Dr. Richard Alpert, a Harvard professor and Steve Jobs’ spiritual inquisition kicked off with LSD (or acid). Only few people know about the relationship between ‘Be Here Now,’ authored by Dr. Richard Alpert and Steve Jobs. This article explores the journey of Ram Dass, who was known as Dr. Richard Alpert before he traveled to India in 1967 and how he inspired Steve Jobs.
At the very outset let me introduce you to the characters of this story:
- Neem Karoli Baba (1900-1973) or popularly Maharajji, was the saint who founded the Hanuman Setu Temple in Lucknow. His main retreat was Kainchi Dham, Uttarakhand which also happens to be the stage for this act.
- Dr. Richard Alpert, now Ram Dass, was a psychology professor at the Harvard University in the 1960s.
- Bhagavan Dass, a young westerner who introduced Richard Alpert to Maharaj ji.
- Steve Jobs, co-founder, Apple, who in his initial days was influenced by Ram Dass’s teachings.
Dr. Richard Alpert never had a whiff of spirituality before he tried LSD, a psychedelic drug which is said to induce spiritual experiences. He travelled to India to look for somebody who could “read the maps” of his life. In 1967, he met a young westerner Bhagavan Dass who drove a reluctant Richard to the feet of Maharaj ji. They stopped about 150kms from Kainchi Dham and Alpert went outside from the house to look at the stars which reminded him of his mother who had passed away six months ago. The next day they called on Maharaj ji who was surrounded by a throng of devotees. Instantly, Bhagwaan Dass prostrated himself before the feet of his Master. Alpert hesitated. His identification with being a Harvard Professor and a westerner would not let him follow Bhagwan Dass to touch the feet of this holy man. Maharaj ji beckoned him and said “You were out under the stars last night thinking of your mother. She died of a spleen.” Richard was caught off guard. This is what he called the ‘breakthrough moment’ for him which quieted his mind that instant. It was usual for the devotees and visitors to hear from Maharaj ji, portions of their lives which they had never shared with anybody.
Before coming to India, Dr. Alpert had discovered spirituality through psychedelic drugs. He was already on a quest to finding answers before he found himself in Maharaj ji’s presence. Time passed and Dr. Richard Alpert transformed into Ram Dass, devoting his life to his master.
On one occasion, Maharaj ji asked Ram Dass for his LSD pills. Ram was hesitant at first because Maharaj Ji was old for even one strong pill, but complied with the demand of the omniscient master. Maharaj ji swallowed the whole packet of LSD in front of his eyes. This made the devotees anxious because such a strong dose of LSD is more than fatal. Hours passed, but Maharaj ji showed no effect of the drug. Then he said to Ram Dass, “it is all inside you.”
Ram Dass is the author of a book called ‘Be Here Now.’ You can read more about him at ramdass.org.
“It was profound,” Steve Jobs said. “It transformed me and many of my friends.” It was because of this book, Steve Jobs travelled to India in the early 1970s in search of enlightenment but Maharaj ji had already left his bodily abode by then. After coming back to USA, Jobs decided to start Apple. It is said on his death bed, Jobs had a picture of Maharaj ji under his pillow.
Mark Zuckerberg revealed at the Townhall event with PM Narendra Modi that Jobs had advised him to visit India when Facebook had hit a rough patch in its early days. He had also visited Kainchi Dham during his month long expedition in India.