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Registered: 04/24/01
Posts: 546
Ram Dass --death and dying
    #1077098 - 11/22/02 04:20 PM (13 years, 10 months ago)

Pubdate: Tue, 12 Nov 2002
Source: Metro Santa Cruz (CA)
Copyright: 2002, Metro Publishing Inc.
Contact: msc@metcruz.com
Website: http://www.metroactive.com/cruz/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2346
Author: Sarah Phelan
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/hallucinogens.htm (Hallucinogens)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/people/WAMM
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?115 (Cannabis - California)


Ram Dass Wraps His Expanded Mind Around The Last Of The Truly Taboo
Subjects--death And Dying

ON A MONDAY afternoon, I pick up the phone feeling horribly nervous. In a
minute, I have an interview with Ram Dass--the guy formerly known as Dr.
Richard Alpert before he, Timothy Leary and other Harvard faculty
experimented with LSD and magic mushrooms and were famously expelled from
the university. But while Timothy Leary continued to tune in, turn on and
drop out, Alpert became a beloved spiritual luminary who writes bestsellers.

I've spent the weekend reading two of them--Be Here Now, his 1971 classic
that documents the Ramster's spiritual unfolding, and Still Here, which he
completed after a disabling 1997 stroke. All of which has made me horribly
aware that he talks from the heart about matters of spirit, a subject about
which I know woefully little.

And yet when I actually speak to him, I find myself quickly at ease.
Perhaps it has something to do with the slow and sometimes halting voice in
which he has spoken since his stroke, but as I listen to the silence
between his words, I relax and realize that what I really want to do is
trash all the questions I've prepared and ask him about what's most
troubling me--the direction our world is headed, post-Sept. 11--in the hope
he'll offer me some useful advice. So, that's what I do.

"I'm scared, too" replies RD, an answer I find surprisingly comforting.
"When I got my stroke, I finally conquered my fear by seeing it as fierce
grace. Incredible grace. So, I think of Sept. 11 as fierce grace for
humanity. It faced us with death and seeing all the symbols that we are
powerful hit."

He pauses, and I listen to his labored breathing on the phone.

"I've been going around saying, 'I didn't know Shiva had a pilot's
license,' which is pretty raw humor, I know," he says, finally. "But the
questions we've been asking since that time are the kind of questions that
try men's souls and that's what's so powerful about fierce grace. All this
fear we're experiencing is people inhabiting their egos, because egos fear

This Time, It's Medical

Fierce Grace is also the name of Mickey Lemle's new Ram Dass documentary,
which premieres in Santa Cruz on Nov. 7, as a benefit for the Wo/Men's
Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a.k.a. WAMM.

Asked about the DEA's September raid of WAMM, Dass, who uses medical
marijuana to help deal with the effects of his stroke, says, "I think the
Santa Cruz bust was the poster child for the war against the war on drugs.
Ethan Nadelman of the Drug Policy Alliance says Valerie Corral is the
Mother Teresa of the medical marijuana movement. My purpose in coming to
the Fierce Grace benefit screening is to let people know that Valerie and
Michael Corral do incredible work."

But while Ram Dass has frequently and publicly stated that marijuana, LSD
and magic mushrooms are carriers between what he calls "the two planes of
consciousness," he admits that drugs alone can't free you from the ultimate
control freak of life--your ego.

"Before the path of mushrooms, I was pretty much on the Western track, but
then those experiences with mushrooms pointed to the home inside, which all
my Western psychology didn't cover," Dass recalls. "And so we were
studying, going down into our psyches, until we said, 'Who has got the map
for this domain?' Aldous Huxley gave us the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and
it was a map for consciousness, and everybody, all the gang, had gone to
India--Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Alan Watts--they all
did, long before me. But in the end, we found that we couldn't get through
our egos with drugs, that our egos controlled the drugs."

RD has moved on, though, to even edgier subjects. In How Can I Help? he
wrote that one of the best ways to help someone is to be with them, look
into their eyes, and listen. Since writing that, RD had a stroke and then
finished Still Here, which deals with coping with aging, changing and
dying--the West's three great taboos.

So what I ask him now is: Does he himself fear death?

"No. I don't think I do. To me, a death is a big acid trip, and I sort of
like those. They are optimum change. The most important thing you can do in
your dying period is to identify with your soul and not with your ego."

Fierce Grace director Mickey Lemle, who has known Ram Dass for 25 years,
says he's wanted to make a film about him for years, but RD kept saying he
wasn't ready. Lemle then recalls a conversation he had with RD a few months
after the stroke on the porch of Dass' San Anselmo home.

"He pointed to himself with his left hand, the one that still works, and
said, 'This is not who I thought I was going to be. Because my vision of
myself as an old man didn't have a stroke in it.'"

According to Lemle, what RD said next altered his own view of reality.

"He said, 'When I focus on who I used to be or on who I thought I was going
to be, it brings up suffering. But if I just rest in awareness, I'm fine.'
For him the stroke was very traumatic and unsuspected, changed every aspect
of his life--and helped him get closer to God. In the same way, Sept. 11
has been very traumatic for culture, but it can become fierce grace--hence
the title of the movie."
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Registered: 09/05/02
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Re: Ram Dass --death and dying [Re: Hermes_br]
    #1078680 - 11/23/02 04:30 AM (13 years, 10 months ago)

Thanks, that was a great article. I don't suppose you have any idea if that video biography will be distributed and when?

Fortunately, Western psychology has progressed some since the days of Richard Alpert. Like right now I'm reading a book called "Transpersonal Psychology," edited by Charles Tart. Western science has focused so exclusively on the physical, and we've made incredible advances in that field, but we've neglected the non-physical to the point of wondering if it even exists. Be Here Now is such incredible book, especially when you keep in mind that Ram Dass didn't even write the thing. It was an act of devotion. And the pictures!

(the above was deciphered from phi (~1.62) using an advanced alphanumeric conversion algorhythm and should not be perceived as meaningful.)

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Registered: 04/24/01
Posts: 546
Re: Ram Dass --death and dying [Re: machineelf368]
    #1078894 - 11/23/02 07:52 AM (13 years, 10 months ago)


sorry I don't have any idea about that video....

best wishes

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