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Ram Dass: Another Ghost from My Youth Goin’ Down Slow Gone

“In the ’60s, I was an uncle for a movement, I was always showing people where they could go. I went east, and then there was a big movement east. Now the baby boomers are getting old — and I’m learning how to get old for them. That’s my role.” Spiritual guru Ram Dass dies

Crimson flames tied through my ears, rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon, ” said I, proud ‘neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now 

— Dylan

Somewhere in the ashes of my destroyed home there are the ashen flakes of a photograph I took of Ram Dass about 50 years back when we were working on the concept of taking “Be Here Now” photos.  The way that would work is that we’d confront each other with cameras at three feet and stare at each other until we felt the soul was fully present in the face and that the fake face we flash in photos was gone. Then we’d raise the camera and take one shot.  I took one of him and he took one of me and both are now gone into the smoke of the world. But Ram Dass and I seem to have lingered in the chambers of the sea
Ram Dass, to his credit,  has been Ram Dass and not Richard Alpert for over 50 years. Me? I am still here stuck in my old shriven self, tired of being smart and looking for a wisdom that never seems to arrive.

All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

Ram Dass is ready to rock on right out of this world and wise enough to know it. Still, even now, he’s not yet wise enough or egoless enough to avoid being interviewed by a propaganda prick from the Throne of Lies known as The New York Times. Still, he doesn’t do badly against the punk.   Ram Dass Is Ready to Die – The New York Times

Well, along those lines, your belief is that the universe is unfolding perfectly. So how do we, as human beings, make sense of that perfection given the impending awful catastrophe of something like climate change?

Humans can have consciousness on two planes. For example, when you are a reporter at The Times, it’s a game. It’s a dance. How many people do you have to impress? It’s stuff like that. But the soul has in it the witness, and it witnesses our whole incarnation. The soul watches the game without judgment.

Am I playing the game the right way?

Um, no.

If you had an audience with President Trump, what advice would you give him that would be helpful to him in his job?

Identify with your soul.

That could take some work.


No? Am I being unfairly judgmental?

On my puja table  is Donald Trump. When I look at his picture, I say to him, “I know you from your karma, and I don’t know you for your soul.” And I am compassionate about that soul because he has heavy karma.

“Be here now” is: In each moment, go into the moment. Our minds take us back and forth in time. I teach a moment. And I teach that we identify with the ego. The ego is a mind warp, and most people don’t identify with their soul. They’re worried about excess meaning. The soul witnesses the ego and witnesses thoughts. “Be here now” gives people an opportunity to reidentify outside of their thinking-mind ego and into that thing that’s called the soul. It is the perspective from which we could live a life without being caught so much in fear. To reidentify there is to change your whole life.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Francis W. Porretto September 4, 2019, 11:50 AM

    “Be here now” is advice I’ve given to many a worrier, many an obsessive planner, and many a smartphone addict. It’s rarely heeded. Yet I am immensely grateful to Baba Ram Dass for having bestowed it upon us, for it is valuable beyond rubies even though it is only erratically observed. Godspeed, Baba; I wish you all the best in your upcoming journey into the lands beyond the veil of time.

  • jwm September 4, 2019, 12:14 PM

    Just curious, Gerard. When you were in Laguna Beach did you have any contact with the Mystic Arts World/ Laguna canyon bunch? Brotherhood of the Eternal Sunshine, and all that?


  • Rob De Witt September 4, 2019, 12:49 PM

    In 1970-something, after escaping the swamp I had been born into, and somehow surviving the loss of my baby in a brutal divorce, I found myself in Chicago where my girlfriend, a doctoral candidate in the Loyola psych department, steered me to a job as an aide in a private suburban psychiatric hospital. The owner (try to imagine the owner of a psychiatric hospital) of this cuckoo’s nest was an unquestioning devotee of what was not yet called the New Age, and periodically re-emerged from his latest Esalen experience with the latest enthusiasm in the Human Potential Movement. Oh my, FritzPerlsRamDassGestaltTherapyVerbatimBeHereNowencountergrouppooltherapyaurareading…..ad foreverum.

    One of the primary benefits, although it certainly didn’t seem like that for my first 40 or 50 years, of an abusive childhood is that damaged children develop antennae which sense every threat and every lie – a sort of factory-equipment situational awareness. Hip street types tended to dub this a Bullshit Detector. Ram Dass, even at the distance of reading his……work….., rang that motherfucker like a fire bell. Shuuuuuck.

    I met lots and lots of phony gurus in my stumbling way to here – because if you have no foundation you have to try everything, on the off chance one of ’em might be real – but none of them seemed one half as self-convinced as Baba Rum Raisin. The story about him which seems likeliest is that he used acid to seduce young Harvard boys in the guise of therapy. No difficulty believing that one at all, at all.

    It seems deafeningly appropriate that maybe his final gullible audience is a writer for the New York Times who apparently specializes in deep probing interviews with show biz figures.

