Nirvana is as a star in our hearts which we develop; and as we develop it, it becomes brilliant.
Its brilliance consumes all the wrong of life until nothing is left but that purity which is the divine light. — Inayat Khan
Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, I am beginning to wonder if winter is ever going to begin. Just a few days until Christmas, and the temperatures are still sometimes in the seventies every day. This afternoon a heavy, chill rain began, and I sat on the porch in my rocking chair to practice. No need for music today! The rain pounding on the roof, clattering in the gutters and dripping endlessly into the dirt under the bushes says all that needs to be said.
I suppose some would call it magical thinking, but I see that the Spirit of Guidance finds all kinds of ways to answer my questions and concerns. Last weekend, we were in a bookshop in Chapel Hill, a used bookshop, and I found one of Ram Dass’s books, STILL HERE. I remember when he was the rock star of the New Age movement, back in the 60s and 70s, and I consider him to be one of my best friends, even though we’ve only met a few times, and then wordlessly. He always seemed to play the role of, as he himself said, “the one who goes before.” In recent years, he is evidently going before us into the aging process, and he kicked that off with a severe stroke that hastened things quite a bit. It is heartening to see him still doing his work, making use of the Internet now that he can no longer travel (www.ramdass.org). The crowds are definitely smaller these days, even online, and I feel rather sad about that, but he has done good work, and perhaps, as he says in his book, an increasing withdrawal and loneliness is part of the process of returning the soul to God. As to the book, it is very wonderful, just what I needed, for since my health issues began a few years ago, I have been rather lost, still determined to do things as I once did, constantly asking “What’s next? What should I do?” and beating myself up for my increasing need for solitude and quiet, instead of relaxing into them as a natural part of the growth process. In this last year, when I have surrendered to my need for retreat, I have continued to ask myself “When will this be over? When will I return?” and now I’m thinking. . . “What if I don’t?” “Do I have to?” Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I think what life is calling for me and other elders to do, is to live into a new mode of being, one that is actually intrinsic to the balance this old world so badly needs, with the so-often ego-based rush-rush of the younger generations, the constant need to do, to acquire, to accomplish, to kill, to have, to. . . well, to not get caught in the solitude of reality. I suppose it is all about fear, really. We are all deers afraid to get caught in the headlights of what is, afraid to relinquish control, afraid of annihilation. That last, I find (annihilation), is increasingly the only thing that makes sense to me. One comes to feel (if one is fortunate, I think) that death is the goal and the healing, that death not of the body–although obviously that will come–but of one’s concepts, one’s ambitions, one’s ideas about reality, ultimately one’s sense of oneself as a separate entity. . . Really, that’s what all this mystical stuff is about, but the ego–the temporal self–screams in fear at the very idea. It has taken me many years and much desperation to subdue the screaming of my own nafs, the Arabic word for the ego, the self we all think we are, the dimensions of which we try to keep hidden, even as it runs the show with an iron hand, until. . .we decide to stop it (mine is still subject to frequent yelps, by the way). I find that this process has taken more than a decision, and God knows it took me long enough to even get to the decision, but once made, one can begin the best journey of all in life. My road looks like a lonely one at first glance, but I find that increasingly I am joined by all the holy women and men I called to my journey, and the scenery is increasingly beautiful. Ah, but that nafs! Oh well, I suppose we need the nafs as long as we need it.
As some ancient Sufi said, the journey to God is a finite one. The journey in God is never ends.
5 thoughts on “Returning into God”
“Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love,
and burn up the thorns of my sins,
kindling my heart with the flame of thy love.”
– Dimitrii of Rostov
be love now – the path of the heart by Ram Dass with Rameshwar Dass (2010) is a very intimate account of his ongoing love affair with God as manifest in his Guru. He describes his practice and re-tells in more detail the familiar story about how he met Neem Karoli Baba. He also writes about meeting other saints and teachers along the way, and the book is full of deep insights. “Faith is not a belief. Faith is what is left when your belifs have all been blown to hell. Faith is in the heart, while beliefs are in the head. Experiences, even spiritual experiences come and go. As long as you base your faith on experience, your faith is going to be constantly flickering, because your experiences keep changing. The moment you recognize that faith lies behind experience, that it is just BEING, not the experience of being, but just BEING, then it’s just ‘Ah,so’ ” (p.158) – and then Ram Dass quotes – Seng-t’san, Third Partriarch of Zen. Really a wonderful book, by turns instructive, informative and entertaining. – On a personal note, I was also fortunate to meet Ram Dass a couple of times. The first time was ca 1969, and I got a hit of Unconditional Love that sent me into a week long state of blissful ecstacy. It was clear that it wasn’t personal, and so my personality un-clenched and I got a taste of what it might mean to be fully alive. About 20 years later I met Ram Dass again, and I got to thank him for being the messenger back then and to embrace him.
