Ram Dass on the Need for Inner Social Action

“Inner social action” is necessary in order to make our outer actions productive.

There have been many dark ages throughout history.

As we now enter into a seismic shift within our government, and within our collective consciousness, we can’t help but empathize with the feelings of fear, division and anger that now personally affect so many within our society. It’s sometimes difficult to remember to consider the “long view” in the scheme of things; to remember that there has always been light to balance out the darkness.

The reality of impermanence permeates our lives in every way, yet here we are in the “here and now,” being tested in ways we never imagined. Our tenets of freedom and social justice are being challenged on a daily basis, and our principals of what fairness and equality mean are being vehemently disrupted.

So what are our options now, not only for ourselves, but for society as a whole? And how do we harmonize with those we are in disagreement with?

As we find ourselves in a deeply polarized country, it seems we have a fine line to walk: In the material world, we have to attend to our actions as individuals and as citizens, yet it is equally important to attend to our inner being.

There is doing and there is being. In being, we have to quiet down inside of ourselves. We have to anchor ourselves in spiritual wisdom, keep our love strong, and remain compassionate, even towards those who we do not agree with. While remaining centered in our own being, we need to do whatever actions we can to alleviate the potential negative effects of this new era.

A big lesson that we have learned is that social action is effective when spiritual quietness, listening, and the Witness are present. With the cultivation of spiritual values like compassion, love and wisdom, all actions have the possibility of a positive outcome. We can’t make a difference when we are enraged.

The mere existence of President Trump creates a spiritual curriculum for everyone. We need to all take a look at our individual fear, anger, and our labeling of “us” and “them.” That’s the work. When we identify with our soul, we surround those difficult thoughts and emotions with love. We create a spacious and calm moment from within which allows these dark disturbances to transform. It’s hard to do, which is why that’s the work. It’s the concept of “fierce grace”: The dark moments we are handed in life give us the chance to dig deeper into ourselves as human beings, to turn our lives away from separation and into compassion and interconnection.

Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “We need enlightenment, not just individually, but collectively to save the planet. We need to awaken ourselves. We need to practice mindfulness if we want to have a future. If we want to save ourselves as a planet.” 

The most pressing issue is the polarization of our fellow humans with whom we vigorously disagree. We may find it nearly impossible to have any constructive dialogue with those whose views we oppose. This creates a kind of divergence within us that gives power to a sense of righteousness.

So, how do we deal with that? How do we transform our own hatred, our own judgment of others? How do we relate to people who, in this case, directly support Trump and have a completely different attitude and opinion about how this country should be led?

We are all Americans; that’s our tribe. They aren’t “the other.” They are part of our tribe and that’s what is frustrating to us. We need to engage with a deeper listening; we need to understand and appreciate the causes and conditions that created this particular landscape. We need to learn what produced the story line in which we have become invested and in which we are intractably bound up.

When we spent time in India with our Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, we had the good fortune to experience unconditional love from a human being who represented the potential we all have as humans. And that unconditional love is what we need to cultivate in order to surround these negative emotions with loving awareness.

Loving is a tall order when we feel so oppressed by the dark shadows and implications for our way of life, including the health and sustainability of our planet. But as we know so well, embodying this love results in truly responsible social action.

So what choice do we really have but to do the work of love?

– Ram Dass & Raghu Markus


For more from Ram Dass on the balance of inner and outer social action, visit the Here and Now podcast for recent episodes on “Keeping our Quietness and Love in 2017” and finding the “True Revolution” within. This article was originally published at RamDass.org.