“We are all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass, Richard Alpert (April 6, 1931 – December 22, 2019)
When I think of the marvelous life of Ram Dass I can think of so many gems of simple, yet extraordinary insight, wisdom and compassion. He is being dismissively referred to as a “New Age guru,” and he would probably laugh about that. But his life work was far more than being a guru. He worked with the dying and instilled a needed dignity and compassion to this field. And his teachings helped to enliven my spiritual life at a time when I was walking in a parched desert. A time when I felt there was no one to walk me home. He is part of the reason I entered into hospice care work.
In truth, there are so many quotes that I thought of, like “In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.” What a great understanding of the ego and theatre that defines our societal transactions. Or “Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.” I love that one especially since it isn’t merely about God in disguise, but God in drag. How fabulous is that?
And when he said “religions are founded by what mystics say when they come back; but what the mystics say is not the same as what happened to them,” my disillusioned eyes were opened. Religion is humanity’s very imperfect explanation of the transcendent. Then there was this: “We’re here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.” That one perfectly describes our existential situation, especially in a time where dehumanization is rife and nature has been reduced to a commodity or rendered a barcode.
But the above quote sums things up the best to me, because it isn’t just about our own path. Our path intersects with everyone elses path. And our task is not one of leader or guide, but one of companion, in solidarity.
“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” – Ram Dass
भगवान की गति.
Rest in peace, Baba.