Memories, Reflections and Teachings,
A Tribute to Ram Dass
Text of Video Session
The Genie Comes Out of the Bottle
Hello, my name is Liisa O’Maley, otherwise known as Vasu, or Vasu dha.
This is a tribute to Ram Dass, my teacher for 44 years. He
passed away December 22nd, 2019. I spoke at one of his memorials at the Hanuman Gardens in Ojai, CA on January 18th, 2020. I decided, with the help of my husband, Ed Reither, whose website, www.beezone.com
, which publishes information about spiritual teachers. He helped me to post this series as a Tribute to Ram Dass, Memories, Reflections, and Teachings.
I will begin with my story. At a tender age of 22, after graduating from college, I didn’t know what I was going to do or what I was seeking. It was September, 1974. I decided to go to the beach with a couple girlfriends. We stopped at a bookstore. A book literally fell at my feet. It was Be Here Now. I didn’t really know anything about the book, except I did know it was about two professors that were fired from Harvard, and one of them was the author of the book. I thought, “Well, this is the book I’m supposed to read.”
I bought the book, we walked to the Singing beach in Manchester, Massachusetts and I started reading. I read it cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down. I had popped the cork and the genie came out of the bottle. I felt inspired. I said to my two girlfriends, “If a plane landed on this beach, I would go to India.” They were a little bit perplexed, “Oh, what’s going on?” The book was speaking to me. And the format of Be Here Now, as many of you know, is a little different than most books. I went home
and immediately wrote a letter to Ram Dass, “Hello. Dear Ram Dass, my name is Liisa O’Maley. I just graduated from the University of Massachusetts. And I just read your book.” ETC.
I received a letter within a 2 week time frame, inviting me to his father’s farm in Franklin, New Hampshire. However, I was away when the invitation arrived, so I didn’t get to go. But I also got a form letter that listed his upcoming schedule for 6 months.
In May of 1975, I went to hear him speak at Sargent’s Gym, Boston University on Commonwealth Ave. Krishna Das was chanting, and there were other people on the stage. I can remember kind of feeling out of place, but there was something about the evening that enchanted me.
After the lecture, I went home and wrote Ram Dass another letter, “Dear Ram Dass, I need your help.” Soon afterwards, I received a small piece of stationary with the heading, Hanuman Foundation, 276 Riverside Drive, New York City. The note read, “Dear Liisa, You are invited to a small group interview in New York. I thought, “I have to go.” I didn’t have a car
but a friend said, “Well, I can drive you.”
I come from a small fishing village 45 minutes northeast of Boston, Gloucester, Massachusetts. It’s an island connected by two bridges. I wasn’t exposed to what was going on culturally and at the time America was going through a cultural transformation. But somehow, somewhere, something (the Genie), told me I was on the right track.
My friend and I drove to New York City for a group interview. We arrived a couple hours early. WE miraculously, found a parking spot right in front of 276 Riverside Drive. New York CIty, as many of you know, is a difficult place to find a good parking space close to where you want to go, especially on a weekend. We found a parking spot right in front of the building!
We arrived a couple hours early, we walked around and found a small farmer’s market in that neighborhood. I bought a bag of fruit. We went back to the foundation, knocked on the door, Ram Dev or Dale Borglum, the Executive Director of The Living/Dying Project in Fairfax, California answered. He said, “You’re a little early, but you can come in.”
I want to add, how ironic is this? Ram Dev opened the door for me to have my first personal encounter with Ram Dass. He also was the one that called me to tell me Ram Dass had passed. The news of his passing exploded, everybody was talking about Ram Dass’ passing, even CNN.
To continue, I was sitting on a bed at the Hanuman Foundation, there were Indian bedspreads on the wall, it was all foreign to me. People began arriving. Probably 15 people, maybe 20. Women had Afghani dresses on and tie-dyed T-shirts. There were guys dressed in Indian kurtas and other types of Indian clothing, some people had things wrapped around their head. Here I am dressed in pink shorts, a pink and mint-green Lacoste shirt. I feel completely out of place. I looked like I was from the LL Bean Store and everyone else was right out of Woodstock or the summer of Love. I’m thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I belong here.” But I’m there, and I’m very excited to meet Ram Dass. I’m actually elated. Ram Dass walks into the room and looks at everybody and said, “Hello.” He then, ushered us into another room.
It’s a big empty room, with pillows scattered on the floor. There’s also a tucket or dias. He says, “Just pick a pillow and sit semi-circle around me.” We all sit down around him and I’m directly in front of him. He says, “Hello, my name is Ram Dass. And all of you are here because you want something from me. Let’s go around the room. Tell me your name, where you’re from, and what you want.”
He’s sitting quietly with his eyes closed then turns to the first person, “Why don’t you begin?” The person says, “My name is Narayana. I know you can tell me the secrets of the universe.” I started laughing. I thought the person was being facetious. Everybody’s sitting in these meditation poses, and my knees are up around my ears and I’m totally uncomfortable. When I started laughing, … Ram Dass had a little giggle, and he put his fingers in front of his lips, “Sh, sh, sh, sh.” He continued around room.
I feel embarrassed, after that, I didn’t hear what anybody said. after that. It was my turn. I remember looking up at him, “Ram Dass, my name is Liisa O’Maley, I’m from Gloucester, Massachusetts. And I’ve come to receive my next message.”
Where did that come from? I surely didn’t have a premeditated thought. I was sitting there thinking, “I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know what I want to say.” He continued around the room listening to what everybody said. He lead a short meditation. Afterwards, he served Nabisco vanilla wafers and herb tea.
We were there another hour or two, and people were speaking to him. I didn’t talk to him. Eventually, He said, “Okay everybody, it’s five o’clock. Time for you all to go home.” I got up and I picked up my bag of fruit, and I went to the bathroom to relieve myself before the 6 hour return drive to Massachusetts.
When I walked out of the bathroom, Ram Dass was standing at the door. He was a tall man. I remember he had a denim shirt on with silver studs. I remember that so clearly, and he had his hair pulled back. I was stunned. I just wrapped my arms around his waist and put my head in his chest. He kissed my head, then I handed him the bag of fruit. He opened it and said, “Liisa, after all this time you remembered my favorite fruit, mangoes. I’m so happy to see you. It’s been so long.”
I had not a clue what he meant by that statement where that was coming from nor did I know how to respond. He said to me, “On your way out, you’re going to see a table with index cards. I want you to write your name and number on a card. You’ll hear from me. I’d like you to be a part of a class that begins the end of May.” I said, “Okay.”
I went to the door where I wrote my name and telephone number on an index card. My friend and I went to the car and drove back to Gloucester. For six hours, I felt as if I was riding a magic carpet. That very week I got a call, I just happened to answer the phone. “Hello?” “Hello Liisa, this is Ram Dass.” “Hi, Ram Dass.” He said, “My class is going to begin on Sunday, Memorial Day weekend . Can you make it?” I remember I saw him May 3rd in Boston then, I went to New York just a couple weeks later for the interview. And now it’s Memorial Day weekend, 1975, and he’s saying, “Come to the class.” It all happened so quickly.
