembering saying to myself, who is that man? I need to know on a conscious level who he/they are.... and the answer was . . . Ram Dass.
And so here I am happily and without fear :)
I’ve been really enjoying reading, listening to the online videos. I’m in Canada, which makes me feel a world apart physically, but as the dream demonstrated there is no separation in spirit. I’ve never met Ram Dass in person and probably never will. That is why I’m so thankful of the forums here, his published works, and all of his and Maharajji’s teachings that he has shared with the world.
My meeting with Ram Dass is a journey inspired by Spirit and Grace.
In the Easter holidays of 2008 I was traveling with a friend on a long, straight highway to Broken Hill in outback New South Wales, Australia. We were listening to a CD on which Dr. Wayne Dyer read out the letter, which Ram Dass wrote to the parents of Rachel, a little girl, who had been brutally murdered. At that time the words of that letter had a profound effect on me and I thought it was the most beautiful letter I had ever heard. Words such as pain “must burn its purifying way to completion for something in you dies when you bear the unbearable. And it is only in that Dark Night of the Soul that you are prepared to see as God sees and to love as God loves.” Then the encouragement to persevere and to trust: “... our hearts, if we keep them open to God, will find their own intuitive way.” On the same CD, Dr. Wayne Dyer indicated that Ram Dass held satsangs on Maui, where he resides, and he said, “If you go there, he will welcome you.”
Fast forward to March 2009: I decided to attend a conference in Philadelphia. Planning my trip from Australia to mainland U.S.A., I realized that I would be flying over the Pacific Ocean and I remembered that Ram Dass lived on Maui. When I looked up his website my attention was immediately drawn to the Maui Sacred Pilgrimage. As well as visiting sacred sites and being exposed to Buddhist teachings and participating in Sufi and Hawaiian shamanistic rituals, there was an opportunity to interact in some way with Ram Dass each day. I inquired and was duly booked in to attend.
The day before I was due to fly out from Sydney to Maui, I had to cancel my trip. I was very disappointed as I had been really looking forward to the Pilgrimage and the meeting with Ram Dass. The organizer of the Pilgrimage, sensing my disappointment, became proactive in organizing for me a 5-day private retreat with Ram Dass a few weeks later.
At the end of June I was met at Kahului Airport by Ram Dass’ personal assistant, Dassi Ma, who drove me to the ohana, part of Ram Dass’ ashram on the northern shores of Maui, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where I was to spend the next 5 days. It was a glorious time. I read, meditated, swam in the pool, and in the evenings Dassi Ma brought me delicious meals which I enjoyed on the peaceful terrace at the rear of the ohana.
My first introduction to Ram Dass occurred when Dassi Ma was taking me on a tour around the grounds of the ashram soon after I arrived. Ram Dass was standing in the pool. It is interesting what we notice when we see people for the very first time. I was struck by his very straight back and by his easy, engaging manner. (The straight back is probably due to all that yoga and meditation, I later mused.)
The day after I arrived and the ensuing days I had one-on-one sessions with Ram Dass. I enjoyed great chats with him and his advice was so simple, yet so spot-on that it has carried me forward in my life to this present day. His presence is awe-inspiring and his way of offering unconditional love permeated my soul and will stay with me forever.
On the last day of my retreat I was given the opportunity to be included in Swim Day at Kihei. Seeing Ram Dass, ably supported by Dassi Ma and Michael Crall, and joined by other visitors, freely swimming in the sea, was a magical experience for me.
Dr. Wayne Dyer was right. Ram Dass welcomes you.
I went to a retreat in Hawaii in Fall of 2006 after being introduced to Krishna Das’s music earlier that year. I knew nothing of Ram Dass but the name.
I had an epiphany four years earlier where I spontaneously understood that the source of all the conflict I had in my life (a lot at the time) was completely due to my fear and insecurity.
The retreat was my first introduction to Ram Dass. I enjoyed it but didn’t feel very connected. I came back for the next retreat the following Spring, and I wasn’t sure why. When I mentioned this to a yogini in the hills on Maui, she said, “You are here to give birth to your heart.” The Dalai Lama was in Maui at the same time, I kept trying to find a way into the inner circle—the group at Ram Dass’s home and those who were part of the entourage of HH. I also kept trying to find a way to get Ram Dass interested in me. I spoke with him after his talks, tried to get to see him privately, shared my “profound” insights during satsang meetings. It all came to nothing. I never got the attention or admiration from Ram Dass that I sought and could mistake for love. What I did get was a humble and authentic introduction to the satguru himself. It was as if Ram Dass was saying, “Here, John. Here is your real treasure. Here is your healing. Here is Maharajji.”
That I met Maharajji and recognized him was so overwhelming I am still reeling from it. My life is a continued meditation of the subtle balance between force and flow. Watching and participating in the unfolding of Maharajji’s grace. My ambitions animated me, and moved me toward something so much more profound than I had intended. I am astonished at how much I don’t know about what I don’t know. This is Marharajji’s gift, through Ram Dass.
I got to know about Ram Dass when I discovered Wayne Dyer around 2008. I was interested in Dyer’s mentors while looking inward through meditation. I knew about Ram Dass way back when I was on my own ego trip in the 70s, but I took a different path all through my twenties into my forties.
