The man who would become Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a wealthy and influential lawyer. He worked at Harvard in the department of Social Relations and the Graduate School of Education until 1963, when he and Timothy Leary were dismissed from the faculty for their work with LSD. The two became active advocates of psychedelic drugs and their mind-expanding abilities, but they slowly went their separate ways.
In 1967, Alpert went to India, where he met the man who was to be his mentor, Neem Karoli Baba. Forsaking psychedelics for the more lasting change of consciousness he found in yoga and meditation, Alpert returned to the United States with a new name given to him by Neem Karoli Baba: Ram Dass, or “servant of God.” His followers quickly added the honorific “Baba” to Ram Dass, a title with which he was never fully comfortable, and one which he would abandon entirely in the 1980s.
Ram Dass’ popularity has waxed and waned throughout the years, but the man himself has remained constant. Less militant and flamboyant that his friend Leary, Ram Dass has founded several foundations, most notably the Hanuman Foundation, from which sprang the Living Dying Project, a system of support to allow the terminally ill to experience inner growth through their own death.
Climb to Fame
Metaphysical and spiritual leader; 1960s psychedelic advocate
(1974) Co-founds of the Seva Foundation, which works with international public health and social justice issues. It is especially well-known for its work with the impoverished blind.
(1974) Founds the Hanuman Foundation, an organization he uses to create the Prison Ashram Project (a project that encourages prisoners to use their confinement to seek enlightenment, in effect using prison as a substitute for a monastic life). The Living Dying Project, whereby the terminally ill can use their dying as a growth and healing process, also has grown out of the Hanuman Foundation.
(1967) Travels to India and meets his spiritual mentor, Neem Karoli Baba. Returns to America and begins to lecture about his experiences.
(1963) With Timothy Leary, dismissed from Harvard for giving LSD to students (was an advocate of the psychedelic drug movement until 1967).
(1958-1963) Professor, Department of Social Relations and the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.
The Seva Foundation, the Hanuman Foundation, the Prison Ashram Project and the Dying Project.
Counter-cultural guru Ram Dass provides comforting guidance on life’s most perplexing challenges
Renowned counter-cultural guru Ram Dass, formerly known as Richard Alpert, has led the life of a seeker, traveler, and social activist. In addition to inspiring a generation to open its mind to many Eastern religious practices, Ram Dass created the Prison Ashram Project and the Dying Project, which taught terminally ill individuals about other planes of consciousness, and also co-created the Seva Foundation, which collaborates with doctors and activists in India, Nepal, Guatemala and the US.
In Ram Dass: Answering Life’s Questions Ram Dass provides guidance on life’s most perplexing challenges from the perspective of a journeyman who has finally reached his destination.