A Tribute to Ram Dass (Richard Alpert)
Recently Ram Dass died at his home in Maui. He was 88 years old. He was born into a well-off Boston family, and enjoyed materialism in his early professional years. When completing a Ph.D. in Psychology at Stanford University he was still into material things. His spiritual awakening did not exist. He was once known for his psychedelic drug experimentation while teaching at Harvard University. This experimentation occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, and in 1963 he was fired from Harvard for related reasons. In 1967 he went to India to study under Hindu Sadhu Neem, Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji. Before his teacher died, Alpert was named Ram Dass (Servant of God). He practiced bhakti yoga – pure love on the spiritual path. In 1974 Ram Dass returned to the United States, where he developed his own style of meditation, a style that radically integrated various forms of spiritual traditions. In 1971 he published his first book, Be Here Now; this book helped open up higher consciousness to others without the use of drug and expounded a life role of service to others. In 2004 Ram Dass relocated to Maui, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1997 he wrote Still Here. In some ways this book helped to clarify his deeper understanding of himself; the depth was the result of a serious stroke he suffered. His cerebral hemorrhage forced him to go deeper into self-understanding. In 2004 he survived a near-fatal infection. From his stroke on Ram Dass was mainly homebound. His last book (with Mirabai Bush) was Walking Each Other Home:Conversations on Living and Dying.
To the end he faced his death with great human grace, and he never gave up his view that to live must involve to love and serve others. Ram Dass, sometimes with the help of others, also established various organizations to provide teachings and service to others. Here is a short list: Hanuman Foundations (the teachings of Neen Karoli Baba); Love Serve Remember Foundation; Prison Ashram Project; Co-creating Living Dying Project and Doorway to Light; Seva Foundation (healthcare for underserved areas); and, Social Venture Network (for businesses). Yes, Ram Dass lived his talk – he walked the walk!
With the passing of Ram Dass, we have lost a great spiritual and meditation teacher. There are few and far between equivalent replacements. May he rest in great inner peace as he travels the bardo.
For more information refer to Duncan Oliver, J. (January, 2020). Ram Dass, beloved spiritual teacher, has died. In Tricycle. See tricycle.org/trikedaily/ram-dass-dies/.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness