Book Reviews — 29 May 2014

Kaiyum reviews Ram Dass’ book.

Polishing the Mirror by Ram DassRecent years have seen an enormous burgeoning of magnificent books that nourish and support the seeker on the spiritual path. One of the guiding lights since the 1970s has been Ram Dass, creator of classics such as Be Here Now, Be Love Now and Still Here.


Ram DassAfter suffering a near-fatal stroke in 1997 while writing Still Here (a book on conscious ageing), Ram Dass was left with severe aphasia and paralysis of his right side. A subsequent illness has restricted his physical travel in the world, but he continues to be a guide for many. Where his quick wit and rich language – luckily recorded for posterity on audio and video – have made way for poignant, powerful silences between his now well-chosen words, he has been helped by others such as Rameshwar Das – also a loving disciple of Maharaj-ji – to create this new and insightful book.

Perspective

As Ram Dass writes,

Spiritual books are but markers left beside the path for fellow pilgrims toward inner light. May dust from the feet of the great beings who have trod this Way before us grace the words and thoughts on these pages and guide us home.”

The substance of these words is accurately reflected in the book’s subtitle, How to live from your spiritual heart. Without doubt, this is the key to Ram Dass’s teachings in the light of his guru kripa, his love for and dedication to Neem Karoli Baba, his guru Maharaj-ji.

Teachings

A constant feature of Ram Dass’s work is ‘be here now’. Time and again these words re-appear at right moments within this highly readable and deeply touching book. The reader is offered simple yet fundamental insights into how Maharaj-ji helped Ram Dass (‘servant of God’) to find himself:

“Love everyone and tell the truth.”
“Give up anger, and I’ll help you with it.”
“You must polish the mirror free of anger to see God.”

Ram Dass writes with disarming frankness and in all simplicity over his own discoveries and his gradual growth into the here-now. We read about how he supports and guides others – including his mother, stepmother and father – on the final journey of leaving the body. Beautiful, touching, revealing, loving, insightful stories that reflect both Ram Dass’s convictions about and his awareness of dying. His book is illuminated by pointed quotations such as this from Aldous Huxley’s novel, Island:

So now you can let go, my darling. … Let go. … Let go of this poor old body. You don’t need it anymore. Let it fall away from you. Leave it lying there like a pile of worn-out clothes. … Go on, my darling, go on into the Light, into the peace, into the living peace of the Clear Light.”

Osho and death

Although Ram Dass went to India in the early 1970s, the same period when thousands of Westerners were flocking to listen to Osho, nowhere does he mention or quote this master. Yes, many others, from Meher Baba and Kabir to Ramana Maharshi and Sri Anandamayi Ma. Curiously enough, perhaps, it appears that Osho never mentioned Maharaj-ji. *)

Yet their views of Life and Death are identical – as may be expected from great masters – as evidenced in these words from And Now, And Here:

The greatest preparation for entering death in a conscious state is to first enter pain consciously, because death does not occur often, it does not come every day. Death will come only once, whether you are prepared for it or not; there cannot be a rehearsal for death. But pain and misery come every day. We can prepare ourselves while going through pain and suffering – and remember, if we can do so while facing them, it will prove useful at the time of death.”

Death is but one of the many themes in Polishing the Mirror. ‘Being here now’, just as with Osho, is a continually recurring theme. Contentment in the moment, conscious living, conscious dying, witnessing, letting go of suffering … these and more are all familiar themes to the follower of the spiritual path.

Karma and more

Ram Dass is clear about the purpose of human life in this body and sums up the soul’s purpose in these succinct words:

A soul takes a human birth in order to have a series of experiences through which it will awaken out of its illusion of separateness. This physical experience of being incarnated is the curriculum, and the purpose of the course is to awaken us from the illusion that we are the incarnation. Spiritual practices are tools to help us accomplish these goals.”

The book gives simple instructions in various practices such as Ram Dass has experimented with and applied in his life. He describes what works for him, while gently offering other possibilities as well as encouragement. In no way is he dogmatic. He exudes the grace and love he is so aware of in his own life.

A delightful read

All in all, the reader who is open to ‘all things spiritual’ will find nourishment, support, heartwarming insights and much more in this extremely well presented volume. The book design – lay-out, tint of paper, choice of typeface – is totally in harmony with a truly rare phenomenon in today’s world: a book without any typographical errors. Even the – for non-American readers – inconsistent American-style punctuation is totally consistent within its own rules. A 10 for the publishers and a deep namasté for Ram Dass!

*) In this essay about Neem Karoli Baba aka Maharaj-ji you can see a photo of Osho reading a book by Maharaj-ji.

KaiyumKaiyum is a regular contributor

All articles by this author published on Osho News


Polishing the Mirror: How to live from your spiritual heart by Ram Dass
ISBN 978 12 60407 967 8

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