About 6 years ago I got interested in yoga, the yoga sutras, and everything India. The universe was opening up its secrets. I was so comforted listening to Ram Dass on the Bhagavad Gita lecture that the rules of life were beginning to make sense. I started collecting Ram Dass lectures and all his books. “Ahhh,” I said to myself. You know, that feeling when something resonates.
I could not get enough of all of the 8 limbs of yoga and bhakti from Ram Dass to Krishna Dass to Satsang. I do believe that my life circumstances led me to Neem Karoli Baba thru Ram Dass. I started to chant mantras to see if anything would happen. I learned the universe listens and hears all. I had dreams and wishes for myself as well as for others and a unique path to live by. Some answers would show up in the oddest manner. Thanks, Ganesha, you led me to Hanuman-ji.
I had wondered what my spiritual soul name was. While I was quite ill, I took time off work and read all the devotees’ books about Maharaj ji. I heard the name I longed to hear and I joked back, “That’s a boy’s name.” But Babaji whispered that it was okay and I should take it. Later that week I was looking on the internet for a Hanuman necklace and I did find it. My computer literally gave me a shock when the right Hanuman was chosen. As it turns out, it was previously sold and the artist agreed to personalize another necklace just for me. I became friends with her and she was one of the original devotees in the picture of the westerners following NKB with the umbrella.
Her husband was one of the photographers that snapped so many wonderful photos that we all love. With Grace and Gratitude, I am happy to be in the circle of NKB and Hanuman devotees. The electric sensations continue as I think of Maharajji to this day. Thank you, Ram Dass. So although I have never been in the same room as Ram Dass, I have been befriended by many of the people that have enjoyed his presence and teachings.
It was somewhere around 2003 and I was going through a very difficult time. My husband and I were getting divorced and our three children were only one, three, and four years old. I was pretty much on the ground, not able to move. I saw the movie “Fierce Grace” at a video store and rented it. It spoke so incredibly deeply to my being as I watched it, and then at the end something that I call miraculous happened.
At the end of the movie Ram Dass is saying something like, “… life after the stroke is like a whole new incarnation . . . I try to find peace in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment . . .” These words sent an impulse through me and I had a new understanding of my life and with it came some tools for finding peace in a very “unpeaceful” time. I left the room and went into the kitchen, listening to the song as the credits rolled. Suddenly I heard talking, and I thought it was one of those movies where there is more film at the end, so I went into the room and Ram Das was on the screen saying, “I try to find peace in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment . . .” How poetic I thought, putting that again at the end. It really made a point. Still trying to find peace in each moment.
But then it was as if a loud inaudible voice laughed and said, “No, that’s not part of the movie everyone else sees.” It immediately felt as if something special had happened just for me. I watched
the movie again the next day and it didn’t do that at the end as it had the day before. I got the message. I am convinced Maharajji had something to do with it. I found the book Paths to God and it helped me incredibly. I found Ram Dass’s live webcasts and discovered a friend and guide. I feel like I have known him a very long time though I can’t really explain it. He feeds me as he was instructed to do. I had the blessing of “meeting” him through a heart-to-heart last year during another very difficult time and he helped gather me and gave me tools for my journey. This satsang has been a huge blessing to me and I am thankful for all of you.
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view this and other videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
Maui, HI 2006
I have loved Ram Dass for a few years now, ever since I first read Be Here Now. Last April my good friend Daniel said, “We should just go to Maui and meet him.” Immediately I said yes. We bought plane tickets and I requested the days off of work. This was before I had any idea of how we were even going to get a hold of him. During the months of May, I began looking what I wanted to do next fall. During this time I was also trying to discover how I was going to meet Ram Dass when we visited Maui in June.
After exploring his website I discovered that he constantly gives talks in Maui. “That settles it,” I thought. “Rather than try to meet him when I come (which seemed hopeless), I will explore woof farms on Maui and see if any fit.” During this time I also signed up for the online satsang and learned about heart-2-hearts. Well, when I contacted them I just asked if I could meet him in person. I never heard a response, but somehow at this point I knew that it would work out.
I was receiving “signs” all over the place. For one, I told my boss I was quitting my job at the end of this summer, and when she asked why I told her about Ram Dass. It turned out she had read Be Here Now and so we really bonded. The next sign (and this is kind of ridiculous) was I discovered AFTER I HAD BOUGHT MY PLANE TICKET that the day before we were to leave for Maui, Krishna Das was giving a concert in Seattle!!! (where I was currently living) so I went and saw him. It was breathtaking. After the concert I felt a pull to talk to him, so I did and told him I was going to meet Ram Dass. (Right before the concert I got a confirmation email saying I could meet him.) He gave me a hug for Ram Dass.
When I met Ram Dass in Maui it was amazing. I gave him the hug from Krishna Das (and one from myself) and then told him the reason I was moving to Maui was to be close to him, and asked him if he had any work that needed to be done around the house. He said he did, and gave me his “personal recommendation” to work there. So now I am moving to Maui in September. I have yet to hear back from Ram Dass about this, but he said I could, and now I have faith that this is supposed to happen (especially since I am going to volunteer my time) I AM SO EXCITED!
Editor postscript—Ken has been working at Ram Dass’s house as a personal assistant since he arrived in Maui two years ago.
