Ramdass, born as Richard Alpert, on 6th April 1931, in a Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts, is aspiritual teacher from America. He is also responsible in writing ‘Be Here Now (1971)’, a book that was very well received in spiritual circles. People who know Alpert from his Harvard University days, take his and Tim Leary’s name in the same breath.Another very prominent personality whose influence was vital in Alpert’s life was, NeemKaroli Baba. Alpert was responsible for founding charitable organizations: Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. Even today, his teachings continue, albeit via his website.
Childhood and Education
Richard Alpert, although having a bar mitzvah, was said to be essentially disappointed with the hollowness of law. As he considered himself inured to any religion, he called himself an atheist. He did not himself believe in any God nor did he propagate any God, until he took up psychedelics. Alpert graduated in 1948 from the Williston Northampton School and then went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tuffs University. He then obtained a Masters qualification from Wesleyan University and later a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. Thus, well-educated, he took up a permanent position at Harvard, where he worked with Social Relations, Psychology, Graduate School of Education and Health Services, as a therapist. Teaming up with Timothy Leary, he experimented and did intensive research on the therapeutic effects of drugs like psilocybin, LSD-25, and other chemicals. They also co-authored a book called ‘The Psychedelic Experience’ on their experiments. They were dismissed from the University in 1963, for disciplinary reasons.
In the year 1967, Alpert came to India. Here he met the American spiritual seeker Bhagavan Das who influenced him a lot. He also met NeemKaroli Baba (who later became his guru) at Kanchi Ashram. His guru anointed him Ramdass meaning ‘servant of Lord Rama’. The teachings of the spiritual teacher from India, Meher Baba, also had a profound influence on him, so much, so that he mentioned him in his books. Since the inception of his foundation in 1974, Ramdass gave off all his book royalties and profits from teaching to his foundation. It was estimated that he had given off approximately US$100,000 to US$800,000 on an annual basis. Alpert first began exploring Judaism at the ripe age of 60 as he was of the view that he had been born as a Jew for a purpose. It was in the 90s that Richard divulged to the world about his bisexuality. At the age of 78, he also became aware that he had fathered a son at the age of 24, when in Stanford. In August 1991, Ramdasswas presented with the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award. A memoir and summary of the teachings of Ramdasswas released in the form of the book “Polishing the Mirror”. In 1997, a stroke left him ailing from expressive aphasia. Due to this, he stopped travelling and started teaching through live webcasts. When he was asked to sum up his whole life in one sentence, he replied, “I help people as a way to work on myself, and I work on myself to help people.” However, in his later days, Ramdass’ friend Wayne Dyer had to publish a plea for funds in order to support Ramdass, who was then having a failing health. Overall, one can say that Ramdass actually proved to be the ‘servant of lord Rama’.