Saturday, February 28, 2015

My interview with Daniela Norris,
author of “Collecting Feathers”

Daniella Norris: Tell us a little about your book and why you’ve written it.

Ram Das Batchelder: “Rising in Love” is a vivid and very funny portrayal of my 27 years with the renowned humanitarian and spiritual Master known around the world as Amma, “the hugging Saint.” Wonderful stories of my direct experiences with Amma flow through the book, and her teachings are sprinkled throughout. This is not the usual scrubbed up ashram book — my journey is conveyed with raw honesty and openness, and all of my human flaws, sexuality and ego games are boldly exposed for all to laugh at!

The book also covers the years before I met Amma, focusing on my marijuana-fuelled spiritual awakening during my college years in New York, which led me into a period of grand delusion and confusion, which is both hysterical and a bit scary. Eventually I was enabled to renounce drugs completely, and only then did I meet Amma and start my spiritual quest in earnest. But the fact that I literally went quite crazy for a couple of years, and was close to suicide for a time, and ended up receiving full healing through the power of spirituality, makes this book a beacon of hope for all who suffer from addiction or mental illness of one kind or another.

“Rising in Love” shines new light on the whole question of spiritual awakenings, and the plight of the many young ones in the West who suddenly break into the discovery of the Divine, and begin having unusual experiences in a culture which has little understanding of such things. I met an angel when I was 21, received a life-changing visitation from Jesus, and began hearing God’s voice teaching me very high knowledge – but I had no wise context into which I could place my experiences. I knew nothing about Saints or Self-Realization; in fact, I didn’t even know the spiritual path existed! In the West, unfortunately, such awakenings are often misunderstood and harshly judged, and these young souls get stuck with some kind of pathological psychiatric label and their nascent awakening gets suppressed with heavy medication, rather than nourished with the spiritually in-tune guidance and compassionate counseling that would help their awakening blossom in a balanced way.

Above all, “Rising in Love” conveys the essence of spirituality in an unusually clear and profound way, as it shares the path I’ve traveled all the way from my early days of confusion and delusion to the samadhi states and visions of Krishna and Christ that have blessed my journey to date. And it reveals the divinity of Amma in a way perhaps more potent and direct than any book to date.

I’m happy to report that “Rising in Love” has been selling so fast that the publisher has had a hard time keeping it in stock on Amazon! It has gotten amazing reviews, including an endorsement from the comedian Russell Brand, who posted a photo of himself reading it on Twitter and Facebook for a combined audience of 11.7 million. After 57 reviews on Amazon, “Rising in Love” has a 4.8 star average. One of my favorites came in just yesterday:

"I haven't read such a transformational, inspiring book since Autobiography of a Yogi. This book is backlit by Amma’s divine light, and as you read, it gradually unravels, illuminates and heals. Ram Das, through his own crazy experiences, somehow brings you back home to self-acceptance, offering a sense of relief that we are OK as we are, and makes everything alright, no matter where we are on the path. Rising in Love does what the title says... it raises you in love, is full of fun and, reading it in bed at night, I often found myself giggling myself to sleep. When you feel bereft after finishing a book, like I do now, you know it was a masterpiece. This book has brought me back to Amma, confirms for me who she is and who I thought she was, and somehow makes everything better."
~ Geni Lawrence, translator

By the way, the book is a charitable project: all royalties from the sale of “Rising in Love” will be donated to Amma’s orphanage in Kerala, India, which houses 600 children. These children consistently win top academic and artistic awards in Kerala, and one-third go on to receive college degrees. Unheard of in any other orphanage in the world, I dare say.

For more about the orphanage, and for reviews of “Rising in Love,” plus sample chapters, info and links to Amazon, see

DN: Tell us three interesting things about yourself and your life.

RDB: My wife and I co-lead 5-star tours to the sacred cities of India. We speak both Spanish and English, and know India like the backs of our hands, which increasingly have these funny little age spots on them. These tours are EXCELLENT. I give classes about various aspects of spirituality, so people receive not just a tour, but the spiritual essence of India. Here is our tour page:

Several years back I taught a course on Hinduism at a university in Venezuela, which I boldly presented in my poorly pronounced Español. The students loved it, and it was really a joy to blow their minds.

