Beyond Success

January 30, 1987

Ram Dass investigates the effect of success upon our individual consciousnesses and how one may see beyond mere egocentric opportunism.



Good morning. Yesterday, a couple came to see me at the hotel. They had written to me in Boston and I arranged for them to come yesterday. He is 42, she is 33. He’s a graduate of a business school. He started a business which is now grossing 80 million. He did that in seven years. They have been living for the past three and a half years on what Carl refers to as “the fast track;” that is, they have been realizing all of the benefits of affluence. You want a house? Let’s have a house. You want a bigger house? A bigger house. Shall we travel here? Let’s go here. New car? Yes, of course. Of course. Yes, yes.


They have a 20-month-old child. Six months ago, the wife was diagnosed as having cancer of the liver. It has now spread to the bones. She’s been in treatment in Texas, and they’ve now decided to discontinue all treatment. She is a beautiful woman, now quite thin.


So, six months ago, something happened in their lives so profound and so dramatic that it stopped short the game of their life, and it led them to ask some very profound and soul-searching questions, especially for him. The questions of, “What am I doing with my time and my life?” “What is my bottom line?” And for her, “What is death about?” and “How do I deal with the issues of healing?” and “Healing into life or healing into death,” and so on.


Now, he said to me that the past six months have been months of the most profound growth in his life. They are collaboratively dealing with her illness. I mean, little things happen. For example, he had an aversion to hospitals. He would get nauseous and he wouldn’t go to a hospital. Just refused to go; he didn’t want to deal with sickness or death from all the time he was growing up. Now he found himself spending days in intensive care with his wife. And he began to work through that aversion and learn how he could be in that and be with people and grow through that.


But he saw that, along the way, in business, a number of personality qualities had become dominant in his being that were slightly toxic to his relationship with his family and to his ability to be with his wife fully through this. And he had some pretty agonizing self-examination to go through at that point. And, as I say, he feels that the past six months he’s grown immensely.


Now, in the business community there is some process that goes on (which we’re going to explore a little bit) that, often it is only some traumatic event—such as illness, such as a child’s breakdown or a child’s acting out, such as the moments of retirement, such as bankruptcy, such as some intense crisis like that—that forces an awakening, that forces a person to confront how they lockstepped into a game. And the interesting question is: are there subtler motivators for that self-examination?


We’re talking about stages of the evolution of consciousness of individuals. And we’re asking now whether built into the business process—the process of being entrepreneurial, or being in management, or being involved in the business mode—whether there are clues along the way that one tends to ignore because they are subtle and because one feels, somehow, that those clues are showing a weakness in yourself rather than clues that reflect something that, if you listen to them, might be the cue for you to consider that there’s another way of you looking at the meaning of your life and why you’re doing what you’re doing.


I remember a stage in my father’s life where my father—who had been a successful lawyer, he had helped start a university (Brandeis), he had been president of a railroad—he had, from the culture’s point of view, been a success. But as he retired and turned to his hobbies, then there came a period where, at night, he would wake up remembering all his failures, remembering the investments he didn’t make, remembering the bad investments he made, and the feelings of failure. And I thought: is that what the product of all of his efforts are? That’s what he’s left with—is this feeling of failure. He’s gone beyond that now and he’s just in total peace now, but he’s also very quiet.


And then I see also people in business—I saw this more years ago than I see it now; there’s a little more consciousness in the business community than there used to be. I don’t really know a lot about business. I think you all realize that, probably, at the outset. I mean, everything I invest in loses, so I think you should know that on the outset. And I just know, really, from, in the old days, when my father was chairman of Brandeis and the head of the Joint Distribution Committee and Jewish charities—I used to play gin rummy with his rich friends. And we’d play on somebody’s yacht in Miami. And I’d meet a man who was in his seventies, whose company was on the New York Stock Exchange, and he had just moved all his mills from the New England area to the Tennessee are. And he was in his seventies. And he was complaining, and such headaches! And he had many millions of dollars. And I said to him, “Why did you do it? Why do you keep doing it?” And he looked up at me with what looked, from my point of view, like almost a sadness, and he said, “What else am I gonna do?” And I felt at that point the pain of getting locked into a game—a model of oneself—that you couldn’t transcend because the reinforces were too strong for staying in the thing.


So what I want to look at is some of the subtle or not so subtle things that are clues in business life that might resonate for you—and if they don’t, fine. You are probably well beyond them. Or you may be still not realizing them. Who knows? We’ll allow for both possibilities. Ideally—and now I’m talking from, really, outside the business community—but ideally, I see business, business people, as people who find viable means to realize visions. They see a possibility and then they find a viable means to realize that possibility. And in the doing of that, if they do that well and effectively, profits follow. And in the process they deepen and enrich the infrastructure of the society. Now, this is the idealistic statement of business. In other words, the thing that they contribute through their business just enriches the structure of the society and its stability, and its growth, and its caring, and its compassion, and its richness, and its opportunity, and so on.


One of the interesting shifts in consciousness is that, what was a serendipitous effect—or at least just a small component effect, which was profit—starts to loom as the dominant criterion. And people are working—instead of being part of finding a manifestation of a vision—they are working, then, to make a profit as their goal rather than as a side effect of their goal. And that becomes such a built-in cultural statement that people start to justify their actions in terms of profit even though it is at the expense, sometimes, of the enrichment of the infrastructure of the society, or the realization of the dream, the vision. And then they have to build, an individual has to build, an entire philosophical justification in their mind to be able to handle the fact that their goal has shifted from something which has a social significance to something that has just a personal significance. And they see that what they read in the textbook about idealism of business and when they get out on the street, they find that the street values are very different. And in order to buy into those street values they have to armor themselves in a certain way to do it. And it’s that armoring which we’re talking about a little bit today.


Now, because of this particular group that I’m speaking with—this is not the disenfranchised or the homeless, I assume… unless I got my schedule dates mixed up. I think that one of these subtle issues we are reflecting about today is the issue of the effects of success. That is: if you invest in a myth in a culture and that myth says, “Those who do such-and-such get such-and-such, and then they are happy.” And you do such-and-such and you get such-and-such, then you are happy. Or are you? Right there is where the edge is; right at that point.


Some people who have been very successful in this culture, who have won in a big way and, in their early wins they were part of the moving toward success, and they were very, very excited, and each win was another marker along the way. Then, as they got a greater margin of success, it was harder to see it as a path because they saw that the difference, for example, between having 20 million and 80 million wasn’t going to really change the style of their life that much. It was going to put them in a different league with other players, but it wasn’t going to change the style of their life that much. And they began to feel that the excitement or the feelings of the gratification that success brought with each act started to diminish as the successes got greater and greater, which is a very strange experience. You would think they would get higher and higher, but they don’t seem to. The early successes, when you just begin to make it—a person that just starts as a self-made person and then makes the first good deal—there’s a certain gratification. But the 80th deal is a very different kind of psychological experience than the first deal.


Do you do a thing, it gives you a certain feeling of happiness or fulfillment or pleasure, and that is just like a rat in a maze—that the animal learns to turn right and get a pellet. You get that certain feeling. Everybody looks at you and smiles. “You’re doing well.” “You’re doing wonderfully.” “Come be with us.” “Let’s have lunch together.” And then, at that moment, you are motivated to try the next one, and the next one. And that is the root of what often turns out to be an addiction or an obsession.


I was with a man a few weeks ago in New York City. He started working in Coney Island with one of the rides in Coney Island; selling the ride. He’s in real estate in New York City and around the world. His net worth is—I don’t know—probably 75 to 100 million. His children are all in therapy; very neurotic. His wife is heavy on valium. He has a private yacht, aeroplane, many homes. He has an office in which he has three rooms so he can have three deals going at once. It’s showbiz. He’s just rushing from deal to deal. The more chaos, the more excitement. The more excitement, the more gratification. His family has gone. Everything else in life has gone but the deal. And the bigger the risk for the deal—it’s a paper game; you all understand this better than I do—the bigger the risk for the deal, the more the adrenaline pumps, the more the sweat, the more the excitement, the more he can embroil everybody in the drama, the more rush he’s getting. And he’s got to keep doing it. He can’t stop. He can’t stop for an evening off. He can’t stop for a vacation. They mean nothing to him. He’s just gotta keep going.


That is as much as an addiction as a heroin addiction. It’s an addiction to that he only feels alive at the moment when he is playing with that edge of risk. It’s like a gambler at Las Vegas. It’s risk-taking behavior that is reinforcing him for playing at that leading edge, and it’s very exciting and very heavy stuff. And he can’t stop, and he keeps parlaying it more and more, and working on further margins. And at any moment—I’ve watched people like that do one wrong one and then they go under. And loss is even part of the game as far as they’re concerned, and they just start again. It’s part of the excitement and the adrenaline hit.


Now, that one is based on the model that more is better. And if this is good, more is better. This deal: more is better, more is better, and more is better. That’s part of the myth: that more is always better. But I asked you: have you seen through that one already? That: when is it enough? When is there a feeling of peace within “more is better”? Years ago I was hanging out with a fellow named Billy Hitchcock—this may be in that tape that I wrote once before. Billy is one of the Mellon family. Uncle Paul Mellon has 700 million and his mother has 700 million, and so on. And so Billy had maybe 20 million. And so Billy bought a little plane; a Piper Cherokee or something. And I was teaching him how to fly. And we were having a wonderful time. And we landed at LaGuardia airport, and we pulled over to the private parking area. And we were very happy and really enjoying ourselves, and he had made a good landing, and all was well. Nice, pretty day. And as we pulled in we pulled by this big private jet. Billy looked at it and his face fell. And suddenly he was deeply sad. And I said, “Billy, what are you so sad about?” He said, “Oh… that’s uncle Paul’s plane.” And, I mean, he couldn’t have one. He couldn’t have one. And I could feel that his life was related to uncle Paul’s money, not to his money. I mean, 20 million was nothing to him. He was living in a world of people with 700 million and making himself miserable as a result of it. So that one of “more is better”—I saw it as an extreme example at that moment. Because I had a Cessna 172; I would have loved to have his plane! See? It’s all relative, you see.


