“Transformation of a Man” – Ram Dass
In this fascinating and delightful transcribed exerpt from “Transformation of a Man”, Ram Dass — author of the seminal work Be Here Now — describes some of his experiences as he travels around and explores India in the early 1960s, giving us true insight into the life and times of a spiritual seeker. Part of our ongoing partnership with The Love Serve Remember Foundation.
His big feet were just paddling along like a camel, and he was looking every other way, and he was always stepping around all of this stuff, and I could never figure it out. Now, as we got out of the big cities… in the big cities, you know, people look at you like, what kind of a nut are you? Barefoot in a cloth — we know you’re a westerner, you know. Like, who are you kidding? But as you get out into the villages it’s much purer in India, and they still respect the spiritual endeavor, and the people would call, “Hey Babaji!” Which is, well, Baba means grandfather. It also means holy man. It’s usually given to Vaishnavites, which is the white cloth. And Babaji is sort of the affectionate title. In Yiddish it would be bubbala. [laughter] It’s the same thing. And so they call, “Babaji!” and I would always be embarrassed because I wasn’t a holy man. I was just wearing a white cloth. I was a western intellectual overage hippy looking to see what was going on in India. That’s who I was in my head, in my fixed model of myself.
And we got to these caves at Baneshwar;
we had gone to the Ramakrishna Mission, which had not been a very spiritual experience unfortunately, although the Gunga was very beautiful, quite fine. We had gone to the sun temple at Konark, which was the use of sexual tantric. And a very high temple, very extraordinarily beautiful temple. So we got to these caves at Baneshwar, these Buddhist caves in the rock, beautifully cut in the rock, almost by hand, very soft inside, little caves maybe 30 or 40 of them. And it was empty now and we thought, well, we had come walking this long way; we would meditate in these caves for maybe an hour or so. And so I found a little cave way up on a ledge and I went inside there and I sat down and it was a warm afternoon and I closed my eyes and I sort of went off into a revery, I guess you’d call it. I felt very calm, eyes closed. And I opened my eyes about 20 minutes later and I noticed — there was only the light from the door — that there was a pile right over by the door and I assumed this pile was a pile of stones and that since I came in from the bright light I was not dark adapted, I must have stepped over and not seen. But I looked forward and they were a pile of coins. See, religious pilgrims had passed and they had seen this sadhu meditating and because it is the responsibility of the grusto, or the householder in India to support the holy men, they had left this money for me. And that really shook me up.