“Be Here Now” the other Big Book –
DEC. 22, 2019 – It was Leary who famously exhorted American youth to “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” but it was Alpert who became a model of awakening that wasn’t dependent on drugs. Fired from Harvard in 1963 for giving LSD to an undergraduate, Alpert moved to Millbrook, New York, with Leary, who had been fired ostensibly for not showing up for his classes. In Millbrook, the two continued their psychedelic experimentation with an ever-changing cast of psychonauts and acidheads. But in 1967, Alpert, still searching, left for India. There he found his guru, the Hindu sadhu Neem Karoli Baba, known as Maharaj-ji, characteristically wrapped in a blanket and seated on a wooden tucket, a low Indian bed. Curious to see how a spiritual adept would react to LSD, Alpert gave Maharaj-ji a whopping dose. It had zero effect on the holy man. Over the next few years until Maharaj-ji’s death in 1973, Alpert—by then renamed Ram Dass, or Servant of God, by Maharaj-ji—periodically returned to be with his guru. Resettling in America in 1974, he started a new life based on a different kind of turn-on—meditation—and his own synthesis of Buddhist, Hindu, Advaita, and Sufi teachings, and later, Jewish mysticism.
In Be Here Now, Ram Dass‘s first book for the masses, which has sold over 2 million copies since publication in 1971, he offered seekers an engaging, unconventional, slightly zany roadmap for finding a spiritual path and a more enduring connection to higher consciousness than a tab of acid could bring. From then on, in close to a dozen books and countless teachings, retreats, and podcasts, Ram Dass continued to share the wisdom of a journey that had long gone beyond personal transformation to embrace a cosmic worldview and social agenda.