|Living Spiritual Teacher: RAM DASS by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat|
|from The Living Spiritual Teachers Project of SpiritualityHealth.com|
"I'm explicitly making my life a teaching, by expressing the lessons that I've learned through it so it can become a map for other people. Everybody's life could be like that, if they choose to make it so; choose to reflect what they've been through and to share it with others."— Still Here
Richard Alpert earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford and went on to become one of the youngest tenured professors at Harvard University. After experimenting with psychedelic drugs, he went to India and became a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba, a Hindu guru who renamed him Ram Dass or "servant of God." After studying meditation and yoga, he returned to the United States in 1971 and wrote Be Here Now, a book that sold more than 2 million copies and helped engender the New Age movement. Over the years, Ram Dass cofounded the Hanuman and Seva Foundations and worked with environmental organizations and the socially conscious business community. In February of 1997, he experienced a stroke which led him to write Still Here, a forward-looking book aimed at the Baby Boom generation and their fears about aging, debilitating illness, and death.
"The curriculum of service provides us with information about our strengths as well, and we discover how these contribute to genuinely help-full service. Each time we drop our masks and meet heart-to-heart, reassuring one another simply by the quality of our (Photo by Kathleen Murphy)
presence, we experience a profound bond which we intuitively understand is nourishing everyone. Each time we quiet our mind, our listening becomes sharp and clear, deep and perceptive; we realize that we know more that we thought we knew, and can reach out and hear, as if from inside, the heart of someone's pain. Each time we are able to remain open to suffering, despite our fear and defensiveness, we sense a love in us which becomes increasingly unconditional." — How Can I Help?
Among Ram Dass's books are Be Here Now; Grist for the Mill; How The Only Dance There Is; How Can I Help? (coauthored with Paul Gorman); Compassion in Action (coauthored with Mirabai Bush); and Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying. His latest, a collection of pithy quotes, is entitled One-Liners: A Mini-Manual for a Spiritual Life. Sounds True has a Ram Dass Audio Collection containing Conscious Aging, The Path of Service, and Cultivating the Heart of Compassion. And Lemle Pictures has released Fierce Grace, a documentary on the life and work of Ram Dass.
"Acting with compassion is not doing good because we think we ought to. It is being drawn to action by heart-felt passion. It is giving ourselves into what we are doing, being present in the moment — no matter how difficult, sad or even boring it feels, no matter how much it demands. It is acting from our deepest understanding of what life is, listening intently for the skillful means in each situation, and not compromising the truth. It is working with others in a selfless way, in a spirit of mutual respect."- Compassion in Action
Ram Dass has served as a collective mirror for many spiritual seekers over the years with his encounter with Eastern religion, his dedication to compassionate service, and his experiences with conscious aging, illness and near death. "Wisdom is one of the few things that does not diminish with age," Ram Dass has stated. He continues to serve as a spiritual scout who is exploring the territory ahead for all of us.
"Death is our greatest
challenge as well as our greatest spiritual opportunity. By cultivating
mindfulness, we can prepare ourselves for this final passage by allowing
nature, rather than Ego, to guide us."
— Still Here
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