Ram Dass talks about the promises and the pitfalls of the spiritual path, and the shift of reality that happened in the sixties that was predicated by psychedelics. This shift blew apart the traditional religious systems that were in place at the time, and the psychedelics gave people a connection that they had never experienced before: a feeling that they were interconnected with the universe. When we see how much of our behavior is a defense mechanism to alleviate the pain of separateness, we begin to realize the importance of healthy intuitive and compassionate hearts.
Welcome to Ram Dass Here and Now. I’m Raghu Markus. Today we have a talk that I dug up from the vast archives from Ram Dass’s work over the last 40 odd years, amazing. This one is about, and is called; The Promises and Pitfalls of the Spiritual Path. It’s rich material here. For those of us who grew up with Ram Dass, and for those of us who have only recently come to hear about Ram Dass, listening to some lectures, reading some books and so on, there’s a huge parallel between those days and today. We’ve talked a little bit about it before. We’ve talked about it on another podcast we call “Mind Rolling,” that I do with David Silver. That’s especially dedicated to bringing spiritual promises and pitfalls into a very down to earth manner, so that we can all get a better grasp.
But I am finding that even those of us who have done a tremendous amount of work over many years, these most simple concepts are as applicable now as they were then. For instance, I totally remember where I was in the late sixties and early seventies, growing up then. I’ve talked about this before; feeling completely alienated, and having no rudder, no understanding, no promise of anything that could set the sails straight.
What Ram Dass talks about here is the shift in reality that happened about that time. And that shift was obviously predicated by psychedelics. Because then, there was that shift in reality; it blew against the traditional; it blew apart the traditional religious systems that were in place, that we grew up in, no matter what particular religion that you had grown up into, what family you were brought up in.
Interesting, he talks about the point at which you had that psychedelic experience.
The reality was that those psychedelics gave us a connection to a part of our being that we had not known before. What we experienced was being part of the universe, basically. We knew we were interconnected by virtue of taking these psychedelics, of taking acid or whatever, mushrooms. And that was completely a game changer. That is completely a game changer today. I speak to plenty of people today, email, or whatever, people in their twenties or thirties who are having the same experience.
Suddenly there is a shift in reality. And what happens is, we see how much of behavior was just defense mechanisms to alleviate the pain that came from feeling separate from family. I felt separate from society. I felt separate from the culture. This alienation was very painful. Of course, that pain, in the end, I look at it as giving me the impetus to even consider that there must be something else. There is a separate reality. And that reality was introduced to us by psychedelics, for sure.
I love what he says here, because at that time we began to realize the health of our intuitive, compassionate hearts. I felt like I was a sick person back then, and, when I forget today, when I feel I have forgotten my natural intuitive heart, whenever I get lost. It happens all the time. It happens all the time to all of us. So the promise, once you realize, once you have that shift in reality, is that there is this great promise. Then you start to act on it.
In our case, back then, and still today, we are guided by Eastern maps. Ram Dass uses the term maps a lot in many of his talks, especially directly connecting what he was going through once he left Harvard and went through the whole psychedelic revolution, and was a big part of turning so many people on along with Leary. He even talks about it. There is a great little story about meeting Albert Hoffman, the inventor of acid, our beloved guru, Alfred Hoffman. So Eastern maps. In his case, he went off to India and of course, found his guru Neem Karoli Baba, our guru. We called him Maharaji. And then, at some point in the talk, he starts to talk about the pitfalls. There are many different pitfalls, obviously. One of the major ones that happened in those days, was that the teachers that came from the east were not cooked, necessarily. And he points out the difference between what a guru is and what a teacher is. We wanted to turn our teachers and gurus into good father figures. Unfortunately, when you’re not cooked, as many of these teachers who came over were not, they got involved with lust, the whole sexual thing. They weren’t ready for free western women, that’s for sure. And in fact, that’s still going on today. There is a whole scandal going on in the zen community. A zen abbot has been apparently misusing his power around sexual stuff; who I’ve always known as this great teacher.
