“R.D. says we are not our bodies. Amen.”

For some years in California, a young man came to my lectures in a bed, brought in a bed. He was a quadriplegic. He could not speak. He was about twenty-eight years old. He was like this (laying back on a slant). His attendant could hold his hand over an alphabet board and there was just enough capacity to point at letters. That was the way he spoke. Each time he came, I went over to him and hugged him, and then I would wait while he spelled out some words. I felt in myself how reactive I was to the immensity of his deprivation state.

He was very angry. He had normal sexual desires which he could not find expression for. Angry. This had happened to him when he was eleven years old from a hit on the side of the head. He had now been through college; he was twenty-eight years old. He was an extraordinary person.

But for at least six months of my knowing him, I was caught in my reactivity to his condition. I saw that this was an extraordinary opportunity for me to work on myself. He was reaching out for friendship, and I reached out to him as well. Over time I began to see how I could meet him behind his disability. I started to relax my whole way of being with him regarding time. I got so that I was not even noticing that he was speaking to me through his alphabet board. I began to meet a profoundly wise spiritual being in this body. As I met him that way, he felt it safer to be more open and started to let go of his anger.

At one point, I was going to speak to an audience of 500 doctors and helping people. Kelly, the man, asked me if he could introduce me to the audience. I said “wonderful!” They wheeled him onto the stage. I could see the audience was very upset. They were all professional helpers. He spelled out on his alphabet board “R.D. says we are not our bodies. Amen.” That was his introduction. The audience stood up. So much beauty.

A year and a half ago he decided that he had lived long enough, and he asked me if it was all right if he died. I said to him that each of us must make our own decision, but that I loved him a great deal and I would miss him, and that his presence in the world was helping many of us.

But living was so hard for him that he decided he had had enough. The problem was he didn’t know how he could die. He had no control of his body to take pills, and nobody around him could help him for fear of going to jail. So we talked about it and decided that fasting was the only way. For twenty-one years they had poured food into his gullet and he had choked it down. It was all mixed, pulverized food. So now he started to cough it up. It was the only way he could die. Two weeks later he died. I considered him one of my great teachers.


-Ram Dass

9 thoughts on ““R.D. says we are not our bodies. Amen.””

  1. I feel sorry this man. He didn’t see his own self worth. He was so attached to his body he wanted to die without it. He had sexual desires that couldn’t be fulfilled etc. This man was suffering greatly like so many other able bodied people. I have witnessed from afar so many regular people kill themselves because of broken dreams, broken love, illness, and more. We do have choices and you can choose to live or you can find reasons to die. I”ve met many very disabled people choosing to live and i’ve met healthy people become sick and choose to die even though their disability was not that severe but to them just loosing one ability was enough to end it all. Often if we are surrounded by love we would never choose to end our lives. If we were connected to our I am more than the I am that we also would be able to cope with great obstacles. Sometimes it’s who we surround ourselves with that makes all the difference. I think it’s wrong thinking when we say it’s ok that someone ends their life because their body is not perfect. There is a gift in everything and we have to strip away everything to see it.

  2. So beautiful Ram Dass. Thank you for this heartfelt sharing and message. Your ability and willingness to love so deeply is touching. Our physical lives are but a puff of wind in time. May I accept the end of my worldly existence with as much grace and compassion.

  3. We don’t know how we will take that journey until we find ourselves on that road. It is important that each of us are able to choose our own way, hopefully surrounded by love and compassion. Every person is different, in the choices they make and the reasons for those choices. One thing we know is that the body is merely a vehicle. We can care for it, but it will eventually break down. How we discard it is up to us.

  4. I don’t understand below lines :-

    “So we talked about it and decided that fasting was the only way”

    Does it mean Ramdass helped him to die ?

  5. but you’ve just decided right and wrong for others. And until you are having their subjective experience, you are just not qualified to make that call. Not an experience similar to theirs, but THEIR experience.
    And it also seems as though you’re saying death itself is a bad thing, to be avoided. Which I would wholeheartedly disagree with.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this Ram Dass!! I work with people with disabilities and they are my most profound teachers. Through my relationship with some of the individuals I have had the blessing to be around, I have learned about timelessness, patience and how we do not ever really need words to communicate, that telepathic communication is all that is ever really happening anyway. In fact many times the words get in the way of our understanding :). In my experience, I have found much the same thing that you did and realized that although on the surface of things, in terms of appearance, people who have disabilities look and act differently, if you go deeper, you realize that they are souls in bodies who have SO much to share with us and who can teach us so much by just their being here with us. And those who get to be around them and serve them are so blessed because they learn the value and the great lesson of selfless service and non-judgement. Thank you for sharing such a profound and deeply moving story. This greatly touched my heart.


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