Now, I think another thing that you see about success is that it changes the nature of the risk that you can take. Because, as your investment gets greater and as you have a beautiful physical plant, and you have all of this, you have to shift ground. A lot of people who have entrepreneurial—well, you all know that issue about why entrepreneurs don’t make it as maintainers of big businesses because they can’t handle the changing risk structure that they have to do in order to preserve the structures that they have created. And they are willing to play on the edge and they can’t pull back enough to maintain existing institutions without changing their self-image. And most people can’t do that, so entrepreneurs often leave a company after they start it, and management comes in; people who are comfortable with that kind of risk-taking level.


But there is a feeling for people who start and build success of a narrowing field as they get more successful because of the fact that they can take less risk, and that they have more riding in the sense of more responsibility, more people involved, and they start to feel hemmed in. And they don’t feel the kind of freedom and the space that they felt before.


Another part of it is what’s called role entrapment. That is, a sense that the role you’ve gotten into of being a certain kind of a person starts to entrap you. My father told me a story some years ago about a tailor in a middle eastern European country. There was a Jewish man who wanted to show that he had done well, so he went to the best tailor in town, whose name was Zumbak. And he said, “Zumak, I want your best suit.” So Zumbak made a suit. And the man came in to try on the suit. And he put it on, and it was beautiful material, no doubt about it. But when he put it on, this sleeve was about two inches longer than this sleeve. And he said, “Zumbak, I don’t mean to complain, but this sleeve is two inches longer than this sleeve.” Zumbak took affront. Zumbak says, “There’s nothing wrong with the suit. It’s where you’re standing. Stand like this.” And he pushes his shoulder down and the suit then fits perfectly, you see? And the man looks in the mirror and he sees this big bunched up material back here. And he says, “Zumbak, would you mind taking that in? My wife hates it when there’s that extra bunch of material there.” Zumbak says, “There’s nothing wrong with the suit. It’s the way you’re standing.” And he pushes his head down like this. So finally, the suit is fitting perfectly. And the man leaves with his new suit on. He’s afraid to breathe for fear it won’t fit. And he’s been completely cowed by Zumbak. And he gets on the bus. And he’s standing on the bus and somebody comes up and says, “What a beautiful suit! I bet Zumbak the tailor made that suit.” And the fellow said, “How did you know?” He said, “Because only somebody as skilled as Zumbak could fit somebody as crippled as you!”


Now, the feeling, often, of role entrapment is that you have gotten into a suit and everybody’s saying, “What a beautiful suit! What a beautiful suit!” Except your spine is out of whack and you’re feeling (inside) not the same, not as good. In my rather checkered career—which I guess some of you know some of the checkeredness of it—there was a point, I remember, when I had become a professor at Harvard and I was a winner in the culture. I mean, I wasn’t making any money, but I was a winner. My father, he said to me—he wanted me to be a doctor. And when I became a professor he says, “Well, that’s fine, but what are you going to do for a living?” So at any rate, there I was, a professor. And for most people (except my father) I had won. And people treated me with great respect because I was part of a symbolic institution. And everything I said, people listened to. And they thought I was wise. And every day I’d go to work and everybody would reward me all day. And I was teaching human personality and motivation, and Freud, and all the latest stuff, so that if anybody should be happy it should be me, technically. I mean, if we wise persons knew what we were talking about, why shouldn’t I be it? But I’d go home and I’d get into the bathtub and I’d be a neurotic mess. And I decided I would feel, somehow, that it wasn’t good enough. I didn’t feel fully satisfied inside and I thought it must be me.


So I went into analysis and therapy. And what I met was a therapist who was wearing another form of Zumbak’s suit. And he said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll teach you how to wear my suit so you don’t have to wear your suit.” Which I learned. And then I became a Freudian therapist and I had this suit on. And then I got a new role model and a new identity. And when people walked down the street I didn’t see people, I saw psychosexual stages. I saw early anal-retentives and late phallics, and stuff like that. And I got caught in a new set of roles.


And it took me until a rather wild Irishman by the name of Tim Leary came along and introduced me to ways of changing my own consciousness that I began to understand that the feeling of malaise that I was feeling in myself—which, because everybody around me kept smiling and saying, “You won!”—I assumed was my sickness was maybe not my sickness, but was a cue to me, a clue to me, that there was another kind of growth lying in store for me. And that maybe that feeling wasn’t something to be treated as pathology, but rather as something to be treated as something wroth exploring. And that did guide the rest of my life.


Some of the side effects of success—interestingly enough, one of them is boredom. You’ve learned a skill that you know how to do very well, and you keep repeating it. It’s just like making pizza. I mean, you can be a big deal-maker, but it’s still the same thing after a while. You know just the ingredients to put the game together, and it worked. And you keep playing the same one over and over again, and you’ve got a strategy, and it works. And you start to get bored by the finiteness of the game and the finiteness of your role. And the problem is, it’s working and it’s giving you all the fringe effects, but the thing itself you do every day starts to bore you.


And the way people respond to boredom, it’s interesting how aversive people experience boredom to be, especially people who have become successful because they are doers. We have a funny distinction between doers and beers. Beers just sit and be. Doers are always doing it. “I’ll mow the lawn!” “Here, lemme help ya. I’ll do this.” “Whaddaya say, let’s go and…” And their vacations are exhausting! I mean, they come back from their vacation needing a vacation because they are so exhausted, because they can’t stop doing. Because they got rewarded for doing and that’s the style they have in life. And what happens to somebody that gets bored that’s a doer is: they just do harder. And they do more. And they keep doing more until—if you watch them, it is exhausting to watch a doer being bored because they are so busy avoiding the boredom. Because the boredom is so real for them. And that kind of fast action to avoid boredom has connected with it. And the anxiety about seeing the trap that you’re in and not knowing how to get out of it because all your models of how to get out of it were just to do more of it. Can you hear that issue? If I do something and do more, I will get out of it. And that’s the one you learn. And then it doesn’t feel great, but I’ll do more of it in order to feel better out of that one. But after a while, the more you do, the worse you feel. Because you’re beginning to see the handwriting on the wall that it’s not going to do it for you. These are the cues I’m talking to you about that can force growth prior to a trauma, prior to a total breakdown of the system.


I think it was Jesus who said, “What profiteth a man if he gain the world and lose his soul?” We’re talking a little bit about that: the idea of “more is better” and accruing stuff, more stuff, so that your life becomes stuffier and stuffier and you’ve got garages full of stuff. You want to see my stuff? Come see my stuff. I’ve got two houses full of stuff! I mean, it’s just stuff and stuff and stuff, and it keeps collecting! Because when you feel that bad feeling of boredom or finiteness, then you are absolutely a mark for the advertising industry, which says to you: if you buy this car that’s gonna give you this certain driving experience you won’t feel that feeling! And they know exactly—“they” meaning “us;” I mean, we are the advertising industry, too—know exactly what feeling that is you’re playing with in advertising. The feeling of “I’m not potent enough,” the feeling “I’m not beautiful enough,” the feeling “I’m not successful enough,” the feeling “I’m not happy enough,” “I’m not free enough,” “I’m not stimulated enough”—the whole idea of more and different is going to be better. It’s the idea that something external to yourself is finally going to give you what you want, and that is a basic fallacy.


Now, there’s just one more—that I think that will be familiar to some of you—of these little clues, and that is your relation to time. I think that a number of you, I suspect, see time as your enemy. You see yourself as caught in time, and there’s never enough time. “I’d love to do it, but I don’t have time.” “Can’t be with you for your birthday. I don’t have time.” And you feel like you are running against time so much of the time. I mean, I’ve been in that so often that—out of my, basically, greed—I want more on my plate than I can digest, and then I am running like the rabbit; I can’t stop and I can’t do it because I don’t have time. And they say that the secret of what we’re talking about today is to snatch the pearl of freedom from the dragon time, and get into another relation of time so that, instead of time using you, you are in another relationship to time. And that’s part of what we’re going to be talking about today.


Now, finally, a lot of the things that force this lockstep and the trap of this single-minded model of success and why you get caught in more is that there is a tremendous reinforcement in who you hang out with. I’m not talking to you personally, now. I’m talking about collective—that quality of the business community—tends to (unless it makes an intentional effort) hang out with people that share your values. So you hang out with people who are in the same kind of lockstep and reinforcing for each other that this is the way it’s done. Like my friend in New York who has got three deals going at once, and his net worth is, say, 75 or 100 million, but his friend has a net worth of 1.2 billion. And he’s living in relation to that guy. And that guy’s saying, “Make bigger deals! Work faster! Work harder! You’re already 61—you’re losing it!” That’s his guru; that’s his spiritual mentor, if you will.


So that who you hang around with, who you’re spending time with are not just usually people who are free of time, for example. So everybody’s saying, “I’d love to have lunch with you”—and they even talk fast. You know? Because you don’t have time to talk slow, you know? And where you eat: you eat fast because you’ve got to do it faster. There’s just that quality of collecting, collecting, and moving faster and faster in order to cram more into time. That’s, again, “more is better.”


Okay. In order to play your role, often, in business, it requires you to think about other people a certain way. Now, this is very subtle. The question is: who is “us” and who is “them?” When we started out as tribes, the tribe was “us.” And then you found out there was another tribe, and maybe you decided that, because there was only one piece of buffalo, that the other tribe was “them” and you had to protect the piece of buffalo. So it was “us” against “them.” And you shared the buffalo among “us,” and you competed with “them.”


