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 18 2020
“My understanding is that everything in our life is a result of karma, and it’s like waves coming in off the ocean and they crash over us. If we fight with those waves, we create more karma. We are reacting against them. If we allow them to just crash over us, the energy dissipates. So, the way to meet the way we live every day is what’s important, the way we meet every day and every moment that arrives.” – Krishna Das
Namaste. Hi everybody. Welcome back, even though we didn’t go anywhere. I hope everybody’s doing well and holding up in these times, very intense times. This is when the practice that we do and have done comes to our rescue and lessens the intensity of the negative emotions and panic and anxiety and fear. It gives us an opportunity to be more aware and to release that stuff again and again, so it doesn’t push us around too much. And of course, for me, the chanting is the main practice that I do.
Just looking for a poem I wanted them to read to you. I don’t have it with me, but is it’s a Rumi poem. Rumi was an incredible Sufi Saint. He wrote extraordinary poetry, unbelievable, ecstatic poetry, loving poetry.
This one poem goes, so this guy was praying and his lips grew sweet with the praising of the Lord, “Allah, Allah.” Then a cynic comes by and says to the guy, “Why are you praying? Have you ever gotten an answer?”
And the guy thought, “No, I never got an answer.”
So, he quit praying. That night he fell into a deep confused sleep, and in the dream, he saw the guide of souls surrounded by a green foliage.
“Why did you stop praying?”
The guy says, “Because I never got an answer.”
And the guide says, “The calling out is the answer. You hear the whining of that dog in the distance, crying for its master? That’s the connection. The crying out is the connection.” And he says, “There are love dogs that no one knows of. Give your life to become one of them.”
Give your life to cry out so deeply for the love and for the praise and for the love of the Lord, in that ecstasy of oneness. The calling out is the answer, the response.
That switches it around, doesn’t it? We think we’re doing this because we want something, but actually, we’re being pulled within and our response to the pull, our hearts turn within. That’s the calling out. That’s the chanting. That’s the praising. That’s the prayer.
In the 1800s in India, there was a great Saint named Rama Krishna Paramahansa. You might’ve heard of the book that was written about him called, “The gospel of Ramakrishna.” That was one of the first books that I read about this stuff and it blew my mind. In the book, well, I don’t even know if it’s in that book, but I saw a quote from him about the practice of the repetition of the name, which is what my Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, always encouraged us to do. Love everyone, serve everyone, and repeat the name. Remember God.
So, Rama Krishna said that every repetition of one of these names is a seed and, you know, the seed of an Oak tree is very, very small, but inside of that seed, there is extraordinary potential. So, inside these seeds that we plant of the repetition of the name is extraordinary potential, and he says that, the seeds of the repetition of the name may get caught by the wind and blown around, and they may get caught on the roof, land on the roof of an old house, in the middle of the jungle. And in those days, the roofs were made sometimes from clay tiles that were baked in the sun, and the seeds of the repetition of the names that we do get caught between those tiles, and then over time and seasons, rain, wind, snow, sun, those tiles begin to break down and they get soft, and at that point, the seeds of the repetition of the names start to take root, and the roots begin to grow, and they grow and they grow and they destroy the roof of this house, and they keep growing and they destroy the walls of the house. Ramakrishna says, that old house is who we think we are, our conventional sense of who we think we are, of our self, our ego, our small “s” self.
Now, that house was built for certain reasons, and one of the things that it does, having been built is, it separates the inside from the outside. There’s an outside and an inside. There’s me and there’s everything else. When those walls are broken down, there’s only presence and being, reality, truth, consciousness, bliss. There’s no longer the temporary ego, which was created out of desire and craving.
So, you notice what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Well, when you’re repeating the name, it’ll feel like this, or it might feel like this, or this might happen, or that might happen.”
Why doesn’t he say that? Because it’s not about that. It does not matter what you experience.
Okay. You’re having a nice time. Good. Have a nice time. Oh, you’re having a bad time? Okay. Have a bad time. You’re repeating the name. You let go of whatever arises in your mind, whatever emotions come and go, whatever thoughts come, they go. You try to keep coming back to the name, again and again and again, and this practice is not so hard to do because there’s singing or vocalization and there’s breathing involved, and then hearing the name also at the same time. All that helps you to pay, helps us to pay some attention, and little by little, we get more comfortable sitting more deeply in ourselves, reacting less to external things, clinging to thoughts and emotions so strongly, glued to them less intensely, and as time goes on, that deepens. It’s a ripening process.
