Ram Dass

Ram Dass
Ram Dass
Born April 6, 1931 (1931-04-06) (age 80)
Boston, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Spiritual teacher
Religion Jewish (until 1967), Hindu (since 1967)

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert on April 6, 1931) is an American contemporary spiritual teacher and the author of the seminal[1][2] 1971 book Be Here Now. He is known for his personal and professional associations with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s, for his travels to India and his relationship with the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, and for founding the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. He continues to teach via his website.



Youth and education

Alpert was born to a Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts. His father, George Alpert, was a lawyer in the Boston area and president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, as well as one of the founders of Brandeis University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Alpert attended the Williston Northampton School, graduating in 1948 as a part of the Cum Laude Association.[3] He then went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University, a master's degree from Wesleyan University, and a doctorate (in psychology) from Stanford University.

Harvard professorship and the Leary-Alpert research

After returning from a visiting professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, Alpert accepted a permanent position at Harvard, where he worked with the Social Relations Department, the Psychology Department, the Graduate School of Education, and the Health Service, where he was a therapist. Perhaps most notable was the work he did with his close friend and associate Timothy Leary. Leary and Alpert were formally dismissed from the university in 1963. According to Harvard President Nathan M. Pusey, Leary was dismissed for leaving Cambridge and his classes without permission or notice, and Alpert for allegedly giving psilocybin (similar to LSD) to an undergraduate.[4]

Spiritual search and name change

In 1967 Alpert traveled to India, where he traveled with the American spiritual seeker Bhagavan Das, and ultimately met the man who would become his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, whom Alpert called "Maharaj-ji". It was Maharaj-ji who gave him the name "Ram Dass", which means "servant of God",[5] referring to the incarnation of God as Ram or Lord Rama. Alpert also corresponded with the Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba and mentioned Baba in several of his books.

Later life

In February 1997, Ram Dass suffered a stroke that left him with expressive aphasia, which he interprets as an act of grace. He no longer travels, but continues to teach through live webcasts[6] and at retreats in Hawaii.[7] When asked if he could sum up his life's message, he replied, "I help people as a way to work on myself, and I work on myself to help people ... to me, that's what the emerging game is all about." Ram Dass was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in August 1991.[8]

Ram Dass is a vegetarian. [9] In the 1990s, he became more forthcoming about his bisexuality[10] while avoiding labels and asserting that bisexuality "isn't gay, and it's not not-gay, and it's not anything—it's just awareness."[11] At 78, Ram Dass learned that he had fathered a son as a 24-year-old at Stanford, and that he was now a grandfather.[12]


The Love Serve Remember Foundation was organized to preserve and continue the teachings of Neem Karoli Baba and Ram Dass, and to work with Ram Dass on his writings and other future plans. The Hanuman Foundation is a nonprofit educational and service organization founded by Ram Dass in 1974, focused on the spiritual well-being of society through education, media and community service programs. The Seva Foundation is an international health organization founded by Ram Dass in 1978 along with public health leader Larry Brilliant and humanitarian activist Wavy Gravy.




  • The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (with Timothy Leary & Ralph Metzner) (1966) (reissued on CD in 2003 by Folkways)
  • Here We All Are, a 3-LP set recorded live in Vancouver, BC in the summer of 1969.
  • Love Serve Remember (1973), a six-album set of teachings, data, and spiritual songs (ZBS Foundation) (released in MP3 format, 2008)


  • Ram Dass Fierce Grace, a 2001 biographical documentary about Ram Dass directed by Micky Lemle.


  1. ^ Harvey, Andrew; Erickson, Karuna (2010). Heart Yoga: The Sacred Marriage of Yoga and Mysticism. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 9781583942918. 
  2. ^ Tempo staff (July 19, 2010). "'Be Here Now' turns 40". The Taos News. http://taosnews.com/articles/2010/07/25/entertainment/doc4c44391aae830728148627.txt. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  3. ^ Private school equivalent of the National Honor Society
  4. ^ Russin, Joseph M.; Weil, Andrew T. (May 28, 1963). "The Crimson takes Leary, Alpert to Task: 'Roles' & 'Games' In William James". The Harvard Crimson. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=495775. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Biography: Richard Alpert/Ram Dass". Ramdass.org. Ram Dass / Love Remember Serve Foundation. http://www.ramdass.org/biography. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ Ram Dass. "Ram Dass Love Serve Remember". RamDass.org. http://www.ramdass.org/. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Retreats". RamDass.org. 
  8. ^ "Courage of Conscience Award Recipients". PeaceAbbey.org. The Peace Abbey. http://www.peaceabbey.org/cofc-award/award-recipients/. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  9. ^ Rosen, Elliott Jay. "An Interview with Ram Dass". The Vegetarian Travel Guide. VegetarianUSA.com. http://www.vegetarianusa.com/feature_articles/bms/ramdass.html. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  10. ^ Davidson, Alan (April 2001). "Holy Man Sighted at Gay Porn House: Ram Dass talks about his life as the leading teacher of Eastern thought in America ... who nobody knew was gay". OutSmart.  Summarized with cover image in Maines, Donalevan (April 1, 2010). "PastOut: 9 Years ago in ‘OutSmart’". OutSmart. http://outsmartmagazine.com/2010/04/pastout-april-2010/. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  11. ^ Thompson, Mark (September 2, 1997). "Ram Dass: A Life Beyond Labels". Gay Today. Badpuppy.com. http://gaytoday.badpuppy.com/garchive/people/090297pe.htm. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  12. ^ Sidon, Rob; Grossman, Carrie (November 2010). "Common Ground Interviews Ram Dass". Common Ground: 46–51. http://www.sopdigitaledition.com/archive/commonground1110/#/46/. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 

External links

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