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 July 2 2020
“All chants are useful. All practice is useful. If it’s not COVID, it’s the fact that you’re going to die of something else, but you don’t pay attention to that. COVID is just making you aware of that in a very nasty way. But yes, death is a part of life. We live every day as if it’s never going to touch us, we’re never going to get sick, we’re never going to die. We just go on piling shit up, getting more stuff. This situation has faced everybody with impermanence, as they say, which is one of the signs of samsara, of the world, that things are impermanent and changing, and it’s a very painful lesson for us, all of us. No question about it. “ – Krishna Das
Namaste. Howdy everybody. We’re here again. Still here. So, let’s recognize that even though we can’t see each other physically, we are still in the same space together, the space of the heart, the sky of the heart, where we always are together. All we need to do is remember to look.
One of the words for chanting is “bhajan,” which means “to remember,” one of the meanings of the word. So, we were trying to remember to remember.
So many of the great saints that I met in India, and even up to this day, all talk about the practice of the repetition of the name and how, how effective it is, and how it’s the real practice for this age. It’s the easiest way to overcome the tendencies we have in our minds and hearts and the programs that run behind the scenes all the time telling us that we’re not enough, we’re no good, we’ll never get what we want, we’ll never be happy.
So, you’ll notice how difficult it is to actually pay attention when you’re singing. You might feel good. You might feel bad. But whatever it is you feel, you should keep the awareness on the presence of the name, on the sound of the name, because that’s what will take us deeper into ourself. We don’t want to go sideways. We don’t want to, it’s not all about what you’re experiencing when you do this practice. All the saints say, all the yogis say that when you’re sitting down, that’s not the only time that the practice is important. It resonates through the day, and when you’re not looking, something arises from within, some understanding, some new way of seeing something will come from inside, and in these particular times now, when it’s, we’re all faced with our mind and our stuff right in front of us, and our emotions all day long, it’s big time stuff. So, this is the most important thing. Practice during this period will bring great fruits to our life, because we are so reactive most of the day, reading the papers, talking to people who are suffering, and our own unhappiness, our own suffering. So, this is the time to plant those seeds.
All right, let’s take some questions. Here’s a long question.
Q: Though the mind can play its own games and have its own irrelevant theories, what does your heart tell you about what Maharajji said about appearing in the body in America?
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but in the old days, Maharajji said, “I’ll come to you, I’ll come with you to America.”
So, we said to him, “Yes, we’ll bring you in our hearts.”
And he said, “Nay! In the body.”
Well, I’m still waiting. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been here. It just means I didn’t see him. So, you know, there’s no way of capturing him, no way at all, but if you see him, please let me know. Tell him I’m thinking about him and maybe he wants to give me a call or a text.
Q: Thanks for the amazing start.
Whatever that means.
I have been having wild dreams lately. I wonder if you have seen Maharajji in dreams and what has been his message to you?
Well, I had a couple of dreams of Ram Dass this week that were, they were very sweet. I don’t remember dreams that much, these days. I don’t remember the last time I dreamt about Maharajji. It wasn’t that long ago. Sometimes we’re just hanging out. Sometimes we’re going somewhere. It’s very rarely, as far as I remember, any kind of teaching or any kind of, anything like that. Sometimes darshan. That’s all I want to do is see him, anyway, be with him.
Also, the use of hallucinogenic substances to instill translate states in order to experience visions, et cetera. Is that, or is it merely adding up to another layer of illusion?
Well, we all like excitement. We all like experiences. On one hand, if it wasn’t for peyote, which is a psychedelic cactus from the Southwest, I don’t know if I’d be here, because that’s what blasted my heart open. I took it after my junior year in high school, and I remember very clearly that I had no doubt that what I was experiencing and what I was seeing was more real than the world I thought, the world I had been living in, the world as I had seen it before this experience. But of course, it didn’t last, but still, it definitely woke me up to some degree.
