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Episode 160
The Doctor's Farmacy

Becoming Nobody: The Key To Freedom And Happiness

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Our higher and lower-self are always around, but who are we listening to most of the time? Who is having the conversation in our heads? Taking a deeper look at my level of awareness led me to study Buddhism in college and though I changed course to pursue a career in medicine, spiritual growth has always remained a passion for me.

I think as humans we need a mass recognition that we are all one; we need to see that inside we’re all the same. Learning from others is a key part of the journey to greater awareness and there are so many teachers I’ve found throughout my life that have helped me do that. Today’s guest on The Doctor’s Farmacy, Rameshwar Das, is one of them.

We kick off the episode hearing about some of Ramesh’s incredible experiences with Ram Dass. From using psychedelic drugs like LSD to exploring the powers of meditation in India, Rameshwar and Ram were open to any catalysts for greater consciousness. Ramesh shares some heartfelt stories about their relationship as well as the wisdom that Ram had to share on things like overcoming fear of death and cultivating loving awareness in this life.

Our ego serves a purpose but can also be the main culprit in suffering. Ramesh and I discuss the benefits of having an ego and how it can so easily get out of control, leading us towards discontent. We talk about how things like mindfulness, meditation, and even psychedelics can help us get out of an ego-centered mindset and into a greater awareness of our purpose.

Many of us find it easier to love others than to love ourselves. Ramesh shares some insights into this common struggle and we look at how becoming curious and open to changing our relationships with ourselves is a powerful vehicle for living a happier and more peaceful life.

Ramesh has so many valuable and thoughtful ideas to share. I hope you’ll tune in to expand your awareness and inner freedom.

This episode is brought to you by Paleovalley, Joovv, and Athletic Greens.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn (video / audio):

  1. The cultural influence of Ram Dass’ book Be Here Now
    (2:26 / 6:21)
  2. Ram Dass’ heart opening introduction to Maharaji Neem Karoli Baba
    (5:38 / 9:33)
  3. Maharaji Neem Karoli Baba simple teachings to love and serve everybody, including yourself
    (11:10 / 15:05)
  4. Maharaji Neem Karoli Baba’s LSD trips, the surprising lack of effects from the drugs, and what it implies about the ego and the soul
    (17:38 / 21:33)
  5. Ram Dass’ personal journey and teachings around getting out of the ego
    (25:55 / 31:00)
  6. Becoming Nobody, the documentary about Ram Dass’ life, and the practices that sustained him
    (28:45 / 33:50)
  7. How Ram Dass approached life after his stroke, aging, and death
    (35:08 / 40:13)
  8. The infinite soul and impermanence of life
    (39:13 / 44:18)
  9. Developing a loving awareness of your higher self
    (51:36 / 56:41)
  10. Applying Ram Dass’ teaching and wisdom to today’s world
    (57:32 / 1:02:37)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Rameshwar Das

Rameshwar Das has been navigating a spiritual path for 50 years. Ramesh met Ram Dass in 1968 and spent time with Neem Karoli Baba in India from 1970-72. He learned Vipassana meditation from Goenka in India. Ramesh has worked as an artist, photographer, environmentalist, and writer. He has collaborated on many projects with Ram Dass over the years, including the original Be Here Now, and the Love Serve Remember recordings, and is co-author with Ram Dass on three books, Be Love Now, Polishing the Mirror, and Being Ram Dass.

Show Notes

  1. Get a copy of Being Ram Dass

Transcript

Rameshwar Das:
Who you are, is not what you do. Who you are, is not who you think you are, who you are, is your inner being.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s Farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve ever had any awareness of yourself, other than an ego, maybe as a soul, or are on some spiritual path or looking for awakening in anyway, this conversation is going to matter to you because it’s with someone who was there at the beginning of the consciousness movement, United States, a man named Rameshwar Das, who was good buddies with Ram Dass, who you may have heard of otherwise known as Richard Alpert, who was a professor at Harvard of psychology, who got into LSD and psilocybin with Timothy Leary back in the ’60s, but ended up finding that a short-lived path to awakening and ended up going to India and meeting an incredible man who we’re going to hear a lot about today named Neem Karoli Baba.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And as it turns out, Rameshwar here who’s joining us today on our podcast was a student of Ram Dass back in the late ’60s, and then went to India as well and met with this incredible teacher, Neem Karoli Baba. And it turns out you might’ve heard of this book called Be Here Now. Now, we talked about mindfulness, yoga consciousness, new age movement. These all stem from, I believe this book, which sold over two million copies, that was a throwaway book. It was actually made into loose paper bags and in a box, ended up being the calling card for generation that wanted to wake up. And then we’re so lucky to have Rameshwar here with us today.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Ram Dass has recently died, but Rameshwar has been doing this stuff for 50 years and has done many projects as an artist and a photographer environmentalist, a writer, and has really been there with Ram Dass writing a lot of his books, including Be Here Now, Be Loved Now, which is a wonderful book, Polishing the Mirror, Love Serve and Remember recordings, audio recordings, and also this new book, which we’re going to talk about today, which is called Being Rom Dass. And this is an early copy. So welcome, Ramesh

Rameshwar Das:
So nice to be with you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, am I right in saying that the general consciousness movement was really catapulted by Ram Dass and that book, Be Here Now, back in the early seventies when it was published?

