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Ram Dass – 3
words–has been harmed by the stroke. I have the concepts but no words to play with.
David: What have you learned from your stroke?
Ram Dass: One of the things my guru said is that when he suffers, it brings him closer to God. I have found this too. The stroke is benevolent because the suffering is bringing me closer to God. It’s the guru’s grace, and his blessing is the stroke. Before the stroke I enjoyed playing golf, driving my MG sports car, playing my cello. Now I can’t do any of those things. I can’t do, do, do all the time.
The way I approach what happened is that with the stroke began I began a new incarnation. In the last incarnation I was a golfer, a sports car driver, a musician. Now I have given all that up. The psychological suffering only comes when I compare incarnations–if say, oh, I used to be able to play the cello. So I say my guru has stroked me to bring me closer to a spiritual domain.
I’ve learned that silence is good. I knew that before but I’ve learned it thoroughly now. I’ve learned about helping. In my life before, I was a “helper,” and serving was power. Now I am helpless. Instead of my book How Can I Help? now I can have a book called How Can you Help Me? From the point in the morning when I wake up, I need help: Going to the bathroom, eating, going anywhere, I need to ask for help from those around me. That’s powerlessness. But I’ve learned that even that role can be played with compassion, so that my helpers and I can serve each other.
David: How has your stroke affected your spiritual outlook?
Ram Dass: It’s gotten me deeper into karma yoga. This is my karma, and it is also my yoga. I think that it’s taught me more about how suffering is a steppingstone toward a spiritual goal. My stroke has also affected people. I was a spiritual friend for many, many people–through my books, tapes, or lectures. I was an identification figure for them, and the stroke shook them. They couldn’t figure out why a person with such spiritual naches could suffer a stroke. It undermined the feeling that only good comes to those who are good. I wanted to open the hearts of people, and my stroke did this and much more than my books, tapes or anything else.
David: How has medical marijuana been helpful to you?
Ram Dass: It has helped me quiet down the spasticity and the pain. It’s also given me a perspective toward the stroke that’s spiritual. I haven’t found many doctors who understand that medical marijuana is good for people who have had strokes, although there are data that show it has been good for stroke victims, because it’s good for brain function. I’ve had to fight my way against doctors to use medical marijuana.
David: Have you had any psychedelic experiences since your stroke?
Ram Dass: Sure.
David: Have they been any different from the experiences you had prior to the stroke?
Ram Dass: No, they were not particularly different. But I think that psychedelic experiences helped me gain perspective. They helped me escape from the perspective of minds around me–the healers who are focused on the body. I needed to use a psychedelic to focus on the spirit.
David: Is there anything else about how your stroke affected you that you’d like to add?
Ram Dass: I think that it’s increased my humanness. It’s a strange thing to say, but when I started out my spiritual journey I was a psychologist, and I was busy being an ego. Then I got into my spiritual nature. I was a soul, and pushed away my ego and body. Now I’m not pushing away these things. I’m making friends with my body. The stroke taught me honor those planes of consciousness which include the physical. Since my stroke, some of my friends say they’ve found me human, and that I was never human before. They mean I’m inhabiting my ego. Now they can find me as an individual, whereas before they could only find me as a soul.
David: What are you doing these days?
Ram Dass: I just got back from Brazil, where I visited John of God, who is a healer. That was such an interesting experience. I’m now living in a community, and that’s been very challenging. We were living in a beautiful house that we found on the internet. The rent was very low, but it was selling for six million (laughter), and we just couldn’t get that much money up. We wanted to continue renting, but they wanted to sell the house. It’s important for me to live in a community, where people can travel to be with me, so I don’t have to travel to get to them.
David: What are you currently working on?
Ram Dass: I’m working on The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, which is a book that comes from tapes that were recorded at the Naropa Institute. It’s going to be a good book.
I teach a course with about seven other people for the Zen Hospice Project called “End of Life”. I also serve on the board of several foundations–such as the Further Foundation, which was started by Bobby Weir from The Grateful Dead. He wants to give away his money, so we formed a foundation. Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Garcia is on the board. It’s really interesting.
David: What types of groups is the foundation funding?
Ram Dass: Mostly progressive groups working on environmental and social change issues.
David: Speaking of environmental issues… Do you think that the human species is going to survive the next hundred years, or do you think we’re in danger of extinction?
Ram Dass: Yes, I think that we’re in danger. We’re in danger of being poisoned by our minds. Thought processes cause wars. But we will survive.
David: How do you envision the future evolution of the human species?
Ram Dass: As one consciousness spread out into many multiple forms. Most of us who have done psychedelics, yoga, and so on, have touched this plane of consciousness. With one consciousness the social games would be different, because we wouldn’t be playing the games of country and so on. When there is only one consciousness the concept of “us and them” sort of disappears. It stays in place, but its effect on you becomes less and less.