So, these things are still going on. That is a big pitfall, part of this whole thing. I love that he brings this up, the concept of surrender. Surrender to the guru is not about surrendering to another person. What you are really surrendering to, and this can only happen with a truly enlightened being, is to the higher truth he is, and you are ultimately, as well.
Some of the other pitfalls he talks about here, are how we realize that we wanted to stop creating karma, in every walk of life; with our families, with our work, with our relationships, with our social action. So we started to do things like renunciate. Okay, let’s give up sex. And then we ended up as a bunch of horny celibates. Because, it is so true, when you are doing these things to collect experiences, either as actions, you’re taking on the spiritual path; from meditation, to chanting, to yoga, whatever it is. If you are doing it as collecting experiences, which is our natural way, especially in the west, it is achievement. Then, of course, that’s a major pitfall. He has a beautiful quote here from Meister Eckhart, who is a Christian mystic. He said, we are to practice virtue, not to possess it. That really says it there.
So, this a great talk. And its in several parts. And I am considering that for the next few weeks this might be really informative. And again, its for those of us, who like me, have been working on paths since late 60s, early 70s when I was quite, quite young. And all the way until now, when the pitfalls are absolutely the same, especially in relation to working on yourself. And not doing it from a place of achievement.
The promises and pitfalls of the spiritual path.
Good evening. Can you all hear me? After that introduction I just want to sit and gloat and glow, just have you all stoke me. I’m really great. I didn’t realize how good I was. When you get old enough, it’s interesting, you just sort of become an elder. And you get points just for living. Somebody came up to me today. They were telling me what they did. They said, “You know Dr. Fatima was one of my professors”. I remember back when he was one of my students.
Tonight I am speaking on promises and pitfalls of the spiritual path. After I speak, Rama and Gungadar, who are two of my dear friends, and I are going to lead some chanting, for those of you who would like to play that spiritual practice out.
The reason I am speaking on the promises and pitfalls of the spiritual path is because Stan Grof couldn’t get in touch with me, so he created the title. Since I respect Stan so much, cause he’s one of my teachers, I felt that if he set the title, I should rise to the occasion. So I am going to speak on promises and pitfalls of the spiritual path. It’s probably the same lecture, you just keep working it around. It was interesting to reflect on it today when I was putting this together. I am talking about, primarily, the spiritual work in the United States tonight, because that is the one that has been most visible to me over these past years, even though I am now teaching more in Europe and Australia and abroad.
Certainly there is a history of mysticism in America. There is Emerson and Thoreau, Whitman and so on. But it was in the 60s, that there was a dramatic awakening of spiritual consciousness in America. That is in no small part due to a speaker who has been on this program, Dr. Albert Hofmann, who I certainly want to honor. I know this is in confidence, but the first time I met Dr. Hofmann was in Basel. We had lunch together at an outdoor restaurant. I was meeting the head of research for Sandos, which from our point of view was quite a coup. And it took a while before he described to me how he would once a year go out into a field where the flowers were, with his wife, to explore with psychedelics. Then I knew why I was with a ?landsman? But he spoke this morning about realities and the shift in reality.
Thre was a major shift that occurred in the 60s, the shift from what you call absolute reality, thinking that what you saw and what your thinking mind thought it understood was only one kind of reality. And there were other kinds of reality. William James, of course, had said that many years before. You remember his quote,” Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We might spend our entire life without knowing of their existence, but apply the requisite stimulus and there they are in their completeness”. It’s interesting that William James said that when he was a professor at Harvard. I was thrown out of William James Hall for doing what he said.
Up until the 60s, the primary spiritual containers were the organized religions of this culture. They were primarily the holders of the ethical constraints of the culture. They motivated people to ethical behavior through fear and through internalized superego. The primary mediator between you and God was the priest. So there was a priest class. What the 60s did through psychedelics, initially, was blow that whole system apart. Because it made the relationship to God a direct experience, once again of the individual. Of course the Quakers have had that, and had a long history of it as did other traditions. But in terms of mainstream, this was a new concept coming into the culture, which was spiritual and not formally religious.
