Continuing his conversation with Mirabai Bush and Sharon Salzberg from our previous episode, Ram Dass explores the path from suffering to grace and talks about the lessons he learned from his stroke.
This recording was made at the 2012 Open Your Heart in Paradise retreat in Maui. Check out the first half of this conversation: Bhakti and The Path of Love
From Suffering to Grace
Ram Dass and Sharon discuss how suffering can lead to grace. Ram Dass tells the story of how one of Mararaj-ji’s followers chided him for saying that Maharaj-ji was the one who gave Ram Dass his stroke. He talks about how his positive attitude toward the stroke was Majarajji’s grace, not the stroke itself. The stroke was suffering. Ram Dass shares how he dealt with his post-stroke depression.
“I remember the moment I got there. I was in the hospital, but all of the people around me were like, ‘Oh, terrible, terrible stroke, terrible.’ I looked up at Maharaj-ji and he was smiling and smiling, in a picture. And I said to him, ‘You always gave me grace in my life. What happened to you? I was stroked. Did you go out for lunch or something?’ And the positive radiations continue to come from him. So that was fierce grace.” – Ram Dass
Compassion and Empathy (12:00)
Ram Dass shares how his stroke taught him it was okay to be dependent on others and that it made him appreciate silence even more. He further explores suffering and how you can’t go around telling people that their suffering is grace. Ram Dass talks about a letter he wrote to the parents of a child who was murdered and how compassion comes from oneness. He and Mirabai discuss the difference between compassion and empathy.
“Empathy is separateness. ‘I see you are suffering. I will do something.’ Compassion is, ‘We are suffering.’” – Ram Dass
Compassion Fatigue (25:00)
Ram Dass and Mirabai talk about the idea of compassion fatigue in the world of service and caregivers. Mirabai shares a story about a time she and Ram Dass encountered their own compassion fatigue while working with the Seva Foundation in Central America. Sharon closes out the session with a brief meditation based on the Buddhist tradition of sharing merit, which is a practice that can be done anytime we have opened to some positive energy.
“It’s part of Mayan culture, you never just drop in and drop out, you spend a long time asking about the family and so on. So we’re nearing there, we’re all really tired, and Ram Dass says the most incorrect compassionate statement ever. He says, ‘Can’t we just throw the money out the window?’” – Mirabai Bush