Yeah, I did. I lied to a saint.
There we were, the husband and I in Maui with my sister, Radheshwari who I swear has magical powers because she managed to get us a meeting (or should I say an “audience”) with Ram Dass. In case you’re not in tune with what’s going on in the spiritual rap world, Ram Dass was formerly Richard Alpert, the brilliant Harvard psychologist and psychedelic friend of Timothy Leary. My sister met him in the late sixties when he traveled to India and remonikered, becoming Ram Dass. Funny thing is, the husband met him in the early sixties when he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, touting the phantasmagorical attributes of LSD.
Our meeting was scheduled from 3-3:30 at his home maybe half way to Hana. My sister and the husband were very excited about this turn of events (we had tried to see him the year before, but with no luck). We made our way down a few dirt roads per instructions from the caretaker, as Ram Dass suffered a serious stroke in 1997 and is in a wheelchair, or as he likes to say, “island-bound.” We arrived at a fairly modern, spacious house and were shown into a living room overlooking the sparkling sea below and wafts of clouds above. Ram Dass was rolled in and, I swear this happened, through the window we saw a rainbow crowning his head. No kidding. Now it is true that it had been raining, but c’mon. The husband and I looked at each other; What’s happening? Is it fall on your knees time?
Ram Dass, as it turns out, is a guy full of love. I don’t know how else to say it. He looks right at you and you’re sure he loves you–more than mom and dad did and maybe even more than your dog does. This feeling engulfs the room and permeates your soul, or maybe your bones or heart if you don’t have a soul. I had no idea what I was going to say to a revered saint with thousands of followers, but he was interested in everything I said, which I’m sure was nothing profound. He, on the other hand, was full of profundities and charming anecdotes. He told us that his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, taught him to love everyone. The guru would put his head to Ram Dass’s forehead and repeat, “Love everyone. Love everyone.”
“Well, in theory that sounds great,” I said. “But isn’t it impossible in practice? I mean everyone?”
Ram Dass pointed to his shrine at the base of his fireplace, a collection of holy pictures and said, “If you look closely, you’ll see a picture of John Boehner. There used to be a picture of George Bush there. I have to practice too,” he said. “At loving everyone.” So bright. So smart at 82.
Radheshwari had her own conversation about their meeting in India. She looked at him like I’ve never seen her look, like she was staring into the face of God, and I suppose she was. The husband, also, spent his time conversing, but the subject was LSD and his experiences with it. Ram Dass was very intrigued at this point and turned to me and asked, “And you? Did you try LSD?”
“No, but I did mushrooms!” I proudly blurted out. Liar, liar. Pants on fire. Where did that come from? What was I thinking? That I need to lie about taking drugs to get the approval of a saint? How pathetic is that? Was Ram Dass going to love me more if I was a schroomer? Had I suddenly turned into a love starved Golden Retriever ever vying for attention?
I can’t blame Ram Dass for my inexcusable peer pressure antics. After all, he didn’t make me do it. Lie, I mean.
I’ll blame the husband. He started it with his, “Turn on, tune in, drop out” banter.
I may have to revert back to my Catholic past just to go to confession. It’s a heavy load, lying to a saint.