Rameshwar Das:
It certainly was, as you say, a calling card, or maybe the backpackers Bible for quite awhile.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. And I remember I had a copy and everybody who had a copy back in the ’70s, it was like this underground book, but it’s a crazy book because it’s all these pictures and symbols and stories. It’s not the average book. It’s a very differently put together book, but you were there with Ram Dass putting that together, back in the beginning, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. I didn’t do that much work on the book itself. It started out as a pizza box that came from a crew of artists who took some of Ram Dass’ early talks that had been transcribed. And they were graphic artists and they basically turned it into the first graphic novel, except it was in like a pizza box.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, it’s fascinating. I think a lot right now what’s happening in this culture is this resurgence of the psychedelic culture as a therapy for PTSD, we’ve had Michael Pollan on the podcast, Tony Bossis, we’ve talked about these issues and he wrote a book called How to Change Your Mind. And that’s one way, is through psychedelics. And I think we have a role in psychiatry, in therapy and in awakening, but what happened, it seems like back in the ’60s was that, no matter how much acid or how much mushrooms Richard Alpert at the time took-

Rameshwar Das:
And he took a lot.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He took a lot. It didn’t last. And he kept waking up to reality that was a downer. So he was always trying to get high and then always coming down. And he [crosstalk 00:04:24].

Rameshwar Das:
Well, that was the endemic problem with psychedelics, was you came down.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right. No, he’s like, “I’m out of here.” And he somehow got to India. Can you share a little about the story of him going to India and there’s a beautiful description of how even though he was long-haired and bearded and wore beads and a white robe, he was still, so not in the moment. He met this guy who kept saying to him, who is this Lama Surya Das who was another Western or young kid, but somehow got it. And he kept saying to him every time he was talking about what’s coming next, or what we’re doing or the past, or this or that, he was like, “Just be here now, just to be here now.”

Rameshwar Das:
It wasn’t Surya Das.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, [crosstalk 00:05:15].

Rameshwar Das:
I guess he was about 19 at the time, it was a 19 year old surfer from Laguna beach, Naples, Bhagavan Das.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Baghavan Das. Yeah. Okay. Sorry. I got that wrong. So many Dases, I can’t keep track of them.

Rameshwar Das:
There’s a lot of Dases, Das means a servant. So basically we are all in the servant class.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Ram Dass means servant of God. Right? Ram is another word for God. Yeah.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. Yeah. Ram Dass thought he was going on a Buddhist pilgrimage with Bhagavan Das and walked around the Buddhist pilgrimage sites barefoot and begging for a while with an American express card and his Chardonnay.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 00:05:54] to go.

Rameshwar Das:
But at some point Bhagavan Das said his visa had run out and he needed to go see his guru and Ram Dass is like, “Guru shmuru, I’m a Buddhist.” So he didn’t want to go, but Bhaghavan Das needed to go. So they drove up to the, sorry, that’s my Audubon clock.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No. It’s good. You’re in a temple.

Rameshwar Das:
We got the real thing going. And they drove up to the foothills of the Himalayas and stopped at this little temple and this old man in a blanket was sitting up in a little field. And there were people in white all around him and Ram Dass thought it was some cult and he didn’t want anything to do with it. And then Maharaj-ji started, the old man was known as Maharaj-ji, which is an honorific that means great King, but you’re in a cab and deli and the cab drivers says, “Oh Maharaj-ji, where would you like to go?”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 00:07:10].

Rameshwar Das:
It’s very common. But he told, Rom Dass things that he clearly knew about Ram Dass that there was no way he could know. So Ram Dass was taken aback to say the least, and then something happened, which he wrote about originally in Be Here Now. And we went into more detail and this memoir, because he had the time to look back on it and understand what had happened a little better. And it was a major opening, not dissimilar to what had occurred with him when he first took psychedelics but without drugs and with this completely other effect on him, which was that his spiritual heart opened, I mean, this deep part of himself really awakened.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, it was a beautiful story of how he was thinking about his mother who had recently died and was very deep and in his particular unique thoughts about it, and somehow the guru knew all about it, even though he didn’t actually tell him. And it made him realize that he could know everything about him. And what was really beautiful about it was that, in that moment even with all his flaws and his darkness and his demons and his [Michigasian 00:08:50] basically, that this guy, this big old chubby guy in a blanket sitting on a stoop, he just loves him unconditionally, completely and fully, despite all of his craziness. And I think that’s what we all want and seek and we often think we get that from our parents, but usually we don’t.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. Ram Dass didn’t get it from his parents, at least not in that level of it. And that was what opened him up, was that love. And I think at first that he really thought it was the psychic powers that had blown him away, but as time went on, he really realized it was that heart space that they had entered together.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, it speaks to it, but that was really true. And let’s assume it is, and that Ram Dass wasn’t diluted or crazy. And then that brings up a whole set of questions around gee, what is human consciousness and how would one person know what another person is thinking or feeling or anything about their life or where they’re going or what they’re doing. And it seems like there’s another level of awakening or brain function or access to some plan of knowing that somehow these masters have acquired. And yet despite all of that, the message from this guy, Neem Karoli Baba who you, and so many incredible people have been a student of like Daniel Goleman, who’s a friend who’s been on the podcast, was a student of his as well and he wrote Emotional Intelligence. And Larry Brilliant was a doctor who ended up helping cure smallpox in India and worked for Google on occasion. And you’ve got Krishna Das who’s an incredible, spiritual, a musician and does chanting and does amazing work all over the world. There’s just so many of you who have actually come out of call it lineage, let’s say.

