Several months ago, I went to see the film “Dying to Know” which was about Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, who changed his name to Ram Dass. The film reminded me that Ram Dass’ book, Be Here Now, was one I have been meaning to read but had not gotten around to. So I decided to bump it up on the list and recently finished reading it.
The book is essentially the hippie’s guide to meditation and mindfulness. It’s lavishly illustrated with surreal psychedelic spiritual images that aid the reader in tuning in to the proper state of consciousness when reading this text.
The book is divided into four sections:
- Journey – The Transformation: Dr. Richard Alpert, Ph.D into Baba Ram Dass—This first section details Ram Dass’ explorations in consciousness expansion through the use of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary, which ultimately led him on a journey to the east where he met a guru and discovered his spiritual path.
- From Bindu to Ojas—This heavily illustrated section, which comprises the bulk of the book, contains Dass’ spiritual musings and thoughts.
- Cook Book for a Sacred Life—This section offers suggestions and practical advice for individuals starting on the spiritual path.
- Painted Cakes Do Not Satisfy Hunger—This final section is a long list of suggested reading. As I perused this list, my own reading list swelled exponentially.
While the language of the text is very hippie dippy, and feels a little dated now, the spiritual insights are still profound and relevant. There is way too much to share in a single blog post, but I will share a few that resonated deeply with me, and I encourage you to take the time to read the book closely and ponder what Ram Dass offers.
Georges I. Gurdjieff, a westerner who went on this higher trip or at least on a large part of the trip, said: you don’t seem to understand you are in prison. If you are to get out of prison the first thing you must realize is: you are in prison. If you think you’re free, you can’t escape.
Reading this made me think of the average American. Americans love to believe they are free: free to seek happiness, pursue the careers they want, travel, elect who they like, etc. But American freedom is just an illusion. We are constantly being manipulated by media, advertising, peer pressure, and so forth. Americans have allowed themselves to be enslaved by a consumer society that profits from their exploitation. But don’t ever try to tell an American that he or she is not free. Americans are quick to fight in the defense of their belief in freedom.
That psychosis business is an interesting business. If you go through the doorway too fast and you’re not ready for it you’re bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness. You may land anywhere and lots of people end up in mental hospitals. The reason they do is: they went through the door with their ego on.
We hear this warning over and over again: it is important to stay grounded when doing spiritual work. I have witnessed people close to me slip into mental illness because they explored consciousness without remaining properly grounded. It is sad, because you are powerless to do anything for that person. They become trapped within their own subconscious and can no longer function in this plane of reality.
When your center is firm, when your faith is strong and unwavering, then it will not matter what company you keep. Then you will see that all beings are on the evolutionary journey of consciousness. They differ only in the degree that the veil of illusion clouds their vision. But for you . . . you will see behind the veil to the place where we are all ONE.
This is something I need to remind myself about on a regular basis. With all the craziness, intolerance, and fear that I see on a daily basis, I need to remember that all of us are spiritual beings on the path, and we all progress at our own pace. I have to resist the temptation to judge others based on where I am on my journey. All I can do is follow my own course and maybe I might inspire another person on his or her path. What a blessing that would be!
Thanks so much for stopping by. And remember, don’t cling to the past or obsess about the future, just be here now, because this moment is all we really have. Everything else is a mental construct and an illusion.
16 responses to ““Be Here Now” by Ram Dass”
Great post Jeff! Thanks for sharing these helpful nuggets. I completely agree America and egos are pretty dangerous. Haha. A good reminder to stay grounded.
Thanks E! Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve decided the best way to stay serene in this storm we are living in is to stay centered, filter out the news noise, and focus on my own spiritual well-being. Hope you have a wonderful day.
Thanks for the reminder about this classic. One of the challenges of a mindful spiritual path is finding the balance between constructive engagement in civil society and getting stuck in the pastor the future or getting judgmental.
So very true, Amber! Thanks so much for your comment, and I hope you have a blessed day.
That post is satirical, partially; but reflects of an era when people were much less caught up in titles and possessions, and more aware of the longterm ecological crisis.
Nice. I do enjoy Crumb’s comix. Did you ever see the documentary film “Crumb”? Worth a watch. Thanks for your comment, Jim. Hope all is well.
“This moment is all we really have. Everything else is a mental construct and an illusion.” A sage reminder to all of us. I haven’t read his seminal work, but I have read bits and pieces from Ram Dass, mostly in essay form and like his light-hearted, playful approach to zen.
Hey Deborah. Yes… he is very light-hearted and playful in his writing. Some people who assume the role of spiritual teacher seem to take themselves too serious. Not the case with Dass. Thanks for your comment. Cheers!
I’m not sure if it was in that book or another one by same author but I remember the fun tale of how he and his companion were pulled over by a traffic cop on some Calif. boulevard. By the end of the encounter, the initially surly policeman was smiling and waving at them. A lot like Obi Wan and the hostile guards… the force was with them!
Also some good tales about synchronicity.
I respect Ram Dass because he is honest. He admitted in a Yoga Journal article that he doesn’t *always* love everyone. But he tries.
Agreed. One of the things I sensed in the book is that he is genuine.
Pingback: “Sonnet 30: When to the sessions of sweet silent thought” by William Shakespeare | Stuff Jeff Reads
That’s interesting, Jeff. I must say I like the “hippie dippie” stuff a lot. I actually do not see it as dated. There was actually an amazing article about Ram Dass that I’ve read recently:https://www.gq.com/story/the-unified-theory-of-ram-dass
which made me realize that he is indeed more relevant than ever. On a personal note, my husband listens to a lot of Ram Dass’s talks through Be Here Now network and so I’m an avid if second hand listener😉 Anyway, thank you very much for sharing your views on the book.
Hmm. Well, I think that because I was a Grateful Dead Head for so many years, traveling around an immersed in that culture, that it seems dated to me. At least the language more so than the content. But yes, I agree that his insights and teachings are very relevant today. He was just way ahead of his time. I occasionally listen to some of his talks via podcasts, meditation apps, etc.
BTW – did you see the film I mentioned? If not, definitely worth watching.
Hope you are well. Cheers!
No, I have not seen it but I have seen a short documentary on Netflix. But I’ll try to find it
Ooo. I’ll check Netflix for the doc.