Ram Dass, a spiritual leader in the 1960s whose real name was Richard Alpert, has died at the age of 88.
Dass passed away at his home in Maui, Hawaii, on Sunday according to a statement released on his official Instagram.
“With tender hearts we share that Ram Dass [born Richard Alpert] died peacefully at home in Maui on December 22, 2019, surrounded by loved ones. He was a guide for thousands seeking to discover or reclaim their spiritual identity beyond or within institutional religion.”
His official Twitter account also announced his death and posted the same tribute.
With tender hearts we share that Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) died peacefully at home in Maui on December 22, 2019 surrounded by loved ones.
He was a guide for thousands seeking to discover or reclaim their… https://t.co/rWZdF09wEW
— Ram Dass (@BabaRamDass) December 23, 2019
He was a guide for thousands seeking to discover or reclaim their spiritual identity beyond or within institutional religion.
Memorial services will be announced shortly. In the meantime, please share reflections on Ram Dass via
email@example.com or #lovingramdass pic.twitter.com/zt49qS01jt
— Ram Dass (@BabaRamDass) December 23, 2019
News of Ram Dass’ death comes after he suffered a stroke in 1997 that left him partially paralyzed. He moved to Hawaii in 2007 where he continued to disseminate his teachings through the internet.
He was the founder of charitable organizations, including the Seva Foundation, which he co-founded in 1978. The foundation is dedicated to fighting blindness in developing countries, such as India and Nepal.
He also founded the Hanuman Foundation in 1974. Hanuman is an educational and service organization that focuses on collective spiritual well-being.
Tributes on Twitter
People have been paying tribute on Twitter:
Ram Dass passed from earth a few hours ago. How perfect that he left this plane on the first night of the Festival of Lights. “Be Here Now” shifted my world when I was young, as it did for millions of others. Praise & thanks to a huge & radiant soul. May he be forever blessed.
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) December 23, 2019
Our dear beloved Ram Dass passed from this transient life a few hours ago – peacefully, in his 80’s- at his home in Maui surrounded by an abundance of love. He had been sick & bedridden for the last few days.
Ram Dass was a spiritual pioneer and influential bridge between East pic.twitter.com/vGRt1TjgOP
— Lama Surya Das (@LamaSuryaDas) December 23, 2019
RIP Ram Dass pic.twitter.com/jRelgDHHrH
— Sharon Anderson (@mindtheimage) December 23, 2019
my beloved friend ram dass just left his body. we have all been the beneficiaries of his great love and wisdom. i am broken hearted that he is gone………. and so it is……….. pic.twitter.com/hwMOz80ka2
— Joan Halifax (@jhalifax) December 23, 2019
"Be here now." "If you think you're so enlightened, go spend a week with your family." "We're all just walking each other home." Extraordinary life. Great teacher. RIP Ram Dass. ?
— Pamela Post (@PamelaJPost) December 23, 2019
Who was Ram Dass?
Ram Dass was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in April 1931.
He attended Williston Northampton prep school in Massachusetts. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tufts University and a master’s degree from Wesleyan University. He earned his doctorate in psychology from Stanford University.
Dass joined Harvard University as a researcher and professor in the 1960s. He was an atheistic academic and clinical psychologist who later became one of the leaders of the 1960s psychedelic counterculture.
He met and befriended Timothy Leary at Harvard and together, they worked to promote the use of psychedelic drugs as a path to higher consciousness and inner enlightenment.
Dass later abandoned the use of psychedelics after a spiritual pilgrimage to India. While there, he met Hindu gurus who helped to set him on the path to a spiritual rebirth. He later authored the influential book Be Here Now, in which he talked about his spiritual enlightenment.
After his spiritual rebirth, Dass emerged as one of the pioneers of the New Age movement. He contributed to the spread of Eastern spiritually in the country.
But before his spiritual rebirth, he experimented extensively with psychedelic drugs. He started using marijuana in the 1950s after a patient introduced him to the drug while he worked at Stanford University.
Leary introduced Dass to psilocybin in 1961. Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in some mushrooms.
He and Leary experimented with the compound. They tested the effects of the drug on people, including fellow academicians, students, and other professionals, and asked them questions about their experiences.
Most described their experiences in terms of a sense of bliss, heightened sensory awareness, a quickening of mental process, and relaxation. Many also reported experiences of a transcendental nature, such as euphoria and “seeing” God.
They also later began experimenting with LSD. They clashed with Harvard authorities who felt uneasy with their work, especially when they started testing the drugs on young students. They were eventually fired from Harvard in 1963.
After they left Harvard, they continued experimenting with psychedelics as part of their quest for permanent higher consciousnesses and spiritual enlightenment. They were supported in their quest by wealthy patrons.
The quest for enlightenment led Dass to travel to India in 1967 where he met the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, aka Maharaj-ji.
Maharaj-ji gave Alpert the spiritual name Ram Dass, which means a “servant of God.”
Dass returned to the U.S. to spread the new spirituality he acquired in India. The most profound influence of his new spirituality was that he abandoned the use of drugs as a means to spiritual enlightenment and higher consciousness.
Instead, he focused on spiritual methods, such as meditation and yoga.