In 2012 on a journey to Nepal, I was quite fortunate to have taken one book with me, finding it to be an excellent support in my down-time while there. Amidst the many difficulties facing the people in Nepal, and my own experience there, I found sanctuary in the commentaries on The Bhagavad Gita, by Ram Dass.
My intention for this article is to simply share some of the ideas presented in his book ‘Paths to God,’ like Ram Dass himself, is a real gem, and I highly recommend a full reading of it.
Ram Dass writes: “There are states of consciousness that are always available to us if we have not veiled ourselves from them through our attachment to our own thoughts.” (8) and the ego “can only trap you if you think you are it.” (69)
These ideas feel important to me, in being aware of the degree to which my mind attaches to the thoughts that I cling to; the thoughts that create and colour the way I experience life.
I want to be aware of the world I am creating, and wish to avoid being separate from a wholeness available in Spirit. I also regularly question if I am giving enough time to let go of my clingings and to open myself to these available states of higher consciousness. It is important to me that I am not merely maintaining an ego “comfort zone,” rather than a more true openness to the Divine Love and Truth. It is my aim to steer myself towards becoming one with a greater Flow of Life; in the living Heart, the Eternal Tao; Life Divine.
Ram Dass writes that these states of consciousness are always available to all of us in a “spiritual path of engagement in the world rather than withdrawal from it” (23) suggesting that we “extricate ourselves from that entire web of thought forms” that we have created around ourself. The thoughts that we do not let go of easily. Even if we experience deep suffering and pain because of our clinging to them.
Ram Dass suggests that we are we are all dwelling in Grace all the time, and “the only thing that ever falls out of Grace is our own thinking mind.” The ego using thoughts to create a web; and “that’s where the work of the spiritual journey comes in” (27)
Karma dictates that we each have a destiny; one that will unfold when we let it do so. If we just play the role that has been assigned to us personally, and surrender to our dharma. Ram Dass puts it very simply in offering: “when you’re no longer trying for anything, that’s your way through.” (53)
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says to Arjuna: “I have no work to do in all the worlds, Arjuna, for these are mine. I have nothing to obtain, because I have it all. And yet I work.” So the work becomes not for self, but for service to the good-of-all.
Krishna says: “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward” (The Gita)
Live in the moment and give your gifts to the world. Give ‘without counting the cost’ and never lose yourself in calculating what you might receive for your giving. Giving without attachment is to truly give.
The Ashtavakra Gita promises “The sage, who has no attachment, does not suffer, even in the world.”
Many of us try to control life; it is the way of the ego-mind. In an attempt to only experience what we are comfortable with, we resist the flow of life and experience, instead of peace and joy, the pain of that resistance. We experience what we think is safety and comfort but we trade these illusions for our true inheritance.
In the Gita, Krishna is telling us to simply “add love to the equation.” (234)
Instead of preoccupying ourselves with trying to get what we think we want or need, we start to quieten; to listen, to wait for an inner prompting. To hear, rather than decide, what it is we should do next. We begin to live our life from a “place of deeper wisdom.” (53) We begin to live not out of striving, but out of spirit” (51)
One of the main things that I am experiencing lately, is a continually increasing appreciation of the nature of life; the incredible design of it all. The patterns and relationships. The immense variety and vastness, complexity as well as pure simplicity and joy. The joy of opening to Spirit and allowing myself to feel at One with all that is. To feel my oneness in spirit, with a group of people, as we each open to an ever present flow of life force. The experience, available to all, when the usual mental chatter quietens.
In the Eternal Now there is a “freedom from both space and time” (104) We are freed from the usual constraints that may pressure us. We discover new worlds, beyond the chains of our own making; we choose anew.
A Sufi mystic referred to this state as “Pilgrim, pilgrimage, and road, were all but myself towards myself, and my arrival but myself at my own door.”
“Residing in the One, we come into a relationship with the way of things, with the Law, such that all of our actions henceforth are simply a pure statement of the dharma.” (106) …
Ram Dass reminds us that we are all part of an evolutionary journey, and every experience happening to us at every moment is a gift; a teaching we’re being given. He writes that all we need is “the perceptual stance that allows us to appreciate it for what it is.” (243)
Whatever happens in life, is “a gift to your awakening.” (243) In any given moment, right now. Whatever happens is a gift that is “perfectly designed to help you break out of the shell of your ego, to dissolve the separation between yourself and the Beloved.” (243) .
One aspect of this becoming, is the act of service. That is, in becoming as the One that serves all. As the theosophist Annie Besant says, the “Joy that lies in its giving, in yielding itself, in pouring itself out and finding happiness in the joy which it creates.”