Most of the time, up until then, mystical experience had been pretty much denied and treated as irrelevant in our culture. I was a social scientist. I just spurned it. I cynically spurned it. I wouldn’t even read that stuff. Wilka said, about that period, the only courage this demanded of us, was to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, the most inexplicable, that which we may encounter. Mankind, in this sense, has been cowardly, has done life endless harm. The experiences that are called visions, the whole so called spirit world, death, all these things that are so closely akin to us have been, by daily parrying, been so crowded out of our life, that the sense with which we could have grasped them are atrophied, to say nothing of God.
In the 60s that changed. Most of us recognized a part of our being that we had never known before. We experienced a part of our being that was not separated form the universe. We saw how much of our behavior was based on the desire to alleviate the pain from our own separateness. It was the first time that many of us broke out of the alienation that we had known all of our adult lives. We began to recognize the health of our intuitive, compassionate hearts; a health that had been just lost under the veil of our minds and the constructs our minds, and had created who we were and who everybody else was. In other words, we transcended dualism and experienced our unitive nature with all things.
There was bliss and there was all kinds of wonderful feelings for it. That glow lasted into the middle 60s. There was the ‘summer of love’ in 67, and then it had started to turn by then. It did turn. But it is interesting how mainstream those ideas have gotten in the 25 years since that time. When I was lecturing in those days, I was speaking to audiences between the ages of 15 and 25. Those were the explorers in those days. The meetings were like members of the explorers club. And we were just comparing maps of the terrain of the travels. Twenty-five years later, when I speak, in say Des Moines, Iowa, there are 1500 people. I am saying roughly the same thing, probably not to my credit. But I am saying the same thing I was saying 25 years ago. I would say most of those people, at least 70 to 80 percent, have never smoked dope, never taken psychedelics. They have never read Eastern mysticism. And they are all going like this.
Now, how do they know? And of course the reason they know is because these values, the shift from that narrow view of reality, into a relative reality, which made all institutions up for grabs if you look deep enough; all of that has permeated into the mainstream culture. So, in a way, a person nowadays has much more options about reality than they had at the time I was coming through graduate school, for example; as is reflected in all the proliferation of new kinds of social institutions for education.
To understand what was happening to us, we started to look for maps. The best maps that were available to us at that time, that seemed to be readily available, were Eastern maps, maps from Buddhism, Hinduism, those traditions. Most of the middle eastern religions, the maps about the directness experience, were part of the esoteric instead of the exoteric religion. And thus, they were sort of guarded, in a way. The Kabbalah and Hasidism were not as popular as they are now. Sufism was not as popular as it is now. So in those early days, we were going to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, things like that. What we found was that since this experience was happening to many of us, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, there were different strokes for different folks. Different people interpreted the experience differently. People turned to different forms of practice in order to further experience or to integrate what had happened to them, often to them through psychedelics; only partly through psychedelics, of course, but much through that.
At that time, in the 60s, in the early 60s, it had happened to us so dramatically, that I remember Tim Leary and I had a chart on the wall at Millbrook, which was a curve showing it was a geometrically rising curve, showing how fast everyone would get enlightened. It did involve putting LSD in the water supply, but other than that it was not terribly dramatic. It seemed so inevitable and irrevocable because the experience was so powerful, and so irreversible once it had happened, that we started to surround ourselves with other people who had experienced it. And pretty soon, at Harvard, we were considered a cult, because the people who hadn’t experienced it no longer could talk to us, because we couldn’t talk to them, because they didn’t know. And then, that unbridgeable gulf had started to occur right in our own department of social relations. That kind of naive expectation, that it was all going to be over immediately, denied all of the information that we read. We said that we have a new way because psychedelics are going to do what Buddhism couldn’t do and Hinduism couldn’t do. When the Buddha described how long we’ve been on the journey, since he was talking reincarnation talk; you know the image. He said, “Imagine a mountain six miles long, six miles wide, six miles high. Every 100 years, a bird flies over the mountain with a silk scarf in its beak and it runs the silk scarf over the mountain once every hundred years. In the length of time it would take the silk scarf to wear away the mountain, that’s how long you have been doing this.” So you look at this life, and it’s less than the blink of an eye. It’s like still framed photography. And those are all births. With that kind of time perspective, you take your chart off the wall. You start to relax a little bit.
