From the outside, Bo and Sita Lozoff’s Durham home looks like any other: cars and bicycles in the driveway, Bo returning late from coaching his son Laxmana’s soccer team. But inside the similarities end.
On the living room wall hangs a picture of Hanuman, the monkey servant of God in The Ramayana, and a photograph of Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaji), known in this country as the guru of the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass. In the center of the bedroom, which doubles as an office, is a devotional area, what Hindus call a puja table, laden with incense, pictures and beads.
Their business? For almost a decade, Bo and Sita have run a nation-wide service called the Prison-Ashram Project, though it has little to do with traditional concepts of prisons or ashrams.
The project, part of Ram Dass’ Hanuman Foundation, helps prisoners take advantage of the opportunities for spiritual growth inside prison. Bo is the director and runs the prison classes and workshops, while Sita handles the office work and answers most of the 50 to 100 inquiries that arrive each week from prisoners.
Along with a personal note, prisoners are sent, free of charge, copies of Inside Out — the project’s guidebook for inner growth — and pamphlets on karma, meditation, and spiritual groups in the prison.
The project also helps prisoners form yoga and meditation groups by connecting them with teachers from various traditions and by sending on request a set of nine 90-minute cassettes on “Prison Yoga.”
My interview with Bo and Sita felt like an intimate, friendly conversation. Bo’s answers were relaxed, candid and often funny. Sita spoke little — “Bo’s the mouth of the project,” she says, “I just hang out in a space of love during the sessions.” Although she may appear to take a back seat to her articulate husband, she is fully a partner in the project.
In the most recent project newsletter Bo writes:
“The philosophy behind the Prison-Ashram Project is simple: we don’t pretend to know what prisoners need. We offer and share a lot of teachings, methods, viewpoints and ideas so that you can taste many things and decide for yourself what feels right . . . You have all the answers you need somewhere within the quietness of your mind and heart.”
The address of the Prison-Ashram Project is: Route 1 Box 201, Durham, NC 27705. There is also a Prison Book Project/Postal Satsang project for those who want to be pen-pals with a prisoner, or have books that they can pass on. Its address is: Box 468, Cambridge, MA 02138.
— Howard Rubin
SUN: How did the Prison-Ashram Project get started?
BO: In 1969 Sita and I spent almost a whole year working on a sailboat cruising the Bahamas. The captain was trying to get up enough money to sail around the world and concocted an idea with my brother-in-law to smuggle in 1400 pounds of pot from Jamaica. That didn’t feel like a good way to earn the money to us because the reason we were on the boat was to get out of the paranoia we had developed over the years in the 60’s with civil rights and labor organizing. So we sailed down to Jamaica with him and then we flew back before the pot got on board. Everybody in that whole thing was busted and got probation, but then they did it again right away and got busted again. My brother-in-law got twelve to forty in a federal prison.
Within the next couple of years we went further into meditation, and when we went up to visit my brother-in-law we got really keyed into doing some sort of service in the prison world. We had been in touch with Ram Dass for awhile and were bringing him here to speak at Duke; that was in 1973. I had already started talking with the Federal Bureau of Prisons about doing meditation and yoga in the new prison at Butner. Ram Dass told me that he had been corresponding with some prisoners and a month or so after he left he wrote me a letter asking if I would take over his prison correspondence and send out copies of Be Here Now, and maybe some project might develop out of all this. He started sending me about a hundred dollars a month out of his pocket to pay for postage, printing and sending books out. It was a project before we knew it.
We didn’t have a very succinct idea of what we were doing. We thought at the time that the people we were going to be dealing with would be mostly white, fairly well-educated middle-class drug abusers or psychedelics manufacturers. At that time Tim Leary and other people that Ram Dass knew were in prison. They knew what ashrams were and what meditation was all about and they wanted a support line outside the prison. Within the first six months to a year it was amazing how different it was from what we had expected.
