Ram Dass, Going Home

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Ram Dass, Going Home Movie Poster Image
Docu visits aging spiritual hero; drug references.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 31 minutes

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Positive Messages

Messages about spiritual awareness, humankind's universal consciousness, love, and compassion. After decades of writing, teaching, and spiritual experience, Ram Dass continues to embrace peace, living at one with nature, the profound joys of a conscious life. Insightful and uplifting declarations: "Truth, love, and consciousness. That's what God is." "Make friends with change (body, strength, death)." "Start with your peace, your love, your compassion, and go from there. Then love everything ... love everything." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Portrayal of an aging man, once a counterculture spiritual icon, who has made peace with the life he's led and is ready to leave this "incarnation." Ram Dass is fully engaged with the natural world -- its joys and beauties. He's gentle, kind, hopeful, and treats those in his sphere with respect and gentleness. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Multiple references to the subject's past experimentation with psychedelic drugs. Mind-altering drugs remembered as a positive, enlightening thing that enabled the subject to both experience and effect change.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ram Dass, Going Home is a short, beautifully drawn, optimistic portrait of Ram Dass, an iconic 20th-century spiritual leader, at age 87 in his home in Maui after he had a debilitating stroke. One of the most well-known of counterculture personalities in the 1960s, '70s, and beyond, Ram Dass authored numerous books (including Be Here Now, a game changer in 1971), taught at Harvard University, and, along with Timothy Leary, was fired after experimenting with and promoting psychedelic drugs. The decades that followed -- years filled with spiritual journeys, teaching, writings, and philanthropy -- testified to the fact that Ram Dass was not, as some thought at the time, a phony or pretender. And, as this documentary shows, with only a bare minimum of attention devoted to revealing Ram Dass as he once was, the man is a master of "living in the moment" and still enjoys the profundities of nature, of awareness, connectedness, and peace. He faces his last years and death with much more than gentle acceptance. Ram Dass has "made friends with change" and sees this life's termination "not as an error, not a failure, but as taking off a tight shoe." For those old enough to remember his many years of significant impact, this film will come as no surprise. For others, it's a satisfying introduction and a comforting film that offers adults and mature teens much to think about.

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What's the story?

RAM DASS, GOING HOME takes its audience to visit with the man in his Maui sanctuary, where it's clear that the brilliant mind, clear blue eyes, and weighty observations haven't abandoned him, even at age 87. Director Derek Peck spends just enough time on his subject's history using old photographs, video recordings, news clips, and bits of backstory. He's chosen to focus, instead, on staying with Ram Dass as he is today. We see him begin his day, dependent upon those who care for him, share his meditations, and hear the ongoing conversation he has with himself and with the universe. Nothing out of the ordinary happens, but as is often the case, there's comfort and beauty in the ritual and routine -- a dip in the pool, a visit to his doctor, a romp in the ocean, and a stroll through the tropical gardens of the Island.

Is it any good?

The simplicity of this documentary -- the music, countless images of nature at its most beautiful, and words of its subject -- casts a spell that's satisfyingly in sync with the film's message. It isn't necessary to have been a follower of Ram Dass to appreciate the quality of life he's been able to achieve, the self-acceptance, and his prevailing ease, optimism, and likability. He preaches love and he appears to live within its sphere. In Ram Dass, Going Home, Peck's audience is treated to masterful visuals and sounds of nature, a spot-on musical score, along with the artifacts that surround Ram Dass in his home and the caring folks who tend to him. Throughout, Ram Dass continues to do what he's always done. He's a teacher. He's a spiritual advisor. And, ever the guru, he takes advantage of the opportunity Peck has given him to let his voice be heard again. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the purposes of documentary filmmaking: to inform, entertain, and persuade. Which one (or more) of these purposes describes Ram Dass, Going Home? In what ways were you informed by this film -- what did you learn? If you enjoyed the movie, what did you find entertaining? Did Ram Dass's words and way of being make you think about your own place in the world? What will you remember most?

  • If this documentary inspired you to learn more about its subject -- Ram Dass -- how could you find out more about him? Would you be surprised to learn that his original name was Richard Alpert and that he grew up in an affluent home in Massachusetts? Find out what events during his younger years influenced the profound changes he made.

  • What does Ram Dass mean when he says "Make friends with change"? How could such a notion make everyday living less stressful?

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