Book Review: Be Love Now by Ram Dass

Be Love Now by Ram DassBe Love Now, The Path of the Heart by Ram Dass is a memoir, a guidebook to the spiritual path, and a celebration of the mystery, magic, and power of great spiritual teachers.

These three threads intertwine throughout this loving and expansive work.

This is Ram Dass’ third book in a spiritual trilogy beginning with the massively popular and groundbreaking Be Here Now,  which sparked a new way of looking at the world for an entire 60′s generation

In Still Here - the second of the trio – Ram Dass recounts his devastating and life-changing hemorrhagic stroke, and how the ensuing challenges deepened his spiritual awareness.

Despite being significantly disabled, his friend and co-author Rameshwar Das says of Ram Dass, “His mind, his consciousness, remained completely intact, if not expanded.  His heart, his sense of compassion, became a more immediate glowing jewel of pure presence.”

With it’s heart-to-heart conversational tone and profusion of wisdom, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Be Love Now.

Anyone curious about or following a spiritual path will surely appreciate and learn from the cornucopia of wisdom contained in these page.  If eastern religions are foreign territory for you, I suggest reserving judgment.  There might just be a profound lesson awaiting you on these pages.  After all, love is universal.

As Ram Dass says, “It’s not by chance that this book came into your hands or that you are reading these words at this moment.”

Who is Ram Dass?

Ram Dass 1970

Ram Dass 1970

Previously known as Richard Alpert, Ph.D., Ram Das was an eminent Harvard psychology professor with a keen interest in states of consciousness and colleague to psychedelic pioneers Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, and Ralph Metzner.

Alpert – although a tenured professor – was fired from Harvard for conducting unauthorized research with psychedelic drugs.  Continuing his quest to understand human consciousness, Alpert traveled to India where he auspiciously happened upon the Indian adept Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately referred to throughout the book simply as Maharaj-ji.

“When I first got to India, I abhorred the idea of gurus.  I was attracted to Buddhism, which appealed to the psychologist in me.  How did I end up sitting in front of a Hindu guru?  When I first met him, I hardly knew what I was doing there myself.

But when Maharaj-ji immersed me in his unconditional love, it altered the course of my life. My view of myself completely changed.  That meeting  opened my heart.  In that moment I opened to the guru – not just to the old man in the blanket sitting in front of me, but to a place within him that reflected my true Self.  That Self is the source of unconditional love.”

Transfixed, Ram Dass spontaneously dropped his travel plans and spent six chilly months in a small room of the ashram (temple).  He spent long hours alone with only an occasional visit from his guru.   Diligently practicing meditation and yoga, Raam Dass temporarily lived the life of a renunciate.

In the Spring, Majaraj-ji sent him back to America and told him not to return for two years.

The rest is history.  With the blessing of his guru, Ram Dass blossomed into a spiritual teacher who has touched the hearts of thousands. For the past four decades, until his stroke, he traveled frequently, giving public talks and leading retreats as the “mouthpiece” of his guru.

Though he no longer travels, you can still connect with Ram Dass in cyberspace at RamDass(dot)org through live webcasts and personal webchats.

Be Love Now is such a rich tapestry of spiritual principles and useful guidance, anything I write could never fully do it justice.  However, at its core, Be Love Now address two major themes:  the path of love and the art of working with a guru.

The Path of the Heart

How do you explain the path of the heart?  Ram Dass speaks of love from every possible angle beginning straightaway in the first chapter.  He asks us to:

“Imagine feeling more love from someone than you have ever known.  You’re being loved even more than your mother loved you when you were an infant, more than you were ever loved by your father, your child, or your most intimate lover – anyone.  This lover doesn’t want anything from you, isn’t looking for personal gratification, and only wants your complete fulfillment.”

This is the path of “Bhakti Yoga” – as it is called in India – “finding ultimate union through love, a tradition that stretches back many centuries.”

The love he speaks of is not our usual ego-based love.  Ram Dass distinguishes clearly between the emotional heart and the spiritual heart - they are different levels of consciousness.  He warns us not to confuse them.  Our true essence – or  “heart-mind” as he calls it for a moment – goes far beyond the ego.  Indeed, connecting with the spiritual heart is the path to dissolving the ego once and for all.

“Whatever metaphor you use…whether it’s succumbing to the softness of the ultimate romance, being submerged in a tidal wave of love, or being pulled into the gravitational field of a star, once you have experienced unconditional love, you have nowhere to go.  You can run, but you can’t hid.  The seed is planted and it will grow in its own time.  You can only grow into who you truly are.”