Prison’s an extremely difficult environment to turn into an ashram if you’ve only got a year or two to serve there. It’s much easier just to stay stoned and play basketball and shoot pool and stay out of trouble. We learned that of the thousands of prisoners who wrote to us, most were 35 to 45 years old and had been in prison up to 25 years already. They were people who had less than an eighth grade education. Many of these people didn’t have the slightest interest in hatha yoga. They were desperately looking for something to hold on to, something that could help them remain sane and reopen their hearts.
At first we had a very generalized idea that prisons were like ashrams. But as I began going to more prisons, I found that this notion was at best slightly naive. Prisons, more often than not, are very harsh and brutal. Many prisoners, as they began meditating and trying to back off from the con games and jive of the institutional personality, started getting a lot of heat and pressure. Prisons are unlike monasteries in more ways than they are like them. In prison there’s an atmosphere of hostility, hatred and suspicion. So you have specific things to work on. We became specialists. We tried to say, “Have a sense of humor, have a calm and clear perspective . . . All you’re trying to do is open your heart and quiet your mind.”
We had to begin thinking, well what do you do, how do you handle somebody with a sixth grade education who’s asking you to explain what karma means? In fact, I wrote a booklet on karma because we got a letter from a guy doing nine death penalties, he’d killed nine people, and he said he really didn’t have an understanding of karma. The same with Meditation Pure and Simple.
We’re all doing time. The highest compliment in prison is, “He knows how to do his own time.” How few of us do.
SUN: How does the project function as of now? What roles does it play in the prison?
BO: Well, right from the beginning Sita, Ram Dass and I have thought of the project as an available resource, not any sort of mission or campaign. None of us have within our nature an evangelical feeling of wishing more prisoners would meditate so that they could see the light or that they could be happier. We just want to be a bulletin board for prisons. Early on the prison authorities wouldn’t allow it. You’d say yoga or meditation to the warden and he’d just laugh you out of the prison. All we wanted to do was get credible so that if an inmate wanted to find out something about Zen he had the opportunity. We answer about 50 inquiries a week and send them all of our material free.
If they’re in a group, we send them a set of nine tapes that include me and Ram Dass, Krishna Dass, Soma Krishna and other teachers. We explain that there is nothing to join, no movement, no sect. If anybody wants to find out more about a specific tradition that they hear about through Inside Out, we try to connect them with people from that tradition. If people want to find a commune or an ashram to live in when they get out of prison; we can usually find one for them. I don’t know of a prison in the country where an inmate might become interested in this kind of stuff and not know about us.
SUN: How did you get that credibility?
BO: There’s a lot of rascally con in our spiritual lineage. Right from the beginning there was a touch of Maharaji’s con and madness. When I applied for a job as a guard at Butner, the warden said that he wouldn’t hire me because I wasn’t the type. I finally laid it on the line and told him, “Well I’m a karma yogi and that means that my vehicle for getting closer to God is service and I thought that being a prison guard would be a pretty good vehicle.” Within ten minutes he was asking me to write a proposal to become one of the sub-wardens at Butner and run a fifty-man ashram community in the prison. Then he got me up to Washington to talk with the director of the bureau of prisons. There I was, an old SDS radical, dropout, hippie, and suddenly there was an official memorandum in the prison grapevine saying if anyone is interested in meditation or yoga contact Bo Lozoff.
We began to build on that credibility. Later, a woman called me from the New York Department of Correction and we built on that one, too. Soon we had worked with many state bureaus and had growing credentials. The credibility is sort of a good natured spiritual con; it strikes us as exactly Maharaji’s humor. The doors to all the prisons in the country flew open. All we had really wanted to do in the first place was to be available, and now we are. We get letters from all over the world with never any idea about how they found out about us. People write saying things like, “We found a copy of Inside Out in a bush.”
SUN: What do you do in your workshops with prisoners?
