Part 1 of 3
[Transcribed from the video by Tara Carreon]
"Fierce Grace," directed by Mickey Lemle
© MMI Lemle Pictures, Inc.
The Dalai Lama Foundation -- Core Founders, Board of Directors, Staff: Mickey Lemle is an award-winning filmmaker and television producer whose works have been shown theatrically, on television and at film festivals around the world. His films include Hasten Slowly: The Journey of Sir Laurens Van Der Post, Compassion in Exile: The Story of the 14th Dalai Lama, Our Planet Earth, and most recently Ram Dass: Fierce Grace. He holds a B.A. from Brandeis University. Mr. Lemle served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Nepal and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Tibet Fund.
Next up is the Tibet Fund, who first received NED aid in 1990 to “produce audio cassettes that will bring world and Tibetan news into rural communities in Tibet.” They then received continued NED support for this work in 1994 and 1996, whereupon the distribution of the audio tapes was extended to Tibetan exile communities in India and Nepal as well as those in Tibet. In 1996, the Tibet Fund also received NED aid on behalf of the Tibet Voice Project, “for an educational initiative based in Dharamsala, India, aimed at raising the social, political, economic and environmental awareness of Tibetans through audio-visual media.” The NED notes that:
“Particular emphasis will be given to speeches of the Dalai Lama on the topics of democracy and human rights. In Dharamsala, it will continue a series of lectures and films emphasizing social issues, politics, the economy and environment for new refugees and Tibetans in exile; and will organize grassroots level dialogues between Tibetans in exile and Indian youth to increase awareness and support for the Tibetan cause in India.”
The Tibet Fund’s work with the Tibet Voice Project was continued in 1998, and the Fund also received NED aid to run “an electronic media workshop for Tibetan journalists, and to introduce a bi-monthly Chinese language news magazine about Tibet.” Tenzing Choephel is the Tibetan scholarship program co-ordinator for the Tibet Fund, and it important to note that he previously helped “lay the foundation of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy [a group that was founded in 1996 and received NED funding in 1999], where he worked as an Office Administrator / English Researcher for three years in Dharamsala.” Finally it is interesting to observe that three people who are involved with the International Campaign for Tibet are linked to the Tibet fund, these are Lodi G. Gyari (who is the the executive chairman of the board of the ICT, and an emertius director of the Tibet Fund), Gehlek Rinpoche (who serves on ICT’s advisory board, and is a director of the Tibet Fund), and Tenzin N. Tethong (who serves on ICT’s advisory board, and is a founder and emeritus director of the Tibet Fund).
-- "Democratic Imperialism": Tibet, China, and the National Endowment for Democracy, by Michael Barker
[Ram Dass] The yogi is able to place the candle of his awareness, or his attention, in a niche within himself
where the winds do not make the candle flame move.
[Ram Dass 1969]
That is where a sound, or a sight, or a smell,
or a taste, or a sensation on the skin does not distract him.
What is left to distract him, of course, are still his own thoughts, his memories, his plans.
And it is here that the discipline that the yogi must impose upon himself becomes exquisitely difficult, and something requiring an extraordinary amount of patience.
[Ram Dass] I was in my bedroom.
I was laying in bed thinking through my book about aging.
At that time, I fell out of bed.
That was probably the moment when I first stroked, when I got stroked.
A FILM BY
[Dr. Larry Brilliant, Co-Founder of the SEVA Foundation] The night of the stroke, Jai called me and asked me to go to the hospital. And I went to the Kaiser Hospital on the peninsula, and I was there when they brought the ambulance in. And I thought he was dead. If not dead, there was a gossamer-thin thread that separated him from death.
[Ram Dass] What's extraordinary is that I didn't have a spiritual thought,
a "I'm dying, I'm going tere [sic]."
No, none of those.
All I remember is looking at the pipes on the ceiling.
[Dr. Larry Brilliant, Co-Founder of the SEVA Foundation] He was in a very gentle and open space to the extent that he was there at all. It was pretty amazing, his recovery.
[Ram Dass] But here I am, Mr. Spiritual, and in my own death, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't, well, I didn't orient towards the spirit.
It shows me I have some work to do.
It shows me because that's the, that's the test. That's the test. So I flunked the test.
I'm using silence as a ... as a ...
It's too frustrating to come up ... come up ... you know ...
