From Being at Tufts to Being Here Now

Back in the days when Ram Das was called Richard Alpert, he was quite the typical Jewish kid from an upper middle class suburb of Boston – enrolling at Tufts upon receipt of his rejection letter from Harvard (to this day, you can still hear the Tufts freshmen bemoaning their having had to suck it up and attend their “safety school” when it didn’t work out at that ivy-covered institution located a mere two miles down the road), pledging the Jewish fratenity (A.E.Pi, which was still the Jewish fraternity on campus when I attended Tufts during the mid-eighties), flunking out of Organic Chem and switching his major to Psych, much to the chagrin of his dad.
Later on, of course, it was an entirely different trajectory. Even those who don’t read this blog for the yoga may well have heard of Ram Das, or at least the book he published in the early 70’s, “Be Here Now”. And if not the book, then the sentiment behind it: be here now, be present, be in the moment, this moment.

I got my Tufts Magazine yesterday and was absently flipping through it after dinner when a photo on the back cover caught my eye. A twinkly eyed, white-bearded, bare-chested septugenarian smiled from the sparkly turquoise water of what appeared to be a gunnite swimming pool.

“What’s Ram Das doing in Tufts Magazine?” it teased.

Why, “the backstroke,” of course.

Haha, Tufts Magazine! Good one. In fact, so good, that it drew me right in, and I immediately flipped to page 16 to the article entitled The Ultimate Trip and devoured it. From the article:

Ram Dass communicated Eastern precepts in a language Westerners could understand. He would run down Buddha’s four Noble Truths and keep the audience with him all the way. The first truth, he said, is that all life is suffering, because it’s in time. “Birth, death, not getting what you want, even getting what you want means suffering because you’ll lose it, in time.” The second truth is that the cause of suffering is desire or attachment. “If you don’t try to hold on, you don’t suffer over the loss.” So the third noble truth is: “Give up attachment; give up desire and you end the suffering, the whole thing that keeps you stuck.” The fourth truth is Buddha’s eightfold path for giving up attachment, which Ram Dass summarized in a phrase that clicked instantly with Western minds: “Work on yourself.”

The eight-fold path (akin to the Eight Limbs of Yoga) as “Work on yourself”….simple and brilliant.

YC
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One Response to From Being at Tufts to Being Here Now

  1. Tim says:

    I did my first yoga from that book when I was in high school, alone in my bedroom. It wasn’t until about 8 years later (at the gym of that “other” school) that I took a class and got hooked immediately. BTW – we used to live in David Square, just up the road from Tufts.

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