At the same moment, a lot of the spiritual literature suggests an urgency. Buddha said, do it as hard as you can. This is a precious birth. It’s a rare, rare experience to have a human birth. Work as hard as you can. Which is just what western achievers love to hear, of course. Kaveer said, “Friend, hope for the guest while you are alive”. Jump into experience while you are alive. What you call salvation belongs to the time before death. If you don’t break the ropes while you are alive, do you think your ghosts will do it after? The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic, because the body is rotten; that is all fantasy. What was found now, was found then. If you find nothing now, you will simply end up with an apartment in the city of death. But if you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire. So plunge into the truth. Find out who the teacher is. Believe in the great sound.
So there was this desire to get on with it. We interpreted it as taking the entire spiritual journey and making it into an achievement course. There is a lovely story about a boy who goes to a Zen master. And he says, “Master, I know you have many students. But, if I study harder than all the rest of them, how long will it take me to get enlightened?” The master said, “Ten years”. The boy said, “If I work day and night, and just double my efforts, how long will it take”? The master said, “Twenty years”. And the boy asked with further achievement, and said, “Why do you keep adding years”? The master said, “Since you will have one eye on the goal, there will only be one eye left to have on the work and it will slow you down immeasurably”. In a way, that was the predicament. We got so attached to where we were going, that we really had little time to deepen our practice to get there.
We have grown. We have grown where we have developed patience and we’ve stopped counting. That is great growth for a western consciousness to do that. I do my spiritual practices because I do my spiritual practices. What will happen, will happen. Whether I am going to be enlightened or free now, or 10,000 births is of no concern to me. Because what difference does it make? What else am I going to do? I can’t stop anyway, so it doesn’t make any difference to me. But you watch, so you make sure you don’t get too trapped in your expectations about any practice.
There is a lovely story about Nasreddin, the Sufi mystic, slob, kind of a bum. He’s great. The stories of Nasreddin are delicious. An aside, this isn’t the one I am telling, is about Nasreddin going to the bank with a check to cash. He hands the check to cashier, and the cashier studies the check. And the check looks wonderful, but Nasreddin looks like a complete derelict. He said, “Sir, this check looks fine, but can you identify yourself?” Nasreddin reached into his pocket and pulled out a mirror and he said, “Yep, that’s me”.
The one I wanted to tell you, Nasreddin went to his neighbor to borrow a cooking pot, and his neighbor said, “Nasreddin, you know you are very undependable and I really treasure this big pot, and I don’t think I can give it to you.” And Nasreddin said, “My family is all coming. I really need it. I will bring it back tomorrow.” Finally, begrudgingly, the neighbor gave the pot to Nasreddin. Nasreddin took it home, very thankful and appreciative. Next day he was at the door with the pot. The neighbor was delighted. He said, “Nasreddin, how wonderful.” He took the pot, and inside the big pot was a little pot. He said, “What’s that?” Nasreddin said, “The big pot had a baby.” The neighbor, of course, was delighted. So the next week Nasreddin came and he said, “I would like to borrow your pot. I am having another party.” The neighbor said, “Of course, Nasreddin. Take my pot”. So Nasreddin took the pot. The next day, no Nasreddin. The day after, no Nasreddin. Finally, the neighbor went to Nasreddin and he said, “Nasreddin, where is my pot?” Nasreddin said, “It died.” See how you get sucked in by your own mind.
Starting from the 60s, there was an influx of eastern spiritual teachers. I remember going to the Avalon Ballroom in the company of Sufi Sam to hear Alan Ginsberg introduce AC Bakta Davanta, who was going to chant this weird chant called Hare Krishna. That was in the early 60s. The Beatles were jetting with Maharishi Mahesh. At one point I went with a group of hippies from the Haight-Ashbury, I was the elder of that group, to meet with the Hopi elders of the Hopavilla, to arrange a Hopi-Hippy be-in the Grand Canyon. We were honoring them as our elders. But they didn’t really want to be honored by us, I don’t think. Because when we went there, we made terrible mistakes. We gave feathers to the children. Some of us made love by the well. Because we didn’t really know how to honor lineages properly. That is something we learned over the years, through our connection with Eastern traditions, something about lineages.
