Integral Yoga Magazine pays tribute to one of the great spiritual luminaries of our time: Baba Ram Dass. Ram Dass left the body on Dec. 22, 2019 (which is also the day of our founder Swami Satchidananda’s 105th birth anniversary). Swami Satchidananda and Ram Dass enjoyed a long friendship (photo above is of a meeting in the 1970s) and shared platforms together during programs over many years. Ram Dass was a wayshower, a trailblazer, an inspiration to countless numbers of seekers. Ram Dass introduced Bhakti Yoga and the mystical Guru-disciple relationship to many Westerners. He helped awaken a generation.
Over the years, our editors have had the good fortune of interviewing Ram Dass. He was always so generous with his time and spirit! We are featuring one of those interviews here (this is from our Winter 2011 issue).
We also are grateful to include in our tribute to Ram Dass this very moving sharing from Maloah Mallika Stillwater (a close student of Swami Satchidananda and close spiritual friend and supporter of Ram Dass) who was there with Ram Dass during his passing. Mallika hosted Sri Swamiji many times on Maui, where she lives and which also was the home of Ram Dass in his later years. Thank you Mallika. And to Ram Dass, a deep bow, with all our prayers and gratitude.
From Maloah Mallika Stillwater:
“Beloved friends, I had the deep and profoundly moving blessing of being with Ram Dass for his final hours. I’ve enclosed some pictures for you, but the deepest blessing was upstairs, in his sanctuary, where he was lying on blankets covered with roses, and where no pictures were allowed. Incense was burning, candles were glowing, soft music was playing, and his face glowed with pure peace and beauty. His hands held his beloved mala and roses, and were folded gently on his chest. Beneath him were blankets like Maharaj-ji wore, and beautiful silk scarves. His head was lying on a bed of rose petals, and roses and flowers surrounded him.
“The room had pictures of his Beloved Maharaj-ji and altars surrounding him. One at a time, we would arise from our seat and slowly circle him, offering of prayers, thanks and blessings. It was okay to connect with him with a gentle touch, if you were moved to do that. My heart was overflowing with such gratitude for being here. At around 2:30 Dassi came in, and said that now we do practices as a group for his send off.
“Ram Dass left his body at 2:49 PM on December 22. It is the tradition to have the final 12 minutes prior to that time be especially powerful with prayers. More people joined us, and an exquisite arati [offering of light to the divine] was done for him as chants were chanted, hearts were fully open, and blessings and prayers were shared. We sang many of his favorite songs to him, and echos of “row row row your boat” echoed with the final refrain of “life is but a dream.” It was Ram Dass all the way.
“A beautiful Hawaiian prayer was chanted and then we all joined in our ocean swim mantra [close friends joined Ram Dass in the ocean regularly for swims that were an important part of his post-stroke therapy and during which there was much laughter and singing of mantras and songs] of “Oh boy oh boy oh boy!” and “Oh joy oh joy oh Joy!” Fully Ram Dass—joy and delight. How I love him. I hope that by sharing this, I can share a bit of the Beauty, Heart and Soul of this beloved time with you. Blessing always, from my heart to yours.”