In this lecture from 1974, at Naropa University, Ram Dass talks about our unhealthy preoccupation with our individual differences.
We grow up with the identity of a separate self, building an entire character around that separate self. From this, we begin identifying others based around our character development. In this episode, Ram Dass gives insight on how our practice helps us move beyond our patterns and perception of individual differences.
Our Differences (14:30) – We grow up with an attachment to our differences from eachother because it is efficient, but it is also very neurotic. Most of us go through childhood with some sense of inferiority, inadequacy, or incompetence derived from our understanding of these individual differences.
Instead of feeling ok with ourselves, we feel as if there is a need to do good and make up for our inadequacies.
“We get so emotionally preoccupied with the thing that is wrong with us, that it starts to color all of the ways in which we see the world around us.”
A Microscope of Perception (18:45) – During our spiritual journey, our social perceptions continue to change. As we begin to experience perceptions of ourselves and others that are totally inconsistent with our habits of thought and about who we are. A useful way to conceptualize our perception of others is to picture it like a microscope.
In this microscope, the most basic level of perception is our desire systems. Going one level deeper, we find the identification of personality. Another level deeper, what you see in another person is a person looking back at you. The packaging of the other person is there, which is made up of all of our individual differences. There is still somebody separate from you in there, but the individual differences are more like the packaging of the product.
“In the course of spiritual awakening, our social perceptions keep changing as we do this spiritual work. Many of us are in the peculiar predicament that we have built an entire ego structure about who we are and how we function, based on these emotionally laden habits about individual differences.”
Why We All Do This (25:05) – In the attempt to get by in life a little easier; it is most efficient to treat everyone just like they were yesterday. This principle is known as the efficiency of social relationships. Without viewing another through individual differences, we would meet each other again and again fresh and without preconceptions. We do this, forgetting that every day we are reshaped by our experiences and choices.
It’s All Perfect (32:10) – When we come to another person with preconceptions of what should be, we start to see their shortcomings and failures. The reality is that everyone is just as they should be. That way of being that is precisely who they are.
“Maharaji kept saying to me, ‘ Ram Dass don’t you see it’s all perfect? Everybody is being just who they are.”
We don’t see a bent tree and say to ourselves, ” Why that crooked tree there is not like it should be, like that tree over there. If that tree didn’t bend like that, it would be a good tree.” Why can we allow a tree to be different and be alright just the way it is, but not allow the same for another person? If someone is not how we think they should be we start judging, and having opinions about the way we believe that they should be.
Romancing Ourselves (37:20) – As a species, we have always been deeply involved in a romantic image of ourselves. That romanticizing is part of what would be called personality level. This romanticizing extends beyond the physical realm.
We often attach an identity to consciousness and its place in the universe. Even in another state of consciousness, we can get trapped in identities and individual differences as much as we do in our waking state.
“The game always is to just keep letting go and letting go. Maharaji’s statement, ‘ Sub Ek, Sub Ek, Sub Ek,’ has been my saving grace. Sub Ek, there is only one.”
What we must remember through all of this is that despite all of our perceived differences, that all is one. There is no need to infer individual differences or deny what really is, because when it is all stripped away, we find that behind it all lies the one. We are part of a greater whole. Remembering so and letting go of the rest is the key to moving past individual differences and towards one another.