Ram Dass survived a massive stroke 20 years ago; he is now 86 years old and still teaching in person and via webinars. Mirabai Bush is his longtime friend and sometime co-author. She is the founding director of The Center for Contemplative Mind.
They bonded years ago in devotion to the Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba (a.k.a. Maharaj-ji) who taught them about the power of love. He encouraged them to devote themselves to the path of the heart and service to others. They have both been involved in service projects through the Love Serve Remember Foundation and other programs.
In this joint outing, Mirabai recounts her conversations with Ram Dass at his home in Maui about the dying process, sharing stories and experiences. In one section, Ram Dass remembers the deaths of loved ones, including Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Maharaj-ji.
Some spiritual teachers have pointed out the clash between fear and death. Ram Dass notes:
"We have to get close to what we fear, so we know it. Know our attachments and let them go. We have to be willing to look at everything. Keeping death at arm's length keeps us from living fully."
Recalling his guru's instruction to always tell the truth, he adds, "If you look at the truth of your own death, you won't fear it."
Whereas in the West death is hidden, in India "Death was right out in the open, a natural part of life. It wasn't an error or a failure. It was part of life. . . . Life and death were a natural part of the extended family." The authors interpret this to mean that relaxing with death and accepting both the fragility and the impermanence of life is a salutary way of seeing things.
One of the many appealing sides of Ram Dass is his deep appreciation of spiritual practices. The last section of the book includes many "Practices for Conscious Living and a Loving Heart." Here are four of our favorites:
- Guidelines for Being a Loving Rock for the Dying
- Last Words
- Just-Like-Me Compassion Meditation
- Spiritual Legacy
If you love the title of this book, you will, no doubt, savor all that these lifelong spiritual companions say about life, dying, and death.