Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ram Dass on Suffering and Grace

The ego - our thinking patterns that create the 'reality' of separateness and individuality, what Einstein called an "optical delusion of consciousness" - will not die without a struggle. The question then becomes a matter of whether we choose to suffer through the pangs of dying to the self or ego voluntarily before dying, or whether we wait, avoiding and fending off the inevitable as best we can

While in both cases there is unavoidable suffering that must be either endured or overcome, with the former - i.e., in dying before dying - there is a powerful teaching that can provide us with wisdom to be used and shared by us in this life. And, we have all had intimations of the greater peace that lies beyond suffering, if only in the sometimes bliss of the dream state.
"He who learns must suffer," writes the Greek poet, Aeschylus. "And in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
In a powerful video, attached below, spiritual teacher Ram Dass utilizes this wisdom from Aeschylus on suffering to take the viewer through the insights he and his step-mother received when he attended her on her death bed. But in doing so he omits the first sentence of the above passage and stresses the last clause of the well-known quote; that is, "the awful grace of God" that emerges as a respite from egoic suffering.

Ram Dass notes that after his step-mother had endured the pain, and come out the other side from her physical and existential suffering, her ego lifted and a new force of pure being emerged.
"I watched that ego finally surrender and this spirit come forth," he says. "And the being that I was then with was like being in the presence of just pure grace. And her death was absolutely just like ink going into water. It just dissolved. . . just a breathing out. And I saw this being who I never expected to see in our lives together emerge, and  I had to admit that it was the pain and suffering that beat that ego down for this other thing to come through. And I knew that I never could have done that to her. And it was the awful grace, the awful grace. . . ."
Out of this experience, Dass says, he has learned to see death as "the unfolding perfection of the universe," knowing that the person who dies to self, or dies to the ego, is entering upon what he calls "a new curriculum" offered up by the universe. And it is a "new curriculum" which is available, presumably, for the spiritual seeker who is brave enough to endure the suffering of his or her own volition and, in so doing, die to self. For wisdom teachings from all ages and continents have spoken of the dark night of the soul, and the suffering that must be endured in order for a new being free of the ego to emerge.

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