In this talk from 1987, Ram Dass explores the cusp between form and formless, how he learned to love all the faces of the Beloved, and how our work on ourselves is a vehicle to liberation.
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The Cusp Between Form and Formless
On the very cusp between form and formless, Ram Dass explores how everything is perfect from one point of view, and from another perspective, the pain and suffering are unbearable to the human heart. He talks about balancing these two planes of consciousness, his experience with death and dying, and how we can live in a world where our hearts are constantly breaking.
“And then I saw that as long as there was something I was turning away from, I wouldn’t be free. And if I’m not free, how can I free anybody else? And to turn around and look at death and look at pain and look at suffering, and allow your heart to break, and then see that with the broken heart you’re still here… That’s the one where it gets interesting.” – Ram Dass
RamDev teaches us to see death as a mirror in Healing at the Edge Ep. 80
Faces of the Beloved (15:35)
Ram Dass tells the story of how he “cheated” during a meditation retreat and the interesting consequences of his actions. He talks about being called home to care for his ailing stepmother, and how he learned to love all the faces of the Beloved, including the wrathful one. He shares the story of caring for his elderly father and learning how to meet him in a space of love.
“It was like you just met another face of the Beloved, you can hear that. That most of us only want to see the smiling face of the Beloved. And the Kali quality, or the Shiva quality, or the wrathful deity quality, we don’t want to know anything about it. If you’re going to embrace it all, you’ve got to be able to look at it all. As Kabir says, ‘Do what you do with another being, but never put them out of your heart.’ You’ve got to be able to look at all the forms in which God manifests and keep your heart open.” – Ram Dass
Lama Tsultrim Allione talks about feeding your demons in Mindrolling Ep. 379
Your Vehicle to Liberation (32:25)
Ram Dass talks about making his life his yoga, his practice, and how the world got so sweet when he stopped being afraid of all the faces of the Beloved. He explores how we work on ourselves as a gift to the world around us, and that the places where we can’t see the Beloved are where our work lies. He tells stories of still getting caught in his own reactivity and ends by talking about how the judging mind can surrender to the appreciative mind.
“Just what’s on your plate, that’s your vehicle to liberation. If you’re turning away from anything, it’s got you. As you cultivate the emptiness and start to feel safe in the formless, you will be able to dive more deeply into the form. Most people are afraid of the form that are on the spiritual journey, for fear they’ll get lost in it. When you really want truth and want freedom, you need have no fear. You’ll go under for a moment, but you’ll come up.” – Ram Dass
Photo via Rameshwar Das