The Game of Enlightenment

Question: If a Westerner were to become totally enlightened, what would happen to other people and to their feelings, especially lovers?

Ram Dass: Let me start with the word “love” for a moment. I think there is a transformation that goes on in one’s conception of the term “love.” And I think one changes from seeing it as a verb, to seeing it as a state of being. And you move much more towards what would be called Christ-love, that is, the state of being where one “is” love. One is like a light that emits, and one is a loving being. Consciousness and energy are an identity, and similarly with those identities is the term love. That is, that love and consciousness are one and the same thing. So that as you get into a higher state of consciousness you come closer to being in love. That doesn’t mean in interpersonal love. It means being – love. Now if you and I love or fall into love and I say, “She really turns me on. I love her,” from this model what i see is happening is that I’m saying, “You are a…….,” in the imprinting literature, “You are a superordinate key stimulus that is eliciting an innate response mechanism.” Or I could say it in a more general sense, saying that “You’re turning me on.” And you’re turning me on to a place inside myself that is love. So I am experiencing what it means to “be in love.” And I’m saying I am in love with you. I am in love with my connection to the place in me that is love, is the way I would now say it in this Western framework.

And it’s interesting that as long as you are under the illusion that what you are loving is “out there,” you will always experience a separateness. It is only when you begin to understand that if you and I are truly in love, if I go to the place in me that is love and you to the place in you that is love, we are “together” in Love. We start to understand that what love means is that we are sharing a common state together. That state exists in you and it exists in me.

Now the enlightened being… what happens to him is that he changes the nature of his love object from a specific love object to it all, finally. You would say that an enlightened being is totally in love with the universe, in the sense that everything in the universe turns him on to that place in himself where he is love and consciousness. So I would say that an interpersonal relationship that has any qualities of possessiveness in it, or ego drama of any kind, certainly undergoes changes as the nature of consciousness changes; and at the same moment I would say that as a person becomes more conscious he understands that he has certain karmic commitments, that is, existing contracts which may be with parents, husband or wife, children – and that he can not rid himself of these without creating a karmic cost – without leaving behind him some uncooked seeds that he’s running away from.

The game of enlightenment starts from exactly where you are at this moment, and therefore, if you have an existing social-emotional-sexual contract with another human being, that’s where it starts. To say, “Well, I’ve got to go do my work on myself, I can’t afford you anymore” leaves a ripping which ultimately you’ve got to rectify. There’s no doubt about it. You’ve got to work from where you are now. You just can’t walk out, walk away from anything, any part of your life. You’ve got to bring it all into harmony at every new level.

– Ram Dass, 1971 lecture at the Menninger Foundation

18 thoughts on “The Game of Enlightenment”

  1. Yes, to think one has to go anywhere, in order to “work on” oneself, is to believe that love can be understood by choosing separation.

  2. YES!!! This makes my soul sing and brings tears of joy to my eyes!!! The light within me sparkles and rejoices at such a deep and profound truth. Thank you.

  3. I did not mean for it to happen. I did not want to cause fear for my
    wife or mother. When I sat for a month in a meditative state, I did
    become this Christ-love. I no longer had a possessive “in love” feeling
    for my wife or a special connection with my mother. I was free. Ii
    was with god and the universe. Ii cried a lot. Everything was so
    beautiful. Ii really cannot describe the feeling. To tell my wife that I
    loved her the same as that tree or a stranger in the street or a bird;
    Sshe was not ready to hear that. I was fine. I needed no thing. What
    THAT stirred up in their egos was so strong that I was placed in a
    mental institution and evaluated for 3 days. For the sake of my family,
    I pushed away my divine ability to connect with the universe. I now
    have a struggle with that. It calls to me and I am stuck. Someday….

      • Also, it’s a personal thing, this enlightenment. I don’t think I would tell others about it. Most people are on another level of understanding and they would balk at the concept or experience. Many are still attached to their material world and think their thoughts are what’s real.

    • What an amazing experience. What a powerful one! You have had the gift of dropping your ego, and experiencing that. While you may feel you have “fallen” from that state, remember (like The Dass says 🙂 ), Be Here Now. The Bliss is now. Enlightenment is Now.
      Still, here in this moment and forever more. If that is the case, then you are already enlightened and that experience is still living and pulsating within your Being. What a beautiful thing! You have lost nothing, but strive to see and be the ego-less experience of Love that you have told of, step by step. Speak about yourself, your family, your experience wih love to yourself, and trust that it was a gift. Perhaps your family will not understand, and it is not your job to “make” them, but only to recognize that your experience was real…so validate that within yourself and begin to shine it out from your heart little by little so that the fear dissolves, the blame dissolves,

      • the “mind-stuff” dissolves, and you are having experiences of light and oneness more often. There is no block beyond the mind that tells you no. It may be work to release it, but there you are…that is the game. You can do it! You Are it!
        With love…

  4. I guess I knew this in some way because I have not walked away from things as they are. I know that everything must be in harmony and I am working on becoming that state completely with my self love.

  5. What if you’re with someone (not married) who has not embarked on the spiritual path, while you’re growing ever more eager and connected? I let my person go, because I felt the chasm between us, both spiritually and in maturity, was growing to the extent that our paths were diverging – we were growing apart. I still love him, but I felt that somehow, being with me, he was not going to grow. Since we’ve been apart, he is growing, and I’m growing much faster than before (more time and focus for my spiritual path). It seems our separating has had a positive effect on both of us, spiritually, even though we still love one another and stay in touch regularly, as friends. Can you speak to this? Thank you for your daily insights, Ram Dass. <3

    • I think Ram Dass does a good job of discussing this in one of his lectures…some people, if alone, will spend their lives wanting to be with one other person, and if they are with that person, only then can they settle down to grow. Others are the opposite. There’s nothing wrong with either. Some pieces of our ‘somebody’ (ego) need to be appeased, perhaps, before we can move on with spiritual growth. My husband and I nurture each other’s growth and have both grown more in love (not with each other, but grown in the arena of love) since we’ve been married than we would have or could have without each other.

    • I think Ram Dass is speaking of people who leave with bad feelings, running away from resolving them. Kind of like leaving a note to break up instead of working it out in conversation. When I broke up with someone, they were very angry. I understood the anger and I was there as a friend to work with them on resolving their anger towards me by not reacting to it, but by loving them regardless of how abrasive or how much they struck out at me. I just loved them anyway and always remained in that loving place. Eventually this person understood that it wasn’t a growing relationship and we parted ways.

    • My experience is similar. I deeply loved my wife but could see we were both standing in each other’s way. We parted as friends, but it hurt so much it was like ripping my arm off. We’re still friends, and we are both still healing, but we are both happy and remarried to more suitable partners. In relationships, if you don’t grow together you grow apart. The clinging to memories and emotions and “the way it was” is what makes us suffer needlessly. It often hurts to let go, but it is the only way find spiritual fulfillment, freedom, and joy.

  6. There are a lot of ‘westerners’ who are enlightened. It would affect those around them no matter where they exist on Earth. There is no separation of energy.


Leave a Comment

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.


Ram Dass Online Shop

Buy books, media, digital downloads, apparel, devotional, art & other great items!

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for the Love Serve Remember mailing to receive news, exclusive offers & more.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Donate to LSRF

Help ensure that the teachings of Ram Dass will be available to generations to come.

A Network of Mindfulness & Spirituality Podcasts
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap