“The essence of a relationship with a guru or spiritual teacher is love.” “He was like a magnet of love attracting us all. And that love was his real teaching.” Ram Dass
Ram Dass’ life in Polishing the Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart (Sounds True, 2014) changed drastically when he met his guru and learned that “Love was his real teaching.” The title of the book reflects that we must “polish” or clear away any internal debris in order to live from our heart, from love. Even though I have never met, seen or heard him, I am profoundly affected by Ram Dass. We have many teachers in our lives that are not spiritual guides or gurus. He is one of mine.
Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in 1931 and became famous after his association with Timothy O’Leary and their research on drugs in the 60s, when psychedelics were legal. He taught at Harvard before leaving everything to embrace the life of a yogi (a Hindu practitioner of yoga and meditation) and become a follower of his guru, Maharaj-ji. Returning to the US to begin his lifelong spiritual talks, he helped establish the Lama Foundation in Taos, NM along with other foundations and wrote over ten books. He died in 2019, but his legacy survives.
“The relationship between a guru and a chela [devotee] has nothing to do with the intellect whatsoever. You may think you are surrendering, but there is really no choice involved in it. There is just a deep karma unfolding so that you are drawn to the guru when the moment is right.” Ram Dass
Ram Dass was visiting India, intending to further pursue his interest in Buddhism when he was surprised to encounter and then follow Maharaj-ji. He describes how he had no interest in Hinduism, or a guru, until he was overwhelmed with the total unconditional love of Maharaji-ji.
His interactions with his guru often border on humorous, amidst Ram Dass’ continual funny comments on life and learning. In 1997 he suffered a stroke and in the first few months, he questioned whether or not his guru had “been out to lunch” when that happened. Having a guru does not stop bad things from happening. Guides help with providing and encouraging learning lessons, not with catering to desires. Ram Dass understood that, of course. Even after Maharaj-ji’s death, Ram Dass describes their ongoing relationship: “It’s just hanging out with this incredible being of love, of consciousness, of presence. It is a way of opening myself to those qualities.”
“It’s a process of surrendering to the place of unconditional love.” Ram Dass
I have a spiritual teacher and understand “surrendering to the place of unconditional love.” My teacher, however, is not nor ever has been on earth. In fact, he is a dragon, a reminder that our spiritual teachers come in surprising packages and rarely show up how, when or where we expect them. Not everyone has a guide, or guru, nor is it necessary. If you do, there are no words to describe the spiritual connection. My experience is similar to what Ram Dass describes, that feeling of overwhelming unconditional love. Ram Dass’ interactions with his guru helped me more than I can express. Having never read anyone’s detailed experience with a guru/teacher before, I am blessed to have his words help me.
Another aspect of “surrendering to the place of unconditional love” is accepting oneself with any faults or negative past actions, perceived or actual. Without realizing, I had been carrying some residual pain from a past life, where I was a slave in a chain-gang working on some type of pyramid, at least that is my memory retrieved in a self-hypnosis session. I was treated as if I had no value, even though I knew at the time that I acted honorably as a slave helping the others around me, the only bit of integrity possible. But my life ended with a kick to my side by one of the slave drivers. That act symbolized his total disdain for me as not being worthy of his time or attention. I died with a lack of self-respect, only to revisit those emotions in this lifetime. I understand now that I had to experience them again. In my previous post, “The Severity of our Predicament,” I discuss healing wounds in order to transform. Here, we are encouraged to “polish the mirror,” or release old hurts to see more clearly. Ram Dass and Maharaj-ji teach unconditional love and that we are all worthy, which is what my spiritual teacher wraps around me continually.
“Instead of doing it for a reward or a result, you do your work as an offering, out of love for God.” Ram Dass
Our chosen job or career is not important. How we do that work is significant. This opens us to the idea of non attachment, a Buddhist concept that I never quite understood. How can we not care about outcomes? Being older and retired helps me grasp the concept of not focusing on results. Now, writing a blog is no longer about how popular, how many readers or how much financial gain. Writing is simply doing the task as “an offering, out of love for God.”
“As long as you have some desire about how you think it ought to be, you can’t hear how it is.” Ram Dass
Maharaja-ji taught Ram Dass to see everything as perfection, since everything happens according to a divine plan. Reading Maharaji-ji’s words helped me understand the bigger picture, a more encompassing agenda. I find myself repeating “This is perfection,” as I am beginning to understand the depth and strength of that statement.
“God is in Everything.” Maharaja-ji