evident that we are living in interesting times,
and I think were
feeling that we understand better every
day why that was
considered a curse
by the ancient Chinese. We're getting
direction. Everything is
shaky: social structures, political
crises---all of it changing,
at once. In the
presence of human unconsciousness,
what is generated
by all that change
and instability is fear. People get
when they get frightened, they use certain mechanisms for coping with it.
They go into denial---Global warming is not really happening. They look
for a talisman to ward off the evil, like holding up a cross against a
vampire, so they become fundamentalists or they become ultra nationalists.
There's more ethnic prejudice, more racial prejudice.
Its not just in the U.S.---Its a worldwide thing. Everybody's
scared. The poor are scared of the rich, and the rich are scared of
the poor. Let me share this little sequence of events with you:
About 10 years ago, I spent some time in Guatemala doing work with the
Seva Foundation. I was working with the Guatemalan women, women who
had lost everything---their homes, their villages, their husbands, their
sons---to the armies of the Guatemalan government (which was,
incidentally, being kept in power by the U.S.). The women were living in
constant fear that the armies would come back and kill more of them and
drive them off their land; they lived with that fear all the time.
I left Guatemala and flew to Los Angeles. I had a gig in Hollywood, and I
was staying in Brentwood, which is a very fancy suburb of Hollywood, where
the rich live. I drove down this street in Brentwood, this quiet avenue.
In fact, it was too quiet; I realized there were no human beings anywhere
in sight. There were little plots of well-tended grass alongside the
street, and next to that, big walls and electronic gates, so all you saw
from the street was a row of high walls. And on each little plot of grass
in front of the wall was a sign that the security company had
installed---a very vivid sign, with big black letters on a red background,
saying, ARMED RESPONSE! Just think about that, I mean, here you are,
you've finally made it, you've got it all---and you have to hide behind a
It was a strange flip. I'd been in Guatemala, where the poor women were
scared that the army, in the service of the rich was going to come and
murder them; and I'd flown to a place where the rich were hiding behind
their walls, afraid that the poor were going to come and murder them.
Gross economic disparity is a profoundly destabilizing force in the
world. It's been called the North-South Issue, because so many
countries of the Northern Hemisphere are haves, and so many of those in
the Southern Hemisphere are have-nots. And it's only getting worse.
The disparity between the rich and the poor is growing, and in the
meantime we're taunting people with all the things they see on TV, with
all the things they've been carefully trained as consumers to want, while
at the same time we're giving them fewer and fewer opportunities to break
out of their circumstances, to break out of racial or economic
suppression. It's a recipe for destabilizing things.
Now the interesting question is, How could a society that is experiencing
the pain we're in not be looking for solutions? How could it not
want to do that? The problem is, when there is worldly power, then there
is also a vested interest in preserving that power, in not upsetting the
apple cart. So instead of a search for solutions, we see more massive
levels of denial. Nobody's willing to bite the bullet and propose real
solutions, because it might mean we'd have to give up something we enjoy,
and we don't quite want to do that.
But try though we might to wish them away, we see the changes happening,
we watch the fear being created, and we can't hide from it all. In
the face of all that, the question we need to ask ourselves is whether
there is any place we can stand in ourselves where we can look at all
that's happening around us without freaking out, where we can't be quiet
enough to hear our predicament, and where we can begin to find ways of
acting that are at least not contributing to further destabilization. I
think that's a fair request.
That place, that new perspective is what I call the soul-view. Let me
share with you this little model I've worked out about who we are as human
beings. I call it the Three-Plane Consciousness Model. If I were to take a
picture of who I see you to be, the picture would show three I's---three
different levels of who you are, planes on which you have an identity.
Number One is what I call ego, that's the "I" we all know very
well, the plane of the body, mind, and personality, of all those things we
think we are. Number Two I call the soul; the soul measures time not in
days and years but in incarnations, and it's the "I" that was
around before we as egos were born and that will be around after we as
egos die. And Number Three is... just Number Three. We all have different
names for it, and wars are fought over what to call it, so I avoid all
that by just calling it Number Three.
