For the audio and video versions of “Keeping our Quietness and Love in 2017”, click here.
Hi, it’s Raghu and Ram Dass and this is the Ram Dass Here and Now Podcast, and it’s our first for the year 2017. Thanks for joining us live, so to speak, to say a little bit about what is on your mind. Of course, we all have quite a bit on our minds as we are about to go into this new year and a new president. On a couple of different podcasts that I have done recently, we have talked about how we got together in Maui at the wonderful retreat, and how this topic came up of what everyone is going through anticipating this new administration and the things that are going to happen. But, before anything I just want you to say hi to everybody.
Ram Dass: Hi there everybody! Happy New Year!
Raghu: One interesting thing that I just read about in the paper. I read that Governor Jerry Brown and the government in California hired Eric Holder, who used to be the Attorney General for Obama, to defend the initiatives California has begun and wants to continue around environmental issues and immigration. I thought, God, that is a leading light in somewhat of a dark view around these issues if not many issues that the new Trump administration is going to bring in. Then, next thing I hear, you had a hang out with Governor brown just the other day, he came to visit you. Can you tell us about that? That is a wonderful circumstance.
Ram Dass: He and his wife came to visit. We talked about love and Buddhism. We talked about the environmental initiatives in California. But we didn’t talk about politics. I figured he came as an old friend, he has enough of politics. I didn’t want my curiosity to be the leader of the discussion.
Raghu: And you have known him for quite some time? Since the 70’s? I imagine he really was just coming to visit.
Ram Dass: Yeah, when I was in California we hung out with the same people and he took me to meet with the head of the Black Panthers, Huey Newton.
(5:50) – Raghu: That is kind of serendipitous because we have been hearing how Jerry Brown is really not going to kowtow to the federal government and the way that Trump wants to eviscerate the environmental agreements in Paris or handle immigration and the wall. He is not going to stand for it, and by hiring Eric Holder, it made a statement that they are going to defend what they are doing. It was kind of a cool thing to hear, that this was happening. That he took a vacation and decided to visit you.
Obviously, in between the words I am saying right now, there is the implication of fear and anger that is so evident in this country from those progressive people who really do believe that the scuttling of this environment agreement and the kinds of things that Trump is wanting to bring to the table are scary prospects.
I did a podcast with Sharon Salzberg and Danny Goldberg recently, I had watched this video from Noam Chomsky. He said the real issue here is what the next generations are looking at if all of these things come into effect and the tide around the environmental issues is not turned. He said, “We have not seen this kind of cataclysmic event in 200,000 years.” I mentioned this and Danny said, “As much as I love Noam Chomsky, I think he can go a little overboard.”
Danny talked about recognizing the big picture. The historical fact that we have gone through very, very dark times and there always has been the light that has followed, that nothing is permanent, that we have to have the long view, not just the short view. What is your feedback on that?
Ram Dass: I am for the long-long view. Every time things like this would arise, Maharajji would say, “It’s perfect, it’s perfect.” I know that many of our listeners may feel repulsed or apoplectic with that.
There is being and there is doing. Doing is social action and we all have to keep our being. We have to keep our quietness inside. We have to keep our love and compassion, keep our wisdom. During this time, on the action side, we all know what we can do to alleviate the effects from Donald Trump.
I think that I have learned that social action and spiritual quietness and listening and the witness are the same. I am not telling everybody to not follow their social action, but I want everybody to go into that social action with this quietness, love, and wisdom.
Raghu: I want to go back to this thing, I don’t want to gloss over because we have talked about how upset people can get. This is something you mentioned at the retreat in December. Where you had an idea to go help people in Bangladesh. You drove there and acted as an ambulance with your vehicle. When you mentioned it to Maharajji, he said, “Ram Dass, don’t go. You don’t need to go. Don’t you see it’s all perfect?”
I just think that there are so many levels of that statement. The level of where it’s coming from, a being that is not in duality. We are so fixed in duality, in trying to do things thinking that we will better them. Trungpa Rinpoche had a great line about that. He called it idiot compassion. That we think we are going to do something that we think will be helpful and it has the opposite effect. A lot of the time, we don’t know what it is that we are coming at it from such a duality place, that we may not have the effect that we think we could have.
