Ram Dass Birth Chart Interpretation

by Kerry Shamblin

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert)
April 6, 1931
10:40 am
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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Like when I said to my guru, "How will I know God?", he said, "Feed people and serve people."

At first glance, the birth chart for Richard Alpert, known as Ram Dass, is strong and friendly. We see Mithuna lagna, Gemini rising, making Mercury the ascendant lord of this chart. Mercury is well placed in the 11th house of gain. Mercury as agent of communication and exchange is prominently placed, and manifests for Ram Dass with his mastery of communication and keen analytical mind.

One simple ingredient for a strong birth chart is to have planets well-placed in the angles of the chart, the kendra houses 1, 4, 7 and 10. This is Chatussagara yoga, requiring that all kendras are occupied by planets. This yoga confers long life, equality to a ruler, health and fame.

Upon further inspection, a short list of yogas are found in the chart of Ram Dass. Many of them give wealth, health, fame and happiness.

Sunapha yoga (Saturn in 2nd from Moon) gives wealth and good reputation. This occurs in both his Rasi and navamsa charts.

Adhi yoga (benefics in 6,7,8 from Moon) Mercury in 6th and Jupiter in 8th. Confers wealth, happiness, health, leadership.

Vasumathi yoga (benefics in upachaya houses from lagna or Moon.) Moon in 6th and Mercury in 11th from lagna. Gives one financial independence and command of wealth.

Sakata yoga (Moon in 6, 8 or 12 from Jupiter.) Loss/Gain of fortune. Poverty. This doesn't seem to describe Ram Dass too much in a literal sense, but we do see him at least starting his work under the condition of general lack of acceptance by the societal norm. This is in a sense poverty of tribal support. His pursuits also caused him to lose his academic position at Harvard during Venus/Moon.

Vesi yoga (planet other than Moon occupying 2nd from Sun.) Mercury is 2nd from Sun. This brings happiness, fortune, virtuous reputation and fame.

Vasi yoga (planet other than Moon occupying 12th from Sun.) Venus is 12th from Sun. This brings happiness, prosperity, liberal attitudes and makes one a favorite of rulers.

Obhayachari Yoga (planets other than Moon occupying signs on either side of Sun. A combination of Vesi and Vasi yogas.) Eloquent speaker, well formed limbs, wealthy, famous, well-liked, delighted.

Alpert was born into the late stages of Saturn mahadasha, entering Mercury mahadasha at age three and then moving into Ketu dasha at age 20. Throughout Mercury and Ketu mahadashas, until 1958, Alpert was a dedicated and successful student and pursued higher education. He graduated with honors from high school in 1948 (Mercury/Jupiter) and then went on to acquire a bachelor's degree from Tufts University, a master's degree from Wesleyan University and a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University.

Mercury as lord of 1st and 4th houses is located in the house of gain, the 11th. The fourth house is associated with education, upbringing, the influence of the family and general happiness and contentment. Alpert enjoyed a prosperous upbringing with family support enough to pursue a good education and various degrees. His 4th house, ruled by Mercury, also contains the shadow planet, Ketu, affording Alpert focus and intensity to apply himself to his studies and pursuits in psychology.

Alpert entered his Venus mahadasha in May 1958 and spent the next 20 years in a very fruitful period for his spiritual development. For Mithuna lagna, Venus is the ruler of the 5th and 12th houses. The 5th house is associated with fortune, grace, enjoyment and creative issue while the 12th house is known as the house of loss and liberation, often bringing forth situations that push one toward a spiritual orientation.

Venus is well-placed in the 9th house, dharma bhava, which we associate with spiritual pursuit, guides, teachers, religion and philosophy. It was during the Venus period, between 1958-1978 that Richard Alpert became Ram Dass, a name that means "Servant of God" and which was given to him by his guru, Neem Karoli Baba.

Alpert began to experiment with and research LSD in the early sixties in association with Timothy Leary. He claims that, "I didn’t have one whiff of God until I took psychedelics."

Leary and Alpert conducted this work during the early 1960's when they were both professors at Harvard University. The pair were dismissed from their positions there in 1963, during Alpert's Venus/Moon period.

In 1967, during Venus/Rahu period, Alpert traveled to India for the first time, associating with Bhagwan Dass and meeting his guru Neem Karoli Baba for the first time. This was clearly a life-changing period for Alpert, henceforth to be known as Ram Dass. Venus as the ruler of the house of liberation and travel to far-away places is located in the 9th house of spiritual advancement, so it is not surprising that Ram Dass found his teacher in a foreign country.