I see our task as learning to live on more than one of those planes
simultaneously, experiencing ourselves as egos and souls at the same time.
And since you gotta be one to see one, once we are resting in our souls,
then we will see others as souls as well. Then when we look into another
persons eyes we'll say, Are you in there? I'm in here. Far out!
When we are able to look behind even that identity as soul, we'll see that
we have still another identity because we are also Number Three.
That's the mystic "I", because in Number Three there's actually
only one of us. Your Number Three isn't merely like my Number
Three---They're the same thing. "Sub ck," my guru used to
say; "It's all one."
When we are creating social action out of that kind of consciousness, it's
coming from a totally different space, a different motivation, than when
it's coming out of our egos with all their conflicting wants and needs.
Now it's no longer, I will relieve your suffering, because it's all just
our suffering. If my right hand is in the fire, my left hand just
naturally pulls it out. It goes beyond empathy---it's the experience of
oneness. It's a different consciousness.
That change in consciousness is what the world needs. I believe
that the basic institution for social change is the individual human heart
and that we change hearts one by one through a process I call
heart-to-heart resuscitation. My guru, Neem Karoli Baba, gave me
heart-to-heart resuscitation; he awakened my heart; he kindled that love
in me. Larry Brilliant, a guru-brother of mine said, What astounded me
when I was around Maharajji wasn't that he loved everybody. After all, he
was a saint, and saints are supposed to love everybody: What astounded me
was that when I was around Maharajji, I loved everybody. It's the
kind of love that's contagious---It's passed from heart to heart to heart,
from soul to soul to soul.
And it encompasses everybody. I know---there are certain
people around whom it's very hard to keep your heart open. You probably
have your own list; I know I have mine. Nowadays one of the names on my
list is Dubai. I find it very hard to keep my heart open to him, to
remember that he's a soul, too. So here's what I do: I have a Puja
table, a little alter, in my home. I take a picture of somebody like
Dubya, and I put it on my Puja table. So I have a picture of
Christ, and a picture of Buddha, and a picture of my guru---and a picture
of Dubya. In the morning I light my candle, and I light my incense, and I
greet everybody---Good morning Christ, and Good Morning Buddha, and Good
morning Maharajji---all so sweet and loving---and then, Hello, Dubya. I
see how far I have to go in keeping my heart open.
If our actions are to be truly compassionate, that's the kind of
change in consciousness that's required. If our actions are truly to
lessen suffering in the world, and not just shift it around a little, they
have to come from the deepest quietest spaces of our hearts. Acting from
that deep consciousness is the most profound social change possible, and it's
a change that each one of us, individually, can make. Peace isn't
something "out there." Peace comes from within and then
spreads out into the world. The greatest social action we can accomplish
is to dig deep into our hearts until we find that new consciousness, that
place of peace. That's the antidote to terrorism, because as Christ said,
"Perfect love casteth out fear."
(1 John 4:18).
has led the life of seeker and traveler, teacher and social activist for
45 years. The quality of his consciousness is legendary, not only for the
words spoken, but because of the spell that is somehow invoked in his
Ram Dass is well known for his experimentation with LSD and his anthem
book of the late 60s "Be Here Now." But his life works include
much more than these. Early on he created the Prison Ashram Project,
introducing deep spiritual work in prison. To the taboo surrounding death
& dying in this culture, he responded with the Dying Project,
introducing dying people to other planes of consciousness. Noticing the
need to combine social action with spiritual motive, Ram Dass co-created
the Seva Foundation, working with doctors and activists in India, Nepal,
Guatemala and here in the US. He has worked with business people in the
Social Venture Network, and with Creating Our Future, a spiritually
questing organization for teenagers, among many other causes. The common
theme in all of these projects has been the application of spiritual
principles to social realities.
will find a vast collection of Ram Dass' material at :