Hello Wonderful People. I was spending time with a friend out of town and he loaned me the CD set “Here We All Are” for the drive home. I found a deep connection to Ram Dass developing in my heart from listening to the narrative of his life and experiences with Maharajji.
Although I have a Christian background, I’ve gravitated towards (superficial?) aspects of Buddhism over time, which at least prepared me to meet Baba’s words with an open awareness. After telling my father about the CD, he told me he had a signed copy of How Can I Help? that he’d been saving for me, which I believe Ram Dass signed for my father at a lecture in the 1980s. I now have the book, which has the inscription: “To Christopher. Through a father’s heart we meet. In Love, Ram Dass”
I was pretty shocked as it seems as though he is/was speaking to me directly at a time I needed him the most. Now as I learn more about Maharajji, it’s hard to deny I’m onto something very powerful, and can’t thank Ram Dass enough for what he’s done for me by just being.
About 5 years ago I stumbled upon Eckhart Tolle, who mentioned in one of his talks that “Fierce Grace” is a very good movie. I felt a strong need to watch this film and so I did. The film is powerful
and I was instantly blown away and attracted to Ram Dass and Maharajji. They entered my life instantly right there and then.
After watching the film I wanted more and I started to read Ram Dass’s books and listened to his workshops and talks. It was as if he simply explained the truth about life to me. I could finally see that all the little dramas of my life (read ego) and all my needs, wants, likes, dislikes and all that, was “just not that interesting,” that it was all very beautifully poignant. What a relief to know that life, including suffering, is magical and I now may, can, and do come up for air and play when I want to. I could now (try to) be in the world and not of the world. It was like coming home after being lost for a very, very long time. Like a glass of crystal clear cool water at the end of a hot dry day in the dessert. When my father passed I was able to accept his death, to really grieve and feel the pain but also not to get lost in the drama.
When I was falsely diagnosed with incurable bone cancer, I did get lost in that drama most of the time, but listening to Ram Dass I was also able to come up for air every now and then. What a relief!
I have not (yet) met Ram Dass in person, but I did have the wonderful experience of speaking to him on Skype. I had many questions ready for him but the moment he appeared on my screen and I heard his voice, I could not remember one of them. During his amazing life thousands and thousands of people have asked him every question there is and ever will be and my questions did not seem to matter anymore. I just wanted to sit with him.
Even though there are about 8000 miles between us, he guides me every day. I do hope Maharajji will agree for me to travel to Maui soon just to give Ram Dass a big hug. Love and gratitude is all that comes to mind.
Namasté teacher! Ram Ram.
A few years before I knew who Ram Dass was, or even of his existence, I had found Bhagavan Dass’s music via MySpace. To this day, I still love BD’s music. It has been very influential to me, and contributed to my spiritual evolution in more ways than I could possibly comprehend. I found it ironic that Bhagavan Das led Ram Dass to Maharajji. In a sense he led me to him as well, or at least started me out on that path. He’s a natural leader!
New Years Eve 2010, I and four of my closest friends, and a friend of a friend, took a super long road trip to Oklahoma City, OK, from Baton Rouge to see The Flaming Lips New Year’s Freakout. The friend of a friend had brought along for the ride Ram Dass’s book: Remember, Be Here Now. I was immediately intrigued by the layout of the book, the pictures captivated me, everything I read I found to be absolutely true. By the time we arrived, I had read through the entire brown section. Drinking up the spiritual knowledge and wisdom, nourishing my soul.
It was not long after that trip that I had a copy of my own, which I have referred to at many points in my life. Then one day I watched the Ram Dass movie on Netflix, and I finally had a face to a name. I saw Ram Dass and old friends like Bhagavan Das, and I finally got the essence of Maharajji. It really brought everything together. To date, one of the most emotional moments in my life was when my girlfriend and I watched the part of the movie where Ram Dass is sitting and talking with a girl who, if I’m not mistaken, I believe to be his daughter. She’s talking about someone whom she loved, who died while in a foreign country. I think she said that she was visited by him in a dream, but the part that reached down to the very depths of my soul and caused me to spew forth with such happiness and sadness and warmth and all manner of complicated emotions, was when she told Ram Dass what her love told her in that dream. He said something to the manner of “The
love we shared while I was alive, is not dead. You will love someone again in this life, and when you do, our love will become a part of it.”
My girlfriend and I both cried as we sat there, completely touched by the experience.
It is FEELINGS like these that let me know Jah exists. I feel it. Therefore, I know it to exists.
What is more true, Science or feelings? Something is true until it is proven wrong. Many scientific theories have been disproved. No Feelings Have.
Back in the 70s I saw Ram Dass’s book, Be Here Now, but that was not where I was then. In the 80s I did mushrooms and had a religious experience, and in the 90s I joined a Hindu group. I left disappointed and heartbroken, went to another Hindu group, left angry and dead inside. Went to Buddhism and couldn’t relate to “no God,” left to join another Buddhist group and was disappointed in what was being taught. Fed up, I gave up.
Then I found the book American Veda and thought it would be interesting because it talked about the history of Hinduism in the West. In the book, it mentioned that people liked Ram Dass because he was, if I recall correctly, open and honest about his failings. I was rather surprised because I had been taught that gurus were pure, and I was disappointed when I learned otherwise. I always said, “If they could only be honest.”
