Excerpt from "Relationships" with Ram Dass
Recorded in 1980 in San Francisco, Ram Dass gives a glimpse into one of his more challenging experiences as a teacher. His humanity and humor come through in this transcribed excerpt from his workshop on "Relationships."
I found myself a couple of years ago in Hawaii, on an island in Hawaii, where I had been invited to a meditation group. I thought, “Gee. Wonderful, They will fly me to this island.” I had never seen this island. I was met and taken up into the mountains into a plantation way in the back woods.
The whole thing started to feel a little weird to me, and it turned out that they were an intensive group encounter group and there were about thirty of them. They had been together for years and they had taken acid like 250 times together. They all slept in one room with the children and everybody, and they talked funny. The headman called me into his room and he went, (gibberish), and I did not want to do anything. I thought he had a tick and so I just sort of looked like it had not happened and he said, (gibberish). So I thought something was called for here. There is a questioning tone in his voice so I said, “Om.” You can throw that in anytime. Anytime he says a bad faux pas, you can always use om. Om, om, om! So I realized we were starting a new language and we played new language and it was great fun.
Then it came time for me to speak to this group and I sat before them. I did not know who they were or what they wanted or what I was doing there or anything, and I said “What do you want?” And nobody would say anything. They just sort of looked at me, and so I was funny, wise, witty, and charming. You know, my whole schtick. Finally, one girl said, “Ram Dass, I got so much help from your book Be Here Now. It was so wonderful. Why aren’t you like that book?” And another fellow said, “Yeah, Ram Dass. I can’t feel your heart. Maybe if you told us a little more about your personal life.” I said -- you see, he got me in that moment -- I said “My personal life is my own business. I’m here to share the dharma.” That was at 9:00 o’clock and they fought me, all forty of them. There were forty of them. The number gets greater as I realize the horror of the moment. As I recall, there were about 10,000 of them and they were all attacking me. By 12:00 midnight I was a standup, I was still fighting. I was sitting there like, you know, a wagon of one making its own circle.