The problem with lineages, was how much we would incorporate of the lineages as they were from the east and how much we would modify them. And the predicament about all that was, to modify them, you have to modify them from inside them. You can’t modify from outside. What many westerners started to do, was take a tradition, from, for instance, Mahayana Buddhism and say well, that’s all fine for Tibetan Buddhists, but really what we should be doing is this. And they did that prior to fully understanding the practice from the deepest place inside. Carl Jung talks about Richard Wilhelm and his preface to the I Ching. He calls him a gnostic intermediary. He said what he did was he incorporated into him, the Chinese being into his blood and his cells, so that he was dreaming that way. And then he brought it back to the culture. And the interesting thing about the gnostic intermediaries is that we were so eager to get ahead that we were really doing violence to a number of the lineages. Because we went to the east, bought them, but kept modifying them in order for our own convenience and comfort.
We in the west are much more of a personality cult than the east. We are much more focused on what I want, what I desire, what I need. That isn’t true of eastern cultures as much. It may be more repressed there, but whatever, it is not a dominant theme. So, a lot of the spiritual practices are not focused around personality, and thus they are not quite immediately transferable to the west. I didn’t really understand lineage. I remember doing a television show with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and we were talking about non-attachment as the quality of mind that is so desirable. I said to him, well, if you are so non-attached why don’t you give up your lineage? He said, “I am not attached to anything but my lineage.” I said, “you have a problem.” It was out of my grossness of not understanding the way of the intimate love affair one has with the method, where one goes into a method first as a kind of a dilettante, and then one gets into the method in a more or less fanatic way. Then one comes out the other end. And then one wears the method, or uses it or honors it without being attached to it. Just because you become the unique carrier of that lineage. It’s a whole different place that you carry a lineage from, once you don’t need it any longer. That was something I didn’t understand at that time.
Well, what we did, was we gathered around our new found spiritual awakenings on all the ways we knew to get high. There were people who gathered around sexual freedom. There were people who gathered together around drugs. There were people who gathered together around chanting, others around meditation. We had wonderful eastern names for them; satsang and the sanga. The predicament is that after a while, most of those went from being very fresh and pure and joyful coming together, and started to come into having boundaries around them, having elitism, having who was in them and who wasn’t in them, professing that their way was the only way. And a lot of us have seen much violence done, from just that simple concept; that my way is the only way. It reminded me in those days of that story of God and Satan walking down the street, and they see this brilliantly shiny object on the ground. God reaches down and picks it up and he says, “Ah, it’s truth.” And Satan says, “Oh, yes, give it to me. I’ll organize it.”
And that was roughly what it felt like. It started to become institutional and structured in the 70s, and faddish. It became the in thing to be part of these large spiritual movements. They were beautiful. They got people incredibly high. The predicament was that many of the eastern teachers who came over from primarily celibate renunciate paths. They weren’t ready for western women who were at the middle of their sexual freedom and feminism and they could do anything. They were absolutely vulnerable. They fell like flies, because these people were teachers. They were not gurus. A guru is a cooked goose. A guru is done. The difference between a cave and a city makes no difference to a guru. To a teacher it makes a hell of a lot of difference. Because a teacher is pointing the way, while a guru is the way. It’s a very different quality. What a guru does is mirror for you where you aren’t. That’s all they do.
We took that whole concept of guru and we turned into our need for a good father, in a psycho-dynamic sense. We wanted the guru to do it to us. When in fact, what happens is that the guru just is, like a tree or a river. And depending on your karmic predisposition of readiness, you do it to yourself, in the presence. The guru is a presence that allows you to do it, the presence that doesn’t catch you anywhere. Only you catch yourself.