Rameshwar Das:
The non-linear, linear.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s like a hodgepodge. And what was really amazing reading about his teachings is that his message was so simple. It was basically, “Love everybody, feed everybody, serve everybody.” There was no big like no treaties or Sutra or a big text, it was just very, very simple. And when you dive deep into all of that, what does that mean? And I think the love everybody, serve everybody, I think we often forget everybody includes you, yourself, right?

Rameshwar Das:
And usually the hardest one to love is yourself too.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about that and what that was and how that led to the awakenings that a lot of you had and that Ram Dass had.

Rameshwar Das:
But being with him, I mean, he seemed simple and his conversations with people were so ordinary, especially with the Indian devotees. He was talking about people’s kids and jobs and families and people’s… they’d come to him with illnesses and problems and he would talk to them about them. But when you asked him something, what seemed to us to be the deep esoteric stuff that we really wanted to know, like how do you meditate? And he would say meditate like Christ. And especially since probably about 50% of the Westerners around him were of Jewish background. So getting that one tossed your way, it was pretty interesting. And then somebody asked him, “Well, how did Christ meditate?” And he said, “He lost himself in love.”

Rameshwar Das:
But you felt that love coming from him. It was as if you were radiating it all the time. And it was that space that he created around him, it was as if he was in this field of love and everybody around him felt it. I used to think it was personal and that I was feeling it and it was my experience, but a couple of times I looked up and I realized that everybody around him was feeling this. And it was just quite remarkable. And that was as much the esoteric teaching as anything.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How was you and the others that were there become transformed by that love?

Rameshwar Das:
Mostly he would create distractions that would keep us lost in other stuff like the first time when I arrived there with Danny Goleman and Krishna Das. And the first thing he did was sit us down and feed us. And the food at the ashram was spicy potatoes and puri, which are deep fried, flat bread fried in ghee. And I was so out there, I mean, I was probably half out of my body and I think I ate three huge piles of potatoes filling a leaf plate and 17 puries and it almost grounded me. But that was how the love came through, he fed people and that was the feed everyone part of it. And he would say things like, “First bhojan then bhajan.” And bhojan is food, having a meal.

Rameshwar Das:
And especially with the villagers around the temple where he was, that was such a gift to them to have plentiful food coming their way, because it was very poor area. And it was just this vehicle for love. And we learned some of the devotional practices, Krishna Das has been teaching people chanting and the Hanuman Chalisa, which is this 40 verses in Hindi, which we actually all learned, which is pretty astonishing for a bunch of Westerners who… my Hindi is still mostly of the train and bus station variety, but we absorbed something that really changed all of our lives. And it’s very hard to express what it was or what it is because it’s still working.

Rameshwar Das:
So in India, there’s this idea of what’s called Prasad about food, which has nothing to do with nutrition whatsoever. It’s just a blessing that comes with the food. If you get food from a temple or from a high being or a saint or somebody, then it carries the blessing or the love or whatever the vibe is from that being. And so in a sense that was Maharaj-ji’s way of transmitting what he had to give.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, in many cultures, food is the way we show love, but it’s often with bad consequences.

Rameshwar Das:
Ram Dass conjure has to do with his Jewish mother also, which was different. Because he got very fat as a kid because he was trying to please his mother all the time.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Exactly. And the other thing I wanted to touch on was a sort of extraordinary story that was in the book about how he brought a lot of acid with him. When Ram Dass went to India, he took a lot of acid and he gave it to the Maharaj-ji. He gave it to the teacher. Tell us about what happened and consequences in that.

Rameshwar Das:
First of all, I wasn’t there, I’m not a first person witness for, especially the first time. And he was carrying with him some very special LSD that had been made by Owsley Stanley who was the underground chemist on the West coast. And also the Grateful Dead’s sound engineer. It was the purest LSD. It was usually known as white lightning.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, wow. Okay.

Rameshwar Das:
And they were a 300 milligram doses, which was a pretty hefty does for a grown person, which Ram Dass was. So at some point Maharaj-ji said, “You have some medicine?” And Ram Dass thought he had a headache or something. He said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any aspirin or any of that.” And he said, “No, no. The yogi medicine.” So Ram Dass brought out the LSD and he had, I think four doses left of the white lightning and Maharaj-ji toss them one at a time into his mouth.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Three doses.

Rameshwar Das:
Four.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Four doses. Okay.

Rameshwar Das:
I think the first time it was three doses, it was like 900 micrograms so it was just enough to-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For an elephant.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. For an elephant or to send a grown man probably to the moon. Nothing happened. And Ram Dass, I mean, he was worried for starters because he thought, “Oh, this old man, this is way too much for somebody at his age.” You start somebody this age out with a small dose and see what happens. And nothing happened.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Nothing happened, like he didn’t have any-

Rameshwar Das:
And when he went back to the States and-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So wait, he just sat there and nothing happened. He’s like, “I don’t feel anything and everything was good or did say anything?

Rameshwar Das:
He didn’t say anything, nothing changed. And Ram Dass, he had guided trips for hundreds of people and taken hundreds of doses himself and he knew what tripping looked like.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Incredible.

Rameshwar Das:
And no change.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Did he talk to him about that, or did he say, “What are you experiencing?” Or was there any conversation with it?