BO: On one level, the workshops give us an opportunity to meet “backstage” in the play of our lives. Backstage there is no difference between me and the other people in the room; I’m no freer, no more fortunate; all those roles are parts of the stage characters. Backstage there’s just nothing to do except to be. It’s a vehicle for being in love together with the prisoners who want to be with us in that consciousness. When I walk into a prison room and see 10 or 30 or 100 prisoners expressing their desire for this love just by coming to the workshop, the purity in the room starts blowing me away before the thing even begins. It’s an amazing feeling to be in that group, coming together for no other purpose than to play in the spirit; there’s no college credits, no brownie points toward parole, no naked women or movies or music; just to sit in the spirit, just to play with words about truth, to examine our own souls and maybe to touch hearts. By the time I’ve sat down and cleared my mind and opened my eyes, it’s like looking at so many angels in front of me, beyond space and time. When we sit in this love together, there’s no prison and no inmates and no me and no . . . nothing other than love.
So the talk goes on, and the questions go back and forth and I do teach a few meditation techniques and breathing practices in case someone ever wants to use them, but it’s all just going on as the play, as the excuse, really, for being together. When we look at each other at the end of the night, when those rough, tough, scarred “criminals” look at each other affectionately or come up to hug me or grasp hands for a moment, the look in our eyes is not, “Wow, were those great techniques!” or “Wow, can you teach yoga!” The look is simply, “Wow, does it feel good to be in love!”
Everybody who draws breath wants to feel good. People have a crazy way of going about it. Some people kill nine people thinking that’s going to make them feel better, but there’s no other reason they did it except that they want to feel good and they want to feel loved.
SUN: As an outsider, are you viewed with a certain amount of distrust at first?
BO: It depends. I’ve never run into any serious hostility. I try to remember as I walk into a prison that I really don’t want anything from them such as wanting them to like me or to cop to meditation.
SITA: I think that a lot of the guys come out of curiosity. They’ve heard a little about it and are just kind of squinting and waiting to hear what he has to say. It could take five or ten or fifteen minutes and there’s a breakthrough. You can feel it, a change in the room. It usually happens through humor. The whole room starts to relax, the hearts begin to open and open and open. By the end of the workshop I’m usually crying. It’s so beautiful.
SUN: Have you ever felt threatened emotionally or physically?
BO: That’s because feeling threatened is not the way we respond. Every time I go into a prison I remind myself that if what I say about my prison work is true, one of these times Maharaji may test me by having me fall flat on my face. That’s got to be all right also. If I think that my going in open and not wanting anything means everything is going to always work out well, that’s just a subtle form of wanting something.
SUN: What is your most heartening memory of the prison work?
BO: I went to do a workshop a year and a half ago at Bridgewater. As the fates would have it, they’d circulated the poster for a talk I gave a day earlier on “Toward a consciousness of crime and punishment,” a talk I gave at Harvard about how bad prisons really are. I never talk about that in prison; there’s nothing that the inmates there can do about it. I talk about how they can work on themselves.
So, the 35 people who attended the workshop weren’t the people interested in meditation and yoga. They represented all the prison ethnic groups and they were all angry. Also, this was a unit for the criminally insane. I didn’t know any of this when I sat down. This was also the only time I had ever brought a Buddhist monk with me. He was sitting there next to me with his long robe and shaved head.
I began by saying, “We can talk about many things. We can talk about yoga, we can talk about meditation.” One man stands up and says, “I came to talk about this fucking goddamn prison system” and he holds up the wrong poster. I said, “Gee, that’s from my talk at Harvard, not today’s,” and another guy stands up and says, “It’s the fucking fascists at Harvard you should be talking to about yoga. Then they wouldn’t keep places like this going.” They started really letting it all out. They were so angry. We went back and forth for an hour and a half screaming. I went right in it. I was having as good a time as ever. We were really doing battle together. I was saying, “Hey, don’t treat me like some white middle-class asshole who doesn’t know what’s going on. That’s your problem, because I’m not.”
At the end of the hour and a half I said, “Listen. The same guy just stood up and talked about the fucking fascists at Harvard. That’s how we started, so let’s take a five minute break, and if any one wants to learn how to meditate, come back. I’m sorry that there was this mix-up. But no harm done. I love you all.”
