How to Be of Service to Others with Chant Artist Krishna Das [Episode #569]
This week’s topic is: How to Be of Service to Others with Chant Artist Krishna Das
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Krishna Das, who is a ‘kirtanwallah’ and devotee of Neem Karoli Baba. Listen in as Krishna Das shares presence and spaciousness through chanting, how there’s not one way when it comes to practice, and how to be of service to others.
What a guru is…
The idea of oneness and the one thing you need to do…
Presence and spaciousness through chanting…
Chanting and meditation and what these practices generate…
KD’s daily practice and how there’s is no one way…
Freedom from manipulation when it comes to your personal work…
Being of service to others and what that means to you…
Releasing emotions and stories through a spiritual practice…
About Krishna Das
Layering traditional kirtan with instantly accessible melodies and modern instrumentation, Krishna Das has been called yoga’s “rock star.” With a remarkably soulful voice that touches the deepest chord in even the most casual listener, Krishna Das – known to friends, family, and fans as simply KD – has taken the call-and-response chanting out of yoga centers and into concert halls, becoming a worldwide icon and the best-selling western chant artist of all time.
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Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Kimberly: Hey Beauties and welcome back to our Monday interview podcast. I am very excited for our guest today, to put it lightly, who is the one and only Krishna Das. He is the best-selling Western chant artist of all time. He is a Kirtan Wallah and devotee of Neem Karoli Baba. He is very powerful. So we say channel for this type of music that’s known as kirtan, this call-and-response. And his music has been played in pretty much every yoga studio in the world.
Kimberly: He’s been a big part of my life for over a decade. I listen to his chants daily. His song the Prema Chalisa was my song as I walked down the wedding aisle. And his music has helped me heal through many different difficult times in my life, including the passing of my mother and just a lot of shifts and transitions. And he’s been there for the great times too. So I have to say that this interview really touched me and moved me and I am so excited to share it with you today.
Fan of the Week
Kimberly: But before we get into it I just want to give a quick shout out to our fan of the week who is T3rry:). And T3rry:) writes, “Love this podcast. I’ve learned so much from this podcast. I truly feel more peaceful as soon as I press play. The four cornerstones have helped me build a solid foundation of true happiness.” Terry, my heart is exploding right now just reading this and I am so grateful and so honored to be part of your journey in some way. And that we are connected and that you are part of the community. Thank you so much my love for your review and sending you so much love.
Leave a Review on iTunes
Kimberly: And Beauties for your chance to also be shouted out as our fan of the week, for me to read your beautiful words please just take a moment or two out of your day and please leave us a review on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. And it really means a lot, so I thank you so much. And also please be sure to subscribe to our podcast and that way you don’t miss out on any of these Monday interviews or our Thursday Q and A shows.
Kimberly: Okay. Super excited. Let’s get right into our podcast today with the one and only Krishna Das.
Interview with Krishna Das
Krishna Das: 00:00:00 How are you?
Kimberly: 00:00:00 Good. So great to be with you, Krishna Das.
Krishna Das: 00:00:04 Very good.
Kimberly: 00:00:19 So I don’t know if you remember this. I met you several times at Krishna Das’ studio. I know you probably meet millions and millions of people, but-
Krishna Das: 00:00:37 At whose studio?
Kimberly: 00:00:38 Dharma Mittra.
Krishna Das: 00:00:40 Oh, Dharma, Mittra. You said it Krishna Das’ studio.
Kimberly: 00:00:42 Sorry, I take it back.
Krishna Das: 00:00:45 I’ll give it back to Dharma.
Kimberly: 00:00:47 So I had to give myself the first three minutes just to fan-girl-out a little bit, say KD that … People say to me sometimes that I’ve never met or interact with [inaudible 00:01:01] that I’ve read my book … oh, you really change my life. But I have to say over the past 12 years, you have been that the biggest musical influence in my life. And you’ve been-
Krishna Das: 00:01:12 Thank you.
Kimberly: 00:01:12 … there. Your music has really held the space for me, through many ups and downs when my mom passed away suddenly. And you’re pretty much … Chalisa was our wedding song at our wedding. So-
Krishna Das: 00:01:23 Very nice.
Kimberly: 00:01:24 … your [crosstalk 00:01:25] has been such a big influence. So, first of all thank you so much for putting out this incredible vibration into the world. And-
Krishna Das: 00:01:34 Thank you.
Kimberly: 00:01:35 It’s been a big part of my life.
Kimberly: 00:01:43 There’s just so many things I want to ask you. I guess the first thing is a lot of people don’t really understand this, the relationship of the guru as much in the last … or it’s not as much talked about. And I know so much of your dedications, your music, your work is really for Neem Karoli Baba. And I have a guru too, that’s been in my life for about 12 years Paramahansa Yogananda. So I was very excited to see you as part of the Awake documentary.
The guru relationship and what this path means
Kimberly: 00:02:12 For me, when I went to India and I started learning about all this. I think in the West, people are scared about this idea of guru and it’s someone trying to take over. But it’s really just about bringing out that true self in each of us and I haven’t found any conflict with religion, it’s spirit coming through. And so can you share a little bit about that guru relationship to you as being a Westerner? A lot of people don’t really understand what that word means or the path.
Krishna Das: 00:03:27 Well, people don’t understand what guru is and that’s why there’s all this negativity and and misunderstanding. Guru is your own true Self. Because there’s only oneself in the whole universe, one Atman, we’re all part of that. But the guru is the being who recognizes that one who experiences that oneness. So they actually live inside of us just like our own soul so to speak. And it’s always said in the East that guru, God and Self with a capital S are not different, they’re the same.
