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Be Here Now (1971)

by Ram Dass

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,430229,907 (4.08)22
In March 1961, Professor Richard Alpert - later renamed Ram Dass - held appointments in four departments at Harvard University. He published books, drove a Mercedes and regularly vacationed in the Caribbean. By most societal standards, he had achieved great success... And yet he couldn't escape the feeling that something was missing. Psilocybin and LSD changed that. During a period of experimentation, Alpert peeled away each layer of his identity, disassociating from himself as a professor, a social cosmopolite, and lastly, as a physical being. Fear turned into exaltation upon the realization that at his truest, he was just his inner-self- a luminous being that he could trust indefinitely and love infinitely. And thus, a spiritual journey commenced. Alpert headed to India where his guru renamed him Baba Ram Dass - "servant of God." He was introduced to mindful breathing exercises, hatha yoga, and Eastern philosophy. If he found himself reminiscing or planning, he was reminded to "Be Here Now."He started upon the path of enlightenment, and has been journeying along it ever since. With over 150 pages of metaphysical illustrations, practical advice on how to implement a yogic regiment, and a chapter dedicated to quotes and book recommendations, Be Here Nowis sure to enrich your emotional, physical, and spiritual life.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker (PlaidStallion)
    PlaidStallion: Ram Dass said, ‘The spiritual journey is highly personal. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.’ So would he have agreed or disagreed with Pinker on the blank slate?:


    MOST PEOPLE ARE familiar with the idea that some of our ordeals come from a mismatch between the source of our passions in evolutionary history and the goals we set for ourselves today. People gorge themselves in anticipation of a famine that never comes, engage in dangerous liaisons that conceive babies they don’t want, and rev up their bodies in response to stressors from which they cannot run away.

    What is true for the emotions may also be true for the intellect. Some of our perplexities may come from a mismatch between the purposes for which our cognitive faculties evolved and the purposes to which we put them today. This is obvious enough when it comes to raw data processing. People do not try to multiply six-digit numbers in their heads or remember the phone number of everyone they meet, because they know their minds were not designed for the job. But it is not as obvious when it comes to the way we conceptualize the world. Our minds keep us in touch with aspects of reality—such as objects, animals, and people—that our ancestors dealt with for millions of years. But as science and technology open up new and hidden worlds, our untutored intuitions may find themselves at sea.

    What are these intuitions? Many cognitive scientists believe that human reasoning is not accomplished by a single, general-purpose computer in the head. The world is a heterogeneous place, and we are equipped with different kinds of intuitions and logics, each appropriate to one department of reality. These ways of knowing have been called systems, modules, stances, faculties, mental organs, multiple intelligences, and reasoning engines. They emerge early in life, are present in every normal person, and appear to be computed in partly distinct sets of networks in the brain. They may be installed by different combinations of genes, or they may emerge when brain tissue self-organizes in response to different problems to be solved and different patterns in the sensory input. Most likely they develop by some combination of these forces.