I recently gave up wheat, sugar, corn, dairy, dancing naked on the roof, and peanuts. However, due to popular outcry, I have taken dancing naked OFF the list, but have changed the timing to 2-3 am. During the day the roof is frequented by elderly ladies, and I was receiving too many proposals.

DN: What do you think is people’s biggest fear when they first embark on spiritual journeys?

RDB: My sense is that people have many fears about embarking on the path, the most prominent being that if they go too far they might lose their grip on reality and go insane. I understand that very well — in fact, I went a little crazy myself in my early 20s, but somehow, by God’s grace, I went sane again. As the book says, “If you want to go crazy, go crazy for God. Go bonkers for anything else and you’re in big trouble. But if you lose your marbles for the Lord, He’ll hold on to them for you, and return them, all polished up, at just the right moment.”

Of course, people also fear losing their identity. They fear discovering that the ego is just an illusion, and that what they have always thought they were doesn’t really exist at all! Hahaha! It doesn’t! But the good news is, what we really are is so incredibly beautiful that once we’ve discovered the Self, losing the ego is a great joy and relief. Spirituality gently and gradually prepares us for that precious discovery.

People also fear that they will be deceived by some false teacher, and end up stuck in a cult which robs them of their freedom and forces them to drink poisoned Koolaid. And who could blame them? There are indeed many false teachers who do great harm to their disciples, and it is each one’s responsibility to very carefully test a potential Guru, and be sure they’re not being led astray by a wolf in sadhu’s clothing. One great thing about Amma is that she is totally accessible: people can receive her embrace again and again, ask her questions, and spend many hours in her presence. They can develop their own relationship with Amma, and make up their own minds about who and what she is.

People also fear that others will judge and reject them due to their spiritual quest. So often people are trapped in a web of family expectations and cultural taboos from which they are afraid to break free, and many remain stuck in that web for their entire lives.

One way I addressed this kind of bondage was that after accepting Amma as my Guru, I made a cassette tape of songs and poetry which included a recorded letter telling everyone all about Amma and the new name she had given me. I then mailed it out to over 100 people, including Grandma and all the old family friends. It was a very effective way of cutting through the web of taboos and expectations, and saying, “Whether you like it or not, this is what I’m doing with my life. And I’ll be happy to tell you all about it.” It was a very empowering step. I received a few kind replies from old friends, and even a nice note from Grandma, God bless her, as well as an overtly nasty letter from the mother of a childhood friend. But was she really upset about Amma, or just mad about that time I kissed her daughter and then didn’t call?
DN: Is there one person who had much influence in your life, perhaps more so than others?

RDB: I have traveled extensively in India and have met many great Gurus. I have seen numerous miracles and received powerful experiences from several Saints, and I’m grateful to all of them. But there is no doubt that the most powerful and inspiring Guru I have ever met is Amma. She has been an incredible guide and inspiration, a beacon of divine Love, compassion and wisdom, literally Divinity in a human form.

For two videos of Amma, and more about her life, teachings and tours, see:

DN: Please recommend three of your favorite spirituality-related reads (books or magazines)

RDB: 1) “Miracle of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba” by Ram Dass 

This is not by little ol’ me but the FAMOUS Ram Dass, who inexplicably spells his name with 2 ss’s. This book is a collection of stories about his Guru, a wacky, miracle-working, omniscient kind of fellow who will definitely tap you on the shoulder while you read it, which is all the more remarkable considering that he left his body many years ago.

2) “In Quest of God” by Swami Ramdas

This AGAIN is not by me, but by a Saint who wandered rupee-less and barefoot around India for several years, remembering God constantly through the repetition of a mantra. In due course he attained full Enlightenment. He then wrote his own books in English, and his teachings are sweet nectar.

“I Am That: Conversations with Nisargadatta Maharaj”, edited by Maurice Frydman

Astonishing teachings which reveal our true nature as pure Awareness.

DN: Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

RDB: Amma travels around the world each year giving free programs where each person can receive an embrace from her. (This is how she gives her blessing.) I heartily recommend that everyone come and receive a hug! But do me a favor. If you’re really a nutcase, and are going to wander around naked at the programs (like one lady I invited years ago), then don’t tell them I sent you.