What happens when you get into a model of competition—when you’re in the role of being a competitor—it often is that who you’re competing against is “them,” and we (in our company) are “us.” That might be a next step. Then what happens in your own personal life is: you are an administrator or an executive, and the people in your company you have to motivate to get a certain productivity out of, so you have to see them as “them,” to play with “them” to get the best out of “them.” You say nice things about “us,” but you’re still thinking in “them.” I mean, am I pushing too hard or can you hear any of this? So that they are “them,” and you are now “us” is the executive coterie that runs it.


But the executive—you’re the top executive. The executive coterie, they’re waiting for the misstep because they’ve trained just like you did in the same school. So, at some level, your colleagues in your own company are a little bit “them”—see? “Well,” you say, “at least I’ve got my family.” You know? They’re “us.” See? “My family’s ‘us’.” But now your wife is very bugged because you’re spending so much time at business—or your husband. But she/he doesn’t understand how consuming this is. And because they don’t understand, then they are “them.” Do you hear the whole process of what is called alienation in the culture? In order to realize the goal you wanted you had to make everybody around you—the kids, they don’t understand. It’s a different generation. They’re screwing up. You know? They’re good kids, basically, but that kind of feeling at times. But I can’t run their life. And they don’t really understand. So that it gets so—and my parents are a different generation, and they don’t understand. You slowly get cut off from generations, from the opposite sex at times—because, after all, I’m a woman (or I’m a man) and how can he (or she) understand? So, very slowly, you keep getting inside and inside. And as long as you are in your thinking mind—the quality of the thinking mind, you notice, is that it thinks about things. It always takes an object. So as long as you think about other people, you are making them into objects. This is going to be an interesting one for us to explore in a minute.


So this problem of depersonalizing—like, I can show it to you. Some of you are familiar with it. Some of you are not, I’m sure. But some of you are familiar with what it feels like to have lust. And you can be looking at somebody who’s “us” until that lust awakens. And then the whole consciousness shifts, and the other person becomes “them,” or “her,” or “him,” or somebody to be manipulated to bring about gratification. That’s why the Bible says “thous shalt not lust.” In other words: thou shalt not push somebody far enough away to desire them as an object. Because you lose the love, you lose the us-ness.


The problem with getting into a world which your job forces you into of treating people as object is that it isolates you. And when you get isolated from a safe relationship with other human beings, you starve to death emotionally and you don’t get fed. You cut off your own lifeline. And that’s because of the definition of “bottom line” being a little too narrow. If the bottom line is my net worth—in terms of money—then you can justify all this stuff. If my bottom line is not only net worth but friends and an intimate relation to the family, that’s a whole different kind of bottom line. And it justifies different actions. And sometimes you can say, “I could go into that deal, but it’s going to cost me too much in terms of the rest of my bottom line.” So what we’re talking about now is considering what our bottom line is, and how do we broaden that bottom line now?


All of this that I’ve been talking about—which can be characterized in the most beautiful terms of “I am an achiever,” “I’m a visionary,” “I’m working hard,” “I’m helping the society” move ahead”—you can justify everything. Or you can put it in the negative terms of—you usually do it about somebody else, say, she’s hard-driving, impatient, relentless, cynical, and judging. That’s the negative way of looking at it. The other way is, “I’m assertive, responsible, seeking,” you know, working hard, et cetera. All of these cues that I’m talking about are the clues—that finiteness, that boredom, that realizing the limits of the game, that seeing that more isn’t going to be better; that you want to not look at because you don’t know what else to do—that is the clue that you are ripe for the next stage of the journey of life, and that there is another stage of the journey.


In the spiritual work that I do I teach that you’ve got to become somebody before you can become nobody. That is, you’ve got to develop your somebody-ness first. You’ve got to develop your ego structure. You’ve got to develop your grounding; your control and mastery of the universe. The problem is that control and mastery of the universe is not freedom and it’s not happiness, it’s just control and mastery of the universe. And then you have to move beyond that. So in the stages one goes through, usually, it’s material control first. That’s mine, this is mine, this is mine. And then there’s the next one: you move up into the psychological thing when you’ve got your basecamp together. And then you say, “I want my personal accomplishment, achievement. I want to psychologically feel good.” That’s another stage, and you’ve all passed through that one.


Then the next stage is you see the finiteness of all that. That accomplishment all by yourself isn’t happiness. You see the kind of ephemeral nature of this stuff. And then you start to shift your goal. And you start to go for some kind of deeper truth of your being and deeper meaning to your own life. And that’s the next stage that flips around, and that’s where we go from now. Carl Jung said the biggest problems in the world for us are not solved, they’re just outgrown. And in order to outgrow them it requires a new level of consciousness, and that’s really what I’d like to talk about from here on.


Now, I’m going to give you a very naïve story, and I know you’ll all say, “Well, it’s easy for him to say.” So I’ll say it first. Back in the early 70s I did a series of radio shows on a radio station in New York, WBAI, and one in Montreal. And excerpts from these were made into a set of records. And I read holy books, and I did chanting, and I answered questions from telephones. It came out as a six-record album, and it had a beautiful book in it with very beautiful printing and calligraphy and stuff like that. And it was in a box. Six-record album. And we mail order sold it for $4.50. Now, it was a different economy in those days, but that was still pretty reasonable.


My father, who was at the height of his worldly powers at that moment, looked at it—he didn’t listen to it, but he looked at it—and he said… I mean, imagine what I must have been to him! I’ll just give you a vignette that I’ve described of my coming back from India in 1968. His son, who made it to be a Harvard professor, then got thrown out, then ends up in India. And he picks me up at the Logan airport in his Cadillac. I am standing there, barefoot, in a dress—Indian outfit—with beads, a long beard, and long hair, and a big musical instrument. His comment to me was, “Get in fast before anybody sees you!” And he used to call me Rumm Dumm. It’s better than my brother; he called me Rammed Ass!


At any rate, my father looked at this album. He said, “This is an impressive piece of work.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Only four and a half dollars?” I said, “Yeah.” “Seems pretty cheap to me.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “You know, it looks like you could get ten dollars for this.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Would fewer people buy it if you charged ten dollars?” I said, “No.” He said, “You mean, the same people would buy it for ten dollars as are buying it for four and a half dollars?” I said, “Well, it cost us four dollars to make and ship, and there’s a fifty-cent margin we put towards reprinting, doing something with.” He says, “I don’t understand you. Are you against capitalism?” I said, “No. I’m standing on it. Why would I be against it?” And I tried to figure out how to explain to him what my predicament was. He was a lawyer at one point. I said, “A few years back, remember you tried a case for Henry?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “Was it a tough case?” He says—I knew it was, actually. This was just a little routine. He said, “Damn right it was!” I said, “You worked hard on the case?” “I spent a lot of time in the law library. That was a very tough case and I brought it up to the supreme court of Massachusetts!” I said, “Well, you know, you’ve been known for a pretty good fee structure. And you did all that work for uncle Henry. I bet you charged him a nominal egg.” And he looked at me like I was out of my mind. He says, “What are you—out of your mind? That was uncle Henry! Of course I didn’t charge him a big fee!” I said, “You see my problem. If you can find somebody that isn’t uncle Henry, I’ll rip them off. My predicament is very simple: that, as a result of what happened in my own consciousness, I extricated myself”—meaning my awareness—“from such an exclusive identity with my own separateness that I directly experienced that other people were ‘us’. In other words, I broke out of my own alienation; alien at state. And I experienced that, when I looked around, I saw that people were my sisters and my brothers. And if you’ll give me license to just play at the edge of mysticism—I actually experienced the feeling that there was really only one consciousness in all of it.”


Which is something, now, that physicists understand, finally. Coming at it from another point of view. This was a direct experience. So that, if you look at planes of consciousness, now, for a human individual, there is one level at which you are a separate entity and everything else in the world is “it” or “them” or “other,” and in which you are very little and it’s very big, and it’s very frightening, and your biggest fear is your own death because you identify with the separateness, and that thing can die. So a lot of your action is to ward off the threats to the loss of that separateness. Then there are planes of awareness where your awareness breaks out of that identification and you experience the feeling that you are part of a community in which you look and you see other people.


Like, the image that I use again and again in almost every lecture is that, when you look at another person, what do you see? When you look at me, on the physical plane, what you see is a 55-year-old balding gentleman; attractive gentleman. Okay? That’s what you see on the physical plane. Then you shift the ground a little bit—shift the lens a little bit—and you see personality. And what you look when you see is, you see a warm, personable, seeker-after-truth, teacher, et cetera, et cetera. You see my social-psychological identity. Now, there are many, many planes. But let’s flip to another one where you look, and you look into my eyes. What you see is another awareness just like you, but it’s packaged differently. It’s what the Christians call the soul. And the eyes are the windows to the soul. It’s where you look behind the matrix of individual differences that is body and personality to see another awareness, another entity just like you looking back—no different than you! It has a different agenda because it’s packaged differently.


Now, when I see that, and I experience that the minute I meet you in that place behind our individual differences and we recognize one another, there is an incredible rush, or an incredible release of energy, or an incredible feeling of “I have met us.” I have met us. I have come into a space of sharing which opens me up, which feeds me. Instead of my relationships alienating and separating me, this relationship makes contact and I get some energy from it, and my heart opens a little bit. Then I see: this tastes so good, and it feels so wonderful, and I am so at home in it. Then I get terribly greedy to be in that. And every time I come back into my separateness, to my alienation, I start to feel pain and separateness and loss. And you begin to feel your awareness moving through these planes. And you begin to observe what it is that “brings you down.” What catches you back up in your own separateness? What catches you back up in your alienation?