[Shana Roth, Speech Therapist] Well, let me tell you what a lot of listeners are thinking, if I may. Basically, the rules of discourse, and what people learn in terms of communicating with one another, is that there isn't supposed to be silence. Many, many people are very uncomfortable with the silence when they're talking. I mean, it's a dialogue, right?
[Ram Dass] The word gets lost and, yeah, okay ...
[Shana Roth, Speech Therapist] Yeah, keep going with that thought.
[Ram Dass] The concepts exist and then they're clothed with words, and I just don't ...
and the clothing closet isn't ... isn't ... isn't open.
[Shana Roth, Speech Therapist] Nice analogy. And when you get stuck, and you can't find the word, then you remember that you have a whole variety of resources that you can use now: analogies, which you did when you were talking about the closet and the clothes in the closet -- that's an analogy. It helped me understand how you felt about your word-finding difficulties. Okay?
[Ram Dass] What do you ... what do you do with people who insist on finishing your sentences?
[Shana Roth, Speech Therapist] That's an excellent question. Put up your hands. And if you can think, say, "let me finish." And tell them this means, "Could you help me here think of the word?" When you're using your strategies, you know, "it's like this," or "it sounds like this. Help me."
[Ram Dass] It's what-do-you-call-it game?
[Shana Roth, Speech Therapist] Right. Charades.
[Ram Dass] See?
[Shana Roth, Speech Therapist] Oh, I'm sorry. I just did it! You asked me, though.
[Wavy Gravy, Cosmic Clown] Ram Dass was the master of the one-liner, or the two-liner, or the ocean-liner.
[Mickey Lemle] And now?
[Wavy Gravy, Cosmic Clown] And now he's taken the pregnant pause to new dimensions.
[Physical Therapist] This shoulder is so tight.
[Ram Dass] It's usually right in there.
[Physical Therapist] Does it hurt right now?
[Ram Dass] Yes!
[Physical Therapist] Yes!
Lift up just a little bit more here.
[Ram Dass] Yes!
You know, this isn't who I expected to be. This is all new, because my expectations about me old didn't have this stroke in it.
[Physical Therapist] So you lean back a little bit.
[Ram Dass] The suffering comes when you try to hold on to continuity, like things I can't do. I can't ... I can't shift my car.
I got a new car before I stroked. And now, I get into that car, in the seat next to the driver ...
my attendant drives the car, and I can either be a driver,
which is going to make me suffer on that trip,
or somebody who is chauffeured.
It's just another ...
[Physical Therapist] All set?
[Physical Therapist] No. This leg, straighten them out.
[Ram Dass] I'm surrounded with therapists, doctors, aids who see me as a stroke-victim. They want me to try to change it. The symptoms: the leg, the arm, and the speech, and the mouth, and swallowing, and blup, blup, blup,
it's like the sirens in the rocks, my consciousness. I mean, I'd like to be free.
[Physical Therapist] Pass the left foot with the right.
[Ram Dass] Pass the left foot ...
Something like a stroke, it's so captivating to the consciousness. Like I want to see how this captivates my mind -- the stroke -- and then I want to pull my consciousness out and be free in the middle of the stroke.
That's like an experiment, an experiment of consciousness.
I feel like an advance guard, an advance parley that calls back to the baby boomers. And now I call back about aging. Because aging and things like stroke are going to be in their, in their present much sooner than they think.
[Steve Isser] Rachel is our daughter, our first born. By the way, she brought Anita and I together. First, we lived in Santa Cruz, then moved to Berkeley, and moved to Ashland. And we had only been here a year, and Rachel was 11, still meeting friends, making friends here in Ashland. And one of the reasons we moved up to Ashland, you know, we wanted to raise our family in a town that's smaller and a little safer, and away from the main streets of the city. And one day, she said, "I'm going to go and meet Deanna at the college field," or something like that. And she gave me a big smile -- it was right around lunch time -- and took off. And that was the last time I saw her alive. And there was some sort of commotion over by the stadium press box, over by the college. And the cops were all over the place. And they brought me in up to the press box, and there she was. And she was lying there, and I reached down and "Rachel, Rachel." And I reached down to hug her, and the police pulled me off and said, "You can't disturb a crime scene." He held me back. And we were blown away. And she was gone.
[Anita Isser] I felt like my heart had just been ripped open and I just did not see how I could go on.