    What makes our reasoning faculties different from the departments in a university is that they are not just broad areas of knowledge, analyzed with whatever tools work best. Each faculty is based on a core intuition that was suitable for analyzing the world in which we evolved. Though cognitive scientists have not agreed on a Gray’s Anatomy of the mind, here is a tentative but defensible list of cognitive faculties and the core intuitions on which they are based:
    • An intuitive physics, which we use to keep track of how objects fall, bounce, and bend. Its core intuition is the concept of the object, which occupies one place, exists for a continuous span of time, and follows laws of motion and force. These are not Newton’s laws but something closer to the medieval conception of impetus, an “oomph” that keeps an object in motion and gradually dissipates.
    • An intuitive version of biology or natural history, which we use to understand the living world. Its core intuition is that living things house a hidden essence that gives them their form and powers and drives their growth and bodily functions.
    • An intuitive engineering, which we use to make and understand tools and other artifacts. Its core intuition is that a tool is an object with a purpose—an object designed by a person to achieve a goal.
    • An intuitive psychology, which we use to understand other people. Its core intuition is that other people are not objects or machines but are animated by the invisible entity we call the mind or the soul. Minds contain beliefs and desires and are the immediate cause of behavior.
    • A spatial sense, which we use to navigate the world and keep track of where things are. It is based on a dead reckoner, which updates coordinates of the body's location as it moves and turns, and a network of mental maps. Each map is organized by a different reference frame: the eyes, the head, the body, or salient objects and places in the world.
    • A number sense, which we use to think about quantities and amounts. It is based on an ability to register exact quantities for small numbers of objects (one, two, and three) and to make rough relative estimates for larger numbers.
    • A sense of probability, which we use to reason about the likelihood of uncertain events. It is based on the ability to track the relative frequencies of events, that is, the proportion of events of some kind that turn out one way or the other.
    • An intuitive economics, which we use to exchange goods and favors. It is based on the concept of reciprocal exchange, in which one party confers a benefit on another and is entitled to an equivalent benefit in return.
    • A mental database and logic, which we use to represent ideas and to infer new ideas from old ones. It is based on assertions about what’s what, what’s where, or who did what to whom, when, where, and why. The assertions are linked in a mind-wide web and can be recombined with logical and causal operators such as AND, OR, NOT, ALL, SOME, NECESSARY, POSSIBLE, and CAUSE.
    • Language, which we use to share the ideas from our mental logic. It is based on a mental dictionary of memorized words and a mental grammar of combinatorial rules. The rules organize vowels and consonants into words, words into bigger words and phrases, and phrases into sentences, in such a way that the meaning of the combination can be computed from the meanings of the parts and the way they are arranged.
    The mind also has components for which it is hard to tell where cognition leaves off and emotion begins. These include a system for assessing danger, coupled with the emotion called fear, a system for assessing contamination, coupled with the emotion called disgust, and a moral sense, which is complex enough to deserve a chapter of its own.

    These ways of knowing and core intuitions are suitable for the lifestyle of small groups of illiterate, stateless people who live off the land, survive by their wits, and depend on what they can carry. Our ancestors left this lifestyle for a settled existence only a few millennia ago, too recently for evolution to have done much, if anything, to our brains. Conspicuous by their absence are faculties suited to the stunning new understanding of the world wrought by science and technology. For many domains of knowledge, the mind could not have evolved dedicated machinery, the brain and genome show no hints of specialization, and people show no spontaneous intuitive understanding either in the crib or afterward. They include modern physics, cosmology, genetics, evolution, neuroscience, embryology, economics, and mathematics.

    It’s not just that we have to go to school or read books to learn these subjects. It’s that we have no mental tools to grasp them intuitively. We depend on analogies that press an old mental faculty into service, or on jerry-built mental contraptions that wire together bits and pieces of other faculties. Understanding in these domains is likely to be uneven, shallow, and contaminated by primitive intuitions. And that can shape debates in the border disputes in which science and technology make contact with everyday life. The point … is that together with all the moral, empirical, and political factors that go into these debates, we should add the cognitive factors: the way our minds naturally frame issues. Our own cognitive makeup is a missing piece of many puzzles, including education, bioethics, food safety, economics, and human understanding itself.
    … (more)
  2. 01
    A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine (chrisharpe)
  3. 01
    Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (JFDR)
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» See also 22 mentions

English (19)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (22)
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"....Beloved guru Ram Dass tells the story of his spiritual awakening and gives you the tools to take control of your life in this “counterculture bible” (The New York Times) featuring powerful guidance on yoga, meditation, and finding your true self.

When Be Here Now was first published in 1971, it filled a deep spiritual emptiness, launched the ongoing mindfulness revolution, and established Ram Dass as perhaps the preeminent seeker of the twentieth century.

Just ten years earlier, he was known as Professor Richard Alpert. He held appointments in four departments at Harvard University. He published books, drove a Mercedes and regularly vacationed in the Caribbean. By most societal standards, he had achieved great success. . . . And yet he couldn’t escape the feeling that something was missing.