Twenty-four out of the 35 guys came back. Within minutes these angry, crazy, political convicts were being led by the Buddhist monk in meditation, sitting perfectly straight looking like angels, with all their scars and their ugliness and their anger. It got so stoned in there, I almost left my body. It ended just the way they all do, with people coming up and hugging us saying, “Right on, let’s keep in touch on this. Put me on the mailing list.”
SUN: What effect has the prison work had on your own lives?
SITA: Everything. It’s taught me to love and be open. I see people that I would never meet under any other circumstances. It helps me to get through the barriers and see that they’re just people who want the same things out of life that we do — to love and be loved.
BO: I can line up two double-murderers face to face, one with his eyes closed and the other looking at him, and then switching the roles, and say, “Just look at this being and see if you don’t see another person who just wants to feel good, just wants to feel safe.” Really, we’re all exactly alike on that common denominator. Everybody who draws breath wants to feel good. People have a crazy way of going about it. Some people kill nine people thinking that’s going to make them feel better, but there’s no other reason that they did it except that they want to feel good and they want to feel loved.
We’ve met some of the most unusual people we could ever want to meet. It has opened us to what Kahlil Gibran said in The Prophet: “The lowest that is in the lowest murderer is also in the highest saint and the highest that’s in the highest saint is also in the lowest murderer.” There are a lot of people who think they might not be able to commit murder, and I know that’s garbage; many of my dearest brothers have committed murder, and they’re no different from you and me. Somebody that I just hugged the night before last raped a seventy-year-old woman and killed two people, and he’s just one of the most beautiful people you’ve ever known.
When we started doing work in prisons we wore white clothes and our prayer beads and were very strict vegetarians. We had a lot of very firm ideas of what living spiritually was like. Walking into Attica, Joliet or Leavenworth, you see how many things can be taken away from you. You still have the exact same spiritual opportunity when you’re not able to be a vegetarian, when you’re not able to be gentle, when you’re not able to just hang out with nice people. It started maturing us very quickly in terms of spiritual materialism. All we have to do is ask ourselves “How would so-and-so in Joliet feel about this?” and suddenly it uplevels the whole thing and we realize just how caught we are in this tiny little middle-class sliver of existence, thinking that something is a big issue, like whether your granola has sugar in it.
SUN: What would you say is the main difference between doing your sadhana in prison or on the outside?
BO: Everybody turns out to have really exactly the same chance. The things that make it easier also make it harder. Prison is an absurdly difficult place to live. It’s like walking into a time warp and being back where there are dinosaurs, and no rules and no ethics. It’s just incredibly harsh and brutal. I’ve walked out of places and cried. As much as I know about non-attachment and “it’s all perfect” and “it’s all maya,” within the relative reality of it, it’s as hard as sitting and watching somebody die a very painful death. It’s an absurdly harsh environment. Picture being locked up in a space smaller than this living room with 18 adult males, all from really hostile, angry, brutal backgrounds, all of them with radios, and you’re talking about doing sadhana.
It’s harder in all those ways, but somebody who begins to work on himself in prison can experience in six months the sort of maturity and benefits that it would take you and I 25 years on the streets to experience. Because in prison, every day he’s faced with things that you and I maybe face once in a lifetime, like somebody wanting to kill you, somebody wanting to rip you off, somebody wanting to rape you. What you can get out of it by trying to do it all spiritually is incredible. We’ll get one letter from a guy who sounds like a completely illiterate, spiritually immature child. Six weeks later he’ll write us back sounding like Norman Vincent Peale or something. It’s amazing.
We realize how caught we are in this tiny little middle-class sliver of existence, thinking that something is a big issue, like whether your granola has sugar in it.
SUN: Is there any advice you give to prisoners about working with the violence and ridicule that they experience?
BO: All that I really feel I can advise anyone about are states of mind. I tell somebody right up front that I don’t live there and I know it’s really rough. I don’t know whether he should defend himself physically or try to be non-violent. I don’t know whether he should pursue somebody who ripped off his radio or his cigarettes or whether he should just let it go. I don’t know any of the daily, practical ethics of living in that particular prison. What I do know about is the common denominator that he and I have, the opportunity to live in an attached way or the opportunity to uplevel it all and live in a non-attached way. I speak about this and then he applies it to his own situation.