That’s one level, another level, and correct me if I am wrong, he is speaking to you as an individual in that moment from where you are, and all of the causes and conditions that have brought you into that moment and into that thought. That I need to do something, I need to take that action. He is speaking to a place in you in that moment to raise your consciousness to understand the big dynamic, rather than being stuck on that, “I need to do something.”
So I feel like when you report that, “It’s all perfect, Ram Dass, it’s all perfect,” many people react, because how can it be all perfect? Look at the suffering, it’s an age-old question, right? I think that it needs to be explained within the context of you and your relationship to Maharajji in that moment. Something that you needed to hear in that moment, that the guy next door didn’t need and that wasn’t right for him. So I think that there is a contextual thing here that is going on here between Maharajji and you. Am I anywhere near a truthful thought?
Ram Dass: You’re near, I think that it was true there and then. With this political scene, I don’t think we should sit back and be “just perfect.” But I want to say, that in the social action, don’t do anything that you do with negativity, frustration, or anger. Because that will rile the opposition. Do your social action with love.
I put Trump on my puja table and its good work for me. He is good work for everybody, I mean work to the inside. Fear anger and all of those things, that’s the work. Love it. Those things are thoughts and those thoughts are not productive. Then if you identify with your soul, you love those thoughts. I think it’s hard to do that, and the hardness is the work.
(19:00) – Raghu: Talking about fear, I found this quote from Thich Nhat Hahn, “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are ok. Right now, today, we are still alive. Our bodies are working marvelously; our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
A poetic way to say what you just said. Another one I found, “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.”
So, I think there is another thing that we all have a very hard time with. As you say, we have this wonderful opportunity with Trump, who is a poster boy for us, for everything that we feel is negative that is going to take place in these next years. Some people will say that he is evil or dark, it becomes a fixture in their minds and our minds.
So I found something from His Holiness that I wanted you to sort of comment on. He was asked about this and he was mentioning the acts that brought down the buildings on September 11th. The question to him was, “Are some people just really evil, in that their nature is evil?” He said:
“This concept of evil, even the very word evil, can be problematic. As we have discussed before, it seems like in the West there is a tendency to see things in absolute terms. To see things as black and white, all or nothing. On top of that, under the influence of mental states such as anger, this tendency becomes even stronger. A kind of distortion of one’s thinking and perception takes place.
So as I mentioned, when you think of such people or events, you immediately seek a target. Looking for an individual or group to blame. Something concrete that you can direct all of your anger and outrage at. In that state, you see things in terms of all good or all bad. You see people as good or evil. So from that perspective, you might view a person as purely evil.
But from a Buddhist perspective, we have no concept of absolute evil. In the sense of evil as something that exists independently. Something that is not caused by other factors, that cannot be affected by other factors and cannot be changed or modified by other conditions. Absolute evil has a sense of permanence.
So we do not accept the idea of evil people in the sense that a particular person’s intrinsic nature is 100% evil and they will remain that way because it is their fundamental unchanging nature. So basically, if a person commits a very destructive act, you can say that act is evil, no question. You should always oppose that act as an evil act. You must take a very strong stand.
Let’s say that the person’s motivation for the act was hatred. Then you can say that both the motivation and the action it leads to are evil because of their destructive nature. But we still cannot view that individual as an evil person, intrinsically and permanently evil. There is always the potential or possibility that a new set of conditions will come into play and that very same person may no longer engage in evil behavior.” – HH the Dalai Lama.
This brings to point the polarities that we get into of good and evil. In this case. it’s so easy to just have that target, he represents that target. We just let loose at it, all through social media, all through whatever left wing media in this case, and that polarization starts to influence our relationships and our attitudes towards people who brought him into power, who voted for him.
I think that creates a kind of bifurcation within ourselves that makes it almost impossible to have any kind of dialog whatsoever with people who we don’t agree with. So, how do we deal with that? How do we deal with people who, in this case, directly supported Trump and have a completely different attitude and opinion about how this country should be led and some of the things particularly around the environment which in many cases many people don’t believe in?
