Ram Dass has been writing and speaking about his research into consciousness and his spiritual discoveries for many years. His first book Be Here Now, was published in 1971, and has sold over one million copies. It is in its 34th printing and has become a classic spiritual guide.
All of these books along with audio tapes of his lectures and talks and videos of some of his lectures can be purchased through the Ram Dass Tape Library. As a matter of interest I have included below a brief description of some of the titles which I have in my library - all of which I highly recommend to anyone searching for answers in their life or anyone who has an interest in the spiritual quest of one of the most truthful seekers of this era.
BE HERE NOW begins and tells the story of how Dr. Richard Alpert, Ph.D, an eminently success full academic with teaching positions at Stanford and Harvard became Baba Ram Dass a spiritual mendicant and wandering Sadu. The first section called "The Journey"; begins in 1961 when he is a Dr. of Psychology and member of the faculty at both Stanford and Harvard and follows him through his first ingestion of psilocybin with Timothy Leary and the investigation into the nature of consciousness that follows; his dismissal from Harvard; his trip to India in 1967; and his first meetings with his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba leading to his name change to Ram Dass (servant of God). The second section "From Bindu to Ojas" explores the shape and content of consciousness using the printed word, pictures and drawings using the form of "book" as it had never before been used. The third section titled "Cookbook for a Sacred Life" wherein Ram Dass and others offer the sharing of their journey and the discoveries of what works in the journey toward enlightenment. The fourth and final section called "Painted Cakes" is a selection of "books to hang out with", "books to visit now and then" and "books it's useful to have met".
THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE: a Manual for Psychological Death and Rebirth was written by Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., and Richard Alpert, Ph.D. In 1962 Timothy Leary, Ralf Metzner and Richard Alpert "discovered" the Tibetan Book of the Dead which seemed to describe what Richard Alpert and his friends had been experiencing when using Psychotropic substances such as LSD and Psilocybin. This book was an ancient Tibetan guide, over 2500 years old and had been used in Tibet for thousands of years to prepare Tibetan Lamas to die and be reincarnated. However, when they read it the description of the first 49 days after death seemed to them to be prefect descriptions of the sessions they were having using psychedelics. Timothy Leary along with Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert rewrote the book as a manual called The Psychedelic Experience arguing that the book was about psychological death and rebirth and not necessarily physical death and reincarnation.
Because of the controversial nature of this research, Richard Alpert and Leary were dismissed from Harvard in 1963 and by 1967 Richard Alpert had followed many of his friends to India. By his own admission he went to India not knowing just what he was looking for but hoping to find "the answer". After about 3 months discouraged and ready to leave India Richard Alpert met his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba.
In 1968 Ram Dass returned to North America to teach a pursue Karma Yoga a his path. In 1970 he returned to India to study further and to spend time with his Guru before he finally returned to North American.
THE ONLY DANCE THERE IS was his next work and is comprised of talks given at the Menninger Foundation, in Topeka Kansas in 1970 and at the Spring Grove Hospital, in Spring Grove Maryland in 1972. It was first published in 1974 and is the result of an exchange between Ram Dass and other spiritual seekers present at these talks. It is a unique and useful guide for understanding the nature of consciousness for both other spiritual seekers and to formally trained psychologists. It is a celebration of the Dance of Life. "Everything you do, whether you're cooking food or doing therapy or being a student or being a lover, you are only manifesting how evolved a consciousness you are. That's the only dance there is!"
LOVE SERVE REMEMBER, released in 1973 was an experiment in ethical business practices (Everyone is your brother-in-law) with superb results. This is a 6 record set (12 sides) with material running from readings from the Ramayana and St. John of the Cross; chants from the Jewish, Hindu, Sufi and Christian traditions; and transcripts of phone calls taken by Ram Dass in "on air" sessions on WBAI Pacifica radio in New York city. It is a wonderful compilation and for those of us who have managed to keep a copy (there's that old spiritual materialism again) it is a constant blessing.
GRIST FOR THE MILL written with with Stephen Levine was published in 1977. "Interwoven from lectures, retreats, articles and interviews given during 1974-1976 in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City and Aspen, these words are offered as the gift of the Dharma which is ever and always present to each of us."
JOURNEY OF AWAKENING: A Meditators Guide Book was first published in 1978 and addresses such issues as "Picking a Path" and how to deal with difficulties as they arise whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Once again Ram Dass shares with us the personal discoveries he has made during his exploration of the innumerable meditative techniques he has practiced. He states that: "The inner experiences of these past years have changed the perception and meaning of the daily events of my life ... I no long feel that one part of me is fighting another. More of the time, the moment - no matter what I am doing - is permeated with space, peace, equanimity, joy, and lightness. In this book, as in my others, I have attempted to share what I have found."
MIRACLE OF LOVE: Stories of Neem Karoli Baba published in 1979 is a collection of anecdotes and stories concerning Maharajji (Neem Karoli Baba). Through simple, real-life stories, related by people ranging from peasants to Cabinet members, we come to see, not just a picture of a deeply loving and compassionate man, but a challenge to our very notions of physical reality. Miracles happen in this book - in this century. Seeing, through these stories, the way miracles manifest, can give a much deeper insight into the meaning of miracles in other religious traditions, also.
HOW CAN I HELP?: Stories and Reflections on Service written with Paul Gorman was first published in 1985 and as the title indicates is about service. The impetus for this book arose out the the work Ram Dass was involved in through the Seva Foundation which was created as a vehicle for compassionate service in the world. In it the authors attempt to address the issues all of us face when called presented with the problem "How can I help?", whether the issue is raised due the the need of a friend or due to a global need. The work explores the nature of conscious service and the challenges posed by the present state of the world.
In his seventh book, written with Mirabai Bush, published in 1992 and titled COMPASSION IN ACTION: Setting Out on the Path of Service Ram Dass and Mirabai explore the issues, responsibilities and attitudes with which we are faced when we attempt to reduce the suffering that surrounds us on this planet. "Compassion in action is paradoxical and mysterious. It is absolute yet continually changing. It accepts that everything is happening exactly as it should, and it works with a full-hearted commitment to change."
In this book, published May 2000 and titled STILL HERE: Embracing Changing, Aging and Dying Ram Dass, having experienced a debilitating stroke which has left him partially paralized and speach impaired, has written a book exploring his experience of living through this process as well as the cultural taboos surrounding aging and death. Ram Dass uses his personal experience of this life event as a means to help himself and us expand our awareness and to get in touch with our spiritual nature rather than our egos.
As always Ram Dass presents his life story in a very personal way sharing his experience, warts and all, of his attempts to come to terms with his own mortality and physical weaknesses. He also shares other's experiences and takes a hard look at the social and cultural beliefs and biases that affect us. In coming to terms with our own perceptions of death and diing Ram Dass suggests that the focus should not be on grieving over what we have lost but on celebrating what we are becoming.
As always Ram Dass doesn't claim to have all the answers - what he does have is an unquenchable curiosity about conciousness, what it is, and how it works. He appoaches the questions of life and death with amazing honesty and spiritual courage giving us the courage to look at our own fears with the same honesty.
Jack Kornfield has said "Ram Dass has given us yet another blessing. With consummate skill and humor he guides us through the later phases of life. When you finish this book you are wiser, freer, more awake, more in touch with your heart. What more could you ask?"
You can read a wonderful article by Sara Davidson in the New York Times Magazine about Ram Dass and how he is responding to his stroke here. You may be required to sign in and choose a password to access this article but it is free and the process is easy. The article is well worth the time.
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