Rameshwar Das:
Well, it wasn’t that kind of conversation, but it was more of just a demonstration that Maharaj-ji was already there in some sense and that he didn’t need it. But when he went back to the States, Ram Dass had doubts about it because he’d been sitting a little bit off to the side and he thought maybe Maharaj-ji had thrown it over his shoulder and scammed him, he conned him.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, yeah. It’s beyond us.

Rameshwar Das:
So when he went back the next time my, Maharaj-ji asked him again, he said, “You gave me some medicine last time.” And Ram Dass said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Do you have any more?” And he did. And this time he took four doses. Yeah. The same thing. And he very consciously placed each one on his tongue and swallowed it. And he said, “Can I have a little water with it?” And Ram Dass said, “Yeah.” And then he said, “Will it make me crazy?” And Ram Dass said, “Well, probably.” And so Maharaj-ji goes under his blanket for some time. And then he comes up and he looks completely nuts. His eyes are rolling and his tongue whirling around and then he stopped and he was just totally putting him on. And nothing happened.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, it’s fascinating when you tell that story reminds me of the conversation I had on this podcast with Michael Pollan where he talked in his book about How to Change Your Mind. And the studies they’ve done on the brain with long-term meditators, Tibetans who’ve been in a cave for nine years meditating and what happens. And there’s a part of the brain that’s called the default mode network, which is activated most of the time. It’s our ego. And it protects us from danger that gives us our sense of individual self that’s separate from the world. But when you take psychedelics or you take these substances that suppress that it, it makes the ego quiet down and these drugs do suppress the default mode network, but so does being enlightened.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And what’s really fantastic in the book is that there’s this really wonderful distinction between the ego and the soul. So can you talk a little bit about that? Because if it’s what you’re saying is true and I have no reason to doubt it, and he really didn’t have any effects from the acid, it probably means he was already there in that state of lack of separateness, because when you take those drugs, they dissolve your ego, which means you feel connected and you understand that you’re part of the overall cosmos, universe, whatever you want to call it. And that that’s a very safe place to be. And it’s full of love and connection and compassion and awareness.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And if you’re in that state all the time, you take the drug that doesn’t matter. If you gave it to like a Tibetan monk who been in the cave for nine years, probably the same thing would’ve happened.

Rameshwar Das:
I think you just answered the question, Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But for the rest of us, a lot of us now are shortcutting into the psychedelic realm. I wonder if it’s almost a backlash to this mindfulness movement where we’ve all been trying to meditate and be mindful, but it’s really hard to get out of the ego.
Speaker 3:
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Speaker 3:
Now back to this week’s episode.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So I guess I’d love to go down the rabbit hole of how Ram Dass taught about the ego and taught about the separate self and taught about then how to connect with the soul in a different way, which really is in a sense the message of be here now, right? It’s about dropping into just what is. How do we present for our lives, for relationships, for love and how do we do that?

Rameshwar Das:
Well, first off, I don’t know.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Come on. You wrote a whole book with him. This is Ram Dass’ biography and you wrote it with him.

Rameshwar Das:
I can speculate the same way you’re speculating, which is we’re not talking about it from a place of being in it, which is different. And Maharaj-ji, he used to hold up a finger like that and say, “Sub Ek, it’s all one. Don’t you understand? It’s all one.” And of course we didn’t particularly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Understand that. Right.

Rameshwar Das:
I think the rather wonderful thing about Ram Dass is that he was on that journey toward oneness and through translating his own life experiences for everybody, he brought everybody along on the trip. And I think that over the time that I knew him, he transformed a lot and lost more of that separateness and became more of that loving beacon of awareness and compassion and love. And some of it was practice, some of it was through the stroke that almost took him out and really send him into a deep depression for awhile because he thought he really lost contact with Maharaj-ji, had lost his spiritual path. And it came back and I would say those last 20 years of his life after the stroke, that little more he was more and more just going into that what he sometimes called the ocean of love.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting when you follow-

Rameshwar Das:
You could feel that. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When you follow his career and there’s a wonderful documentary, you can find I think on Netflix or one of the streaming services called Becoming Nobody, and it’s this beautiful story of his life. And there’s an audio recording of series of his lectures also called Becoming Nobody, an audible, which I encourage everyone listen to. It’s really just five hours, so it’s not long, but it’s a fascinating exploration because I think many spiritual teachers are like, “Well, I have it altogether. I’m enlightened and I’m good. I’m here on my better soul teaching you.” And that always smells to me. For me, that always just smells rotten and I don’t believe it most of the time.

Rameshwar Das:
Oh, it’s just issues anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And so it’s like, “Listen, I know you just got your crap and you’re messed up.” And then you see all the-

Rameshwar Das:
Then they sleep with them and all that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. And all the gurus are sleeping with this one and they’re stealing money from this one. And they’re caught up in the ego in this powerful way and they’re pretending to be somebody, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And what I love about Ram Dass is, he just came back from India and he’s like, “I’m just an idiot like the rest of you. I’m just maybe asking more questions and I’m being more transparent about my neuroses and my stuff. And here’s what I know and learned. And maybe you want to try it on.” He didn’t come from a place of real ego, it seemed like. Although I think he would take on the role of Ram Dass and he identified with that a little bit. So he got a little bit of an ego trap, but as you said, when he got the stroke that really transformed him. And I was recently talking to your friend and it’s chanting musician.

Rameshwar Das:
Oh, Krishna Das?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Krishna Das, and he was very funny. He was like, “Well, before his stroke, he was a dick.”