Ram Dass: I would tell them and tell yourself, wait and see. These people, they and we, are Americans, that’s our tribe. They aren’t the other, they are part of our tribe and that’s what is frustrating us. One of my doctors is Republican and more than that, he is quite good. We don’t talk about politics.
We have gotten into a thinking where Trump will step on our freedoms and on our way of life. But I think we are anticipating and I think that’s wrong because past and future are the storylines. We don’t have to be caught in the storyline. Let’s just get here now, at the moment.
I know people say that I am hiding in spirituality and not taking the situation seriously. I do take this seriously, but by being joyful and loving and compassionate and wise we are in this moment. In this moment you examine your ego and examine your environment. We can do that, and that will cause a lot of light in the situation.
(32:00) – I talked to Jerry, I said to him, “I’m spreading love, that’s what I’m doing for the situation.” Raghu, you and I, we had Maharajji. We look at Maharajji and look at Trump, around real power and real wisdom, and then our fears dissipate. The people that are terribly afraid by this situation, they look at me and say, “Why isn’t he afraid?” I have this compassion that is Maharajji and Trump, comparative.
Raghu: I think it goes back to what you said earlier in this conversation around love. It just occurred to me when you said we had Maharajji and mentioned Trump in the same sentence. For me, I had a picture of Maharajji, and what that always leads me to, on an immediate basis, is this different feeling inside of the kind of unconditional love that it is.
Then I start to hear that statement, “It’s all perfect,” way more than I can when I am polarized, which is probably what he was trying to get at with you. When you live in unconditional love, then you act in the right manner and you act in a compassionate manner.
So you talk about putting it in action, but I had that all-encompassing feeling when you said that to me, just in this moment, about Maharajji. That we have had that experience of that unconditional love, and then Trump came into my mind, an image of him.
Suddenly his vibration and my projections of him as a “bad person” got completely surrounded by this “Maharajjiness,” which is unconditional love. That’s just a name we have by virtue of a body we saw all those years ago, and that we have a relationship beyond a body with now. Encompassed that projection of that being.
Not to say, as much as you say we have to wait and see, I have a hard time with “wait and see” when he has already proved by virtue of every cabinet. I talked to Lama Tsultrim the other day, she said, “Every time he elects a new cabinet member I sink down even further,” that is a reality. But there was a way in which I could understand, in the moment of surrounding, of the truth of surrounding, this in that kind of vibration of unconditionality. What His Holiness said, that nobody is intrinsically evil, nobody, and the only way that we can actually allow a person to grow and change at all is to set up that unconditionality within ourselves.
Ram Dass: Good!
Raghu: We have reached the conclusion here, love is all you need. John Lennon was right.
Ram Dass: That’s right.
Raghu: The other thing, talking about love, Sharon at the end of our podcast the other day, which you can find on the Mindrolling podcast with Danny Goldberg and Sharon Salzberg, I think we called it, “Love is Beyond Time.” Sharon said love is not a feeling, it’s an activity and also a responsibility.
I love that because it tied it to who we become and that is social action. It’s what you are doing and what you have been saying you are doing. Which is, “I am shining that which I have worked on in myself to be able to connect with that unconditionality of love,” and that is a nice thing, that is a responsibility.
Ram Dass: It is a responsibility and it is social action. That’s what I felt from the Seva Foundation. They were talking responsibility and they looked at me wondering, “What is he doing here?” I looked at myself that way and I saw that I was responsible. I was responsible.
This book, that Ramesh and I have been doing. It’s a book about my life and the relation of spiritual and social action. It’s complicated, so complicated because it is emotions and awareness and consciousness.
Raghu: That’s a pretty good New Year’s message I would say.
Ram Dass: Yeah. The New Year is surrounded and in you by love. Just getting going, this evolution of consciousness. I want all of you to feel in your soul and that is who you really are. Who you really are. That’s the message.
Raghu: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Happy New Year, Ram Ram.
Ram Dass: Ram, Ram.