Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Be Here Now

Book Number: 
738
Date Fred Read: 
January 2018
Fred's Rating: 
4
Author: 
Ram Dass
Total Pages: 
403
Publisher: 
Lama Foundation
Year: 
1978

Ram Dass, one of America's most beloved spiritual figures, has made his mark on the world giving teachings and promoting loving service, harmonious business practices, and conscious care for the dying. His spirit has been a guiding light for four generations, carrying millions along on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked his way through his own.

The Amazon website for the paperback edition is

https://www.amazon.com/Be-Here-Now-Ram-Dass/dp/0517543052/ref=sr_1_1?s=b...

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

This home page has three very different reviews that I recommend reading. At the top of the homepage is a good review (be sure to click on ‘Read more’). The second one, Editorial Reviews, lies further down the home page – the review author’s name is given in ‘Amazon.com Review’ by Brian Bruya. The third review is the first one in Top Customer Reviews by Hannah J Storm. I can’t recall ever a review like the second one. Editorial reviews I’ve seen before never included one called an Amazon.com Review. My own review is closest to that of Brian Bruya for the questions this book raised.

For the first time, when I clicked on Amazon’s option to ‘Look inside’, nothing happened. I speculate that Amazon decided not to offer a ‘Look inside’ for either the print edition or the Kindle edition. So I didn’t have access to the usual things Amazon offers, but this made me more interested in accepting a friend’s challenge to read two of Ram Dass’ books: this one (738) and book (739), which appears as a book usually does.

I explain next in detail why Be Here Now is such a differently formatted book. First the Contents page: Part 1 – Journey: The Transformation of Dr. Richard Alpert, Ph.D into Baba Ram Dass (39 white pages); Part 2 – From Binndu to Ojas: The Core Book (220 brown pages); Part 3 – The Cook Book for a Sacred Life (128 white pages); Part 4 – Painted Cakes: Books (16 brown pages). The page style of Part 2 is weird. Unlike the three other parts, it seems to be a converted scroll style, which is best described as a fan-fold style. Imagine holding the book open in the normal way, with even-numbered left pages and odd-numbered right pages. To read Part 2 rotate the book by 90 degrees clockwise (so that the left page becomes the top half and the right page becomes the bottom half). The size of the print is large or very large and is often curved. As a fanfold the middle would be easy to read, but with binding a scroll (or a fanfold) you often have trouble seeing the bottom line of the top half and the top line of the bottom half. I didn’t want to ‘break the back’ of my paperback, so I often had to stretch the two halves away from each other in order to read the middle of a Part 2 page, but I managed to do so.

To help you imagine Part 2, I recalled, while in rural France in 1976, finding a rest stop that used a similar rough roll of brown toilet paper, which is easy to be imagine being unrolled into a fanfold manner. I learned that the initial edition of Part 2 was given away free in 1970 as a fanfold in a box by the Hanuman Foundation. The current 1978 bound paperback is from the Lama Foundation of San Cristobal, NM 87564 – why they didn’t see the problem and add space at the middle of the double pages of Part 2 makes me wonder if they were restricted from doing so or were just cheap.

As to content, I deduced that Ram Dass was under ‘the mind-expanding powers of acid (LSD), Psilocybin, peyote or other hallucinogenic drugs. While he was still known as Richard Alpert (psychologist and Freudian) he coauthored with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner The Psychedelic Experience by – a book I don’t plan to read, for I recall many negative comments about it when I was a grad student.

None of the three reviews I gave above mention the man who became the guru for Ram Dass and many others in India. Ram Das called him Maharaj-ji, also known as Neem Karoli Baba (1902-1973), who became a wandering ‘sadhu’ – a religious ascetic, mendicant (monk) or any holy person in Hinduism and Jainism who has renounced the worldly life. He became a Hindu guru, mystic and devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman. Maharaj-ji practiced Bhakti yoga – the yoga of devotion – mainly in northern India. This yoga of unconditional love attracted many seekers from the West (America and Western Europe) and very many more from India and Asia. Once Maharaj-ji came to know that Richard Alpert was very serious in seeking how to live Bhakti yoga, he renamed him Ram Dass. Ram Dass never learned to speak Hindu so he had to rely on others, devotees of Maharaj-ji, to translate what was being said. Details of Ram Dass’ story are covered well in Part 1.

Part 2 tells us what Ram Dass was learning. The weird writing style and fan-fold pages is mainly a disorganized expression of a young (mid-twenties to thirties) eager learner, who was called by my friend “still an acid head while learning from Maharaj-ji.” Even after his soul ‘passed’ in 1973 his followers could still learn from their guru. Later, Ram Dass became a guru – a wandering ‘sadhu’ in America for many years, this is the subject of my next review. Book 739 was published in 2010 – forty years after the box of Part 2 of Book 738 was made available.

This was a very interesting read, although at times puzzling due to its poor coordination. During the first days when Richard Alpert sat among many others to look and hear (after translation) what Maharaj-ji was doing, Maharaj-ji looked at Alpert and told him things about his recent past. Things Alpert says the guru could not possibly have known unless could to read Alpert’s mind. This made Alpert an eager student of his new-found guru. This story, told now by the adherent Ram Dass, makes for interesting reading, but it made me wonder if Ram Dass’ memory may have self-implanted what he wanted to remember. He could have told personal matters to other students of Maharaj-ji. Often we remember things not as they actually happened but as we wish they had happened.

A few simple words were part of Ram Dass’ learning. Be Here Now – the title of this book – answers some questions Maharaj-ji was teaching: When asked ‘Where are you?’, one should just say ‘Here.’ When asked ‘What time is it?’, one should just say ‘Now’. For you at present is what’s most important for the yoga of devotion – devotion of a God whose love in unconditional (as well as ‘everywhere’ and ‘everywhen’).

From this book I learned some new focused attitudes that I need to apply better to my life, in both meditation and, most important, in living my life. I rate this book at four stars.