So I bought Grist for the Mill, and here I am at 69 years old finding Ram Dass. Good a time as any. I am now reading Still Here, and watching videos. Today I listened to part of “The Only Game in Town is Being,” and how he admitted to not liking to be a hypocrite, that he doesn’t always love everyone, and then he admitted to being angry. It touched me because I have been in these religions where I was not supposed to feel anger, not supposed to say how I felt, and basically was to love everyone, which is good if you can, but I felt a lot of guilt when I didn’t find myself feeling love all the time. I think Ram Dass has a lot to teach me.
I will probably never accept another guru in my life, but I will listen to teachings when they touch my heart, and so many things that Ram Dass says touch my heart.
I have a lot of healing to do on myself due to my experiences with gurus in the past, and I don’t expect to get healed in this lifetime, but oh well, it is the path and I will be on it forever, I guess.
Aware of Ram Dass for decades, I’ve never felt closer to him than in the past few months. On April 19th of this year, I fell hard on my outdoor front steps while intending to deliver fresh baked bread as a gift to my next door neighbor. I snapped my deltoid ligament, broke my ankle, and shattered the fibula. Surgery on 28 April involved major reconstruction including the insertion of a metal plate, many screws, and a pin. The surgeon’s recovery instructions included 10 weeks of strict bed rest with the casted leg elevated. He advised I was facing 14 months of recovery time.
Although by profession now I serve as an animal communicator, animal holistic wellness coach, and veterinary intuitive, I am a ballroom dancer by passion, having competed successfully in national and international competition. Fourteen months until being able to dance again felt like a horrific sentence. Also, as a very self-sufficient former corporate executive, having to depend on others for virtually everything felt uncomfortable, even impossible. I needed assistance with body elimination functions, personal hygiene, clean clothes, food, bed sheets, help walking and feeding my dog, and much more. Feeling my body become increasingly deconditioned day after day in forced bed rest and being mostly unable to move was almost unbearable.
Six weeks into this journey I was visited by a dear friend, a follower of Ram Dass from his very emergence. He brought with him the video, “Fierce Grace.” I had seen it before yet this time, the message touched me in a wholly different way. I watched it multiple times. I gained new insights and felt energy shift in deeper ways each time.
Watching the video, I was reminded that after Ram Dass had his stroke, for quite some time, he “bought into” the conversation that he had HAD a stroke. One day, he woke up and realized that he had been GIVEN a stroke by his guru, a gift of love he came to call “Fierce Grace.” He had BEEN stroked.
I saw instantly parallels in my own situation. Although I would shift again, I came first to understand that I was GIVEN a break by my guru, Sathya Sai Baba, who promised his devotees he would burn off and clear their major karma before he died. Baba died the Sunday AFTER I fell.
I realized I had been knocked quite literally off my feet and was being invited to move through an extraordinary range of archetypal healing levels from cocooning (being confined to bed for over two 2 months) to crawling to standing to walking with even greater heart-centered compassion, clarity, and contribution in this world.
Watching “Fierce Grace” a third time, one sentence changed my life yet again. The awareness came to me that if I dropped the mental conversation of any need or requirement for continuity with the who that I was before the injury and the who that I am now, virtually all suffering dissolved. I simply became the woman in a red cast healing.
And in that moment, I shifted from having been GIVEN a break, to RECEIVING the break.
Thank you, Ram Dass.
Sorry for my English, I’m a French Canadian.
How did I fall in love with Ram Dass ? Well, this is a long story to tell shortly. Five years ago, when I was fully in love with the Dalai Lama, where I was working I had a boss, his name was Serge. He passed me a videotape of the living and dying process of the Tibetans, and following that documentary was one about the Hanuman Foundation. However, I didn’t take really notice of it until a year ago, when I was fed up working in a stupid office, and I said to myself there must be something else that I could do for the good of myself and others.
I met a lady that was a Reiki Master, meaning she used the energy of God to heal people. So there’s the whole documentary coming back in my head and I realized that was what I wanted to do —help people that are sick and that are dying with the energy of God ! So I did my first level. I was searching for some relaxing music, so I went on the internet and downloaded a complete file of meditating music. In this file there was Krishna Das and my son of three at that time fell in love with him so much that even today I’m not allowed to put on other music than him. My son made me buy almost all his CDs ( I guess he’s a Krishna Das devotee).
In January, on the day that Krishna Das was in Montreal, I gave birth to my third little girl, Ananda. My son was really disappointed we could not go, so we kept on searching for a show in Montreal. I decided to be on his mailing list and received an e-mail saying that Ram Dass had a new website needing donations. So I go to Love Serve Remember and start to read about Ram Dass and guess what, he was my motivation for being a Reiki Master; he built the Hanuman Foundation. So now I’m a Reiki Master. Thank You, Ram Dass. Because of you my life has changed a lot. If you hadn’t had put this seed in my heart, maybe I would have never known that GOD exists!
I was 19 years old, struggling with anxiety and depression, while on summer vacation from college in Seattle. I was in a bookstore in Montana while visiting my mom. Journey to Awakening, the little blue paperback, caught my eye. I took it home and tried the little sample meditation Ram
Dass shared in the book about putting our thoughts on leaves and watching the leaves float down the river.
I was graced at the time because I did that meditation non-stop for two weeks. I truly was enlightened for two straight weeks as I was not identified with my thoughts at all and I was deeply immersed in the present moment and free! Of course, that was enough to hook me. But, when I went back to college, my whole identity came crashing back over me!