And so what happened was that after a while we brought our whole judging mind to the scene and I was surrounded by people who were coming up with gossip about this spiritual teacher or that spiritual teacher. It seemed like everyone was becoming a connoisseur of clay feet. They were busy deciding whether they could afford to take a teaching from someone who was impure. They were looking for the impurities in order to protect themselves because they misunderstood the concept of surrender. They thought that what you do is surrender to somebody else as a person. What you really surrender to is the truth. Ramana Marheshi says, “God, guru and self are one and the same thing”. So what you are surrendering to is your higher truth, or your higher wisdom, in the guru. It’s an interesting issue that has gone on for many years. I will talk about it on the next page. The issue about surrender. Surrender is a very unpleasant word to us in the west. It always has images of MacArthur. It’s terrible images. I accept your surrender. It’s the showing of the neck in vulnerability. The fact that surrender is such a deep part of the spiritual path is something we have had to stretch a great deal to understand. I will come back to that. As we learn more about the traditions, we realize that if we were going to incorporate what had happened to us through psychedelics, but we were going to use these other methods to stabilize and integrate them into our lives, we were going to have to do a lot purification. At first we poo-pooed that. It was like the ten commandments. Who cares, ya know. That’s all old stuff. That’s all those uptight people. We can have all our things. Then we began to see that you had to stop creating karma. To get your head in a place where you could get high and not come down; that was the interesting question. How do you get high and stay there? That was the way we used to say it. We don’t say it that way now. So there was a big push for renunciate practices. Because the idea was that this earth plane, is the illusion; it’s causing trouble. The best thing to do is get up there; get out there in sort of la-la land. Get really high. Get into the place where its all divine. This is sort of an era that we all ended up here anyway. That was kind of a renunciate model.
So people felt that by giving up a lot of things, they would get much purer, to have deeper experiences. And many did. But others ended up like horny celibates. Because they collected this stuff as achievement again. Meister Eckhart said, “We are to practice virtue, not possess it.” That was the issue. We tried to possess it and wear it on our sleeves about how pure we were. But even a little of Shiva or Yama or whatever your purification rituals are; just not creating suffering, not stealing, not killing, not having adultery, not causing trouble; even that effected us and we started to have many more spiritual experiences. That lead to such a time of spiritual materialism, it boggles my mind. Because everybody was in rapture or bliss. Everybody was having experiences seeing radiant balls coming to talk to them. It was an incredible time.
Now this is all true, but the way we reacted it was what was interesting, because we got absolutely enamored of all of the phenomena that occurred as a result of our practices; our meditation, our spiritual purification. We were really vulnerable to spiritual materialism. If we had a Ford in the garage, we had an astral being in the bedroom. The traditions warned us about this. They said, don’t get stuck, like Buddhism says, don’t get stuck in the Jhanas, in the trance state, because you will go into the trace state and you will discover omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. Don’t get caught in it. Just notice is, nod to it and go on. Don’t get stuck in it. But it was too tasty for us to let it go. It continues to be quite tasty. It’s very hard to understand that the spiritual freedom is very ordinary. It’s nothing special.
That is what is so precious about it. We keep trying to make it into something. With all these powers came a tremendous amount of energy. Because if you meditate, you quiet your mind just a little bit. The amount of energy that is dissipated through your “monkey mind” of thinking, brrrrrrrrrrrr, going from here to here; the minute you concentrate just the tiniest bit through chanting or meditation, or anything, you start to tune to other planes of reality, where there is an incredible energy. It is like if you are a toaster, sticking you plug 220 instead of 110 and everything fries.