See, there are two stages of this. One is where you start to recognize that you are much more than you thought you were; that you were shortchanging yourself tremendously because your intellectual mind was treating you as an object, because it thinks about objects, and you were so invested in your thinking mind that you couldn’t escape this objective dualism, this kind of reality. And as you bring your awareness back out of it, or acknowledge those parts of you where you have been out of it—see, the situation is that everybody gets out of their thinking mind all the time. They do it in sex, they do it in skiing, they do it in the headiness of the deal where they so are immersed in the moment that they lose their separate sense of identity, and they transcend it, and they feel alive, and juiced, and fulfilled by the moment. And that’s why, often, people do things like surfing, or skiing, or motorcycling, or something that brings them very close to the edge—because it engrosses them so fully in the moment that they transcend the models in their head that keep them separate, and they experience a connection to the universe and they feel fed by it, they feel they’re part of everything. You could think of it as addicting, and most people that are in business know how to get there through that edge of risk-taking and gambling, but they have ruled out other ways of getting there.


At first, your job is to get there—to experience that connection—and then you come back into your separateness. You feel cut off again. And then, later, once you know that you can get there but you’re going to get cast out again—like going to the wedding feast and not wearing the wedding garment, in the Bible—then, after a while, what you become interested in is what brings you down and how to not get caught. How to be, as Christ says, “in the world but not of the world.” How to play your game of life but not get lost in it? It’s like two people walk on a tennis court—or they have a golf match. And they are competing for who’s going to buy on the 19th hold. And they are competing and it’s a fierce competition. And in that competition you’re trying to beat the other person, which could be part of the business community, too. But you remember, also, that you both collaborated to walk on the golf course together. So that, simultaneously, what’s called good sportsmanship is that you are collaborating and competing simultaneously. In other words, you are playing at two levels with another human being and you’re not forgetting that. And that’s what’s called a good sport. A bad sport is somebody that forgets one of those levels. Because if you’re just collaborating and not competing, you give the game away. And what kind of a game is that? And if you’re just competing and not collaborating, you get vicious. And you’re called a poor sport when you lose. And you sneer when you win. You’re beginning to hear that the secret of the shift I’m talking about has to do with the nature of who you think you are. And if you push that back one step you’re back to the nature of the way your mind works and the way you are identified with your mind; how you are in relation to your thinking mind.


There’s a story of a big samurai—a protector of the faith who hires out. And he comes to a very diminutive little monk and he says, “Monk, teach me about heaven and hell!” Very arrogant. And the monk looks up at him and says, “Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you anything! You’re so stupid. You’re dirty. You smell. Your blade looks rusty. Who would hire you as a samurai? You’re probably a second-rate samurai! I wouldn’t teach you anything! I don’t think you’re worth anything.” The samurai got so furious that the veins were sticking out on his neck. I mean, nobody talks to a samurai that way! And this little monk! And the samurai pulls out his sword to cut off the head of the monk, and just as he’s about to do it, the monk looks up at the samurai and says, “That’s hell.” And the samurai realizes that the monk has just practically given his life to give this teaching, and he is so humbled by the courage of the monk and by the caring of the monk that got him into that experiential learning moment that he sheaths his sword and he bows. And the monk says, “And that’s heaven.” Now, you see what the monk did? He just played with the mind of the samurai. And he made the samurai’s life into a hell or a heaven with a just a flick of the mind. Same situation, same monk, same samurai.


Now I want to read you a story from a very good book that just came out called How Can I Help? by me and a fellow named Paul Gorman. This is a story told to me by a friend of mine who’s an aikido master.

The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty. A few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.

At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer’s clothing and he was big, drunk, and dirty.

Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed. Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled towards the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety.

This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole at the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding.

The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.

I was young then (some 20 years ago) and in pretty good shape. I had been putting in a solid eight hour of aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. The trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight. “Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you’re already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”

I listened to his words. I tried hard. I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chinpira, the pinball punks, who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty. “This is it!” I said to myself as I got to my feet. “People are in danger. If I don’t do something fast, somebody will probably get hurt.”

Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized the stance to focus his rage. “A-ha!” he roared. “A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners.”

I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart. But he had to make the first move. I wanted him made, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.

“Alright!” he hollered, “You’re going to get a lesson!” He gathered himself for a rush at me.

A fraction of a second before he could move, someone shouted, “Hey!” It was earsplitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it. As though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something and he had suddenly stumbled upon it. “Hey!”

I wheeled to my left, the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies—this tiny gentleman—sitting there, immaculate, in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but he beamed delightedly at the laborer as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.

“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. “C’mere and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly.

The big man followed as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman and roared above the clanking wheels, “Why the hell should I talk to you?

The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moves so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.

The old man continued to beam at the laborer. “What’cha been drinkin’?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest.

“I’ve been drinkin’ sake,” the laborer bellowed back, “and it’s none of your business!” Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.

“Oh! That’s wonderful!” the old man said. “Absolutely wonderful. You see, I love sake, too. Every night, me and my wife—she’s 76, you know—we warm up a little bottle of sake and we take it out into the garden and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. You know, my great-grandfather planted that persimmon tree. We worry about it after those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree has done better than we expected, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It’s gratifying to watch it. We take our sake out even in the rain!” He looked up at the laborer, his eyes twinkling.

As he struggled to follow the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched.

“Yeah,” he said, “I love persimmons, too…” His voice trailed off.

“Yes,” said the old man, smiling. “And I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.”

“Nah,” replied the laborer. “My wife died.” Very gently swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got on wife, I don’t got no job, I don’t got no home. I’m so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks, a spasm of despair rippled through his body.

Now it was my turn. Standing there in my well-scrubbed, youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was. Then the train arrived at my stop.

As the doors opened I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. “My, my,” he said, “that is a difficult predicament. Sit down here and tell me about it.”

I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy matted hair.

As the train pulled away I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with love.


What we see in the old man is the quality of standing back in his awareness out of the game of life far enough, so that, instead of being reactive to the situation that he finds himself in, in a mechanical way like the young aikido fellow was, he could open himself to the totality of the situation in a quiet way. And out of that would come a response which would truly bring about reconciliation and harmony, and bring things back in.


In other words, from an effectiveness of playing the game of life there is a stance where your mind is that increases your effectiveness in the game and it also liberates you from being entrapped by the game. Like, say, you’re playing Monopoly. And the Monopoly things on the Monopoly board—some of you may or may not know—are a top hat, an iron, a thimble. And you be the thimble and I’ll be the top hat. Now, the question is: are you a thimble or a top hat, or are you somebody playing with a thimble and a top hat? Well, you don’t get lost in that too much. Well, I’d ask you the same about business. Are you an executive, are you a CEO, are you a president? Or are you a being who is being a president, CEO, whatever that is? In other words, where is your awareness in relationship to your role?


If you identify with your role exclusively, you are trapped and you are experiencing some sense of finiteness, boredom, trapped, and all the rest of it. If you stand outside in your awareness, not pushing it away, you are what Christ says: “being in the world but not of the world.” And you learn how to fulfill the roles without getting trapped in them by working to extricate your consciousness away. Then what you become is a more effective game-player because your risk isn’t as great. So if you lose your job: “Ah, so.” Instead of: “Oh my god! I lost my job!” There’s job and there’s not-job. And here I am. You’re still here.


In fact, you get to the point where you begin to see—when you’re able to stand back—that even losses are vacuums into which growth can come and that, when you’re winning, there’s less opportunity for growth, actually, than when you start to lose or feel the finiteness or feel it fall apart a little bit.


Yan Hui—a disciple of a famous Taoist sage by the name of Zhuang Zhou—Yan Hui was also a prominent figure at the imperial court and was to become an advisor to the emperor. This emperor happened to have a great predilection for chopping off heads of his advisors if they made a mistake. Yan Hui was afraid of this job and come to his teacher for advice. He said to his teacher, “I don’t think I’m sufficiently enlightened to be safe in this exalted position.” Zhuang Zhou said to him, “In that case you must retire and practice mind fasting.” Yan Hui asked, “What is mind fasting?” Zhuang Zhou gave him the following instruction. Now, this may be a little far out. When you want to hear with your ears, don’t listen with your eyes. When you want to see with your eyes, don’t look with your eyes. When you want to understand with your mind, don’t think with your mind. Listen, see, and understand with (what he calls) the Tao, or the deeper intuitive wisdom of your being. In other words, go for a deeper part of your knowing mind rather than your intellect.


Yan Hui retired and spent three years practicing this discipline. After three years he returned to his teacher and said, “Master, I think I am ready.” Zhuang Zhou said, “Well, prove it!” So Yan Hui said, “Before I practiced mind fasting I was sure I am Yan Hui. But now, after I have practiced mind fasting, I have come to realize that there never was a Yan Hui.” The teacher said, “You are ready.”


Now, that’s a lot. But my statement is, my suggestion is: where did you learn who you think you are? You learned it from your parents, you learned it from the school, and you built a structure—or a model—which is called an ego structure in your mind of who you think you are. And then it comes like a mind net around you. So you go down the street and you enter into conspiracies with each other saying, “I will make believe you are who you think you are if you will make believe I am who I think I am.” And we enter into these games to keep reinforcing our models of who we think we are—we dress that way, we look that way, we project it—of who we think we are all the time. And we get trapped in it. And it turns out to be too finite. You are shortchanging yourself because you are much more than any model you can have of who you think you are.


And finally, when you’re ready for that next push, you start to go deeper and you start to become interested in those methods that allow you to escape from the structure your mind has created so that the structure is available as your servant but not as your master. In the spiritual traditions they say, “An intellectual who is proud of his intellect is like a prisoner who is proud of his cell.”


Now, you may decide, “I’m a flake.” That’s perfectly reasonable. I might if I were in your position, too. But I would now like to quote from a man who was a vice president of AT&T. Can’t resist! This is the last page of his book. His name was Robert Greenleaf. He said:

Awareness behind conscious intellect I see as infinite, and therefore equal, in every human being—perhaps in every creature. The blinders which block our conscious access to our own vast awareness are the uncompensated losses we’ve sustained, the errors we have acquired from our cultural inheritance, from the undigested residues of our own experience, and from our own conscious learning.

Remove the blinders from your awareness by losing what must be lost. The key to which no one can give you but which your own inward resources—rightly cultivated—will supply.

