In this unique recording from 1975, Ram Dass explores the concept of reference groups, how they can affect our identity, and what it means when we enter into the community of the spirit.
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Reference Groups (12:00)
Class is in session, and Professor Ram Dass begins with a lesson on the concept of reference groups. These are groups which one identifies as the ‘basic’ group – like a family, a nation, a religion, or even a local bowling club. Ram Dass focuses on reference groups that are a community of the spirit, such as the Lama Foundation, and details the inner workings of different kinds of these spiritual groups.
“I’m sure it is obvious to you, when you reflect upon it, that the nature of one’s reference group has a lot to do with how you deal with a variety of social and economic problems in the world around you. If your reference group is very small, then only within that group is it ‘us,’ and the rest of the universe is ‘them.’” – Ram Dass
Ram Dass talks more about community and Satsang on Here and Now Ep. 115
Community of the Spirit (39:20)
Ram Dass explores why people band together out of a sense of spiritual need or purpose. He talks about the despair that leads people to look within, and how we need to stretch our definition of what constitutes a group in order to really understand the community of the spirit. This is a community where people identify with their souls, rather than their physical packages.
“As one goes deeper into one’s self, one comes to the soul. One comes to the essence. One comes through the doorway to a much different kind of identity than the one on which one has been functioning from the time of birth, and which was transmitted through one’s parents.” – Ram Dass
Across Time and Space (53:00)
Things begin to get a little far out, as Ram Dass explores how the community of the spirit exists among souls across time and space. He covers some vehicles for entering the spiritual community, such as Bhakti yoga. Ram Dass ends by talking about the paradox of looking both upward to the light and bliss and ecstasy, and downward to the human condition and suffering.
“Once one has identified with this particular reference group, that is, the community of the spirit, then where one is in physical time and space, who one’s living with, what one is doing, in terms of livelihood and so on, becomes less and less relevant, because the eggs are no longer totally in the basket of the physical plane.” – Ram Dass