Amma’s yearly 6-week US Tour starts towards the end of May in Seattle, and finishes mid-July in Boston. The tour dates will be posted sometime in April on this site:

Her European tour begins around Oct. 1st and finishes mid-November. For tour details, see

For more about Amma’s charities, see

For more about “Rising in Love”, see

Thank you!

DN: Thank you, Ram Das!

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Many great reviews have come in since this site was created, and rather than bother my web guy to include them on the main pages, I thought I'd just pop six of them up on the blog for now. Take a look!

1) I haven't read such a transformational, inspiring book since Autobiography of a Yogi. This book is backlit by Amma’s divine light, and as you read, it gradually unravels, illuminates and heals. Ram Das, though his own crazy experiences, somehow brings you back home to self-acceptance, offering a sense of relief that we are OK as we are, and makes everything alright, no matter where we are on the path. Rising in Love does what the title says... it raises you in love, is full of fun and, reading it in bed at night, I often found myself giggling myself to sleep. When you feel bereft after finishing a book, like I do now, you know it was a masterpiece. This book has brought me back to Amma, confirms for me who she is and who I thought she was, and somehow makes everything better.
~ Geni Lawrence

2) I truly loved this book! Having also experienced a crazy youthful journey to the feet of a living Saint, I can relate to wild rides and Divine collisions! Ram Das is a great writer with a great story to tell - his honesty, humility and humor shine through each page of this book. His deep devotion to his path and to his incredible spiritual teacher is an inspiration. Whatever the nature of your journey, whatever the flavor of your path, Rising in Love will surely stimulate your mind, bring warm smiles to your heart and inspire your soul!


2) I will be honest. When Ram Das Batchelder asked me to review his book, I agreed with a sigh of resignation. I had a list of unread books already, and while I love to hear personal stories about traveling the path to God, the Eastern path has never appealed to me on a personal level. But Ram Das is such a sweet person and so I decided to do this for him. Imagine how surprised I was to discover that not only was his path interesting and inspiring, but his story telling is excellent.

This book is funny and compelling, a rare combination, and one I appreciate. More rare, it is completely open and honest, which adds to its appeal and its value. It’s pretty cool to discover that every day folks just like you and I can make many wrong turns on the way to Enlightenment and that’s Ok. We can still get there.

One point I struggled with is that Ram Das follows a path of devotion and this is not my path. I found myself resistant to it, but in the end I was able to move past my resistance and see that He and I are headed to the same place. I was, in the end, starting to fall in love with Amma, myself, and while I still do not feel drawn to the path of devotion, I now understand why some people are.

I think this is a remarkable and important book. My highest recommendation of any book is when I underline and highlight passages and when I buy it for others. I have done both for this book.

~Rev. Myron Jones

4) This is one of those rare books I could not put down!!! Ram Das is eloquent and has a true talent for captivating his reader. What an honest and rainbow filled story of challenges and growth! This is a masterpiece and we are so lucky to have it here. Thank you, sir, for sharing this incredible journey. Wow!


5) I am soooo glad I read this book! It (amazingly) held the answers to many questions I had been contemplating and had put to Amma in prayer the week leading up to my coming across it. It was a very spontaneous and sparkly purchase to say the least! For this alone, I'm very grateful.
Aside from that, Ram Das's writing style is so enjoyable I had a hard time putting it down. His stories unfold with honesty and self-deprecating humor -- tremendous devotion shining through on each page. Not only for Amma devotees - Ram Das shares so much personal and spiritual insight gleaned on his very focused spiritual path, it's valuable to anyone who is interested in a better understanding of advaita (non-duality) and devotion and how these two seemingly disparate paths can weave together beautifully. I honestly just also enjoyed it as a funny and sometimes tragic account of one person's journey to the Self. And, yes, the Amma stories are awesome too!

~ Amara Alban

6) I first met Amma in 2008, and since then I have been trying to spend as much time as I can in her ashram in India. After a long period in the ashram last year, 2013, I left feeling very disconnected and in a BIG spiritual slump, so to say. A lot of my inspiration to follow spiritual practices had seemed to slip away. This carried on for some time. Ram Das’s book, “Rising in Love”, couldn’t possibly have come to me at a better time. There were SO many stories, and lessons, in his book that I could ‘totally’ resonate with. And then of course there were the beautiful stories of Amma that put such a big smile on my face. Since reading “Rising in Love” I am - thank God - feeling so much more connected to the Divine again, and my old inspiration to follow the spiritual path has increased tremendously.

