Ram Dass Biography
Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in Newton, Massachusetts on April 6, 1931. He studied psychology, specializing in human motivation and personality development, receiving an M.A. from Wesleyan and a Ph.D. from Stanford. He then served on the psychology faculties at Stanford and the University of California, and from 1958 to 1963 taught and researched in the Department of Social Relations and the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.
In 1961, while at Harvard, Ram Dass' explorations of human consciousness led him, in collaboration with Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, and others, to pursue intensive research with psilocybin, LSD-25, and other psychedelic chemicals. Out of this research came two books: The Psychedelic Experience (co-authored by Leary and Metzner, and based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead); and LSD (with Sidney Cohen and Lawrence Schiller).
Ram Dass continued his research under the auspices of a private foundation until 1967. In that year he traveled to India, where he met his Guru (spiritual teacher), Neem Karoli Baba. Ram Dass studied yoga and meditation, and received the name Ram Dass, which means "servant of God." Since 1968, he has pursued a variety of spiritual practices, including guru kripa; devotional yoga focused on the Hindu spiritual figure Hanuman; meditation in the Theravadin, Mahayana Tibetan, and Zen Buddhist schools; karma yoga; and Sufi and Jewish studies.
In 1974, Ram Dass created the Hanuman Foundation, which developed the Prison Ashram Project, designed to help prison inmates grow spiritually during their incarceration, and the Dying Project, conceived as a spiritual support structure for conscious and dying. These projects are now directed under independent auspices.
Ram Dass' interests include the support of psychedelic research, international development, environmental awareness and political action. He has written a number of spiritual books.
Partially paralyzed from a stroke in 1997, Dass now lives on Maui and continues to teach.
This biography was last updated on 10/17/2013.
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