Death of a Teacher
Below is what I wrote the night I learned Ram Dass had left his body. I posted it on social media on December 23rd at 12:09 am. Writing is one of my main ways that I work through my grief, and crafting these words was incredibly healing for me. Since then, I did go to Maui, and I got to touch his feet. I will forever have burned in my mind the power and beauty of staying up through the night in satsang, doing puja, singing bhajan, and performing aarti to his body as it lay covered in flowers in the early morning hours before sunrise.
I have come to find that I actually feel Ram Dass’s presence more now than ever before. It’s like a valve has been released in my heart that I never knew existed, and this vast oceanic love can now come pouring in. I now feel the words I wrote that night to be a true reality: “His own teachings point the way to stay in union with him. He is merged in Love, and that Love is always present.” Ram Dass is here, now, and available for any of us searching wisdom, guidance, or the depths of Love Itself.
– December 23rd, 12:09 am –
Ram Dass has left his body and merged with Neem Karoli Baba, dissolved in the ocean of Love.
I feel the waves of grief, and I love each wave. But more than anything my heart just feels full. His own teachings point the way to stay in union with him. He is merged in Love, and that Love is always present.
I was supposed to go see him on January 23rd. My schedule is pretty busy, so I was grateful I could carve out a few days to be in his presence. And now he’s gone.
“Well, I guess I won’t get to have that one last grand moment with him,” I thought. All of the fantasies I had about how it would be like when I saw him played through my mind. This was followed by, ”That’s just an attachment.” And then it became just another thought, and I loved the thought, just for existing.
Then came the next thought: “Ram Dass taught me how to do that.”
Ram Dass has completely changed the way I think, the way I relate to my experiences, how I fill my time, where I place my value… My life can never be the same because of one man. I might get caught up in mundane matters and avoid my daily practices, but his influence is always present as a constant backdrop. It touches every single aspect of my life, and there are no words to describe the kind of gratitude that comes from that. None.
I owe him more than I can ever repay, and that is one of the ways that a true teacher shows us what Grace is.
There are so many stories flooding my awareness right now, but I will share this one. There were 20 of us in the pool doing a Q&A with Ram Dass. A person asked, “I have been thinking a lot about how everything is always changing. And so I am wondering, what is the difference between loss and change?”
Usually when a question was asked of him, there was that long pause, as if the question was answered by the silence first so his words could validate it after. But in that moment, it was in reverse. Ram Dass spoke before she even finished her sentence. A single word, razor sharp, leaving behind a searing wake of silence.
“Attachment,” he said.
When I saw Ram Dass in Taos for the Grand Opening of the new Hanuman Temple, there was one night where I couldn’t sleep, and so I wrote him a handwritten letter. In it I admitted something that I was too timid to ever say to his face. “In my heart of hearts, you are no different to me than Neem Karoli Baba.”
And it’s true. It’s true now more than ever, but it’s always been true.
Ram Dass, I never had the nerve to touch your feet. I always wanted to, but I saw the way you recoiled when people reached out for them. I knew you never wanted that. Instead, you pointed us to Neem Karoli Baba, known to us as Maharajji.
You always said that Maharajji lives in your imagination. So too, you both live in mine. Tonight, I bow to touch your holy, precious feet in my mind.