For more than 50 years, Ram Dass has watched as other nontraditional spiritual leaders have come and gone while he has remained. He has been active since the early 1960s, back when he was still known as Richard Alpert and worked alongside his Harvard psychology department colleague Timothy Leary, researching the mind-altering effects of LSD and psilocybin and helping to kick off the psychedelic era. Later, as did many people before him, he ventured east, spending time in India as a disciple of the Hindu mystic Neem Karoli Baba. Upon his return, newly known as Ram Dass, he wrote the philosophically misty, stubbornly resonant Buddhist-Hindu-Christian mash-up “Be Here Now,” in which he extolled the now-commonplace, then-novel (to Western hippies, at least) idea that paying deep attention to the present moment — that is, mindfulness — is the best path to a meaningful life.
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