Rameshwar Das:
Literally he was Dick Alpert.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. He was funny. And then he just dropped into a different state of being when he couldn’t no longer make love or play cello or do the things he really… play golf or the things that really made him feel good. And all of a sudden, when you realize you’re not your body, and I’ve been in this state where I’ve been really sick, like I’ve been in bed, incapacitated for five, six months, not knowing if I was going to live or die, weak and unable to really function. And it was like, “Okay, well, what am I? Am I my thoughts, am I my emotions, am I my body? what am I?” Because I was still there. And I really couldn’t function in any other level. My mind wasn’t working, my body wasn’t working, emotionally, I wasn’t so really there, but there was something else that was there that was what I think he was speaking to, was this place where our soul shows up.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Can you talk about how we can all in this crazy culture we’re in and the amount of divisiveness and conflict, fear, and anxiety, and thinking about the future, how do we come back to a place where we’re not just buffeted around by the winds of all this chaos?

Rameshwar Das:
Well, as I say, I don’t know. I do find meditation more interesting than drugs these days. I’ll tell you that. There was a wonderful Indian saint who you probably know of, named Ramana Maharshi who went through something like what you’re talking about when he was 17 and his father had just died and he was just confronting death for the first time in his life. And he was staying with his uncle and he laid down on his uncle’s… the floor of his study and thought about what it would be like to die. And to the extent that he went into almost like rigormortis and stopped his breath. And then he went with that thought, exactly what you’re saying of who am I now? What is this, that’s here still? And he came into that self that you’re talking about, which is not the body self, not the body consciousness.

Rameshwar Das:
And that was, I think the way that Ram Dass was able to convey something of that. And that was the experience that he had when he first took psilocybin. And then when he was with Maharaj-ji and when he was practicing meditation. And in that first winter that he was in India, staying in the ashram up in the Himalaya foothills freezing his off and learning yoga and meditation. In that time, I think he really developed the practices that carried him through after that, and that he helped give to other people. He taught me yoga and meditation when I first met him. Those practices sustained that soul place, that and the relationship with his guru, with Maharaj-ji. And that guru thing, which Ram Dass acknowledged was so hard to get across in the West because it was so-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s like giving up your power, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah, exactly that. And doesn’t go over well for Westerners.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Western individualist where it’s all about the, I, me, mine.

Rameshwar Das:
Yes. And it’s achievement and you can’t really achieve enlightenment because becoming nobody, it’s not becoming more a somebody.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right. That’s right.

Rameshwar Das:
But the other thing that I think that he allowed people to have on their spiritual journey and that he really communicated was humor.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. He was very funny.

Rameshwar Das:
And being able to laugh at yourself. And he was a real storyteller, I think it was maybe wavy gravy. He said he used to be master of the one-liner, now he’s the master of the ocean liner. This was after the stroke. Because he got very slowed down after the stroke. And he had almost complete aphasia for awhile where he couldn’t talk at all and he slowly got it back.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s a scary thing when you lose the identity that you are. I mean, it’s almost like he was asking for it in his karmic life in a way, because he was wanting to get to that his whole life, was to that ego-less place, to the place of love. And it’s hard to get there when you have desires and attachments and you have identity and you’re somebody and with the stroke, all of a sudden was nobody. And he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t function, he couldn’t do anything. I don’t wish that on anybody for a path of enlightenment, but he was able to transform that in a beautiful way for the last few decades of his life.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. I think that’s one of the most inspiring aspects of what he did with the latter part of his life. And as I age, as a lot of my cohort are starting to… As Joan Halifax says, “Get to the head of the line.” The ways that he dealt with getting old, aging disability and the fear of death which I think that he helped a lot of people with and certainly helped me with. I had to confront that myself in my own life in different ways.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And how did he help you do that?

Rameshwar Das:
The first time, I was out working with him on the memoir in Maui and my daughter was killed here in East Hampton in a traffic accident. She was run over on her bike. She was 14 and I was destroyed. I don’t think there’s anything worse. I mean, I would much rather had been me.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Losing your child like that is the worst. Yeah.

Rameshwar Das:
And when we heard that she hadn’t made it out of the surgery at the trauma hospital, I looked at Ram Dass and said, “She didn’t get to finish her life.” And he looked straight at me and said, “Yes, she did.” I mean, in that perspective of an incarnation, in this life it’s, you’re still here in some sense. That presence took me out of my, not the pain of the situation, but my self pity about it for a little while.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For a little while, and then it came back.

Rameshwar Das:
Then I got on a plane and flew back East and went through all of the rough stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s the roughest thing ever, I can’t imagine. So this paradox of ego and soul, right? We’re ego and we’re some level of other continuity of our wellbeing that isn’t well talked about in the Western culture. And I think when are the moments when you feel most alive and connected and feel the love and joy and bliss and happiness. I mean, it comes down to love, doesn’t it?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. And I mean, one of the things I learned from my daughter’s death is that love doesn’t die and that presence, and after Ram Dass died, I was with him when he passed and his presence was still there. I mean, after a while, the body stayed for awhile and then we took it off and he was cremated. And it’s definitely different.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, he said before he died, the soul doesn’t have a fear of dying. The ego has a very pronounced fear of dying. The ego. This incarnation is life and dying. The soul is infinite. So how does that inform our approach to death? I mean, how does that idea… because a lot of us in the West, we think of an afterlife or we think of heaven, or there’s a different beliefs about it, in the Jewish tradition, we don’t talk that much about it, but it’s something that’s an unknowable known. You’d imagine it might be true, but we can’t really know until we die. [crosstalk 00:40:54].

