23 December 2019 08:33
Richard Alpert, Harvard professor and LSD researcher turned spiritual guru, lovingly known as Ram Dass by the world, breathed his last on December 22, 2019, in Maui Hawaii. Ram Dass became the face of the cultural revolution in the 1960s and 70s for the research on Psilocybin, LSD-75 and other psychedelics, along with the help of his Harvard colleague, Timothy Leary. The year 1967 became the turning point in his life as that is when he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj Ji in India. After being fired from Harvard for giving LSD to an undergraduate student as a part of his research, Ram Dass continued his experiments with his friend Timothy Leary. Ram Dass kept returning to India to his Guru, until Neem Karoli Baba's death in 1973.
Ram Dass singlehandedly changed the face of an entire generation and some of his students, like Steve Jobs, took to his path and brought a revolution. If there is an enduring figure emblematic of the consciousness revolution of the 1960s and 70s, it is arguably the Harvard professor and LSD researcher-turned-spiritual leader born Richard Alpert but known the world over as Ram Dass. With Timothy Leary, his colleague in the Harvard psychology department, he forever changed a generation of Americans through his explorations with psilocybin, LSD-75, and other psychedelics before reinventing himself as a spiritual teacher and humanitarian—a bhakti yogi with love as his path. Fired from Harvard in 1963 for giving LSD to an undergraduate, Alpert moved to Millbrook, New York, with Leary, who had been fired ostensibly for not showing up for his classes. From then on, in close to a dozen books and countless teachings, retreats, and podcasts, Ram Dass continued to share the wisdom of a journey that had long gone beyond personal transformation to embrace a cosmic worldview and social agenda.
Inspired by the humane approach to death and dying he had seen in India, Ram Dass was instrumental in co-creating the Living-Dying Project to support caregivers, healthcare professionals, and individuals dealing with terminal illness, and in establishing a hospice and training center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Then in 1997, as Ram Dass was finishing Still Here, the second volume of his spiritual memoirs, he had his third great awakening, the stroke that began the final phase of his life. Long an outspoken advocate and support for the sick and dying, shortly before his stroke, Ram Dass told an audience: "Something has happened to me as a result of my meanderings through consciousness over the past 30 years that has changed my attitude towards death. Ram Dass, who in the 1960s joined Timothy Leary in promoting psychedelic drugs as the path to inner enlightenment before undergoing a spiritual rebirth he spelled out in the influential book "Be Here Now," died at home on Sunday. The man who would become a serene, smiling forerunner of the New Age movement and play a leading role in bringing Eastern spirituality to the West grew up as Richard Alpert in a Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts. Ram Dass and Leary began including the hallucinogenic drug LSD, which like psilocybin was legal at the time, in their experiments but Harvard was upset that they were using students as subjects and fired them in 1963. In an effort to avoid the disappointment of "coming down" from a drug experience, Ram Dass said he and five others locked themselves in a building at the estate for three weeks and took LSD every four hours. In search for a more permanent enlightenment, later that year Ram Dass went to India, as members of the Beatles would in 1968. Alpert said that through Maharaj-ji he found a spiritual love deeper than anything he had experienced. At Maharaj-ji's request, Ram Dass gave him a super-sized dose of LSD but said there was no discernable effect on him, nor was there three years later when they repeated the experiment. "I was a sort of spiritual uncle to a movement - to a consciousness movement bringing the East and West together," Ram Dass told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004.