While floating in the pool, watching Ram Dass use the buoyancy of the water to exercise his legs, I wondered, as I often have: How did Ram Dass learn what he did so quickly? He’d had no interest in God while growing up or teaching at Harvard. In his thirties, he was a skeptic when he first traveled to India, until he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaji). Ram Dass spent only eight months with the guru, then returned to America and began to teach complex spiritual ideas in a way that could reach and inspire Westerners. I know other seekers who’ve spent years in monasteries or studied with masters for decades and have only acquired a fraction of the wisdom Ram Dass embodies.

 Ram Dass clearly possessed a gift, although he’s always said it was the grace of the guru. Maharaji died in 1973, but Ram Dass has continued to feel his presence.

In 2004, Ram Dass had told me, “I have a new game. In the past, I’d always say, `Maharaji told me this…’ or `Maharaji said that…,’ and I realized: I’ve been using Maharaji as an explanation for why I know what I know.” This strikes me as so accurate and obvious that it’s surprising Ram Dass hasn’t stated it before. He says he feels himself melding and merging with the guru. “We’re becoming one.”

Two years later, in Maui, I ask Ram Dass if he still feels that merging.

“It’s led to soul searching,” he says. “It seemed egoistic to me to say I could be like Maharaji, and yet… I already had the wisdom of knowing he and I are one. I’ve been going back and forth, back and forth, between seeing and loving Maharaji as a reflection of God, and merging with Maharaji.”

Ram Dass closes his eyes a moment. “The two-ness between Maharaji and me is a stepping stone to oneness. The two-ness gives my emotional heart sustenance. But the oneness gives my spiritual heart sustenance, and I’d just as soon keep them both.”

Why not?

Maharaji had given Ram Dass two instructions: love everyone, and tell the truth. If Ram Dass felt hate for someone and told the truth, that was not acceptable. “Tell the truth and love everyone,” the guru said. What I felt in Maui was how far Ram Dass has moved in developing the capacity to love every soul.

His house feels like a temple. There are altars everywhere, covered with pictures of saints, tropical flowers, candles and incense. He has a photo of George Bush on an altar, “because he’s someone I have trouble loving.”

He greets every visitor with joy and fixes his attention completely on that person, even the ones I find tedious. When his assistant, Kathleen Murphy, tells him she’s going into town to do errands and asks, “Is there anything you want?” Ram Dass looks in her eyes, then smiles. “That you have a good time.”

At 75, Ram Dass feels he’s demonstrating “a way to grow old and prepare for dying.” I ask how he prepares for dying. “With quiet presence, and by practicing change,” he says. “Being content with change. I’ve been changed by a stroke…and I’m happy. Death is the biggest change we’re going to face in life. So we need to practice change.”

NOTE: Ram Dass has always given his money to foundations he set up to help others, and never planned for his own older years or health care. He lives in a rented house that he’ll be forced to leave soon, and friends are trying to raise money to acquire a permanent home for him. If you’re moved to contribute, send a check, made out to Ram Dass Charitable Fund, to:
Ram Dass Charitable Fund, c/o Hay House, P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018



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  1. Kathy Bailey

    I have been waking up every morning with Ram Dass one my mind so I googled him and found your blog. I really enjoy your writing; inspires me to write a blog myself!
    Enjoy the stories about Felix and your family, too.
    Does ram Dass still need contributions for his house? I hope to see him before he flies away!
    Will watch Kumare today to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

    1. Sara

      Kathy, thanks for your kind words, and so glad you’re in tune with Ram Dass. He does need contributions, and you can make one through the Love Serve Remember Foundation. Happy New Year! Let me know what you think of Kumare.

      1. Kathy Bailey

        Wow! What a fabulous movie to watch on a New Year’s Eve! kumare was magnificent and I can’t wait to suggest iron my Facebook page. So many levels of meaning. I want to watch it again to remember who Tish was, who walked out on him and never talked to him again.

        I remember following a preacher name Terry Cole-Whittaker (Science of Mind or Church of religious Science)) in San Diego in the 8o’s. She kept telling us she was not a Guru, or anything special at all. But we cut our hair like her, quoted her all the tome, and just worshipped her until she finally threw her hands in the air and quit her ministry to go live in Hawaii and be happy. We all felt abandoned but soon figured out that she was always telling us the truth,,,that the teacher is within. (She’s still around here in LA somewhere, teaching small classes, etc) I think she would get a kick out of being compared with Kumare!
        Thanks so much for sharing that movie with me!

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