I attended the class. I was enamored and awestruck. In retrospect, I was awakening and becoming aware of myself in a higher sense but in actuality, I was listening and learning to go inward. I remember thinking, “I found my life’s path. This is why I came to Ram Dass.” He pointed the way for me. My life has never been the same.
Classes continued all summer. I would see him in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the McClelland’s House
on 81 Washington street. This was the home where Illuminations/Dharma Seals was created by Mirabai and Krishna Bush.
Ram Dass would come to Boston every other week, and I would go to New York City every other week. It was a life changing experience, to say the least. I wanted to share what I was learning with everybody, but most of my friends and my parents thought I was a bit off the deep end. Who is this Ram Dass, and what is meditation, visualization, chanting, pranayama, and the chakra system? I found a gem and I wanted to share it with everybody. NO one wanted to hear about my new self discovery.
Classes continued through the summer. Since I had just graduated from college in ’74 I was recruited as a teacher for Australia. Australia was recruiting teachers back in the ’70s. I had a prepaid airline ticket from the Australian government.
As the summer classes were winding down, Ram Dass decided to have a one-on-one interview. Durning my interview, Ram Dass asked, “Liisa, what are you going to do?” I said, “Ram Dass, I really want to be with you. I really want to continue my studies with you.” He said, “Okay. Can you go to Rego Park in Queens today? There’s a group house forming, you are welcome to live there.” I didn’t know anything about it.
I went out to the house, I remember I took the D train then the double E. I got off at 63rd Drive. I walked to the house, and Bill Hamilton greeted me. Bill was the person responsible for starting the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library. All of you that have listened to Ram Dass since the late ’60s on cassette tapes, you can thank Bill Hamilton for his great service.
Bill was showing me around the house. There were two phones, a red phone and a black phone. One of the phones rang, everyone jumped. Bill picked up the call and it was Ram Dass. Bill looked at me and said, “Liisa, the phone’s for you. I said, “Hello.” Ram Dass said, “Liisa, what bedroom are you going to take?” I said, “I don’t really know.” he said, “Well, take the one in the garage. The garage was a small converted bedroom. You take that bedroom.” I said, “Okay.”
Bill immediately said, “Take my International, drive back to Gloucester, Massachusetts … pick up your things.” He doesn’t know me at all. I’m 23 by then. Ram Dass was 44, by the way I thought he was ancient. I drove back to Gloucester, packed my belongings. Two red Samsonite suitcases, two wood boxes of books and a 10 speed bike
I told my parents that I was moving to NY to study with my new teacher, Ram Dass. They were, rightfully so, confused but didn’t try to stop me, I was of age.
I remember the next morning, with the car full with all my earthy belongings. I drove away as they waved to me from the driveway. Their first child was leaving the nest. I drove to New York. My heart was open and full. I found my path, my truth. I was never the same little girl from Gloucester.
When I arrived at my new home in Rego Park, New York, I immediately settled in. Ram Dass’ class was on Tuesday night. The people in class were Ram Dass-oriented people, or people who had come to the New York scene (with Joya and Hilda) because of Ram Dass.
There were many communal houses
in Queens. I lived in Queens Five. Queens Five and Six were solely people who had come by way of Ram Dass. We had classes every day but Tuesday night was our Ram Dass class. Ram Dass taught us different types of meditation, Pranayama, Chanting and the exoteric chakra system. He taught us the meaning of Sadhana or spiritual practice. He would lead us in meditations, he would ask us how we were doing. I felt very protected by his Presence and the essence of who he was .
It was a very ecstatic time. I was being introduced to another way of being in the world but more so in myself. It was inspirational, a kind of subtle enlightenment. The classes went on for a full year.
After that year, Ram Dass was going to India. I decided, “I’ve got to go to India, too.” I did, indeed embark on my first trip to India in August of 1976.
This is my ongoing tribute to Ram Dass and his teachings. They are poignant to this day.
I would like to ask everybody, many of you know, Ram Dass had a stroke 20 years ago. He has lived on Maui almost 15 years. He’s been giving retreats in the fall and spring of every year for the past five years. Over the last few years he has had more difficulty with his speech. However the aspect of his being that vividly stands out is how he radiated love. In spite of his big personality with lots of stuff, it all seemed to diminish over the years post stroke. He began to embody…..Love.
During his Maui retreats he lead a meditation. In closing, I would like everyone to close their eyes. Remember, he had an amazing Siddhi, or power. He could make you feel loved, acknowledged, and cherished, you were the special one in thousands. Everybody was important.
Let’s close our eyes, visualize Ram Dass in our hearts, and just repeat, “I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness.”
May Ram Dass’ teachings light others hearts’, let them flourish and touch deeply, all the places that need love.
Second Grade Lessons
Ram Dass recalls his dinner visit to the Abode of the Message, a Sufi Community just north of the Omega Institute. He just completed a workshop at the Omega Institute and the community invited him for dinner. After dinner, one of the community members asked him, “Ram Dass, why do you keep telling the same stories repeatedly. It’s like you’re teaching second graders.” Ram Dass replies, “To me, the Dharma or the teachings of life are brilliant and they literally bring me to my knees. I am in awe of the Dharma. If I am suppose to be a second-grade teacher, then so be it.” That aspect of Ram Dass was so attractive. Maybe he was the second-grade teacher but everybody understood. He was the one that looked into everybody’s eyes, and everyone felt seen and acknowledged. His teachings no matter how simplistic continue to this day.
Here is a story about time that I learned from Ram Dass, a very basic second-grade story. Bi-weekly he drove to Massachusetts. One weekend I heard he was going to Boston, as a young 22 year old student, I asked, “Ram Dass, can I get a ride with you this weekend?” He said, “Sure.” I was delighted to take a six hour trip with him. He dropped me off at North station train so that I could take a train from Boston to Gloucester. He said, “Liisa, be here on Sunday at 6:00 PM, and I’ll meet you here. I said, “Great.”
I don’t know why I was late, but I was 45 minutes late. He was sitting in his car. “Hi Ram Dass.” Sternly he said, “Liisa, I was just about to leave. I asked you to be here at 6:00. Everybody’s time is important to them. And it’s important for you to be on time, whether you’re going to work, you’re going to a class, or you’re doing life in general, be on time.” Of course, as a young person, I was mortified. I sat quietly for four hours he didn’t say one word. I apologized, even though this was a second-grade teaching, as a 22-year-old, it had a major impact on me.
