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 afterward 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

10 thoughts on “Ram Dass on Judaism”

  1. Interesting, this is the first thing I have ever read on this website and it is exactly what is on the tape I am listening to at this time from “The Book of Grace.” On one of the tapes from the Book of Grace Ram Dass tells the same exact story.

  2. So good to hear this testimony, as being jew to me a european woman born in 53 , brought to mary a doctor and finaly studeing buddhism and yoga in my twenties….India, Canada, such a auckward path for a jewish lady well raised!
    Les justes se reconnaitrons”….and that what you did for us, you brought us together with dignity and hapiness. Thank you so much for that and for your trumendous love. Peace to you my spiritual friend.

  3. Hey maybe your Father and my Uncle knew each other too. My Uncle worked with Einstein on numerous patents, like the Camera, and he created the Bucky Xray machine. They were good friends. The circle just keeps getting smaller!

  4. The whole above article saddens me very much to read. I came to Israel in 1979, a spiritual seeker looking for my path to serve the Divine. I have been an Orthodox Jew ever since and Judaism is my spiritual path. It is my way to connect with the Holy One. The depth of the Torah is constantly blowing my mind, stretching my vessels and pushing me to go beyond myself and grow. There are many teachers here in the Land, brillant, holy and connected. They inspire me to be constantly renewing my connection to Hashem, constantly deepening my understanding of the Oneness, of the Paradox. The Mitzvot (commandments) are a Jew’s way of raising up the physical world to the spiritual, of using every aspect of the world from clothing, food, sex, friendships and family to serve G-d. And because of Torah, my life has been a rich and joyous experience, sharing my journey with family, friends and community. i wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  5. First, let me invite you for shabbat if you are ever in the land of Israel.

    I hear the disharmony you express between your birth religion and your personal soul explorations. I travelled through various manifestations of Jewish identity until I was able to harmonize my peronal, national, human and universal identities. I bless you and all beings with the ability to actualize your mission in this life through the confluence of individual choice and Divine destiny.

    You clearly were ordained to be a spiritual light-giver. What is odd to me is that you post this piece from nearly 40 years ago. Were there no developements? DId you not meet any Rabbis who radiate with Eternal light?

    I believe that the Tikun you desire with regards to Jewishness is taking place on many levels in our time. There is a major current of deeply spiritual, cosmically connected, and lovingly open Torah visionaries in our generation. There is spiritual revival going on throughout the entire spectrum of the Jewish world. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

    May you be blessed with both physical and spiritual shefa (Divine flowing abundance) and with the ability to unify them through Torah, Tefillah, and Mitzvot.

  6. I was born and raised Jewish but my first sense of the reality of God was in reading be here now when I was 15. I tried christianity for a while ,but can’t relate to christian history and politics. I now consider myself jewish in but still call on Jesus. I don’t really practice the jewish religion ,but spend alot of time in prayer. Ram Dass has been a valued guide to me much of my life . Thank you!

    • You are Jewish if you practice the riligeon (such as taking part in the holy days, rituals, read the holy book in this case the Torah, have the beliefs and values of the riligeon). A person can claim to be a certain riligeon, but if they don’t practice any of it, then really they are just that riligeon by name (well that’s how i look at it). Of course you do have the choice whether you want to follow it or not, you dont have to be that riligeon just because you were born into it.

  7. How can a person become a Jew? I am staying in South Africa, and to be honest, I was just wondering if there is ever such a thing here in this country. I could be casting a stone on the wrong wall here and I fully understand, but the main objective of my question, lies in whether one becomes a Jew by their own conscience or you are born one. A christian does not become ordained until he/she fully is willing to accept Christ and be a born again. Now how does the functionality operates in Jewish faith/believe?

    • To become a Jew is a long process of study and then conversion if you were not born a Jew. The Jewish faith/people do not believe in actively bringing in converts. It is a faith of great responsibility and to undertake it, is a huge committment. They do not make it easy for potential converts, they push you away, discourage you, etc. to make sure that you absolutely want to do this, to bind yourself to Torah and the Jewish nation. If you are interested in converting, you need to contact an Orthodox Rabbi where you are living and start to study in order to see if this is really what you want. He will then direct you to the next step that you need to take.


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