Then set forth upon your journey. And if you travel far enough, filling the voids of loss with the noblest choices, you may be given the secret of the kingdom: awe and wonder before the majesty and mystery of all creation.


The shift in perspective that is required for the next stage of the journey is the realization that everything that you thought you were is only part of who you are, and the desire to cultivate, if you will, the metasystem of which the ego-structure is only a subsystem. And the problem is that a subsystem can never understand a metasystem. And that is why, in the Biblical injunction, it says, “Lest ye die, ye cannot be reborn.” In other words, you can’t realize your larger system if the smaller system keeps trying to explain it away or control it. That is, the rational, intellectual, analytic mind has got you to just where you are now. Now the question is: can you see? It’s like you use a boat to cross an ocean. You get to the far shore. Do you then have to portage? Do you have to carry it with you? Or can you let it go and now be on another medium in another way?


That journey of going beyond your own—the tool that you have mastered, but now letting the tool go for a moment—the trap, of course, has been that you thought you were the tool. Cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore I am.” The fallacy of that is that it’s the reverse way. Behind that is: “I am, and I think!” And the thinking mind is your servant while, for most people, the thinking mind is their master. And as you cultivate that meta-awareness, that other part of your being—what’s called the intuitive heart-mind: the xìnxīn in Chinese, the Ātman in Hinduism; there’s names for it in every system. As you cultivate this metasystem, then you learn how to delight in the forms of the play. You learn how to work in the business world. It doesn’t mean you give up the game. It means you give up the vantage point from which you’re playing it. So you no longer have to milk it for the success because you’re not so busy identifying with your seprateness that you need to keep proving again and again that you’re adequate, that you’re good, that you can accrue more. So that the journey of the separate individual now starts to balance with that part of you that is identified with the totality. So your actions are coming out of a much more interesting place. So that your action is the coming together of a number of strands in your being. Because you and I are human. And what that humanity represents is a creative tension between our animal humanity and our, if you will, awareness or divinity or spiritual consciousness. And it’s only keeping both of those in balance, if you keep both of them honored, does the game become interesting. Everything short of that is just: “Is it your piece of meat or is it mine?” And then I go in and lick my paws and I get my cake. And if you go into the next level out, the work begins inside your own head. It does not begin in manipulating the environment. It begins in manipulating the furniture right in here and where the identification is.


There are two little stories of Mahatma Ghandi. One is: he started to lead a march or protest against the British. And after a few days he saw that it was going to have some bad consequences, and he stopped the march. And his lieutenants came up to him and they said, “Mahatma-ji, you can’t do this. People left their jobs, they’re taking great risk, they’re here behind you. You can’t stop now.” And Ghandi said, “I have a mixed understanding; I’m only human. I don’t understand it all. My understanding of truth changes from day to day. My commitment is to truth, not to consistency. I’m sorry if that upsets you.”


A lot of us have built our security on consistency, on being who we thought we were and projecting it outward. Is it possible that you, at your stage of life, can allow for a discontinuity, to allow a shift of consciousness into another way of being? Or is your commitment to consistency greater than your commitment to truth? It’s an interesting one. And you will notice that the entire circle of the people around you count on consistency. They don’t count on truth, they count on consistency. But what can offer them and yourself, finally, is a reaching for the truth. That becomes part of your bottom line. And in the course of it it may not be consistent.


The other part of Ghandi that I want to talk about is: he was on a train and it was leaving the railway station. And a reporter rushed up to him and said, “Mahatma-ji, give me a message to take back to the people in the village.” The train was already moving. Ghandi took a paper bag and he scribbled something on it and he handed it out. And what it said was, “My life is my message.” I think that applies to every one of us. What you are offering back into the universe is what you are. What you are; all of it. If you, in the zeal to do well in business, have had to separate means and ends and have not realized that means and ends are apiece, and you use means that are divisive to the human condition in order to bring about ends that are good—realize that that is the statement that you are projecting into the world. It’s like you try to bring about peace with anger in your heart: what you do is sow the seeds of anger.


Look and see at your totality of your life. Ask it of yourself: is the way I am—with all the people around me—is the way I use my resources, is the way I enter into business, is the way I am with my family, is the way I am in relation to silence, aloneness—am I ready to stand up and be counted as I am and say, “This is what I offer to all of you,” or do I say, “Don’t notice me. Notice my product”?


Finally, for each of us, our life is our message. In talking about methods of working on oneself (or awakening, or shifting the perspective, or shifting the context in which you understand what you’re doing and what your life is about), the various strategies—some of them involve the withdrawal into another context in order to change, and then coming back. Like, when you go on a vacation you leave one context in order to reintroduce yourself to parts of your being that got lost in the, sort of, subtle toxicities of daily life. You pull back, you get another perspective, then you come back with that enriched.


For example, what we do when we go on vacation is: usually, we get very busy in doing, which doesn’t really deal with the quality of our mind at all, and then we bring the mind back still very agitated and quite speedy. In other cultures—for example, in Burma, where I have studied—the heads of government and business, their vacations, they go into a monastery in order to meditate for two weeks or ten days or a month in order to quiet their minds, in order to get this shift in perspective so that they can come back and be a more effective game-player, if you will, and understand the Gestalt in which they’re functioning more effectively.


In that strategy of a cyclic form of life, think about how you use the time that is available to you to, if you will, get beyond time. To find that part of you that is beyond time. That can be done spirally, in that way, of going out into the world and coming back. And those going out and come back, the pulling back could be in terms of a sabbatical (a year), it could be in terms of a month, it could be in terms of a week, it could be in terms of a weekend, it could be in terms of an hour every morning or an hour every night. Because most doers—if you will notice, they are so addicted to stimulation that they go from going to work, and then there’s stuff to read on their desks, and then there are people to see, and there are things to think about, and spreadsheets to study, and problems to deal with. And then they come home. And in the car back they’re listening to the radio. And then they get home and they turn on the television to see the news. And then they are dealing with the family and what’s come up with everybody in the family in the day. And then, in the evening, there’s more stimulation. And the minute it slows down for a second: “Let’s go out,” “Let’s see more people,” “Let’s do more.” And it’s constantly feeding that need for stimulation.


And there is an interesting experience of just sitting down. I mean, there’s a stage where you get in your life—whether you even want to believe that it’s possible—where you move towards what’s called voluntary simplicity. And it gets to the point where you are realizing how cluttered your mind is, and you would like to get free of the identification with your thoughts so much that, the external environment, you start to want it to be simpler and simpler. It’s interesting the first time you sit in a totally white room in a simple way and feel fulfilled—with no books to grab and nothing—and feel at peace with yourself. That is a different… once you have tasted that quality of peace—that you can allow yourself to just be, and it’s enough—then you can work with the sensations and the people and the books without that slight anxiety about not having them, which keeps coloring it just a little bit. The coloring of—if you watch—even as you’re eating, you’re planning what you’ll do in the evening. Even as you’re at the movie, you’re planning what you’ll do after the movie. Even as you’re doing after the movie, you’re planning what you’ll do in bed. And so it goes. And it just keeps going and going, and your mind is always planning the next thing out of anxiety that you’re going to get caught without something, in the sense of not having anything and having to deal with the emptiness. And then you’ll say, “Well, at least I’ll think.” And to come behind it is extremely interesting.


So that could be as little as twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening, or something like that—in which you just start to use some technique to quiet yourself down, to examine the way in which you are so trapped in your own thoughts, to develop this other quality of awareness. And then you go back into your life. And then, the next time, you come back to it and you go out.


The other strategy is to take the stuff of daily life and use it in a double way. You use it, one, at the level that it exists—like decision-making, business processes—and the other, you’re using it as a vehicle to awaken yourself. And using it simultaneously on both levels at once. Let’s see if I can give you an example.


Presently, this gathering—all of the funds that came in for this gathering—are going to the Seva Foundation. And the Seva Foundation is a nonprofit that does work in developing countries, and with the American Indians, and so on. It’s a very interesting and unusual organization, which maybe we can go into later. But at any rate, we have a rotating chairmanship in our organization, and for these past couple of years I’ve been chairman. Now, being chairman of a foundation is… it’s a role. But when I go to Nepal—which is one of the countries where we do work and where we have a presence—we are an NGO, a non-governmental organization that has been legitimized by the king and the queen, and so we’re real over there. Just like the Red Cross or any of the other organizations.


So when I go to Nepal I put on my blue blazer and my tie and I am now chairman of a board. And in the course of my last term, the time I was there last time, I had an agenda in which I wanted the government to do certain things for us and we, in turn, are doing certain things for the government. I had an opportunity to meet the minister of health. Now, the minister of health—he has an agenda, also, right? He’s after all, a representative of the king. And he sees me, as you can imagine, what somebody sees the chairman of a board of a funding agency from the West when you’re a poor country; what I looked like to him. And we come together. Now, he is the person that can say yes or no to certain things we need to help us with the opportunity to serve, really. And so we come into the room, each with a certain entourage we’ve got. And we sit down at temple. It’s just like real people, you know? And I don’t tell him there are no adults present—I mean, I’m not going to scare him.


And we sit down, and we meet and face one another, and we do all the bowing and the hellos, and he’s the minister of health and I’m the chairman of the board. We have our roles. And we each have our agendas. Now, at that point—and I am saying, I’ve been working on my consciousness now for 25 years, but this job, I think I’m not going to get through. This is going to be a hard one and I’m probably going to burn out on very quickly, I think. But I’ll see if I can work with it.


So I am sitting opposite him and I’ve got my little reminder things—these are like worry beads, they’re just beads that I use to remind myself so I don’t get too lost in the drama—and I’m just sitting there looking at him. And suddenly our eyes meet. And I find another being just like me, except he’s busy being the minister of health and I’m busy being the chairman of the board. And we just met for a moment, behind our roles, as two fellow beings. Now, for an Easterner that’s much easier to do than for a Westerner because they’re trained to do that. I mean, that’s part of their acculturation process, unlike ours.


