We are on Maui at a very special time. This weekend workshop with John Friend coordinated with the 40th Anniversary of the book “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass. At the end of each day of asana practice, we get the privilege of sitting with Ram Dass to hear his story.
John had started our asana practice with a talk about positioning ourselves to receive Grace. That nothing is random, he said, but maybe we just can’t see the beginning and the end because it is across such a long thread of time. Think about the last ten years…what were the highlights? What were the things that gave you big openings? What brought you here today to be on this mat in Maui? It was really crazy to think about.
I thought about how ten years ago my dad died. I was barely doing yoga. I started doing yoga from money he left me. I started in Ashtanga and then almost stopped practising all together until I met Christina Sell.That was significant. I met John 4 years ago in Maui- here I am 4 years later , in the certification process, with my mat in front of him in the front row. Wow- I have come a long way…….. I can see the thread very distinctly now. Nothing seems crazy or random- it just seems…well...right. Like the right in that deepest knowing inside of yourself – my soul knows what my mind can barely conceive. How wonderful!
Of course, to top this all off, John dropped me back into a backbend. There is no way 4 years ago it would have looked anything like what it looked like today. It just felt so good and so right- no fear, no discomfort – just the deep knowing that I am where I am supposed to be...right here….right now.
When we started satsang with Ram Dass in the afternoon it was wonderful to see the love between the two of them. Ram Dass speaks slowly because of his stroke but John creates such a beautiful space for Ram Dass to take his time and chose his words.
Ram Dass asked us I we were all Shavaites ( followers of Shiva) , he said he had been a Buddhist when he met Maharaji ( Neem Karoli Baba) who was a Vishnuvite ( follower of Vishnu) but he said the most important thing was that we could all come together as lovers of God. “God is Krishna, God is Buddha, God is Us.” I will never forget that quote.
He then introduced his talk by saying, ” So how did “Be Here Now” get here now?” For those of you that have not met Ram Dass, he has an incredible sense of humour. He had us laughing a few times during the talk.
Ram Dass told us of his journey to India and how he finally wound up meeting Maharaji ( I will leave you to read that in the intro of Be Here Now). What was new to me is how he explained he wrote the book during his “miracle stage”, the stage where he was still entranced with Maharaji’s ability to read his mind and know his secrets. He said he missed, at first, the real power of Maharaji, which was his unconditional love.
From there, he told us the story of the book. You see Ram Dass didn’t plan on writing a book. His teacher, Hari Dass , told him that Maharaji had given Ram Dass his ” asherbad” ( blessing) for his book. ” What book??” thought Ram Dass. ” I guess I am supposed to write a book….” So upon his return to New York, Ram Dass wrote a book on travelling in India. No publishers would take it. Hmmm, he thought, guess that must not be “the” book!
Shortly after that, in New York, one of the group who had always gathered to hear him lecture gave him a stack of papers. “What is this?” he asked.
“It’s your words. ” the woman said. She was a stenographer and she had been writing notes of every lecture. Ram Dass threw the notes into a box in the back of his car and drove out to see friends. When he got to his friend John’s place, John was getting his suitcase out for him and saw the box.
” What’s that?” he asked.
” It’s my words.” said Ram Dass.
” Can I see it?” he asked.
” Sure- go ahead.”
So John took the words and when Ram Dass left he handed them back saying ,
” I have marked all the relevant stuff”.
Ram Dass then threw them back in the trunk of the car and drove to a commune called the Lama Foundation near Taos. While helping him with his bags, another friend, Steve, saw the box.
” What’s that?” he asked.
” Oh- it’s my words, ” said Ram Dass.
“Can I see it?” Steve asked.
“Sure” said Ram Dass.
Well at the Lama Foundation there was very little money but lots of creative people. As they sat with “the words” , five artists there decide to make pictures with the words. Slowly and surely, ” What’s that??” was becoming a book. A book with Maharaji’s blessing in it.
The group of them were then trying to figure out who would want such a book about spirituality and Oneness etc. Not maybe such a hot topic in 1970, so they decided that everyone who came to Ram Dass’ lectures would receive, for their $1 entry fee ( seriously? A buck???), the lecture and the book. But at that time the book was actually a paper box. The box contained: a book called “our story” now the intro to Be Here Now, a cookbook (!), a record, a large paper with quotes you could cut out and ” put on your fridge” as Ram Dass put it, another large paper with pictures of the Gods and Saints, and of course- the book-made of brown paper that looked like grocery bags and hand bound. Ram Dass jokingly called it “ the do it yourself kit”.
Ram Dass brought a bag up on his lap and John Friend, assisting him with much reverence, pulled out one of the original boxes containing Be Here Now. It was so amazing. Apparently 1000 copies were made. I have no idea how many are still in existence. Out came all the little books and posters and quotes you could cut up and post- John held them up and we all marvelled at the humble beginnings of a book that has now sold 2 million copies.
In 1970, Ram Dass presented what was to be the book, as we now know it, to Maharaji. While looking at it Maharaji exclaimed ” Mistake! Mistake!” Ram Dass tried to explain to Maharaji that the second printing was about to start and the amount of money involved and they couldn’t stop the printing now and Maharaji said. ” Money and truth have no business with each other!”
Ram Dass ran off to telegram Steve in Taos to stop the printing and fix the error. Steve said that the printing was already on the press- it was too late.
Ram Dass went back and explained to that it was too late. Maharaji asked him about he letter, ” Did you get the letter? What did it say?”
” What letter?” asked Ram Dass. ( thinking, ” if you know I got a letter then you already know what it says!!! “)
Going back to the hotel there was a letter for Ram Dass from Steve. One of the printing blocks was missing- they were missing a whole page of the book and couldn’t even locate the original. They could not print the book…..
They fixed the mistake and the book went into it’s second printing.
We ended the day by Ram Dass talking about the miracle stage and the love stage. For Maharaji’s greatest power was his ability to unconditionally love. Ram Dass explained in the West we identify with our “roles” and in the Himalayas they identified with their “souls”. In Anusara, all of us have a “soul role”. Those two words sunk so deep, and rung with such truth, that it could become my mantra.
In honour of that unconditional love and 40 years later being able to see the greater message, Ram Dass pulled from his bag his brand new book, not even yet released, ” Be Love Now”. In front of all of us , John Friend became a recipient of one of the first copies. The official release will be November 2, 2010. Ram Dass left us with a last thought to ponder.
He said, ” I am trying to do unconditional love, I try but still…..I am doing. Maharaji didn’t “do” it, he “be’ed” it . Maybe for you as yogi’s , one day you will “be” the asana.”