Place of Birth
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Foundation of Teaching
Be Here Now, Love, Compassion, Peace
Example of Teaching
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
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Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert; April 6, 1931 – December 22, 2019), also known as Baba Ram Dass, was an American spiritual teacher, psychologist, and author. In 1961, while at Harvard, explorations of human consciousness led him, in collaboration with Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Aldous Huxley, and Allen Ginsberg, to pursue intensive research with psilocybin, LSD-25, and other psychedelic chemicals. Out of this research came two books: The Psychedelic Experience (co-authored with Leary and Metzner, based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, published by University Books); and LSD (with Sidney Cohen and Lawrence Schiller, published by New American Library). Because of the highly controversial nature of their research, Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary became personae non grata and were dismissed from Harvard in 1963. Tim Leary and Alpert then went to Mexico, ate mushrooms, and went from being academics to counter culture icons, legends in their own time, and young at that. For Ram Dass psychedelic work turned out to be a prelude to the mystical country of the spirit and the source of consciousness itself. Mind expansion via chemical substances became a catalyst for the spiritual seeking.
Ram Dass first went to India in 1967. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means “servant of God.” Everything changed then – his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” ever since. Ram Dass’s spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying along millions on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked his way through his own.
Since 1968, Ram Dass pursued a panoramic array of spiritual methods and practices from potent ancient wisdom traditions, including bhakti or devotional yoga focused on the Hindu deity Hanuman; Buddhist meditation in the Theravadin, Mahayana Tibetan and Zen Buddhist schools, and Sufi and Jewish mystical studies. Perhaps most significantly, his practice of karma yoga or spiritual service has opened up millions of other souls to their deep, yet individuated spiritual practice and path. Ram Dass continued to uphold the boddhisatva ideal for others through his compassionate sharing of true knowledge and vision. His unique skill in getting people to cut through and feel divine love without dogma is still a positive influence on many people all over the planet.
In 1974, Ram Dass created the Hanuman Foundation, a non-profit meant to embody what he had absorbed from his Guru. Hanuman Foundation developed the Prison Ashram Project, designed to help prison inmates grow spiritually during their incarceration, and the Dying Project helped many cope and transcend, taking the unnecessary sting out of the tail of life and giving people a way to deal with suffering and death.
Ram Dass was a co-founder and advisory board member of the Seva Foundation (“seva” means “spiritual service” in Sanskrit), an international service organization. Seva supports programs designed to help wipe out curable blindness in India and Nepal, restore the agricultural life of impoverished villagers in Guatemala, assist in primary health care for American Indians, and to bring attention to the issues of homelessness and environmental degradation in the United States, along with other nations.
In 1997, he had a stroke which left him with paralysis and expressive aphasia. He eventually grew to interpret this event as an act of grace, learning to speak again and continuing to teach and author books. After becoming seriously ill during a trip to India in 2004, he gave up traveling and moved to Maui, Hawaii, where he hosted annual retreats with other spiritual teachers, continuing to be a source of inspiration to his old students, friends, and young people new to the path of Being Here Now. He left his physical form on December 22nd, 2019. He was 88 years old.
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- "We're here to awaken from the illusion of separateness."
- "Prolong not the past; Invite not the future; Do not alter your innate wakefulness Fear not appearances"
- "There in nothing more than this Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise."
- "As one individual changes, the system changes."
- "Religions are founded by what mystics say when they come back; but what the mystics say is not the same as what happened to them."
- "You give up not meditating. It's called meditation action. There's no way out of it. Meditation means to be constantly extricating yourself from the clinging of mind."
- "We're fascinated by the words--but where we meet is in the silence behind them."
- "The quieter you become, the more you can hear."