The Wisdom of Ram Dass Is Now Online: Stream 150 of His Enlightened Spiritual Talks as Free Podcasts

Image by Barabeke, via Creative Commons

“Over the course of his life, it would appear that Ram Dass has led two vastly different lives,” writes Katie Serena in an All That’s Interesting profile of the man formerly known as Richard Alpert. By embodying two distinct, but equally influential, beings in one lifetime, he has also embodied the fusion, and division, of two significant cultural inheritances from the 60s: the psychedelic drug culture and the hippie syncretism of Eastern religion Christianity, Yoga, etc.

These strains did not always come together in the healthiest of ways. But Ram Dass is a unique individual. As Alpert, the Massachusetts-born Harvard psychology professor, he began controlled experiments with LSD at Harvard with Timothy Leary.




When both were dismissed, they continued their famous sessions in Millbrook, New York, from 1963 to 1967, in essence creating the laboratory conditions for the counterculture, in research that has since been validated once again as holding keys that might unlock depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Then, Alpert travelled to India in 1967 with a friend who called himself “Bhagavan Das,” beginning an epic spiritual journey that rivals the legends of the Buddha, as he describes it in the trailer below for the new documentary Becoming Nobody. He transformed from the infamous Richard Alpert to the soon-to-be-world-famous Ram Dass (which means "servant of god"), a guide for Western seekers who encourages people not to leave it all behind and do as he did, but to find their path in the middle of whatever lives they happen to be living.

“I think that the spiritual trip in this moment,” he said in one of his hundreds of talks, “is not necessarily a cave in the Himalayas, but it’s in relation to the technology that’s existing, it’s in relation to where we’re at.” It might sound like a friendly message to the status quo. But Ram Dass is a true subversive, who asked us, through all of the religious, academic, and psychedelic trappings he picked up, put down, and picked up again at various times, to take a good hard look at who we’re trying to be and why.

Ram Dass’ moment has come again, “as the parallels between today’s fraught political environment and that of the Vietnam era multiply,” writes Will Welch at GQ. “Yoga, organic foods, the Grateful Dead,” and psychedelics—“all of them are back in fashion,” and so are Ram Dass’ talks about how we might find clarity, authenticity, and connection in a distracted, technocratic, polarizing, power- and personality-mad society.

There are 150 of those talks now on the podcast Ram Dass Here and Now, with introductions from Raghu Markus of Ram Dass’ Love Serve Remember Foundation. You can stream or download them at Apple Podcasts or at the Be Here Now Network, named for the teacher’s radical 1971 book that gave the counterculture its mantra. Ram Dass is still teaching, over fifty years after his transformation from acid guru to… well, actual guru.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, he described “nostalgia for the ‘60s and ‘70s” as a younger generation showing “they’re tired of our culture. They’re interested in cultivating their minds and their soul.” How do we do that? The journey does resemble his in one way, he says. If we want to change the culture, we first have to change ourselves. Figure out who we've been pretending to be, then drop the act. “Once you have become somebody,” he says in the talk further up from 1976, “then you are ready to start the journey to becoming nobody.”

Learn much more about Ram Dass’ journey and hear many more of his inspiring talks at the Be Here Now Network.

Related Content:

Meditation for Beginners: Buddhist Monks & Teachers Explain the Basics

The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations

The Historic LSD Debate at MIT: Timothy Leary v. Professor Jerome Lettvin (1967)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Voice Actor Dee Bradley Baker (Clone Wars,American Dad) Defends Cartoons on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #9

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Are cartoons an inherently juvenile art form? Even animation aimed at adults is still typically considered genre fiction--a guilty pleasure--and the form enables tones and approaches that might simply be considered awful if presented as traditional live action. So what's the appeal?

Dee's voice can be heard in substantial portion of today's cartoons, especially for animal or monster noises, like Boots in the new big-screen adaptation of Dora the Explorer, Momo and Appa in The Last Airbender, Animal in the new Muppet Babies, etc. He's also a deep thinker who proudly defends cartoons as providing primal delights of humor, justice, and narrative meaning.

Mark, Erica, and Brian engage Dee about his experience as a voice actor (e.g. as Klaus German fish in a Seth MacFarlane sit-com, figuring out what Adventure Time was actually about, doing all the similar-but-distinct voices of the various clones in Clone Wars, coming up with a language for The Boxtrolls, and recreating Mel Blanc's voices in Space Jamand other Looney Tunes projects), his role in collaborative creation,  the connection between cartoons and vaudeville, how live-action films can be made "cartoonish," graphic novels, cartoon music, and more. We also touch on Love & Robots, A Scanner Darkly, Larva, the documentary I Know That Voice, and the 1972 film What's Up, Doc? Introduction by Chickie.

We did read a few articles in preparation for this about the phenomenon of adults watching kid cartoons:

There's also a lengthy reddit thread that we mined for perspectives.

