Ram Dass, author of several books including Be Here Now, which has sold an estimated two million copies, passed away at age 88 on December 22. The news was announced via Dass’s Love Serve Remember Foundation, which is dedicated to continuing his teachings.
Born Richard Alpert in 1931, Dass was a psychology professor at Stanford and Harvard before embarking on a trip to India in 1967, where he met a Hindu guru and changed his name to Ram Dass. He began writing about his experiences with psychedelic drugs, spirituality, and working with charitable causes for the incarcerated and the dying, which led to his best-known book, Be Here Now.
As revealed by PW’s archives from an issue on May 17, 1971, here’s a look at inserts from the original interior of the book, published by Harmony in 1971. Also from the archives, news that Be Here Now entered its fourth printing in November 1971. (Note: Some browsers automatically download PDFs, rather than opening in new tabs.) Harmony, which is now a division of the Random House Publishing Group, is planning a special 50th anniversary edition of the book for 2021.
Other books by Dass include The Only Dance There Is (Doubleday, 1974), How Can I Help? with Paul Gorman (Knopf, 1985), and Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying (Riverhead, 2001). Sounds True, which has been publishing original audiobooks by Dass for many years, published Dass’s Polishing the Mirror in 2013 and Walking Each Other Home in 2018. Early next year, the press is releasing Being Ram Dass, a memoir that examines his entire career.
“It was in-process for at least a decade,” says Sounds True's executive editor Jennifer Brown. “Ram Dass weighed in on the manuscript in November during a review period, and we’re so grateful for that—for his input and blessing.”
Brown credits Dass with paving the way for spirituality publishing as it’s known today. “He had more of an impact than any of us realize, and I would not be sitting here doing the things I'm doing without him,” she says.
Ultimately, Dass appeals to spiritual seekers as well as broader audiences, according to Brown.
“He’s a cultural icon, or in today’s terms, an incredible influencer,” she says. “His personal journey of transformation and the things he brought to the West—Eastern spirituality, psychedelics as a valid line of inquiry, and psychology—exploded onto public consciousness. It’s more important than ever to love each other, be present, and to be here now.”