Consumerism and Chatchkes

The other reality you’re looking at is that you are, in economic terms, a consumer. In fact, that is how you are defined within the economic template that is placed on this society. You are a consumer – you’re either a producer or a consumer, and as you get older you are more likely to become a consumer and less a producer. So now that’s interesting, because for you to be an effective consumer in a system you have to want to consume – it’s fascinating to look inside yourself to see the feelings you have while you’re consuming. I mean, all you have to do is walk through a shopping mall and look in the eyes and look at the faces of the people as they walk through the mall. This is a religious experience – this is their temple, like it or not. It may not be a spiritual experience, but it’s certainly a religion. It’s a strong belief system that following this path will give them happiness. And consuming will give you happiness, as some have learned along the way. And so there is this funny kind of buying addiction, and a lot of people when they get anxious buy something or they always feel, “I need a new this,” or, “I need a new that” or “I need something.” I need something – it’s the hunger for something that isn’t being fulfilled inside yourself, and the culture advertises everywhere you look, an external thing will give you “that” if you find the right external thing. So, will it be a little car that will save gas, or a big car that will drive well on the road? Will it be an old car that will be humble, or will it be a new car that will be a little flashy? I mean, which one is going to give me the feeling? And these are all different values – the complex values that are involved.


And the advertising world…because this is all based on the assumption that a healthy culture is an increasing GNP, and you are a consumer, so you are part of whether there is an increasing GNP. It’s quite simple, I think. So more is better – more newness, more power, more glitz, more fame, more something is better. More property, more influence. So when you stand back it’s very interesting to look at your life and see how much you are sucked in by that set of values. How much you have been acculturated into doing that.

Let’s look at the other end of this which is voluntary simplicity, which is making do with less. In a New York Times article they describe families that had decided that enough was enough, and they were going to start to do with less, and they were getting happy over doing with less. Because there is as much joy in doing with less as doing with more – that’s what’s so bizarre about it – and it’s much cheaper! And it means you have to spend less time worrying about your economic situation, because you’re spending less. And the fact is, when you get older you have less disposable income in general, and you also have already got all the chatchkes you need (chatchkes, that’s a sanskrit word, it means “little thises and thats” you have around – little figurines and little spoons). You know, I don’t have a “……” It’s a deprived childhood.

And you just have to be very honest about your predicament. You can’t be phony. Phony holy isn’t going to get us there, in other words, you don’t go dramatically changing everything once you get a new value in your head, because you’re doing it with a certain kind of attachment of mind that’s going to cause you to have a reaction to it anyway. So don’t get voluntary-simple too soon. Let it be something that naturally falls away, rather than you ripping it away.

– Ram Dass, October 15th, 1995

Applying the Perspective of Soul

We are applying our paradigm. We’re applying a perspective to processes of aging that come from cultivating a place in yourself that is the Witness. Or you could say Soul-perception. We’ve talked a lot about all that. And so we’re standing back to see the forest of our lives, or if you want to play with the word “incarnations”. Or the dance of that particular form. The same way that you stand back from a dream and reflect about it. And we’re reflecting, as you recall, from the place of Soul – still recognizing that this is here, Awareness, but we’re not playing with that just yet.

And so as we as unique entities, awarenesses, souls, look out at or around at our incarnation, we see that our whole identity as players on this field is intimately wrapped up with our relationships – that who you think you are and how you think this is, and thus how this is playing out because of how you think it is, is very dependent on how you’ve learned that from a whole set of social contexts. In fact, when you stand back and look at the forest you see that your identity is intimately wrapped up with all the systems of which you are part. And if you put all the systems together and pile one on top of another you begin to get a sense of what you mean when you say “me”. Me as a political person, me as an economic person, me as a sexual person, me as an ethnic person, me as a religious person, me as a community person, me as a family person, me as a species person, me as a member of a biotic community person, on and on and on and on. And you just pile those up and you begin to see that you’re different “me’s” at different times, but when you put them all together the gestalt is what you call “me”.

And so the paradigmatic part of our little game here, in other words the strategy for conscious aging, is the ability to look at these systems and to first of all see how you’re caught in them. Then to see how you can be in harmony through your participation in them. That is, how do you play life? How do you dance life? And that comes, clearly, as you are able to look at the kind of web of attitudes and habits and predilections you have regarded in any area. And as long as those are acting upon you unconsciously, you are caught completely in this system – you’re caught in this system. And one part of getting free into the soul or the Witness is the ability to stand back a little bit, because you’re now identified with being the Witness rather than being the player so much, and thus you can see the play more clearly.