Now, you know, Maharajji had said that LSD, the “yogi medicine” he called it, can bring you into the room with Christ, but you can’t stay. So, after you get thrown out of that room a few million times, don’t you want to stay?
But drugs, hallucinogenics won’t allow you to stay, partially because there’s still a “you” having the experience, regardless of how subtle it is and what you’re seeing or experiencing. At least that’s my feeling about it.
And as long as there’s a “you” or a “me,” we’re going to get kicked out of the room, but when there’s only Christ, only love, what room is there to get kicked out of?
You know, when Ram Dass gave Maharajji the acid the second time, I was there. I’ll tell you the story.
So, the first time when Ram Dass went to India in ‘67, he met Maharajji, and he had this incredible transformational experience the first day, and his heart opened and it was incredible, changed his life. The next day, when he came to see Maharajji, Maharajji said, “You have medicine? Give me.”
So, Ram Dass thought Maharajji had a headache. So, he took out some aspirin and Maharajji said, “Nay nay. The Yogi medicine.”
So, Ram Dass thought, “Well, he must be talking about acid.”. So, he had three or four pills of humongously powerful and pure Owsley acid. He holds them out to Maharajji in his hand and Maharajji takes them, throws them in his mouth and they sat around all day and nothing happened. There was no change in Maharajji all day long. This was very big, big thing for Ram Dass because he knew that acid had changed his life, but he didn’t know what it was. What is it really doing? What is it? So, he brought some to India with him to give to people, to try to find out what this is. Who knows? But nobody he met… Some people liked it. Some people didn’t, but nobody seemed to know, and then when he got to Maharajji, nothing happened. I mean, he took enough acid to put a horse on the moon and nothing happened.
So, when Ram Dass came back to America and was telling these stories, some people came to him and said, “You know, he scammed you. He threw it over his shoulder. Nobody could take that much acid.”
So, Ram Dass didn’t think so, but he did have a little bit of doubt.
So, the next time we were in India, a whole bunch of things happened and we found ourselves with Maharajji in Vrindavan at his temple, and we were sitting there and Maharajji, he looks at Ram Dass and he said, “When you were in India last time, did you give me medicine?”
And Ram Dass said, “Yes.”
He said, “Did I take it?”
Ram Dass said, “I think so.”
“Oh, got anymore?”
“Give it to me.”
So, I don’t know if you can see this, but Ram Dass offered the acid to Maharajji and Maharaji took each pill like this four times. And then we sat around for a while. He said, “Can I drink water?”
So, he drank some water and after a few minutes, he takes his blanket, and he puts it over his head like this, and then he opens it up and goes like this, and Ram Dass turned purple. I have never seen a human being turn purple. He turned purple. Because he, he said to himself, “Oh my God, he really didn’t take it last time. But he knew I had doubts. So, now he wanted to prove to me he could take it. I’ve killed my guru.”
So right. As soon as he thought that, Maharajji dropped the whole show and just laughed and said, “Yogis have known about this for thousands of years. It used to grow up in the Kullu valley,” which is a valley in the Western Himalayas, and he said a few other things. He said, “For a Yogi who knows God, no poison can affect him.”
He said, “It’s good for beginners.”
So, it kind of depends how you see yourself and what you’re able to do and how you see yourself, what you want out of life.
Q: The lady next to Neem Karoli Baba?
That lady? This is Siddhi Ma. Siddhi Ma is Maharajji’s great devotee and she had been with him for 40, 45, 50 years, maybe, 40 years or more. Since he, since Maharajji left the body in ‘73, which is what, almost 40 years ago, right? ’73.. more… anyway, she’s his closest disciple and devote and she and another Ma named Jivanti Ma spent much time with Maharajji in his later years. She took care of us Westerners so sweetly and with such grace and love and tolerance and patience over all these years that we’ve been going to India since Maharajji left the body in ’73, and she left the body about two years ago. So, yeah. She is very wonderful.
