Taking time to look back and move forward. Conversations With KD episodes are derived from the recordings of KD’s online events from his home during the 2020/ 2021 days of social distancing and quarantine from the onset of COVID and beyond.
Call and Response Special Edition Conversations With KD June 11 2020
“All the questions that you asked, they’re all issues that you can become aware of yourself. Don’t give up your practice. Deepen your practice as best you can. Keep it going. Remember, it’s not about what you’re feeling at the time of practice, necessarily. Keep it going whether you’re feeling any devotional feelings, whether you’re angry, whether you’re sad, whether you’re tired, do your practice. Do your practice. It’s the way. If we don’t plant those seeds, those fruits will never grow for us. So, regardless of how difficult it becomes in the world, regardless of what’s going on in your life, try to remember to remember, as often and as deeply as you can. “ – Krishna Das
Namaste. I hope everybody’s okay. Nice to see you again. Of course, I can’t see you, but it’s good to be together again.
As this pandemic continues, as we stay more isolated in our homes, as so many things seem to be blowing up in the world around us, it becomes more and more important to cultivate the ability to take refuge in our own hearts. And these chants that we’re doing lead us into that place within that is shelter from the storm.
Whatever we do in the world, we want to do it well and we want to be able to accomplish our goals, but if our motives are confused and subject to what they call “The Three Poisons,” which I’m not exactly sure what they are, but it’s certainly selfishness and desire-driven motivation and the delusion, and we can’t accomplish what we want.
So, by learning and training ourselves to take this refuge of this time to move inside, we are able to overcome the obstacles within us. And when we can overcome those obstacles, we can be more effective in the outside world. It’s a natural situation. The less fear we have, the better we’ll be able to interact with people, other people and situations as they arise. The rest, the less selfishness we have, self-centered actions, thinking only of ourselves, the more we’ll be able to accomplish in the world, the more people we’ll be able to help and the more we’ll be able to help ourselves.
So, it’s very important to cultivate this practice, any practice. And for those who don’t understand that there is a way to find refuge within, there’s nothing but continued suffering and frustration and trying to squeeze water from a stone. So, the best thing we can do is to learn how to take care of ourselves, and at the same time, that expands to include everyone, because we’re all connected. When we go within, we can feel that connection with everyone and everything. It’s not something you have to think about up here. It’s something you directly experience.
I mentioned the three poisons before that we are subject to in our dealings with our own stuff, and they are officially; ignorance, attachment and aversion. I’m not sure about that, actually, but it’s close. Something like that. Delusion for sure. Not seeing the way things really are. And then second, acting only out of self-referenced behavior, things that benefit ourselves in one way or another, where we are the center of the universe, and then attachment and aversion, which is clinging things and pushing things away.
Q: I’m afraid and sad that I can’t help others as before, because I must self-quarantine to protect the body. How can I still protect others if it’s risky to protect myself and then to be physically present? And if they are too young or intellectually can’t understand?
Well to everything, there’s a season. Right now, if we want to continue living, we have to protect the body. I don’t think that’s selfish in the usual sense of the word. There are times when we can serve others directly, externally, but on the other hand, when you’re serving yourself, your true self, your heart, and opening your heart and practicing, making intentions to help and to offer loving kindness to the world in your practices, you’re creating good circumstances within yourself and outwardly, and that’s not to be…. One should understand that’s very important also. So, when it’s time to take care of yourself…
Right now, I miss singing with people physically. Because it’s good for me. And it brings energy and joy into my life, and so I really enjoy that, but it’s going to be awhile before that can happen again. But in the meantime, here’s what I do. I do the best I can, given the circumstances. And many different things had to come together in my life to make this happen. And fortunately for myself and anybody who sings with me, they did come together.
So, you have to honor who you are, where at this time in your evolution and in your situation. Service is more of an attitude and motivation than actual action. It doesn’t have to be acted out in the physical world. The greatest saints have done the greatest service to us because they’ve liberated themselves from suffering and are around to keep that vibration here on earth for us and those teachings alive for us. So, it all depends on the moment. And as far as who can understand or don’t understand, what do we understand really?