A simple lesson about time that I have carried with me my whole life ~ I’m never late. I haven’t been late to any events, or engagements. Once I was late for a dinner engagement. I was apologetic, to say the least. If that’s a second-grade teaching, it’s a simple teaching that, as I said, has been with me my whole life. I appreciated what he meant about being on time. I hear repeatedly from people who were with Ram Dass, is the impact that simple teachings made on their lives. Most of them felt very touched by Ram Dass, very guided by him, and very seen by him. The special way he would look at you, said a thousands words.
Thank you for everything you were, and everything you’ve been to everybody.
I’ll tell you a dream I had the night that Ram Dass died. He died on December 22, 2019 in Hawaii on Maui. In my dream, we were serving soup together in a homeless shelter. He smiled at me with his big shining smile, his blue-green eyes sparkling, he grabbed my ear and he called me by my Indian name. And he said, as he pulled my ear, “Vasu, I got to go now.” As I woke up, I feltI had a darshan (sighting of light) from Ram Dass.
The Original “Be Here Now”, Bindu to Ojas Box Set
In 44 years, I never missed Ram Dass’ birthday. I sent him a card every year. In honor of Ram Dass’ birthday, I will show you the original Be Here Now, the box created and printed at the Lama Foundation.
Many people know the book, but they aren’t familiar with the original box. This is the box that was made at the Lama Foundation in San Cristobal, New Mexico. At that time, you could order the box. There was so many requests for the box, because of supply and demand, they didn’t have enough boxes to fulfill the orders, thus Be Here Now, the book form, was published.
Please see the video to watch the genesis of the book with Crown Publishing House.
Aside, I do want to honor all the health workers, farm workers, truck drivers, teachers and others who work around the clock caring for those afflicted with the Covind virus and those providing services around the globe. Many of us are in self-quarantine and practicing social distancing. May this virus teach us what we need to know. May we go forward in healthier, wiser, fuller manner. May our hearts experience love, love for ourselves, love for all beings, love for our interconnectedness and love for our planet.
This is about Be Here Now box. Ram Dass gave me three of them back in the seventies. This is an original box created and hand printed at the Lama Foundation in San Cristobal, New Mexico.
When you open this cardboard box, it contains a myriad of gems. This is the envelope to the Lama foundation in San Cristobal, basically asking for a donation. But also, the little piece of paper that says “We regret that because the demand for boxes exceeds the supply, we will be unable to fulfill additional orders. We have published “Be Here Now” in paperback, which includes our story, from Bindu to Ojas, the cookbook and painted cakes. The book retails for three dollars and 33 cents, and is being distributed by Crown Publishing, New York, NY. It’s available through your local bookstore.”
The box was created in the early seventies. Let’s look first at the box itself, From Bindu to Ojas. This colored Mandala print is suppose to be attached to the brown pages of the hand printed book. (The video presentation will show you the Box)
The symbol of the Lama Foundation is printed on the back and these pages are strung together with raw string.
When you open the book, Be Here Now by Crown Publishing, this is the middle part of the book, the brown pages contains all the fantastic drawings and hand stamped prints. It is a work of art with hand stamped lettering and pen and ink drawings.
At the the very end of the brown pages, on Page 108, “You’re standing on a bridge watching yourself go by. Wow! Look at that.” The message struck me.
In the book itself, there is a section called Printed Cakes Do Not Satisfy Hunger. This booklet talks about books to visit with, to hang out with, to read. I remember when I read this, I started reading every book that was mentioned in Painted Cakes.
There are three large newsprint pages with photos of saints and other holy images. Everybody from Sathya Sai Baba, Ganesh, Meher Baba, Guru Nanak, Ramana Maharashi, Mahatma Gandhi, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sarasvati, Sri Aurobindo and more. These newsprint papers open up for making an altar, all the photos and be cut.
The original box is contains His story or Our story. This is Ram Dass’ story, from his childhood to his dissatisfaction with academia and what was going on in the world, to his explorations with psychedelic drugs at Harvard with Timothy Larry. Eventually they were dealt a bad rap by the media and were fired from Harvard.
Coming down from drugs and then going to India and meeting our guru, Neem Karoli Baba Maharaji. When I read this, I remember while sitting on Singing Beach in Manchester, Massachusetts. “I’m going to India.” And sure enough, a year later, I did go to India. Because of Ram Dass, I met Maharaji (not physically but in my heart). Ram Dass was always the symbol of my guru.
That’s the beginning part of the Be Here Now book. Cookbook for A Sacred Life is another booklet in the Box. It’s a how to cookbook, filled with exercises for pranayama, mantras and a life of renunciation. It also contains information about the meaning of Bhakti yoga, time, space and exercises for maintaining a spiritual life.
The original box is a treasure. There is an LP contained in the box with people singing, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Gangadha, the late Christine Tiernan and Bhavani, Tara Goleman, Diana Rogers, Sharada and many other Satsang members. There is also a recorded session of questions and answers with Ram Dass.
I recommend if you haven’t read Be Here Now, pick it up on your Kindle, on Amazon, or you can go to a bookstore, or you can order it, or I’m sure that you can go to your local library and get it. Do read it.
Be Here Now was a bestseller. Thousands of people read the book. After reading the book our lives would never be the same. What we were seeking was in this book, it became a map for a generation. It changed peoples lives.
A follow up album Love, Serve, Remember was created. A wonderful print of Maharajji was on the cover. The record contained songs, kirtan and mantras. There is a reading of the Ramayana, the story of Ram, Sita, and Hanuman, and chanting of the Hanuman Chaleesa.
There are six records, and each one is delightful to hear.
I hope all of you are taking the best care during these very different times. May your day be filled with light, may all beings be happy.
Hello from The Bee Zone Sanctuary at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos, New Mexico. Please follow www.beezone.com
. It is my husband’s website. You’ll find all my videos there under beezone.com/liisa.
My mother was Finnish and that’s why I have two I’s in my name, Finland is the land of vowels.
Today would have been Ram Dass’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday Ram Dass, wherever you are. Thank you for being my teacher, my guide, the person in my life that was so magnificent in acknowledging, loving, mirroring, helping, serving myself and so many multitudes of seekers. Because of that time period, many sparks were lit and many muses were awakened. From the Prison-Ashram Project, which is now the Loving Kindness Foundation, the Seva Foundation, all the meditation centers, prison projects that are all functioning today, hospice programs, Mindfulness programs and so much morel. All these manifestations from the sparks that were lit, this is when I pranam (bow) and acknowledge Ram Dass’ contribution.
I want to acknowledge the Kirtan singers and choirs who sang and created the music that opened our hearts. It is the foundation of Bhakti yoga which helped launch the word yoga in this country.
Since today is Ram Dass’s birthday, I thought it would be great to start at the beginning. I was a young person of 22 years old. Now, at 68, I am continuing to honor Ram Dass. I know many of you have felt what I have experienced from Ram Dass, his wonderful power of making you feel important and special.
