Who is Baba RamDass, Proponent of LSD Turned New Age Guru

“Be Here Now” is the autobiography of Richard Alpert, who gained fame as a colleague and friend of Timothy Leary.

A Harvard academic who helped popularize psychedelic drugs during the 1960s before finding spiritual inspiration in India, Baba Ramdass passed away on Sunday in 2019, December at his home on Maui, Hawaii. The man was 88 years old.

An announcement of his death was posted on his official Instagram account.

Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass grew up in a bushy-bearded, white-robed guru’s clothing and became a peripatetic lecturer on New Age possibilities and an award-winning author.

In 1971, he sold more than two million copies of his first book, “Be Here Now”, which advocated finding salvation through helping others.

His foundations help fight blindness in India and Nepal, support reforestation in Latin America, and provide health education to South Dakota’s American Indians. His particular interest was in the dying. As part of his foundation, he talked about establishing a self-help line, “Dial-a-Death,” to help people through death.

As Mr. Leary was dying in 1996 and wished to go “actively and creatively,” he called Ram Dass.
At various points in his life, Ram Dass alternately served as Mr. Leary’s disciple, enemy, and, at the end, a friend. During the video clip, Ram Dass turns to Mr. Leary and hugs him, saying, “It has been a hell of a dance, hasn’t it

He was partially paralyzed by a cerebral hemorrhage a year later, unable to speak and in a wheelchair as a result. His first step was to “surf the silence” at home, but after painstakingly regaining his speech, he lectured on the internet and recorded talks.

George Alpert and Gertrude (Levin) Alpert were the parents of Richard Alpert, born in Boston on April 6, 1931. He was the son of a lawyer and a founder of Brandeis University and the president of the New Haven Railroad. Although Richard had a bar mitzvah, he refused to identify himself as religious.

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After graduating from Tufts University in Massachusetts as a psychology major in 1952, he studied at Wesleyan University for a master’s degree in the subject, but flunked the oral examination.

He was, nonetheless, accepted to Stanford as a Ph.D. candidate and earned his degree, staying on afterwards to teach. As a result, He was hired by Harvard as both a psychologist and an educator.

Soon, he had an apartment full of antiques, a Mercedes sedan, an MG sports car, a Triumph motorcycle, and his own Cessna.

Mr. Leary was lecturing on clinical psychology at Harvard when he crossed paths with him. As a result, they became drinking buddies. Alpert admired Mr. Leary’s iconoclasm, telling Tufts University’s alumni magazine in 2006 that Mr. Leary was “the only faculty member who was unimpressed by Harvard.”

After visiting Mexico in 1963 to sample psychedelic mushrooms, the two men and a group of followers moved to Millbrook, N.Y., finding lodging in Peggy Hitchcock’s 2,500-acre estate.

In the 1950s and 1960s, residents took lots of LSD, which had not been made illegal until 1968. “The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Baba Rmdass, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America” (2010) referred to the commune as “a Disneyland of the Psychedelic Sixties.”

Alpert, however, found that he was depressed after coming down from a high. His thrill diminished as his tolerance to LSD increased. Mr. Leary and Mr. Alpert’s tensions increased as the drug experience deteriorated. Among the issues was Mr. Alpert’s acknowledged bisexuality.

Leary accused Alpert of trying to seduce Jack, Leary’s 15-year-old son, whom Alpert often cared for while Leary traveled as a single parent.

According to Mr. Lattin’s book, Mr. Leary told Jack that Uncle Dick was evil.

Jack replied, “Oh, come on, Dad.”. Dick isn’t evil; he’s just a jerk.

In 1967, Mr. Alpert visited India more as a tourist than as a pilgrim. In response to circumstances, he found himself in the company of an old man with a twinkling eye and a blanket: Neem Karoli Baba, known to his followers as Maharajji, or the great king. The Maharajji seemed to read Mr. Alpert’s mind when he accurately informed him of Mr. Alpert’s mother’s recent death from spleen disease in India, information he refused to share with anyone.

He considers Maharajji his guru ever since the experience caused him a spiritual upheaval. He gave Mr. Alpert the name Baba Ramdass, meaning servant of God, and added the prefix Baba, which means father.

LSD was given to Maharajji by Ram Dass, but it did not have any effect on him. The guru’s consciousness had already been awakened to such a degree that drugs would not be able to change it.

The Maharajji told Maharajji that he should return to the United States in 1968. He later recalled that when he got off the plane barefoot, robed, and beardless, his father told him to get into the car as quickly as possible “before anyone saw you.”

Eventually, he moved into his father’s New Hampshire cabin. Eventually, 200 people joined him in chanting.

Ram Dass was a popular lecturer, often combining pithy wisdom and humor in his presentations. According to him, everyone you meet should be treated as if they were God in drag.

Ram Dass, the eccentric poet and peace activist, once said, “The ocean liner was his masterwork.”

He achieved his biggest public success when the Lama Foundation published “Be Here Now” in 1971 as loose pages in a box. More than two million copies of the book have been printed.

Ram Dass’ image and mind changed by the 1980s. In spite of shaving off his beard, he left a neatly trimmed mustache. His publisher vetoed his attempt to drop the Indian name because he didn’t want to be a cult figure. Harvard was right to evict Baba Ramdass since he never intended to be a guru.

Despite this, he continued to produce books and recordings. In order to promote his charities, to help prisoners, and to spread his message of spiritual equanimity, he started or helped start foundations. It was important to him that the price of his tapes and books be reasonable.

It was the end of the old orthodoxies. Although he said he continued to take one or two drug trips a year for old time’s sake, he realized that his 400 LSD trips had not been as enlightening as his drugless spiritual epiphanies. In his opinion, other religions, including Judaism, which he had rejected as a young man, are as valid as Eastern religions.

Ram Dass revealed in 1997 that despite earlier statements that he was bisexual, he had always been primarily homosexual. I always pretended to go to faculty dinners and other stuff like that,” he said. In his statement, he said he had encountered thousands of homosexuals in secret.

Baba Ramdass received a letter in 2010 from a stranger who said he might be his brother’s father. As a result of a liaison between Ram Dass and Stanford graduate student, Peter Reichard, a 53-year-old banker in North Carolina, was proven to be Ram Dass’ son by DNA tests.

A granddaughter is also among his survivors.

It was Baba Ramdass’ belief that God existed in everyone. One of his favorite stories was about visiting a psychiatric hospital and meeting a patient who claimed he was God.

In response, he told him, “I am too,” he recalled. “He wanted to be the only one, so he was quite upset.”


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