Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bibliography/Book Review; Dass, Ram aka Alpert, Richard; Be Here Now, The Only Dance There Is, Grist for the Mill, et al

Bibliography/Book Review;
Dass, Ram aka Alpert, Richard; Be Here Now, The Only Dance There Is, Grist for the Mill, Miracle of Love, et al.

There are many who have contributed to the communication of Eastern spirituality to the Western world. Early on, there were visits to the West by Swami Vivekenanda and Swami Rama Tirtha. Others who added to this dialogue were Madam Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society, Nicholas and Helena Roerich and their Agni Yoga Society, Sir John Woodruff (an Englishman who studied with my spiritual mentor’s master and authored such books as The Serpent Power), Paul Brunton (whose encounter with Ramana Maharshi was the pinnacle to his trip to India as chronicled in his book, A Search in Secret India), Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi) and Allen Ginsberg, among others. They were all precursors to the tremendous influx that occurred in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, which continues to this day. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his TM movement, Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupad and his Hare Krishna movement, Swami Satchidinanda with his memorable appearance at Woodstock, and my spiritual mentor, Swami Rama and The Himalayan Institute he founded, were all part of that influx. But I don’t think there was anyone who had as much influence and impact on the broadest audience as did Richard Alpert, a nice Jewish boy who was a Harvard psychology professor and early LSD researcher. He became transformed into Ram Dass as a result of his experiences in India, as chronicled in his benchmark book, Be Here Now.

When I transferred from staid Lafayette College to unstaid Antioch College after my college freshman year in 1970, I became exposed to and bombarded by an incredible variety of new experiences, ideas and challenges. The little bit of Eastern spirituality that I had experienced reading Hesse in high school and studying Eastern religions at Lafayette now expanded into hands-on experiential experimentation at Antioch. I was fortunate enough to have a room-mate who was ahead of the curve on all of this, and acted as my first mundane-level spiritual guide. He led me to Be Here Now and TM, among other things, and I also took up Hatha Yoga, with classes offered for free by an advanced student at Antioch.

Be Here Now is a collage-style book. It contains an inspiring autobiography of the spiritual quest, development and transformation of Richard Alpert into Ram Dass, a flowing, stream-of-consciousness type of narrative communicated from a higher state of spiritual consciousness (similar to the type of darshan/talks/happenings he used to stage on various tours around the country), and also a kind of resource manual into many aspects of Eastern spirituality, particularly yoga and Buddhism. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Eastern spirituality, their own spiritual development, and also to provide insight into the spiritual side of the cultural revolution of the 60’s and 70’s.

I had the pleasure of attending one of Ram Dass’ “happenings” in the mid-70’s in Portland, Oregon, and actually had a brief one-on-one encounter with him afterwards. I sort of just lingered about, and he came outside all alone, where we met and had a nice little exchange. He then walked off to a beat-up old VW bug and drove away.

He has written many other books in the ensuing years and has been a sort of celebrity on the American spiritual scene. Throughout various ups and downs and controversies along the way, he has pretty much remained true to his calling, and humble and giving in nature. Sometime a few years back, he had a major devastating stroke, and has struggled for years to slowly regain his physical functionality. There is a very beautiful and moving video called “Fierce Grace” that I also highly recommend. Its focus is on his struggles after the stroke, but also contains a good overview of his past and spiritual history. It is worth tracking down. (We were able to order it through NetFlix).

I would be remiss if I did not mention a particularly special volume compiled and edited by him: Miracle of Love, which is a collection of reminisces from various people who had experiences with Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass' guru.

"The best form in which to worship God is every form." -- Neem Karoli Baba

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Quote of the Week 381 - Heaven

Heaven is all round,

Translated to sound.

--Michael Hedges



Announcing Publication of New Book, DIMENSIONS: Navigation the Spiritual Spectrum

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum, now available at Amazon, in paperback print and Kindle versions. It is easily found by searching my name, or by searching the full title and subtitle. You can also click on the image of the book in the right hand column of this blog.

What a great way to start the New Year, cozying up to a fire, real or imagined, and reading a new spiritually inspiring book, sure to become a classic!

DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum

Grounded in the traditions of Torah and Veda, Steven J. Gold takes us on an oceanic tour of the depth and breadth of spiritual consciousness. Sharing personal stories and insights into various traditional scriptures as examples, he urges us to adopt a spiritual worldview, to “ponder infinity, awake and arise,” to “find your inspiration and follow it.”

“The chapters…are records of what happens when Steve’s right mind, and heart, are given full freedom to wander where they wish. As discoveries and correlations are made, his well-trained left mind and sharp wit give his observations shape and form…” – Brother Shankara, Resident Minister, Vedanta Center of Atlanta

“Universal Ice Cream: Dive deep into Steve’s wonderful book to help find your favorite flavor on the Spiritual Spectrum.” – Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Spiritual Leader, Congregation Shalom B’Harim, Dahlonega, GA

“Steven J. Gold’s Dimensions is an exploration of spirituality from the inside out. If you are looking for a guide through the pathless land of truth, read this book.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of The World Wisdom Bible

Interfaith/Inter-Spiritual Contemplative Groups

Please check out the following, which is an ongoing activity that may be of interest: