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