I would like to start with where it all began. In June, 1975 at the Hanuman Foundation in New York City where Ram Dass had a Tuesday night class. At the time, there were several communal houses around Queens and New York City and Brooklyn. I happened to live in Ram Dass house Queens Five, Rego Park.
Every Tuesday night we had a class with Ram Dass. Each night he would lay out a loose format. Every time we met , class began with a meditation. He talked about what’s happening in the world or what’s happening with us. There was always time for questions and answers. He taught us yogic techniques he had learned in Indian while studying with Baba Hari Dass. Baba Hari Dass was told by Maharaji to teach Ram Dass yoga. When I say the word yoga, I’m not talking about the yoga that people call yoga today, which is more about postures or Asana. Yoga encompasses so much more, ultimately it is a complete lifestyle.
We learned what Ram Dass had been taught. We were asked to fast one day a week. We were taught how to live a life of Sadhana, or daily practice, a life of spiritual disciplines. We were asked to honor Brahmacharya or celibacy. All of this was a part of our daily sadhana, most of us took it on 100%.
We met with him every Tuesday night. At the beginning, we started class with simple meditation. He introduced us to different kinds of silent practices to help us with our meditations.
Ram Dass introduced us to Vipassana meditation (following our breath) or insight meditation, which now is the same as mindfulness based stress reduction or mindfulness meditation. He taught mantra. We chanted different mantras from other traditions: Sanskrit, Tibetan and mantras in English. He taught visualization meditations, Zen meditations. Chakra meditations and basically how to work with our minds.
During the class, we began with a meditation and he would call someone by name and say, “What’s happening?” You were expected to reply. The experience varied from colors behind the eyes to the appearance of different mandalas. Some people experienced anger, happiness or sadness. He continued to question us. “What’s going on? What are you feeling? What are you feeling in your body?” This was a great way get in touch with all these new experiences of an inward kind. We were delving deeper into ourselves. Some people had profound experience. For the majority of us, everything was new. Sadhana, Bhakti yoga, hatha yoga, mantra, Sanskrit and pranayama, this was new. Most of us were hungry for information, we felt like we had found a very special teaching.
When I look back on it, it was a special teaching. Ram Dass never charged money. He would ask us to put a little donation in the donation box at the door. I remember one Tuesday night, Ram Dass said, “Are you kidding me? Nobody left any money in the box last week. Why are you all so cheap?” And he said, “I only use that money to pay for the telephone bill.” After that most people left a dollar in the donation box.
It was a special time. Ram Dass shared every bit of himself, foibles and all. Every month, we would meet with him one on one so he could access how we were doing and if he could be of any service to us. When I look back on the manifestations of that time period, I realize his sparks of light were igniting each one of us. He was helping to awaken our personal muse. Many people went on to write books, become spiritual teachers, Kirtan teachers or teachers in other genres. It was an honor to be part of his class.
The class started in early in 1975 and ended in June 1976 after Ram Dass broke off from the Joya, Hilda entourage. Ram Dass decided to go to India, so I said to myself, “I’ve got to go to India too.” I did go to India. When I look back on that year, just a year after I had read Be Here Now, I realized what a magical, mystical year it was.
This was the beginning! It all began with Ram Dass’ class on 276 Riverside Drive in New York City. Now, at 68 I am comfortable saying the majority of us are still involved in some type of spiritual practice. I thank Ram Dass!
The Birth of the Hanuman Temple
The Hanuman Temple, which is housed on the grounds of the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, New Mexico is a grand Hindu temple. I’m sharing my memory of how Hanuman was conceived. The Hanuman Murti, or statue was born in America because Ram Dass saw a painting of Hanuman flying through the air with Ram’s ring. The late Laksmi (Christine Tiernan) painted this rendition of Hanuman. With the idea in mind, Ram Dass traveled to Jaipur, India to the Murti makers to commission a statue of flying Hanuman. Upon completion Hanuman would be shipped to the United States.
In 1977, little Lakshmi, Christine Tiernan, painted Hanuman flying in the air with Ram’s ring. You can read the story of the Ramayana if you are interested in this lila. Sita is being held captive in Sri Lanka by the demon King Ravana. Ram gives Hanuman his ring to bring it to Sita, to let her know he is coming to rescue her.
Ram Dass saw this beautiful painting by Lakshmi. And he started thinking, “Oh wow, we should have a Hanuman here.” The idea was born in his mind. I happened to be with him during that first trip to India when Hanuman was commissioned.
When the Hanuman Murti was complete, it was shipped by crate, landing on the docks in Oakland, California possible by way of Los Angeles. This is the late ’70s. When the statue arrived, people questioned, “Okay, now what are we going to do with Hanuman?” There were a group of people with Ram Dass that traveled to North Carolina and Northern California looking for land to create a home for Hanuman.
Vishu Magee, who lived in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, said, “Well, you can keep Hanuman on my property.” The crate was brought to his home, and the first Bhandara occurred September of 1978. The crate was open. This was the first time everyone viewed Hanuman in the USA.
After a while Vishu, his wife Kausalya and their two sons moved to the town of Taos. When they moved, Vishu had an old cow barn on the property and he said, “We can put the Hanuman here for now.” As time passed, a beautiful shrine was created in the old cow shed. Celebrations began, especially the yearly Maha Samadhi Bhandara. (When Maharaji, Neem Karoli Baba, left his body in September, full moon). The celebrations began to grow and attendance grew.
Vishu’s (cow shed)t temple started to grow. Hanuman wanted a house and Hanuman’s temple started attracting more interest. After a few years, the discussion on what to do with Hanuman began. There was much controversy. Today there is a traditional Hanuman temple in Taos, New Mexico, a short walking distance from the Plaza. It’s a grand Hindu temple. It’s magnificent and worthy of a visit.
The rest of the Ashram is being used for different things. There’s still Maharaji’s small room office. The old original temple room still has a tucket where Maharaji’s blanket sits. Christine Tiernan’s large painting of the original Hanuman that inspired Rom Dass decorates one of the walls. It is elegant and still carries the essence of Hanuman flying through the air. Ram Dass at 88 years old flew to Taos from Maui for the opening of the New Temple.
The opening was this past July (2019) during Guru Purnima (the day that honors the teacher or one’s guru). It was a grand opening and Ram Dass’s presence was significant. Many of his caregivers were with him. There are several videos of Ram Dass at the event which can be viewed on nkbahram.org
It’s easier to be in isolation in Taos. It a sanctuary, a place of retreat, a place of inward refuge and not a place of commerce. The skies, the mountains, the Gorge and the plains really make Taos a special place. It’s no surprise that Hanuman chose Taos to be his home complete with mountains, the Rio Grande and the beautiful spacious blue skies!
