And so it is.
Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert; April 6, 1931 - December 22, 2019) passed away peacefully in his Hawaii home yesterday, surrounded by his loved ones. I never had the good fortune of personally meeting him, though his teachings influenced my life in a way that will forever impact the nature of my heart in this lifetime. When asked who my teachers are, Ram Dass is the first person I mention: my "love guru"; he was a Bhakti yogi who taught me innumerable lessons about truly living a path of love.
He taught me how to see people as souls.
My heart is bursting with gratitude for being blessed by his divine love and yet I can't stop the tears from flowing; between gasping for breath and clenching my chest there is laughter, because one of his greatest lessons was on how to live blissfully in the temporality of existence:
As long as you identify with that which dies, there is always fear of death, because it's the fear of cessation of existence."
And he will never really be gone because he lives in the hearts of so many others who will continue to pass on his teachings to those around them. If you've been to one of my yoga classes or guided meditations in recent years, it's very likely that you've heard me speak about him, directly quote him, or play one of the songs he collaborated on with East Forest. I will forever love him and share this love with anyone who will listen.
Beginning his life as Richard Alpert and finding great success in academia, Ram Dass went through his own transformation in the 60s, having pursued power and prestige in the earlier years of his life and then coming to understand (originally through the potency of a profound first psilocybin experience) that the radiant and incomparable power of love lived inside of him. He subsequently travelled to India and met his guru, Maharaji, who gave him the name Ram Dass and ushered in his next great spiritual awakening. It was the unconditional love of his guru that set him on the path of Bhakti yoga, himself becoming the embodiment of pure love and undertaking a total devotion to sharing these lessons for the remainder of his beautiful life.
Ram Dass has taught thousands of us how to free our hearts from the anxieties of living and the trap of eternal seeking. He taught me how to uplift my own heart and elevate my consciousness through simple mantras and reminders of the gift of life - I am loving awareness / love everyone and tell the truth / be here now.
From the ego, death is a stopping point - it's the end of the ego. Death is a ceremony. The ego sees death as suffering, and the soul sees death as the awakening of a new world, a new perspective."
Welcome to a new world, dear one. You will never be forgotten.