For anyone interested in spirituality, or even just keen to have a good and entertaining read, then I HIGHLY recommend Ram Das’s book, “Rising in Love”. It is an absolute page turner, and will leave you reflecting on his words for weeks to come!!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Links to my video interviews and the latest news!

Hi everybody! It’s been a whirlwind 6 weeks since “Rising in Love” was published.

First came Russell Brand’s endorsement of the book on Twitter and Facebook in front of 11.7 million people. You can see the photo he posted of himself reading “Rising in Love” here:

Then came a video  interview with Dr. Anna Sweetnam and Todd Jenkins  on Mystery Schools, which was broadcast live on the internet for a large audience:

And next was my video interview with Rick Archer on “Buddha at the Gas Pump”, which as of today has received 3,976 views.

As of a few days ago, “Rising in Love” was #5 on Kindle’s Hinduism listing in the UK. As John Lennon might have said, “That’s not bad, is it.”

Every single day I receive at least one letter from someone I’ve never met saying that the book has touched them deeply, or jumpstarted their spiritual life, or made them laugh hysterically and cry with longing for Amma. All I can say is that it’s a great joy to be sharing about Amma’s infinite Love with so many people. It’s so clearly NOT about me, and so fully about Amma and the Divine Self that we all share, that the whole journey is humbling in the best kind of way.

Sending out deep love and gratitude to all who have expressed appreciation for the book!

Jai AMMAAAAA! OM Amriteshwaryai Namah!
Peace and love,

Ram Das

Friday, October 31, 2014

Interview with Barbara Ford-Hammond 
for the Body, Mind, Spirit blog

Please introduce yourself:

My name is Ram Das Batchelder; I’ve been on the planet 52 spins around the sun and I’m hot on the trail of Enlightenment. American by birth, I had a spiritual awakening when I was in college, fuelled by several things: intense theatre studies, psychotherapy, and marijuana. I went from cynical atheist to deluded prophet within a year! I had no knowledge of the spiritual path at all, I didn’t even know there was one, but suddenly, there was no doubt about it, God was talking to me. This awakening culminated with meeting an angel, whose name was Serenity, and then a trip to a mental hospital in a police car, siren wailing! I quickly talked my way out the door, and the next day met an old friend, who told me, before I’d said a word, that he’d just had a vision of an angel. I was having so many divine experiences in those days that I thought I might be the Messiah! It’s a very funny story, actually, how I finally overcame that delusion and discovered the genuine spiritual path. I also had a powerful experience with Jesus in those early days – he came into my body one night, filling me with bliss and permanently blowing away my scepticism. But what’s funny is that when Jesus left my body that night, I suddenly understood that reincarnation is true. That was his gift for me. Eventually, I started meditating, and with the help of a good therapist, I quit smoking cigarettes and marijuana, dropped my delusions, discovered “A Course in Miracles” and found a girlfriend who wanted to try tantric sex. All that was very healing for me, especially the sex. About a year later I met Amma, the hugging Saint, and I’ve spent most of the last 25 years in India. The first twelve years I was a desperately horny monk, and for the last twelve years I’ve been happily married to a beautiful Venezuelan woman. In addition to “Rising in Love” I’ve written four children’s books for Amma’s ashram, and they’ve all been translated into four European languages and are selling well on Amma’s tours. I also wrote a novel in rhyming verse, “Sathyaram Discovers the Mother of All,” and handed out 5000 copies of it to the devotees in India. My meditation has progressed steadily, and during the last couple of years I’ve been having frequent samadhi experiences; these have been accompanied by a growing sense of peace. But I don’t call it Enlightenment yet; if you congratulate my wife on how spiritual I am, you may get a sceptical look: “You think so? Try living with him.”
That’s the short version of my story; for the long, juicy and very funny version, I’d recommend reading “Rising in Love.”

Where do you get the inspiration to write?