[Steve Isser] I think I felt that I would never get past the pain. The pain would always be there, and there would be no future. And that our kids would be damaged, and Anita and I would be damaged. And our whole family life would be ruined, and there would be no future, no place to go to, nothing to hope for. And I think Ram Dass's letter was like a catalyst.
[Anita Isser] [reading letter] "Steve and Anita: Rachel finished her brief work on earth and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts as the fragile threads of faith are dealt with so violently. Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teachings as you are receiving? Probably very few, and even they would only have a whisper of equanimity and spacious peace amidst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror and desolation. I cannot assuage your pain with any words, nor should I. For your pain is Rachel's legacy to you. Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is, and it must burn it's purifying way to completion. You may emerge from this ordeal more dead than alive, where something within you dies when you bear the unbearable. And it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves. Now is the time to let your grief find expression. No false strength. Now is the time to sit quietly and speak to Rachel, and thank her for being with you these few years, and encourage her to go on with her work knowing that you will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience. In my heart I know that you and she will meet again and again, and recognize the many ways in which you have known each other. And when you meet, you will in a flash know what now it is not given to you to know, why this had to be the way it was. Your rational minds can never understand what has happened. Your hearts, if you can keep them open to God, will find their own intuitive way. Rachel came through you to do her work on earth, which included her manner of death. Now her soul is free and the love that you can share with her is invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space. In that deep love, include me, too. So much love, Ram Dass."
[Steve Isser] I think we spent the next six months working with all that was in that letter.
[Anita Isser] And I heard the truth in the letter, and it was just very, very meaningful. It was the light, a light at the end of my tunnel, I think. I thought, if I could work with it, if I could work with some of these ideas, if I could work with some of that, I can go on.
[Crowd] Loud applause]
[Ram Dass] [Sighs]
I've been, uh,
If you stay in the stroke, down in the ego, suffering, suffering.
But if you add into it the soul, the witness, the witness ...
uh huh -- stroke.
That stroke. I'm in pain. The witness says, "I'm witnessing."
"I'm witnessing" -- that's not very painful.
I'm witnessing the pain.
Physical pain. It is a worthy adversary of my spiritual practice.
All I can give you is a little of my faith ...
faith that there is a beloved. We each have melodramas. And we chop them up and put them in the salad, the salad for the beloved.
And your lives -- our lives -- are grist for the mill. Grist for the mill.
I was born Richard Alpert.
I was born into a very prominent Jewish family in Boston.
There were three boys: my two older brothers ...
[William Alpert, Older Brother] Richard as a child was, I would say, the star of the family.
He really was loved by everybody. He was intriguing and engaging, as a baby and a youngster.
Sometimes we were a little pushy with Richard when my brother and I would come back from the movies, and Richard of course was sound asleep.
And he'd wake him up and say, "Richard, get up and sing the Hut Sut song." So he'd stand up in his bed like a good little soldier and sing, "Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah add a little brawla, brawla soo it."
And we did many things like this to Richard. He was like the family mascot. Everybody loved him.
Our father George was one of the most preeminent lawyers in the city of Boston.
He was president of New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad.
And he didn't stop there.
He was the first person who became effective in creating Brandeis University,
afterwhich he was one of the leading founders of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
That was his style.
My mother was also involved in many charities.
That was just our life.
Our home in New Hampshire, we called it "The Farm."
I don't know why, but that's what we did.
Because we never really farmed anything. At one time we had a few vegetables that were growing, but nothing much.
About 300 acres, a big, beautiful, rambling place. A big barn. All sorts of things.
A three-hole golf course. One of the last things we did is dad decided we should have golf so we could play three holes,
and play a little tennis,
and go down to the waterfront and do a little water skiing.
My father bought a Criss-Craft.
And it was just put into the water, and Richard jumped in. Now he's turned the engine on, and the throttle is on the steering wheel, and there's a gear shift for forward and reverse. Richard, who of course figured he was driving a car, and he'd go into first, then second, and third. So he pulled it into what he thought was first gear, and in about four seconds, smashed the propeller, bent the shaft, and that was the end of that. We had the boat, I'd say, a minute and a half. Something like that. That was Richard.
But we started to take note of his accomplishments.
He got his bachelor's degree at Tufts, and then his master's degree at Wesleyan University, and his doctorate at Stanford.
Then he got a job teaching at Harvard.
[Ram Dass] Those faculty meetings: silver service of tea, big chairs.
