Monday, August 4, 2008
Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service - Ram Dass
The freewheeling author of the pop spiritual classic Be Here Now teams with fellow Hindu devotee Bush to guide inexperienced Americans on to the path of compassionate action--offering his own spiritual autobiography as testimony to the transforming power of love and social action. Ram Dass, n‚ Richard Alpert, treats his famous psychedelic experience with Timothy Leary at Harvard in the early 60's as a spiritual turning point, granting him beautiful if ephemeral visions of unity with the cosmos. The real emotional possibilities behind those visions opened up to him, he says, when he found Neem Karoli Baba, his beloved Hindu spiritual teacher, who instructed him to tell the truth and always love everyone. It apparently took Ram Dass (so named by the guru after a monkey god that is an archetypal servant of man) several decades of spiritual work on himself while exploring different forms of volunteerism to glimpse how it is possible to fuse the quest for a truly liberated awareness with compassionate work for others: ``The only thing about being with people that `brings me down,' that keeps me from resting in spacious awareness, that deflates that state of joyful equanimity, is my own mind....'' Finally, through his experience as a fund-raiser and chairperson for the Seva Foundation, Ram Dass, along with Bush, has come to isolate simple steps--presented here, and including doing what you love and starting small--that others can follow to come to their own path of service. Occasionally repetitive and simplistic but nonetheless a warmhearted and genuinely inspiring introduction to compassion as a way of life.