Stories & practices that empower real change

Ram Dass – Part 1 – Karma Yoga: The Path of Action [Transcript]

in dialogue with Walter Link

Watch the Full Episode ‘Ram Dass – Part 1 – Karma Yoga: The Path of Action’ HERE.

————————————————————————————————-

 

Ram Dass

If somebody on the street says “Who are you?” you say whatever your name is: John and Marie, something like that. But, when — but you know. You know that you’re loving awareness – loving awareness – loving awareness. And, from that point, your perception of the world has loving awareness.

 

Walter Link

Welcome to GlobalLeadership.TV, my name is Walter Link. I’ve always been fascinated by the question of how we move from our many challenges into our full potential as individuals, organizations and whole societies. In this television series I inquire with some of the most innovative leaders from around the world about how they manage to move from inspiration to real change.

 

Please join us in this exploration because we all make a difference and we all can get better at it. Therefore, on our website, we not only show other dialogues and publications but also the kind of practices that these leaders and their organizations use to move from inspiration to real change.

 

For parts I and II of my interview with Ram Dass, one of America’s most beloved and influential spiritual teachers, I travel to his home on the Hawaiian island of Maui. After teaching psychology at Harvard University, Ram Dass changed America’s spiritual evolution by inspiring millions forced to experiment with consciousness altering substances and later to open Eastern wisdom.

 

His 1971 bestseller Be Here Now became a bible for many who looked for life changing alternatives to traditional religion and secular materialism. Be Here Now and most of his 14 other books, his countless speeches and workshops are inspired by Maharaji, one of India’s most respected gurus. Maharaji’s followers see in him an incarnation of the Hindu god Hanuman, who represents Karma Yoga, which can be translated as a path to personal transformation.

 

It can be hard for westerner’s to understand the profundity and intimacy of the relationship between guru and his followers; but, meeting Ram Dass cured me of misjudging this relationship as disempowering because it became so obvious that his brilliance and his transformational power were grounded in Maharaji’s inspiration. It also shines through many other of America’s most important spiritual teachers, as well as innovation leaders, such as Apple founder, Steve Jobs.

 

In our dialogue, which started almost 30 years ago, Ram Dass and I explore how we can use action in the world to wake up spiritually and how the resulting personal transformation can inspire and empower our action to serve humanity. When Ram Dass and I became friends he was one of the most eloquent and nuanced public speakers I knew, then in 1997 he was, as he calls it, stroked by God.

 

The stroke now limits his speech, but not the depths of his being, nor that of Maharaji’s transmission that we receive in his presence. When we listen with our hearts not only into his words but the silence that unites them we may find ourselves touched and inspired as millions have before us. Please join Ram Dass and I as we explore together Karma Yoga, the timeless path of action.

 

Walter Link

 

It’s good to see you again, Ram Dass.

 

Ram Dass

 

It’s good, very good to see you.

 

Walter Link

 

Today, I want to talk with you about how inner work can help us to become more effective and impeccable in our action in the world whether we are politicians or activists or business leaders or academics. There are practices in inner work that can be very helpful.

 

The second thing I want to talk about is how action in the world when it is done with intention and awareness can also be a very powerful spiritual path that can develop us as also other spiritual paths can develop us. To make that concrete I want to give you an example and ask you what you think about that.

 

For example, I’m working with a very impactful environmental organization called Forest Ethics and they put great pressure on some of the world’s largest companies to become more sustainable; but, they always also offer partnership. The pressure is only intended to move them out of the status quo into innovation. That takes of course the courage to exercise this pressure, but also the openness of heart and the humility to be ready to partner and explore together concrete solutions.

 

In working with them they found out how useful inner work is for them to be able to do that. Also, what I found out is how their deep dedication to this way of service has really refined them, has helped them to mature as human beings in the way spiritual work can help you to mature. What do you think about that?

 

Ram Dass

 

I certainly like the partnership. By inviting other people into a partnership and going forward instead of the other people making them. When my guru said to me, “Ram Dass, I want you to love everybody” and I said with my ego, “I can’t do that” and then he went up to me nose to nose and he said, “Ram Dass, love everybody. Love everybody.”

 

I tried. Trying is very bad. Then I saw the, for example I’m a democrat, so I don’t — I hope you’ll — everybody will excuse me, and I couldn’t love George Bush for example. When Maharaji said everybody it meant George Bush. And, I put on my puja table a picture of George Bush and on the puja table was Christ and Maharaji and Anandamayi Ma and all the nice people, and George.

 

And, as I went to them, I was, “Oh, good morning. Good morning.” And, as I got to George, “Good morning, George,” and it was something in me to be hardened to George. And, I saw that these other beings, I saw as souls. And George, I saw him as his incarnation, and I then saw George. I saw that-that soul, I felt compassion for that soul because it’s a lousy incarnation because I was, you know, because many people are killed from his administration.