For me, it took me 25 years to realize that I was a being who was being chairman of a board rather than the chairman of the board. For him, he was trained to fulfill a role without getting lost in it. So that, when we meet, we meet and suddenly there is this delight. And we meet as two beings who are sharing the dance, if you will, of forms. And then we go into the game just as a Monopoly game, with his agenda. But instead of him being his agenda and me being my agenda, we are two beings who are meeting here and playing as two people—minister of health and chairman of the board—and dealing with our agendas. And we’re dealing with it from a collaborative place in that we both would like to end suffering. And the result is that our dialogue together brings us closer together rather than ending up being divisive where, “Well, if you won’t do this then I won’t do this,” instead of separating us. It’s just like Russians and Americans, or any people where they come together in a dialogue. Whether they can meet in what’s behind it as well as: being in their separateness, can they meet in their unity?


And what I experienced was that my journey to Nepal, this time, I came out of it—out of continuous meetings, meeting with the opthalmic associations, and all this stuff; continuous meetings—I came out of it with more energy than I went in, I came out of it lighter than I went in, I came out of it with my heart more open than I went in, I came out of it seeing that “us” included Nepalese and Westerners and people from the States, instead of: the people of the States were dealing with “them” in developing countries.


So what I’m learning—and every time as I was approaching the minister of health I thought, “Oh my god, it’s fine to play this game when you’re playing low key. But here I am, now. I’m the chairman playing with the minister of health. This is big business. And is that going to suck me in to losing my consciousness into it?” And what I had to do was just keep reminding myself and keep waking up until I met him and we met behind it, and then it started to be play from there on in. And so what I’m learning is how to take the stuff of daily life and convert it.


During the break one of us asked me, “How do you keep from burning out?” Well, the answer to “how do you keep from burning out” is the injunction that the Baghavad Gita—which is one of the sacred texts of the East—enjoins, which says, “Do not be identified with being the actor.” That’s one of the key things. In other words, when you drive a car—most of you do—and you are roughly hurtling through space with about 4,000 pounds of steel or something like it, you’re doing that, making incredibly subtle and complex decisions about centrifugal and centripetal force and rates of deceleration and all that, and all the time you’re usually tuning the radio, thinking about where you’re going, watching for police. Who knows what else you might be doing. And all the time you’re doing all that, and you’re doing it on what you can call base brain—that is, you’re doing it without being somebody who’s driving, and yet driving is happening.


Well, it is interesting how you can cultivate a place in yourself that is at rest even as you’re full of activity. So that the activity doesn’t wipe you out because you aren’t doing it. You can take a long trip. Like, people say to me—I’m on a tour now of sixty cities, which means that, between now and April, I’ll do thirty-two cities. I’ll be in a different city every other night. So I get on the plane every other day, I go to airports, I carry bags, I get off, meet people, get up, give lectures, go to bed, get up, et cetera. People say, “What a demanding schedule! It must exhaust you.” You know who’ll say that to me? Like, a woman who’s raising three kids. I’ll say, “Are you kidding? I look at your life—what a demanding schedule. It must exhaust you.” I said, “I don’t know. Just like you, I get up every morning, I brush my teeth, I get dressed, then I do stuff all day, then at night I take off my clothes and I go to bed. And then I start the next day. That’s what you do.”


But, you see, the minute I have a model of travel, something happens, interestingly, to people while I’m traveling. And they get so caught into what you call the dramatic storyline of it that you wipe out. You wipe out because you milk the drama of your own life—if that isn’t too crude an expression. And you learn how to—like, “What a day I’ve got!” See? Instead of “Okay.” You do what’s immediately on the plate in front of you. If you’re here and you gotta get there, you get in the car and drive there. And then you’re there, and the next person comes in. And you meet them. And if you keep overriding it with a whole storyline of, “Well, it’s ten o’clock and I’ve already done four, and I’ve got six more. Will I do it?” and all, you’ll wipe out. On the other hand, if you just do the next thing, and the next thing, and each thing you do fully, constantly pulling your awareness, noticing where your awareness is and bringing it back. You keep coming into a resting space just as you’re doing it. And then it’s just event after event after event, and you end up being at rest.


And I’m learning how to do this. I don’t know how to do it. I know it’s doable because I know beings who do it. And I just have to learn how to be in the doing, rather than get lost into the doing and lose the being—that’s the whole process. And this is just a mechanical technique. There are techniques called “the witness,” which is cultivating a part of you that notices what’s going on. Like, most people, when you get agitated or angry or depressed—boy am I depressed! See? Now, if you came to me and said—which people do—“I’m so depressed!” Right? Yup.

“Are you really depressed?”

“I’m… boy am I depressed!”

“Is every part of you depressed?”

“Yeah, I’m completely depressed.”

“Is there any part of you that isn’t depressed?”

“Nope, I’m completely depressed.”

“You’re noticing your depression?”


“Is the noticer depressed?”

“Well… noticing is just noticing.”


A-ha! There’s your entry, right there. That’s that little place. And it starts out with such a subtle little tiny bit of your mind. 99% of your mind is depressed and 1% is noticing. It’s like clouds in the sky: if you take a frame and frame a cloud a certain way, you just get a frame of gray. But if you put a little bigger frame on, you see there’s a little blue around it, and you suddenly say, “Oh, that’s a cloud.” It’s the same thing you do with your thoughts. See, the thoughts grab you. Like, I go into meditation and the meditative technique which I use—which is so Mickey Mouse it’s absurd—is: I follow the breath. This is a southern Buddhist Theravada meta-technique. It’s ancient. It’s an ancient technique. I follow the breath rising and falling in my abdomen. There’s a little muscle that goes up and down when you breathe. You can feel it. Now, I start in, and my instruction from my teacher is, “Follow the breath, follow the rising and the falling. And when it rises, notice it rising. And when it falls, notice it falling.”


So I start. Rising, falling. Rising, falling. Rising, falling. And the first thing that my mind says is, “This is never gonna work.” See? Now, what happened was… you see, my mind just said—my mind came up with a thought that said, “Think of me. Psst! Psst! This is never gonna work.” And if you buy into that thought you say, “You’re right. Thank you very much for the teaching.” And you’re off, see? If, however, you just agree that for 20 minutes you follow the instruction of the teacher. And he says, “Every time a thought arises, notice that it has arisen, allow it, and then very gently return your awareness to the rising and falling.” So you say, “Okay, thought, see you later.” And you go back to: rising, falling. And then a thought comes in: “For this I got a PhD?” You know, like… here I went and got all this training and all this, and I’m this intelligent person, and I’m following the breath? Who am I? I better not tell anybody; I mean, it’s embarrassing! “What did you do all summer?” “Well, I followed the muscle rising and falling in my abdomen.” “Don’t you have anything more important to do?” You see? You can feel where that is in relation to the cultural context.


So I notice that as another thought. And then I go back. And then: rising, falling. Falling. “Wonder if the 20 minutes is up yet?” Notice it. Rising, falling. “I’m hungry.” Rising. “My knee hurts.” See? Each one just comes up, and it grabs you and says, “I’m real! Think me! Psst! I’m real. Think me.” And each time you notice the thought, allow it, and then you go back. The one that really sucks you in is: Rising, falling, rising… “My god, I think it’s happening!” See? That one really gets you! That takes you every time. You know? “Oh yeah! It’s happening!”


I remember going to one of my teachers, and I said, “Oh, I’ve just experienced such peace. I am feeling the peace I’ve always yearned for all my life. Oh, thank you so much. Oh, this is just so wonderful.” He’d listen. He’d say, “That’s fine. Now go back and watch your breath.” And that’s called spiritual materialism: when you get caught in the experiences that happen along the way.


Now, what a simple exercise like that does—which has no religious overlay of any stuff, it’s just a mechanical method—is, it’s allowing you to see the way in which your thoughts keep capturing you into being identified with them by giving you a focal point around which you can see your thoughts grabbing you and pulling you. And just doing that simple little exercise allows you to see your thoughts grabbing and taking you. Until, pretty soon, you begin to see that the thoughts are an ocean of continuous thinking. It’s like sitting on the edge of a stream and watching the water go by. And leaves come, and little fish go by, and all kinds of things go; twigs. And every now and then, something catches your consciousness and your head turns to follow it. And when you’re meditating you just keep it right there. And the stuff comes in, exists, and goes by. And what happens just from that little mechanical method is: you start to develop a connection to the awareness. It’s like the sky that’s behind the clouds. Instead of just transferring your identity from being one cloud to the next cloud, to the next cloud, what happens is: “I’m hungry.” And then you’re focused on the refrigerator. And then, as you’re eating, you think, “I’m missing the game.” And then you’re focused on the television set. And then you’re in the middle of the game and, “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.” And you’re focused on that. And your mind is just constantly… you watch: from the minute you wake up—like, the alarm goes off, or somebody nudges you, or you wake up and you say, “I could sleep ten more minutes. What was I dreaming last night? I’ve gotta go to the bathroom, that’s what I need to do. Oh, it’s so warm in bed. Gee, I can smell coffee. What was I dreaming? What was I dreaming now? Boy, do I need to go to the bathroom. Oh, I gotta do the laundry later. Oh, I forgot that appointment. Oh god. I’ve got three more minutes.”


And your mind starts. See? And each one is grabbing you—dot, dot, dot, dot—and it goes all day long. It’s just VRRRRRRRRRR all day long. And each one grabs you when you do this, and then this. And if you would watch it from any vantage point other than being in it, you’d be absolutely amazed at what’s happening. But you’re at the mercy of these thoughts that just grab you and invest you with reality. And only when you even have a context that it’s possible to stand behind your own thoughts in just presence—all you are; to define who you are is: it’s just awareness. You’re just… is. Ahh. Hmm.

Question? Sir.



