Interview: Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: What is it that makes you feel most alive?
Ram Dass: Being with my guru. Nature. Going swimming in the ocean. The wind. I like walking in the pool. That isn’t what makes me feel spiritual. But alive. I think it’s nature and my guru. The presence. Presence.
MP: Thank you. Does your guru, Neem Karoli Baba, still speak to you now? If so, do you get a message from him? Is there a memory that’s so alive it feels timeless?
RD: That’s a couple of questions, isn’t it? When I feel he’s present, I feel the presence in the environment when that feeling is happening, when he and I converse in my imagination. A man said to me, “You talk to your dead guru?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “That’s in your imagination.” And I said, “Yeah!” Because my guru is in my imagination anywhere. Anywhere.
I remember things. He came to me. “Ram Dass, love everybody.” And I said, “I can’t do that.” And he said, “Love everybody.” When your guru gives you a command, you better listen to it. I love everybody. Even George Bush.
MP: [laughter] That’s not an easy one! He didn’t say it would be easy, he just said do it!
RD: That means I’ve got to love the souls of people. Because I can’t love every incarnation. To love their souls, I have to identify with my own soul. Then I’d see their soul. And then I can have such compassion for that soul who has an incarnation like George Bush. I feel compassion. That’s karma of the here. Compassion and love, that’s all. Everyone—he said everyone. Meaning souls.
MP: I’ll work on that one! It ain’t going to happen today but it’ll happen.
RD: Yes, maybe today. Maybe today.
MP: [laughing] I’m going through a breakup, so maybe tomorrow. What is it that makes you feel vulnerable?
RD: I feel vulnerable because my mind—because of the stroke, my mind doesn’t focus. And then I feel vulnerable because I don’t understand the world around me.
MP: How do you deal with emotional pain?
RD: Pain is the mind. It’s the mind. It’s the thoughts of the mind. Then I get rid of the thoughts, and I get in my witness, which is down in my spiritual heart. The witness that witnesses being. Then those particular thoughts that are painful—love them. I love them to death!
MP: [laughing] That’s a lot of love! I know that you’re probably tired of book interviews, but we’re really excited about your new book. What is it in you that needed to be born or needed to come out or needed to be said? Why was it so important to write this?
RD: I have written and spoken my thoughts over many years. Now I’m on new ground and spirit. I want to bring these together. Things like karma yoga, bhakti yoga, conscious dying, conscious aging. Consciousness.
MP: How do you maintain your center? Do you have a daily practice?
MP: [laughing] I love you! Do you meditate every day or anything?
RD: Oh no, no, no!
MP: I will follow you anywhere. That’s so good.
RD: I hang out with my guru in my heart. And I love every thing in the universe. That’s all I do all day.
MP: You must not be in publishing! [laughing] Can you remember one—I know you have so many beautiful moments—but one thing that utterly shifted you as a being, where you felt that utter connection with spirit?
RD: Well, I remember my first visit with my guru. He had shown that he read my mind. So I looked at the grass and I thought, My god, he’s going to know all the things I don’t want people to know. I was really embarrassed. Then I looked up and he was looking directly at me with unconditional love. Unconditional love. He saw all that in me and he loved me. And that—that was the moment.
MP: I don’t even know how to speak after that. I’m just going to have to take a second on that one. Is there something in this book that you say that you have not said before?
RD: As I’ve gone into soul and soul-land, and I connect with my soul and my ego, and my life is colored by my soul—people can identify from their ego, which is who they thought they are. The soul, which is who they really are, if they choose that transfer to the soul, then you live in an ocean of love.
MP: What would you say to the yogis? What I see in my own heart and in this community of yogis and conscious people, we struggle so much with attachment to people and unhealthy relationships. What would you say to someone who is struggling so much with attachment to another human being? How can we manage breakups and shifting and lettering people go?
RD: I think the question is, how do we live with change? Change in our friends, change in our lovers? Change in me and change in my body, from the stroke. Things have changed this plane of consciousness. We’ve tried to keep things the same. It causes suffering. This suffering is another step in your spiritual life, in your spiritual journey. Because that suffering shows how much you hold on. It’s just the river of thoughts: “Oh, I like him, I’m suffering. I can’t stand change. It’s all changing too fast.” The suffering is in the mind. The mind. In the mind. Witness it. From your spiritual heart. Witness your thoughts. Your thoughts are attachments. Witnessing your thoughts is a way of getting out of that. Because I’m witnessing attachments. I am witnessing my own attachments. And so I’m not identified to the attachment. I’m identified with the witness. And then the witness, if you go down into the witness, that has the spiritual being. Down there, in your soul, you’ll get far more love than you ever got out there.
MP: I knew you were going to say something like that! [laughing] And I knew it would be amazing, and it would make me not want to punch anymore walls! That’s great. Last thing: If you could say something to everyone on this planet, what would that message be?
RD: Many of us are fearful of this cultural moment. There are wars and poverty and so on—it’s based on fear. You can cure that with your being by not being afraid. You’re afraid, you will just keep making the fear. If you want to change it, you change from your soul. The soul is love, joy. Joy. Peace. Wisdom.
I went to a peace rally, and they say, “Peace! Peace!” They could go inside to the peace in their soul and radiate peace from their soul, and they would bring peace to the world.
MP: Thank you so much. What was it like to be with Oprah on “Super Soul Sunday”?
RD: Oprah did an interview with me. She was absolutely warm and wonderful. She was a good interviewer, she did her homework. She was a beautiful soul. And you’re a beautiful interviewer—just your laugh is warming my heart.
MP: I hope to meet you someday soon. Thank you so much.
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