 

And, now I say, “George, I feel compassion for you because–” and this practice, it means I see people as souls, and I don’t see them as their incarnations. I see — I don’t see them as bodies, careers, roles, the role of mother/father, businesspersons, things like that, although they might see themselves as CEOs or something like that.

 

That’s their karma. You don’t get mixed up in other people’s karma. Somebody sees me as Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher, and they can see that. That’s their business. That’s their business. I’m just me. I’m just, you know–

 

I’ve sometimes — a crowd and a person says, “May I touch your feet?” And I say, “Sure.” And they all, “Guruji, guruji,” and that’s their business. And, then the next guy says, “Hi, Dick. How are you? Haven’t seen you since the old acid days, and it’s good to see you. Wonderful.” And both of them are projecting their minds on me, which I don’t mind. They’re perfectly doing what they do, and–

 

 

Ram Dass

The partnership, first of all, they’re opposite in time; they’re opponents. Then we say they’re opponents and they’re partners. Then coming into, and then they are partners. And, but there is one more step. We are one, and you are them, and you’re dealing with — it’s an internal dealing with them. You’re talking to them internally because you’re talking to yourself. You’re talking to yourself.

That means that you’ve shifted beyond the role of opponent, the role of partner. In my bhakti world — there is love that comes in. Love. Love. Love for another soul, and it’s your — you’re relating to this other soul. We are witnessing that we are partners. And then, if they can cement that witness, that gives them perspective on what they are doing together. And, the witness that is the one and it’s getting them to cement their relationship as souls.

 

Walter Link

I think pointing out what you are pointing out is very useful, but it’s also important to realize that the roles also need to be played. There is the deeper realization of the oneness, and there are real roles. Life and action also calls for us to perform a role without being caught in the role.

 

Ram Dass

We have to play roles, and it’s — it’s where you play the roles from. For example, you could play your roles, it’s like a movie picture. You’re playing the roles, but you’re not — you’re not — you’re watching yourself play the roles, which is — it’s one plane of consciousness is away from the roles.

 

Walter Link

Right, and in this example of this organization, Forest Ethics, we, for example, just had a deep inquiry into that situation where they put pressure on a CEO, and the campaigner in charge of that campaign was feeling deep pain that he had to put this pressure on this person, and yet, without putting pressure, the person wouldn’t move. And, so we were working on what we call in this organization “fierce compassion.” Your compassion with the whole, including nature, requires you to do something that might cause temporary pain to a person who stands in the way of sustainability.

And, I think the importance of acting in the world is, it’s messy. It’s not so easy as writing a theoretical book about how things should be. You’re constantly challenged to stay on a fine edge where you can fall off into either inaction, or you fall into action that lacks compassion, that lacks understanding.

 

Ram Dass

You fall off because you are empathetic – empathetic.

 

Walter Link

You fall off because you’re empathetic? Say more about that because many people think that empathy is the key. I agree with you, but I want to hear what you say.

 

Ram Dass

Well, empathy is one person and one person, and compassion, there’s one, and you can compassion for another person. For you all, you’re all inner — we’re all together in this venture. Something where you are feeling sorry for something, that’s–

It’s — your empathy interferes with your compassion. It’s a very fine line – very fine line – very fine line, and–

Your feelings get in the way and the feelings are initiated from your mind. And, then you find where you are, the witness of your mind, and you will see that that feeling is counterproductive of that, the thing that you wanted to do in the world, and your spiritual path.

 

 

Walter Link

And yet, on the way to developing this deeper awareness, which is a very profound awareness that we are now talking about–

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

A first step from a more closed down, hardened activism can be compassion where you do see the other, not as an enemy, but you see them as a temporary adversary, and you don’t see that they are bad, but that maybe some of their actions are limited.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

And that’s already a huge step forward in a world that is so polarized, where people get so self-righteous in being me-good, you-bad.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah. Morals get in the way of truth.

 

Walter Link

Say more about that.

 

Ram Dass

Good and evil have been your directives for your behavior, and you feel that good and evil are their mind games, their mind activity to differentiate things.

 

Walter Link

Right, so there is a deeper place in us from which to know what to do.

 

Ram Dass

Our soul. See, that’s me. Because I — a spiritual path for me is bhakti: ego to soul. And you start at ego, and you start here to goal here. This is in the middle of your chest is going to be the entry to that soul place. You start from here and say, “I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness.” And you stick your finger in your middle of your chest. “I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness.”

And, when this is done, it doesn’t — if somebody on the street says, “Who are you?” you say whatever your name is: John and Marie, something like that. But, when — but you know. You know that you’re loving awareness – loving awareness – loving awareness. And, from that point, your perception of the world has loving awareness.

I am aware of the world, and I love it. I just love. I love it. I love it. I love the walls. I love the trees. I love you. I love me. I love my wheelchair. I love my stroke. I love the — I love it because — because — because all manifestation–

 

Walter Link

And because we are love.

 

Ram Dass

Because we are — you are right. You are right.