– Ram Dass, Marin Study Group, October 15, 1995

The Power of the Beloved

All methods are traps. In my relation to my guru, at first my love was so strong, all I wanted to do was rub his feet and look at his form and just be around him. Then, as time went on, not that the love grew less, the love grew different, until I was very fulfilled just being at a distance in relation to him. It kept growing deeper and deeper until I really didn’t care whether I was with his form anymore. I started to relate to him in a way where it wasn’t that man in India anymore, it was the essence of love, and I began to experience it in myself in relation to him. The whole quality of the dynamics of the situation was changing as I was growing in wisdom and as my heart was opening and my surrender was greater.

When I have kidded about it I said, I worshipped his form until I realized that that was just the doorpost and I was just rubbing the doorpost- I had to look through the keyhole and each surrender led me in and in and in. It was a method that took me right back to myself and to beyond form. In the presence of love a lot of the qualities of renunciation or intellectual discriminations that are really difficult when you are trying to do them in a rajasic, “I can do it!” way, are indescribably easy in the presence of that unconditional love.

Those of you who have had a really powerful love relationship will recognize what it is like to care more about your beloved than about yourself. Your favorite food comes on the table and your main concern is that the other person has enough of it, not that you get enough of it. You are fulfilled that they should eat it. When you have a child, that’s the kind of experience you have. People say, “aren’t you self-effacing, aren’t you sacrificing your child,” but it isn’t sacrifice, it’s joy. All austerities with a dry heart are heavy, but with love they become, “Oh, I’ll do this for my beloved. I’ll give this up, it will get me closer!” When you really want to get close to your beloved, you can’t give things up fast enough.


Ram Dass, 1973

Mirabai Bush Teaches to Work with Mindfulness

Shamash Alidina interviews Mirabai Bush in conjunction with the release of her new CD “Working with Mindfulness”.

Listen to the Interview Here

Click Here to listen to a sample of “Working with Mindfulness”

“In this episode, Mirabai Bush talks about how to integrate mindfulness into the workplace, using her experience of creating the mindfulness program at Google.

Most people today are asked to improve performance at work with fewer resources and tighter deadlines, all while dealing with equally stressed co-workers and clients. This toxic combination leads to employee burnout and harms organizations. While people may not have control over stressors at work, mindfulness-based exercises are a scientifically proven, natural way to manage one’s responses to them.

Mirabai Bush’s mindfulness trainings for the workplace are based on traditional Buddhist practices to help reduce stress, increase productivity, and encourage creative problem solving.”

Mirabai is a Key Contributor to Google’s Search Inside Yourself Curriculum.

She has released a new CD called “Working With Mindfulness” available on the Ram Dass webstore.



Below you will find links to podcasts with Daniel Goleman and Mirabai relating to material covered on her CD:

Also visit her organization’s website for lots of resources.

Conditions in the West

This article is from a Ram Dass lecture that took place in 1976. It can be argued that much of the “upleveling” of spiritual consciousness described here is still taking place in the West. Like many of Ram Dass’ words, this description of the spiritual state of the U.S. applies just as much to current beliefs as it did over thirty years ago.

There’s a tremendously delicate predicament with the scene in America now. Historically we have to go back to the opening of the sixties, the opening of consciousness that made many hundreds of thousands of people realize suddenly that there is something else. We were looking for new models then, and we bought them as fast as we could. We imported them as fast as we could, and the imports were somewhat second rate, most of them, because we didn’t know enough. We couldn’t discriminate yet. We couldn’t get the pure thing because we were going in too grossly to grab at whatever we could get.

As the years go by, the nature of the intermediaries who are bringing back the teachings is growing purer and purer. When the first people came back they brought a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Eclecticism was riding high, everybody taking a little of this and a little of that, at the wrong level in a way. Nobody was really getting the teachings out of it. They were getting a little teaching, and the beginnings of a realization that there are beings that have done this kind of thing. But they weren’t getting the full blast because there was nobody around to give it.

Slowly the demand for more purity of lineage and tradition has increased. In the past ten years in America we’ve seen a tremendous upleveling of the whole process. There is now a demand and a readiness in a sizeable population in the west to receive higher teachings. And that’s really what it’s about, because the higher teachings are attracted by the readiness of people to receive them. What we’ve seen in the past fifteen years in the U.S. is a profound growth in the spiritual community in America. I’m talking about the upper end of this continuum, of the  people who are ready to receive higher teachings.