Ever since I have had a deep heart connection with Ram Dass, and ultimately I realized Neem Karoli Baba was my guru. After a heart to heart I had with Ram Dass, he told me that Maharajji was my guru if I was so drawn to Ram Dass all these years. It was really Maharajji’s energy. I have had many dreams about Maharajji and visions. I pray and sing kirtan to him on my puja table every day. Whenever I meet or see Ram Dass, I either burst into tears or laughter. Both are expressions of my deep, abiding love for him. I feel Ram Dass in my heart. He introduced me to my Soul and I will never ever ever be able to repay him for that, no matter how hard I try. Ram Ram.
When I was a child—maybe between 6 to 8 years old (sometime around 1976)—we went camping at the Lama Foundation and spent a month there. My mother tells me that Ram Dass taught for a week, Brother David for a week, and there was Sufi dancing. I vaguely think I remember a man with a long beard, smiling face, and white robes, but this could be from pictures since. I remember my mom went on a weekend retreat in a beautiful hut that we visited and that I missed her. My father had pictures of Hanuman on the wall, and the Buddha, and Jesus, etc., and talked about Ram Dass as well as other teachers, and I remember looking at the pictures in Be Here Now as a child.
I forgot about all of this, though, as I grew. As an adult I had had a beautiful spiritual journey, and one day I was looking at a Louise Hay email and saw an ad for Krishna Das’s new book/CD, Chants of a Lifetime (I’d never heard of Krishna Das, nor of kirtan singing, nor did I normally click on advertisements!). For some unexpected-to-me-reason, I clicked on this and as I was reading the book excerpt and listening to the music, I started sobbing for no reason. Nothing was wrong in my life; everything was fine and good, and yet I cried freely and openly for 10 minutes, like my heart broke open and I had come home.
I immediately ordered the book and started singing along to the music. I fell in love with Maharajji. Ram Dass and his writing, especially at that time (Miracle of Love and Paths to God), became a portal for me to be close to Maharajji. Krishna Das’s music brings me into Maharajji. Ram Dass words in every form take me closer to the place where I can be close to Maharajji and try to live in that space. After this opening, when I heard through Wayne Dyer that Ram Dass relies on donations for his living (having given all the proceeds of his books to charitable foundations), I felt called to give a specific amount; I felt like Maharajji gave the amount and where to give it, though it took me a few months to have the courage to do so. It was only after I had given that I found out that through this, I would be able to Skype with Ram Dass. What a miracle that was for me!
The two times I’ve talked to Ram Dass, it has been a way to talk to Maharajji in the flesh, to practice being in Maharajji. I know Ram Dass is not Maharajji, but he also is—as we all are. I feel as if I can hear Maharajji through him, and I think he is hearing Maharajji everywhere. I am grateful to have him as an older brother, fellow soul with the same teacher, and grateful to all in the Love Serve Remember Satsang for the same reason, and when I remember, grateful to everyone for being a portal for God, for being God. What great play! Ram Ram Namasté.
In 2002 I had been practicing kriya yoga through the Self-Realization Fellowship teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda for about 6 years and knew that I had found my guru. However, I also began to feel very strongly internally guided toward the End-of-Life Care Practitioner Program offered by the Metta Institute (at the time offered through Zen Hospice Project) as a way of integrating my daily work in health care with my private spiritual practices.
Ram Dass is on the faculty of this 9-month long program. I felt conflicted at the time because the program faculty were from all different spiritual paths (mostly Buddhist) and I was afraid that by going through the program I would somehow be disloyal to my own guru, Yogananda. I felt very comforted when Ram Dass came to lecture at the program and began immediately speaking about his love for his own guru. I asked him about loyalty, how to remain loyal to my guru who is no longer in the body, and his reply was, “Your whole life is a constant conversation between you and your guru; your guru doesn’t care if you are loyal as long as you are racing toward God.”
This response still moves me deeply and tears well up, as it soothed a very heartfelt misunderstanding I had at the time about organizational loyalty vs loyalty to the guidance of the awakening inner guru (especially when the two appear to conflict) and encouraged me to trust in the process of evolutionary growth I was experiencing, which was catalyzed by the program.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ram Dass, from one very grateful chela to another!
In August of 2005, I came to know Ram Dass through Bhagavan Das, whom I met at a kirtan in Los Angeles at the invitation of my college friend Shiva Baum.
Even when Shiva and I were only acquaintances back in school, we always had a deeper understanding, like we were connected through something beyond what we knew in our every-day
lives. I had been up to his house once and saw photos of his father, Mohan, and Ram Dass and others in India with Maharajji, and although I didn’t know what it was all about at the time, I appreciated the history, spirit, and camaraderie they shared. I now understand all of this to be Satsang.
My understanding of Hindu mythology was solely intellectual, based on studies that encompassed a variety of religions and philosophies. After college while living in NY, I studied Kabbalah for a brief time as a way to understand a new and in-depth spiritual perspective. However, pursuing any kind of road-map to attain or even understand my connection with a “higherconsciousness” was not on my radar. I had partying to do! I was always somehow aware of the “oneness of everything” and was comfortable with the ideas of God and spirituality, but I was very far from seeking answers or any kind of path or practice.