And that’s why people ask me, “What’s a good mantra for this?”
All mantras, all repetition of the name, those mantras are good for everything. They’re not, there’s no downside for those mantras, and for the repetition, and the “Names of God,” as they say. So, that’s why it’s such a wonderful practice to do. And Maharajji said, “From going on repeating these names, everything is accomplished.”
Everything is accomplished. Everything is made full and complete. Our path comes to the end and we recognize our true nature, and we dissolve into that and we become the whole universe. At least that’s what they say. We’ll see.
Q: There’s a line in one of my songs that says, “I followed you through the flame. I follow you through the flame,” referring to my Guru. What did it mean to me?
You know, I don’t know. That particular song, I woke up with that one day in the middle of the night. I sat down at the harmonium. I sang it. I recorded it, and then I went back to sleep and in the morning, I didn’t even remember what I did. At some point in the day, I said, “Did I wake up last night?”
But be that as it may, what it means to me is that I just follow. My path in this life is to follow him right through the flame of this world, right through the burning that this world is.
You know, there’s a sermon of the Buddha. One of the first teachings he gave is called “The Fire Sermon.” And part of it goes, “Oh, Monks,” he said, “the eyes are on fire with seeing. The ears are on fire with hearing. The skin is on fire with touch. The tongue is on fire with taste.” What else is there? “And the nose is on fire with smell.”
So, we don’t experience our daily life as like we’re on being on fire, which, because our consciousness is so gross, so insensitive and dull, but as we calm down, as our consciousness purifies and opens, we will have that experience that these senses, this sense information is actually burning. It’s very gross stuff.
So, there’s that experience you can have, not that you would want it, but it happens, I guess. So, yeah, that’s what it means to me; that I just, my path is to follow his presence as much as I can in my life.
Q: My lesson has been patience, especially with my partners. 40 years later, when will learning patience be done? I’ve got it and want to move on to other lessons.
I don’t think you got it. If you’ve got it, you wouldn’t want to be moving anywhere. Patience means being with things as they, not trying to change them to please ourselves or others, necessarily. It sounds like you need to work on that patience a little bit, maybe another 40 years.
Q: Do you still get angry after all your years of practice?
No. I never get angry. Right.
Of course, I get angry.
And if so, how do you quiet that feeling?
Well, one thing that happens is, when I’m beginning to get angry, I notice it right away, like, it’s so, because I spend… as you move along on this path, you spend less and less time reacting. So, when a reaction arises, It doesn’t feel good. You notice it right away. So, I try to release it and I try to release all the thoughts about it.
“That son of a bitch, where did he say that for?” You know, “I’m going to get him.”
I just let them go as best I can. They may come back. My job is to keep letting go, but I notice, you know, if it’s a really painful one, if somebody really got me or has, who I feel, somebody’s done something that hurts me, it takes a while to let go of it because all that self-righteousness that comes up.
“Who do they think they are? You know, where do they get off? After all I’ve done for them, they would do this to me?”
That kind of stuff, on and on and on. So don’t be in a hurry, have patience. It ain’t going to go away that fast.
The name of the Rumi poem is “Love Dogs,” and you can find it online, I’m sure.
Q: I feel I’m using chanting to hide from the world and people. How to chant in the right way?
Well, yeah, I mean, there is this thing that they call “spiritual bypassing,” where you’re trying to up-level everything. If people are angry, you say, “Oh, why are you angry? You shouldn’t be angry,” blah, blah, blah, that kind of bullshit.
So, you repeat the name and that’s what you do. Your job is to hear it, remember it, sing it, say it, think it, whatever, and the other job is to let go of whatever comes up. You should let go of this whole idea of what is the right way or the wrong way. There’s no right way or wrong way.
However, you’ve got to remember it isn’t about what you feel, especially when you’re chanting. If you think you’re trying to chant yourself into some blissful state, maybe you’ll do that, but you won’t be able to drive your car. You won’t be able to eat. You won’t be able to talk to people and you won’t be able to take care of yourself. You’ll be stuck in a pleasant state for a certain amount of time, and then it’ll go away.