Unconditional love is the path.  The guru exemplifies and shows you the power of the heart.

“Majaraj-ji instructed me to love everybody, and that has reverberated in me for years.  Gradually, I’ve begun to be aware that I do love everyone and everybody, not necessary their personalities, but their essential being, because that is my essential being too.”

“If you put out love, then you immerse yourself in the sea of love.  You don’t put out love in order to get back love.  It’s not a transaction.  You just become a beacon of love for those around you.  That’s what Maharaj-ji is.  Then from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, and maybe in dreams too, you’re in a loving environment.”

The idea is to identify with your heart instead of all the transitory thought forms moving through it.   At the end of the first chapter, Ram Dass shares a heart-centered practice using the phrase “I am loving awareness”  to help you become aware of your habitual thought  patterns, stop identifying with them, and instead be love now.

“Thoughts are terribly seductive, but you don’t have to identify with them.  You identify not with the thoughts but with the awareness of the thoughts.  To bring loving awareness to everything you turn your awareness to is to be love.”

Traveling the Spiritual Path

Just love! Sounds easy, right?  But, it’s not always so.

There are many twists and turns, blind alleys, and peaks and valleys on the spiritual path.  There’s our ego, patterns, and relentless personal dramas that rise up along the way.  Using stories as illustrations, Raam Dass tells us so much of what we need to know to know to travel the spiritual path with humor, perspective, and sanity.  He speaks deeply and in detail about :

  • Surrender and why we fear it
  • How to learn from whatever arises in your mind and life
  • Recognizing and dissolving ego attachments
  • Overcoming habitual patterns
  • Identifying with the soul instead of the ego and the physical body
  • Developing the “witness” aspect of mind
  • How to receive the blessing of the guru
  • Spiritual guides, teachers, and gurus
  • Levels of consciousness
  • Pitfalls on the path

The Art of Following a Spiritual Master

One of the most wondrous aspects of Be Love Now is the light Ram Dass shines on what it means to follow a guru.  He generously shares his own personal experiences, countless heart-felt stories, and his burning love for his teacher. By doing so he gives us a bird’s eye view of the “guru” – who he or she is, who he isn’t, and how he operates.

In his tradition, “Guru literally means ‘remover of darkness,’ one who can enlighten you.”  This is not someone who’s just written a popular book on spirituality.   Ram Dass explains,

“A real guru is different from a teacher.  If you think of the spiritual path as the road home to your true Self, a teacher is someone standing next to you pointing and giving directions, while the guru is up the road ahead, beckoning to you from your destination.  He or she is someone who has already made the journey and knows the lay of the land.”

The guru is someone who can show you the possibility of enlightenment and bring you squarely there.  That’s far different than someone who can give you some friendly spiritual advice.  Finding a guru depends on karmic chemistry.

“Finding a guru is really an oxymoron.  it doesn’t matter whether you know your guru.  Your guru knows you.  There is no way that you can determine through your intellect who your guru is.  You don’t choose the guru; the guru chooses you.  The relationship between guru and devotee is not the same as other human relationships.”

Would you like to meet your spiritual teacher?  If so, make prayers and aspirations and when the time is right, you will.  Ram Dass says that everyone has a guru, but only some have a guru in a physical form.

“Some people contact Maharaj-ji by reading Miracle of Love, chanting with Krishna Das, or attending my talks, develop a heart connection with Maharaji-ji that many of us who were with him in the body do not have. …Those who meet Maharaj-ji in books, talks, or meditation have him as fully in their lives as those who saw him in the flesh.”

The last section of the book introduces you to many of the enlightened saints and siddhas from India through biographies and images.  “These are beings whose vision is clear, who live fully in this moment, are mirrors for to others, are themselves pure statements of the highest evolution.  We can call them realized beings.”

Great teachers work in mysterious ways. Ram Dass invites you to work intensively with the photos of these saints and siddhas and to “open yourself to receiving a transmission from a being who has realized the true Self.”  I felt deeply moved by some of the photographs in this book.  Maybe you will too.

Ram Dass reminders us that we are all on an evolutionary journey.  Our consciousness is constantly reaching toward “perfection, oneness, and divinity.”  Be Love Now shows you one time-tested path to realizing your true Self.

Do you have any thoughts to share on the path of love?

Thank you to Trish Collins and TLC Book Tours for the invitation to write this review.  Stay tuned for my next review:  The Wisdom to Know the Difference by Eileen Flanagan on December 21, 2010.

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