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. They say that when you take incarnation there’s this veil that comes down so you don’t remember anything from your previous births. I mean, if you want to adopt that model of previous books, but-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, someone could say, it’s a nice story where you actually can calm yourself down, if you believe that there’s a continuity to your soul and then there’s reincarnation. So you maybe get to not be so afraid, but is that just a story or is there evidence that might be true?

Rameshwar Das:
Well, one of the interesting things that Ram Dass did, and I think it started from when his mother had died and he saw the denial and hypocrisy around her in the hospital before she died. And he was not with her when she left her body, but he really determined that the way we treat death and the way that we engage with death, he wanted to change that and certainly for himself. And he did and he worked with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who had that five stages of grief and denial model and Stephen Levine. And they ran a hotline for people who are in terminal states. And he was very engaged with Joan Halifax and Stan Grof when they were giving acid to people who were dying and leave our mutual friend, Tony Bossis to continue that research, which is now finally getting some resurgence.

Rameshwar Das:
And he sat with people during the AIDS epidemic who were dying. So he was with a lot of people around death. And I think it was really his experience out of that work that brought him to a place where he saw death as a transformation rather than an end. And that was why he was not afraid of it. And he did a book with an astral entity named Emmanuel. I think there are a couple of quotes in the book about it, and Emmanuel said things like, “Death is absolutely safe.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s a hard one to swallow.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. And leaving your body is like taking off a tight shoe. And not that those things necessarily are a comfort to us, especially if we’re going to intense suffering, but you can feel that shift in perspective and there are stories. There’s a story about Maharaj-ji walking with a devotee, and he suddenly burst out laughing and the devotee said, “What’s so funny.” And he said, “Oh, so-and-so, this old ma just died.” The devotee said, “Maharaj-ji, Butcher, she was one of your great devotees.” And he said, “You want me to act like one of the puppets?” So there’s this perspective from the soul place that is different from where we’re stuck in a incarnation, in the meat.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. So a lot of us are clearly stuck in our egos and sense of self and separateness and identity. I mean, even now it’s even more striking that we are not even recognizing each other as humans first, we’re recognizing each other as red or blue or white or black. I mean, it’s just a Christian or a Muslim. I mean, just the whole divisiveness and conflict in our world is just at the other end of the extreme of the thinking that we’re all one, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That we’re all the same or that we’re all part of this big love soup. And I’m wondering, some of your perspective knowing Ram Dass for years and having done these books with him, what is your way of explaining to people and so maybe channel Ram Dass for a minute, how would he explain to people the challenges of how the ego causes us to be unhappy and miserable and how building a relationship to our soul can help alleviate that suffering? I know it’s a hard question. You can take [crosstalk 00:46:07].

Rameshwar Das:
I think I got to go back to the Buddha for that one, probably. I mean, the Buddhist, the triple gem is suffering in permanence and non-self. And part of the suffering is not necessarily that you’re in pain all the time, but that sometimes you don’t get what you want, sometimes you do get what you want and it morphs into something else that you don’t like so much. And even if you get what you want and you’re enjoying it, it goes away because you’re stuck in time and everything passes. So there’s that aspect. And that’s the impermanence side of it that everything goes away, including us. As near as I know, even when we can keep our lives going and stay healthy and all of that, at some point the lease is up.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. We have to exit somehow, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. Yeah. Nobody seems to get out alive that I’ve noticed anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So the ego basically, it keeps us feeling miserable most of the time, because it feels like it’s telling us we’re separate and distinct.

Rameshwar Das:
The Indian view of it is that it comes from our desire of systems-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. And talk about that.

Rameshwar Das:
… and that, that creates our reality. And Ram Dass, I think because of his understanding of psychology and the work that he’d done with psychedelics and his early psychology work was in child development and motivational psychology. And he really understood how we get attached to what we want and how that creates our ego structure. And ego structure was not necessarily bad. Everybody needs to have a functioning ego or you don’t function.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right. To get your groceries and make dinner and go to work and oh yeah, all that.

Rameshwar Das:
Pay your taxes and remember your zip code.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, exactly.

Rameshwar Das:
So there’s that part of it, but that freedom from desire, which I think was also what the Buddha was talking about. I mean, the literal translation of Nirvana’s I think burned out, in other words, you’ve taken care of all those desires in some level. And Maharaj-ji used to have a quote from the poet Kabir this line, which I probably don’t have correct. I think Krishna Das has a different version of it, which is, “I walk through the marketplace and I’m neither a buyer nor a seller.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m neither a buyer or a seller. So you’re a witness.

Rameshwar Das:
Or, “I’m neither wanting, nor not wanting.” I’ve heard it that way too. And that’s that paradox. I mean, that same place of just being present in the moment. And that comes back to being here now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Not long for the future or the past or anything.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. Ram Dass referred to it as time binding.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Time binding?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. In other words, we get stuck in our expectations or our recriminations about the past. And we’re not here in the moment.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. We’re thinking about the past, and we’re thinking about the future, and we’re not actually experiencing the beauty and magic of what’s happening, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. The only place happiness exists is in the moment, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Well, that ties again back to that fear of death and Ram Dass said from time to time, he said, “When you really live in the moment, death is just another moment.” So that’s a practice.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it seems by the end of his life, he was really able to put that into place for him, right?

