I’ve sat next to a very exquisite nun in Tibetan Buddhism, who spends months doing prostration. 100,000 Prostrations down and out, back and up, down and out – with mantra and prayer – the technique of surrender, an offering, a surrender, and an offering.

I would love to have a method like that, but Maharajji won’t let me have any. He says “Serve everyone.” Well how do you serve everyone? I don’t know how to serve everyone. You gotta listen to hear how you’re supposed to serve everyone. Serve just anyone?

It turns out you serve that in each of us which we are, because you’ve got to keep remembering God. See, it’s ‘love everyone, serve everyone, and remember God,’ and as long as you keep remembering God, when you look at another person, who do you think you’re seeing? Right… here we are.

When you look at another person, what do you see? Body? That’s desire. What do you see? Personality? … That’s attachment.

Beyond body, beyond personality, way back in here, way back behind all the things you think you are, here we are. That’s the being you serve.

Now there is an attempt to relieve human suffering. The work is to relieve human suffering. That’s what serving people does. You serve to end this suffering, and you understand, as your compassion grows, that people suffer for different reasons. A person who is not at all awakened, a person who has never been outside of the realm of reality, which they came into by taking the birth in the first place, they suffer when they’re not experiencing pleasure. So when you meet somebody that is suffering in that way, you help them relieve their suffering.

Like if somebody is hungry, you feed them. That’s what serving is. But say you meet a yogi that’s doing a nine day fast, and it’s the fifth day, and he says, “I’m hungry,” you say “Good.” You say, “Well, I’ll fast with you.” That’s service. Not feeding turns out to be service. You bring them a huge meal, that is hardly service. There is no specific form.

The form is a function of the nature of the being you’re serving, and the nature of your own being.

I think that my sadhana of ‘love, serve, and remember God’ can be understood in an interesting way.

In Southern Buddhism, there are three major aspects of practice. They’re called chela, samadhi, and punyam. Chela means purification, samadhi means concentration, and punyam means wisdom. As you read the literature and begin to work on it yourself, you begin to see that it takes a little bit of punyam – a little bit of wisdom to figure out if there’s anything at all to do about anything. If there’s any enlightenment, if there’s any awakening, or if there’s any illusion, it leads you to take a look at where you’re at. You become aware of your desires, your cravings, your fears, all of your thoughts. You become aware that you don’t have your scene around you straight. You don’t have your launch pad cool enough, your relationships to human beings aren’t straight enough. At that point that’s chela, purification. You do some of that and as you meditate a little deeper, you see more wisdom, and as your punyam gets greater, then you see you need to purify more, and so it goes and these three things keep interweaving.

I began to see that my work was purification. It was getting my theme straight, it was lightening up my attachments, getting out of living such a complicated life, simplifying my life, relating to other human beings, so that when I met another person, I found the place in them where we are, and I didn’t get caught and lost every time in the melodrama of our relationships.


-Ram Dass