Krishna Das: 00:04:07 Most people think guru means teacher or guru means somebody you can surrender to and cry and moan and weep and leave or go you know. Not like that at all, guru is really your own indwelling presence, your own true nature. Now you might meet someone that you’re connected to you. You might meet a body that you’re connected to from lifetime after lifetime. You would say, “That’s my guru,” but is the guru the body? Your guru has been … left the body in 1952. My guru left the body is 1973. Are they dead? We don’t feel them anymore. What’s going on? Of course not. In fact, I was initiated in Kriya Yoga in 1966.
Kimberly: 00:04:56 Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.
Krishna Das: 00:04:57 Then I came out for 10 days Encinitas. It was very hard for me because it was just these lessons you get. There wasn’t really somebody to talk to. And I needed that. First of all, surrender is a very subtle concept. It is not something the ego does, the ego will not surrender. The ego will only do what it can do to maintain its sense of separateness. So like Ramana Maharshi said, “Asking the ego, the mind to kill the mind is like asking the thief to be the policeman.”
Kimberly: 00:05:48 So then how do we [crosstalk 00:05:48]?
Krishna Das: 00:05:48 There will be a lot of investigating, but no arrests will ever be made. So that’s why I laughed when you said that you said, “People think …” Guru or true guru doesn’t take over your life at all on the outside. What they do is they they glow from within and they increase your longing to be free of suffering, to be free of the illusion of being a separate being when actually we’re all one, it’s all one.
Krishna Das: 00:06:18 So a guru is someone who’s experienced that directly and can transmit that love really that calls us, that we long for, that everybody wants the same thing. And you don’t find a guru, a guru finds you when it’s your time. When-
Oneness and the ‘one thing’ you need to do
Kimberly: 00:06:41 What do you say KD to someone that is into this idea of oneness? May be hard for some people to wrap their head around especially with all this, you know, right now in society separation and racial tension and socioeconomic divide. People say, “Oh well, I want to believe in oneness, I don’t feel it and I don’t have an actual path yet.” As for the guru, for me, he also showed up in my life, Yogananda did. What would you say?
Krishna Das: 00:07:12 It’s not even a question that you answer on that level. I always say to people, the most important thing is to become a good human being and to treat other people the way you want to be treated. And if you can do that, you have no … you don’t have to know anything, you don’t have to know guru, God, nothing. If you can do that, as my grandfather used to say, “God bless you.” But it’s not so easy. One finds, on the way to becoming a person who can treat others the way we want to be treated and who can be a good human being regardless of difficult circumstances it takes tremendous inner strength.
Krishna Das: 00:07:59 And anybody will recognize that how hard it is to do that. But if they do wish to want that, to be that way in the world, then they’ll start doing some practice and they’ll discover what they discover on the way. To try to convince anybody of anything is ridiculous, I wouldn’t even waste a breath trying to convince anybody. Everybody is in their own universe, their own world, their own subjective reality. So it’s from inside of that that they have to kind of punch themselves out of that paperback.
Krishna Das: 00:08:37 We don’t try to get them to believe anything on blind faith, their only experience is what’s important.
Kimberly: 00:08:43 Yeah it’s all experiential. Let’s shift for a moment KD talking about your work which is this beautiful vibration.
Krishna Das: 00:08:53 If it was work, I wouldn’t do it, believe me.
Kimberly: 00:08:54 What would you call it? It’s your calling and it’s to do with vibration.
Krishna Das: 00:09:04 Yeah. It’s my service.
Presence and spaciousness through chanting
Kimberly: 00:09:05 Your service has to do with vibration. At least for me, it feels very emotional, it is experiential even if I don’t know all the Sanskrit and other people don’t know all the Sanskrit unless they’re are scholar. What do you think it is about this type of vibration, the sound through, it’s very primal?
Krishna Das: 00:09:31 It’s not just sound, it’s presence, it’s a feeling of this spaciousness that you all of a sudden relax into through the practice of chanting. And your thoughts and emotions, for that period of time, you kind of experience a little differently. They no longer push you around quite as much, you’re doing this chanting practice and the idea is simply to repeat these sounds which they call the names of God actually in India, a divine name.
Krishna Das: 00:10:08 And then when you notice you’re thinking or remembering or imagining or evaluating you just notice it, and you let go and you come back to the chanting. And that movement from being lost in thought and lost in the emotional stuff. That moving back to the chant, to the hearing, and listening to the chant, that’s very big thing. That creates a deeper … as the more we do it, it creates a deeper kind of neural pathway actually in the brain and it gets easier and easier, and we spend less and less time in negative states of mind.
Krishna Das: 00:10:48 But it happens under the radar. It’s not about coming to a chanting thing and going, “Wow, this is so great,” and going blissfully out in the street and get hit by a car. Not, that’s not it. You have to pay attention. And whatever you’re experiencing is fine, but when you notice that you’re not paying attention to what you just agreed to pay attention to for X amount of time, then you realize, “Oh, okay,” then you come back.
Krishna Das: 00:11:19 And that coming back is a big thing because most people, they grow up, they graduate high school, they drink some beer and they die. And they’re not here for one minute-
Kimberly: 00:11:32 It’s true.
Krishna Das: 00:11:32 … in their whole lifetime. So, how do we get back here? How do we find our real home in our being, in our heart of hearts?
Chanting and meditation and what these practices generate
Kimberly: 00:11:46 Can you speak a little bit about your practice and the relationship chanting and meditation?
Krishna Das: 00:11:53 Chanting is meditation.
Kimberly: 00:11:54 So that is … this is?
Krishna Das: 00:11:56 Yeah. I also do different types. I do Japa which is quiet repetition of the names, of these mantras. I also have done also a very different types of … meditation is a really big subject. And the more you learn about it, the more there is to learn. But for our sake, we can be very simple and accurate to say that meditation means calming the mind. Experiencing a way to be here without the mind and the thoughts and emotions pushing us around constantly 24/7/365. We train ourselves to release and return, not push away. That’s a whole other thing, that’s evaluative and judgmental.
