Ram Dass was a soaring soul our world was fortunate to have for almost nine decades. Known as Richard Alpert until his guru gave him his Hindi name, Ram Dass influenced an entire generation of Westerners, mainly American, from the late 1960s until his death in 2019.
One of the many things I like about Ram Dass is his emphasis on the individual’s primacy in the spiritual journey. Too many spiritual traditions demand an “our way or the highway” dogma that diminishes the individual.
Not Ram Dass. This was his take:
“The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.”
This is huge. Why? Because many traveling the spiritual path are too quick to outsource the captaincy of their ship. They look to others to tell them what to do. And to tell them what is truth and what isn’t.
The teachers I follow
In my case, I pursue ideas and concepts that resonatewith me. That make sense to me. I’ve written extensively about Mickey Singer, Eckhart Tolle and Ram Dass…because their teachings resonate the most with me.
Not all teachers resonate with me. Yogananda is one of the most influential Indian saints of the 20th century. He lived in America from 1920 until his death in 1952. He had a big hand in popularizing meditation in America. His book, Autobiography of a Yogi, is one of the most influential spiritual books ever written.
Mickey Singer is a Yogananda devotee
If my favorite teacher, Mickey Singer, had to choose one teacher that has influenced him above all others, I would bet that he’d choose Yogananda. He certainly mentions him the most frequently in his talks, along with Meher Baba.
Me? Not so much. Yogananda’s teachings focus mostly on the active and ardent pursuit of knowing God. His autobiography didn’t move me as it did so many millions of others.
Ram Dass floats my boat
Ram Dass’s book, Be Here Now, on the other hand, hit me like an earthquake. I tend toward the Ram Dass/Bhakti yoga teachings that stress compassion towards others. Ram Dass’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba, had a simple summation of the purpose of life: Love everyone, serve everyone. That resonates with me.
I just took the Ananda course in meditation, which is the beginning phase of the ancient method of Kriya yoga that Yogananda practiced. There were precise exercises that had to be done a certain way, followed by meditation that had to be done in a precise way. I found it all too forced and inflexible.
But that’s just me. There are millions of adherents to Yogananda and Kriya that swear by it. It totally works for them. I want to stress that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Kriya, just that it’s not for me.
The point of all this is that spiritual seekers need to follow their own noses. If some teaching or teacher rubs you the wrong way, move along to something else.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently put it:
“Trust thyself.Every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
Nobody knows the course of your spiritual path better than you do. You just need to listen to your insides.
And captain your ship.