People ask me about getting gang-raped and whether they should defend themselves or submit. I can’t say to somebody, “Submit and don’t worry about it,” and I also can’t say, “Defend yourself and die.” That’s his choice to make. Mahatma Gandhi could and would have submitted because he was so non-attached to his body there was no degradation there, there was no undignity. And yet on the other hand, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce wouldn’t have submitted, he would have said, “Ah, this is a wonderful day to die.”
I’m very critical of yoga teachers who do classes in prisons and don’t take the time to realize the rules are very different for people in prison than they are on the streets. I’ve known prisoners who’ve been given advice and tried to follow it and have almost starved themselves trying to be vegetarians, which is idiotic to do in prison — a vegetarian on what, five-year-old canned beans and rotten potatoes?
There’s a whole different country here, even though it’s not outside our borders. All the rules are different. It’s much more different walking into Leavenworth than if you had to go live with pygmies in Africa.
Love and clarity don’t tend to create passive robots who enjoy prison; they create spiritual warriors.
SUN: Some psychologists speak of a prison mentality. Is there any type of consciousness you find more of in a prison, any difference between people who get in and people who stay out?
BO: It’s not our business. That’s not what we’re looking at. Ram Dass is a bisexual, drop-out Harvard professor, LSD experimenter, wandering vagabond, 50 years old. Maharaji sat around on a table for the last 300 years of his life. How healthy is that? Most of the people we know are out of the norm and maybe that’s why prisoners love us so much.
SUN: Are you saying that there’s no difference?
BO: On the highest level there isn’t. They’re all us. But you can generalize. People in prison tend to have a lot of things in common; not from before they went to prison but from the shared experience after they got there.
I think the book The Criminal Personality is dead-wrong in that it stereotypes prisoners as having a certain criminal personality. I don’t want to even imply that prisoners are more alike than people on the street. Because of the experience that the prisoners share, they seem to have more insight into some very fundamental parts of human nature. A prisoner can meet someone and feel a certain trust or distrust of them that usually turns out to be right. The old saying is true; you can’t con a con.
One of the main failings of the concept of rehabilitation is that it tries to turn prisoners into conformists. If there’s one trait that people in prison tend to have in common, it’s that they are by nature non-conformists, usually somewhere between outlaws and hippies. That kind of rehabilitation is less than useless.
SUN: How would you react to prison life?
BO: We’d be able to do time. Anyone can. That’s what we’re trying to tell people. Someone will write us saying, “I’m serving the first month of a 45-year sentence, and I don’t think I can do it.” We say “You can do it, it’s up to you.”
SITA: You just have to take it a moment at a time.
BO: Imagine finding yourself in a six-by-eight space and knowing you’re probably going to be there until you die, there’s never going to be the street again. And it’s really ugly and horrible and everyone around you hates you and goes out of their way to make you feel bad. It’s about as bad as you can imagine, but the choice is really still yours, whether you’re going to be a survivor or not.
The people we see are mostly the survivors. I know a lot of people who aren’t. When I say they aren’t survivors, I mean that they go crazy. They tune out of their rational minds and end up doing their time that way.
SITA: A lot of them would be a little crazy on the outside also.
BO: I don’t see the streets as being so much better; I don’t know anyone who’s not suffering. In prison people spend part of their day feeling pretty good, part feeling bad. It’s the same thing that you see in the “free” world. I can say that there’s more illusion on the streets in many ways. There’s more illusion of going somewhere. In prison it’s more honest. Life is basic, just here. We’re all doing time. The highest compliment in prison is “he knows how to do his own time.” How few of us do.
SUN: Some say that all prisoners are political prisoners and should awaken to that. Have you ever been accused of pacifying people?