Krishna Das: 00:12:53 “Oh, I’m stuck, okay, Ra Ma.” That’s all. That’s all you have to do. And then you go home and watch TV and eat a veggie burger, whatever you do. But you don’t hold on to it either because the practice generates an ongoing kind of feeling inside that pulls us back out of our stuff. Even through the day when we don’t think we’re meditating or doing anything. So it continues to work through the day. And even if just two minutes a day, the most important thing is to find a way to slow down.
Krishna Das: 00:13:40 And first, it’s really painful because you see when you try to pay attention or try to think of the same thing, like watch your breath. You go like, “Oh, my god, I can’t do this. This is crazy. How can I ever do?” But still it’s not about fighting with your emotions and thoughts. There’s a way to do it. That’s why chanting is such a sneaky meditation practice because you’re enjoying the chanting and singing. You can be dancing, you can be singing, but you always try to come back to the sound that are being generated.
Krishna Das: 00:14:15 And in India, they say the name and what is the named which is God, Self S, Self, true being are not different, the name is the sound form of that. And it’s a river that flows into that, so we keep immersing ourselves in that river of the sound of name. And sooner or later hopefully we find reality.
Kimberly: 00:14:48 I think that’s another misconception in the West, is that Hinduism yoga is not millions of different god is really the Brahma in different aspects. When I listen to your chants, I know a lot come from this like the fact I love Krishna and Ram and Sita and then Shiva, there’s Durga. On different days, do you chant specifically to different aspects of the divine or you do you rotate them?
Krishna Das: 00:15:19 I try to-
Kimberly: 00:15:22 I’m very biased towards the Chalisas, I love them.
Krishna Das: 00:15:26 Very good. That’s a very powerful practice. Maharajji guru in his way gave us that practice to do and he said, “Every line of Hanuman Chalisa is maha mantra and Hanuman Chalisa has the ability to change fate-“
Kimberly: 00:15:42 Wow.
Krishna Das: 00:15:43 “… to remove those …” They say that when you’re born, everything’s on your forehead. And could be-
Kimberly: 00:15:48 What? I’ve never heard this.
Krishna Das: 00:15:49 Oh, yeah, some beings can see everything that’s going to happen to you is written in some divine kind of text. That things can be removed by grace and by effort. So grace and effort go together, they’re not mutually opposite. Grace is always flowing, but like Suzuki Roshi said, “Come take a walk with me in the rain. But don’t hurry, it’s raining everywhere.” So grace is always flowing, but we don’t cup our hands to catch it. So we can’t find anything to drink.
Krishna Das: 00:16:24 So that’s the effort, to cup your hands, that’s spiritual practice. And then we get a taste of it.
Kimberly: 00:16:34 Well, that’s a beautiful way of thinking about.
Krishna Das: 00:16:39 So you were asking what I do? The thing I try to do every day at least is wake up in the morning. That’s the main thing and it’s not usually even in the morning, but I do try to wake up once a day.
Kimberly: 00:16:52 Well, I guess what I mean is there’s certain aspects you may sometimes be more drawn to, like I really love Krishna, I love Saraswati. There are just certain energy aspects of the divine. Or do you feel like different days for different parts?
Krishna Das: 00:17:10 They’re all the same to me, that’s above my pay grade, I just sing. I sing to that presence, that space, that love that lives within me as my own true nature and that lives with everyone as their own true nature, within everyone. And when I sing I move more deeply into that vast presence, what you want to call it, you can call it. You can call it Frank for all I care. You can call it anything. But that’s what I try to do. There’s not a lot of concepts involved.
Krishna Das: 00:17:39 Sure, I love all these great beings, Durga, Saraswati, Kali, Shiva or Krishna and all these different aspects around Hanuman. But to me, they all are that love that lives within me. And everyone as their own true nature. That’s maybe a deeper reality, but maybe not, maybe it’s just another way. Everybody has their own way. There’s no one way. Buddha they said taught 84,000 types of practices. Because they say there’s 84,000 different types of wombs that beings incarnate through in the universe.
Krishna Das: 00:18:27 So he taught all those practices for every being that could find some way to practice. You find your way, your quality, devotion, I have mine, other people have theirs. That’s when I sing, I very rarely even put a picture of my guru there. Because I don’t want people to say, “Oh yeah, I’m not going to sing to his guru, I got my guru.” That’s not what’s happening here.
Kimberly: 00:18:52 You’re held up with the form again, the separation comes in.
Krishna Das: 00:18:59 Yeah, people do anything they can to make make separations happen. Religion has been used to torture people and create suffering and pain and separation for thousands of years and forever. Because that’s what egos do. They reinforce their separation, their separateness. The truth is they say that there really is no such thing as an ego.
Krishna Das: 00:19:24 The ego is just this extraordinary dense flow of thinking of thoughts that is created by our previous karmas. And then we get attached to them in this life and we think that we’re thinking, but we’re not really thinking. It’s those thoughts that are floating through our awareness. But we get stuck with glue on those thoughts, then they take us away with them, but the spiritual practice thins out that glue. So even if the thought takes you away, it doesn’t carry you too far before it drops you and then you’re back, again and again and again and again. And the more you’re paying attention-
KD’s daily practice and how there’s is no one way
Kimberly: 00:20:08 [crosstalk 00:20:08]. How far into your practice KD, did you notice a deeper silencing of the mind, a more consistent calming?
Krishna Das: 00:20:19 Maybe next year.
Kimberly: 00:20:24 When you started, I know we didn’t talk about this. It’s that creepy thing when someone’s in your life a lot and then you think you now them, you’re like, “Oh, remember we talked about this?” “No, we didn’t talk about this.” But I might have read it somewhere that you were a musician before you went to India. And you were going the rock and roll path. Is that true? And what-
Krishna Das: 00:20:48 Yeah.
Kimberly: 00:20:48 How do you course?