So, let’s get real here. We’re just doing the best we can. You try to offer whatever you can. If it’s not accepted, fine. You still make the offering from your heart that you feel you must make. Whether somebody understands it or appreciates it, ultimately you just do the best you can.
Q: I want to know, after all these years of chanting, what difference do you feel in yourself? Any divine experience you want to share?
Really, all I can tell you is I mope around less than I used to. I don’t have big experiences, things like that. I don’t see things. I’m just a regular kind of guy, but I do mope around less than I used to. And that’s a good thing.
Q: If you can’t fight hate with hate, you must fight hate with love. How do we bring this energy into the present situation?
Well, you don’t fight with love. You love. You offer loving kindness to yourself and to others and to everyone and to the different situations that are going on out there.
Everybody’s entitled to their own way of seeing things, and sometimes it’s surprising when you scratch the surface of someone to see what they really feel about things. It can be very a powerful experience to see what’s inside, what people carry around with themselves and they’re not aware of the results of their actions.
So, of course you can’t conquer hate with hate. You can only offer loving kindness and offer your actions with as much compassion and kindness as you can muster up. Only hate comes from hate, only anger comes from anger and only fear creates more fear.
So, what can we actually do? What are we really capable of doing?
Half the time I can’t even find the bathroom in the middle of the night. So, what we’re really capable of doing is not so much. Are we going to change the whole world? No, but that doesn’t prevent us from making the effort to do that.
Once again, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “Do what you do, but offer the fruits of your actions to me.”
In other words, all we can do is what we do, whether we’re successful in making this a heaven on earth or not is not up to us. Whether it works or not is not up to us. All we can do is make the effort. And if we’re concerned with the outcome, then we’re not here in the present moment. So, be with your actions. Be with yourself as you do what you do, but don’t expect the universe to respond the way you want it to. It’s very rare that that happens.
But in the social arena, the situation is going on now. These are, you know, there’s this thing in India, they call old stuff, the Hindus and the Muslims fighting. It’s an old thing that’s carried on through the centuries. Here, the racism that’s inherent in our culture and our political structure, it’s an old thing that’s been going on for a long time. We need to recognize that and we need to make whatever effort we can to help all beings be treated with kindness and respect and equal have equal opportunities. We don’t want our children to be scared to walk down the street. Why do we allow somebody else’s children to be scared when they walk down the street. It’s a terrible situation and it needs to change. How to do that is not so easy, but one thing’s for sure, if we act out of anger, we will not be as successful as we want to be.
Q: It’s a hard time. Can you give advice for those who are struggling financially? Also, those who have, but don’t feel secure?
It’s a very hard time for everybody. I can’t imagine what a single mother feels, someone who’s working as a waitress and all the restaurants closed down and this woman can’t afford to feed her family, people who lose their job, lose their apartments, lose the house. It’s inconceivable to me. It’s so horrendous.
I don’t know what to tell you in terms of what to do in the outside world, but certainly, if we’re going to survive this, we have to find a way to keep calm, to manifest some peace of mind as best we can, and don’t let the outside circumstances destroy us. It’s not easy. It is not easy. There’s no question about that.
You know, there’s some program running in us that we don’t feel, we don’t deserve to feel okay if everything around us is screwed up, but that’s not actually a good program that’s running. We are okay inside. We need to get in touch with that place so that everything we do carries that vibration of okayness.
But this is a terrible situation. It’s a very difficult situation, very, very painful for so many people. There’s no easy answer here, but you do the best you can to take care of yourself, take care of those that you can help and just do the best you can. That’s all we can ask for anybody. Just do the best you can.
Q: How much minimum should we chant daily? Sometimes I feel I don’t get the same kick that I got yesterday. What to do in this situation?
