Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Be Here Now? A Soul Through Time...


The above video is a CBC interview with Baba Ram Dass before he wrote his seminal book Be Here Now. Be Here Now is considered by many a manual to make the transition from a psychedelic lifestyle to a yogic lifestyle. It continues to be an influential spiritual catalyst, and has inspired many to follow their own path with renewed faith and passion.

The heyday of Hindu chic may be surprised by Mickey Lemle's 90-minute documentary profile of Ram Dass. While Lemle covers all the biographical details that make his lifestory fascinating, the heart of the film is a touching reflection on aging, suffering and the prospect of death. The film opens with Ram Dass, now in his eighth decade, discussing the night he was "stroked" by a "fierce grace": In 1997, he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him with partial paralysis and aphasia. Despite his impaired language skills, Ram Dass is still remarkably articulate and a wonderful storyteller, and his tale is a good one. Born into a well-to-do New England Jewish family — his father was a lawyer and president of the New York-New Haven railroad — Richard Alpert's top-notch education lead him to a teaching post at Harvard, where he fell in with LSD advocate Timothy Leary. "Continuous experimentation" with the mind-altering substance got them both kicked out in 1963, and after their fabled drug-utopia experiment in Millbrook, N.Y., came to an end, Alpert's search for transcendence led to Eastern mysticism (specifically the teachings of the Maharaj-ji), a spiritual awakening and a name change: Alpert became Ram Dass, or "God Servant."

A visit to Be Here Now, for a reader unaware of the best-seller lists 30 years back, is tonic; the book is not just a glimpse into a vanished cultural moment, but also an effusive attempt to search out a way to exist in the world. A self-described ''manual for conscious being,'' it is charged with antic energy. It opens out, in its exuberant middle stretch, into a kind of cosmic comic strip, pages printed on brown paper with prototypically ''psychedelic'' line drawings blossoming around blocks of text set ALL IN CAPS and running up the pages at right angles, requiring the reader to turn the book on its side."

"Ram Dass's ongoing message: enlightenment, a condition of heightened being, rides along a continuum linking all experience. With a properly selfless perspective, day-to-day living is transcendent. You have to adjust and detach. You have to turn the book on its side. Cleansed of preconditions, awareness translates into love. ''All your acts,'' Ram Dass writes, ''will be consecrated.''" From New York Times, Feb 9, 2008.

"Magic Theatre
For madmen only
price of admission
your
mind"
Be Here Now
Below is Baba Ram Dass in 1980's talking about how he came to follow a yogic path after rejecting recreational drug use...



Ram Dass Satsang
Interview with Baba Ram Dass
New York TimesMovie review about the life and work of Baba Ram Dass.
PBS about the film
Kicked out of Harvard: from here...1963

5 comments:

FOUR DINNERS said...

Anybody who rejects recreational drug use should be treated with suspicion.

Especially if they have three eyes or two noses or a tail.

'Be Here Now' is an average Oasis album. See. Average. That's what stopping drugs does to you!! ;-)

Gardenia said...

Oh yeh, I remember the days. And everything that went with them, the names, the musicians, the eastern mysticism - yep. Acid and fields of sunflowers, rows of cans in the grocery store - everything could become mystical on acid. Perhaps now the Yoga movement is recognizing everything is magical anyway.

Candy Minx said...

4Dins, well yes I can see your point...except it's kind of hard work just taking drugs. I thought it was cool to see this mans life over five decades in these videos and how his views were presented each time.

Gardenia, that is what interested me about this book and the author...he was very dedicated to finding a "high" and reconciling his experiences on lsd...without taking drugs. I always thought that was a ffascinating concept...and I felt that art making was an opportunity for that "magic" to happen "sober"...I was very touched by comparing his speech in 1980's to his interview a couple years ago...with age and more experience...he seems a gentle soul..

Gardenia said...

I liked what he said about things being so beautiful and his new found appreciation for form. He kept searching through drugs then found the Maharishi. I found Jesus. I've been to those planes of heightened reality, (and even beyond) peace, love, places many of us so strive to be. However, I don't think I've been willing to give up some things in order to stay there in a constant state. But not staying there I don't think is bad. The majority of us have our normal business to take care of - to feed ourselves, our families - necessary things for our very life. We could get super spiritual and make those things even sacred - but maybe they are anyway.

For me, the challenge is to put the two together to maintain balance and to be a constant person of love. I think perhaps that is where Eastern Mysticism and Christianity agree - "the greatest of these is love". I fall so short.

The cool thing for an artist would be to translate those things they see, that different awareness to a visual medium others could witness.

He mentioned the ego coming back and creating form and structure again - I think I find Jesus to be a perfect combination - he would go away by himself to be transported to conversation with God, yet he could also be sitting around eating and drinking wine with his friends, tending to life as usual. It would have been interesting to talk to the Maharishi and find out how he found his balance of being very firmly on the earthly plane, yet being as spiritual as he was.

I just viewd a U Tube about songs of the plants - I think it was in Peru - the shaman or healers would sing the songs of the plants that they heard the plants sing while preparing their healing - in fact part of their healing gift was to open themselves to the sick person's being to find out what was wrong in order to cure it.

When we stop and think how much of our capacities must be shut down - whether its by the ego, our culture, spiritual entities, or not, I don't know - and what we as humans are truly capable of doing and becoming its both awe inspiring and fearful.

Candy Minx said...

Zen proverb:

Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

Gardenia, wow...I think you're right...life is about living with the pendulum swinging...not with some static state. Any kind of permanence is more related to death than it is to life...so no matter we will always be surfing through feelings and changes. All good points! Yes...your final paragraph is very true we have infinite energy and potential to do anything...it's why I always wonder why we live so static within an existing structure...there is no rule or law we have to live with so many constructs just because they are the past...

I want to see that video...are you able to pass on the You Tube link?