The Last Conversation

Posted on in The Interview by Rob Sidon

Ram Dass

Ram Dass - Becoming Nobody
Ram Dass – Becoming Nobody

Ram Dass is a longtime friend of Common Ground. We learned that his health is failing and in recent days he has come very close to leaving the body. We begged his closest aides to let us connect with him for one short final conversation—and our wish was granted.

Ram Dass is the subject of a terrific new documentary, Becoming Nobody, that will premiere in September. Jamie Catto directed and co-produced, along with Raghu Mitchell.

Common Ground: You could leave the body any day. What does this feel like, this waiting game?

Ram Dass: I am not waiting or looking forward or back—I am simply inhabiting each moment in its fullness. The concept of Be Here Now that I have been speaking about in different ways over these last many years turns out to be the most relevant game in town, at any age.

Do you ever feel scared or apprehensive?

I feel in concert with Ramakrishna, who when he was initiated into the non-dual state shouted out, “I want to worship the Mother!” He was interested only in the Divine dance of two—the essence of the Bhakti path. So I am not scared but I am working on my preference of being in the Bhakti relationship.

Are you still learning, or just applying what you’ve already learned?

Of course every day is part of the curriculum. Every encounter with humans or nature—every thought that takes one away from the truth—is a learning experience and it goes on through the transition to the next incarnation.

How is your relationship with Maharaji (Neem Karoli Baba) felt at this stage?

He is my constant companion. He is living proof of our potential to tell the truth and love everyone, which is what he told me to do when we were in India together. This teaching continues to reveal itself more and more to me each day.

I attended the world preview of Becoming Nobody. Terrific. Can you explain the title? How is this documentary different from the many that preceded it?

Everyone wants to be a somebody in order to keep their identities and roles safe and sound. We have so many protective shells, so many defensive patterns; when we drop all of that we can begin to move from ego to soul—and then eventually all of our motives begin to come from a place of compassion where we say, “What can I do for others?” not, “What do I want? What do I need?”

How would you characterize your remaining attachments to this earthly plane?

My attachments are to all the loving people who I see day to day, either in person or virtually. Maharaji said, “Love goes two ways—I am attached to you as you are attached to me.”

After the publication of Be Here Now you were catapulted into fame as a spiritual teacher. What has been the general arc of your spiritual maturation as a teacher over the past 50 years?

As my disembodied friend Emmanuel said to me once, “Ram Dass, don’t you see that life is a curriculum? Why don’t you get on with the program?” And the arc has always been through my dayto-day relationship with my guru.

On the Do-Be-Do spectrum, you historically advocated for BE. Can you reflect on the Do-Be paradigm from your current vantage point?

Whenever we are a doer then we are living from separateness—we can’t make much of a dent in our social action if we are using only our minds to change things. Our hearts need to be open and more kind, loving, and compassionate. Then we can live on a plane of consciousness that is based in being love, being truth—radiating from our core.

You were the earliest pioneer of the psychedelic movement, which has blossomed many times over since you and Tim Leary were fired from Harvard. What are your reflections about the contemporary surge of psychedelic acceptance today? What advice might you provide to spiritual aspirants, especially young people, experimenting with entheogens along the Path?

I don’t think my view has changed. Maybe Maharaji changed things a little for me. He said the psychedelics can take you into the room with Christ for a short period of time and then you have to leave. And I found that Maharaji takes you into that room eternally.

“What a long strange trip it’s been…” That Grateful Dead lyric might just sum it up. Any parting reflections on the long strange trip?

The trip has been rich and full of both sweet and bittersweet moments but has always been full of grace. And through it all the embracing of fellow travelers on the path—that connection with sat-sang—has been and remains to this day a milestone for sharing our deepest hearts in love.

My deepest pranams to you, fellow voyager. This is weepy, but please share a final message to Common Ground readers, many whom have followed you for the distance.

“Loving awareness” is a wonderful mantra to repeat and it allows you to move your perspective from ego/mind to spiritual heart/soul in the center of your chest. “I am loving awareness…I am loving awareness…I am loving awareness…”

Safe journey, dear friend.

Ram Ram.

Rob Sidon is publisher and editor-in-chief of
Common Ground.

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