RIP Ram Dass — Spiritual Guru Dead At 88

Godspeed, sir.

RIP Ram Dass — Spiritual Guru Dead At 88 getty

Ram Dass, the LSD proponent turned spiritual guru has died. He was 88. He was the author of more than a dozen inspirational books, including Be Here Now. How did Ram Dass die?

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"Treat everyone you meet as if they are God in drag." — Ram Dass

Born Richard Alpert on April 6, 1931, in Boston he first rose to prominence as a colleague of Timothy Leary at Harvard in the early 1960s. Dass was an early leader of the New Age spiritual movement. His first book, Be Here Now (1971), sold more than two million copies and solidified his position as a spiritual guru who believed in finding salvation through helping others. Dass was a big believer in the virtues of mindfulness and grace. He died peacefully at his home in Maui, Hawaii on Sunday, December 22nd. His death was announced on his Instagram account.   


1. He was very educated.

Dass graduated from Tufts University in Massachusetts with a psychology major in 1952. He attended Wesleyan for his master's degree in psychology but flunked the oral exam at the end of the program. Despite that, Dass was accepted to the Ph.D. program at Stanford. He stayed on to teach at Stanford for a year after earning his doctorate. From there he went on to teach psychology and education at Harvard, where he met Leary through a mutual connection.

2. He was a proponent of LSD.

Dass and Leary founded the Harvard Psilocybin Project at Harvard. The two shared psychedelic drugs such as LSD to volunteer graduate students. Their goal was to explore the mind-altering effects of the drugs. Dass and Leary were fired from Harvard in 1963 when it was discovered they shared drugs with undergraduates. The two men became icons of the 1960s counterculture movement. After getting fired from Harvard, Dass and Leary continued to take drugs to explore how psychedelics expanded their consciousness.



A post shared by Ram Dass (@babaramdass) on Oct 23, 2019 at 2:10pm PDT

3. He had a life-changing trip to India.

In 1967, Dass traveled to India. He met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba there. It was Baba who gave Alpert the name Ram Dass, which means "servant of God." On his website, Dass's bio explains: "Everything changed [in India] — his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” ever since. Ram Dass’s spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying along millions on the journey, helping to free them from their bonds as he works through his own."


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4. He had a severe stroke in 1997.

In 1997, a severe stroke left Dass partially paralyzed and unable to speak. He relearned how to talk and taught online as well as hosted retreats from his home in Maui. In 2012, he said: "The stroke itself was not grace, but my reaction to the stroke was grace. I was positive from it, I was fascinated by it. And it was changing my philosophy on life."

5. How did Ram Dass die?

 In September 2019, he said he was ready to die. "Soul doesn't have a fear of dying," he said. "Ego has very pronounced fear of dying. The ego, this incarnation, is life and dying. The soul is infinite." Ram Dass passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones. A cause of death has not yet been released. 



A post shared by Ram Dass (@babaramdass) on Oct 17, 2019 at 3:34pm PDT

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6. Tributes to him and his teachings have poured in.

Dass's supporters mourned his passing on Twitter. Marianne Williamson tweeted: "Praise & thanks to a huge & radiant soul. May he be forever blessed." 

Buddhist author, teacher and anthropologist Joan Halifax tweeted: "my beloved friend ram dass just left his body. we have all been the beneficiaries of his great love and wisdom. i am broken hearted that he is gone.......... and so it is..........." She also shared a photo of her last visit with Dass and captioned it:  "The last time I saw him, sensing it might be so. Loving awareness...our Ram Dass."

7. His death was announced on social media.

Dass's death was announced on his Instagram account. It reads: 


"With tender hearts, we share that Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) died peacefully at home in Maui on December 22, 2019 surrounded by loved ones. He was a guide for thousands seeking to discover or reclaim their spiritual identity beyond or within institutional religion. Memorial services will be announced shortly. In the meantime, if anyone would like to share their reflections on Ram Dass, please email, or post with the hashtag #lovingramdass. We are grateful for the heart to heart connection we have cultivated here and appreciate all the love that has poured out today. Thank you"

Amy Lamare is a writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.