Ram Dass, 1970s Guru and Psychedelic Drug Pioneer, Dies at 88

The counterculture figure wrote inspirational books like 1971’s “Be Here Now”

Last Updated: December 23, 2019 @ 8:02 AM

Ram Dass, a pioneer in popularizing psychedelic drugs in the 1960s and ’70s who later became an inspirational guru, died Sunday in Maui, Hawaii, according to his verified Instagram page. He was 88.

Dass, who was born Richard Alpert but adopted the name Ram Dass after meeting with the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba (a.k.a. Maharaji) in 1967, “was a guide for thousands seeking to discover or reclaim their spiritual identity beyond or within institutional religion,” according to his Instagram tribute.

Dass became a leading guru for the American counterculture, beginning with his first best-selling book, 1971’s “Be Here Now,” which advocated helping others to achieve enlightenment.

He was also an early advocate for LSD and psychedelic drugs, after meeting Timothy Leary when they were both young professors at Harvard in the 1960s.

The two lectured on the healing effects of psychedelics at college campuses across the country and influenced a generation to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Alpert, who held a dual appointment in psychology and education, was fired by Harvard (along with Leary) in 1963, the New York Times reported.

In early 1997, Ram Dass had a stroke that left him with paralysis and expressive aphasia. He recovered his speech and went on to continue his teachings online, at retreats in Maui and through film and music. Dass was later the subject of the 2017 documentary short film “Ram Dass, Going Home,” which was shortlisted for an Academy Award.

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