Playing Your Part

There are two kinds of relationships that we enter into. I tend to call them, “Given” and “Acquired.”

Given relationships are your parents, your children, you can’t trade them in. They’re given. Friends, on the other hand, are acquired. You can drop them. Marriages are an ambiguous place; you can look at it either way. We changed marriages from a given karmic situation into an acquired karmic situation, where you can change it if it doesn’t work well.

When you have relationships that are “given” karmically, you have people that are from all different levels of consciousness. You’ve been thrown together with them, and it becomes about, “I can’t understand why we’ve been thrown together.” It’s the chance to see the way in which you have catered to your personality, and a chance to push against it a little bit.

I’m playing with such a delicate and uncomfortable edge, which is the idea that fulfilling roles brings freedom, and the roles are not just responding to your personal desires and yourself.

Gandhi once said, “Civilization is the art of voluntary renunciation.” Which means you give up certain things in yourself in order to be able to play a part in a dance.

Somebody said to Gandhi, “What do you think about Western civilization?” and he said, “I didn’t know there were any.”

I don’t think he actually said that, but take for example some of your parents who are approaching the age where there is a high likelihood they’re gonna get sick, and then need help. Maybe they get so sick, they are dying. They’re gonna need a support system to die.

A Vehicle For Freedom

If you look in your hearts and your personality structure, you will see that place in you that has loathing about dependency, that has loathing about needing to ask somebody for something, about needing help from somebody. See, we threw over the structure of roles that would have automatically provided that and now it has to be provided through the beneficence of somebody, not through the roles in the family.

A family can be a strangling tight thing that catches you or tortures you, or it can become a vehicle for your freedom.

When you understand that you have taken birth in order to go through a set of experiences through which you can awaken to the truth of your being, to that part of you that is not identified with the form, but is in the form; when you understand that is what your life is about, all the institutions you find yourself in become opportunities through which you can become free.

You use it all, and you use the family by becoming a dharmic parent or a dharmic son, meaning you hear the role, and you fulfill it impeccably. You are a perfect daughter or perfect son, and not perfect in the sense of somebody else’s model of what perfection is…you have to listen for yourself.

-Ram Dass