Profession as a Role

I make my living as a lawyer, and without demeaning the profession, the standards of care and the obligations of the profession are grounded in a plane of separateness, at least from my point of view there are times when I have to use attack, use manipulation and even to some extents guile to fulfill what I believe to be my professional duties. How do I stay conscious but still honor my profession and my clients?

I think that each role has certain characteristics that, in a way, are part of the playing field game. If you watch a game of basketball, you can see that there are certain ways the elbow can be used that are right on the edge of being legal or not. And everybody knows that, and that’s sort of part of the way the game is played.

I remember in Boston we had a mayor, Mayor Curley. Mayor Curley was a real gunoff; he was a real, well, he used patronage a lot. Everybody loved Mayor Curley, but he was sent to jail for mail fraud. And the city loved him so much, they kept him on as mayor, and when he got out, they all went to South Station and when the train arrived they took him on their shoulders back to City Hall.

Why Are You Offended?

And I was offended by this. In later years when I was talking to my friend Timothy Leary about this, he said “Why are you offended? You just didn’t understand the rules of the game. In the game everybody understood the rules and the rules were serving the people, they were just not serving them by your statement of how the game should be played. But the game was being played, and it was relatively fair to everybody, as fair as any other system was. It was just not the game you understood.”

I think that in law, one understands that you are to represent the client. For example, there’s a very delicate issue in law of representing somebody that may likely be guilty of a crime, because they have a right to a defense. And the question is, can the lawyer know the person is guilty and still defend them or not? Now, there are many lawyers that defend clients that they know they’re guilty but feel that they have a right to a fair trial, and they will use whatever guile they have as a lawyer to give that person as best a trial as they can, even though they may know that person’s guilty. And we know the system works that way, and when you enter that role, you enter the role knowing the system works that way.

Profession as Identity

Now, where you are in relation to your role is what we’re talking about. That if you are “I am a lawyer,” you’re trapped. If it’s “I am a being being a lawyer,” then you see the rules of the playing field; you’ve put on your spikes to go on the football field; you pick up your tennis sneakers to go on the tennis court. You understand the rules of it, and you play it. And you can play the rules in such a way that your relationship with your client, with your opponent, with the opposing lawyer, with the judge, with the prosecuting attorney, with everybody can be such that even in opposition you get closer to the other person, and you feed the spirit even when you oppose and use all the techniques that are within the armamentarium of the law profession.

Do you hear what I’m saying? It’s your identification with the guile that creates the distance.

We are Collaborators to Compete

It’s interesting how you play, like when you play Monopoly, if you play the game Monopoly, which is a board game in which there are thimbles and hats and irons. And you pick a thimble, a symbol, and you move it around the board, and you go to jail or you win Park Place or the utilities and so on. If you and I played Monopoly together, the game requires we play fiercely, that we compete. But you and I collaborated to sit down and play the game. We are collaborators to compete.

Do you hear that? So we’re two levels simultaneously. At the level of competition, I am the thimble and you are the top hat, right? At the level of collaboration we’re two friends that said, “You wanna play Monopoly?” When you lose that level, the competition is divisive. When you’re just the hat or the thimble. When you lose the level of competition and you’re just two friends playing together, but you don’t play fiercely, you don’t get the game; you don’t get the juice out of the game; the game doesn’t work. The game is based on the fact that there’s competition.

Living on More Than One Level of Consciousness

So what we’re playing with is simultaneously living on more than one level of consciousness at the same moment. So towards the prosecuting attorney you’re thinking, “We came together to fall into love and the form we’re gonna fall into love is to fight over this case. And I’m gonna use every technique and you’re gonna use every technique, but I don’t forget that you’re a soul who’s using your techniques and I’m a soul who’s using my techniques, and we’re both coming from the same place, and when we get finished, it’s the same thing as Gandhi said, ‘I want the English to leave, but I want them to leave as friends.’”

And the English could handle that because they had some kind of consciousness about that, and it worked. It worked. That was a way in which they got closer through the divisiveness. It’s an art form, you know?

Truth is the truth of the spirit

But, see it’s interesting, because the lie itself isn’t what it is. It’s whether you’re the liar. That’s the thing that’s hard to hear. Truth is the truth of the spirit. Truth isn’t necessarily the truth of the words. Truth is the quality of the spirit, I mean, it’s a really hard one because most of us can’t afford the lie, because we’re so identified with being the liar. You’d have to be totally non-identified with the liar to lie. It’s like the way Maharaji could say “Jao, go away,” in a way that turned out to be the caress of love.

It’s the way in which you’re living on many levels and you’re sending the message of one level through the forms of another. That’s the artform. It’s the art form of life that I can understand.


– Ram Dass, 1989 Summer Retreats Listening Heart Series Q&A


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