Don’t know if you’ve seen the wonderful site Ram Das’s followers have started–http://www.ramdass.org–but here is the story I posted there of my meetings with him:
I found my Sufi teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, when I was about 16. At that time, I didn’t even really know what meditation was, but I knew he was the one. I moved to Cleveland, Ohio when I was about 20, and I became involved with the “New Age” movement of the time, which was very active, very magic… a heavenly time. I ended up organizing and publicizing an evening with Ram Dass during those early years, and those of us who had worked to make the event happen were invited to dinner with him. I was very young, very naive, very much a devotee even then. We all sat on the floor with him and had an Indian dinner cooked by someone in the group who had lived in India. He seemed shy, a bit tense, as if he wasn’t sure what to do with all us “groupies,” which is, of course, what we were. I think I was terrified to open my mouth at that period of my life, but there we were.
Later, in the lecture hall, he did his usual delightful, superlative job of letting us all see what we already knew. What command he had, what humor! Toward the end, he got us all to chant. I remember it was Yogananda’s “Listen, listen, listen to my heart song…” and everyone really got into it. Sitting there, packed in on either side and front and back, I had a first experience of my kundalini awakening. I felt a profound vibration begin low and gradually take over my body. God took me in and I became God. It was the first of such experiences I’d had, and in some ways it remains the most powerful, because I was so stupid, so naive (still am, of course!)…I had no choice but to let it happen. It was embarrassing, even though I was completely absorbed in it, I was afraid people would notice this amazing, orgasmic thing happening to me, and to this day I have no idea whether that wild vibration was physical or just imaginal, but it was REAL. It blew me away. I was terrified, in all honesty. As most people who continue with contemplative practice, I have been graced with numerous other experiences over the years, but that was the first, and of course I’ve always seen it as connected with Ram Dass.
Ten or fifteen years later, I was living in Asheville, NC, and he came for another such evening. Again, it was heaven, and at the intermission, I decided to go and give him a hug. He was surrounded by people who wanted to be near him, to talk to him, and I was able to put myself aside (though I was nervous) and I simply walked into his arms, which were ready for me. We hugged and “mmmm’d” and gazed into each other’s eyes, didn’t say a word, and I crept away.
A year or two later, he was brought to my psychology class at UNC-Asheville, where I was by then a psych student, and older student. He was surrounded by the great god “Academia,” and what I called the “blow-dry set” of traditional-age college students, none of whom had the slightest idea who he was. One of them wanted to fight with him, and I raised my hand and asked him a question about the meshing of academia and the inner life, as that was of concern to me, having been a Sufi Initiate for some 15 years before I became a student. He used the opportunity to disengage with the man who wanted to fight, and that was that. Afterwards, we embraced again, with all eyes on us (a big deal in that setting), and I remember he sort of cradled my head against his shoulder, as if I were a child. He was very tender.
And that’s all. I don’t think we’ve ever spoken directly to each other, just hugged and gazed and “mmm’d”….. Good enough for me! A couple of years back, much older, my husband and I watched the film “Fierce Grace,” and I cried and cried. Last week, in a used bookstore, the book STILL HERE found me, and having just turned 60, it was just right; it’s helping me a lot, as I’ve had a lot of illness in these last years.
I think that for those of us who first knew him “when,” it is as if he has been our brother, our friend, as he said, “the one who went before,” and the one who showed us that it was okay to be fully human even while aspiring to become divine. He really took the rap for us in a lot of ways, by being honest, by being human, by being imperfect and letting us know that he was and that he knew that he was, and that it was okay…for him and for us. We have watched him do what he promised to do and never give up, and because of that, we don’t either.
My own teacher died about 7 years ago, and that was just right, because he showed himself even more available after death than before. It is because of this that I can feel Ram Dass shining into my soul from beginning until the endless end.
Beautiful. Truly Richard Alpert became the servant of Ram, and the light of the Sun keeps shining through his heart into ours. Thank you, Amidha.
Darling Ahad, I do appreciate your comments. Few people take the time, but I don’t do much to promote this little blog either, just use it to sing heart-notes. Do go to his site when you have time, and watch one of two of the You-tubes of him speaking now. He has really come into himself, as we all must…