So, it’s not worth it. But, you know, we want… we’re so needy. We want to feel good. We don’t want to feel bad. That’s not what this practice is about. This practice is about training ourselves to let go of the stuff within us that causes suffering for us and others.
So, yeah, whatever the rest of the question was. So, yeah, there is no right way as such, and if you are bypassing your emotions and trying to get around them by chanting, you’ll fail and it’ll hurt, but you’ll learn. So just keep going.
Q: What is the reason for suffering in life? Is it due to our past karma? And how can we reduce suffering?
I don’t know what it’s due to. You can read a lot of books about that. Basically, they say suffering is due to some kind of craving, craving for pleasure, craving for fame, craving for money, craving for things, and because you crave them, you feel you don’t have them, and so you do all kinds of things. You use people to get them, you do whatever it takes to get them, depending on what state you’re in, and that causes suffering. And yes, there is the idea of karma, but you know, I’m not an expert on that stuff.
My understanding is that everything in our life is a result of karma, and it’s like waves coming in off the ocean and they crash over us. If we fight with those waves, we create more karma. We are reacting against them. If we allow them to just crash over us, the energy dissipates. So, the way to meet the way we live every day is what’s important, the way we meet every day and every moment that arrives, and we try to get a vote in how we react to things.
Basically, we have no vote. Something pushes a button, boom, we’re gone. And that button was karma and the reaction was karma, and we just added more energy to that particular button.
When somebody pushes a button, you go, “Oh, a button was just pushed. This feels really intense. What’s going on here?”
That’s a whole other way of being in the moment, but we don’t usually get that space. We’re not spacious enough to allow that to arise with us. So, the way you, since every action or every thought is karma, is a karmic seed, it also becomes a fruit, so how we react, how we live in this moment, becomes the fruits in the future, regardless of what’s coming into this moment. That’s done already. We can’t change it and all we have is this moment to meet whatever’s arriving in our consciousness, and through spiritual practice, we develop enough space within us to deal with those issues in a less reactive way.
Q: How do I notice my thoughts and release in my sleep? I notice stress and not breathing and getting upset in my sleep and I can’t release in my sleep.
Well, when you’re in deep sleep, you don’t, you’re not aware of anything. When you’re not in deep sleep, they say there’s different levels of consciousness in your, between deep sleep and awake, what we call “awake.” So, I don’t know what you’re experiencing, really. If you’re aware of what’s happening, you always have the option to let go.
It may not stop, but you stay with the awareness of what’s going on rather than get carried away with it, but that’s not easy. That’s why we say, “Practice when you can.”
When you practice in this state of consciousness in the physical world, it does carry over into the different states of awareness and sleep states, dream states. And of course, there’s many practices about developing conscious dreaming. So, you might want to look into that.
Tenzin… I’m sorry. His name just escaped me. He’s a wonderful Lama, a Tibetan Rinpoche. He teaches about dream yoga and he’s a wonderful Lama. Look it up. You can find it.
Q: My mom says I have a vote and that pushes my buttons. How do I react? I find that so difficult, especially when I see how we don’t sometimes…
You mean a vote? Well, I don’t know who your mom is. I don’t know why she says what she says, but if you’re reacting like that, you didn’t have much of a vote, the way we’re talking about a vote, which means you get a chance not to have a knee jerk reaction right away, a negative response to things.
So, I’m not really sure what your question means. So, if your mom says you have a vote and that pushes your buttons, then what kind of a vote did you have? Then you really don’t have a vote, but she’s, I don’t know if she understands or really doesn’t understand, but, maybe there’s no sense trying to reason with her at this point. And when you develop a vote, she’ll sense that you’re not reacting the way you used to, and that will be… she’ll like that whether she believed it… At first, it might threaten her.
Sometimes in a relationship, if a partner feels that they’re there, the other is, reacting less, they confuse that as the person doesn’t care and they’ll do things to make that person react, and they don’t care almost whether it’s positive or negative. They just want to see that they can still push that person around emotionally or affect that person emotionally, because they’re scared that, what they sense as non-reacting, is that the person is pulling away. That’s not real non-reacting. When you don’t react there’s closeness because you’re not reacting to the person’s stuff. So, you can be right there.
I remember once when I was separating from someone in a relationship that my mother knew. I went out to visit her and she started giving me the third degree about it, you know, and I realized she was frantically reaching for my buttons. She was trying to find the button to get me angry and make me react because she was afraid of whatever. So, I just looked at her and I said, “This is none of your business. This is my relationship.”
