I’ve known about Ram Dass for a long time, but I don’t think I considered his work too much until I stumbled across the book, Polishing The Mirror, which I now consider to be the best spiritual book I’ve ever read. More recently I started reading his newer book, Walking Each Other Home, and the following quote comes from that book.
There is no inherent self — we are boundless. The ego is a structure of mind that organizes the universe, particularly around the relationship to separateness. It is the steering mechanism for you as a separate entity surviving and functioning within this world, on this plane.
What happened to me as a soul was that I took birth into a good family, and they socialized me really well. They installed the software into my computer for the space suit I was wearing in this incarnation, which is called the ego. I developed a model of who I am, who you are, and how to function so that I could survive on this plane.
The predicament was that along the way I forgot I was a soul who had taken birth in a physical body. I began to think that I was the computer program. For thirty years I forgot who I was. I was busy being who I thought I was, who everybody had trained me to be (a professor at Harvard named Richard Alpert). You begin to take “yourself” seriously; you think you’re real. That’s the predicament most of us are stuck in most of the time.
I saw that I had another place to stand inside myself, from which I saw the game of Richard Alpert-ness. It was a beautiful game, but it wasn’t who I was. I realized that who I was and who you are is far more interesting than the game we’re playing.
As the Russian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff said, “If you wish to escape from prison, the first thing you must realize is that you are in prison. If you think you’re free, no escape is possible.” I knew I wasn’t free, so I worked on getting a soul view.