Krishna Das: 00:20:49 I was a played with these, they’re called country blues a lot, Delta blues. That was my thing really for most … all growing up. Then the ’60s kind of happened, really heavy and rock and roll really took off. I was going to be in a band. But it didn’t work out for me because I was so crazy and they were so young. They were just getting into smoking dope and I was kind of finished with it already. So it wasn’t going to work.
Krishna Das: 00:21:21 But then a few years later, I was on my way to live with Ram Dass for the summer, this is the summer of 1969.
Kimberly: 00:21:30 You’re were going up to his-
Krishna Das: 00:21:31 Up to his father’s place up in New Hampshire. I drove down from New Paltz where I was living, all the way out to Stony Brook on Long Island for Jimi Hendrix Concert because I knew all the people putting the concerts on. So I knew it. So we’re hanging out backstage after the concert. And the manager of the band came to me and said, “You know the guy who replaced you, the singer who replaced you can’t sing in the studio. Come back, cut the vocals, we have the album already recorded and the tour already set up. So, let’s go.”
Krishna Das: 00:22:08 I had my two dogs and my cat and all my worldly possessions in my car in the parking lot. And after the concert, I was committed to going up to see Ram Dass and living up there for the summer. And it wasn’t even close. That was my dream being handed to me. But in the meantime I had met some thing … I had tripped and fell into something that just made everything pale by comparison which was this incredible love, just total grace. I wasn’t even tempted to go.
Krishna Das: 00:22:53 But look what my guru has done. If I had gone with that band then, I would have been dead 30 years ago. I didn’t have the makeup to overcome those kind of things, no question. So here look what I do, I do the same thing. I’m getting all the love, and attention, and affection, and fame and everything. And I can do it sitting down. It’s just easy.
Krishna Das: 00:23:21 This is how a real guru works, a real Siddha works. They take your karmas, your inclinations. But they change them so that they’re no longer destructive for you. And they make them good for you. They change the whole flow. And that’s what Maharajji did and continues to do.
Kimberly: 00:23:42 You know KD, as you’re speaking, I have to share, I haven’t talked about this publicly yet. But I’ve been writing these wellness books. And I wrote a book with Deepak Chopra. I mean just going down this is what people expect, but this next block is actually based on all the teachings of Yogananda and [crosstalk 00:24:00] especially for modern woman. And just it came through me when I was pregnant. I just had a baby and I said, “Well, this isn’t the time to be writing a book.” I was 34 weeks pregnant. And this idea-
Krishna Das: 00:24:12 Oh, wow.
Kimberly: 00:24:12 … [crosstalk 00:24:12] clear and then I presented it over Zoom. I think I signed my deal three days before giving birth, but it wasn’t, like you said this plan was like, “Oh, I’ll just keep writing these other books.” And I was like, “No, like it’s time to really pop them out, my full life and my practice.” [crosstalk 00:24:28] I’m able to share with the world. So I really relate to that.
Freedom from manipulation when it comes to your personal work
Krishna Das: 00:24:34 It’s interesting that you see what kind of response you get. Because when we take a position, when we expose ourselves and share our deeper stuff, not everybody wants to come on that ride, not everybody’s ready. You’ll see, you might get a lot of criticism and you also get a lot of great stuff. But some people just won’t be able to go there with you.
Kimberly: 00:25:03 Yeah. And I think that’s that’s okay because if you start pandering to other people versus your own.
Krishna Das: 00:25:08 Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Kimberly: 00:25:10 And their stuff.
Krishna Das: 00:25:14 If I thought that I was trying to do something for somebody coming to chant with me, it would be horrible. They would feel manipulated. I would feel like I was really hot, really getting it together. And, “Look at all these people, they’re really getting off,” I’m doing my practice, I can’t even keep my eyes open, I just forget and I’m gone. I’m just doing it. I think because of that, people are also freed from feeling manipulated and feeling that they have to feel something. They’re free to do the practice themselves and it’s a very different thing. It’s not entertainment.
Kimberly: 00:26:01 Yeah I love that. And I remember you said that in the Awake documentary when you heard Yogananda saying, “It wasn’t to sound pretty.”
Krishna Das: 00:26:07 That was so funny.
Kimberly: 00:26:09 It is amazing you’re singing to a God and his voice is very-
Krishna Das: 00:26:16 The first and only time I’ve ever heard that was in 1966 or 1967. It was on a record, they sold you a record, SRF, like a record. I ordered it and I played it and couldn’t … the power in the voice was amazing. I had no idea they were going to put that in the movie, no idea at all. It was like, “Oh, no they did that.”
Kimberly: 00:26:42 It was beautiful. I loved it. Oh, wait, so back to the story KD, because I think we kind of went down a little pathway. But when you went to go stay in New Hampshire with Ram Dass. Had you been to India yet? Had you met [crosstalk 00:26:56]?
Krishna Das: 00:26:57 No, no.
Kimberly: 00:26:57 Because this is the first time you guys were connecting. I mean-
Krishna Das: 00:26:59 I mean that was-
Kimberly: 00:26:59 … through Ram Dass?
Krishna Das: 00:27:02 Yeah that was the first. Well, we had met already and I had met him a few times already over the … I met him in the winter of 1968/1969. So all through the winter and the spring, we were in touch and we met a number of times. And that’s why he invited me to come up and work for his father during the summer mowing the the four-hole golf course with a big tractor.
Kimberly: 00:27:30 I saw this documentary? I can’t remember which … they had footage of all these people and it was like 400 people in a circle. And it was incredible.
Krishna Das: 00:27:38 Yeah, what was that, a Sound … Not so. What’s was that called?
Kimberly: 00:27:43 Dying to … I can’t remember. It was wonderful
Krishna Das: 00:27:48 My friends are going to be mad at me because … okay, can’t remember. Oh, terrible.