Rahu is a powerful force within Ram Dass' chart. It is strongly placed in the 10th house of dharma, what we can call "the work we are meant to do" in English. When Rahu is placed strongly in the 10th, and the lord of this 10th house is strongly placed as it is in the lagna (1st house), it is very good for the strength of the career. Rahu in this position can confer fame. Add to this an exact conjunction of Rahu with the Sun, we see Ram Dass jettison into the center of things within his field of work, holding a steady course throughout his lifetime.

Rahu is associated with the worldly arena and puts one in touch with the masses. It can also promote illusion, delusion, hallucination and ambiguity, so it is a powerful force with which to reckon. Ram Dass, with planets occupying all the angles of his chart, is strong enough to balance this Rahu influence, not being pulled into insanity or depravity, but rather gracefully wielding the energy for the highest good of all. As someone who works with the mind and spirit, this conjunction in the 10th house has, since the outset of Alpert's explorations, propelled him as a respected and esteemed leader within the spiritual movement.

And even though he died in '73, the presence of my guru in my consciousness, the reality of that relationship, is so powerful to me that it puts the rest in perspective. One day he and I were sitting there in Delhi, and in the distance you could see Indira Gandhi or somebody going through with elephants and Jeeps and generals. And my guru was lying on his wooden cot with his blanket falling off and he said, "Look at all that, and it's just a worldly king!" Or he'd say about politics, "Why are you getting so upset? They're just adolescents playing." Because of my relationship with him, I keep a certain perspective that allows me to play in those fields without being caught.

Throughout the remainder of Ram Dass' Venus mahadasha and through the mahadasha of the Sun, Ram Dass participated in establishing multiple service foundations. The theme of service and karma yoga comes strongly through the chart. The Moon is waning and debilitated, located in the 6th house of work, service and friendship. The Scorpio Moon is debilitated but somewhat stronger by having passed the point of debilitation which is at 3º Scorpio.

The Sun in the 10th with Rahu, the 10th lord in the first, shows a great power of career or dharma. This is bolstered by checking the navamsa. The lagna lord of the navamsa is Venus, located in the 10th of the navamsa. Also the 10th lord of the birth chart, Jupiter, is located in its own sign in the 11th house of gain in the navamsa. This shows a very strong life purpose and ability to act within the world.

The Moon is located in the nakshatra Anuradha, "the star of success." Saturn is the planetary ruler of Anuradha, showing spiritual challenges, especially with the Moon located in the 6th house. Mars, as ruler of Scorpio, also comes through Anuradha, granting courage and vitality. Anuradha people can often reside in and find success through foreign countries. Anuradha's deity is Mitra, lord of friendship and partnership. It shows the ability to attain fame through friendship and cooperation. Which pretty much describes Ram Dass.

Also interesting in this regard is Mars' position. Mars is located in Cancer, debilitated in the Moon's sign. This shows a relationship between the Moon and Mars. They are in a state of mutual reception, sambhanda, because they occupy one another's signs. Additionally, they are both in signs of debility, but in signs that are owned by natural friends, which Mars and Moon are. Both are located in artha houses, associated with the material, earthy realm. Ram Dass' other artha house, the 10th has already been discussed as very powerful.

The debilitated Moon in Scorpio, Venus in Aquarius and Saturn in Sagittarius are also vargottama, meaning that a planet occupies the same sign in both the rasi (birth chart) and the navamsa (9th harmonic chart.) This strengthens the manifestation of these planets and reveals the devotion of the soul of Ram Dass to the path of service.

Ram Dass has said, "I help people as a way to work on myself, and I work on myself to help people ... to me, that's what the emerging game is all about." This very much shows the propensity for service that has been a theme throughout Ram Dass' life. The lord of the 2nd house of resources, the Moon as ruler of Cancer, is located in the house of work and service. The lord of the 6th house of work and service, Mars as Ruler of Scorpio, is located in the house of resources and livelihood.

Through these two debilitated planets, we see the path of Ram Dass, truly a servant of God and karma yogi. His 7th house, of "other," indicating partnership or spouse, generally, is occupied by Saturn. Saturn is a good planet for Mithuna (Gemini) rising signs. It rules the very auspicious 9th house and also the difficult 8th house. For a Gemini rising, Saturn acts as both the obstacle and the grace to move past the obstacle. With Saturn located in the 7th house of partnership, we see the possibility of "marriage to God" in the sense of devoting one's life to spiritual pursuits.

Saturn and Jupiter are opposite in Ram Dass' chart, in the 1st - 7th house axis, showing the planets of expansion and contraction in occupation of the house of self and other, respectively. His life is an expression of this vedantic balancing act, exploring the boundaries of constriction and the boundlessness of freedom in the context of the illusion of separation that comes with the concept of self and other.

Ram Dass as a leader, teacher, student and devoted servant throughout his lifetime is supported by a birth chart that reveals strength, grace, courage and humility. May he serve as an inspiration to all.