All my books have actually come when I’m saturated with meditation. When my inner battery is fully charged, some kind of inspiration for a writing project will often come, and a kind of subtle inner command appears from my Guru: “Try it,” or “Write that book!” So the inspiration comes straight from my Guru, and that being the case I can’t really claim credit for the writing either. I’m not someone who sits down to write every day; I wait until I get the prodding from God to get down to it. The words usually flow quite easily at that point.

Was the process of writing as you expected? If you have written more than one book does the process change?

The four children’s books and the novel I did were all in rhyming, rhythmic verse, so that’s a very slow and deliberate process. You have to choose your words very carefully to create not only a perfect rhyme but exactly the meaning you want to convey in each couplet, so the rhymes don’t sound contrived. And of course, there were some constraints in writing for kids, and for an audience of ashramites, a kind of censoring which naturally occurs. I was okay with that, but I must say it was a great relief to write “Rising in Love,” which is being published not by the ashram but by O Books, and is written in rocking PROSE, so I could open the floodgates and let my mind flow onto paper without any need to censor myself. I totally enjoyed the writing process, and I think readers will have a blast, too.

Where do you write?

For the most part, “Rising in Love” was written at a small desk in our 10th floor flat in Amma’s ashram, overlooking a river which stretches out for miles to the north, with a slice of ocean visible to the west, and an endless forest of coconut palms in between them. The ashram is located on a narrow peninsula between the “Backwaters,” as the river is called, and the Arabian Sea. It was from the balcony outside our room that I looked down, on Dec, 26th 2004, to discover that the Asian Tsunami had completely flooded the ashram. More than 60 people were killed on the peninsula, but no one in the ashram was hurt. It was amazing to see the incredible compassion with which Amma responded to the tragedy.

Have you advice for someone who wants to write a book?

This may not work for everybody, of course, but my best advice is, first: get down with God and ask God what S/He wants to say through you. Step 2: ask the God within you, that is, yourself, what you really want to say to the world. When those two align, you’ll naturally be inspired, empowered and guided to write, for the service of all beings. Write to awaken and to help others awaken. Be a beacon of light to humanity. Life is too short for anything else. Then the whole universe will be singing through your fingers.

What type of books do you like to read?

One of my favourite books is “Miracle of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba,” by the famous American teacher, Ram Dass. (Same name as mine but spelled differently.) If you read this book, Neem Karoli Baba will somehow make his presence known to you; he will literally tap you on the shoulder, and that’s pretty amazing considering he left the body in 1973. He’s one of the immortal Masters, and an incredibly fun fellow to get to know. (Ram Dass played a small role in my own story. When he came to see Amma for the first time, in Boston in 1988, and was lying on Amma’s lap receiving her blessings, it suddenly dawned on me -- Amma and Neem Karoli Baba are one! This realization rapidly snowballed into the discovery that night that Amma was a full Divine Incarnation – and that she was my Guru.)
Back to the books, I also love the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Robert Adams, Anandamayi Ma and many others. It’s a little embarrassing to admit it, but I do most of my scriptural reading these days on (gasp!) Facebook. I know, how terribly unspiritual! But paper is just so passé, is it not? Besides, I like Flirtbook, er, Facebook.

And your favourite book of all time?

“Fifty Shades of Grey” – hahaha! Just kidding!  I guess I would have to say the Ashtavakra Gita, an amazing Advaita scripture. “Let the waves of the Universe rise and fall as they will. You have nothing to gain or lose. You are the ocean.” 

3 things people might not know about you:

Three weeks ago, I gave up sugar, wheat, corn, cheese, dancing naked on the laundry roof, and peanuts. Due to a popular outcry, I’ve taken dancing naked off the list, but limited my hours from 2:00-4:00 a.m., in an effort to keep the elderly ladies who frequent the roof at other hours from proposing. So far I’m doing great with my diet; my hands only shake when I walk near a bakery.

My wife and I lead tours to the sacred cities of India, and I give classes to our tour groups in both English and poorly pronounced Spanish. Our English website is currently under construction, but our Spanish site is You can also contact me by email at or via Facebook: and

I recently edited “Spiritual Experiments,” the autobiography of Matias Flury, and it has just been accepted for publication by O Books! Hurray!

What is happening next in your writing career?