Ram Dass writes that “True giving is dwelling in a state of spontaneous compassion, dwelling in the open heart space.” (259) A space where giving and receiving happen naturally; where giving is done as “pure action” without any ego motives present. The giving being spontaneous by dwelling in the heart centre: letting Life flow through you.
“When we are being still within that space, compassion – unconditional love – arises spontaneously” (260)
Another reference to this in the work of Alice A. Bailey where she writes:
“True service is the spontaneous outflow of a loving heart and an intelligent mind; it is the result of being in the right place and staying there.” (A.A. Bailey, Serving Humanity p.1) and,
“It is the effect of a man’s being what he truly is, a divine Son of God.” (A.A. Bailey, Serving Humanity p.1)
“In self-forgetfulness he serves; in self-abnegation he walks the earth. … He lives, serves, works and influences, asking nothing for the separated self.” (A.A. Bailey, Serving Humanity p.1)
So how easy is that? Well, maybe not quite so. First it takes the intention to live in that space, then perhaps many lifetimes of practice to become that. But the ideal is such a blessing to know about and to live towards. As is said so often, “not the goal, but the journey itself.”
In realising the joy in giving to the good-of-all, I am more easily able to go beyond the fears and constructs of my ego nature.
In ‘Paths to God,’ Ram Dass suggests that it is a sacrifice for “the One” to give up its “Oneness” and become the many. So then our acts of sacrifice back into the One “complete the wheel.” They “spiritualise life, and bring the whole cycle into harmony.” (111)
Sacrifice “awakens us to the fact that we are part of a process, part of a divine play.” (111) It takes our mind off our own petty concerns, fears and distractions and helps us become part of something much greater.
Ram Dass suggests that we will only “get through the door” when we make the ultimate sacrifice, which for the intellectual is to “give up knowing anything.” Thus, only when the “knower and the known become one.” (75)
For our own transformation – “we sacrifice the ego’s goals, the ego’s individual point of view. We throw every part of ourselves into the fire.” (110) As Ram Dass declares, “Take it, God – just let me be free.” (110)
“Saints and birds don’t collect.” (Neem Karoli Baba)
Gandhi taught that “The essence of civilisation consists not in the multiplication of wants but in their deliberate and voluntary renunciation.”
“Renouncing things because we want to give them up; because we see how they’re holding us.” (133) Because we have identified ourselves with something that’s much more interesting than the immediate gratification.” (133)
Ram Dass speaks of renunciation as being about “release, and not self-denial” (136) and in this renunciation we are released from the whole drama that our ego engages in, in how ‘spiritual’ or ‘giving’ we might think ourselves to be. So, in the practice of just ‘letting go’ keeping our motives pure and our surrender unto Life / the Divine through becoming at one with it.
“… ultimately about renouncing our suffering over this or that, and when that happens, the whole melodramatic part of the renunciation trip starts to fade away. (233)
It is natural for me to cling to thoughts that create my world; and give energy to finding meaning and avoid suffering; yet in life in general there is Creation, Preservation, and Destruction. Each of these as much a part of the Divine Plan as any other experience.
In ‘Paths to God’ a “yoga” is described as “any practice we undertake with the intention of coming closer to God.” (229) Ram Dass suggesting that the “key to it is the ‘intentional practice’ aspect,” so yogas can involve any and all parts of our lives” (229)
As Krishna says in The Gita: “Do whatever you do, but consecrate the fruit of your actions to me.”
‘Sadhana’ (our spiritual practice) – “mind to God” – isn’t something we do to get ourselves somewhere; it’s something we do to get ourselves out of the way, so we can stop being obstacles to the process.” (240)
“Once you relax and trust your heart, you’ll find that you will be drawn by exactly those forms and practices that are going to take you through.” (239)
Ram Dass suggests to: “Work with whatever it is that’s drawing you at the moment.” (239) … “to use whatever can in this moment open you to living spirit” (239) He concludes in his beautiful text: “… we recognise the sacredness of everything … we begin to respect that sacredness: by reinvesting our lives with Spirit; by rediscovering ways of honouring the sacred; by offering ourselves and incarnations into the fire; as our sacrifice to God.”(246)
Arjuna Govinda (2012/15)
References used in this article
‘Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita’ (2004) Ram Dass, Three Rivers Press, New York.
‘The Search for Happiness’ (1961) Annie Besant, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, India.
‘Serving Humanity’ (1993) AA Bailey, Lucis Publishing Company, New York, NY