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          Ram Dass's Biography

          Ram Dass Human Design. American educator and author, fired as a Harvard professor for early experiments with LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, who became a follower of the path of Eastern philosophy. His books included “Be Here Now,” 1971, “How Can I Help,” 1985, and “Journey of Awakening,” 1990.
          Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert into a wealthy family. His father, George Alpert, was a Boston attorney who helped found Brandeis University, then took control of the New Haven Railroad in 1956. Though encouraged by his father to seek a medical career, Ram Dass collected degrees from Tufts, Wesleyan and Stanford, then became a psychology professor at Harvard. Immersed in sports cars, antiques and even an air plane, Ram Dass pursued the “middle-class bachelor” life until the early ’60s, when hallucinogens changed his world view.
          With his friend, Timothy Leary, he allowed undergraduates to participate in drug experiments, for which both he and Leary were fired from Harvard in 1963. The pair moved to Mexico to open up a “psychedelic training center,” and were expelled from Mexico also, eventually settling into a 63-room mansion in Millbrook, New York, owned by heirs to the Mellon fortune.
          Ram Dass soon tired of Leary’s confrontational style with authority, and the pair split though remaining friends. Ram Dass traveled to India where he met a guru who changed his life and eventually, his name. Ram Dass means “servant of God” in Hindi. Dass began to see hallucinogens as shallow and artificial. He became a Guru himself, a leader to those on the spiritual quest. He reportedly struggled with relationship issues, including sex, alternating between celibacy and bisexuality.
          When his dad fell ill, Ram Dass became his personal caretaker. During the ’80s he urged people to engage in selfless service as he himself was working with the homeless, setting up a hospice for dying people and helping to start the Seva Foundation to treat the blind in third-world countries. In the late ’80s, he became an activist for the Seva Foundation, a Michigan-based charitable group he co-founded. Seva has helped fund reforestation projects in Latin America and health education for Native Americans in South Dakota. Its principal goal is to fight blindness in India and Nepal and it has funded cataract operations as well as training for local doctors. Ram Dass raised $500,000 during a 60-city lecture tour.
          He resided in the San Francisco Bay area. On 19 February 1997 he had a stoke, leaving his left side partly paralyzed. His book, “Still Here” was published that year. It was ironic that a master at speaking, a brilliant teacher and hilarious raconteur who could hold thousands rapt now could not speak, that he had been silenced by illness. A week later, Ram Dass began his recovery, and he embarked on a long course of rehabilitation. He said the stroke had taught him to appreciate silence. He suffered continual pain, particularly in his right arm, and also had high blood pressure, gout and apnea, which required him to sleep hooked up to a respiratory machine so that he would not stop breathing. After the stroke, his friends said “He became much sweeter and softer.”
          He lived on Maui and did not leave the Hawaiian Islands from 2004 until his death, after he almost died from an infection during a trip to India. He continued to make public appearances and to give talks at small venues; held retreats in Maui; and continued to teach through live webcasts. In 2013, Ram Dass released a memoir and summary of his teaching, “Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart.” He died on Maui on 22 December 2019 at the age of 88.
          Link to Wikipedia biography