In 2004, I started attending kirtan more regularly, and one night I was totally struck. I felt “IT.” I was genuinely happy and everything was just filled with a warm fuzzy brightness. I just kept smiling, and I wanted to be in that space and share those feelings as much as possible.
My meeting with Bhagavan Das was profound. It opened me up to myself and to the notion of a “path” in ways I never would have imagined. He approached my demons and divinity alike without any judgement at all, and I felt an acceptance that I hadn’t really known before.
After being blessed to spend some time with Bhagavan Das and his friend Narayan, they called me one night to ask if I’d be interested in meeting someone who needed some support working on a project with Ram Dass. Well, having recently left my job and going through some sudden and major shifts, I thought, “why not?” I was still only vaguely aware of who, exactly, Ram Dass was.
I met with Sridhar (the founder of the Center for Spiritual Studies), we talked about the upcoming retreat, and agreed that it seemed like a good fit. I then met with Raghu, who had also been with Ram Dass, Mohan, and others in India with Maharajji; we sorted out some other details, and my work with Ram Dass’s organization on the retreats and website began.
It took me a while to realize that Maharajji was in my life. I spent a lot of time at first hearing about Neem Karoli Baba through Satsang, but I always questioned where he was in my own life. Even the obvious clues left me wondering.
On the first retreat, I had an experience that some close friends later called Darshan. I didn’t even know what that was, but I knew, in that moment, that my connection with Maharajji had opened my soul in a way that was totally real and almost supernatural. It was both a physical and emotional experience that led to an understanding of my whole life in a way that made perfect sense. Everything that had happened had led me to that moment and it was ALL GOOD (truly). It was cosmically hilarious, and I felt my own sense of self-loathing and judgement drop away, and I sat there laughing and crying at once.
And there, again, was that bright, warm fuzz that enveloped everything, like from Kirtan. Of course it look me years to integrate this clearer and brighter perception into my life, which is and always will be a work in progress, but in an instant, the truth of it hit me like a ton of bricks.
For the next couple of years, I pretty much only listened to Krishna Das—the Maha Mantra and the Hanuman Chalisa (and many others). I also started chanting on my own every day, and kirtan became my “practice” (and source of sanity!).
For a while, my connection with Ram Dass was still based mostly in work. I absorbed his teachings through osmosis while digitizing talks and workshops, compiling photo albums, and reading texts for the website and retreats, and I slowly started to understand the scope of his impact on the world.
During our 3rd or 4th retreat, I had a brief opportunity to sit with Ram Dass one-on-one and talk about a few things that were in my heart and mind. What he said to me changed the way I saw myself and everything in my life from then on! And it wasn’t that I HEARD what he said, it was that I FELT it. There was a literal impact that I knew to be coming from “somewhere else.” I could barely wrap my brain around it, but the beauty was that I didn’t have to.
It was later, during my 2-year stay on Maui, that Ram Dass’s presence in my life truly became separate from work, and I related to him on more personal levels. I got to experience my own transformations as they directly related to my encounters with Ram Dass. It was seeping in because I was surrounded by it. He was emanating all those teachings of Love, Compassion, Service, Peace, etc., from his very BEING.
Over the years, I’ve found myself in a variety of roles, but the shifts to a softer, more peaceful and loving approach to myself, others, and life came from the underlying acceptance that I am actually worthy of Love, the belief that Love itself is the only truth, and a genuine knowledge that everything is PERFECT as it is, including myself. These are the sentiments that Ram Dass and Maharajji have opened up for me.
It is thanks to the work I’ve been blessed to do, the practice of kirtan that I’m so grateful to have in my life, my connection with Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba, Satsang, and this understanding of God as All-One and completely Loving, that I’ve come to realize that it’s all out THERE, and it’s all in HERE, exactly as it should be. The continuing release from fear, anxiety, anger, doubt, confusion, etc., has been the direct result of weaving these teachings and lessons into my life.
A wizard with a white wolf led me to Ram Dass. I met the wizard 8 years ago on an internet dating site, and he was like no one I had met before. He played strange music, with Hindu chanting, and sang along with it; and he had pictures of an odd monkey god all over the place. His exotic path was intriguing to me, and I went with him to a meeting (‘satsang’) with Ram Dass in San Rafael.
This was several years after Ram Dass’s stroke, so, although I could sense his awareness and wisdom, it was difficult at times for him to express them.
Still I was attracted, and while attending the Sunday gatherings whenever I could, I was also being impressed by the music of Krishna Das, especially the Hanuman Chaleesa, which I learned from singing along with his recordings. I was fortunate enough to attend, as my first kirtan concert, a relatively small gathering with Krishna Das. In subsequent years, KD’s concerts became larger, and the venues were not so intimate.
Well, the wizard moved on, but I kept the fascination with Ram Dass, Krishna Das, and kirtan in general. When an opportunity appeared to attend a week-long retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon with both Ram Dass and Krishna Das, I packed up my tent and went. It promised a satsang with Ram Dass every day and singing with KD every evening—add natural hot springs, delicious organic food, and wonderful companions, and it is perfect bliss.
The first couple of days at Breitenbush were much as expected: good stories with things to think about from Ram Dass and good music to sing along with KD. Then, something different happened to me.