BO: Sometimes outside political people say things like, “You are an agent of the state. You’re pacifying prisoners. The healthiest emotion that a prisoner can feel is anger.” To that I say bullshit. I used to be a radical also. I was sitting around in a basement in Atlanta in 1968 planning how to blow up draft boards. I carried a gun for over a year in the movement. I used it too. I shot across Peachtree Street in Atlanta, on a Sunday evening without the slightest thought that somebody might walk between me and the car that I was firing at. I could easily be doing the rest of my life in prison on a manslaughter charge. I know personally that anger doesn’t help anything. It is not a healthy response to anything. I don’t think that it reflects the humor of the spiritual level. What Sita and I both lacked in the political movement in the 60’s was any sense of humor. We thought we had one. What we do with people in prison is help them to regain their humor. What political people are angry about is that they don’t want people to regain their humor. I know many people in prison who are doing much more effective political organizing than ever before, because they’re operating from a clear, loving space. Love and clarity don’t tend to create passive robots who enjoy prison; they create spiritual warriors.
SUN: Does the Prison-Ashram Project support you financially?
BO: Yes. We’re supported by the Hunuman Foundation, which has three projects: that’s us, the dying project and the tape library. At first Ram Dass supported the project out of his pocket. Now we work on $50,000 a year and that all comes from unsolicited donations. One lady in Canada sends us $2,000 every few months in an envelope. I’ve never gotten her to write a word of explanation.
SUN: Do you ever have trouble finding the time to integrate the prison work into the rest of your lives?
BO: Sure, but we’re in a work scene that is such an incredible blessing that it’s hard to find any complaint at all. Neither of us are trained in any profession. We walked in on a work scene where we get supported in a minimal way, for doing work that we find more fulfilling than anything else that we could have possibly done.
When I go on prison tour I’m working 24 hours a day for several weeks. Writing’s the same way. Then if I need to work on my house for a few weeks I do that and just work harder in the office at night. There are lines in the Ramayana that say you’ll never have to struggle to be supported if you’re doing your dharma.
SUN: How did you get involved with Maharaji?
BO: Sita picked up Be Here Now around the turn of the decade, handed it to me, and I was moved to write Ram Dass a letter. The first time that Ram Dass came to visit, he was such as familiar presence; it was like meeting a lost brother. When he was leaving he said, “We’ve got so much to do together.” It was that automatic. At that time Maharaji was his guru, as far as we were concerned.
There’s a certain presence inside that is telepathic. It’s exactly the same for me, for Sita, for Ram Dass. That love that I bring into prisons I call Maharaji, because I don’t think it is coincidence that this is the identical love that Sita puts into her letters. It’s convenient to call this love Maharaji.
SUN: Was he still alive when you got involved with him?
BO: Yes, but just barely. He died September ’73, which was the year that we started corresponding with Ram Dass, long before we thought of going to India. His presence is a living presence. Guru is a method. What that method is, is using that being for seeing everything as God. That’s happening for us around the being of Maharaji.
Being a businessman is part of God also but not my path. That’s the difference between dharma and adharma. When you do something dharmic it is something that is in tune with your nature. As soon as you start doing something adharmic you know it. You can resist the knowledge because it’s something that you want, but when it all tumbles down around you and there’s suffering, you say, “I really knew it from the start.” Maharaji is an it more than a him. He is that vehicle for us toward a dharmic quality of experience. If it’s there then we do it. We can have a relationship with someone that turns out calamitous, but we’ll know that it was a necessary calamity. Others will turn out apparently smoother, but we’ll know that it wasn’t right or necessary.
SUN: What is your relationship with Ram Dass? What’s the difference between the way you see him and the public’s view?
SITA: He’s family.
BO: He’s really not very different privately. The main difference is that when we’re together we don’t talk about God, which is our thing publicly. Like any relationship, ours has gone through rough periods. When we first turned on to his being a big figure in our lives, and to Maharaji being a bigger figure, we wanted to lock Ram Dass into being our teacher. He also wanted that enough that it worked for a couple of years, but there was a dissatisfaction on all of our parts.