    Same shit, different day.

  • rabbit tobacco September 4, 2019, 2:03 PM

    Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

  • Aggie September 4, 2019, 4:29 PM

    I remember Baba Ram Dass, but as insufferable college students our version was Bubba Rum Dum, with the slogan, Beer Now!

  • Uncle Mikey September 4, 2019, 4:56 PM

    GodDAMN you’ve lived a full life. Great stuff as usual

  • Steve S. September 4, 2019, 5:01 PM

    JWM,- I remember hearing a story about Hell’s Angels meeting up with Ram Das and Leary at a party in the Bay Area, (were you there Gerard?), how they left tripping, only to reinvent themselves as the “Brotherhood of Eternal Love” the next day. I say cudos to all back then who were sincerely seeking to raise consciousness. -Spent many evenings in Laguna at the Mystic Arts bookstore late 60’s

  • Vanderleun September 4, 2019, 5:40 PM

    “Brotherhood of the Eternal Sunshine” and “Brotherhood of Eternal Love” are, as named, unknown to me. I was a peripheral member of something we call the Brotherhood of Eternal Light but that very loose organization was centered around the manufacturing and distribution of bootleg LSD in the period just before it became illegal.

  • jwm September 4, 2019, 6:04 PM

    “…Eternal Light.”
    Those are the folks. Memory isn’t what it used to was, although much of their product fell into my hand and head. (any correlation? nah…) A year ago I was trading notes for the Lost Canyon Project with the former curator of the gallery at Mystic Arts. He’s still doing the Sawdust Festival. A Remnant remains to this day.


  • R Daneel September 4, 2019, 8:10 PM

    Norton lists that link as malicious.

  • Vanderleun September 4, 2019, 8:34 PM

    The Times link? I don’t think so.

  • Steve S. September 4, 2019, 9:35 PM

    Not to nit pick but google “Brotherhood of Eternal Love”. Sunshine was the product, not sure about “Eternal Light”

  • Dr. Jay September 5, 2019, 3:27 AM

    “Be Here Now” . . . Wow! I’ve still got a copy next to a hard copy of Timothy Leary’s “High Priest” and Hunter S. Thompson’s “Hell’s Angels”. What that says about me? . . . only God knows.

    Help! For some reason Barbra Streisand’s, “The Way We Were” keeps going through my head.

  • Steve in Greensboro September 5, 2019, 4:00 AM

    Rob de Witt: “…One of the primary benefits…of an abusive childhood is that damaged children develop antennae which sense every threat and every lie – a sort of factory-equipment situational awareness. Hip street types tended to dub this a Bullshit Detector…”

    Alpert always seemed to me like a person with a benign message. Not a very meaningful message (to me at least), but at least not somebody who was trying to con me out of my money. In any case, hope his transition is peaceful.

    But your comment made me think of a very malignant person, Jim Jones of People’s Temple and Jonestown fame. His “church” began to really develop in the Bay Area. I was there at that time and I remember reading that although he was based in depressed inner city areas and espoused racial integration, generally neither ghetto blacks nor street people were members. His membership was primarily suburban whites.

    And that was because suburban whites having grown up in sheltered environments did not have the BS detectors that the others did.

    (A free lesson for suburban parents. “Teach your children well” as the old song goes and the lesson for them to learn is that at least 20% of the people they run into will try to hustle them.)

  • Tom Hyland September 5, 2019, 6:46 AM

    The New York Times link is malignant only in that it won’t allow me to read the story unless I become a paying subscriber. Ain’t gonna do it. I’m sure there’s nothing new for me to learn regarding Ram Dass. He was in Santa Fe about 10 years ago, sitting in a wheel chair and talking real slow to the assembled crowd at the local convention center. Wow, it was a real hippy-dippy affair. Tye-dye and Depends. His book was extremely important to me at about age 15 when I first started doing the lysergic. I would read it through from cover to cover then start over and read it again. Probably read it a hundred times over a 10 year period. I can’t say Ram Dass has personally shed his imagined human identity, same problem everybody I know is grappling with, or ignoring entirely, but the message of Be Here Now is the absolute truth. A lot of rock stars, Lennon, Hendrix, Dylan could write the perfect message but were probably not living as the all-encompassing Self. No big deal. As Robert Adams always said, “You’ll come back here a thousand times until you eventually wake up… and you ARE going to wake up because you’ve never been asleep.”

  • Kevin Dickson September 5, 2019, 8:18 AM

    I find it hilarious that so many “alleged” experts are advocating for the use of hallucinogens for the treatment of mental health conditions. This has all be tried before. It is a road that leads nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. If you be tripping….good on ya. But don’t dress it up to be something it is not. And beware…hallucinogens can actually unlock even worse mental health issues.

    History does repeat itself….only usually it takes longer.

  • Jack September 5, 2019, 9:34 AM

    I’ve never been much of a joiner or a follower. Of anything. Even when I was small I had my own ideas about things and I’d explore them but looking for absolute truth or its counterpart enlightenment, from some half naked, sex starved, dope addled, meditating, chanting guru was to me, repulsive and a complete sellout.

