Monday, March 22, 1999

Sidebar: Ram Dass notes

SIDEBAR: RAM DASS  (draft—need to check facts)
Spearhead of the psychological growth movement that began in the ’70s, eloquent spiritual leader, counterculture icon, and social activist, Richard Alpert, better known as Ram Dass, began his career as a psychologist to the hip intelligencia. In the summer of 1961, drug experimentation led him to God. Alpert went to Cuerna Vaca with Timothy Leary, where they took magic mushrooms and had an out of body experiences Alpert saw himself as God.  (WHEN???)  He came back to Harvard in the Fall of ’61 to do research on consciousness-expanding drugs. In ’63, both he and Leary were fired from Harvard faculty for experimenting with LSD with undergrads—as LSD was now illegal, criminalized that same year.

Unlike Leary, Richard Alpert, with a Ph.D. in Motivational Psychology (WHEN??), managed to keep his academic standing and taught at Stanford University, where he was also Director of Psychedelic Review.

San Francisco, 1967: an electrifying year of social deconstruction and reconfiguration. In January, there was a Gathering of the Tribes where spiritual generation amassed for a Human Be-In. At the Polo Fields, guest speakers Ram Dass and Leary spoke to some 10,000 very stoned pilgrims who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out en masse.

Alpert, Timothy Leary and Diggers hang out with the Hell’s Angels in the Haight. Alpert lectured on LSD in San Francisco and UCLA on “Psychedelics Drugs and the Law” Kesey’s Acid Tests in Santa Cruz).

After the breakup of the Summer of Love, and the Haight, the hippies and anarchist Diggers moved onto the land with a circuit of communes in Northern California, Nevada, and New Mexico. Alpert settled in??? Marin Santa Cruz? XXX

After experimenting with mind -expanding drugs, Richard Alpert turned to meditation to seek drug-free enlightenment. In mid-1967, Alpert’s friend, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg returned from India and told him about meditation. Alpert went 1st class in a Land Rover to India. In Kathmandu he met 27 year-old Californian from Manhattan Beach?  Bagawan Dass, who’d been studying in India for years. High on peach melbas? they connected on several levels of spiritual life, kundalini... Bagawan Dass toured with Richard Alpert. They went to the Himalayas where Alpert met his future guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and became a disciple. Alpert experienced shaktipat (spiritual awakening), and spent 3 months doing seva (volunteer work) at an ashram while learning and practicing various lines of yoga. Alpert was given the name, Baba Ram Dass which means “Servant of God.” When Ram Dass returned to the United States (an expired visa), he lived in upstate New York (with LEARY??), where he began lecturing informally about his experiences.... gaining a wide following.

Those recollections evolved in the groundbreaking book, Be Here Now, which became something of a bible in New Age circles. Be Here Now which chronicles group meditation process in the New Mexico desert.

“Richard Alpert used to talk about the orange basketball,” remarked Stewart Brand some years after the Haight had collapsed. “Psychologists had raised some ducklings with a basketball and they imprinted on it  as if it were their mother. Wherever the basketball rolled, they’d follow it. That’s what the movement was to us. That was our basketball. Wherever it rolls, we’ll follow.”  p281 Rolling Stone editor Charles Perry, “The Haight Ashbury: A History” (84)

Ram Dass’ guru died in 1973; Dass formed the HANUMAN FOUNDATION in 1974  to ”further the spiritual awakening in our society.”(Hanuman is the Hindu monkey god of XXX) One aim was to promote development of a broad base for meditation in the West. They began with a list of facilities and helpful quotations which evolved into a best selling, popular book, Journey of Awakening, the proceeds of which helped to support the foundation.

Ram Dass’ continued rise in fame was partly in response to the latent yearnings of the “Me Generation” in pursuit of spiritual connection, of greater consciousness and equanimity, what Tibetan Lama Trungpa Rinpoche dubbed as spiritual materialists.

“In the sixties, when we first encountered Eastern ideas of enlightenment, we expected to be personally enlightened in a matter of a year, or a decade at the most. …but now in the mid-eighties we have come to appreciate the fine print in the Eastern texts… We have learned patience and humility and an understanding that we practice dharma without attachment to the goal”  —Grist preface.

Ram Dass attempts to share with us “the unspeakable” to “know what is not knowable. … For ultimately we will transcend knowing.” from Grist, a pioneer who forged new psychological territory in the West by bringing from the East,  translations of teachings of eastern mysticism of the westerner.

Ram Dass drifted into the Death and Dying Project late ’70s and co-wrote a book with Stephen Levine, “Grist for the Mill” documenting one-on-one work with death & dying and the spiritual path. The project created innovative hotlines for the terminally ill, as well as centers, the 1st in Santa Cruz? Groundbreaking videos of the project were filmed in Berkeley.

In the early ’80s, Ram Dass traveled extensively, visiting monks and religious centers around the world. “The eighties are the sixties twenty years later.” Wavy Gravy once quipped to Ram Dass. During the ’80s & ’90s, Dass lent his name and energies to a series of charities and volunteer projects, and was also the most sought after speaker for new age conferences, workshops, the lecture circuit and events where he was “known for ability to convey mystical ideas with lucidity, humor and grace.”  (Don Lattin, 5/26/97, SF Chronicle).

After his stroke in February of ’97, those closest to him said the loss of language was the most frustrating aspect. If you listen with patience, the old message still gets through; he communicates with what he calls the “eloquence with silence.”

New Age books search for meaning growth and change for a generation of seekers of fulfillment

published tapes and books
93-84  Reaching Out series ten week courses
“A Change of Heart” 1991, a ten-week course to explore personal awakening through social action in Oakland, with guests, Dolores Huerta, Peter Gabriel, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Ben & Jerry

Identification and Child rearing
The Psychedelic experience (w/ Timothy Leary & R. Metzner)
LSD (w S. Cohen & L, Shiller)
Be Here Now
“The Only Dance there is”
“Journey of Awakening: A Meditator’s Guidebook” 1974 with Stephen Levine practical meditation techniques
Miracle of Love
“How Can I Help?”
“Grist For the Mill”  1976; rev 87 transcripts a compendium from lectures, retreats and articles and interviews 74-76  practical psychology and how to cope with life. A sequel to his groundbreaking “Be here Now”
Conscious Aging 1997???9 “I started the book with my Harvard professorial perspective, but decided to make it a more personal account. I didn’t want this book to be, ‘Now we’ll look at this spiritually.’”

“We met as adventurers and wisdom  seekers…” Timothy Leary the wisdom thing
“I’m still committed to Be Here Now.’

   Under the umbrella of the Hanuman Foundation  founded 1974 to further the spiritual awakenings in our society

He founded and ran 12 years San Rafael based SEVA Foundation and SEVA Service Society in Canada   founded ???87??? board Wavy Gravy 
social and environmental causes grants, technical assistance and outreach programs

with outreach programs  social concern programs
Central American Guatemala jaguar project refugee relocation, community development social welfare and outreach projects in , volunteers grass roots partnership projects native arts consumer skills hammocks paper weaving

eradicating blindness in Nepal make the country see again
local solutions in preventing blindness Nepal Blindness Program, 200,000 also In India 660,000 served each year. eye screening camps,  surgical camps, Cataract surgery

Lent its name to cosponsor community based neighborhood projects homeless, HIV/AIDS, reforestation in midwest, Native American programs healthcare and education, in  Oregon/chainsaw Nev. restore native vegetation, educational projects tuition basket weavers 1992 Yak-a-ama planting sites  CIBA??

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