Q: What is the best book to read about Maharajji?
There’s really a number of books and they’re all good.
“Miracle of Love” that Ram Dass put out, Ram Dass wrote. And then there’s two books by Dada Mukherjee called “By His Grace” and “The Near and the Dear,” and there’s two other books, one by Larry Brilliant called “Sometimes Brilliant,” and in it, he tells the story of how Maharajji sent him to work for the United Nations organization, health organization, and how they eradicated smallpox, and there’s many beautiful stories about Maharajji in that book. And another one called, “Love Everyone,” which Parvati Markus, who Maharajji used to call “private secretary,” she took all our diaries and she pulled things out of our diaries and created like, how it was hanging out for the day with Maharajji, what it felt like, all the things that we thought about and experienced while we were hanging out. It’s a fantastic book and that’s called “Love Everyone.” And there’s a couple others, but that’s a good way to start.
Q: Is there an English unabridged edition of Sri Ramacharitmanasa?
Yes, the Gita Press puts out a full bilingual edition. One of them is even like, trilingual. One has the Hindi, the English and the transliteration, and one has the Hindi and English translation. So, they’re out there for sure, and I think Motilal Banarsidass also does that.
Q: How about me? Do I take LSD or anything else to help you connect with higher spirits?
Yes, I do coffee. Mochas every morning. It helps me connect with real life because I can’t wake up without it. No, I don’t do any more chemicals. You know, I haven’t for, I haven’t done… When’s last time I did acid? It was when I asked Maharajji. I had some acid Ram Dass had given me an India and I said, “Baba, can I take this?”
And he said, “Yes. When you’re in a quiet place, and a cool place, and your mind is at peace,” which is almost never, but I found a minute there where that I fit those categories and I took it and I fell asleep and I woke up, you know, 10 hours later. That was it.
So, I don’t, I don’t take anything, any chemicals anymore, any psychedelics or anything. I haven’t for many years.
Q: How do I feel that getting old and dying one day? will you go to Vaikuntha?
That’s a heaven world.
You know, in the Hanuman Chalisa, there’s a line… What is that line?
Anta kala raghubara pura jai Jaha janma haribhakta kahai
It says that “At the end of time, when you die, you’ll be reborn in Ram’s world as a devotee of Ram”
So, Arjun, who plays tabla with me when we play together, once asked Siddhi Ma, “Does that mean, like when we die, we’re going to go to heaven? Like Ram’s world?”
And she said, “Not exactly.”
So, I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m going, but I hope there’ll be TV.
Q: Can I please explain if it’s easy to let go of things, feelings, especially letting one’s self let go of one’s emotional attachments?
No, it’s not easy. It’s very hard. The whole spiritual path is about letting go of attachment and your identification with your thoughts and your feelings and your emotions. It’s not pushing away because it’s painful. It’s not pushing away. It’s letting go. And there’s a huge difference. Letting go takes practice.
That’s why we chant. That’s why we meditate or do spiritual practice. Every time we notice we’re gone in dreamland and thinking about something, we come back. Gone, back, gone back, gone, back. This is what trains us to release those negative feelings, and it’s not easy. No, it’s very difficult. But what else are you going to do? Allow all that stuff to eat you alive for the rest of your life? No, you have to do some practice or nothing’s going to happen. So, each one of us has to figure out what we want in life and what we want to do to get those things for ourselves and for others as well.
One can’t really have peace of mind if one’s angry at everybody. One can’t have peace of mind if one is trying to find all this stuff in the outside world. You’re always off center. So, the idea is, find out who we are and move more deeply into our true being, into our hearts, and it is not easy, but it’s not impossible, and every bit of practice you do on this path is very important. It’s big. Every time you remember to let go and to come back to the practice, come back to the sound of the name or whatever, that’s a tremendous thing. And Krishna says in the Gita that every effort we make on this path is huge, because mostly we’re just floating down the river towards the waterfall, and we’re going to go over the falls and be destroyed. We don’t even realize we’re moving towards the falls. So, in fact, anytime you recognize that, and you try to swim to the shore or swim against the stream of life as it’s been going on, it’s a very big thing. So, even though finding real love, finding what lives within us, is not an instant thing, it’s possible for everyone, and if you’re even thinking about these things, you already have grace, you already have the karmas to bring this into your life, otherwise… Not many people in the world really have the option to be thinking about this, for many reasons, some of them external, some of them internal.