    I have played the child, the student, the military man, the businessman, the husband, the father and the brother, along with the other roles we choose or assume in life but I have always found my own way, even within those various roles and I know that I made the better choice.

  • Rob De Witt September 5, 2019, 9:47 AM

    Steve in Greensboro,

    I was there too. I arrived in SF in ’74 with a backpack and dreams of a new life, no mama no papa no college degree and nowhere to go back to. Peoples Temple members were among those pitching salvation at me.

    No sale.

    I agree that Alpert seemed essentially benign, just full of shit and himself, like Robert Pirsig’s self-congratulatory tales of his own enlightenment via motorcycle mechanics – both of them blissfully unhip to how much they embodied the lack of awareness they were bloviating about.

    Even at that age I was beginning to be amazed at the number of seemingly-adult people I met who swallowed all this crap whole. Alas, like Albert Einstein put it, “The majority of the stupid is invincible, and will be with us always.”

  • Snakepit Kansas September 7, 2019, 3:16 PM

    Whoever made that sign had a few drafting classes in their past.

  • Punditarian September 9, 2019, 10:10 AM

    I’m late to this discussion, my apologies.

    I saw and heard Ram Dass speak in person once, it must have been in 1972 when he was touring college campuses. It might have been a “book tour” for “Be Here Now.” We were a small audience of a couple of dozens at most, seated on the floor of the great room in one of the fraternity houses. It may be a false memory, but I think he was accompanied by Bhagavan Das, but I am sure he talked about him and his introduction to Baba Neem Karoli.

    Ram Dass was a gifted speaker. Some would have called him glib. But he was very fluent and gave an impression of sincerity and humility. The talk seemed to lead spontaneously from its sources in the meanderings of incident and memory to a summation which opened up into a sea of apparently portentous meaning.

    I think he later “confessed” that he was engaged on this tour in the seduction of innocents, but I didn’t recognize any evidence of that at the time. I was impressed and bought a copy of the book at the next opportunity.

    In thinking about that talk, and those years, my memory turned to another very gifted and fluent talker, the late poet David Antin. His performance of a spontaneous “talk poem” impressed me perhaps even more than Ram Dass. I had forgotten about him. A couple of his talking poems were published by New Directions, and I have just ordered copies. I’m hoping they will be as interesting as I found his performance.

  • Auntie Analogue December 24, 2019, 10:35 AM

    Is it coincidence, is it synchronicity, is it just me, or is it revelatory poetic justice that Ram Dass is easily pronounced as “Rammed Ass”?

  • wmprof December 24, 2019, 11:49 AM

    @Auntie –

    My BS detector was thinking the EXACT same thing. Lol

  • James ONeil December 24, 2019, 2:57 PM

    Ah yes, brings back memories, a ’70s epiphany; learning that with acid or peyote, there be dragons, but with peyote it was much easier to build cages around them.

  • Christopher L Hunt December 24, 2019, 8:03 PM

    Back when they allowed the Krishnas to proselytize at airports, I was accosted by one of their members, who wanted a donation in return for “Be Here Now”. I felt in my pocket, fumbled around the 10-dollar bill in there, grabbed the change, and told the fellow I would give him all of the money in my pocket. I got a book for about 63 cents. I did read it, don’t remember anything about it, and still have it somewhere.

  • ghostsniper December 25, 2019, 7:47 AM

    @Tom, if using chrome, hover the link then right click and scroll down to “Open link in incognito window”

    I think FF has a similar feature.

  • Tom Hyland December 25, 2019, 6:55 PM

    Hey ghost! It worked! I never use chrome and I’ve never “right clicked” before. So I read the article and I think the massive stroke Ram Dass lived through was beneficial for him. Not that I’m one to judge whatever the hell this man’s trajectory was, however, he was a powerful and persuasive teacher of “the final frontier.” I’ve read that Aldous Huxley was doing LSD on the last day of his life… which, beyond weird… was November 22, 1963. His passing didn’t get much attention. The Times reporter asked him if he still agrees everybody should take acid and Ram Dass answered in the affirmative. I agree, too. The lysergic completely changed me forever…. to the positive. People who scold and say it’s harmful and evil have either never taken it… or they took it only once while clinging to the ego like a life raft. These people are incredibly tiny, boring and finite.

  • pbird December 26, 2019, 2:42 PM

    Utter crap. I knew it then and I know it now.

  • RebeccaH December 27, 2019, 10:25 AM

    I saw him at a college lecture when he was still Richard Alpert. He spent almost the entire time smirking at the patterns in his cigarette smoke while others spoke. Haven’t given him a thought since.

  • lurker December 28, 2019, 5:29 PM

    Never got into him at the time. Like him now ‘cos he told the NYT reporter he was not playing his game well and refused to get baited into the NYT’s guy’s TDS.