Ram Dass on Judaism



My Jewish trip was primarily political Judaism, I mean I was never Bar Mitzvahed, confirmed and so on. My father was a very visible jew. He started Brandeis University and he was head of the United Jewish Appeal and he and Einstein met and collaborated in starting Einstein Medical School in New York.

I had an interesting discussion while I was at the unveiling of my mother’s tombstone in 1968, I came back from India and the Rabbi of the synagogue that I had been connected with, which is a very big wealthy synagogue in Boston, I had only met him briefly – my father was on the Board of Trustees of the Temple, right, so the Rabbi came to the unveiling of the stone and he was wearing his soft hat and his sunglasses and I was in all my Indian holy robes and he had never met me before and it sort of freaked him a little bit, but he assumed I was the son, so he came up afterwards and he grabbed me by the elbow and he said “well what have you been up to?” I said, “well since you asked I will tell you.” And I proceeded to tell him. We leaned against two tombstones and I told him what had happened to me in India. And I was very direct and I was very straight with him and then he said to me “when I was at theological school one night I was studying for exams, and I was deep into biblical study, when suddenly the books in front of me fell away and a great light came and I had an incredible vision.” And he described the vision. And I said to him, “well you’ve been very blessed.” I said “that must have helped your work a great deal with your parishioners in the temple. You are very lucky. You must have shared that with many people” – he says “I’ve never told anybody that till I’m telling you. It has no relevance to my work.” He said Judaism is a folk religion. He said “I am not interested in mysticism.”

Every religion like Judaism obviously has a mystic tradition but many religious rituals are designed for people who in one lifetime are not going to begin to awaken. And it’s designed to keep them cool. To keep them moral and cool and together. And it doesn’t want, like, Christianity doesn’t want Christ running down the aisle. And the Jews aren’t primarily interested in what happened to Moses up in the Mountain – their primary interest is what he brought back. See, and the predicament is that ultimately, like the Ten Commandments at first and the way I was taught them, they are “there’s Jehovah and you better follow them or else.”

Now I am in a position in my own consciousness where the Ten Commandments are what I am, they are not something I follow because I am afraid of God, I follow them because they are the only logical thing to do. Because they make perfect sense and they were designed by a conscious being. Right? But the thing is, even the people that are teaching them aren’t conscious about that level of it, most of them. Now I felt that I was born a Jew for some reason and I am wanting to find out why. But every time I get near people who would like to tell me why, the vibration of the reason they want to tell me somehow turns me off. It’s often that a Jewish Rabbi will come along and want to get me to recognize my Judaism but their desire is not pure – there is something in them, what it is I don’t know…

– Ram Dass, Berkley Comm. Theater, March 7th 1973