Being of service to others and what that means to us as individuals
Kimberly: 00:27:54 So KD let’s go back to this. It’s not work, it’s service. And I often say that too, you know, “I’m a servant to the light. We’re just doing service here. And we know that we can’t convince people.” Well, what do you see then as your goal or primary purpose? Is it just aligning with the divine and putting that out? Is it sharing more about philosophy and the ways to connect? What would you say is your dharma or what you’re doing? For lack of a better term.
Krishna Das: 00:28:28 And this may be hard to digest. But really all I’m doing is serving my guru. And my gurus is everywhere, everyone. And he created this whole thing of chanting and traveling and singing with people. And so I’m just going along with the show. And my job is just to sing to that love regardless of who’s out there. And when I talk with people, it’s also the same, just to uncover the love and also to help share how to deal with some of the different issues that come up as you’re trying to enter more deeply into your own heart.
Krishna Das: 00:29:13 So I don’t have much agenda. This whole thing happened, I didn’t plan this. I just started singing with people. What happened was, I was in really bad state of mind in the ’90s, 1993, 1994. And very depressed, very suicidal, very, very bad. So one day I walked from one room to the other in my house in my apartment. And I was hit with this thunderbolt and I understood very deeply that if I did not sing with people not alone in my room, but with people. If I did not sing with people, I would never be able to clean out the dark shadows in my own heart.
Krishna Das: 00:30:04 And this was the thing that forced me to start because I didn’t want to. I was hiding, Maharajji had left the body 20 years before.
Kimberly: 00:30:16 You missed him tremendously?
Krishna Das: 00:30:18 Yeah, I miss him tremendously. This was my way of finding his hand again. He used to say, “Once once I take a hold of your hand, I never let go. Even when you let go of mine.” So I had let go. And now I needed to find that hand again and the only way that was going to work for me, I understood to be chanting with people. And now so far so good.
Kimberly: 00:30:48 To be in this level of service where you’re seeing your guru in everyone, it can be challenging, hazy. Yogananda says some people become … he phrases it is, “Uninteresting through ugly behavior.” Let’s say someone who’s, you know, just on the on surface, it’s very challenging for you. Let’s say like a racist or super mean or whatever it is, how do you deal with that challenge of separation or perceived separation like, “Oh, this person is X. Y. Z, annoying me so much or just a awful person.” All these stories, all the things we say about other people, how do.
Krishna Das: 00:31:38 No, I get annoyed. So when the CDs came out and I forget which one. And there was a review on Amazon. It was like the first review. And it said, “Who is this guy? His voice sounds like a frog being sodomized under water.”
Kimberly: 00:31:58 Oh my god.
Krishna Das: 00:32:00 I just wrote back and I said, “What kind of frog was that?” And [David Nickton 00:32:07] my buddy wrote back said, “How do you know what that sounds like? You can’t take it seriously. Everybody’s in their own universe.” But on the other hand, you don’t want to see people suffer, especially these days are so hard. You just want to be able to do whatever you can do to give people a break somehow. And if you’re gonna get caught in everybody’s drama, what good are you? What good are you going to be be able to do? So, I just sing, that’s what I do.
Krishna Das: 00:32:44 I don’t think about whether people are getting it or not getting it, coming or going, it’s up to them. I do what I do and I try to do it 100%, that’s the thing. When I first heard chanting in India, when I first got there in 1970 I went, “Oh, this is for me. This, I could do. This I could really give myself to.” And i had never had that feeling before. This was something … because really we go through our lives and we’re like, “Uh,” we don’t really give ourselves 100% to what we’re doing.
Krishna Das: 00:33:26 Sometimes we give ourselves 100% of 3%, but really doing … so, I knew, I just knew that chanting was my way, what I could do for myself. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about other people. I was just trying to stay above the water. I’m up to here in the water, and if I don’t sing uh, but if I sing, I stay right here, you know? And okay, I can breathe through my nose, that’s good, okay.
Kimberly: 00:33:56 Well, KD, I understand the crowds of the people that are not so close, but I think it’s your friend Ram Dass who said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.” [crosstalk 00:34:07], relatives, the people that neighbor, the people that are close that can kind of-
Krishna Das: 00:34:12 Yeah.
Releasing emotions and stories through a spiritual practice
Kimberly: 00:34:13 What do you do to stay in your space sometimes? You know if anyone’s listening to this and they’re like, “I love that. He’s faithful, he’s for the oneness, but you know my roommate does kind of get me sometimes with my mom or my-“
Krishna Das: 00:34:27 Yeah sure.
Kimberly: 00:34:28 “…whatever.”
Krishna Das: 00:34:31 It’s always going to be something, all day long, all lifelong, there’s always something. The point is that without some regular spiritual practice, without training ourselves to release those emotions and stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves on a regular basis, even just a little bit few minutes every day, without doing the training, there’s no possibility of not getting pummeled by the waves.
Krishna Das: 00:34:58 But once you kind of get it a little bit, it stays with you and the more the more practice you do on yourself, the more work you do on yourself, you begin to see how hard it is to be genuine, to be caring, to be unkind. And so all of a sudden, it does this switch. So when somebody’s really being an asshole, you see, “Oh my goodness, if it’s hard for me, it’s also holy and … doing so much. Then what’s this poor mother … what is he going to do?”
Krishna Das: 00:35:39 So you begin to see that people are suffering from their own stuff and they have no understanding that there’s any other way to do this life, and it’s really heartbreaking, it generates compassion and kindness and understanding.
Kimberly: 00:35:56 A deep compassion comes [inaudible 00:35:58].
Krishna Das: 00:36:00 The compassion has to arise naturally. I mean we have to … we can practice generating it by remembering, or there’s all kinds of techniques. But ultimately when you start to be a little kinder to yourself, and not so hard on yourself, then you can actually be a little bit not so hard on other people, it kind of works that way.