In a country like India those people are very few percentage wise, even though there are millions of sadhus. Many of them just have it as a way of life, a religious way of life, but it isn’t the highest teachings. Now this demand is bringing forth some of the higher teachers and higher forms of teachings in America.

It is also true that because of its affluence and its democracy and its decadence, this country is in a unique position, maybe just a fertile moment before suppression reigns. The whole thing could turn into a very militaristic situation in which there would be a tremendous suppression of all this stuff, because it is all in a way heretical to any political structure, and to nationalism at that level. But at this moment there is a very fertile field for very rapid spiritual growth in this country, in the Western hemisphere. And we are all taking advantage of it as fast as we can, so the teachings are appearing here where before they were not received or supported. There are very few young people in India who want to study this stuff. In India if you go to the scenes that are run by Tibetans or Indians, most of the young people are all westerners now. We are importing it back to the west, and we are just starting to get the higher teachers and teachings now.

The predicament is that westerners tend to look at the whole thing as if they were going shopping at the supermarket. You have to be aware of the subtleties to discriminate between methods and their values, and the ways they work on you, but at the beginning you just can’t hear. You just can’t differentiate the very gross teaching from the finer teaching. In fact, the grosser teachers usually attract people much more quickly because they are designed to do that. The higher teachers don’t want those students. I can feel in myself the way the whole change in my being is changing the quality of the people who come into my office. The quality of them is changing because my desire structure is changing. Before they were important or they were sexually attractive or they were rich or they were fascinating in some way. Now the only people I am interested in are those who really want to go to God. Far out, the whole game is changed!

Manifestation of Murtis

One story that Maharaji told was about an old pujari, an old temple priest, who left a young boy in charge of his temple when he went away. The way it happens is that you bring food and you offer it to the murti and the pujari takes it in behind the curtain, he draws the curtain, and he offers it to Hanuman. Then usually what the pujari does is he takes a little of the food and he keeps it to distribute to the poor and the rest he gives back as Prasad that comes from the murti. Everybody does it at different levels, some think it’s a game and some accept it as the living prasad.

This young boy didn’t know what the routine was behind the curtain because he had never been behind the curtain. So when the first food was brought he went behind and offered it to Hanuman and Hanuman didn’t take it. The boy got freaked since he didn’t want to take the offering back to the people unaccepted, so he took a stick and threatened Hanuman and said, “You have to take this!” So Hanuman took the whole thing, everything on the plate disappeared. He went out and told the family that Hanuman took the whole thing and they beat him, thinking he had stolen it. When the old pujari came back and heard the story he said, “All my life I have been waiting for this to happen, but I was never pure enough for Hanuman to do it for me.”

The stories of murtis manifesting in India are so common that most of us who have lived in these temples have developed a tremendous amount of honor and love and respect and realize that the murti is, just like the avatar, a manifestation of the living God.

Ram Dass, 1976


I Crochet

I think people awaken originally to a spiritual dimension in their life in an incredibly wide variety of ways. Some people seem to open up to it through traumatic experiences, when people describe a near death experience or at a moment when they touch something much deeper than the traditional way that they thought about things. Other people arrived at that awakening through meditation or through religious experiences. Others arrive at it through sex or through drugs. There is a wide variety of ways.

I remember once lecturing in a hall back in the early 70′s. At that time most of my audiences were very young and they tended to wear white and they tended to smile a lot and wear flowers. At that time I wore beads and had a long beard. I recall that in the front row of my audience there was one woman who was about 70 and she had on a hat with little cherries and strawberries and things like that on it, false ones. And she was wearing black oxfords and a print dress and she had a black patent leather bag and I looked at her and I couldn’t figure out what she was doing in the audience cause she was so dissimilar from all the rest of the audience.

Our audiences were like a gathering of explorers clubs where we would come together and we would just share our experiences. So I started to describe some of my experiences, some of which were pretty far out and I looked at her and she was nodding with understanding, and I couldn’t believe that she could understand what I was talking about. I was describing experiences that I had had after using psychedelic chemicals, experiences that were very precious and far out. So I would try a little further out experience. I’d look over at her and there she was nodding away. I began to think maybe she had a problem with her neck that lead her to nod and maybe it had nothing to do whatsoever with what I was saying. And I kept watching and getting more and more fascinated and getting more and more outrageous in what I was saying and she kept nodding and nodding.