We were at satsang with Ram Dass. Being a teacher’s pet sort of person, I liked to sit right down by his feet as he sat on the platform. One day, he was talking about how his disincarnate guru, Neem Karoli Baba, or Maharajji, still was connected with him and worked through him. “For instance,” he said, “He has called all of you to this gathering.” That took me aback, and my hand shot up in the air.
“Yes?” he said.
“Do you mean to tell me,” I challenged, “that if I have come here, without a guru, that it was because he wanted me to be here?”
“Yes,” he smiled. Then, in Maharajji’s little voice, he said, “Yis.”
Everyone laughed and went on with the conversation . . . except for me. That little “Yis” had done something to me, and I started crying. I cried and cried through the rest of the satsang, wiping my face with my shawl. I cried almost all day.
Maharajji, coming through Ram Dass, had reached into my heart and opened me up. My lifetime of feeling alone was over, for I knew I was connected with a very real spiritual family, and it was always so and will always be so. The separation I felt for most of my life was an illusion, a temporary amnesia for the sake of experience, and now I could view that time from a different, wider perspective.
By the next day, of course, I was ecstatic and could hardly wait to see Ram Dass at satsang. Would he notice me? Would he acknowledge my amazing experience?
The first thing he did when he was seated on the platform was to put a large bouquet of flowers on his side table so that it completely hid his face from me. Ah! What frustration! What confusion!
Then he announced that there was a change in the program for the day, and that Krishna Das would be leading a kirtan there that afternoon instead of the evening program. So KD set up, and began to sing some songs I had never heard before, like “Jesus is on that mainline; tell him what you want;” and he sang a song about “Hallelujah, I’m a member of the band!” and I knew that song was for me. Of course, on one level it was for all of us, and just another song, but at that moment, it was special for me and acknowledged my experience.
When the kirtan was over and Ram Dass was getting ready to leave, he moved the flowers aside and gave me a big smile.
What a sweetie . . .
I’m not really sure how one can adequately put into words the power and utterly intense compassion in which one meets Ram Dass, whether through his inspiring works, or in person. He’s only been in my life now for about two years, but in the past two years he has become one of my greatest teachers and one of my soul’s most beloved friends.
I first found Be Here Now when I was seventeen, through a friend who had stumbled across it at a book store. At this point in my life, I had just gone through a near-death experience. I was angry at the world and full of cynicism. In a nutshell, I was empty, longing for something that I could not obtain, but ached for in the deepest core of my being. Shunning religion and my previous belief system, I turned more to an Albert Camus “Absurdist” philosophy.
Weeks turned to months, months turned into almost over a year, and the emptiness turned into an abyss. It was around this time that I was introduced to psychedelic hallucinogens like LSD and ketamine. I experimented with these substances with close friends, expanding my mind and slowly regaining my faith in something greater than myself.
Enter Be Here Now. The first time I read through Be Here Now, I was overcome with intensive emotions of unconditional love, and fulfillment—a feeling I had not felt in what seemed like forever. I read it, and I reread it, and the more I practiced the teachings in Be Here Now, the less I felt of the abyss that had so long been suffocating the life out of me. As the months progressed, I felt my Self, my true Self, emerging from the depths of my heart. Hallucinogens fell to the wayside of meditation, and to the love I began to see in every sentient being throughout the universe. I began delving into the works of Aldous Huxley and Hermann Hesse, but never did I forget the catalyst which in some ways, saved my life. My love for Ram Dass continued to exponentially grow, as did my relationships with my family and friends.
It was in the summer of this year (2011) that I actually got the amazing opportunity to sit down with Ram Dass himself, and meet Ramesh and Ram Dass’ assistant, Dassima. Walking up to the front door of his house with my father, and my best friend, I remember feeling so nervous, so full of anxiety. I had spent all week preparing questions to ask him, unsure of how to actually interact with someone that I felt I owed so much to. Sitting on his couch I began to sense the apprehension eroding away. Suddenly, all of the questions I had, all of the things I had planned to say, just . . . vanished. All of a sudden, I was just listening to this wonderful man just talk. I looked over and saw my Dad staring back at me, overflowing with love towards me. The interchange between Ram Dass and the three of us continued for a little over an hour, and all the time my heart was exploding with love. Leaving, I felt a small sliver of my ego die.
My relationship with Ram Dass holds a special place within me, and every passing day my love for him, his followers, and everyone that surrounds me strengthens into an unbreakable rope weaving the fibers of my life into an interconnected blanket of loving awareness. I only hope that I can pass on what Ram Dass has given me to everyone who is now in my life, and to all those who will enter throughout my future.
Thank you, to all of you, you have all made such a difference in my life.
As I look back through my life, especially the last decade, there is a thread that connects one event to another: a random occurrence, a chance meeting, a question asked in one conversation yet answered in another, a life-changing decision. Ram Dass and Krishna Das brought me to Maharajji’s grace, the thread that connects these events.
In 1979, when I was 14, I first came across Be Here Now at a friend’s house. Her parents were unique, very different from my little suburban life. I remember having deep, thought-provoking conversations with them, like I was an adult. Their house was filled with stained-glass windows and round rooms, and drugs were just out on the table like party snacks. Although I didn’t read Be Here Now until much later, those experiences were the beginning of a path based in a way of being that was unconventional, and strangely resonated with my own deepest values.