Rameshwar Das:
I think, so. It felt that way. I mean, I’ve never been with anybody who had less fear of death.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Striking. Yeah. I went through my sister’s death and she was in massive denial about dying. She had two kids, she clearly didn’t want to die and she was 57. And it’s the opposite extreme of someone who’s in such denial about death even fell off to the moment that they take their last breath and to enter it in a different way as a celebration, as a dance, as a chapter. And I’ve seen other people do it really quite differently. I’ve seen people really just beautifully die. And I think when we’re stuck in our separateness, in our self, in our identity, in our narcissism, let’s call it. It’s very hard to see outside of this current reality and understand that we’re maybe are a part of something there and that consciousness, let’s call it higher self, lower self.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The higher self is your soul and your lower self could be your ego. And they’re always there, and the question’s which one’s talking? Which one are you listening to and whose direction are you taking? And I find myself battling with that all the time. And I begin to try to develop an awareness of who’s having the conversation in my head. And I think for many of us, that’s a really basic practice. And that’s where things like mindfulness, yoga, meditation, psychedelics can come in because they give you a clue that, “Oh, there’s another consciousness.” That witness consciousness, let’s call it, that actually can be present that doesn’t have judgment, that doesn’t have a need for things to be this way or that way, but this can go, “Oh, I can and just watch.” And it’s a very important skill to develop that we never even get taught and we don’t know about, and doesn’t really get talked about that much.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We talk about mindfulness, being in the moment, being present and the, be here now. It’s all great. What we’re really talking about is developing a level of awareness. And I think that’s what Ram Dass talked about as being a state of loving awareness, right?

Rameshwar Das:
That was how he described it in the latter part of his teaching. Yeah. And I think that it was almost a softening of those boundaries between the higher self, lower self place so that he was living more fluidly between those two. And I once asked him about that witness place, which was pointing to the practices that he spoke of, especially earlier on. And I said, “So that’s the neutral observer in mindfulness, right?” And he said, “No.” He said, “That’s the soul, that’s coming from the soul. That’s part of your soul. It’s your deeper being.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The loving awareness.

Rameshwar Das:
Well, the witness part, the awareness part. Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s coming from your soul.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. Yeah. He said, “That’s a connection to your soul.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. You want to listen to that.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah, yeah. The soul is watching the incarnation go by and allowing you to love it all, including yourself, which as we started out with, this the toughest part to get past all the judging and …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. And the loving awareness to yourself and also to all of those around you. How do you become in a state of that? And there’s no one way. I mean, psychedelics are a path meditation, but it seems almost bigger than that because I’ve known people who’ve meditated for 30 years and they’re still crazy and neurotic and …

Rameshwar Das:
My wife still accuses me of being an asshOle for barely [inaudible 00:54:59] myself.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, there you go. And one of the fun things was that I heard Ram Dass speak in the 1980s. I went to hear him talk and he just said something really stuck in my mind. He says look, “I’m screwed up like the rest of you. And I’m just friends with all my neuroses and I know their names. And I see them coming and I’m like, Hey, I’m busy. Leave me alone, go away right now, go bother somebody else.” And then you become, not grasping onto your consciousness in a way that you are one with them, that’s what you don’t want to be one with, is identifying with your mind, your monkey mind, you’re …

Rameshwar Das:
Well, sometimes he talked about it in terms of distinguishing between roles and souls. Who you are is not what you do, who you are, is not who you think you are, who you are, is your inner being, your soul. And as you just said, it’s very individual, I can’t tread on your path and can’t tread on mine and we all have our own work to do, which I guess is our karma, which is entered into the Western lexicon with probably a little bit of confession. We definitely all have our own work to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, it’s true. We’re all in a dance of trying to just be more aware to wake up, to be present. And I think, in this moment where we’re all in a massive timeout, I always joke and say, I think humans were being so bad that God gave us a massive time out and go to your room and think about what you’ve been doing and reevaluate your life and your way of-

Rameshwar Das:
Enforced to retreat.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Pretty much. It’s like, “All right, you’re all going to a monastery. It’s called your living room.” And we’ve had to look at ourselves differently and we’ve seen some dark sides, but we’ve all seen some incredible light sides of people re-imagining what their life should be and what they want to be doing. And I’ve talked to so many people during this COVID craziness and also the people in the world are really looking at their values and what matters to them and what they want to be doing. And I’m wondering if Ram Dass were here today during COVID-19, what would be the teachings that he might share about how we can navigate all this?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. I wonder too.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Come on. You’re supposed to channel Ram Dass right now. [crosstalk 00:57:46] that’s anybody.

Rameshwar Das:
No. I mean for one thing, it’s a really good time to do practice of whatever kind you are engaged in, whatever you have at hand, or to learn tools for working on yourself and finding yourself whether it’s that self inquiry from Ramana Maharshi or chanting or doing mantra, or doing yoga, whatever. One of my cousins says, “Whatever blows your skirt up.” It’s whatever works for you, but finding what does work for you, what can help with that finding your way into that witness place, where you can see yourself from a little bit outside of your ego self. And those tools are more available now, I think because of people like Ram Dass and Danny’s emotional intelligence and that’s turned into social, emotional learning for school kids.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s pretty amazing what I think-

Rameshwar Das:
So the toolbox is more available, I think. And I think it is thanks to the people who became bridges for some of that work early on.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, he was interesting, he was a unique character, Ram Dass because he was this Jewish gay guy from the fifties who bought into all the materialism and had a fancy plane and a car and this and that. And then was living the high life as this Harvard professor, which I don’t know how he afforded all that on a Harvard professor salary, but maybe he was selling acid on the side. I don’t know.

