In this dharma talk from the 1990s, Ram Dass explores the nature of the spiritual journey, getting free with the practice of karma yoga, and formulas for liberation.
The Nature of the Spiritual Journey
Ram Dass begins by exploring the nature of the spiritual journey. It begins with a call to awaken, to remember what we’ve taken birth for. The awakening can come in any number of ways, including psychedelic experiences. Ram Dass talks about the Four Noble Truths and the role of suffering in our daily lives and our spiritual journeys.
“And from then on, the journey is fascinating because you begin to appreciate the fact that you are on a journey, that the meaning of life is a vehicle through which you can further awaken. As you study more deeply you understand more deeply the nature of life experiences and the role of suffering… And you come to appreciate the way in which the end of suffering has to do, the end of your suffering, has to do with the nature of your spiritual evolution, or the clinging of your own mind. And these are the Four Noble Truths that the Buddha enunciated after getting enlightened.” – Ram Dass
Getting Free with Karma Yoga (9:55)
Next in the journey, we start to look at different practices. Ram Dass keys in on a technique called karma yoga, which is working with the stuff of life itself as a practice to get free. He talks about the predicament of not being able to wait until we’re enlightened to start helping other people. But herein lies the elegance of karma yoga.
“Now the elegance of karma yoga is, the very act you do to help another person is simultaneously the act you’re doing to work on yourself. Like, I am helping you now, at some level, but this act is my work on myself. Because the clearer I get, the better my help is for you. So I’m serving as an act to work on myself; I am working on myself as an act to better serve you. Can you see how the circle works? Can you see the elegance of that?” – Ram Dass
Formulas for Liberation (21:10)
Ram Dass talks about how once we decide to use our acts as vehicles for liberation, there are formulas to do that. First off is quieting down enough to hear one’s own dharma, to hear which act is appropriate to perform at this very moment. Next is the way in which one does the act; Ram Dass elucidates the art form of not identifying with being the actor.
“And when you are quiet enough, you start to fulfill your dharma impeccably. Because what distorts your effectiveness in fulfilling an act is the attachments you have that distort the way you see it. If you’re too identified with your desire systems, then what it does is it colors the universe so you see only that which will gratify that desire.” – Ram Dass