Ram Dass FAQ: What is the best Ram Dass book to start with?

Ram Dass FAQ: What is the best Ram Dass book to start with?

My answer: The best Ram Dass book to start with is ...

I wrote this in my earlier blog post, What Are The Best Books By Ram Dass, but I believe the best Ram Dass book to start with is Polishing The Mirror.

I think this book is the best summary of all his work. It’s a relatively short book, it’s clearly written, and summarizes much of what you’ll read in his other books. I started reading this when I was in the hospital, and as bad as I was feeling at the time, it just blew me away. I like to underline and highlight text, and I felt like I could highlight most of the book.

Here’s a summary of the chapters of this 161-page book that are listed in the Table Of Contents, with a few of my own notes:

  • Polishing the Mirror
  • Bhakti Yoga, the Path of Devotion (losing yourself in love)
  • Karma Yoga, Living in the World (stories about service (seva) and karma, cultivating The Witness)
  • Aging and Changing
  • Conscious Living, Conscious Dying (fear, pain, and death (What dies?))
  • From Suffering to Grace (a few stories about suffering)
  • Content to Be
  • Practicing, Practicing (tips on setting up a practice)

If that doesn’t work for you

If you preview that book and decide not to start with it, there are two other books you might want to consider.

Be Love Now is another good one to start with. As I describe in What are the best books by Ram Dass, this book is part autobiography, part a discussion of the path of love, and part a discussion of the path of service. If someone else says that this is a great Ram Dass book to start with, I have absolutely no problems with that at all. Maybe I only prefer Polishing The Mirror because it’s more concise and to the point.

Here’s a summary of the chapters in this 300-page book, with comments based on my notes inside the book:

  • The Path of the Heart (unconditional love, Bhakti Yoga, the individual and universal souls, “I Am Loving Awareness”)
  • Excess Baggage (the Witness, shakti, metta, and bhakti)
  • To Become One (mantras, Hanuman, chanting/Kirtan, satsang, surrender)
  • Darshan
  • Guides (teachers, teachings, Muktananda, planes of consciousness, death, incarnations, All Is One, siddha, maya, Hanuman)
  • Remover of Darkness (guru kripa, Kirtan, surrender, gurus, immersion, Maharaj-ji)
  • The Way of Grace Siddhi Ma, Ram Dass’s stroke, faith, compassion, attachments, the Guru’s grace, karma vs grace, Muktananda, Dada, see God in everyone, love)
  • A Family Man (information about Maharaj-ji’s past)
  • One in My Heart (Darshan, compassion, souls, Siddhis, the body vs the soul, rebirth; followed by biographies and stories about Ramana Maharshi, Sri RamaKrishna Paramahamsa, Anandamayi Ma, Shird Sai Baba, Jnaneshwar, Bhagawan Nityananda, Deoria Baba, and other saints)

Or, a collection of stories about Maharaj-ji

If you just want to read stories about Maharaj-ji, aka Neem Karoli Baba or Neeb Karori Baba, the 1979 Ram Dass book Miracle of Love is another good book to start with. It’s over 400 pages in length, with story after story about the “miracles” Maharaj-ji performed. Some of the stories are told by Ram Dass, but most of them are told by other people.

One book I would not start with

The one Ram Dass book I would not start with is “Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita.” The reason I say that is because to understand this book you will also need to have already read the Bhagavad Gita, so if you haven’t read that, I think this book will be very difficult to understand.

What about “Be Here Now”?

Considering that Be Here Now is the best-selling spiritual book of all time, I know that my suggestion for his best book to start with is a little unusual. But my reason for not recommending Be Here Now first is because it’s very artistic, to the point of being distracting for a beginner.

Of course it does reflect the “hippie” America of the late 1960s and early 1970s, so that’s cool, but as I wrote in my Ram Dass “best books” post, I have seen a few people struggle to understand it because of its artistic nature.

That being said, if you pick up Be Here Now and you love its artistic nature, by all means go for it. There are plenty of great stories and lessons in it as well, and of course because it was written when Ram Dass came back from India the first time, it contains all of his initial thoughts and impressions about Maharaj-ji, yoga, meditation, etc. But if you just want a straightforward introduction to his teachings, IMHO, Polishing The Mirror is the best one to start with.