Small Influenes, Great Outcomes
Let’s begin with the summer of 1974, when Ram Dass taught the first summer program at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Naropa is now an affiliated, accredited university. Because of the popularity of Be Here Now, the summer program attracted people from all over the world. At the time, the book sold over a million copies, Woodstock had changed the outlook of the landscape, people were exploring this new awakening. The summer program included Ram Dass, Trungpa Rinpoche, Allen Ginsberg, KK Sah from Nainital, India and other beat poets. It was a happening not to be missed.
The summer program was a New Age Gathering. Ram Dass gained more and more notoriety and became more popular and a sought after teacher.
To back track a bit: Ram Dass was just receiving his first copies of Be Here Now from the American Express office in New Delhi, India, behind him in line was Larry Brilliant. He handed Larry a copy. Larry had been traveling overland by bus with his wife, Girija, Wavy Gravy, his wife, Johanna and others. They had come to India as seekers but their mission was to feed people.
Because of the book and Girija’s urgings, Larry found his way to Maharaji. Maharaji called him Dr. America. Maharaji sent Larry to Delhi because He knew there was a job
for him. Larry went to Delhi on several occasions to no avail. Eventually he did get a job with the World Health Organization. If you read Larry’s book, Sometimes Brilliant
, the facts of his unfoldment are in print. The World Health Organization eventually eradicated smallpox from the planet in February of 1975. There is link at the end of the video if you are interested. He is also on the leading edge concerning the Covid 19 virus.
Larry with the help of Ram Dass started the Seva Foundation. The Seva Foundation has been transforming life by restoring sight. Just click on the links provided. That’s just one of the small things that mushroomed, because of Neem Karoli Baba, Maharaji and because of Ram Dass and his connection with people, he was like mycelium stretching and connecting people together all over the world. Ram Dass was responsible for the Hanuman Foundation Prison-Ashram Project, which is now called the Human Kindness Foundation. We also have the Living Dying Center, which is now called the Living Dying Project. There was a Hanuman Foundation, which is now called ramdass.org
or Love Serve Remember Foundation. Here in Taos there is the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram nkb.org
which is the home of the Hanuman murti/statue and the temple grounds.
That’s small compared to the myriad of nonprofits, books, magazines, foundations, meditation centers as well as retreat centers that had their birth because of a connection with Ram Dass. Whether he set their muse a fire or something he said impacted their life’s direction. There are many of us who can say without any hesitation, Ram Dass set us on our life path. People started thinking outside of the box because Ram Dass gave the box (no pun intended, the first BE HERE NOW box.). The Lama Foundation and its beginnings were influenced by Ram Dass as well. If it wasn’t for Lillian North (the court stenographer) who transcribed all of Ram Dass’ lectures we wouldn’t have BE HERE NOW.
One day when Lillian saw Ram Dass she said, “Here’s your book.” Ram Dass looked at her and he just threw the papers in the trunk of his car. That’s another story that you can learn about in the previous video, the link with Ram Dass talking to the person responsible for getting it published with Crown Publishing. They reminisce about the evolution and genesis of Be Here Now. There are several documentaries about Ram Dass: Fierce Grace, Dying to Know, Becoming Nobody, and Ram Dass Coming Home.
All movies, and documentaries, etc. can be found on Netflix or online from other sources. There is some old footage, on the older movie called Sun Seed, Ram Dass is one of the many teachers interviewed. There are a lot of other spiritual teachers that came to this country during the late sixties and the seventies, there was a change happening here, a cultural revolution or spiritual awakening. As I said, Ram Dass created the box, but then he opened the box, and after he opened the box, tHave been changed drastically because of either reading Ram Dass’ book, meeting Ram Dass, or hearing Ram Dass words. It all sparked an idea!
I wanted to give you a flavor of what happened in the seventies, eighties and nineties, what transpired because Ram Dass was a conduit or a muse for millions of people, changing their lives for the better and creating some of the most amazing organizations to help relieve suffering.
Thus, the more love you have, the more you have to give and the more you give, the more love you receive. It is that seed of love that was planted. Ram Dass was a good watering system. He irrigated and continued to do so until his passing.
While I am washing my hands during this time of the virus. I say, “May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be love. May all beings be loving awareness.”
aScript if it is disabled in your
My Personal Relationship with Ram Dass
My personal relationship with Ram Dass was both joyous and loving, challenging and fierce. He had an infectious sense of humor which I will show in some old photos. He could be a real jokester, I have some great shots of him being that jokester. He was a wonderful storyteller. Of course, for me, a wonderful and exquisite teacher.
He loved listening and watching the news. He loved his tea, whenever, morning, noon, or night. I always enjoyed that part of him, that humanness. Let’s sit down on the couch and watch the news. I first encountered Ram Dass by reading Be Here Now in September of 1974, as I’ve mentioned in one of the other videos. I first saw him in May of 1975 when he spoke at Sergeant’s Gym on Comm Ave in Boston, at Boston University. That was the first time that I actually saw him.
The entire scene was kind of strange for me. I felt like an L.L. Bean girl, and everybody looked like they were from Woodstock or the summer of love. However, there was something that drew me to this person, this Ram Dass. There was a lot of people on the stage with him. I remember Krishna Das was one of them. I loved the whole scene because it was so foreign to me yet at the same time attractive.
My actual first meeting with Ram Dass person to person was in late May, 1975. When I had my personal interview with him in a small group format at the Hanuman Foundation in New York City. Once I started classes with him eventually during a one on one interview with him He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to move to New York to study with him.
In August of 1975, I moved to New York, to Queens, New York, to one of the houses. Because there was a large scene around Ram Dass. It was the time of the teachings of Ram Dass, Joya, and Hilda. They were gathering people, and people were living in communal houses. I was living in a Ram Dass house in Rego Park, which was called Queens Five.
I remember speaking with Gangadhar, or Mark Gerhard, He was telling me he’s in process of writing a book. The title being, “ We’d Believe Anything”. That truly sums up the whole year. During that time we were all going to classes every day. Many bizarre things happened and miraculous ones as well. All I can say is that was the time, for some strange reason, things fell into place.
I loved being around Ram Dass. I can remember asking Anjani, who was his personal assistant and secretary at the Hanuman Foundation if I could do volunteer work.come and She said, “Sure.” I felt like a French Bichon Frise. I adored being around him.
He seemed to be everything to me, like somebody I’d never met before. I can remember during the time I was volunteering at the Foundation, I was getting to know him better and better. He used to drive to Boston to teach at the McClelland’s house on Washington street. David McClelland (Ram Dass boss at Harvard) who eventually fired him. Years later Ram Dass started giving classes at his house in Cambridge. They had become friends.
At that time, the McClelland’s being Quakers, welcomed people to gatherings at their house. Ram Dass would drive to Boston and teach a class there. Whenever he would go, I would ask him if I could come with him, then I could go to Gloucester to visit my family. He always let me drive with him. I would be in the car with him thinking to myself, “I’m with Ram Dass”.