At the end of the lecture I couldn’t resist, I just kind of smiled to her so intensely that she just had to come up and speak to me. And she came up and she said “Thank you so much. That makes perfect sense. That’s just the way I understand the universe to be.” And I said, “How do you know? I mean, what have you done in your life that has brought you into those kinds of experiences?” She leaned forward very conspiratorially and she said, “I crochet”. And at that moment  I realized that the ways in which people arrive at spiritual understanding was certainly a much wider variety of paths than what I had anticipated. I had begun to think that my way was the only way, which seems to be a common illness of people who get into spiritual work.

~Ram Dass, “A Spiritual Journey”

Levels of Maharaji

Talking about Maharaji, I get speechless. On the physical plane he is a jungle sadhu who in recent years has started to spend more time in temples around northern India that devotees have built in order to try to capture him, or hold onto a little bit of that light. And he appears in one, and stays for a little while, and then just when they get all their rituals in order to hang onto him forever, he’s hone. In the middle of the night he just disappears again – I mean, not in any astral sense, he just gets someone with a car to take him off somewhere, and nobody knows where he’s gone, and then he turns up somewhere else. And he floats around in that way, so that nobody can really control that kind of light in him.

When you’re with him, when I’m with him, I experience many levels. At the personality social level, he’s often infuriating and frustrating and Mickey Mouse and repetitive and childlike and stubborn and willful and playful and funny and an old man and a little child and very concerned and very indifferent, and that’s one level.

At another level, when I’m in his presence, I experience ecstasy and bliss from the depth of the love that our relationship has for me. And that’s the drunken kind of love where I often find myself just dissolved into tears because I’ve just never experienced such profound love from any being. And often just when I’m going into that he will interrupt it with some question like “How much money does Stephen make?” or something like that just to bring me back to the plane. He keeps me very firmly down on the physical plane until my work is done. He doesn’t allow me to just float around in bliss very much when I’m around him.

image from

Then there’s a deeper level, like when I first met him he asked me why I’d come back and I told him it was to purify myself more. He said “I am always in communion with you.” And I have more and more deeply understood that to be the case, and in fact that’s now who he is for me. He is a being who is with me always, and sometimes he’s with me so closely that I am him – I’m saying things to people or I’m acting a certain way towards people and I look at their reaction and I see that they’re not reacting to me, they’re reacting to him. That is him just coming through me completely. And at that point I don’t feel his presence because in some sense I am his presence. And then the rest of the time I just feel like I am constantly hanging out with him at a very subtle plane. And at this plane I just feel him as this gentle, firm guide, who’s slowly drawing me towards himself, just pulling me ever so gently. And there’s no rest, it’s a continuous process. And I take almost everything that happens to me as a part of his teachings to me, I take everything if I can remember. If I get uptight about wanting to do good about something, I see him saying to me “Well, you’re still caught, aren’t you? You really still care, don’t you?” And I can just constantly talk with him all the time at that level.


~Ram Dass, 1973

The Consciousness of Saints


Where do you feel that saints or realized beings fit into the evolution of consciousness, and what part do they play in the scheme of things, both inside the body and out of the body?

 Ram Dass: All beings are involved in an evolutionary journey. In the course of history, and far into pre-recorded history, beings have been getting lost in the illusion, and awakening out of it. Some beings have finished their work and have awakened out of illusion, the illusion that is involved in birth after birth, not only on the physical plane, but on every other plane as well. When these free beings finally emerge from the illusion through grace, through the help of other beings who have escaped, they are faced with a choice. That choice is whether to merge back into God, or to resist that merging and remain in form on one plane or another; either to take birth again on the physical plane or to make their substance condense on a lower astral plane in order to do ‘work’ for the relief of suffering of other beings.

The pull to merge is incredible. The love of God is so intense, and the completeness of the merger is a pull of such intense power that for any individual to resist that and remain separate is the greatest conceivable sacrifice. So the first quality that one attributes to true ‘saints’, truly free, realized beings is that they have made the ultimate sacrifice, just to be on any plane where we can recognize and know them. And they have done this specifically for us.

Many of the beings that are free in this way, and who have remained in form on one plane or another, work across planes and remain primarily on other lokas, in more subtle bodies, and they work not only with beings on those planes, but also with us on the physical plane. Many people have experienced or read about having a ‘guardian angel’, or the guidance of the ‘guru within’. Such beings are equally as real as beings on the physical plane; because all beings on all planes are only relatively real. For, in truth, the only Truth is the unmanifest Absolute.

