Ram Dass: Soul Land

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December 31, 2019

Last week, the Sounds True community was saddened to hear of the passing of Ram Dass, one of the great lights of American spiritual inquiry. Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass (meaning “servant of God”) rose to the forefront of psychedelic exploration and the movement toward Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and ’70s. He wrote the all-time classic Be Here Now in addition to many other published works, including Sounds True’s Walking Each Other Home. This special edition of Insights at the Edge presents an interview between Tami Simon and Ram Dass from 2012. During this conversation, Ram Dass and Tami discuss a deeper exploration of the self and the individual soul. They talk about experiencing the guru Maharaj-ji living on through the bodies and teachings of his students. Finally, Ram Dass considers the everyday experience of the atman—what he calls “the mega soul” beyond all others.(64 minutes)

Ram Dass (1931–2019) first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an already eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary. He continued his psychedelic research until his journey to the East in 1967, driving overland to India, where he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharaj-ji. Maharaj-ji gave him the name, Ram Dass, which means "servant of God." Everything changed then—his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “be here now” ever since.

Be Here Now, Ram Dass's monumentally influential and seminal book, still stands as the highly readable centerpiece of the Western articulation of Eastern philosophy, and how to live joyously 100 percent of the time in the present, be it luminous or mundane. From a backpackers’ bible in the 1970s, Be Here Now continues to be the instruction manual of choice for generations of spiritual seekers. Fifty years later, it's still part of the timeless present. Being here now is still being here now. Ram Dass's work continues to be a path of teaching and inspiration to so many. His loving spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying millions along on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked through his own. For more about Ram Dass’s teachings, visit ramdass.org.

Author Photo © Kathleen Murphy

 

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Ram Dass:
Walking Each Other Home »
Soul Land »

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Meet Your Host: Tami Simon

Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

Photo © Jason Elias

Also By Author

Ram Dass: Soul Land

Last week, the Sounds True community was saddened to hear of the passing of Ram Dass, one of the great lights of American spiritual inquiry. Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass (meaning “servant of God”) rose to the forefront of psychedelic exploration and the movement toward Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and ’70s. He wrote the all-time classic Be Here Now in addition to many other published works, including Sounds True’s Walking Each Other Home. This special edition of Insights at the Edge presents an interview between Tami Simon and Ram Dass from 2012. During this conversation, Ram Dass and Tami discuss a deeper exploration of the self and the individual soul. They talk about experiencing the guru Maharaj-ji living on through the bodies and teachings of his students. Finally, Ram Dass considers the everyday experience of the atman—what he calls “the mega soul” beyond all others.(64 minutes)

A Personal Message from Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Dying is the most important thing you do in your life. It’s the great frontier for every one of us. And loving is the art of living as a preparation for dying. Allowing ourselves to dissolve into the ocean of love is not just about leaving this body; it is also the route to Oneness and unity with our own inner being, the soul, while we are still here. If you know how to live and to love, you know how to die.

In this book, I talk about what I am learning about death and dying from others and from my getting closer to it. And I talk about what I have learned from being at the bedsides of friends who have died, including how to grieve and how to plan for your own death as a spiritual ceremony. I talk about our fear of death and ways to go beyond that fear so we can be identified with our spiritual selves and live more meaningful lives.

I invited my friend Mirabai Bush into a series of conversations. Mirabai and I share the bond of being together with our guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and over the years, we have taught and traveled and written together. I thought she’d be able to frame the conversations for you, the reader, and also draw in some of what I’ve said in the past about dying, while keeping my current words fresh and immediate. And I wanted to discuss her thoughts on dying as well.

From Mirabai Bush . . .

This is a book about loving and dying and friendship. It is a conversation between old friends, in which we talk about love and death in an intimate setting. I hope we’ve captured Ram Dass’s wisdom, expressed in a new way now that he is 86 and close to death himself.

“It’s about sadhana, spiritual practice, and I want both our voices to be in it,” he said. “I want it to be a conversation.”

“But I need to ask a basic question,” I said.

He nodded.

“Why are we writing this? Who are we writing it for?”

“I want to help readers get rid of their fear of death,” he answered. “So they can be,” a long pause, “identified with their spiritual selves and be ready to die. If you know how to live, you know how to die. This will be a link between my teachings about Maharaj-ji and about death. And people who are living who can see that they are dying each day, that each day is change and dying is the biggest change—it could help them live more meaningful lives.”

After a while, Ram Dass continued, “I’m also thinking about people whose loved one has died, who may live with grief, or guilt and regret, and I’m thinking about those beings who are sitting bedside with the dying . . . this could help them prepare for that role. And people who are dying, who could read this book to help prepare them for dying more consciously, more peacefully, being in the moment.”

Okay, I thought. This will be a good book to write. We’ll be exploring the edge of what we know.

From Ram Dass . . .

I have had aphasia since my stroke 20 years ago. Aphasia impairs a person’s ability to process language but does not affect intelligence. Sometimes I pause for long periods to find a word or figure out how to express a thought in just the right way. I like to say that the stroke gave me the gift of silence.

When I thought about the best way to write a book on dying while having aphasia, I knew it would be important to express these ideas and experiences clearly, subtly, truthfully. I realized that these days I have been expressing what I know best when I am in dialogue with another person—someone who is comfortable with silence and listens for new ideas as they arise. Why not create a book that way?

I like that this format for the book draws you into the room with us, into this conversation that we all need to have. I invite you to watch this video of us talking together, to give you a sense of how our conversations unfolded.

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3Tq7kLnYqIs%3Fautoplay%3D1%26utm_source%3Dbronto%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3DR180831-Dass-Bush%26utm_content%3DA%2BPersonal%2BMessage%2Bfrom%2BRam%2BDass%2Band%2BMirabai%2BBush

 

With love,

Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush: Walking Each Other Home

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) is a world-renowned spiritual teacher and the author of the indispensable classic Be Here Now. Despite suffering a massive stroke that left him with aphasia, Ram Dass continues to write and teach from his home in Maui. His longtime friend Mirabai Bush is the founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and was the one of the co-creators of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. They have teamed with Sounds True to publish Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. In this special episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush about changing our society’s dysfunctional relationship to dying, focusing on how to ease fears around the process. They talk about facing a lifetime of regrets and why going into our last moments consciously is so important. Finally, Mirabai leads listeners in a practice designed to help release attachments and comments on why grieving is an important act of love. (63 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway: Ram Dass, who is now 87 years old, has planned at the time of his death for there to be an open-air funeral in Maui. He has even secured a government license for this to happen. Ever the teacher (even when it comes to his own death), Ram Dass’s intention is to introduce Westerners to teachings from the East—in this case, the value of sitting with a burning corpse while contemplating impermanence and living whole-heartedly. Of course, we don’t need to wait until we are at an open-air funeral to engage in such contemplation. We are each asked to die in some way every day, to let go of an old image of ourselves or an outmoded configuration of some kind. Can we embrace the dying we are going through right now? And in the process, experience our hearts breaking open so that we can live and love fully, without constraint?

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