Ram Dass -- counterculture icon, psychedelic pioneer, and spiritual guide -- has died at age 88. After turning on with his Harvard psychology colleague Timothy Leary in the early 1960s, Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) became an intrepid explorer of higher consciousness and dedicated his life to teaching what he learned to the world. From Tricycle:
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In Be Here Now, Ram Dass‘s first book for the masses, which has sold over 2 million copies since publication in 1971, he offered seekers an engaging, unconventional, slightly zany roadmap for finding a spiritual path and a more enduring connection to higher consciousness than a tab of acid could bring. From then on, in close to a dozen books and countless teachings, retreats, and podcasts, Ram Dass continued to share the wisdom of a journey that had long gone beyond personal transformation to embrace a cosmic worldview and social agenda...
“My life has been a dance between power and love,” he observed after the massive cerebral hemorrhage in 1997 that left the charismatic, preternaturally articulate teacher groping for words. “First part, till Harvard: power, power, power, power. Up until drugs, I thought power was the end all and be all, because I was a little individual. Then drugs: love, love, love, love. My first mushroom trip was so profound that I saw radiance was inside, and I said, ‘I’m home, I’m home, I’m home.'”
Yep, the Beatle was tripping balls. Specifically, he had just taken a hit of DMT with famed 1960s art dealer Robert "Groovy Bob" Fraser. From the NME
quoting a paywalled Sunday Times interview:
“We were immediately nailed to the sofa... And I saw God, this amazing towering thing, and I was humbled. And what I’m saying is, that moment didn’t turn my life around, but it was a clue.
“It was huge. A massive wall that I couldn’t see the top of, and I was at the bottom.
“And anybody else would say it’s just the drug, the hallucination, but both Robert and I were like, ‘Did you see that?’ We felt we had seen a higher thing.”
Illustration: Mitch O'Connell's fantastic Paul McCartney poster art.
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Varanasi is one of the great spiritual centers of the world, along with Jerusalem, Mecca, Vatican City. This personal project by filmmaker Aeyaz is a contemplative look at the city and at what comes beyond life. Read the rest
Xian'er is a robotic Buddhist monk that lives at the 1,700 year-old Longquan Temple in Beijing, China. Video below. The temple is host to an animation and maker studio meant to blend technology, science, and spirituality. From CNN:
(Animation studio head and Buddhist master) Xianfan, a graduate of the Chinese Central Art Academy, first conceived Xian'er (Xian stands for virtuous. Er means dumb in Beijing dialect but is a term of endearment) in 2013 as a cartoon character...
(Xian'er) can answer up to 100 questions and a CNN team put him through his paces on a recent visit to the temple.
At first, he didn't seem very co-operative. His head kept spinning around and, like a child, he kept saying: "Leave me alone; stop bothering me."
But when he was in the mood, his Buddhist wisdom shined through:
"Where are you from?" we asked.
"How would I answer a question that you human beings have no answer to?" he quipped.
"Xian'er, who are your parents?" we countered.
"Do the designers count?" was his pithy reply.
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Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine seeks religious and spiritual leaders to participate in a research study on psilocybin and mystical experience. Read the rest
Editor's note: The Oklevueha Native American Church, or ONAC, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legal freedom to observe Native American spiritual traditions. Some of these involve sacramental or medicinal use of various plants: Peyote, Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Cannabis, Mushrooms and others. I am an ONAC member. While law varies state by state, those who grow or use these plants--Native Americans, or otherwise--risk arrest, property confiscation, legal harassment, and police abuse. One of ONAC's members in California was recently arrested, and his property confiscated, shortly after local law enforcement were notified they have no right to do these things. ONAC is holding a press conference today to announce their response. —Xeni Jardin
There will be a press conference today, 2 PM at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa California, at 170 Railroad Street.
Noted Constitutional and Civil Rights Lawyer Matt Pappas will be announcing lawsuits and other legal actions against a number of Law Enforcement and County officials and entities.
These legal actions have become necessary because of repeated abuses of power and evidence of collusion by these groups to deprive members of the Native American Church of their Native Ceremonies and Sacraments by raiding their sacred grounds, confiscating their objects of worship and destroying the sacraments and medicines.
All of these items are protected under the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. These protections have repeatedly been upheld by numerous court cases around the country including the US Supreme Court, US District Courts and State Supreme Courts. Read the rest
A most bizarre book from the late 18th century.
"Those Who Are Jesus" is Steven Eastwood's fascinating 2001 documentary about three people who have true delusions of grandeur based on "profoundly religious or revalatory experiences." Read the rest
Brooklyn-based photographer Joey L. created breathtaking portraits of ascetics in northern India, Nepal, and other parts of the region. The series is titled Holy Men. Above, Lal Baba, age 85. Joey L is best known for creating the Twilight movie posters and other commercial projects. Holy Men is part of his personal body of work that also includes the stunning Cradle of Mankind photos of tribal people in Ethiopia's Omo Valley. Below, filmmaker Cale Glendening's documentary about the Holy Men project. (via Daily Grail) Read the rest