Ram Dass was an American spiritual teacher, leader, psychologist, and author. He passed away on 22 December 2019.
His real name is Richard Alpert. He was born on Monday, 6 April 1931 (age 88; at the time of death) in Boston, Massachusetts, US. His zodiac sign is Aries. Ram Dass did his schooling from “The Williston Northampton School” in Easthampton, Massachusetts. He pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree from the “Tufts University” in Massachusetts. He obtained a Masters in Psychology from the “Wesleyan University” in Middletown, Connecticut. He did his doctorate in Psychology from the “Stanford University” in California.
His father wanted him to attend medical school, but when he was studying at “Tufts,” he decided to pursue a career in psychology. His mentor at “Wesleyan” recommended him to Stanford where he pursued his PhD in the early 1950s. His doctoral thesis was on “Achievement Anxiety.” After obtaining his PhD, he taught at Stanford for a year, and then he started to study “psychoanalysis” (theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind).
Height (approx.): 6′ 3″
Eye Colour: Vibrant Green
Hair Colour: White
Family & Religion
Richard Alpert was born into a Jewish Family. However, Richard considered himself an Athiest. His father, George Alpert was a lawyer in Boston. His elder brother was William Alpert. He remained unmarried throughout his life, however, at the age of 78, he discovered that he had a son named Peter Reichard.
In 1958, his Wesleyan University mentor, David McClelland had moved to Cambridge to teach at Harvard University. David then helped Ram Dass get a tenured position at Harvard as an assistant clinical psychology professor. At Havard, he worked with the Social Relations Department, the Psychology Department, the Graduate School of Education, and the Health Service. He specialized in human motivation and personality development, and he published his first book when he was at Harvard titled “Identification and Child Rearing.”
David’s close friend Timothy Leary also worked as a lecturer in clinical psychology at Harvard. Alpert (Ram Dass) became a deputy at Leary’s lab. In 1961, Alpert and Leary started doing research and experimentation with the potential therapeutic effects of hallucinogenic drugs such as “psilocybin,” “LSD-25,” and other “psychedelic chemicals” through their Harvard Psilocybin Project. In 1962, they assisted Walter Pahnke, a Harvard Divinity School student on his “Good Friday Experiment” (the first controlled, double-blind study of drugs and the mystical experience).
In 1962, Dass and Leary co-founded the non-profit “International Federation for Internal Freedom” (IFIF) in Cambridge to carry out studies in the religious use of psychedelic drugs. In 1963, both of them were fired from Harvard. The Harvard President said Leary was dismissed for leaving Cambridge and his classes without permission or notice, and Alpert for allegedly giving psilocybin to an undergraduate.
In 1967, Alpert (Ram Dass) visited India, and he got the opportunity to meet the American spiritual leader Bhagavan Das who made him meet the Indian guru “Neem Karoli Baba.” Karoli Baba had a huge impact on Alpert’s mind, and he became Karoli’s disciple. Alpert used to call Karoli Baba “Maharaj-Ji,” and he was given the name “Ram Dass” (Servant of God) by Karoli Baba. Once, in an interview, he said that he gave Baba Karoli a big amount of LSD, but it did not affect him at all, his mind was at a greater high with his connection to God and the LSD was no match for that.
Ram Dass returned to America soon and started giving lectures on spiritual guidance and guiding people according to what Karoli Baba had taught him. In 1971, he wrote a book titled “Be Here Now,” which went on to become the best seller and sold more than 5 million copies. In 1974, Ram Dass had created the “Hanuman Foundation,” a non-profit foundation which was meant to embody the spirit of service inspired his Guru.
In 1986, Dass, along with Dale Borglum, created “The Living/Dying Project” based in Marin County, California and located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was the first residential facility in the United States where people came to “die consciously.”
In August 1991, he received the “Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award.” Ram Dass, who had been an Athiest all his life, started exploring “Judaism” for the first time when he turned sixty years old. Once, in an interview, he said-
My belief is that I wasn’t born into Judaism by accident, and so I needed to find ways to honour that. “From a Hindu perspective, you are born as what you need to deal with, and if you just try and push it away, whatever it is, it’s got you”
In February 1997, he had suffered a stroke which left him with “expressive aphasia” and paralyzed him. He was not able to speak and many parts of his body were not able to move, hence putting him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. However, he found a way to speak partially and he started giving his lectures and teachings online. In 2004, he moved to Maui, Hawaii and lived there permanently. On 22 December 2019, he died at his house in Maui at the age of 88. His death was announced on his Instagram page and the cause of death is unknown.
- His book “Be Here Now” was a bestseller and it had inspired people like “Steve Jobs,” “George Harrison” of The Beatles, and “Mark Zuckerberg.”
- His book and teachings also had a life-changing effect on many factions of society. He regularly used to conduct retreats where he gave lectures about life, yoga, and spirituality to people of all ages.
- When he had found out about his son, he thought that someone was trying to hustle him. Hence, his son took a DNA test to prove that he was his son.
- Ram Dass used to follow Pescetarianism (eating seafood, dairy products, and eggs as the only source of meat in an otherwise vegetarian diet).
- Once, in an interview, he described himself as injured to religion. He also said-
I didn’t have one whiff of God until I took psychedelics”
- Earlier, he used to take heavy psychedelics. Once, he recalled that he, along with some of his friends, locked themselves up in an estate and took LSD every four hours. They wanted to escape reality, but inevitably, they had to come back to reality.
- Even though he was on a wheelchair, he used to visit nearby temples, hospitals, and other foundations, which were working towards the same cause as his.