As my time, as a volunteer continued. He would ask me to cut his hair and to do simple errands for him. To this day, I still have an envelope filled with the hair I cut from him. It’s an envelope full. I guess we could clone Ram Dass.
In April of 1976, he was getting ready for summer retreat. Anjani, who was his secretary at the time, left for various personal reasons. He asked me if I could organize a retreat for him. I need a place that can house 350 people a six day residential retreat. This would be the first Death and Dying retreat. I was so thrilled that he would ask me, I said, “Of course.” With the help of Dwarka Bonner we found the Roger Williams College in Bristol, Rhode Island.
In June of 1976, the first Death and Dying retreat happened. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross attended. Stephen Levine, who was the editor at Unity Press in Santa Cruz, California, and published some of Ram Dass’ books, was the meditation teacher.
Because of that retreat, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross asked Stephen if he would teach meditation at her retreats. It evolved into a career
for Stephen, because he started teaching retreats and working with people that were dying. He was a phenomenal teacher having written several books on the subject of suffering, death and dying. He and Ondrea (his wife) went on to teach retreats and workshops for over35 years. Stephen died a few years ago.
If you are interested in his work you can find information on Levinetalks.com
Because of the Roger Williams College retreat, and Ram Dass trusting me, my career evolved into hosting workshops, retreats, and conferences. My last employment
, was as the conference service director at a Large theological seminary in the San Francisco Bay area.
I have to say because of Ram Dass, I had a lifetime career in organizational work.
I remember one day, he was going away. He was going on a lecture tour for six weeks. I don’t know where I got the guts or the chutzpah, but I said, “Ram Dass, since you’re going away, could I use your car? I can visit my family in Massachusetts and care for your car at the same time.”
He was startled. When I think about it now, looking back on a 23 year old. I am amazed at my audacity. I remember him closing his eyes for a long time. Then he looked at me very quizzically and said, “Yeah, I guess you can use my car.” So that began an ongoing humorous situation for us. Whenever he went away, he’d always say to me, “Liisa,” or “Vasu, do you need a car?” I was very fortunate to use his new Blue Chevy Bel Air. There were bells strung and pinned on the back window area. When you stopped, the bells would ring. Ram Dass said it was a way to remember Maharaji.
During that summer, he decided to pick up his old ’66 Jaguar from the farm in Franklin, New Hampshire. He asked me if I wanted to use it for the summer. It had two gas tanks. I always felt special because it was Ram Dass’ car. As time went on, he bought a red Dodge van
. He would go away regularly and I got to us the camper van which was set up for cooking and sleeping. It was a maroon. He would always ask, “Do you want to use the van?” I used the van several times. One vehicle I never drove was Ram Dass’ orange MG. He kept auctioning it off during the Bhandara’s to raise money for the temple. Many times it was given back to the temple to be auctioned off again. I posted a photo of him and his MG. Depending on the year, the MG was orange for Hanuman or the original navy blue.
I’m going to tell you a story about Ram Dass’ fierceness. He was away. At that time, you could finagle things and get information that you would never get today. I called the airlines to get his flight information. “Hi, this is Richard Alpert’s secretary and I need to pick him up at the airport, and he doesn’t know that I’m coming, and this is very important.” I kept persuading this reservationist to give me his information and lo and behold, she did.
I was so excited to pick Ram Dass up. I parked the car at La Guardia airport. I went to meet him at the gate. He was surprised and genuinely happy to see me. We picked up his bags and went out to the parking lot. I couldn’t remember where I parked the car! This is a huge parking lot. I was so excited about picking him up that when I found a spot, I parked the car and then I didn’t remember where I parked.
Ram Dass was tired and furious. He had just been traveling a long time and he was happy to see me, but then I couldn’t find his car. We walked around the airport parking lot for at least 45 minutes. We finally found the car and once again, he didn’t talk to me. I said, “Well I’ll drive.” He said, “Okay.” We drove into New York City, he said, “I want to park near Time’s Square.”
I drove into the underground lot with my sunglasses on. Once we were underground, I couldn’t see. I flipped the sunglasses off, I almost crashed into the barrier. Ram Dass was observing me and being very patient but at one point I thought he was going to yell at me. He started giving me the cold shoulder. We were near Times Square. It was an extremely busy and hot day. Ram Dass crossed the street and left me on the other side carrying his heavy bag.
I remember thinking, oh my God, he’s not very nice. He was really annoyed with me. That was one particular incident where I really felt his fierceness. He did give me a difficult time. “You have to be aware of what you do and where you park your car and how you go everyday things.” I was enamored by him that I completely clouded over my better judgement. I did learn to ground myself and make sure to be in my body. I learned to sense myself.
After our Ram Dass class ended He told the class he would be going to India. This was in late August. I said to myself, “I’ve got to go to India.” There was someone else in the class that also decided to go to India so we flew together on Air India. It was so hot, I’ve never experienced that kind of heat. We went to the Palace Heights hotel on Connaught Circle, in New Delhi.
I was new to India. There was a spigot with water pouring out of it, you couldn’t turn it off. The room was dark, dingy with a cement-like bathroom and table boards that were beds with a little pad for a bed and no bedding. Thank God I had a sleeping bag. I remember, I couldn’t sleep. Early in the morning, I started hearing bells and noises. I went outside on the balcony and I saw two ox pulling a wooden wagon. I thought, “We are not in Kansas anymore.”
During that trip I did connect with Ram Dass briefly in New Delhi, Nainital and Kainchi (Maharaji’s ashram. Kainchi and Nainital were cool hill stations of sweet beauty. Little did I know then that I would spend a couple months in Nainital at the Evelyn Hotel while being cared for by the Sah family. It wasn’t until our second trip that a lot more contact and travel adventures with Ram Dass occurred. I spent time with the Sah’s, mostly beloved KK who was the bright light of connection for all the westerners seeking help and guidance.
India was an awakening, to say the least. I did a lot of traveling throughout India and Nepal. At my first first Indian Bhandara, I met my dear friends for life, Martin Wirth and Annie Wirth. I met them at the Hanuman Temple in Vrindavan, in September of 1976, Maharaji’s Mahasamadhi Bhandara.
My virgin India travel lasted for six months. I found myself going to the Kumbh Mela in January of 1977 in Allahabad. On the banks of the Ganges in a crowded little kuti (one room) with Siddhi Ma and the other MA’s, I was accompanied by KK and other disciples of Maharaji. Everyone present decided I needed a Sanskrit name or India name. This was a custom. It was a main bathing day at the Mela so it was auspicious to be given a name. I thought to myself, “I don’t want one of the regular names, I want a different name.”
There was a beautiful picture of Maharaj-Ji hanging on the wall. Siddhi Ma looked up at the picture, then she looked at me, again looked at Maharaj-Ji’s picture, and then she looked at me. Then she said, “Maharaj-Ji names you Vasu dha.” I remember KK saying to me, “Vasu dha, that’s such a beautiful name.”