The first time I went to those faculty meetings and I came walking through Harvard Yard, I just thought, "The world is my oyster."
I was a completely spit and polish Harvard professor.
That was a culmination for me.
I had a corner office, and oh God, I was riding high.
And then, into the office next door, which was a little office,
moved Tim. He was just wild. He was just wild.
[William Alpert, Older Brother] I thought Tim was a nut in that he provoked situations which didn't have to be put on the table. He seemed to get some pleasure out of sticking his finger in an electric light socket. But that was Tim.
[Timothy Leary, 1965] I took Mexican mushrooms, so-called magic mushrooms of Mexico, and I learned more about my brain and its possibilities,
and I learned more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms, than I had in the preceding 15 years of studying, human research and psychology.
And since that day, which is exactly five years ago this week, I've done practically nothing except continuous exploration.
[Ram Dass] So I bugged Tim so I could have some psychedelics. And that experience freed me. I became identified with the spiritual being inside of myself.
So you start to have this dissociative experience, where all that you become is awareness, is a point of awareness. That's all that's left.
I remember the first time this happened to me, as professor went, and middle-class boy went, and pilot went, and all of my games were like going off in the distance.
I got this terrible panic because indeed, I was going to cease to exist.
And I got the panic which is the panic that precedes the psychological death. Because indeed, Richard Alpert was dying at that point. And the panic was, "No, stop, stop! I've got to hold on to something so I'll know who I am." And Timothy, the wise old Timothy always says things like, "Trust your nervous system."
[Ram Dass] From then on, I've been somebody who, in here is the cue.
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] We were research psychologists, so suddenly there is this unusual experience, so how do you research it?
[Ram Dass] There were two experiments: one was the prison project where we were trying to show these drugs give you a reorientation about life.
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] Then also did a study which then led to the famous Good Friday study of using the set and setting idea to really test whether you could induce a religious experience, by taking people who were into theology, studying to be divinity ministers, and doing it in a setting during a religious service on Good Friday. And then having a double-blind study where some half the group got psilocybin and half the group didn't.
[Dr. Huston Smith, Philosopher] Nominally, I was one of the guides as having had some experience with the substance.
But all that went by the board when it turned out that I was one of the recipients of the psilocybin.
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] It was, you know, the first, and to this day really the only, I think, attempt to experimentally demonstrate or verify, induce, and evaluate a religious experience in the form of a psychological experiment.
[Dr. Huston Smith, Philosopher] For me, it was the strongest experience I have had of the personal god.
Firmly believing in God-Who-Is, Israel attracted to itself the manifestation and revelation of God; believing as well in itself, Israel could enter into a personal relationship with Yehovah, could stand before Him face to face, could conclude a covenant with Him, could serve Him not as a passive instrument, but as an active partner. Finally, by the strength of that same active faith that strives toward the ultimate realization of its spiritual principle, through the purification of material nature, Israel prepared within itself a pure and holy dwelling for the incarnation of God-the-Word.
-- Vladimir Solov'ev on Spiritual Nationhood, Russia and the Jews, by Judith Deutsch Kornblatt
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] And then the debate was, well, people who said, "Well, no, you could never have a mystical experience coming from an artificial substance." And the others said, "Well, why? Surely the experience itself should be the criterion of its validity rather than how it came about." And that debate went on and on and on.
[Ram Dass] When we go on and say, "Here's a pill, here's the same experience as Moses had, you can ...
Moses, the M'usa, or great sage of the Israelites, it is said, was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, thus becoming a priest of their religion, and an initiate or adept in their secret learning. Paul declares the story of Abraham and his two sons to be an allegory pre-figuring the Judaical and Christian systems. Clement, who had been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, is said to have declared that the doctrines there taught contained in them the end of all instruction, and had been taken from Moses and the prophets.
-- New Platonism and Alchemy, by Alexander Wilder
The founder of this "Brotherhood" was a local teacher and journalist, Jacob Gordin, who stood at that time under the influence of the South-Russian Stundists as well as of the socialistic Russian Populists. The "Spiritual Biblical Brotherhood" was made up altogether of a score of people. In a newspaper appeal which appeared shortly after the spring pogroms of 1881 the leader of the sect, hiding his identity under the pen name of "A Brother-Biblist," called upon the Jews to divest themselves of those character traits and economic pursuits which excited the hatred of the native population against them: the love of money, the hunt for barter, usury, and petty trading. This appeal, which sounded in unison with the voice of the Russian Jew-baiters and appeared at a time when the wounds of the pogrom victims were not yet healed, aroused profound indignation among the Jews. Shortly afterwards the "Spiritual Biblical Brotherhood" fell asunder. Some of its members joined a like-minded sect in Odessa which had been founded there in the beginning of 1882 by a teacher, Jacob Priluker, under the name of "New Israel."