Kimberly: 00:36:23 That can be really hard to do coming from a recovering perfectionist, and someone that’s been so part of myself since childhood that’s it, that is a retraining, a reframing, and a retraining.
Krishna Das: 00:36:35 Yeah, that’s what chanting does. No matter what you’re thinking, no matter you’re feeling, no matter what you’re imagining, no matter which story telling yourself, at least while you’re chanting, your job is to let go, not push away, not judge, but just let go. And just come back to the chanting, which you’re probably doing anyway while you’re doing all that, and it might be a thousand people around you doing the same thing, and you’ve been gone for 20 minutes. So the idea is just keep coming back, and that over time we spend less and less time in deeper and deep negative states of mind.
Krishna Das: 00:37:17 And those stories and all that heavy stuff like you saying that we get programmed with from an early age, that stuff doesn’t glued to us so strongly as time goes on, but spiritual practice is a necessity if you’re going to uncover that place inside of you.
How to start a chanting practice
Kimberly: 00:37:40 So KD how long would you suggest someone to start a chanting practice? How do they do it? [inaudible 00:37:47] it appears where you take us lying through lying for the Chalisa, would you recommend doing someone like that, or just listening to some of the simpler chants and singing along with you?
Krishna Das: 00:37:56 Whatever appeals to somebody, really just see what feels good, what feels right that’s all. Nobody has to tell you, you know what you like, you know what you don’t like, find something you like and do it, dance around. It’s the hearing of the name, you might hear it outside, but recognize that you’re actually hearing it inside, the sounds is going in your ears, but where is the awareness? It’s in inside so to speak.
Krishna Das: 00:38:27 So, the name is going on inside even when you think it’s outside, and that’s what transforms your inner reality as time goes on. So dance, sleep, whatever. Don’t push because the eagle wants to shine and it will turn everything into nice Brillo pad shining itself up, it wants to shine, or it wants to be high and beautiful and attract people, and be a great yogi, or I want to be a great [Kiatun Wala 00:39:00], I want to be this … you know?
Krishna Das: 00:39:02 People say to me, “I want to share my chatting with the world.” I tell them, “Are you okay? Do you have a fever, is there something wrong with you? Why? Sing home, first do it for yourself. Don’t use it to get high and to get money and to get fame, that’s not going to help you, it’s going to make a big hole to dig yourself out of it.”
Kimberly: 00:39:25 Yeah because I am so drawn to this part of the practice too KD and again, maybe this is the perfectionist part of me that’s like, “Am I doing it right?” I listen to your music all the time, while in the morning I always do a Chalisa, then go on a walk, I listen to it for an hour when my son’s napping, my younger son. And I don’t always say it out loud, but I’m saying it [crosstalk 00:39:45]-
Krishna Das: 00:39:45 Yeah that’s fine.
Kimberly: 00:39:49 I don’t speak it, [inaudible 00:39:50].
Krishna Das: 00:39:51 No problem, it’s the same. Absolutely the same. But just remember, just be with the sound. Don’t be thinking about it, don’t be thinking, “Wow, this is so great, this is the names of god, I’m so cool, I’m doing this.” Or, “Am I doing it right, doing it wrong?” That’s a thought, let it go, just keep coming back to the sound, that’s all you have to do. And you don’t evaluate, “Did I do it really good?” Just do it, put the time in, and gradually you get freed from those chains of these behavioral changes that just drag us through the mud constantly our whole life long.
Krishna Das: 00:40:35 But you just let go, the idea is to just listen to it, not to manipulate yourself to feel anything or Saraswati and … now there are practices where you would visualize Saraswati and you would create in your own mind a whole thing, that’s also okay, but it’s not necessary. But if one is drawn to those types of practices, certainly one can do.
Krishna Das: 00:41:02 But, the whole path is learning to trust yourself, the whole path. And find yourself because you’re now starting to trust your own feelings. Your feelings are being … I don’t want to use the word purified, because that implies impure, not like that but they’re being liberated, they get more real and deeper. And it’s not about, “Am I right, or wrong?” You just sing and then live next.
Kimberly: 00:41:38 The simplicity is so refreshing because especially in the modern world where there’s social media and there’s regular new people or [inaudible 00:41:48]. And in many ways it does make people feel more separate, more isolated, and you’re looking around saying, “Well what are other people doing?” And it fosters a lot of competition doing like not enough.
Krishna Das: 00:42:03 Sure, but hopefully the practice itself will lighten that up as time goes on. Just do the practice.
Kimberly: 00:42:19 That’s it.
Krishna Das: 00:42:20 That’s the thing you have to do. You don’t do it … Maharajji used to say just do this, just repeat the name whether you feel spiritual, whether you’re angry, whether you’re tired, whether you’re sick, just repeat, if you don’t then what? Then you’re not planting the seeds of the very things that you want to have, and to be manifest in your life. If you don’t plant the seeds how will they grow? You have to plant the seeds.”
Kimberly: 00:42:47 And he didn’t speak much, did he? He would just emanate.
Krishna Das: 00:42:53 He spoke all the time, but just not about spiritual things. It was the elder in everybody’s family, who is yelling at who? Who is not being nice to their parents? And he just made small talk all the time, but every once in a while he would say something you know, that was so extraordinarily deep. Like when we would ask him, “Baba, how do we find god?” We figured he’d liked us, he’ll tell us.
Krishna Das: 00:43:24 He said, “Serve people.” “Serve people? What about Pranayama and yoga and meditation? How do you raise Kundalini?” He said, “Feed people.” “What? We weren’t ripe enough at the time to understand. Because when you’re serving others, you’re no longer thinking about yourself, the whole thing about yourself is gone.