 

Walter Link

When we go deep enough, we realize–

 

Ram Dass

That’s what we–

 

Walter Link

It’s not, “I’m loving my wheelchair.” It’s, I am love.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah, well, it’s: this is — this is individual soul. That’s — I see love, and then, as you go deep enough to the next plane of consciousness, they be love. They see love and they be love. My guru is, “be love,” and I — maybe we’ll see love, but be, and I get — yeah.

 

Walter Link

Right. Yeah.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah, you’re absolutely right – absolutely right.

 

Walter Link

There’s so much love right now here.

 

Ram Dass

Yes.

 

 

Walter Link

So I was — I was having a deep dialogue with the Prime Minister of Brazil and we talked about the importance of inner work for running a country, and it was very interesting what she said about the importance of meditation for her, which of course nobody ever asks her about, no journalist. And so — and she was saying that she has to make so many decisions that are so important, so fast that she cannot possibly rationally analyze each of them.

 

Ram Dass

Good.

 

Walter Link

So she has to be so deeply in tune with her knowing, direct knowing, her guidance, her intuition, call it as you may. That is fine-tuned.

 

Ram Dass

Call it as it may, it’s called the Atman in Hinduism. It’s called the inner god in the West, inner guru, and this is the universal truths and love that makes the world go round, that place. And that, from that perspective, then she can make decisions.

 

Walter Link

And, as we know, we can have a lot of blind spots and believe we are acting from a deep truth, so she is also very aware of the necessity of continuously practicing so that you work on what might get in the way to accurately perceive what is true.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

And to have the humility to know that you unlikely will be perfectly in tune with what is true.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

So, we also, of course, need constant feedback and support to work on this.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah. It has to when she interacts with her colleagues and constituents and her enemies calling, calling, calling the truth in her. This is a soul. We are opposed in our minds. Let’s not get lost in mind games. That’s what the world is in, in mind games. And, the world is caught in separateness, and that makes anxiety and fear.

A little thing I do internally, I’m interacting, and then I get angry, and I [gasp], and say — then I say to them, myself, “What am I doing in this place? I mean this is a very strange place. I’m, you know, what am I doing in this place?” And that directs me down to the witness in the soul, the witness. The witness finds what am I doing in this place. My mind, oh, my mind, it got me. It got me.

 

Walter Link

Right, so you have to really cultivate the capacity to witness in the moment so that you can notice when you get triggered by anger or empathy or anything.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

And, to not automatically act from it.

 

Ram Dass

That’s right.

 

Walter Link

But to notice, ah, I’m triggered. Okay. And that really gives you more choice.

 

Ram Dass

That’s right.

 

Walter Link

It brings up this interesting word: choice. Right? So this Brazilian Prime Minister, I was also talking with her about ‘who acts?’

 

Ram Dass

Who acts?

 

Walter Link

Yeah. Who is the actor.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

Right? So she fine-tunes her decision-making through meditation, but she also understands that it is really for us to get out of the way.

 

Ram Dass

That’s right.

 

Walter Link

So that true action can occur.

 

Ram Dass

I say surrender. Surrender.

 

Walter Link

Yeah, which is such an interesting challenge for a Western mind to comprehend because surrender sounds so passive.

 

Ram Dass

I know. I know. I know.

 

Walter Link

 You know? Getting out of the way means, like, what are you talking about?

 

Ram Dass

I use that in — I use that for just that reason.

 

Walter Link

Right. So there is something to understand about how a part of us surrenders so that the part of us that is everything can act, undisturbed by the little us, the ego us.

 

Ram Dass

Yes, but surrender so that the truth or the bigger perspective will control the ego. We make a mistake by downing the ego because there it’s the — in this world, it’s the functional — it’s functional.

 

Walter Link

Yes, I think that’s a very important point.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah.

 

Walter Link

I think you cannot call something a mistake if everybody has one.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah, that’s right.

 

Walter Link

That contradicts the very definition of mistake. What I like a lot about the work that we’re doing in the Diamond Approach is that we have a very precise understanding of how to support the individual consciousness to mature into what we call the pearl: a, you could say, realized personality that integrates in a very functional way the essential qualities of being and replaces, for example, fake, macho strengths with the true strengths that rests in reality.

And can be strong, as it is needed, but doesn’t need to be demonstrative. Where a real compassion replaces pity and even the empathy that we were talking about. So, I think that we can actually use inner work practices skillfully to develop our functional self in a way that it doesn’t conflict at all with the more boundless space of our soul.

 

Ram Dass

Yeah. I’d like to talk to you about Hanuman because Hanuman is a symbol of Karma Yogi, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga together. And, he’s all — he’s all — in the world, he’s strong. He’s extremely strong and does things nobody can do. And, but he does it. He loves Ram. And he does it for Ram.

 

Walter Link

On our website GlobalLeadership.TV you will find additional footage, other dialogues with innovation leaders from around the world and also the hands on practices that help them and their organizations to move from inspiration to real change.

 

PART 2 – Karma Yoga: A Path of Action will be released in FEBRUARY 2016!