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What yogis begin to do is to change their way of thinking in order to look at the universe differently. In order to do this, there is a period of time where they must pull back from the drama in order to be able to see it. It’s like a moratorium, it’s a time when you stand back, like you go on a vacation. It’s actually extremely hard work by the way, very exacting and very, very difficult work.

Now when most of us think of yogis, we think of somebody sitting like a famous yogi, like Milarepa, sitting up in a cave in the mountains, cross-legged and naked. There was snow, and ants were eating him, and the only food he took was nettle soup, and he ate it for so long he developed a green nettle fur all over him. But he was busy freeing himself from the dharma in order to come into union. Now that kind of moratorium is pretty unrealistic for most Westerners, so what role does yoga play in the West for us at the moment? Well, along the way it will teach you how to control your consciousness, calm your own mind down, find a center, and get your body into harmony with your thoughts. It will get you back far enough inside yourself so that you can start to see how it all is, and start to experience compassion for yourself and for others around you.

You find a place in you where the being is no longer in your eye. It’s the place in me where I look at another human being, and I see “us.” You understand? Now you think about the whole business of giving and receiving. Have you ever examined your own feelings about giving? Say somebody around you really needs something, and you give them something. Have you noticed the complex nature of your feelings about giving? There is the ‘feeling good’ that you can give, there is feeling a certain kind of ‘I’m a good person for having given,’ and there’s a certain social image you have of yourself because they deal with so much self effacement.

But if you merely feel, “Here we are, and here is this money, and we’re using it, because this is the way we need to use it,” you can only do that from the place inside you where you are behind your own drama of, “I am he who gives,” or “I am he who receives.” The fact is, I can’t afford to accept anything that is given to me as if I am an object, as if I am “him.” I can’t afford it, because all it does is pull us further apart, while if someone shares what they have with me, then we can use it together, because it brings us closer together.

There are two ways of giving. America for example, gives to underdeveloped countries, and it’s done with this feeling of, “Look at how strong we Americans are, and look at how weak you are, and we will help you out of our beneficence.”

From where my head is at, God grows the wheat and the American is just extremely lucky that he happens to be living in a place where the wheat grows, and if he has bins full of it, and there is somebody in Nigeria, Africa who’s hungry, who’s that person in Nigeria?

How close would that person have to get to you before you’d say, “Well of course, you eat it.”

Say we set up an exchange program between Nigeria and Franklin where we bring five people from Nigeria here to Franklin. Five people in Franklin say, “Let them come and visit in our homes.” A Nigerian is visiting your home, sitting at your table, and you’re serving bread, but when it gets to them you say, “I’m sorry, it’s our bread.”

No, you wouldn’t do that.

So at what level does it become “them”?

When they are not sitting at your table?

When they’re outside your door?

 

-Ram Dass

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