We did a study—it took a year—of a hundred people in the little plant of ours, and we implemented some of these thoughts and ideas and found that productivity increased quite a bit. For a number of reasons, and maybe this is one. And it found that the Western mind, or our mind here, is pretty typical to maintain that kind of leveled-out, at a good productive rate. I wondered if you’ve had some experience about collective groups in the Western arenas; going further with it?



Well, the whole idea of sharing the journey with other people is extremely useful, extremely strong. Because if you’re alone in a marketplace where everybody else is—like, if you’re looking at the sequence we’re talking about: some people are on their way up the first round, some people have plateaued, they see the finiteness of the game, limits of the game, and they’re starting to go for another plane, they’re starting the second level up. If they are all surrounded with the people on the first rise, everybody doesn’t understand what they’re doing. They get no support for it at all.


What’s ideal is if you’re surrounded with people who are at this next level with you, and ideally even some people who finished that one, or are on another tack, even, that can keep doing that. That’s what teachers are about, and gurus, and all that idea—of somebody that’s gone beyond that into sort of helping you not get caught, mirroring your caughtness back to you. And it’s called, in Hinduism, the Sanskrit word is satsang, or in Buddhism sangha, or in the community or the fellowship in Christianity. It’s a group of people that come together to agree to help each other awaken. To help each other awaken.


It’s very hard when there is no either manual, like a holy book, or a teacher to help everybody, because otherwise everybody keeps reinforcing the way they’re caught. So it’s extremely useful to keep having some either method or text or person or group that keeps pulling you up. And what I think is: when I talked about consistency and truth is that, as you start to grow, now, beyond the stage of success in a worldly sense, and start to deepen your understanding of who you are in the broader social context, it may well be that the nature of your friends changed; that a lot of your friends who you picked or who picked you that were relevant at one stage of your life, they don’t want to change or grow, and you find that you’re starting to be a little bored with being with them. And you feel embarrassed by it and discomforted by it.


And that’s part of the inconsistency of growth: that sometimes you start to look around for new kinds of friends to be with in order to help you grow. The nature of a self-propelled group like the one you might be talking about is the nature of the contract you enter into with each other. And the first of them are things like truth, and the contract to help each other grow. I mean, like, our board at Seva—we are very unlike the Red Cross, where the board comes together they may be people that come together to serve on the board and make decisions. We come together in order to work on ourselves in order to be the instrument of service rather than just stand back and do service. So the contract with each other is: would you all help me awaken? So that when one of us gets caught the others are there to help each other. That’s quite a contract between human beings.


So you examine the nature of what the group is together for. And if the group has some sense of where it’s going in terms of what freedom is, and what quietness of mind is—to increase productivity, to increase satisfaction, having some control and mastery over your own life; not just control over the environment, but control over your own life. So you free yourself from your own addictions. Then what you really need is a contract that allows you to help each other. And that has to be spelled out. And it’s risky. It’s scary. Because most people don’t want truth from each other. They say, “I won’t wake you, you don’t wake me.”

Questions? Yes.



If you’re—I’m interested in doing some things with some organizations, or even going for a period of time somewhere and working or studying; doing both, like work for [???] or something like that, [???] appropriate. How does one find out about what organizations there are available to work through, that you might be able to go to places where there are needs, to actually be there with people?


You’re talking about organizations or opportunities for your own growth?


I’m talking about opportunities—well, it would be for my own growth, but it would also be… say, like, going to someplace like India to work with an organization. Like… is it Seva? Or with some of the other organizations. How do we find out? Where do you find out which ones are appropriate for you?



That actually isn’t as easy a question as all that. It would be nice if there were a huge computer network that would allow you to feed in: I have this many hours or days or months, and I have these skills and these talents, and out would come your airplane ticket.


That’s what I’d like!


I know. We’d all like it. But what we have is quite a hit-or-miss program. What you do is: you look at what your skills are and you lead with your skills. Because the vehicle through which you are there is your skill. If you’re an administrator, you’ve got those skills. You are a being that has a certain skill. But you don’t sell “being,” you sell “skill,” and then your skill meets another person with their skill, and then, together, you be. That’s what the process is.


So, like: somebody needs help and you’re a helper of a certain kind, you come together. The vehicle is helping. But the nature of what the juice is, is you’re just meeting as fellow beings behind the helper/helped role. See, this whole book is how not to get trapped in being a helper and to help. And I think once you do that, you look around for the professional groups that are connected with your skill. And then you explore with them where the opportunities are. Like, in education, there are books this thick of educational opportunties for teaching in developing countries, nursing, administrative, things like that. Unskilled labor, though—I mean, developing countries have a glut of just that. And when you’re busy—like, Seva is busy empowering the Nepalese, not sending in Westerners to do the jobs. So we’re busy training the police, doctors, and ophthalmic assistants, and getting the Nepalese to do the work so that, when we leave, they are more powerful than when we came in, not impoverished. So we are not a resource for sending people to developing countries.


So you’ve got to hear whether the role you’re going to play—see, it’s interesting whether your role in relation to other human beings empowers them and frees them or entraps them. And there are ways of doing good for other people that actually diminishes them in your act of doing good. It’s a very interesting thing that if you are getting a rush of doing good, if you’re getting a sense of righteousness from being a do-gooder, the person you do good to has to feel the effect of that. And they feel somewhat—it’s interesting: in the old days I was a psychotherapist. In a previous life. And I needed to be a therapist. So I was identified with being a psychotherapist. The result was that the person in the room had to be the patient. If you can hear that. And my need to be a therapist kept them being the patient. And, in fact, now as I look back, the horror is that I actually punished them when they got better because they didn’t need me as much and I needed to be needed. I mean, that was my problem.


And it’s the same thing that, if you need to be identified with your role for your own adequacy, what you do is tend to force other people into symbiotic or complimentary roles, and you don’t let them out of them. And then you only meet in the roles, you don’t meet in the space behind the role. Now, when I’m with somebody in a role, I may be helping somebody. Like, I work with AIDS patients. And I may be going in and holding somebody or changing their sheets or whatever I do with somebody. My vehicle is doing the stuff—I’m here. If they wish to come up for air and be here, that’s fine. If they want to stay being an AIDS patient that’s suffering, that’s up to them. I have no right to take away their right to stay in their role. All I can do is create an environment that allows them to come up if they want to. You can’t force another person to give up their suffering, but you can create an environment where they can come up for air if they want to. And that’s the same one of playing your role, say, as an administrator with people around you and being impeccable in it, and making demands, and standards, and all of it—and yet not being so entrapped in your role that you force everybody around them to be caught in their roles. But that, even as you’re fulfilling your roles, you are in them but not of them. And then, often, you and a secretary or a staff person keep meeting in the space behind it, and the relationship keeps feeding both of you even as you are impeccable at the level of playing the roles out.



Can you talk about your relationship now with God, and what roles that each of us plays? I am a Jew, I am a Christian, I am a… and the difficulty with this, with those roles that we put on. It’s a struggle for me.



When you say, “I am,” anything that follows that is a limiting condition. Right? The only truth, the closest to truth—since all words are lies—the closest to truth you can get is just the statement “I am.” The minute you put a limiting condition on it you define out what you aren’t. Right? You immediately make an “us” and “them,” or a “me” and “that,” alright? So, by my saying “I’m a Jew” makes me not all the rest of it. And then I say, “But I was born a Jew,” what does that mean? And then I can be cute. I can say, “Well, I’m only a Jew on my parents’ side.” Right? And I hear that, from my point of view, what I’m trying to do is to learn the lessons of this birth. I’m trying to learn that everything that is on my plate has been given to me as a curriculum through which I can become free. That’s the way I see the universe. I’m giving you the advanced course right now, but that’s roughly it.


So that everything—including the fact that my father was this, my mother died this way, that I’m bald, that I’m this, that; all my neuroses—they are all part of this curriculum that is offered to me that I can use, through which I can awaken. Now, sometimes, role-identities—if you push away a role-identity prematurely, it still has you. For example, in the early days I just wanted to get high all the time. I wanted to go and be in La-La Land. I wanted to be in The One. To hell with all these individual differences. I didn’t like who I was in Individual Difference Land. So I wanted to be out there and I kept trying to get high all the time. Right? And then I saw that that was a trap. I was pushing away something. And as long as you try to push something away, it’s got you. It’s like your hand sticks to it.


And the secret of all the transmissions are: attachments or aversions—both of them—catch you. I mean, one of the highest teachings is the Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen that starts out with a line that you immediately—I’m only going to give you one line for you to say, “Eugh, not ready for that yet.” It says, “The great Way is not difficult”—meaning, “the great Way,” the true understanding, the deepest freedom. “The great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.” When you’ve got that one, let me know and I’ll give you the next line. It says, “When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised. But make the slightest distinction, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.” And what you hear is that, as long as you identify with anything—this versus that—as long as you push away your humanity to hold onto your divinity, as long as you grab your humanity and push away your divinity, it’s got you. You don’t see the truth of things.


They say in the mystic literature, “Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.” As long as you want anything, you only see the outward container. As long as you identify with any thing or group, you’ve got an agenda. You’re trying to protect it. If you say, “I am a Christian,” you’re busy trying to protect that definition. You say, “I am. I was raised a Christian.” And Jesus has got one of the most brilliant teachings of just what we’re talking about today. I mean, what a mind-blowing teaching! He comes and he says, “Look, I’m taking a human birth just like you, and I’m just going to show you the truth of the fact that you aren’t who you think you are. Watch. I’ll go and I’ll just be like you. And then people will scorn me. Now, that would freak you because you’d say, one, loss, shame is terrible. They’ll shame me and I’ll still be here.” You say, “Well, shame is one thing, but your body is your big deal.” “Go ahead. I’ll be crucified and I’ll drop back in three days and show you that isn’t it either.”