Many, many people had these incredible, and continue to have, these incredible experiences of energy, or shakti, or often what is called kundalini, which is the energy rising up the spine. I recall the first time it happened to me. I really thought I had damaged myself. It was so violent. As it started up my spine, it felt like a thousand snakes climbing my spine. It got to my second chakra and I remember I ejaculated automatically. It kept going up and I was really frightened, extremely frightened, because I hadn’t expected anything this horrendous. I get calls all the time, as I am sure does the Spiritual Emergence Network. Stan and Kristin, have done a wonderful job with that organization, by the way. I get calls often, from people who are having kundalini experiences, who say, “I am a therapist in Berkeley and this thing happened to me, and I ride my bicycle for six hours a day, and I don’t get tired, and I can’t sleep, and I can’t eat, and I cry at the strangest moments, and I think I am going insane”. I said, “Let me read you a list of all the symptoms, which I have on a xerox”. She said, “I thought I was the only one who was having that”. And I said, “No, it’s xeroxed. Swami Muktanda published it a long time ago. It’s just mother kundalini at work. Don’t worry, it will pass. Just breathe in and out of your heart. Keep It soft”, and so on.
A lot of these phenomena started to happen to us, and they scared us, or they excited us, or they entrapped and enamored us. We stopped to smell the pretty flowers. Many people, when they went into the plane where they experienced this power, brought their egos up with them, and interpreted it as my power. They went into a messianic journey, where they tried to convince everybody that they were the one. That was very painful for everybody, extremely painful. I remember a moment with my brother, who was in a mental hospital because he was Christ, and he was doing terrible things as Christ, it turns out. There was a moment where the doctor and my brother and I met in this hospital ward together. The doctor wouldn’t let him see anybody without the doctor being present. I came in with a beard and a dress and beads. My brother was in a blue suit and a tie. He was locked up and I was free. The humor of which didn’t escape any of us. We were talking about whether the psychiatrist would ever know that he was God. The psychiatrist was writing on his clipboard. It was very uncomfortable, because me and my brother were really out there floating. And then my brother said, “I don’t understand why I am in a hospital and you are free. You look like a nut”. I said, “Well, you think you’re Christ?” and he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Well, I think I am Christ too.” He said, “No, you don’t understand.” I said, “That’s why they are locking you up.” The minute you tell someone they are not Christ, watch out. That was the messianic phenomena that happened along the way.
Is this too heavy, or are you still with me? I am trying to cover an awful lot of material a little fast. I am sorry about that.
Now, in a lot of people, when the energy got so intense from their spiritual practices, they really lost their ground. They lost it on this plane. That’s what the Spiritual Emergence Network has done to help these people because in India, or other cultures, when that happens, those who are called to serve, like Meera Baba. They were called mosks or God-intoxicants. Annadamai, one of the greatest saints of all time, a Bengali woman, a very dignified woman, spent about two years doing cartwheels in her front yard and throwing off her sari and stuff. Now, in our culture, that is Bellevue material. In that culture, it’s, “Ah, there is a God-intoxicant. We must take care of them at a temple”. We have not had a support system for that type of trans-formative loss of ground, which you need to go through at times. You go through the ground and then you regain it. A lot of people just went out. I remember in the early days, the whole game was to get everybody out. To get them to let go of their minds and the heaviness. Then, you looked out and everyone was floating. I looked at half the audience and I wanted to say come on up for air. It’s okay. It’s not so heavy in life. The other half, I wanted to say, “Get your life together. Learn your zip code.” “Get a job, for Christ’s sake.” When spiritual practices work a little bit, but you are not stable in your trans-formative experience, your faith is flickery. That is when fanaticism breeds strongly. The mosquitoes of fanaticism breed in flickery faith environments. That is what happens to most disciples in spiritual scenes. They become much worse. When you meet a spiritual master, in any tradition, you meet a Zen master, or a Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, American Indian; whatever time you meet a master, you meet and recognize another amench, like you really know. They don’t sit around and say, “You’re not following my way, so you are lesser. But all of the disciples right under them do.
Transcription by Joanie Nielsen
Help Support These Teachings
If you enjoyed Episode 34 – Promises and Pitfalls, please support our efforts to continue making teachings from Ram Dass and friends accessible to all. As Ram Dass says, "When you see the beloved all around you, everyone is family and everywhere is love." Learn more >
I would like to make a contribution of:
Please do not use the back button or click submit more than once while your order is processing.
If you would like to donate via mail, please send a check to:
Love Serve Remember Foundation
2355 Westwood Blvd. #130
Los Angeles, CA 90064
LSRF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law.