Graying guru: counterculture legend Ram Dass helps a generation cope with loss

Graying guru: counterculture legend Ram Dass helps a generation cope with loss

Kaja Perina

How do you put a guru to the test? Harvard LSD luminary turned Hindu spiritual leader Ram Dass suffered a stroke in 1997, leaving him wheelchair-bound with halting speech. But the slow, frustrating process of rehabilitation–detailed in the documentary Fierce Grace–sowed the seeds of his spiritual reawakening. “There are qualities in me that would never have come out,” avows Dass. “I’m at peace more now than I would ever have been–settling into the moment.” Unflinchingly honest, even if he is only intermittently articulate, Dass comforts the parents and lovers of murder victims as he wrestles with his own loss. “Your plan isn’t the plan,” he tells a woman whose boyfriend was killed by South American rebels. “‘The stroke has upset all my plans. I had a radio show on the drawing board.”

A jarring confession, in light of the young woman’s trauma, but one that serves to humanize him, as well. Ultimately, it is Ram Dass’ own struggle to come to terms with his condition that provides the film’s most compelling moments.

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace will air on PBS April 20, 2004.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group