The pioneers of the consciousness movement opened the doors so wide that a generation later, seeking altered states was the norm. With harder drugs being used in the 80’s, they had largely lost their potency as a means to reach the sacred. We knew early on that wasn’t it; we were looking for something more real, but didn’t know what. My way of doing the world was to go out there and take a big bite out of it! A wild child with no limits. Drugs made for a fast track to nowhere—a painful dead end that ironically turned out to be the starting point for a healing and soulful trajectory.
At 24, looking for answers, I began to study Taoist oriental medicine and, soon after, Tibetan Buddhism. Actually, my neighbor, Mark, was an acupuncturist and when he talked about Qi and the interconnectedness of all things, I got turned on, so I started acupuncture school. Both of these disciplines gave me tools to begin to use my mind to understand my beliefs. I really thought I was getting somewhere. I gained knowledge and techniques. I had empowerments and meditated. All were very rich and meaningful, but on some level I still felt disconnected.
It was 2001, five years later, when I found myself driving home from a hatha yoga class listening to National Public Radio, that something finally spoke to my heart. I weep as I write this, as I know now that very first moment when by chance I heard Krishna Das chanting, that Maharajji’s grace first came into my life. At the time it felt, as if for a moment, all of my sense organs and the portals of my heart were cleared and opened. And I received the Mahamantra into the depths of my being, like finally hearing something true for the first time. Not truth of the mind, but from the heart.
I was so drawn to these chants that I bought the CD that day, back when you still had to drive to the record store. I listened to it in my home, in my car, and in my clinic. Everywhere, all of the time. I surrounded myself with these chants. In the few years that followed, I went to sing with Krishna Das
and then spent time with him in retreat, deepening inside, ripening. I was pulled toward something he had—his practices, his Guru, his authenticity. Whatever it was, I wanted it for myself.
Singing with him, I just felt home—connected to myself and to everyone around me—to the whole universal stream. I felt so much love for KD, I couldn’t explain it. Through him, I was softening into feeling my true essence and the grace of Maharajji. It was so energizing, essence-y and authentic all at once, and that kept me going back to be with him again and again, to submerge into it. I know now I was falling in love with myself. And this is how I came to know of Ram Dass, who was a continuation of that same heart, one that I was soaking up like a sponge.
In July of 2003, at a one-day spiritual retreat in Los Angeles, I first met Ram Dass. I had been burning away the layers, so by the time I finally heard him speak, I was wide open and ready. He was story-telling all of the feelings I had been experiencing with chanting. Through his words, vibration, huge intellect and vulnerable humor, my heart and mind finally united saying, “yes, yes!” At that retreat, I watched a screening of “Fierce Grace,” and was, and still am in awe of how the act of surrender can be such a powerful catalyst. I was struck by his loving presence and gentle stewardship through the tragic yet universal events of this life.
Another deepening happened for me when I received Wayne Dyer’s letter in 2005, Be Here For Him, Now, a call for support during a very critical stage for Ram Dass. I’d like to think that I’m a generous person, but prior to that letter, I really hadn’t given much money away, mainly because I didn’t have it to give. But I had just come into a small inheritance from a long lost aunt and I was so moved by how Wayne took action, his obvious affection touched my own deep love for Ram Dass, and I sent much of the inheritance right over to Ram Dass’s foundation.
The spontaneity and rightness of sending the support to Ram Dass solidified my connection to him and his teachings. From that time I devoured his books and recordings, especially The Only Dance There Is and The Naropa Lectures. I would take detailed notes and listen and re-listen. I went to Maui to be with him in retreat, often twice a year. At one of the first retreats I attended, there was a panel with Ram Dass, Krishna Das, and other guru-brothers. They showed such a love for each other and a gratitude for their shared journey; it was an intoxicating love-fest. They were basking in Maharajji’s grace, what I previously thought belonged only to Krishna Das and Ram Dass, I now knew I could have too.
Over the next years Ram Dass’s message—that this incarnation is about getting free of attachments and living in the here and now—these simple, profound ideas radically changed my life. I was learning about devotion, how to let go and to live a life from the heart. And now my life is based in trying to stay conscious, present and connected, in ways that I have been shown by those who have come before me. It’s that simple thread of Grace that continues to lead me through each day. It has become the cornerstone of my relationships and my work in medicine.
The arc of Grace began in 2001 with the whimsical moment of flipping on NPR and hearing Krishna Das, to 2010, when I served as Ram Dass’ assistant for a couple of weeks. During that time I experienced moments of deep tenderness while sitting quietly with him in his home going through his email correspondences. As I read aloud the letters of trauma from individuals, we sat silently, often for several long minutes, while Ram Dass worked his mala and a large framed picture of Maharajji loomed lovingly overhead. As Baba considered the predicament of the person in crisis, the air in the room became heavier and heavier with a pervasive presence. He offered wisdom from such a kind and loving awareness that it took my breath away. That still moment was so intense that I was almost overcome. Then he looked over to me, knowing my experience, and said, “Pretty powerful, isn’t it?” We both shared the same moment, together submerged under Maharajji’s blanket, feeling his grace around us and through us and in every word of Ram Dass’ response.
Om Shanti. Ram Ram.
Visit ramdass.org/epub to view this and other videos from Remarkable Encounters with Ram Dass.
” Maui, HI 2006