Q: How does Maharajji show up in our lives if we are householders?
Are you human? If you’re a human, he shows up. What do you mean “householders?” You think he only shows up to renunciates? To swamis? Why would that be the case? He himself wasn’t a Swami. He never, he didn’t wear Swami clothes. He wasn’t a Swami. He’s a Baba. Different. He wasn’t a renunciant, externally. Within, he had renounced everything and had become one with the universe. Whatever you, what you do has nothing to do with who you are, and he is with you all the time, because he is the indwelling presence within us. We don’t look and we don’t remember to look, and even if we remember to look, we don’t know how to look, and even if we don’t know how to look, we don’t know where to look. So, but that doesn’t mean he’s not with us. That doesn’t mean God is not with us every moment, householder or not householder or dog or cat makes no difference.
Q: Are you finding the situation, not being able to travel and sing with people, difficult?
Yeah. It’s so difficult. Rolling out of bed whenever I feel like. No, I don’t find it difficult at all. I didn’t find traveling difficult. I don’t find staying home difficult. It’s just life. There are difficulties in everything. So, you just do the best you can. My body is enjoying the downtime for sure.
Q: How do you find peace within yourself when others are not happy with you or challenging your boundaries?
Peace within has nothing to do with what’s going on outside, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant. Your true nature, our true nature is peace. When we are in touch with that, regardless of what’s going on outside, it does not affect that peace and in fact, that’s what allows us to deal with situations in the outside world more skillfully, and in a way that helps relieve suffering rather than just have knee jerk reactions.
Peace is our true nature, but we are identified with the waves of the ocean, not recognizing that even those waves are made only of water. They are made up only of ocean, but we’re lost in those waves, and the bubbles on the waves, and the action and activity on the waves. So, we have to dive deep, as they say, within us, to find that peace, and when you do touch your true nature, nothing outside can affect that. You don’t have to push away. You’re simply not pushed around by that stuff. You don’t need to protect yourself.
So, but now what you say here is, it involves other people. So, there’s one amazing thing called “communication.” So, if you’re in a relationship with people and it’s not functioning properly, try communicating with them. Don’t sit around, move around and mope and take everything in and blame everybody else. That’s not going to help, but try to communicate, and don’t expect other people to respect your boundaries if you don’t know how to set them with love. Boundaries are boundaries. They don’t have to be hurtful to other people. People may not understand, but one can set those boundaries with kindness. Also, they don’t have to be a threat to other people, but communication is very important. You have to talk to people if possible. If not, you set your boundaries and you just do the best you can, but it’s, we all have trouble setting boundaries without anger and blame, because we’re never taught how to do that. Nobody in my family knew about that, so how was I going to learn? It takes time and awareness.
Q: Do I find a particular chant to be useful when feeling anxious because of the impact of COVID-19?
No. All chants are useful. All practice is useful. If it’s not COVID, it’s the fact that you’re going to die of something else, but you don’t pay attention to that. COVID is just making you aware of that in a very nasty way. But yes, death is a part of life. We live every day as if it’s never going to touch us, we’re never going to get sick. We’re never going to die. We just go on piling shit up, getting more stuff. This situation has faced everybody with their, with impermanence, as they say, which is one of the signs of samsara, of the world, that things are impermanent and changing, and it’s a very painful lesson for us, all of us. No question about it.