The aim of "New Israel" was to facilitate, by means of radical religious reforms conceived in the spirit of rationalism, the contact between Jews and Christians and thereby pave the way for civil emancipation. The twofold religio-social program of the sect was as follows:
The sect recognizes only the teachings of Moses; it rejects the Talmud, the dietary laws, the rite of circumcision, and the traditional form of worship; the day of rest is transferred from Saturday to Sunday; the Russian language is declared to be the "native" tongue of the Jews and made obligatory in everyday life; usury and similar distasteful pursuits are forbidden.
As a reward for all these virtuous endeavors the sect expected from the Russian Government, which it petitioned to that effect, complete civil equality for its members, permission to intermarry with Christians, and the right to wear a special badge by which they were to be marked off from the "Talmudic Jews." As an expression of gratitude for the anticipated governmental benefits, the members of the sect pledged themselves to give their boys and girls who were to be born during the coming year the names of Alexander or Alexandra, in honor of the Russian Tzar.
The first religious half of the program of "New Israel" might possibly have attracted a few adherents. But the second "business-like" part of it opened the eyes of the public to the true aspirations of these "reformers," who, in their eagerness for civil equality, were ready to barter away religion, conscience, and honor, and who did not balk at betraying such low flunkeyism at a time when the blood of the victims of the Balta pogrom had not yet dried.
Thus it was that the withering influence of reactionary Judaeophobia compromised and crippled the second attempt at inner reforms in Judaism. Both movements soon passed out of existence, and their founders subsequently left Russia. Gordin went to America, and renouncing his sins of youth, became a popular Yiddish playwright. Priluker settled in England, and entered the employ of the missionaries who were anxious to propagate Christianity among the Jews. A few years later, during 1884 and 1885, "New Israel" cropped up in a new shape, this time in Kishinev, where the puny "Congregation of New Testament Israelites" was founded by I. Rabinovich, having for its aim "the fusion of Judaism with Christianity." In the house of prayer, in which this "Congregation," consisting altogether of ten members, worshipped, sermons were also delivered by a Protestant clergyman.
A few years later this new missionary device was also abandoned. The pestiferous atmosphere which surrounded Russian-Jewish life at that time could do no more than produce these poisonous growths of "religious reform." For the wholesome seeds of such a reform were bound to wither after the collapse of the ideas which had served as a lode star during the period of "enlightenment."
-- History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, by Simon M. Dubnow
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] But then at a certain point, then, the police move in, and switch shifts over from health and science over into law enforcement and the judiciary system, which is a whole 'nother system which doesn't really know anything about the science or care less really. What they care about is what's prohibited, and what should be prohibited, and all of that.
[Dr. Larry Brilliant, Co-Founder of the SEVA Foundation] We've lost a lot of very good friends to very bad drugs. And we've seen the exalted spirit that certain psychedelics, under certain conditions, can bring. And it would be disingenuous to deny that, just as it would be disingenuous to deny that religious and mystical experience from fasting, meditating and yoga. For me, it opened up a new world that my very conventional, very middle-class upbringing in Detroit, Michigan wouldn't have opened for me, that my training in medical school would have, if anything, have forbidden me to see. So I'm deeply grateful for those times and those experiments.
[Ram Dass] They really had this drug research in their craw.
I was the first professor in this century that was fired. Yeah.
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] Leary used the analogy saying I expect a university like Harvard to sponsor research in consciousness-expanding drugs ["religion expanding drugs"]
would be like expecting the Vatican to sponsor research in aphrodisiacs.
[Timothy Leary] You were on the tenure track.
[Ram Dass] I know I was. And you laughed. You laughed.
[Timothy Leary] If it weren't for me you would be a ...
[Ram Dass] I'd be somebody today.
[Timothy Leary] -- retired Harvard.
[Ram Dass] You blew my cover. You blew me apart.
[Timothy Leary] I ruined your economic career.
