On the Road with Rama

Neutral Density

On the Road with Rama - Neutral Density

Today I'd like to talk to you about neutral density - the neutral density of perpetual being - being awareness without being aware of yourself as such.

It's February 6th, 1985. I'm at around 9,000 feet. Pulled off at the side of the road, surrounded by snow, at a power place in the mountains of Colorado, up in the area of the Continental Divide. Every once in a while, a car whizzes past and then disappears around the bend as if it had never been.

The neutral density of being is the acceptance of your own immortality, your awareness of awareness.

The neutral density of being is the acceptance of your own immortality, your awareness of awareness. One of the problems that you will probably come up against in self-discovery at a certain point, or maybe at several repetitive times, is role-playing. Now, role-playing is something that you encounter first when you begin to meditate, when you begin to learn about awareness in new ways and you see or realize that you've been playing a series of roles all your life, that the world is not what it appears to be and that we've been taught to perceive in specific ways.

Each of these methods of perception or perceptual modalities defines life. Our parents give us a series of them. Our school system, books we read, television programs, our encounters with other children growing up or with adults, experiences we have within our own mind, feeling our body perceptions - desires, pain, sensations of comfort and discomfort - all of these things paint a description for us of the world. But as we learn in self-discovery, the world is not, of course, what it appears to be.

The world is awareness, endless awareness. And there are rings of awareness, circles of awareness that we enter into for a period of time. You'll experience a type of awareness, a circle of awareness, and then pass on to another and to another. As small children the circle of our awareness is an open circle. It's not a binding circle. It's not something that stays with us all of the time. It's a circle that leads to other circles - the numinous ring of awareness.

But as we appear to grow older the circles become constricting; they're binding. The circle of awareness is closed. We can't seem to get around to the other side without going back to where we've been. Everything's the same wherever we go. It isn't - life isn't - the feeling that you've perceived this before, that you've just made love and it was like the other 500 times, that you've just eaten dinner and it was like so many forgotten dinners, that you've just met someone and they're just another person, you've meditated and it was just another meditation.

In nature we tend to open ourselves, the circle opens a little bit because there's no mind in nature. It's the mind, the circle of the mind, the circle of ideas that causes us to believe. And these beliefs eventually permutate into an interlocking system of awarenesses, which is a role.

Each person plays a role and the role becomes more defined as they grow older. Now by role, I don't simply mean father or mother, sister, brother, wife, husband, lover, soldier, scientist, cut-throat, good person, bad person, rich person, poor person, Indian chief. By role, I mean not so much a socially defined structural way of being but the actual method of perception that you employ to look at yourself - how you think of yourself, how you think of yourself not simply as you define yourself in relation to the rest of the world, but how you define the world in relation to yourself. You see life according to your awareness. Everything you see is a reflection of your awareness.

Rama smiling with his arms crossed wearing a designer suit
Seeing is the ability to tell what really is.

The works of Rama – Dr. Frederick Lenz are reprinted or included here with permission from

The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.