08 Aug 2012
August 8, 2012

Conditions in the West


This article is from a Ram Dass lecture that took place in 1976. It can be argued that much of the “upleveling” of spiritual consciousness described here is still taking place in the West. Like many of Ram Dass’ words, this description of the spiritual state of the U.S. applies just as much to current beliefs as it did over thirty years ago.

There’s a tremendously delicate predicament with the scene in America now. Historically we have to go back to the opening of the sixties, the opening of consciousness that made many hundreds of thousands of people realize suddenly that there is something else. We were looking for new models then, and we bought them as fast as we could. We imported them as fast as we could, and the imports were somewhat second rate, most of them, because we didn’t know enough. We couldn’t discriminate yet. We couldn’t get the pure thing because we were going in too grossly to grab at whatever we could get.

As the years go by, the nature of the intermediaries who are bringing back the teachings is growing purer and purer. When the first people came back they brought a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Eclecticism was riding high, everybody taking a little of this and a little of that, at the wrong level in a way. Nobody was really getting the teachings out of it. They were getting a little teaching, and the beginnings of a realization that there are beings that have done this kind of thing. But they weren’t getting the full blast because there was nobody around to give it.

Slowly the demand for more purity of lineage and tradition has increased. In the past ten years in America we’ve seen a tremendous upleveling of the whole process. There is now a demand and a readiness in a sizeable population in the west to receive higher teachings. And that’s really what it’s about, because the higher teachings are attracted by the readiness of people to receive them. What we’ve seen in the past fifteen years in the U.S. is a profound growth in the spiritual community in America. I’m talking about the upper end of this continuum, of the  people who are ready to receive higher teachings.

In a country like India those people are very few percentage wise, even though there are millions of sadhus. Many of them just have it as a way of life, a religious way of life, but it isn’t the highest teachings. Now this demand is bringing forth some of the higher teachers and higher forms of teachings in America.

It is also true that because of its affluence and its democracy and its decadence, this country is in a unique position, maybe just a fertile moment before suppression reigns. The whole thing could turn into a very militaristic situation in which there would be a tremendous suppression of all this stuff, because it is all in a way heretical to any political structure, and to nationalism at that level. But at this moment there is a very fertile field for very rapid spiritual growth in this country, in the Western hemisphere. And we are all taking advantage of it as fast as we can, so the teachings are appearing here where before they were not received or supported. There are very few young people in India who want to study this stuff. In India if you go to the scenes that are run by Tibetans or Indians, most of the young people are all westerners now. We are importing it back to the west, and we are just starting to get the higher teachers and teachings now.

The predicament is that westerners tend to look at the whole thing as if they were going shopping at the supermarket. You have to be aware of the subtleties to discriminate between methods and their values, and the ways they work on you, but at the beginning you just can’t hear. You just can’t differentiate the very gross teaching from the finer teaching. In fact, the grosser teachers usually attract people much more quickly because they are designed to do that. The higher teachers don’t want those students. I can feel in myself the way the whole change in my being is changing the quality of the people who come into my office. The quality of them is changing because my desire structure is changing. Before they were important or they were sexually attractive or they were rich or they were fascinating in some way. Now the only people I am interested in are those who really want to go to God. Far out, the whole game is changed!

  • Krishna

    I am warmed by this post. Perhaps this is why I only ‘found’ Ram Dass at 49 years of age and not sooner. I have no doubt that if I had found his teachings before that, I may have listened, but I probably would not have heard ‘it’. And now that I have heard it, I am so grateful!

    Ram Ram

  • mark

    It is funny i spent time in India and other Asian countries when I was younger I met people read teachings but was never really affected by them. Now I “hear” them and it is changing my life.

    I feel like our societies (western and others) are on a precipice, these paths are our only savour, hopefully this is the ground swell which will allow that

    Thanks for all you do

  • http://www.carolynbeauchamp.com,www.sukyomahikari.org Carolyn Beauchamp

    I am a member of Sukyo Mahikari (Florida Jun Dojo). I was moved by your comment regarding your only being interested in meeting people who want to know God. I have been wanting that, feeling that is what I want for myself (to know God) yet still have very few contacts/friends other than those I know at my dojo (which is 2 hours away). I was wondering what the connection was for you when those people started showing up more. Had you changed or shifted something within you? it would be helpful to know what you feel happened within you to attract them.

  • Mark Smalley II

    Firstly, thank you for another fantastic post. This shares on my thinking at the moment so I felt compelled to join the discussion.
    The trouble for me is that there is so much to distract the younger mind with its shorter attention span and teachings of seeing with your eyes only. Only an hour before I read this post I was musing about the drop in spirituality in India and across parts of Asia considering how much it has been an epicentre for exactly that over the centuries.
    I am really beginning to believe that the age at which you are able to assess the world openly and honestly and really think about your own place within it rises with each passing generation. This age, from my own rudimentary but effective research tells me this is about mid twenties, with exceptions to the rule of course, but unfortunately by this time most people are so bought into the current society that it makes the potential awakening that bit harder. This is exacerbated by the fact that the path of enlightenment or awakening is quite an obscure one, it’s not quite as clear cut and the goals are not quite as visible as the path of the materialistic, quick result led society.
    I strongly believe that so many minds are ready to be opened, they are aware that they don’t fit in and many youngsters are so confused with the world but don’t understand why. As you said though, the teachings and guiding have to be just write though as to capture and explain those confusions that they can not explain themselves.
    At 29 I have gone through an awakening of all sorts, I have always been open minded and opted to listen before speaking. Even before my teens I was aware enough to not want to talk too much an tie myself to my own rhetoric and having an emotional affiliation to beliefs that may be misguided. I have always felt I was here to do something based upon my mindset and upon vehemently holding onto the morales and values that I knew were right. I was always determined to use my ability to relate, to teach and to express passion for the greater good whatever I found that to be, later in life. Whilst doing this is was so adamant to stay away from any real ties to this society, staying away from all debt, making a conscious decision of not to have a child until I was of sound mind to be able to teach, to have found myself personally, professionally and spiritual before such a commitment and responsibility which demands so much of your time and demands every single ounce of character.
    Right now I find myself at the early stages of my spiritual development, having learnt a lot and preparing my mind to totally immerse myself I now feel ready to embark. I have experienced the psychedelic experiences of Psilocybin, Acid and DMT and it seemed to confirm to me what I suspected of there being much more that perhaps even science can not truly explain, certainly not mainstream science. Having been very careful as a youth not to get caught up in the ‘drugs to get high’ game, I deemed in my mid twenties that I was of sound enough mind to experience these things more as a tool and a guide than as a means to an end. I now feel it is time to take it to the next level and begin meditation, to take on the spiritual teachings and seek a spiritual guide to ensure it is done in the correct way.
    I have to say that you, Richard Albert psychologist and psychedelic researcher interested me greatly and along with others demonstrated i was on the right track and confirmed that you can learn a lot from drugs, even more from the right ones. Now you, Ram Dass have become much more than an interest and are a true inspiration, I wish you all the very best that my heart can send to you and thank you for being what you know is right.

    Much love from the UK!

  • Dan Barnes

    Thank you for your words and heart.