07 Mar 2012
March 7, 2012

Awareness Beyond Death



There is a tombstone in Ashby, Massachusetts that reads, “Remember friend, as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you must be. Prepare yourself to follow me.”

Something has happened to me as a result of meandering through many realms of consciousness over the past fifty years that has changed my attitude toward death. A lot of the fear about death has gone from me. I am someone who actually delights in being with people as they are dying. It is such incredible grace for me. In the morning, if I know I am going to be with such a person, I get absolutely thrilled because I know I am going to have an opportunity to be in the presence of Truth.

self-awareness1-300x199It is now becoming acceptable in our culture for people to die. For many decades, death was kept behind closed doors. But now we are allowing it to come out into the open. Having grown up in this culture, the first few months I spent in India in the 1960’s were quite an experience. There, when someone dies, the body is placed on a pallet, wrapped in a sheet, and carried through the streets to the burning grounds while a mantra is chanted. Death is out in the open for everyone to see. The body is right there. It isn’t in a box. It isn’t hidden. And because India is a culture of extended families, most people are dying at home. So most people, as they grow up, have been in the presence of someone dying. They haven’t walked away from it and hidden from it as we have in the West.

I was certainly one of the people in this culture who hid from death. But over the past few decades I have changed dramatically. The initial change came as a result of my experiences with psychedelic chemicals. I came into contact with a part of my being that I had not identified with in my adult life. I was a Western psychologist, a professor at Harvard, and a philosophical materialist. What I experienced through psychedelics was extremely confusing, because there was nothing in my background that prepared me to deal with another component of my being. Once I started to experience myself as a “Being of Consciousness” – rather than as a psychologist, or as a conglomerate of social roles, the experience profoundly changed the nature of my life. It changed who I thought I was.

Prior to my first experience with psychedelics, I had identified with that which dies – the ego. The ego is who I think I am. Now, I identify much more with who I really am – the Soul. As long as you identify with that which dies, there is always fear of death. What our ego fears is the cessation of its own existence. Although I didn’t know what form it would take after death – I realized that the essence of my Being – and the essence of my awareness – is beyond death.

~ Ram Dass

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    The only thing I know for sure is that death will come to me. It is how I survive between then and now that is the burden. My entire life got turned upside down in 2006/2007. I have not been the same since and I wish I could be. I became interested in spirituality-such that or whatever that is. Some strange experiences make me wonder is it all a trick of the mind. I am in despair these days for me-whoever I am. I am writing very clever words here. I simply don’t know what to do anymore, nor what I want to do anymore. My life is slipping away and as much as I may pray and ask-to who am I asking or praying anyway-is there anyone listening. God-what is that-am I heard, am I am crazy to believe that my dead father can hear and see me and aid me. There are so many lies being told and there are so many who seek to lead lost souls like me astray. I don’t know what to believe anymore or who to believe! PAr tof me is dead already!

    • Matthew

      @ Rory: I can definitely relate to your feelings. My life was turned upside down in the summer of ’03. My depression led me to abuse myself with cigarettes and not eating properly. Now most aspects of my life are much better, but I am paying for the neglect.
      The ego is what keeps us from seeing the sameness of all of us. From up high, we all look very much the same. Without ego, we all are the same: conscious. The differences between humans are entirely imposed by the ego. We are all tied together at the origin of existence. The way I look at it, dying is part of life. As inevitable as sleep. Therefore, it simply is part of the journey. Life is it’s own answer, I think…
      Feeling very sick today, and can’t think properly, so sorry if this is a bit of a ramble. I just thought a response was in order.

    • gwenn vartanian

      Rory…i’m in the same boat…and i’m listening…believe in the part of you that is still breathinng…peace

    • Kathleen H

      Please calm down as life unfolds as it should and nothing is wrong. My dead husband leaves me coins so I know there is an afterlife, but as to whether people can really aid us, I do not know. These things are not for us to know until we are on the other side.

    • Matthew

      Real Prosperity

      A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation.

      Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: “Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.”

      The rich man became angry. “I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you make such a joke of this?”

      “No joke is intended,” explained Sengai. “If before you yourself die your son should die, this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity.”

  • conor gillen

    Ram Dass,

    Thank you so much for your words. They have been my compass as of late and I can honestly say that I shutter and cringe when I envision my life without them. You help me to deal with my fear – the same fear that has caused me so much pain. You have helped me to realize my own divinity, and the divinity of every other being on this small planet – and that is what helps keep me going. So again, thank you baba.

  • Deb

    A beautiful, thought provoking blog post. I too have no fear of death. I celebrate the release of the soul from the human body when death occurs. Being in the medical field I’ve had the honor to sit at the bedside of the dying. And in my personal life, been with my sister, mother and son at death. I have seen death and it is not to be feared. Death “is the presence of Truth”….and release. Blessed be.

  • http://www.ceciljthompson.com Cecil J. Thompson

    Ram Dass,

    Your words are refreshing. Often people in search of truth wonder how life as “Being of consciousness” answers the question of death. People often go with conventional religion because there is a clear promise of life after death. The fear of death causes people to seek some concrete protection for being after death. It seems a more enlightened view that we fade into the light of consciousness; but even that sometimes seems to dissolve the prospect of eternal being. But your mention of who is afraid (ego consciousness)brings to light that the ego is always battling with the true self/soul in which fear of death does not exist. I suppose in the deepest sense, beyond dogmas of even conventional relgion, we can find a fearless soul, ourselves unafraid of death. Thank you, Ram Dass.

  • Michael

    Ram Dass,

    I recently had an amazing, transformational experience that has changed my life. After it was over, I realized that what I had experienced was ego death. Since that time I have been reading about it and trying to understand the process and why it happened.

    One of the things I studied was the movie “Magic Trip.”, because of the strong connection between ego death and psychedelic drugs. In the movie, there is a scene after the bus riders reach Timothy Leary’s place. A clip was shown in the movie in which you discuss your ego death experience. As you were speaking, I recognized that you had had exactly the same experience as I. When you mentioned the panic state, I thought yes, that’s exactly what it felt lke to me. Like you, the old me has died and is being replaced by different person. It is amazing and everyday I feel different and better. I have been physically and psychologically transformed. I have faced death and accepted it.

    What would you say to a person who has experienced this? What does a person do after this? Have many others had this same transformation? Yours is the only one I have read about that sounded like what happend to me. I now feel a kinship with you as we have shared this powerful experience. We are on the same journey.

  • Nelson

    We are but a shadow of the real.

  • Grant Thoreson

    “When a man finds his existence and unity in the Self-who is the basis of life, who is beyond the senses, who is formless, inexpressible, beyond all predicates-then alone does he transcend fear. So long as there is the least idea of separation from him, there is fear.” Taittiriya Upanishad

  • Renata Threinen

    Wonder if there is a button whereby if you leave a comment and someone likes it you can receive a donation? That would be a very cool genius thing to create… more people would share and donate to not only the speaker but to those who share comments yes? Just a thought …. Blessings.

  • Jane Jones

    “It changed who I thought I was.” The ego dissolves and the spirit grows in the heart..I feel this center of Baba Ram Dass and I felt him so clearly in my dream last night discussed on Fb Jane Jones Jones…from today~ a MIRACLE is BABA RAM DASS for me~ ((( <3 )))