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #8 Discusses Spider-Man: Far From Home and the Function of Super-Hero Films

Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt finally cover a current film, and of course use it as an entry point in discussing the social function of super-hero films more generally, how much realism or grittiness is needed in such stories, whether to repeat or bypass the origin story, everlasting franchises, the use of multi-verses as a storytelling device, exaggerating the potential in a story of new technologies that the audience doesn’t really understand, and more.

We touch on other bits of the Marvel Universe and the other Spider-Man films, the original Amazing Spider-Man #13 comic that introduced Mysterio, The Lion KingWatchmenThe BoysStar TrekElectric Dreams, the Rob Lowe “John Smith’s Bachelor Party” scene in Austin Powersthe recurring henchman in Spider-Man (actually Peter Billingsley, i.e. Ralphie in A Christmas Story), and the Exiles comic (a Marvel team that travels between multi-verses).

Some articles we looked at for this episode include:

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #6: Why Adults Might Play Video Games

Erica Spyres, Brian Hirt, and Mark Linsenmayer are joined by Ian Maio (who worked for marketing for IGN and Turner in e-sports) for our first discussion about gaming. Do adults have any business playing video games? Should you feel guilty about your video game habits?

Ian gives us the lay of the land about e-sports, comparing it to physical sports, and we discuss the changing social functions of gaming, alleged and actual gaming disorders, different types of gamers, inclusivity, and more. Whether you game a lot or not at all, you should still find something interesting here.

We touch on the King of Kong documentaryGrand Theft AutoOverwatchThe Last of UsBorderlandsSuper MarioCuphead, NY Times Electronic Crossword Puzzle, and more. Be sure to watch the Black Mirror episode, “Striking Vipers.”

Sources for this episode:

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Please go check out Modern Day Philosophers at moderndayphilosophers.net and See You on the Other Side at othersidepodcast.com.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Lucy Lawless Joins Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #5 on True Crime

Lucy Lawless (Xena the Warrior Princess, currently starring in My Life Is Murder) joins Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to think about the true crime genre, of both the documentary and dramatized variety. What’s the appeal? Why do women in particular gravitate to it?

We touch on Making of a Murderer, SerialThe StaircaseAmanda Knox, Ted Bundy Conversations with a Killer, I Love You Now Die, Mommy Dead and Dearest (dramatized as The Act), American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, My Favorite MurderCasefileCrime Talk with Scott ReischTrue Murder, and American Vandal.

Sources for this episode:

Here’s an article about Lucy’s new show and her love of the true crime genre. Watch the trailer.

Get more at prettymuchpop.com. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. Maybe leave us a nice rating or review while you're there to help the podcast grow. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network. This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #4 – HBO’s “Chernobyl”: Why Do We Enjoy Watching Suffering?

On the HBO mini-series Chernobyl. Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt first get into the various degrees of looseness in something’s being “based on a true story.” Does it matter if it’s been changed to be more dramatic? We then consider the show as entertainment: Why do people enjoy witnessing suffering? Why might a drama work (or not) for you?

We also touch on Game of ThronesThe KillingGod Is DeadIt’s Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaBig Little LiesSchindler’s List, Vice, Ip Man, and more.

Some of the articles we looked at to prepare:

Our Lucy Lawless interview will be out next week! Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is a member of the The Partially Examined Life Podcast Network.

Get more at prettymuchpop.com. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network. This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

Pretty Much Pop #3: CONFORM with Yakov Smirnoff

Is media trying to brainwash us into being ALL THE SAME? Are the excesses of the mob scaring us into conformity? And does this in turn keep us from being actually creative, with healthy relationships?

Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt muse on cultural homogenization and a few sci-fi takes on forced sameness and then bring out our first celebrity guest, beloved comedian and now psychology Ph.D. Yakov Smirnoff, who tells us about growing up in a repressive society and his fears that political correctness and a lack of appreciation for the "reciprocal opposites" necessary for authentic communication is leading us in that direction. We conclude with a bit of host-ful response.

We touch on Cat's Cradle, Aladdin, Rosanne Barr, The Twilight Zone, Brian's wearing a Cubs hat in Missouri, and performing comedy in the U.S.S.R. as well as various sensitive audiences here. Will you not join us and dress as Devo every day?

Here's that article that comes up on Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s terms "karass" (voluntary, organic grouping) and "granfalloon" (inherited, basically meaningless grouping).

No, we are not a politics podcast, but sometimes when we reflect on the dynamics involved with our being entertained,  politics is hard to avoid! You may enjoy listening to The Partially Examined Life (Mark's philosophy podcast) discuss Adorno on the Culture Industry, or perhaps their discussion of the world of technological unemployment.

Get more at prettymuchpop.com. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network.

Follow Yakov:  @Yakov_Smirnoff. Not enough Yakov? Well, of course there are scads of YouTube clips and other podcast appearances that he's done that you can check out with a mere web search, but if you want to hear EVERY SINGLE WORD he said to us, we did post an entirely unedited version of the interview for $5 supporters at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

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