The teachings of Ram Dass are the teachings he was given by his Indian guru Maharaj-ji. Ram Dass’ teachings are a confluence of Hinduism, Buddhism and aspects of his own American culture including from Christianity. The central aspects were to cultivate emptiness, cultivate compassion and honour his guru.
Ram Dass writes in his autobiography Being Ram Dass that you can’t achieve your way to God. You can only surrender.
‘You make the efforts to purify and clear your mind, and then you have to let it all go: desires, attachments, ego, mind, conceptual thoughts. It was the polar opposite of achievement motivation, this cultivation of desirelessness. Maharaj-ji used to quote a line from the poet Kabir that went, “I walk through the market, and I am neither a buyer nor a seller”.’
What’s interesting is that the spiritual and the psychological are so deeply interwoven so as Ram Dass deepens his spiritual practices so he changes his priorities and personality. One example is that Maharaj-ji kept giving him experiences with power until Ram Dass saw that it was love not power, that matters. This often came to the fore when Ram Dass was teaching others: ‘The teacher role fanned my ego, except that Maharaj-ji kept undercutting it. … I was connecting with monstrous egos, and not just my own.’
Ram Dass learnt that the eternal present was ever present for his guru. For Maharaj-ji it was as if people long dead were present for him. ‘It’s as if Maharaj-ji’s eternal present intersects our timeline at a perpendicular from another dimension’… he sees:
‘time from outside our reality. When he spoke of Christ, tears rolled down his face. It was as if he was witnessing the crucifixion. Later he told us to meditate the way Christ meditated. When asked how Christ meditated, he said, “he lost himself in love”’.
Ram Dass with Maharaj-ji
to return to India he wakes to find someone sitting on the end of the bed. ‘It was Maharaj-ji. The apparition said in perfectly good English, “You don’t need to go to India. Your next teachings will be right here.”’ And so Ram Dass stays in the US and receives more teachings via others but directed by Maharaj-ji.