It Might be the Dress, Ram Dass


On the way back from India I had gotten to the Los Angeles airport where I was waiting between planes. I had come from this thing in the temple and then I’d been in Kyoto in Japan in a temple, and from there I’d come directly to Los Angeles where I was waiting for a plane to my cabin. And I was sitting in the lotus position on a bench in the American airlines terminal. And three soldiers came by on their way back from Vietnam and they were talking about whether they wanted to meet some women or get a bottle first. That was their discussion. One of them took a look at me and said, “What are you some kind of a yogurt?” It’s hard to imagine the space my head was in in those days. First I had been silent for 7 months, working on a slate board even in Japan. I was used to living in a very quiet space. So this was all very much. Their words were floating around and I could feel all the vibrations and everything the being was, was saying and so on. And I just felt this incredible wave of love and I looked at him and I said, “Well as a matter of fact I am a yogi and I’ve been in the Himalayas studying” and I looked right at him you know, like “Right. You know. Right on.”

Well all I can tell you is that within about probably a minute and a half he was sitting next to me telling me about how he watched his best friend being shot to death in the tent they were living in in Vietnam, and what he felt like facing death and so on. And 30 minutes later when their plane was called they could barely part. It was the shaking hands and “It’s been SUCH a thing to meet you”. Well that blew my mind, because that had nothing to do with me obviously. I mean clearly that would never have happened with me. But whatever it was that I had picked up in India was like some kind of bug in the digestive system. It was doing something to me so that these people were seeing something or other. I felt very much like a middle man in the whole operation.

So I went to stay in this cabin on my father’s property, and I was recreating India and one day I went shopping, my father was up for the weekend and I took his big fancy car and I went into the city to buy groceries, by myself. There were these two hippies hitchhiking by the side of the road right near town so I waved at them, because I wasn’t going very far. They waved back and when I came out of the store they were standing by the car with four other hippies. One came up to me and said “Hey man, you got any acid?” and I said, “No why are you asking me?” and he said “Well we heard a connection was coming up from Boston and we saw this big Cadillac with a Massachusetts license plate and this guy with a beard so we figured you must be it.”  I said, “Well I’m…” see this is my giveaway line. This is the line where I created a whole new thing of karma, you gotta watch how you create karma out of desire. All I had to say at that point was, “Gee I’m sorry I’m not your connection, see ya around” and I could go back to my retreat and I could keep India forever. But karma being what it is, I said, “Gee, I’m sorry, I’m not THAT kind of a connection”.

And therein lies the tale that I’m still paying for. If you’ve got power desires you get everything you ever wanted. That’s what’s so horrible about it. You recognize having something that you wanted about 10 years ago. And you gotta have it now. And if you want to get rid of it you’ll have it again, that’s what so horrible about it. You just gotta have it. Let it run off, running off old karma. My Theravada Buddhist essence mediation teacher, every time I’d get all hung up in my personality I’d go to him for an explanation of it in Buddhist terms and he’d say, “You’re just running off old karma”. It’s like running off stuff, old records, tapes, you’re just running off. But don’t get attached to doing anything about them or you’re just going to start more. Then you’ll always be getting the rewards of previous desires.

Now they said, “What kind of connection are you?” and I said “Well blahblahblabh” and they said “Can we come up and see you?” and I said “Sure.” So then I started to see people, and they came and then they brought their friends, and they brought their friends’ friends, and the friends brought their ministers, and the ministers brought their parents and the whole thing kept proliferating until every day I’d go out and there’d be like 400 people sitting out on the lawn just dropping by for the afternoon. All the time I’m talking to my guru saying “What the hell did you do?” Because as far as I’m concerned, I’m just the guy that went to India in the first place and nobody did this before. Whatever happened? It might be the dress I don’t know.

 – Ram Dass at the Unitarian Church, Boulder CO, 11-20-1972