I returned from India in February of ’77. In June, my dear friend, Meenakshi and Dwarka were having a baby. I hitchhiked with Saraswati to New York to see the birth of Ramachandra. Ram Dass was also present. He said, “Wow, look how a pleasurable act can create such pain!” My first and only experience of seeing a live birth.
In August of the same year, everybody decided to move to Boulder, Colorado. I asked if I could come along and help with the driving. I moved to 809 11th Street in Boulder, Colorado with my dear satsang friends. There was a small office, which was the Hanuman Foundation Office that Dwarka ran. There was also a small bedroom that was Ram Dass’ bedroom when he occasionally came to visit. It was a large communal house with many people, and we all lived there for a year.
Danny Goleman, or Jagganath, decided that he wasn’t going to buy the house. He called Trungpa Rinpoche and asked if he was interested in buying the house. Trungpa did buy the house and there’s another story that goes with that. But that’s for another time.
I felt Ram Dass’s fierceness while living in Boulder. He was on a nationwide lecture tour. He called me and asked “Vasu, how about setting up a lecture venue for me in Boulder? “ In the Spring of ’78, I made all the arrangements for a 3000 capacity venue at the civic auditorium at the University of Colorado.
The night of the lecture, it was pouring rain. There was a line around the building as it was sold out. Ram Dass said, “Vasu get those doors open. Let everybody in. They’re getting soaked.” I said I’ve tried but there are University rules and the custodian wouldn’t allow it. He said open the doors and I did without permission. It turned out ok, I think the custodian looked the other way.
I remember the auditorium was packed. Ram Dass and I were watching from behind the curtains. I said, “Oh my gosh, Ram Dass, it’s unbelievable. It’s like the opening of the ballet.” He laid into me, telling me that I was making him really nervous. I was a puppy with its tail between her legs. He said, “Because of you I have to go get stoned. (now in retrospect, why did RD blame it on me)
After the lecture we went back to 809 11th Street. I remember, I couldn’t sleep. I felt really rotten and thought what a mean thing to say. In the morning, there was a knock on my door. “Vasu, it’s Ram Dass. Can I come in?” He entered my room and told me how sorry he was and would I forgive him. He said, ”I was nervous and I blamed it all on you.” He had the willingness to admit when he was off his game. When he was off, he was really off.
Moving forward. Here we are living in Boulder, Colorado. In September of that year, the Hanuman statue, arrived at Vishu and Kaushulya’s house in the mountains of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. This was the first Maha Samadhi Bhandara in New Mexico (Taos area), the crate was opened to a group of us, singing. Photos to follow the video.
After that Bhandara, I left Boulder visited my family in Gloucester, and left on year-long trip. In November I returned to India (September ’79) I knew Ram Dass would also be coming to India. Ram Dass, myself and six others, went on a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Badrinath and Kedarnath.
On our way, we had to sleep in a place called Rudraprayag. All we could find was a horrible, dirt floor cow shed. We were all sleeping on the dirt in our sleeping bags. You could feel things run over the sleeping bags during the night. It was pitch dark. I remember Ram Dass was snoring away, sleeping like a baby. In the morning I said, “Ram Dass, how could you sleep? I couldn’t sleep a wink. I could hear the little rats and stuff running over us.” Ram Dass said, “I took a Valium!”
The next morning, we boarded the bus, on our way to Badrinath. We stopped along the way at hill station. The roads are windy and narrow. As the bus twisted and turned, the drivers were competent but fast. All of us held on tight and pretended we were driving spaceships with our eyes closed. It he bus missed a turn it would be over the cliff you go! WE had to distract ourselves.
We stopped for a mini break and I got out to go to the bathroom. I see the bus moving and Ram Dass waving to me from the bus window, laughing. What’s happening, I’m going to miss the bus. He knew the bus was going to stop 100 yards down the road. He got the biggest kick out of it, laughing at my surprise. I didn’t think it was funny. His trickster sense of humor was wasted on me! However it was a great and memorable trip. At Badrinath, Ram Dass was the only one that would go in the bathing ghats, they were at least 106 degrees but he always loved hot baths and extra hot tubs.
After Badrinath, we arrived at the drop off point to hike to Kedarnath. It was an all day hike, at dusk we arrived at the famous temple directly below the icy mountains of the Himalayas. Being with Ram Dass on this pilgrimage was an intimate shared adventure. It is, to this day, a memory of magnitude.
He was very loving and took care of me on this trip . I don’t remember paying for anything on that trip. He paid for train and bus tickets, meals and even treats. His generosity was felt by all of us. He has always been generous with me. Whenever I needed help financially or otherwise, he was always there.
When I returned to the states in 1980, I moved to California. Ram Dass was living in Soquel at the time and I eventually moved into his rental while he went on a tour. In the summer, I moved to New Mexico. I decided to attend acupuncture school in Santa Fe. Having satsang everywhere is welcoming. It makes a moving transition easy.
Many of us settled in Santa Fe, Ram Dass included. Eventually we all moved to the Bay area. However during that time, Ram Dass wanted to open the first Dying Center which opened in the winter of 1981, it was run by Dale Borglum (Ram Dev) it was located in the Sunlit Hills area of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I lived there for a year. Ram Dass would visit, as well as Stephen and Ondrea Levine. It was really the beginning of the Hanuman Foundation Dying Center that now is renamed, the Living/Dying Project.
At the end of 82, I returned to California. Ram Dass eventually moved to California, to San Anselmo. For a brief time Ram Dass moved back to the East coast to care for his father in Cohasset, Massachusetts. When I visited my parents, I drove to visit him and his dad, George. He constantly teased his dad. I remember him telling me about two women, Marlene and Joanne, who eventually became Ram Dass’ helpers and caregivers. After Ram Dass had his stroke in the fall of 97, they became his true helpers. They’re wonderful women. They would set up events, dinners and intimate gathering for Ram Dass at their home. It was always really fun.
Ram Dass always accepted invitations of any kind whether it be birthday parties, dinners or social gatherings, he was always there. I remember one time going to the Savannah Grill in Corte Madera. Ed was having a small birthday dinner for me. I said, “Oh my God, Ed, Ram Dass is sitting at the bar. Don’t say anything, just keep walking.” I walk in and Ram Dass bellows, “Happy birthday, surprise!” He gave me a flower, one of his infectious smiles and a big hug. He was sweet and kind when he wanted to be.
I hosted a 50th birthday party for Ed, Ram Dass came and at one point he took the microphone, he got on his knee, told a story about when I called him to tell him I was getting married. He was sweet and told a touching personal story about my relationship with him. I passed everything by Ram Dass, because he always took the time to listen and his advise was thoughtful. I did make an effort to keep our relationship current. If I called him he always returned the call and that went for correspondences as well. I asked him to do favors all the time. Retreats, Lectures and appearances, He always said yes.
