Ram Dass on Forgiveness

Monks on a bridge 641x400Ram Dass is probably best known for his LSD experiments with Timothy Leary at Harvard in the 60s, and as the author of the classic “Be Here Now.” Less known is the fact that he was also my first spiritual teacher. A friend gave me his book, The Only Dance There Is. Then I heard him speaking in Washington D.C. and I was hooked by his sharp wit and brilliant perspectives on life and illusion.

Here are some excerpts of what Ram Dass had to say about forgiveness in an interview entitled Forgiveness – Bridge Between Self and Soul:

[Forgiveness is] a step on a ladder that goes from dualism into non-dualism. Because as you forgive or allow or acknowledge or say “Of course you’re human” or “We all do that” or something, you open your heart again . . . . 

[E]very time you close off something with judgment, it’s as if you take a bit of energy and you lock it away and make it unavailable to you. Until pretty soon you are exhausted. You don’t have any energy, because you are so busy. . . .

I often visualize it as having little doors inside your head. You’re holding a grudge — and so every time you think of that person your heart closes down. It’s as if you’ve got a little room with a guard at it that doesn’t allow you to flow freely. And they’re all the no’s of life — the no, no, no, no, no. . . . And it costs more than it’s worth. Even though you are right, righteousness ultimately starves you to death.

Righteousness is not liberation. It is known as the golden chain. You’re wonderful and you’re absolutely right, but you’re dead. I mean you’re dead to the living spirit. And finally, you want to be free more than you want to be right.

In short, you can either be right or you can be happy. 

Forgiveness Resources

Twenty Seven and A Half Years – An inspiring story sent to me from David Walrath about Gregory Bright, a man who forgave after being imprisoned for 27 1/2 years for crimes he did not commit. Bright says: I couldn’t change the things I had to forgive, but I could change if I forgave. To hold a grudge is self-destruction, but forgiveness is a strength. It’s a process of humbling myself and leaning on the truth, and in all things the truth is far better than a lie. 

The Radical Power of Humility – Lulu Perault shared this lovely article on the power and importance of humility and three important doorways humility can open. Includes this forgiveness prayer, practiced each year on a special holy day by the Jain community: If I have caused you offense in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness.


About Eileen Barker

EILEEN BARKER has been writing and speaking on forgiveness, and guiding people who need to either forgive themselves or someone else, for many years. A practicing litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role, Eileen has focused her practice on mediation, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself.

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