This is a spiritual practice. It is not a drug. This is not something we do for a temporary high or a temporary feeling of pleasure. This is mind training. We are training ourselves to become more present with whatever arises in our consciousness. When you sit to meditate, you might feel all blissed out one day and feel like shit the next day. The idea is not to be attached and identified with either one of those. If you’re doing your mantra, you sit and you do your mantra. When you notice you’re thinking about something, you come back. When you notice you’re dreaming about something, you come back. When you notice you’re planning something, come back, remembering something, you come back.
This is not, we’re not doing this for temporary pleasure. We’re not doing this to escape from life. We’re doing this to get the muscles and the strength to go through the day in a good way without being destroyed by too much of this or too little of this or too much. It’s not about that. This is about finding out who you really are, and who we really are is not either one of these two things, whether they’re feeling good or feeling bad. Those are experiences. They come and go. That’s the nature of experience. You don’t necessarily have to hold on to that. In fact, you can’t. As you say, one day, you felt good, now today you’re not getting the same kick, but you’re still just as here today, as you were yesterday.
That’s the point of all these practices; to accept what comes, and let it come and let it go. That’s the deal. That’s why it’s a spiritual practice and not a temporary way to get a little pleasure, and why it’s not something that you, there’s no button to push to make, all of a sudden, everything wonderful. It takes time to deprogram ourselves from just the situation you mentioned; wanting this and not wanting that.
You don’t want this. You want this. If you don’t get this, it’s not good. If you get this, too much of this, it’s not good. This is not about any of those things.
The third Chinese patriarch of Zen, who wrote this beautiful Sutra called the Trust in the Heart Sutra, said, “The great way is not difficult for those with no preferences.”
So, recognize your preferences and let go, again and again and again and again until there’s no one to let go. And then you’re fully here. You’re no longer identified with your thoughts, with your feelings, you’re no longer stuck like glue to your negative emotions and to the stories we tell ourselves. This is all about freeing us from that stuff so we can truly find happiness all the time and in everything and love, real love that doesn’t come and go. It’s there within us.
Q: Can you talk about falling in love with someone who you know will not be sensitive to your needs?
Sweetheart, kind sir, whoever you are, relationships are business. You give, you get. You take, you receive.
What we want is love. Love doesn’t come from somewhere else or someone else. Love is who we are. Most of us have programs that are running, that create the situation where we, we fall in love, and we think we’re going to get everything we need from this person. It usually takes some amount of time till you realize that is not what’s going to happen. How could it be possible that you get everything that you need from somebody when it’s already within us?
There was a time in my life that, as soon as I started to fall in love with somebody, I ran the other way, because every time I fell in love with someone and got involved with someone, it turned out to be the same person, my mother. It turned out to be someone who was incapable of loving me the way I needed to be loved. So, I would run. As soon as I felt myself falling, I would run in the other direction. I forced myself to. I did that for a long time, and I think it helped me in the long run because I kept noticing that need in me, and I fell asleep in that need. I believed I needed this. Without this, I could never be happy, which is strange, very strange.
One time, I was in India with Dada, who was one of Maharajji’s great old devotees. This is, I think Maharajji was still in the body, a long time ago, and there was this couple who had kind of met at Maharajji’s feet and kind of got together, but they were having all kinds of problems, and the guy had visited Dada just before I got there. And so, when I got to Dada’s house, you know, I was hanging out with him and we were talking and he told me that this guy had come there and he had said to Dada, “Dada, I can’t live without her. I can’t live without her.”
Dada just looked at me and he said, “Can you imagine that?”
It was so out of his conceptual reality, you know, he could not believe that anybody could say that. It was, the way he said to me, “Can you imagine that?” He was so, he was like…
A lot of times we get involved with people who, on purpose, who can’t give us what we need, because we don’t want to let ourselves be happy. Those are all programs that are running and all those programs are based on the fact that we believe we are separate from everybody else. We are a separate little bubble of individuality that is just the same all the time, and always different from everybody else, and around that belief, everything orbits, all our stuff orbits around that planet of “me.” Spiritual practice, over time, will thin out that belief. It will lessen the gravitational field that holds all those stories so close to us, and it ripens us. It ripens our hearts. It ripens us, even it ripens us emotionally and brings positive emotions to us, helpful emotions rather than destructive emotions.
