When I received an email from Sounds True announcing the publication of this book, I knew I would be reading it. I loved Be Here Now and could not pass up the opportunity to read a first-hand account of Ram Dass’s life, which ended on December 22, 2019.
Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in 1932. The book covers his long and interesting life, from his childhood to his early days as an explorer of psychedelics with Timothy Leary, then his journey to India where he met Maharaj-ji and became a devotee, and finally, his later years following his debilitating stroke.
There are so many wonderful and insightful seeds of wisdom in this book, it seriously warrants reading by anyone who has even a sliver of interest in spirituality and service. I will share a couple quotes that stood out for me.
Service as a spiritual path lacks glamour. I liked moving in and out of planes of reality, esoteric teachings, secret mantras, meditation in caves, experiences of bliss. Those experiences of different planes originated in my use of psychedelics, and I’d grown attached to those experiences. It was another trap that I created for myself, another kind of spiritual ego.
I had romanticized and idealized my spiritual path—so much so that I distanced myself from the nitty-gritty of life. I wanted to transcend this earthly plane, with its imperfect humans caught in their greed and ambition and selfishness, including me. Serving God was an ideal. Serving God in the form of other people, with all their vagaries and flaws, politics and personality quirks, was a whole other kettle of fish.
I confess, I am guilty of what Ram Dass describes. I know I have “spiritual ego.” In addition, I find myself constantly vexed by the attitudes and behaviors of my fellow humans. I make a conscious effort to practice empathy and acceptance, but it does not come easy for me. It is so much easier to “love and serve” those who I like, but those who anger me? That is hard. I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that I realize I still have a way to go along my path. There is hope for me yet.
This segues nicely into the next passage.
Gandhi said, “When you surrender completely to God as the only Truth worth having, you find yourself in the service of all that exists. It becomes your joy and recreation. You never tire of serving others.” Billions of acts create suffering in the world—acts of ignorance, greed, violence. But in the same way, each act of caring—the billion tiny ways that we offer compassion, wisdom, and joy to one another—serves to preserve and heal our world. When I help someone change their perspective on their individual problems, I also change society.
I must confess, I have been seriously considering ending this blog. But it is the possibility that maybe something I share might help one person, the chance that I might help spread some small crumb of wisdom or insight or inspiration to another person, that brings me back to the keyboard to write yet another post.
If you are reading this, I hope you will consider the wise words of Ram Dass, and maybe pick up a copy of his book and read it. Thanks for stopping by, and may we all contribute to spreading some happiness in the world. The world desperately needs more happiness right now.
6 responses to “Thoughts on “Being Ram Dass” by Ram Dass”
Thanks for posting about Ram Dass’ autobiography, Jeff. I also just recently finished reading the book and was very touched by the open, honest, and often humorous approach to his writing. What a beautiful life! He inspires me to stay the course, no matter where I find myself in life. I love how he so often used his own humbling experiences as examples of the humanity we all have a share in. What a life!
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book. Whenever I feel the need for a realignment of my perspective, I try to remember this image of ‘doing time.’
“And we all had the same task: to grow spiritually. “Imagine a cellblock in which the prisoners think they are in an ashram and the guards think they are in a prison,” I would say. “Who’d be doing time then?” ”
Hi Debra. Wow, that is really cool that you also read the Ram Dass book, and I agree with everything you say. His life was so inspiring. Also, I clearly remember reading the passage you cited. It is a good one. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you have a blessed weekend.
Thanks for reviewing his book. It sounds like something I’d enjoy. I love the quotes, and empathize with him and you on the spiritual ego, and the difficulty of serving those you do not like.
It is a very good book. I think you would get a lot out of it.
PS–I hope you will continue your blogging. I always get so much from reading them, learning about new books, new ways of looking at things, new inspiration. You are doing good here.
Thank you for the kind words. Rest assured, if I decide to do something new, I will let everyone know. For now, I plan on keeping this going. Cheers.