I wasn’t angry, but I was just telling her, I said, “Relax.” You know, “It’s not about you. You don’t have to be trying to find my buttons. You know, it’s not, it doesn’t concern you.”
And she let go. She relaxed a little bit, for that moment, anyway.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. That’s the dream yoga. Sorry, Rinpoche. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. He’s the one that teaches dream yoga. He’s a very, very wonderful, very, very wonderful Rinpoche.
Q: Can I tell you a story, a funny story about Neem Karoli Baba?
So, one time, you know, when he used to get up to walk, to go somewhere, walk across the courtyard or going to his room, he would usually reach for somebody’s hand because he kind of walked like a baby, sometimes. You know, it looked like it was going to fall over. It usually was an Indian person. So one day, I saw he was getting up and I kind of elbowed somebody out of the way, and I put my hand out and he grabbed my hand and he looked at me and he laughed. Right? And then we started to walk towards the back of the temple and I’m just like, “Oh, this is so great. I’m holding his hand. He’s holding my hand. He’s leaning on me, walking through the back of the temple.”
Then, he let go of my hand. It was just the two of us. And he let go of my hand and he took a few steps. So, I took a few steps. And then he said something in Hindi, then he took a few steps. So, I took a few steps. Then he said something in Hindi again and took a few steps. So, I took a few steps. Then he just looked at me and he went like this, and he knelt down and he peed.
He just wanted a couple of feet to pee in peace. I wasn’t going to give it to him.
You know, He knew everything; the past, the present, the future. He knew what was in your mind.
He said once, he said, “People come here and they try to fool me.” He said, “I go on fooling the whole world and they come here and try to fool me.” He said, “If they knew who I was, they, they’d pull the hair off of my skin to make an amulet and wear it around their necks.”
Q: What is the ring in the ring song? Hanuman, Where’d you get that ring? What’s the ring?
Well, in the story of the Ramayana, in the story of Ram, I don’t know if you know the story, but basically Rama’s wife, Sita, is kidnapped by the demon Ravana and taken to this island kingdom that he has off the coast of India, which is now Ceylon. Lanka.
And Rama’s wandering around with his brother, Lakshman, trying to find Sita. He has no idea where she is and he’s tripping out. He’s having a breakdown. And then one day in the forest, he meets Hanuman, and through the meeting with Hanuman, an alliance is formed between the monkeys and Ram.
And later on, after the rainy season, all the monkeys spread out over the world to try to find seat Sita, but before they go, before Hanuman goes, Ram, who knows everything, but acts like he doesn’t, takes his ring off, his marriage ring and he gives it to Hanuman, and he says, you know, “If you find Sita, show her this ring, so she believes, so she’ll know it’s from me that you’re, you’re my devotee.”
And that’s what happened. When he first discovered where Sita was, he hid in a tree and he began speaking in very sweet tones so she wouldn’t be afraid, because she was being hassled by these huge monsters all the time. And he didn’t want her to think that he was one of them.
So, he spoke to her for a little while, and then he dropped the ring down to her from the tree above, and she picked the ring up and she said, “This ring cannot be created by magic,” because Ravana the demon was a great magician, but Sita knew that this ring, which was somehow or other, it was a divine ring given to them by the gods, I think, for their wedding.
She knew this ring could not be copied by magic. So, she knew that Hanuman was indeed Rama’s servant and then Hanuman jumped down out of the tree and spoke to her and all that. So, that’s the story of the ring.
Where did you get that ring?
Q: How old was I when I met Maharajji?
I met Maharaji in September, physically, in September, 1970. So, I was 23, but I first met Maharajji inside when I met Ram Dass for the first time in, just before I was 20 and, or wait, I was 21. I was 20 going on 21 in the winter of ’68, ’69… that winter. That’s what I met Ram Dass.
Q: What is my definition of grace?
I don’t know in words. First of all, grace is grace. We don’t deserve grace. We don’t earn grace. It’s not based on anything we do to get it. We don’t not get it if we’re bad little boys and girls and we don’t necessarily get it if we’re good little boys and girls. Then it wouldn’t be grace. Grace is causeless. It’s the natural outflowing of the state of oneness, being, true being. Blessings, in some way, are grace. Real blessings.