So, I wish you well.
Q: Which book?
Trust in the heart Sutra. It’s called, Trust in the Heart Sutra. It’s by the third patriarch of Chinese Zen. That’s all I can tell you. I don’t think it’s a book in itself, but it’s maybe part of a book.
Q: My partner isn’t taking COVID as seriously as I think he should. I’ve tried science, reason, compassion, examples, and he brushes it off. I’m having a hard time keeping my peace. What do I do?
Lock him in a closet.
What to do? Either you leave or you stay. If you stay, you recognize you’re not going to get him to be who you want him to be. If you leave, he has to deal with it by himself. If he falls sick, he has to take care of himself. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? You can’t change this person. Obviously, you say you’ve tried and that’s very kind of you, but if he’s not listening, he’s not listening. Nothing’s going to make him listen. He is not, he’s blinded by whatever particular ignorance he’s blinded by, and he will have to live out the results of those karmas, of his own actions.
There’s so many crazy stories going on about this and that, and there is science out there. Now people don’t even believe in science, which boggles my mind. It’s like saying you don’t, “I don’t believe in gravity.”
You don’t have to believe in it. That’s what’s sticking you to the earth, my friend.
It’s strange stuff. All you can try to do is keep your peace of mind by recognizing that there’s nothing you can do, and there’s no way you can protect them from the results of his own actions. So, don’t allow yourself to be destroyed by that. There’s no reason to do that. You’ve done what you can. Next. It’s cold and it’s hard, but that’s the truth. What more can you do? You can only love him and let him be who he is and don’t let yourself be destroyed by it.
What are your options? Be destroyed or not be destroyed? It’s up to you. It’s hard because we care about people, but ultimately, we have to let other people be who they are. There’s nothing you can do about that.
Q: How can I be more fearless? I practice fearlessness daily.
How do you practice fearlessness? You know, how can you practice fearlessness? By making yourself go play in traffic and not be afraid? Sometimes fear is useful. It means recognizing that there’s danger in the world. There’s danger here. There’s danger here. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing what’s dangerous and not helpful to us. Fearlessness comes when you trust yourself, when you learn to trust your own intuition about things and you learn to act based on that trust.
There’s a saying that we used to have; “Faith, no? Fear. Faith? No fear.”
So whatever thing you have faith in, if it’s real faith, you have no fear. Without faith, or you could even say, confidence in oneself, there’s fear. And there’s a lot of fear in us, because we think we are separate limited entity, we fear the end of that entity, and so we fear death, but for those who know, they say death is not an end. Why fear it? It is a transition. I’ll let you know.
That reminds me of the joke, you know… This really old couple, and the guy’s been sick a long time and he’s dying, and his wife comes. They’re sitting talking, and he’s lying in bed. He’s getting very close to death. And she says, “Tell me, tell me, do you want to be cremated? Or do you want to be buried?”
The guy’s silent for a minute, and he looks up at his wife and he says, “Surprise me.”
All the questions that you asked, they’re all issues that you can become aware of yourself. Don’t give up your practice. Deepen your practice as best you can. Keep it going. Remember, it’s not about what you’re feeling at the time of practice, necessarily. Keep it going whether you’re feeling any devotional feelings, whether you’re angry, whether you’re sad, whether you’re tired, do your practice. Do your practice. It’s the way. If we don’t plant those seeds, those fruits will never grow for us. So, regardless of how difficult it becomes in the world, regardless of what’s going on in your life, try to remember to remember, as often and as deeply as you can.
Sharon Salzberg always says, “The most important moment of the practice is when you break from your life to do it. It’s the first moment you sit down.” Because then you’ve given yourself a chance to calm down and to cultivate a deeper awareness, a more open awareness and a wider heart.