My guess is that I will soon attain full Enlightenment and remain in a perpetual state of levitation. Since my computer will be unlikely to levitate with me, I will then be above this petty writing game. My disciples, however, will write many books about me, and I will effortlessly make millions of dollars by awakening everyone’s Kundalini, whatever that is, and selling videos. Since I will then be completely free from all attachments, I will give every penny to charity, the only exception, of course, being my 88 Rolls Royces. Those are MINE.

All joking aside, all royalties from “Rising in Love” will be donated to Amma’s orphanage in Kerala, India.

Anything you’d like to mention – if you host events, talks or similar.

I wrote and taught a university course about Hinduism in Venezuela a few years back, and I am now available to give talks in English and Spanish about numerous aspects of Hindu Philosophy, each class accompanied by an elaborate Powerpoint Show. I’m also happy to give a workshop entitled “Becoming an Empty Flute: the Art of Writing Spiritually-in-tune Children’s Books.” And yes, at the drop of a hat I give racy readings from “Rising in Love.” Did I mention I used to act in American soap operas? I love to perform my writing.

To order Rising in Love, and for more information about Amma and her charities, 

Pure Compassion: an interview  with Rev. Myron Jones                                        

An interview with Ram Das Batchelder,
author ofRising in Love: My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now,
with Amma, the Hugging Saint”

By Rev. Myron Jones (author of “Healing Family Relationships” and “Hey, Holy Spirit, It's Me Again”)

Rev. Myron Jones:  So, tell us a little bit about your new book, “Rising in Love.” I love the subtitle: “My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now, with Amma, the Hugging Saint.” What does it mean, “My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now”?

Ram Das Batchelder:  Well, that’s my way of stating the spiritual goal, to be completely centered in the here and now, and abiding in the Supreme Peace that’s always present. And of course, my story is a wild and crazy ride. No way around that!

RMJ: I gather you’ve spent many years with Amma. How long, exactly?

RDB: I met Amma in 1987, on her first US Tour, and have spent something like 18 years in her ashram in India. So I’ve had a lot of hugs!

RMJ: I guess so! That’s her way of giving a blessing, isn’t it? I’ve read that she’s given something like 30 million hugs in all.

RDB: Yes, and in the old days at the ashram, the people living there could get eight hugs every week! That was like living in a heaven realm. I guess it goes without saying that her hugs are not ordinary hugs; they’re direct contact with the Divine. And after all these years, even though now it’s more like four or five hugs a year, due to the large crowds, I’m still totally amazed by Amma. I feel like she’s hugging me all the time now. In my eyes, she’s one of the greatest divine incarnations every to walk the Earth.

RMJ: So, you believe she’s a divine incarnation?

RDB: Well, yes, that’s definitely my own experience of what she is. But each person is free to have their own ideas about her. Some think she’s just a humanitarian, and that’s fine with Amma. Everyone’s free to come and have a hug, think whatever they like, and create their own relationship with Amma.

RMJ: Have you met other Gurus, or is Amma the only one?

RDB: Yes, I’ve met many other Gurus; I guess you could say it was part of my spiritual education. At one point, I actually left Amma’s organization, and spent seven years visiting other saints in India, and in the West also. I’ve seen many miracles, and I’ve had several satori experiences…

RMJ: Satori?

RDB: It’s a Zen term for temporary Enlightenment experiences. You get zapped with so much bliss and peace, and your mind dissolves… You feel like you’re totally Enlightened, but eventually satori experiences fade, leaving you wiser, hopefully, but still seeking. They’re kind of like sign posts on the way to Enlightenment.

RMJ: So, after some years with Amma, you left her organization, and after seven years of seeing other Gurus you came back to Amma’s organization?

RDB: Yes, with a fiancé, and Amma married us. My wife and I have been living as a couple at her ashram for the last 13 years.

RMJ: And… what do you do in the ashram? Can you describe a typical day?

RDB: One thing I love about Amma’s ashram is that even though there is a recommended schedule, people are free to make their own. My wife and I feel completely free there to do our own thing. I’ve been writing books for Amma’s organization, four children’s books and a novel in rhyming verse prior to this new book, my autobiography. So I spend a lot of hours at the computer, writing or editing art on Photoshop, or designing books. And I also do a lot of meditation, and spend some time helping out in the dining hall each day, as a contribution to the community. When Amma’s there, I try to spend as much time as I can in her presence. She’s like a giant sun of Love, radiating bliss and peace in all directions. I’m convinced that she knows every thought in my mind all the time.