Any mantra you do, any practice you do is a medicine for anxiety and fear and pain, but you can’t just do it when you feel like it. You have to cultivate it over time so it works. It’s not something you just do for five minutes or 10 minutes, or even an hour or every day. It’s something that you have to develop an attitude towards life that the practice strengthens. It’s not just enough to do practice by itself. One has to take that practice off the mat, so to speak, into the day and treat other people well, and treat other people in a way that doesn’t create more suffering. So, it’s a big thing.
Q: Do I believe animals can attain enlightenment or help us to attain enlightenment?
I don’t know. I don’t even know if I can attain enlightenment.
But if you read the tales of the Buddha, there’s a thing called the Jataka Tales, where Buddha has recounted stories of all his previous incarnations as he was developing Buddhahood and becoming a bodhisattva, and many of those lifetimes were as animals. Very interesting. One of them, He was a monkey who saved his whole tribe of monkeys and sacrificed his own life to save his tribe. He made a bridge. There were some beautiful stories. The Jataka Tales.
So, of course, animals are us too, you know, they’re all part of the scheme of things. And if you believe in reincarnation and if you think it might be true, and if you read about it, you’ll see that animal incarnation is one of the, it’s one of the places we’ve been. They say there are 84,000 different wombs to take birth in on the way to enlightenment and that includes insects and all that stuff. So don’t ask me, I don’t know for sure. I’m just mouthing off what I’ve heard.
Q: Why does it take so long to touch your true nature? Why can’t the self pull you once, once you have a sincere desire for it?
Because you think you’re you, that’s why, and you’re identified with your so-called ego. The self is always here, but we’re not looking, and you talk like it’s something else or someone else. Why can’t the self pull you once you have a sincere desire for it? What do you mean “it” and “pull you?” What are you talking about? It’s your own true nature. It’s who you really are already. We’re trying to uncover that. That’s all. And we are being pulled as fast as we’re allowing ourselves to go. There’s nothing, no one to blame and no one to complain to. We are being pulled into ourselves as fast as we’re able to let go of our egos. Period.
But you can’t let go of something like that. How do you let go? It’s like the monkey and the stick, you know. A monkey wants the stick. He reaches into, or the fruit, and he reaches into the cage. While he’s holding onto the stick he can’t take his hand out. So, he gets caught. If he’d let go of the stick, he wouldn’t get caught.
We don’t want to let go. We want it all. We want the stick and everything, but we don’t want to let go. So, we get caught because we believe we’re separate beings. We identify with our thoughts and our emotions. We allow those programs that are running all the time, telling us what we are and who we are and what we are and what we’re worth or not worth. So, that’s why. That’s why.
And you can’t just renounce that, because you just can’t, because like Ramana Maharshi said, “Asking the mind to destroy the mind,” so to speak, “is like asking the thief to be the policeman. There’ll be a lot of investigation, but no arrest will ever be made.”
So that’s the deal.
Q: When you chant, what do you focus on? How do you feel when you do it?
You know, I get this question a lot and I have to keep pointing out that it is not about what you feel.
When you’re chanting, when we are chanting, we are trying to stay with the sound of the name, trying to stay aware of the sound of the name, but we get lost over here. We get lost over there. We start thinking about the future, the past. We can’t stop our thoughts and we can’t, at this point, actually notice them as they arise. We don’t notice them until they let go of us. Then we come back to the Name.
So, whatever I’m feeling when I’m singing, especially in terms of emotions and outside things, whether my knee hurts, or my back hurts, or my arms are tired, or I’m hungry, or I’m feeling good, or this chant’s really working, the drum machine is working good tonight, et cetera, et cetera, all that stuff, you just like go. You just let go. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about me. It’s not about what we’re feeling in the moment. We are planting the seeds that will dissolve this ego, this false, separate illusion that we are separate.
So, it isn’t about that. What I focus on is the sound of the name, and then things start to happen from the inside. Things, a different awareness opens up, a space might open up, something might happen from the inside, but you have to pay attention. Otherwise, you wouldn’t even notice it.