COMPASSION IN ACTION: Setting Out on the Path of Service
By Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush.
New York: Bell Tower Books/ Crown Publishing, 1991.
298 pp. $11.00 (paperback).

Ever since Ram Dass met his guru in India in the late sixties, he has been trying to live up to the name his guru gave him: “Servant of God.” Neem Karoli Baba taught Ram Dass that serv­ing God meant learning compassion—he ordered his arrogant ex­-Harvard devotee to “serve every­one” and “feed everyone” and “be like Gandhi.”

Here, the author of the pop spiritual classic Be Here Now teams up with Mirabai Bush (also a student of Baba) to serve God and humanity by trying to give inexperienced Westerners a taste of the mighty spiritual potential that dwells in simple acts of love and compassion. Casting out far more heat than light, the effusive Compassion In Action may nonetheless open hearts—the way a chorus of “Amazing Grace” can when sung by a big swaying protest crowd.

Ram Dass’s brief spiritual autobiography, which comprises half the book, focuses on his quest for the state that is hinted at in this classic Buddhist state­ment: “Out of emptiness arises compassion.” He analyzes the efforts and motivations that have ruled him—from his egocentric, power-craving childhood and haywire Harvard-career days through his current work with the international service organization, the Seva Foundation. At moments, Ram Dass really touches us with his simple honesty. Describing the struggle he went through while tending his dying father, he writes:

At first it was, “Look at me, look what a good son I am.” Then it was, “Doing this is good for me.” Then there was, “Doing it effi­ciently.” And finally there was, “Just doing it.”

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