. In a "previous life", he was Dr. Richard Alpert, a Harvard psychologist
and associate of Dr. Timothy Leary
, as they tried, first via academe, then (after getting kicked out of Harvard
) as a pop culture
thing, to assimilate psychedelics
. Alpert was one of those who inspired Aldous Huxley
to write The Doors of Perception
, and was probably there during Huxley's deathbed acid trip
Allen Ginsberg said "Go East, young man", or words to that effect. On a 1967 (non-acid) trip to India, Alpert found a guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who gave him the new name of Ram Dass (meaning "servant of God"). He switched from being a cheerleader for LSD (and the somewhat-spiritual Psychedelic Consciousness) to being a no-nonsense teacher, trying to translate the ideas of Hinduism and other Eastern disciplines into accessible, Americanized forms without trivializing them.
Dass was a co-founder of the Seva Foundation (a multifaceted international health and wellness charity) alongside the Hog Farm, a commune that included another Changer of Name - Wavy Gravy, formerly an oddest-ball standup comic named Hugh Romney. Dass' Hanuman Foundation has sponsored such ventures as the Prison-Ashram Project, designed to inject a dose of spirituality into
incarceration, and the Living Dying Project, designed to do the same with the death process. Books include Be Here Now, The Only Dance There Is, Conscious Aging, and Journey of Awakening.
He suffered a serious stroke in 1997, leaving him wheelchair-bound; after rehabilitation, still suffering a degree of paralysis on his right side, he has resumed his work.