[Ram Dass] You did. You absolutely did.
This circular, on this end with the fireplace, that was my room.
We had been thrown out of Mexico, and Dominica, and of course Harvard,
after being thrown out, thrown out, thrown out, this is our resting place.
Peggy Hitchcock was part of our group,
and she said that her brothers were setting up a cattle ranch,
and the ranch had on it a large house.
They just had no use for it, and we did.
We did. We had parties to hold, and research and ...
["Dr." Ralph Metzner, psychologist] And then so a group of about 15 or 20 of us, initially, moved there and lived there, and tried to sort of put our lives together.
[Rosemary Woodruff Leary, Timothy Leary's former wife] Just about everything was going on at Millbrook.
It was an incredible place.
It had 64 rooms.
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, Psychologist] 62 rooms.
[Ram Dass] It's got 55 rooms
[Rosemary Woodruff Leary, Timothy Leary's former wife] It hasn't existed anywhere else in the world, and will probably never exist again, but for a very brief time it was a fairyland.
It was an interesting endeavor.
It was short-lived, and sometimes almost perfect.
[Ram Dass] We were protected so much in this estate, and I mean, the culture was down at the gate.
[Man] Dr. Leary, what are you up to here?
[Timothy Leary] We teach the "science" and art of ecstasy.
We teach people how to turn on or how to go out of their minds. The point is you have to go out of your mind.
You have to go out of all of the static, symbolic ways in which you think, experience.
[Ram Dass] People would come from all over. There were poets, like Allen Ginsberg; philosophers, like Huxley, Huston Smith; all kinds of musicians, like Maynard Ferguson was living down at the gate house.
It was a very creative moment, it was a creative moment, in history.
We were "experimenting" with consciousness.
We were prodding the culture.
I do experiment here that were [inaudible], and we had a bottle of LSD. And we take LSD every ... for weeks. For weeks. And this was an experimental unit, and we got to hate each other.
[Dr. Ralph Metzner, psychologist] Alpert was there, over there, and he talked about it. He got quite sick. I don't know how close he came to dying, but he got quite sick. And just taking LSD isn't healing. You know, if you've got an infection, you've got to treat the infection. Expanding your consciousness is not going to help you with that.
[Ram Dass] After the experiences here, I saw that going up, down, up, down, getting high ... getting high, getting high, getting high, wasn't satisfying. Wasn't satisfying.
Going to India after the psychedelics,
I came into a culture that recognized spirit.
I kept contacting people who knew the consciousness and the levels, and they didn't take acid.
When I went to India, my method was psychedelics.
When I came back from India, it was inside of me.
[Indians singing] Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Ram, Hare Ram
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Ram, Hare Ram.
[Ram Dass] Wow! A culture with these maps!
In going to India, I was looking for somebody that could read the maps of my consciousness.
I found Maharaji.
He was the map.
I met Maharaji in a little temple in the mountains, the Himalayas. I had been traveling with a young Westerner who had been in India for many months. And so he knew his way around.
[Bhagavan Das, Spiritual Traveler] So I took him in the Land Rover up the mountains to meet Neem Karoli Baba, against his will.
He was really uptight, angry, didn't want to go. He was giving me a hard time.
He was mad because I was driving. He wanted to drive.
[Ram Dass] We stopped on the way, about a hundred miles from the temple. And we stopped, and I went outside the house -- and I -- and stars, like stars, Van Gogh, Gogh stars -- and I thought of my mother. She was dead 6 months. And then I went inside. Then we went on to the guru.
[K.K. Sah, Translator] Ram Dass first met Maharaj ji right here.
Maharaj ji was sitting here with all his devotees were here.
And he came here with Bhagavan Das.
It is a tradition here just to bow down before a saint.
So, Bhagavan Das bowed down in pranam,
but Ram Dass was a bit hesitating.
[Ram Dass] He was laying on his belly on the ground touching the feet of the guru.
And I was Harvard professor. I wasn't going to go up and touch somebody's feet.
[K.K. Sah, Translator] He had his hands in his pockets,
and was just watching.
[Ram Dass] So he said, "Come, come. Sit down."
Then he said, "You were out under the stars thinking of your mother last night."
Which, which, I mean, a Harvard professor, you know, knowing, having been in cognitive research and stuff like that, nothing made me ready for that.
