The all too familiar tradition of Eastern mysticism and philosophy making it’s way into Western culture has a long heritage of which Ram Dass played a rather significant role. He was a best selling author, a philanthropist known for giving away all his book earning to charity and a psychedelic drug advocate who set himself on a path of mindfulness and enlightenment. His death was announced on December 22 via his official Instagram account.
Ram Dass was quoted as saying that in order to become free we had to have contact with our “heart-mind source,” or “who you are at your deepest level,” and despite having a paralysing stroke in 1997, for more than 50 years he shared his transcendental journey through regular talks, books and essays. ‘Be Here Now’ which was published in 1971 was to remain his best known work selling over 2 million copies. Decades later, New York Times book critic Dwight Garner called it the “counterculture bible”.
An inexhaustible speaker, he led lengthy workshops and retreats that drew audiences in the thousands with talks that were filled with self-deprecating quips: “I’m not a guru. I’m only a student, and I give a good rap.” He noted his own personal story while delivering a message that centred on self-reflection and finding meaning in a superficial, chaotic world.
Before Eckhart Tolle’s the Power of Now there was the seminal Be Here Now in 1971 by Ram Dass
The Sydney Morning Herald had this to say about his early life:
Richard Alpert was born in Boston on April 6, 1931, and was the youngest of three sons. He had a history of tension with his controlling father, George, a high-powered Boston lawyer, president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and a founder of Brandeis University. His father harangued him to become a doctor, while the younger Alpert expressed interest in psychology.
After graduating in 1952 from Tufts College (now University) in Medford, Massachusetts, he received a master’s degree in psychology at Wesleyan University in 1954 and a doctorate in psychology at Stanford University in 1957.
He developed a reputation in graduate school as a spellbinding teacher, and in 1958 joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor. “I had an apartment that was filled with antiques and I gave very charming dinner parties,” he later wrote in “Be Here Now.” “I had a Mercedes-Benz sedan and a Triumph 500 CC motorcycle and a Cessna 172 airplane and an MG sports car and a sailboat and a bicycle.”
Visit the Official Ram Dass page here.