In 1971, we were in Vrindavan with Maharajji and I stepped in a hole in the street and I snapped my knee, and when I woke up the next day, it was full of fluid. It was all swollen. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg at all. And we weren’t supposed to come to the temple to see Maharajji until four in the afternoon, but I figured that I had to go to the doctor or something because my knee was like, really bad.
So, I’ve got something to show you.
So, however, so I decided to go to the temple early. My friend, Raghu, he helped me walk to the temple. I had to lean on him because I couldn’t, I really couldn’t put any weight on the leg. And I limped into the temple and Maharaji was sitting alone. No, he was sitting in the courtyard, in the middle of the courtyard with one Indian guy, and I limped up. Right? And I went like this, I couldn’t even do a full pranam, a full bow, because I couldn’t bend my leg. And then I just sat down and he didn’t say anything. I thought he was going to say like, “What are you doing here so early in the morning? You know, I told him not to come.”
No, nothing. He just sat there, like that, looked at me, looked around, nothing. And so, I thought to myself, “Okay, we’re getting a chance to sit with him. They can cut my leg off anywhere they want. I ain’t going nowhere. I’m staying right here.”
So, after some time, not too long a time, he got up, and he took that Indian guy’s hand and they started walking towards the back of the temple. The further away he got from where we were sitting, he started leaning on that Indian devotee, leaning more and more and more, and it looked like he couldn’t even walk.
So, I thought to myself, “He’s taking the karma of my knee.”
Right? Big thought. Whoa.
So, the minute I had that thought, he turned around and basically ran back to where we were sitting, leaving the Indian guy in the dust and he sits down and he looks at me and he said, “You thought I was in pain? You wanted to help me?”
And he pats me on the head. “Good boy. Good boy.”
That’s all. Right? And we just sat there. For hours.
Later in the day, some of the other Westerners arrived and Girija, Larry Brilliant’s, Girija Brilliant, Larry’s wife, had her shoulder bag there on the ground, and in it, there was a Bible. So, Maharajji… Now I had been sitting there for all these hours thinking about it, “What kind of karma is it that I hurt my knee? What is this all about? How does this happen? What did I do? What?”
You know, the usual nonsense that goes on in the brain. So, he grabs her Bible. He opens it up. He doesn’t even look, and he says, “Read this.”
Now you understand it, first of all, he wasn’t supposed to be able to read English. And second of all, he didn’t even look. He just opened it and said, “Read this.”
I looked at it and it was, I didn’t know the Bible. It turned out it was from St. Paul, Letters to Corinthians. And it said, “In order to save me from the abundance of revelation, it was given to me a thorn in the side. And I beseeched the Lord three times to take it from me, and the Lord said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.’”
“My grace is sufficient.”
So, Ram Dass and I have been talking about this for years, you know, and I reminded him of that story last year, I think it was. And we talked about, you know, what that says is that, Grace is happening all the time and it’s enough as it is, and you recognize how extraordinary that is when you see what that, what little you can accomplish with your own will, and that it’s through surrender and recognition of that grace, recognition of that love, recognition of that presence, and recognition of your desire to be in that presence of love all the time, that you surrender your, you recognize that your personal will can’t do that.
The only way to enter into that state of grace is through surrender.
So, which reminds me, I’ll read you something that Ram Dass wrote fairly recently.
“I now accept that his grace is sufficient for me. I need nothing more. Though I have no powers, no great visions or astral contacts, no super energy which frees from sleep, nor am I yet purged of all worldly desires, yet His grace is sufficient, for I am coming to know the power of love. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”
Weakness is one of those words, it’s the translation, but I, what they’re pointing to is the impossibility of the personal will entering into the kingdom of Heaven. Like Jesus said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a man with attachment, or a person with attachment, a rich man, to go to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Then he says, “I’m coming to suspect that I’ve been seeking and expecting the wrong sign, and that who we are to become, we already are. But the humbleness of the sign of the spirit leads us to overlook it. I think that, in my Western desire mind, I have wanted great powers to heal and impress those who are impressed by power, that the spirit exists, and to impress myself, but as faith grows, I come to see that power attracts power and love attracts love, and I am blessed enough to transcend the need for power.
Then I shall become love and know only love in all whom I meet. That is heaven on earth. That’s the true teaching.“