Krishna Das: 00:43:53 When he said, “When I was going to kill myself, I was having a full on nervous breakdown with a total meltdown hallucinating, completely screwed up.” We said, “What are you going to do? Jump in the river? He laughed. The river is six inches deep, and I could get my head under a rock, and probably make it happen. He said, ” You can’t die, you can’t die. Worldly people don’t die. Only Jesus died the real death.” “What?” He said, “Why? Because he never thought of himself. He gave his life for his people, he tried to die, but he became immortal.” We asked him how to meditate, he said, “Just meditate like Christ.”
Krishna Das: 00:44:40 So, we said, “Well, Baba how did he meditate?” So, it seemed like he was about to say something, but instead his eyes closed and he just stopped. And the feeling was like the earth just stopped turning, it was so overwhelmingly powerful, we were all like, “Ah.” And then two tears came down his cheek. He kind of shook himself, so he lost himself in love. He is one with all beings, no one understands. He never died, he lost himself in love.
Kimberly: 00:45:29 Wow.
Krishna Das: 00:45:31 Right. What was I thinking, you know? Right, that’s what you want. Now, how to get it? Practice, uncover that place within where is true already inside of everybody.
Kimberly: 00:45:49 Deeper, deeper down, below the surface. Below what we think is separation, there is a deep place of unity.
Krishna Das: 00:45:56 You said it perfectly, what we think is separation. If you don’t think it, if the thoughts don’t arise, it ain’t there. But the thoughts, they’re like waves that come in off the storm, over the ocean, you don’t now where that storm was, how long ago it was, but the waves are still coming. Our job is to just let them come and let them go, not try to stop the waves, how are you going to stop them, right? And where are the thoughts? You’re going to shoot them as they go by? You just let go.
Krishna Das: 00:46:26 But in order to start that process, one must calm a little bit, just like a leaf just falling to the ground by itself, just at ease a little bit. Practice takes a little practice, not to try. You don’t have to try, how can you try to be calm? That’s like trying to ride a crocodile across to the other shore of the river, I don’t think you’ll make it.
Releasing emotions and stories through a spiritual practice
Kimberly: 00:46:58 Well it’s the thoughts, like being calm with our thoughts and I know I used to fall into this too KD is trying to say, “Oh this person didn’t really understand what I was trying to say,” or they don’t understand me trying to have other people see you in a certain way, or care so much about other people’s perceptions of you, it’s still different. It’s the intimate aspects of the same egoic collection of-
Krishna Das: 00:47:21 Can I tell you a short story?
Kimberly: 00:47:26 Please.
Krishna Das: 00:47:26 So in 1989, we were in India and there was what they call the Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahbad. And this year, it was the 12th 12th. This particular constellation only happened once every 144 years, and this was that moment. So we were there and we were going to go stay in the sadhu’s camp, in this Baba’s camp at the Mela. But first we were staying with one of Maharajji’s great all devotee named [Dara 00:47:57].
Krishna Das: 00:48:01 Anyway so that Baba at the Mela sent one of his disciples to guide us to the camp because there were 20 million people there. And you know you’re not going to find anybody unless you know where you’re going.
Kimberly: 00:48:13 Yeah.
Krishna Das: 00:48:15 So this guy walks into the house so full of himself, “I am a great Sadhu and now I’m just with householders here. Who are you people?” And he was disrespectful to Dada who was his elder by far, and mostly in India that’s not the way it is. So, Dada grabbed me, and he pulled me into Maharajji’s room, and he closed the door. And there was like a dresser, like an armoire. And he reaches down under, and he pulls out this key from down under the dresser, then he unlocks it and he opens the doors.
Krishna Das: 00:48:51 And he reaches down under back shelf, and he pulls out something wrapped in this funky dusty old newspaper all yellow with time. And he unwraps it, and it’s a lota. A lota is like a metal pot or a metal cup that you use to bath or some lotas are used for pooja, etc. So, he is holding this cup in front of me and he is saying, “Do you see, do you see?” And it was all rusty and dirty and dusty. He said, “Do you see, Krishna Das, do you see?” And I said, “No, Dada, I don’t see.” And I’m just like the twilights on, tududu, I’m thinking I’ve got to run.
Krishna Das: 00:49:36 So, he says, “Do you see?” He left this for me. His last time here, Maharajji’s last time in the house there before he left the body, when he left, he left his lota. This was 16 years before this … 17 years. He said, “Do you see? Do you see?” I said, “No Dada.” And he looks and he is like he said, “You don’t have to shine.” And he wrapped it up again, put it back under the shelf, locked the thing, put the key back under the armoire and left me standing there. Everything we do is designed to make us shine in our own eyes, in the eyes of others, but you don’t have to shine.
Kimberly: 00:50:26 Whoa, that is amazing story, I just got major goosebumps. That is the story of all stories. I think that story should be put at the front of all social media sites. Do you just kind of think it’s hilarious what’s going on now with this … like all the millions of famous people on YouTube and all these channels-
Krishna Das: 00:50:51 I do-
Kimberly: 00:50:51 What do you think of this? Do you just laugh?
Krishna Das: 00:50:55 Well, it’s great we have it. We’d be kind of isolated if we didn’t have it. People will just find a way to do their thing, one way or the other. I just spent … it’s been 54 Thursday nights in a row for me, I’ve sung with people now when it started, 54 Thursday nights in a row.
Kimberly: 00:51:19 Online?
Krishna Das: 00:51:20 Online, yeah.
Kimberly: 00:51:22 I know-
Krishna Das: 00:51:22 Every Thursday night at 7:00, New York time. And I love it, I’m fine. And it’s still very powerful, and a lot of people write and say how good it feels. And we enter into that heart space, and it’s not about bodies. When you can get over, it’s at that, “We’re not all in the same place, oh, too bad, I’m crying.” But it’s not about that, it’s the heart space that opens up when our intension and our aspirations and our attention and all get in the same direction, because it’s inside. So, that opens up and everybody feels it, so that’s the thing.
