Ram Dass (April 6, 1931, born Richard Alpert – December 22, 2019), also known as Baba
Ram Dass, was an American spiritual teacher, psychologist, and author. His best known book, Be Here Now (1971), has been described as "seminal", and helped popularize Eastern spirituality and yoga with the baby boomer generation in the West. He authored or co-authored twelve other books on spirituality including Grist for the Mill (1977) and Polishing the Mirror (2013).
In 1967, Richard Alpert traveled to India and became a disciple of Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba who gave him the name Ram Dass, meaning "Servant of Ram". In the coming years, he founded the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. The Hanuman Foundation, a nonprofit educational and service organization initiated the Prison-Ashram Project (now known as the Human Kindness Foundation), in 1974. The Hanuman Foundation is actively focused on the spiritual well-being of society through education, media and community service programs. He co-founded the Seva Foundation by joining with health-care workers to treat the blind in India, Nepal, and developing countries.
He traveled extensively giving talks and retreats and holding fundraisers for charitable causes in India. In 1997, Ram Dass had a stroke which left him with paralysis and expressive aphasia. He grew to interpret this event as an act of grace, learning to speak again and continuing to teach and author more books. After becoming seriously ill during a trip to India in 2004, he gave up traveling and moved to Maui, Hawaii, where he hosted annual retreats with other spiritual teachers until his death in 2019.
When Be Here Now was first published in 1971, it filled a deep spiritual emptiness, launched the ongoing mindfulness revolution, and established Ram Dass as perhaps the preeminent seeker of the twentieth century. In the book Ram Dass peels away each layer of his identity, disassociating from himself as a professor, a social cosmopolite, and lastly, as a physical being. Fear turns into exaltation upon the realization that at his truest, he was just his inner-self: a luminous being that he could trust indefinitely and love infinitely. His book was a critical element of 1970s spiritual enlightenment in the U.S.
His book from 2013, Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart is his auto-biography. In the book he discusses his Jewish routes and his reconciliation with the tradition and his bisexuality. For five decades, Ram Dass explored the depths of consciousness and love and brought them to life as service to others. He gathers together his essential teachings for living in the eternal present, here and now.
He includes a combination of perennial wisdom, humor, teaching stories, and detailed guidance on his own spiritual practices, including:
· Bhakti Yoga―opening our hearts to unconditional love
• Practices for living, aging, dying, and embracing the natural flow of life
• Karma Yoga―how selfless service can profoundly transform us
• Working with fear and suffering as a path to grace and freedom
• Step-by-step guidance in devotional chant, meditation and mantra practice, and much more
This book presents Ram Dass’s life journey and example of how to become a beacon of unconditional love.