Rameshwar Das:
That came later.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then he hooked up with Timothy Leary, and they started doing all these extraordinary experiments and got fired from Harvard. And he really was the point of the spirit that breakthrough our materialist culture. I mean, there’ve been little bits of it that had come through earlier on before him, but it seems like, he showing up on the scene in America with his Harvard credentials and his background, he couldn’t be easily dismissed. He was very articulate. He was very funny and he was very accessible. It also grew very organically. I think people just got it and he was able to bring some of the vibration, let’s call it a Maharaj-ji back to the United States, which people started to glom onto, but he was really just a vehicle for it. He was a little screwed up himself. And I think-

Rameshwar Das:
He used to talk about himself, I mean, this dates me thoroughly as the Charlie McCarthy doll, which is the ventriloquist dummy. And he felt like he was to the extent that he could get out of the way, that Maharaj-ji, that place that unlimited, unconditional love could come through him, and it did. But I think the combination that jelled in him through his upbringing, there’s a story about him when he was still an adolescent, he would emcee family musical gatherings. And then he became a teacher and taught psychology. And then he started doing psychedelics and went lecturing around the country about psychedelics. And then Maharaj-ji took him over and made him the ventriloquist dummy for yoga and meditation, but that confluence of incarnations that he had been through, I think made him a unique vehicle for that time, this time too. I think it’s curious when we have retreats, there is a whole other generational cadre of young people who need this now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely. I mean, and you’re seeing this mainstream. I mean, you’ve got Lululemon and yoga, it’s become a big industry and meditation is not a normalized in society. It’s not this weird thing, corporate executives to do it, Silicon Valley leaders do it, sports teams do it. I mean, it’s apparently how the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bulls won so many games. And none of that was really in the culture back then, and the whole idea of mindfulness or presence, or being here now, or yoga or meditation, were all pretty new. And they weren’t really that prevalent in the ’60s. I mean, I think you had the Beatles going to go see a Maharaj-ji, which is not a Maharaj-ji.

Rameshwar Das:
Maharishi. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Yeah. And TM came on the scene. But there was very little of that. And I think the beautiful thing about what Ram Dass brought into the culture was just the questions without the dogma. And I think there’s so much dogma out there and so much rigidity around beliefs, and this and that is the right way, and this way and that way. And he was just this sea of questions and curiosity and inquiry into the nature of things and the nature of our mind and nature of our souls, the nature of happiness, the nature of love. And recreated an invitation for people to start thinking about that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And now more than ever, it just seems like this is the moment where this book, Being Ram Dass is something we should all pick up because I think within it, the stories and the teachings and the lessons are so relevant now more than ever, as people are struggling or feeling fearful and anxious. And I’m so excited that you brought this book to being after his death, you guys were working on this for a long time.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. About 10 years, I think caught up together.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Yeah. So you culminated, but here it is this moment where everything is falling apart. And it’s a way to maybe think about how to come back together with a different view.

Rameshwar Das:
I think that combination of wisdom and love is really, very much needed now for all of us. And that is coming together I think in… at one point, the line is in I think we love now. And it said, love is the emotion of merging and it’s that coming together.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Love is the emotion of emerging. Yeah, that’s right. I mean, that’s absolutely right. I mean, it’s really about those moments in life where you feel most alive and connected.

Rameshwar Das:
And selfless too.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And when we lose our ego, we lose our sense of separateness when you’re in love with somebody, when you’re making love, when you’re watching a beautiful sunset, when you’re having some type of deep experience. But there were very few people who brought this awareness. I mean, there were people like Aldous Huxley who were a little ahead of the game and Alan Watts who was way back then. And Gary Snyder, there were a couple of characters, but Ram Dass, he had the stage in a way that I think led to a lot of the good things that are happening now in our culture around mindfulness and mindfulness practices and reassessing what we’re doing. I don’t know, I’d encourage everyone right now to really pick up this book and check it out because without a bigger perspective, this is a very, very tough moment for people. I think any last thoughts about why you think this book is important now for people?

Rameshwar Das:
Well, I think it’s a parable for our own journeys in that sense that you can find a way to go inside to get outside yourself, in that sense really. And find that heart space which Ram Dass described as feeling like just being home, home in the heart.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s so good. Yeah. Being home. Yeah. I think that’s right. It’s like being home is living in your soul than living in your ego, right?

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This is good. Well, Ramesh, thank you so much for bringing this book to life and it’s available now, everywhere you get your books, I’d encourage people to check it out. And it’s just a beautiful story and it’s a beautiful set of teachings. And I think his life was really inspiration. Unfortunately he had a stroke, but particularly because he had a stroke, it deepen it in a way that I don’t think it might have otherwise. So I’m really glad. I’m sorry, he isn’t around anymore. I would love to just actually meet him and hang out with him.

Rameshwar Das:
Yeah. It’d be fun to see what he thought of it at this point.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Oh, God. Very good times. Well, thank you so much. And everybody check out the-

Rameshwar Das:
I think he is having fun, whatever level that I am.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Thank you so much Ramesh. This has been a great conversation about things that really matter.

Rameshwar Das:
I’ve really enjoyed it, Mark. Thank you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Everybody, listen to this conversation. And if you loved it, please share it with your friends and family on social media. We becomingly look to hear from you and subscriber every year to podcasts, and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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