RMJ: Really?

RDB: Well, that’s been my experience for more than two decades, but everyone is free to have their own experience with Amma. I long ago accepted Amma’s omniscience as just a fact of nature, but it’s also clear that she wears a disguise much of the time, hiding her omniscience, you could say, to allow people from all walks of life to come closer to her. More important than something like omniscience, what Amma embodies is pure compassion. She’s constantly expressing unconditional love for all beings, love in action. That’s something anyone can discover. Her programs are free.

RMJ: So how did an American kid end up leading such a life? Were your parents into Gurus?

RDB: No, not at all. They did went to an Ivy League divinity school for their Masters degrees, so that’s a pretty lucky set of parents to get, I guess. But American religious education in the 1950s had more of a focus on the intellect than on developing a direct spiritual connection, and they graduated with probably less faith than when they entered the seminary. In my childhood they were more interested in social action and politics than finding a direct relationship with God. I guess they just didn’t know it was possible.

RMJ: Were you spiritually inclined as a child?

RDB: Well, not really. I mean, as a young boy, I remember feeling not so much faith, but total certainty that God was everywhere; it was somehow as obvious as air when I was very young. But by my early teens I picked up my parents’ science-based agnosticism, and finally decided that God was nothing but bunk. It wasn’t until my third year of college, when a combination of psychotherapy, intense emotional work in theater classes, and experimentation with marijuana opened me up to directly experience the existence of God.

RMJ: You had some kind of awakening?

RDB: Yes, a huge awakening. I went from cynical atheist to deluded prophet in about a year! I was hearing God’s voice… I even met an angel.

RMJ: You met an angel?

RDB: Yes, angels really do exist. Her name was Serenity.

RMJ: Drugs were involved in that?

RDB: Yes, but nothing more potent than a joint. A couple of days after that incident, I connected with an old friend of mine from high school, and before I’d said anything, he told me that he had just had a vision of an angel. You could call it divine synchronicity. It was potent confirmation that it hadn’t been just my imagination.

RMJ: So, you started by meeting an angel. That’s quite a beginning. I’m curious how you ended up with a Hindu Guru.

RDB: Well, it’s a long and very wild story. But one night, when I was alone in a park near my parents’ house, I had a powerful experience. At that point I didn’t even really believe in God, and thought the whole Jesus thing was a lie. But that night, out of nowhere, Jesus Christ came into my body, filling me with exquisite energy and incredible bliss. It totally blew my mind! And what’s interesting about it is that when he left, after about ten minutes, I suddenly knew that reincarnation was true. That knowledge was his gift for me. And it was the beginning of a whole new way of seeing the world. I felt as if he was subtly pointing me towards the Masters of Hinduism.

RMJ: That’s fascinating.

RDB: But it took me a long time to get centered on the path. I was quite confused for several years, in fact, for a while, I thought I was the Messiah! It’s a very funny story, really, how I finally overcame that delusion. I just didn’t know anything about the spiritual path at all, and the experiences I was having were so totally divine, and so incredibly beyond anything I’d ever heard of before, that the Messiah idea seemed like the only explanation. My confusion was, well, I guess you could say it was part and parcel of awakening to God in the midst of a spiritually ignorant culture. That’s one excuse, anyway! I was also smoking heaps of marijuana in those days. It wasn’t until I gave up drugs completely that I really got my sanity back and discovered the true spiritual path.

Rev. Myron Jones: So, do you now consider yourself a Hindu?

Ram Das Batchelder: No, I really wouldn’t say that; I never like to limit myself in that way. Hinduism is amazing, in that it is so broad that it can accommodate just about any approach or concept. And there are some very potent truths revealed in the Hindu scriptures that seem to be not yet understood in the West. But as I see it, the various religions are really just fingers pointing at the moon. The point is to reach the moon, not obsess about one of the fingers. If I had to define myself, the only true thing I could say is that I am the Atman, the Divine Self, which is timeless, limitless, pure Awareness. I experience that every day in meditation. But that doesn’t make me special in any way; the Atman is the true Self of all beings. It’s beyond any categories. And it’s always here, now, awaiting our discovery.


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