Ram Dass was always generous with me. I would say, “Ram Dass, I’ll pay for your flight, your hotel and food.” He would answer, “Vasu, let’s just split whatever the door is. I’ll take care of my flights and other arrangements.” He made things simple.
There were times when I was upset.He would call me and I would say, “Ram Dass, I don’t have a job, what am I going to do?” I remember he suggested this job on the east coast, which I did go to. It turned out to be awful. He said, “What’s going on?” I said, “Ram Dass, it’s not working.” He said, “Pack your bags and come back to California.” I remember telling him “Ram Dass, that was the most expensive workshop I ever did. Moving to Massachusetts for three months and then moving back to California.” It turned out perfect in the long run.
California is where I met my husband Edward Reither, creator of the Beezone.com
When Ram Dass had his stroke in the fall of 1997, it was a shock to all of us. It was a big shock for Ram Dass, too. However, after he started getting well, I sent him a check. I said, “Ram Dass, you do what you need with this check.” He sent back half of my donation (I was attending a yoga teacher training Program). “You need this for your new career.” Again another example of how extremely generous he was. Most of the time, he thought of other people and how he could make other peoples lives better. I really feel, he was the epitome Maharaj-ji’s teachings, to love everyone, serve everyone, feed everyone and remember God.
After his stroke, he had a really rough time psychologically and emotionally. He had some wonderful things lined up to do before his stroke, but they weren’t going to happen. It was a dark night of the soul for him. He had a sever illness while visiting the Hawaiian islands and decided he didn’t want to leave. Eventually he made Maui his forever home.
I was happy when I heard Rameshwardas, Raghu, Krishna Das and Mirabai Bush took over his care. At one point, Ram Dass took a trip to Brazil where he met John of God, and had an awakening experience. He found Maharaj-ji in his heart, this was a heart opening for him. From then on he became healthier.
There are many stories that could be told. I’ve continued to stay close to him even after his stroke, even during the hard times. I always called to check in. Since moving to Maui over 19 years, I visited him when I could.
He had two different houses in the Haiku area, which both had the most magnificent views of the ocean. However, the second house had an Ohana (guest house), where he would conduct personal retreats. His doors were always open. There was an un-ending group of people that wanted to visit him. People knew about his weekly swims which became a weekly happening. He always took people to lunch after swim time. I went to his house for dinner, and he took me out for dinners when I visited him.
My favorite times with him were spent upstairs alone in his room or alone in his living room with the exquisite views of the ocean and sky. These were times when Ram Dass shared and reminisced about his prep school days, about his relationship with his father, travel from Stanford to NY during his college years and his sexuality, his trials and tribulations post stroke.
Ram Dass told me about his discovery! He learned he had a son from a sweet fling while he was a student at Stanford. Peter, his new son brought a whole new aspect to Ram Dass’ life. When he told me the story, I remember he showed me a picture of Peter. I looked at the picture and I asked, “Ram Dass, what are you doing at a Catholic christening?” He said, “That’s my son. Vasu, that’s my son.” I looked at the picture and I looked at Ram Dass and I said, “Ram Dass, he looks just like you.” The delight was in his eyes. I found it precious.
I noticed Ram Dass transforming over the years when I visited him on Maui. I experienced him getting lighter in weight, his eyes brightening, he was softer. Finding words was becoming more difficult. I found his love light emanating more. I saw this but I felt it physically. I loved visiting. Although, I didn’t get to visit a lot. Each time I did, his “guru-ness” and true wisdom was growing with his aging.
One visit, Ram Dass invited me to the house because Super Soul Sunday was airing. Ram Dass was being interviewed by Oprah. It was airing at 6 am on a Sunday morning. Yes, I said I would be there. I was a fan of Oprah’s. I wouldn’t miss it. He loved to eat and he loved sweets. I made chai, and sure enough, we watched the show. It was touching to share Super Soul Sunday, Oprah and Ram Dass all in one sitting!
I’m going back to the Boulder days. We were going through his things that were stored in trunks downstairs in the house. I can remember, he had all his parent’s fiesta-ware and beautiful quilts from the New Hampshire house. There was a Life magazine. He said, “Oh my gosh, Vasu, look at this Life magazine. Do you remember this?” I looked at him and I said, “Ram Dass, it’s 1963, I was only 11 years old.” You see the span of time that occurred between Ram Dass and myself. Just that he would share even his days of glory was delightful. It made me feel a part of his whole life.
I want to give a special, special thanks to his number one caregiver. It’s a coincidence because I had a dream about Dassi Ma last night. She moved to Maui to be a caregiver for Ram Dass. She was not only his caregiver, but his friend, his confidante, his partner in all things for 10 plus years. She was also the photographer that captured pictures for everyone, personal pictures and group pictures.
To this day, I have a series of pictures she took of Ram Dass and I. I cherish those pictures. I am grateful to her for her loving dedication to Ram Dass.
Last night I had a dream of Dassi Ma, Ram Dass and many others.. We were in a big room. It was another plane of consciousness, or loka. Everyone said, “Let’s just drop our bodies and just jump.” We all jumped, it was in beautiful light. I remember saying, “Oh my gosh, this is beautiful.” I thought how appropriate, because I had chosen today to finish my seventh video homage to Ram Dass.
Rameshwardas is in the process of putting a book together about memories, relationships and stories that people had with Ram Dass.
The last story before I close. Back in New York during a Joya class, in Brooklyn, we were all sitting in a large room. There had to be 100 people in attendance. All of a sudden, Joya called my name and she said, “Stand up.” I stood up, and she said, “Who’s your Guru?” And I said, “Ram Dass.” And Ram Dass is shaking his head No. Ram Dass, Joya and Hilda are sitting in the front of the group. He’s shaking his head. Joya starts laughing and yells at me again, “Who’s your Guru? ” Again, I say “Ram Dass.” And Ram Dass is looking at me continuing to shake his head no.
What I want to say about that is, I feel like I’m generation one, the first generation after the passing of Neem Karoli Baba Maharaj-ji. The embodiment of a Maha Guru. Ram Dass was my superhero, my upa guru. He was the one that showed me the map, a map I could follow. I was young, I was naïve, I didn’t know much, I believed everything he said. I didn’t even think for myself. As Gangadhar said, “We would believe anything!”.
I really feel that Ram Dass embodied Maharaj-ji’s teachings. He was the pied piper, he shared those teachings with everyone. He hardly ever charged any money. Ram Dass carried this love with him. His teaching was simple, love, serve and remember. That was Maharaj-ji’s gift to all of us.
In closing, I want to share from Parvati Markus’s book, Love Everyone. At the very end of the book, there’s a beautiful quote that’s from an Irish headstone. It reads, ”Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
Sri Sri Sri Baba Neem Karoli , Santa Maharaj ki jai!
Sri Sri Sri Baba Ram Dass ki jai!!