The way in which these saints, these spiritual beings, help us is to speed our journey back to God. They don’t turn us around. If you’re aimed away from God they won’t interfere. But the minute you look up, the minute your despair concerning the possibility for worldly gratification is great enough, you turn inward or reach upward towards God. And at that moment these beings are called forth by your prayers, by your cry for help, by your seeking for God. And then they shower upon you the grace of their presence, and the vibratory rate of their presence speeds up your journey incredibly.

So that a journey through literally thousands upon thousands of incarnations, that has been evolving in an arithmetic curve suddenly becomes a geometric curve under the intense light, love and compassion of this grace. You could call what they do ‘brute force’. They don’t go against the will of God, but they work within it. And since the will of God has no time in it, since God is behind time, they can speed up the process. And thus, while a physical guru is not necessary, since every being will make it, the guru in fact does speed up the process incredibly.

On the physical-psychological plane, it’s apparent when one is around such a free being, that such a being is a perfect mirror for oneself, since they themselves are not attached to being anybody; who you see them to be is merely your own projection. Being around such a being allows you to see the way in which you are creating the universe. That mirror helps you gain the perception of your own attachments which ultimately allows you to become unattached to any models you have of the universe, and to truly see the guru who is none other than God, who is none other than Self, which is the unmanifest Absolute.

The guru is constantly confronting you with where you’re not, with where you’re holding your secret stash of attachment. For people who are still much attached to their senses and to their thinking-minds, the guru manifests the teachings on the physical plane. It may be through a person, whom you call a guru (that is, they may embody themselves on this plane for that purpose), or it may be just through a set of teachings that they may create for you out of your life ‘web’. Though they are not manifesting on the physical plane they manipulate the substance of your karma in such a way as to speed up your awakening, once you have reached up for God.

~Ram Dass, 1977

Who Are You Going to Fool?

The minute you know that there is somebody who knows it all, you are free. Because all your secrets become absurd, because somebody knows everything about you and they say, “yeah, right. Look at all that horrible stuff and here we are.” Maharaji knows all about my dirty laundry. I remember once I went into an ashram where you rent a cave for 18 rupees a week and they lock you in and pass food in through a window. It was very hot in there so I was naked all the time. I came back to Maharaji and one of the first things he said to me was, out of a clear sky, “You know, it’s good not to wear clothes.” I said “Oh, yeah Maharaji? Thank you.”

I was in Bombay and I started to drink scotch and sodas. I was with the president of an ashram board of trustees. I was visiting his home and I was a yogi and he said, “The doctors said that for my heart I have to take a little scotch every night,” And I said, “Oh, I understand.” Because it’s not good to drink in India. Conscious beings don’t drunk, because it’s not a very interesting drug actually.

So I went into his room expecting him to bring out a little medicine glass and pour some, but he brought out an ice bucket and two glasses and I remembered the days when I really loved scotch and soda. So he poured one and said, “Would you like some soda water?” I said, “No, I’ll join you.” I figured, “Tantra is for me!” So I got completely crocked and we staggered through dinner, his wife was feeding us, and I could barely find the table. This was on one drink. The next evening we started a little earlier and it was one of those things. After about three days I went back up north to Brindaban and that evening Maharaji called me out to his tucket and he started talking about this other yogi who was an American who was being taken care of by these very devoted women.

He said, “He’s with women!” I said, “Yes, I know Maharaji.” He said, “What does he call them?” I said, “He calls them his mothers,” “Oh, how old are they?” I said, “Well, one is twenty years old.” He was just taking me through this whole thing, he had done it a dozen times before. He said, “You know what his mothers give him?” I said, “No, what?” He said, “They give him milk.” I said, “That’s wonderful. Mothers, milk, that’s just right on.” He said, “Every night they give him milk.” I said, “Oh, that’s wonderful Maharaji.” Maharaji comes up to me really close and he says to me, “You know what they put in the milk?” I say, “No Maharaji, what do they put in the milk?” He says, “Liquor!” and I said, “No!” And he comes closer and he says, “Yes!” and shakes his finger at me.

So where am I going to hide? You think because he is not in a body it makes any difference?

There’s that constant feeling, if you can’t hide it’s all out in the open and if it’s all out in the open, well, here we are. You have to be what you are because you can’t make believe you are something else, because who are you going to fool? It’s far out, there is just nowhere to lock the door. That’s quite freeing, it turns out.


~Ram Dass, 1977