Psilocybin and LSD changed that. During a period of experimentation, Alpert peeled away each layer of his identity, disassociating from himself as a professor, a social cosmopolite, and lastly, as a physical being. Fear turned into exaltation upon the realization that at his truest, he was just his inner-self: a luminous being that he could trust indefinitely and love infinitely.

And thus, a spiritual journey commenced. Alpert headed to India where his guru renamed him Baba Ram Dass—“servant of God.” He was introduced to mindful breathing exercises, hatha yoga, and Eastern philosophy. If he found himself reminiscing or planning, he was reminded to “Be Here Now.” He started upon the path of enlightenment, and has been journeying along it ever since.
Be Here Now is a vehicle for sharing the true message, and a guide to self-determination...."
  petervanbeveren | May 13, 2021 |
If the locus of my being is here/now, where/when/what am I when I'm thinking? Where/when is my mental body, the eidetic experiencer as it travels through mindscapes? What happens when one is off in their thoughts, instead of fully engaged in the physical moment, and what they're thinking/imagining becomes part of the phenomenal world too?

That which is I exists only here, now, as a collision of all the continuum-flows of existence and experience that lead to and from I; a wave interference pattern of the ripples of all space all time. The self in dreams may be of a different cystalline structure, but I have to wait til I'm there, then.
  abstroyer | Sep 13, 2020 |
The original book is, of course, a classic; you should read it in some form. I want to offer a few comments about the Kindle edition for those considering what format will work best for them.

The core of the original book is closer to a comic book, or a series of posters, than a traditional book. If you want to experience the book in its original form, there is probably no substitute for a printed copy. But the Kindle version does take a very reasonable approach to dealing with the challenge of reproducing the original artwork: it includes graphics of each page and then, in a separate section, a transcription of the words on those pages. Although placing two graphics on each "page" of the Kindle book makes this a bit awkward to navigate, for some readers this version may be easier to read than the original: the printed book used dark backgrounds in some sections that make the text difficult to decipher, whereas the graphics and transcription in the Kindle version stick to white backgrounds. So, if reading red type against a brown background is not your idea of a good time, try the Kindle version.

The Kindle version does also include two guided meditation videos that may interest some readers. Unfortunately, these do not work in the Kindle Android app; I assume you need to have actual Kindle hardware to use them. In any case, I can't comment on these.

Bottom line: reading the Kindle version is a distinctly different experience of the book, but it's a reasonable choice for many, and possibly of interest even to those of us who already own the book in print. ( )
  szarka | Apr 26, 2017 |
I recently came across my much-read copy of this book, my doorway into seeking. What card-carrying hippie didn't have this? ( )
  LouisaK | Feb 2, 2016 |
I recently came across my much-read copy of this book, my doorway into seeking. What card-carrying hippie didn't have this? ( )
  LouisaK | Feb 2, 2016 |
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In March 1961, Professor Richard Alpert - later renamed Ram Dass - held appointments in four departments at Harvard University. He published books, drove a Mercedes and regularly vacationed in the Caribbean. By most societal standards, he had achieved great success... And yet he couldn't escape the feeling that something was missing. Psilocybin and LSD changed that. During a period of experimentation, Alpert peeled away each layer of his identity, disassociating from himself as a professor, a social cosmopolite, and lastly, as a physical being. Fear turned into exaltation upon the realization that at his truest, he was just his inner-self- a luminous being that he could trust indefinitely and love infinitely. And thus, a spiritual journey commenced. Alpert headed to India where his guru renamed him Baba Ram Dass - "servant of God." He was introduced to mindful breathing exercises, hatha yoga, and Eastern philosophy. If he found himself reminiscing or planning, he was reminded to "Be Here Now."He started upon the path of enlightenment, and has been journeying along it ever since. With over 150 pages of metaphysical illustrations, practical advice on how to implement a yogic regiment, and a chapter dedicated to quotes and book recommendations, Be Here Nowis sure to enrich your emotional, physical, and spiritual life.

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