Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Ram Dass: To Love & Serve, 1931 to 2019


By Sara Davidson

Remembering the American spiritual icon Ram Dass,
 born 90 years ago today.


I read Be Here Now and decided: I have to meet this man.

It was 1971. I was in my twenties, an agnostic, having success with my writing, and miserable. “Woe is me,” was my mantra, inherited from my Hungarian grandmother. My husband would counter: “Woe is NOT you.”

It was a time when all around me, young people were lighting out for spiritual territory, becoming vegetarians, learning to meditate and chant, and running to Chinatown to practice Tai Chi. Some of my friends were quitting their jobs to take a three-month, round-the-clock training with Oscar Ichazo of the Arica Institute, who said that after the training, they would be enlightened.

A relative started following a Hindu swami who told her to rise at four a.m., take a cold bath, and do yoga. She urged me to do the same.

That was it. I decided to investigate and expose this mass delusion, writing a piece called “The Rush for Instant Salvation” that ran on the cover of Harper’s in July 1971. But something unexpected had happened during my research. I’d found that I liked being around these gentle, spacey seekers who were working to cultivate honesty, joy, and love. But there was no way I could swallow their beliefs.

When the article was published, the editor asked if I’d resolved my ambivalence. “Yes,” I said. “I think there’s something valid in there, but I don’t know what it is.”

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