Kimberly: 00:52:12 This is the subtlety. I’d love for you to share with me because sometimes I think I really want to help people, I want to help many people as I can with my books, and the work and everything. But it sounds like when you’re in service, you’re singing to your guru and is it your perspective whoever I can help through this will come, or are you intentionally saying, “I’m singing this for my guru, and putting it out to as many beings.” Or do not even think about the other beings, you just think-
Krishna Das: 00:52:40 I started singing to save my ass, that’s why I started singing with people.
Kimberly: 00:52:44 And as it developed, you became service-oriented?
Krishna Das: 00:52:49 Well, in a sense that was the beginning of my service, I was concerned with serving myself, getting my true self, serving my heart, getting back to square one, reconnecting with that love that I felt I had lost. So as that started to … and I sang for years in New York just for free, just every Monday at Jivamukti in the old days. And then someone invited me to California, and I went, “Oh, okay. But how I’m I going to get there, walk?”
Krishna Das: 00:53:26 So, we had to start charging, and then we got invited here. And then I made the first CD, and that one everywhere, every yoga studio in the world had that, I didn’t plan that, I made that CD so people would know what I do so I could it with them. If they don’t now, why would they come? So I made the CD of chanting.
Krishna Das: 00:53:49 And of course the reason was so that people would now what it is and then come sing because I needed them to sing with me to save my ass, and they hopefully would like to sing and save their own asses. But there wasn’t a plan, people said, “How do I do this?” I say, “How are you asking me for? I have no idea, I just open my mouth and sing and this is what happened,” really.
Krishna Das: 00:54:17 But in the end, you were saying how you write your books and you want to help people, that’s beautiful, that’s perfectly fine, but don’t be attached to the fruit of your desire to help people. Krishna says in the Gita, “Do what you do, but the fruits of your work, the results of your work are not yours to create, that’s my job.” So, that’s why you do it in a way which is so much more effective in a way, because there’s no like, “What should I say, and how should I do this? What would work best?” You just make the offering. If they take it, they take it, if they don’t, they don’t. What are you going to do?
Kimberly: 00:55:02 [inaudible 00:55:02] is the first time, this is my 6th book KD, and it’s the first time I’ve felt that sort of liberation. Like I’m not doing this for me, it doesn’t feel like my book, it is 100% service. So it was a lot more easefullness.
Krishna Das: 00:55:16 Well, I hope you don’t get the shit beat out of you, that’s all I tell you. You never now. Sometimes people just, they don’t get it. But whatever it is, it’s not up to you, you made your offering, you put it out there. The people who are supposed to get it, will get it. The people who are ready for it, will get it. The people who are connected to it vibrationally, lineage-wise, karmically will get it, that’s not up to us. All we do is we do the best we can with our service, with our savor and whatever happens, happens really.
Kimberly: 00:55:56 Wrapping up here KD, is there any goal or anything you are looking forward to in the future, the near future? I had to say that selfishly why … I said the biggest disappointment of this pandemic was when your concert got canceled that’s supposed to be I think this summer, the big LA concert.
Krishna Das: 00:56:17 Actually I think it’s now spring 2022.
Kimberly: 00:56:22 I kept getting the emails, but anyway, what next for KD, just keep on serving?
Krishna Das: 00:56:31 I just want to live as deeply as I can in that love, regardless of what I do or don’t do. And I’m ready to go do … whatever happens, I’m ready to tour again once that opens up, no problem. I’m also ready to stay at home for another three lifetimes. But whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be. I’m just hoping to be as close, as deep in that love as I can be or as much of the time, because that’s the best thing I can do for myself, and that’s the best thing I can do for anybody who comes in contact.
Wisdom from KD’s guru
Kimberly: 00:57:10 Beautiful. Well, is there anything else you want to close up with, any wisdom from your guru or anything you want to share with all our listeners?
Krishna Das: 00:57:23 There’s line in the Ramayana, and it’s talking about Rama who is an incarnation of god, and is also in a sense the name of your own indwelling presence, right? But this line, Ram, he gave . And it says, “Rama only loves love.” The way to get to Rama is love, and those who know that, they now what’s going on.
Krishna Das: 00:57:59 Rama only loves love. The only thing dear to him is love, you can’t manipulate that love, you can’t force that love to come or go, you have to find that love because that’s the thing that touches everyone and anyone, that love, that’s what we want. We might try to get it in many different ways, basically I think we just have bad aim, but our aim gets better as time goes on.
Kimberly: 00:58:33 So I can’t thank you enough KD for being in this panel. I know you are so humble, but I just have to say that whatever’s moving for you has helped me tremendously, tremendously in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to that Chalisa at least a few times, but pretty much I like that and many other chants, so just know that. I’m sure people say this all the time, but there are so many souls really anchoring to your music, so thank you so much.
Krishna Das: 00:59:04 Thank you.
Kimberly: 00:59:05 Thank you for coming on, I want as many [inaudible 00:59:08] a lot of people to know that this exists as a tool, as a healing tool, as something that [inaudible 00:59:16] a link to all your music and your site and the stuff, but thank you.
Krishna Das: 00:59:24 Yeah, thanks so much, it was a pleasure, I enjoyed talking to you.
Kimberly: 00:59:28 Namaste.
Kimberly: Well, I hope you enjoyed our interview today, our conversation with Krishna Das as much as it moved me. And for more information on him, please check out our show notes and we will link to his information. His website is also simply krishnadas.com. And you can check out wherever you listen to music, just please search his name. I really love so much of the chanting especially the Prema Chalisa which was my wedding song.
Kimberly: So check that out, sending you lots of love. Thank you for tuning in. We will be back here on Thursday for our next Q and A podcast. Until then take great care, sending you lots of love. Show notes over at mysolluna.com. I’ll see you on Instagram @_kimberlysnyder. And again take great care, so much love.