[K.K. Sah, Translator] "You were remembering your mother,
she died of a spleen."
[Ram Dass] And that was the breakthrough. That was the quieting my mind. Quieting my mind.
[Bhagavan Das, Spiritual Traveler] You know, it's like Jesus when he met the woman in the well, and told her everything she had ever done. That's what Maharaj ji would do: he would tell us everything that we'd been doing in the last parts of our lives. You're thinking, "Wow! He knows everything."
[Ram Dass] When Maharaji was near me, I was bathed in love.
And because he knew everything about me,
that was like I was forgiven. I think prior to that, I had a lot of things in my past I didn't want anybody to know. And I always felt, if they knew, they wouldn't love me. He knew, and he loved me.
[Bhagavan Das, Spiritual Traveler] And then he was transformed into Baba Ram Dass before my very eyes. He just turned into this love. He just totally opened his heart, and got into his heart.
[Ram Dass] It was so beautiful. It was so beautiful. It was so beautiful.
[Dr. Larry Brilliant, Co-Founder of the SEVA Foundation] How do I explain who Maharaji was, and how he did what he did? I don't have any explanation.
Maybe it was his love of God. I can't explain who he was.
I can almost begin to understand how he loved everybody. I mean, that was sort of his job. He was a saint.
Saints are supposed to love everybody. That's not what has always so staggered me. What staggered me is not that he loved everybody, but that when I was sitting in front of him, I loved everybody. That was the hardest thing for me to understand. How he could so totally transform the spirit of people who were with him and bring out not just the best in us, but something that wasn't even in us, we didn't know. I don't think any of us were ever as good or as pure or as loving in our whole life as we were when we were sitting in front of him.
[Ram Dass] I see him just as a, as a doorway towards God. A doorway.
His consciousness was so playful with mine. It sucks you in.
In India they have an expression, "God, guru and self are one and the same." He's just like my inner self.
[Dr. Larry Brilliant, Co-Founder of the SEVA Foundation] The most common word that he ever said was "Ram," God's name, and the second most common was "Jau," "get out of here." And all the Westerners who would come to him, attracted like a magnet, he would always say, "Go away. Go away." No, I don't think he wanted anything ever from me or from any of us. We tried to give him things. You couldn't give him money. You couldn't do anything for him. There was nothing that he needed.
[Ram Dass] All he wanted was for people to be liberated,
to be free.
One day Maharaji indicated that he would like to try LSD. And I didn't know that that was wise, because he was old, and I had strong pills.
But then he knew everything. So I got pills I had in my bag, and he selected the pills, and one pill would have been a dose for a person like me.
He took all the pills at once, and nothing happened. He didn't have any reaction.
I watched, I watched, and I watched. Nothing happened.
And what he was saying to me in his manner, as the mirror, he was saying, "It's in you. It's in you." The way we get caught in our method is, method drugs, method church, method, you know, method, method, method ... he got me out of my caughtness in my method. So I honored psychedelics, but I say there's other methods --
Maharaji gave me the name Ram Dass. Somebody told me that, and I said, "Is Good?"
And they said, "Yeah. 'Ram' is 'God,' and 'Dass' is 'servant.'
'Servant of God.'"
I waited until I was alone with Maharaji, and I said, "How do I get enlightened, Maharaji?" And he said, "Serve people and feed people." Here I'd come from America, and I was, you know, here was the guru: "Serve people, feed people."
[Richard Alpert, Older Brother] When Richard returned from India, he flew into Logan Field in Boston and my father went to pick him up. Now, keep in mind, my father had been president of the New Haven Railroad, and he was accustomed to wearing a Homburg hat and a Chesterfield coat, and very spiffy clothes and polished shoes. And he went up to the gate and he sees Richard coming off the plane with a sheet on, barefooted, and a big, long beard. And he said, "Oh my God." Then he jumped back into his car. And Richard finally made his way to the car. I think my father was probably confused for two weeks trying to figure out what had happened.
[George Alpert, Ram Dass' father] In our family life, we never had a situation where I said to any of my three boys, "You've got to do this," or "You've got to do that."
Richard , who you call "Baba something or other" --
But he has a very definite mind of his own, and he makes his decisions on what he thinks is right and true.
And I don't think he'd be influenced by anything that I say about his future any more than he's been influenced in the past. When he was a youngster, I had certain ideas as to what I thought I'd like to see him do. He didn't do them.