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

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