Ram Dass: Fierce Grace
Mickey Lemle's documentary centers on the life of the acclaimed spiritual leader, author and lecturer who was left partially paralyzed with a speech impediment, when he suffered a stroke in 1997. Born into a wealthy Bostonian family, Richard Alpert (who later adopted the moniker Ram Dass, which means "servant of God") was a respected research psychologist and tenure-track professor at Harvard University, until a fellow professor introduced him to the psychedelic world of acid. After being fired by the university and becoming disenchanted in the drug, he traveled to India where guru Neem Karoli Baba, taught him that he could be spiritually elevated without the use of mind-altering drugs. In 1971 Dass published Be Here Now, an account of his journey into spiritual and mental awareness, which has since become a bible and guidebook to consciousness for wayward travelers (a sequel publication, Still Here, followed in 2000). A story of struggle, self-renunciation and service to others, Ram Dass opens at the Carolina Theatre in Durham on Friday, Aug. 16.