Can you imagine this statement? I’m offering my life to show you you aren’t who you think you are so you can be free if you believe that I just did what I did. What a statement! Now, you can appreciate that statement of the Christ consciousness coming down in a form and giving that teaching. But I can also appreciate Buddha, who started out as a rich boy and then saw through the fallacies of stuff, and he saw there was suffering and sickness and death, and that as long as he tried to hide from it or push it away, it had him. And he went out and he had [???] with it, and he kept working on himself, and he saw through the whole game and sat down and came back and taught these clear truths about the nature of suffering in humanity. And I can love him. And I can look again and again to Moses and what happened up on the mountain.


And in each tradition I see the truth. Because every religion was rooted in somebody that had a direct experience of who we are. And then: different strokes for different folks. They came down and, for a different time, they formulated it in a different way. And then people kill each other for “my way is better than your way.”


And it’s interesting to understand the universality of the deepest truth, and yet honor your form. I mean, I think—my guru was a Hindu guru. Used to say to most Westerners, “Christ is your guru. Christ is alive and well in your heart if you will allow him to be, and he’ll guide you.” And I think that’s true. And I listen in each religion to find that form that allows me to touch that deepest truth. It turns out that, in Western religions, most of the exoteric component of the religion is not designed to awaken you, it’s designed to keep you from causing too much trouble to yourself and everybody else. And when you start to awaken, then you go into the esoteric components, like gnostic Christianity or the Kabbalah in Judaism, or the Vedic teachings in Hinduism; stuff like that.




Last time I heard you—this time you talked about viewing yourself—and the last time you mentioned that there was a second viewer of the reviewer.



The developing of the witness that notices your game movements, your life movements, is still—it’s one part of your mind noticing another part of your mind. That’s only halfway home. If you’re going to go the full journey then, ultimately—this is a very tricky discipline to do it—your mind turns in and observes itself observing. Because the observing self is just another part of the mind. And then, at that point, if your mind is disciplined enough to do that, you go through a doorway. And then you come into the space where you are no longer in your thinking mind. You are behind your thinking mind. That’s the thing that Greenspan was talking about, about saying, “Awareness is below conscious intellect, is infinite and equal in every human being, perhaps in every creature.” That’s the one. And that’s the one where you are no longer witnessing yourself. There’s no more self-consciousness. You just are the thing itself, you just are the act. You are the washing the dish, you are the driving of the car. You’re not thinking, “I am driving the car,” you just are it. And it gets very simple and very immediate. Then you’re like a tree or the grass or the river. You’re part of the universe of forms.


And as Ghandi said, “When you die into that completely, then you find yourself in the service of all that exists.” It’s just natural. It’s your recreation in your joy. Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, said, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold: service was joy.” See, there are stages of this recognition. Not that you’re doing good anymore—the next level is: you are good. Not that you are milking for your self-image how good you are. You’re doing it because, if your hand is sitting in the fire, your other hand will pull it out! And this hand doesn’t say to this one, “Thank you.” Because they’re both part of the same thing.


I’ve been struggling with it in my lectures; trying to deal with this issue of looking—the description I describe is that I was on a beach in Marin and I was playing frisbee, which is a frivolous game. Right? Frivolous frisbee. Sunlight, it was a beautiful day, and I was playing frisbee. And as I was about to throw the frisbee, into my mind came the inscription that is over Ghandi’s tomb. And it says, “Think of the poorest person you have ever seen and ask whether your next act will be of any use.” Do you throw the frisbee or don’t you?


See, what you and I do—most of the time—is, we have little compartments in our head. “Well, I’ve done good. Now I can play golf.” And when I’m playing golf I don’t really want to think about those starving people, because they’ll ruin my golf afternoon. But now you call me and you say, “There are the blind in Nepal. I’d like to help.” And then you get a good feeling about yourself, and then, after three pounds of good feeling you can have two ounces of pleasure. And we have these very subtle ways of playing, of compartmentalizing, our life. But I’ll tell you: there is another level to play the game from. Because if you think that your happiness can be had through denial of something else, you’ve got to realize that part of your energy is involved in that denial process. And it’s not free energy. And there is another level where you have gone out and you have what’s called “embraced it all into yourself,” and there is the poverty and the suffering and the joy and the pleasure, and there you experience your own unique role in being part of an incredibly affluent society that has tremendous resources to work with. And instead of turning away to grab that, and then going back, and then turning away to grab that, you embrace it all. And then you do what you do. And you hear that your acts can’t be done by a rulebook, and sometimes it involves playing frisbee, and sometimes it involves service. But no longer are you denying. You’re allowing. You’re allowing and appreciating. Because you’re hearing the unique part you have to play in the total structure of the dance of the game of life. And you’re just playing your part the way an oak tree does or an elm tree does. To make believe you’re not part of an affluent culture is dishonest. But to make believe there aren’t developing countries where there are people at this moment starving and blind is also dishonest.


And finally you have what they describe as a smile on a Buddha’s statue: the smile of unbearable compassion. You bear what’s unbearable. There is so much suffering, and it’s all us. See? You go up in your consciousness, you see we’re all us, and then you come down and you say, “But it’s my television set!” Or, in Islam, they say, “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.” And you learn that you have to be impeccable on every plane, that you can’t be clean out here with a One and sloppy down here. Like, for a long time, I was helping my audiences get out there. And then I looked, and there were a lot of audiences out there in La-La Land. And my teachings were: learn your zip code, get your act together, get a job. Grounding people. And you find: half the audience you’re trying to say: “Go! Fly! Dance! Play!” And the other you’re trying to say: “Come on down. Get it together!” Because, finally, we have to have it all. If we’re going to honor our humanity fully, we’ve got to honor our divinity, our humanity. We’ve got to honor that we are part of the One and live it, and we are also separate. That we have fears and pain and grief out of our separateness, and we also have absolutely safety and invulnerability out of our oneness. And you keep learning that and learning it, and you study books that help you understand that, you listen to tapes, you come to gatherings like this, you examine, you explore your own silence, you start to quiet your mind, you start to look, to cultivate. What is that quality of softness that allows me to be part of the universe rather than separate from it? This all becomes part of your agenda, and finally, part of your bottom line.

One more.



In your five years—since some of us here have seen you before—are you finding any change in our culture? Business culture, primarily. Are businesses, business people, more open to looking and searching and maybe questioning the values that we’ve had and the roles that we’ve been in?



There are some very interesting effects of the immediacy of information in the culture. The information facility that technology has given us has changed us in some ways. For example, the immediacy of appreciating what’s called the “global village,” or the fact of everybody’s presence, and the immediacy of suffering. I’ll tell you—I’ll list the things.


The bomb—which means the presence of the potential of not living. So you’ve got to live with death, presently, immediately. Communication—which has changed our natures of time and space, because of the immediacy of everything. Transportation, mobility—which has changed the nature of space and time also. Things like terrorism—which has increased the anxiety that comes with an anarchic system. The economic instability of debts and debt structure and the fact that the culture (the business community particularly) is playing paper games with money further and further out, so that there is less stability, less rootedness, in the way the game is being played now.


All of these over-determines changes in consciousness of the culture. They all contribute to changing the name of the game. So that, for example, what Einstein did to physics, to Newton—see, when I grew up, I took Newtonian physics in school and I was told that Newtonian physics was absolutely true. I mean, I remember! It only seemed like a few years ago. And then Einstein came along and he said, “Well, it’s relatively true depending on where you’re standing.” Now, Einsteinian physics is taught and everybody assumes that, and it changed the whole game. It took what I was taught as absolute reality and it made it relative reality. It didn’t make Newton a liar, it just made him relatively true rather than absolutely true. Well, all this stuff is doing the same thing to the cultural stand you’re having anywhere. That the information facility is making your reality relatively real but not absolutely real, because you’re having all these other realities presented to you. You’re not growing up in a village in Iowa where you don’t know anything but what’s going on in Iowa like just one generation back was doing. You’re knowing too much all the time. I mean, a kid in Iowa, by the time he’s twelve years old has, vicariously through television, lived out hundreds and hundreds of roles. That’s a whole different worldview than the kid that grew up in Iowa two generations back where he dreamed of becoming the postmaster in the post office.


I look at my audiences now. Twenty years ago, my audiences all looked a certain way. They had all either come to me through drugs or through Eastern mysticism and philosophy. My audiences now—and I’m saying the same thing, roughly, that I was saying twenty, thirty years ago. I’m sorry, but nothin’ changes. It’s the perennial philosophy. My audiences are now… first of all, my audiences in those days were a narrow age range of about ten years. Between about 15 and 25. My audiences now are between about 20 and 80, over 75% of them have never taken marijuana or any drugs or any Eastern philosophy. Who are they? What are they doing there? Why would they come here to flake-name Ram Dass? I mean, what is it? I don’t understand. I only can assume that there is a shift in the cultural context that has to do partly with the anxiety of the times and partly of the receptivity of these kinds of ideas. Maybe the culture is ready at this moment. Maybe that’s what affluence finally does: people burn out. How much they think they’re going to get happiness through what they can buy and acquire. Either they do it directly or they do it vicariously. Because they look at the faces of their hero figures and they don’t see happiness and contentment.


Frank Sinatra’s not a content man. I don’t know if he’s a hero figure, either—he was; he is, partly. But that’s the problem. That we are seeing the limits of our own culture as a certain mythic culture. And that limit that is becoming visible through our hero figures writ large on television—so it’s Dallas and Dynasty, and that kind of unhappy meanness and sadness and greed and fear that’s involved in those kinds of shows. And those are our big images. That makes us ripe for the next step of a journey. There has to be some despair. There has to be a realizing of the limits of one level before you will ask the next questions. Because it’s threatening to even allow that there is a metasystem when you’re still trying to milk the initial system. Okay?


Thank you very much for sharing this time. This has been a—what comes out of me is so much a function of who’s there. And I want to honor the willingness everybody has to come together and share, because the sharpness of your minds brings out stuff in me that a different audience wouldn’t bring out at all. So, thank you.

Ram Dass

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