A few years ago, Ram Dass and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight in the desert — screaming out the stuff that had built up over a decade of pent-up emotions. We didn’t see each other for nine or ten months after that. We really began to let go of our feelings of needing something from each other. When we had wanted him to be a teacher, it was making it difficult for him to be with us. After that, we no longer needed him in our lives at all. We honored him as being an instrument of introducing us to Maharaji in this lifetime, but didn’t need to see him anymore.
SITA: I had made him the middleman between me and Maharaji. I suffered a lot when I couldn’t call Ram Dass up with questions. But I grew and developed my end of the connection with Maharaji. I learned to go straight to the source, talking straight to Maharaji. Ram Dass didn’t have to fill that role for me anymore.
SUN: Do you communicate with Maharaji in verbal form or is it something that you just end up knowing?
BO: It’s a whole body feeling. You ask a question, then realize your body already knows. Ultimately Maharaji is just a part of ourselves that we’re still playing a game with by calling it Maharaji because we’re not ready to say, “I’m going to go to the God in myself.” That game is a vehicle. It’s all part of the process, and it will end. The Buddha’s first noble truth is still true: there will be inherent dissatisfaction in everything. But I think part of waking up and becoming a conscious being is consciously enjoying the process. I’m in spiritual junior high and it’s a nice place to be. There’s nothing better about being in spiritual graduate school. I think the first stage of enlightenment comes in accepting yourself exactly as you are.
It takes a long time to rid ourselves of these ideas of spiritual ambition. There has to be an underlying ambition. Ramakrishna says the attachment to liberation should be the last to go. You don’t want to throw aside that attachment while you’ve still got a whole lot of others.
I still have that underlying drive toward liberation, but within that context, I don’t have that urgency. I used to feel like I had to be liberated next year. That kind of childish urgency isn’t the same as a spiritual drive. I know that I still want to be free, but I’m enjoying the earth plane and being in a body more than I ever have because I’m relaxing.
SUN: You’ve been together for fifteen years, longer than most couples can imagine. Why do you think so many couples don’t last?
BO: People break up because that’s really what they have to do.
SITA: I don’t think it’s better to stay together than to break up. It really doesn’t matter because it just gets down to whatever your dharma is. It could be somebody’s dharma to have several mates in a lifetime and do work with each of them.
BO: Sita and I met in one day, moved in the next, and got married several months after. There was no big deal about it. We’ve been through many incarnations together in our marriage, and each one we identified with totally and thought that was all we were goint to do for the rest of our lives. For us being together has been a wild rip-roaring adventure, for 15 years, but I think it can be dharmic to be in a relationship that doesn’t last more than a year. Most of the struggle and suffering comes from the unwillingness to see clearly that it’s over, and that the connection isn’t really there.
I think that one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high is that, in the west anyway, it’s much easier to find a new mate than to work through the pain with your present one. People say they’re looking for a relationship, but their hearts are looking for a bond. I think that it’s very hard for a relationship to work over many years if there’s not that bond. You don’t form a bond by coming to it with a concern that your partner help you protect and nurture the ego-image of yourself that you’ve created. That concern is one of fear, not of love. What most of us have on that level is not worth nurturing.
When we got together it was with the realization that we really didn’t know shit but could look for answers through our being together. We joined together for a no-holds-barred adventure. The bond is formed by all of the radical and unpredictable changes that happen along the way, which involve a constant shifting of both our senses of self. It isn’t formed when you come to it with a humorless set of unspoken rules about relating or respecting the other’s space. There’s no humor if there are ways that you can’t step out of, or roles that you have to play.
We’re not concerned with “relationship,” or fairness, or keeping our own space. It’s beyond that; that still implies a conscious pulling back. In a no-holds-barred bond there can be no rules. For us it’s involved going through the worst pain and the greatest love. It’s certainly not easy. It can get pretty scary when you make someone more a part of yourself than any other. If I can suggest anything it’s that people reflect on whether they really want a relationship that protects their image of themselves, or a bond. If they want a relationship, that’s fine, but if they’re disappointed that they can’t break through with the other person, it might be because of the boundaries they’re putting around the relationship with their clinging to a limited self-image.