A Conversation with Ram Dass and Prem Anjali

On a beautiful and sunny late morning in Hawaii and a sunny (though perhaps less balmy) late afternoon in Virginia, Integral Yoga Magazine editor Rev. Prem Anjali had the opportunity to interview Ram Dass via Skype. Ram Dass’ latest book, Be Love Now, is the third in what is being considered a trilogy about his spiritual journey. Be Here Now was written forty years ago and is, of course, a classic in spiritual literature, influencing a generation and countless seekers to embrace the path of the heart. Still Here was written ten years ago, after Ram Dass suffered a debilitating stroke. During this conversation, we discussed the new book and the author’s journey thus far.

Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): Your book is filled with such beautiful and moving stories about the time you spent with your Guru, Maharaj-ji and the inspiration and lessons you drew from those experiences. Today, most of those Gurus are no longer in their physical bodies.

Ram Dass (RD):  Well, this is a different period. I think everybody has a Guru, whether in this plane or astral plane; the Guru can be part of their hearts. Yoga isn’t about the body beautiful. The West and our culture has done harm to the concept of Yoga. It wasn’t a mistake, it was our karma. Now there aren’t many Satgurus on this plane, but I know so many people who have contacted my Guru through books, Krishna Das and others. They’ve got the Guru inside. I’m not looking around on this plane to find Maharaj-ji, because he is here. This is a period during which many people will find the Guru inside.

IYM: Do you feel it’s not essential to have an embodied Guru or teacher? What advice would you give to people who want to find a Guru or spiritual teacher today?

RD: If they want to find a teacher, they must trust their, because everybody who says they are a teacher isn’t necessarily a teacher. I find many people call me “Guruji,” and I say, “Look, you don’t even know the meaning of the word. And I’m not one!” [Laughs] One of the great books that was very influential in my early process was, Autobiography of a Yogi. When I read it, I wasn’t thinking that I was going to be him, but I think that sort of pushed me toward the Eastern way. We’re in a marketplace and having a spiritual life in the marketplace is darn difficult.

It’s not going to be easy for people in the West, but things like this electronic medium [referring to our use of Skype for this interview] are making it easier for oneness to occur. I do Skype calls. People sign up, and I do two a week. They are sitting in their living room and I sit here, and our hearts are open. These things are heart-to-heart. We can go to all spiritual planes, even to the soul. I come away from those calls with my heart fed. I know that those calls are certainly meaningful to those people and to me, and we are approaching the spiritual world through those calls. There are many retreats and festivals around. I remember getting a spiritual hit by going to hear the Grateful Dead. [Laughs]

IYM: Has the concept of enlightenment changed for you? In your latest book, you said that you don’t even have a desire for enlightenment anymore. There was a time, when we were all young hippies, we seemed on fire with a desire for enlightenment. What has happened?

RD: It depends on what you mean by the word.

IYM: What do you mean by the word?

RD: It means that one identifies with the atman in the  heart, so that you don’t do love, but you be love. You be energy. We be wisdom and we be peace and we be compassion…

Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2011 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.