Question: I have noticed that, as I’ve progressed on this pathway, I’ve picked up a lot of rules and regulations. And in picking up the rules and regulations of should and shouldn’t, my personality has taken the brunt of it. And this personality, for me, has become like a whipping post, my inner tyrant. And so what I wanted to ask you was, how can this personality, being that this is an aspect of self, be a vehicle for beauty, something to be endeared and worked with, rather than the experience of constant obstacle?
Ram Dass: As you begin to acknowledge a plane of consciousness in which the personality is real, you begin to develop a perspective which allows you the space to appreciate the beauty of the personality and to delight in it. At this point the personality becomes just like a flower or a tree. I mean, it’s something so preciously beautiful because it’s a form of nature. It’s a form that is coming out of all kinds of socialization processes; it’s coming out of experiences, it’s a quality of the way in which emotion and intellect and body and all these things come together.
It’s the dance of the interrelationship of forms with each other, all the relationship stuff that is involved with personality. It all turns extremely beautiful when you have a perspective about it.
It’s only when you are locked into a total identification with it, with no space around it that it starts to become a tyrannical master, and a kind of an imprisoning concept. So the spiritual practice is just one of giving you a more spacious perspective to balance the identification with the personality, so that you’re going in and out of it. It’s very delicate to deal with the issue of attachment, about the relation of involvement to attachment. Because ultimately you are fully involved in your personality.
I mean, I am fully charming. I really am; I’m a really charming person, and I’m a warm person, and I’m a good person. I am all those things. And I’m an intelligent person, and I’m an interesting person, and I’m a caring person. That’s all personality stuff. And partly why I am more of that all the time is because I am less of it all the time, from inside. And so it’s more of a delight and where it doesn’t work it keeps falling away, because I’m not so invested in being it all the time. Can you hear the issue?
Question: What about Spirit? Is Spirit a warm and charming part of our personality?
Ram Dass: Spirit has no form to it. Spirit isn’t warm and charming. Spirit infuses forms. Spirit can be harsh and tyrannical. Although most of us are scared of it, and it’s too scary for most people because they’re so busy in their personality, feeling judged. But Shiva is the destroyer. He creates chaos, and that is also spirit. In the systems where you understand the tripartite nature of the one, like in Hinduism where you have Brahma, which creates, Vishnu, which preserves, and Shiva, which breaks it all down and brings it back into nothing. Those are all different aspects of spirit.
You can see that a lightening storm is as much of spirit as a new flower.
So, no, it isn’t all gentle and sweet at all. In the Tibetan tradition there’s a lot of stories about tyrannical masters. You know, “Build a house. Now tear it down. Now build another house. Now tear it down. You’re an asshole. You don’t know what you’re doing.” And then turning to another master and saying, “Coming along well!” And because of the dynamics between student and teacher, when the teacher loves the student enough, the teacher can use the sword. And sometimes that sword is very fierce. From the student’s point of view, the sword feels like it’s cutting; but it’s cutting that which needs to be cut for the light to come through, but only a master who loves you enough can do that.
– Ram Dass, Listening Heart Series, 1989
Artwork Title: IT’S ALL RIGHT NOW
This celebration of Baba Ram Dass is made entirely from fabric that has been dyed, stitched and infused with love and present moment awareness. You can find more information about the work on instagram (@karenpaytonart) or at www.karenpayton.com