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 25 2020
“There’s a way that even through this camera and the computer and the internet, we actually are connecting in a very deep place, and so little by little one learns to be more aware of the places that we are connected and the way we are connected, and those emotions, which once seemed so huge, don’t seem so huge anymore.” – Krishna Das
I’m going to read you something. As you know, this practice that we’re doing is called “The repetition of the divine name or names.” In India, in the east, they understand that the Supreme being is beyond all form, but actually embraces all form as well. So, they said, there’s an unlimited amount, number of names of God, and that every being has divinity within them, their soul, the soul, that reflection. That ray of light that lights up every being is the same in all of us. Each one of us has that same ray of light.
So, a great Saint named Sri Anandamayi Ma, wrote this:
“At all times the repetition of the Lord’s name should be kept up. Through the practice of the Name, enjoyment, liberation, peace, all these will blossom forth. Invoke him by the name that appeals to you most for as much time as you can. The longer, the better. In this way you will, at some auspicious moment, discover the rosary of the mind, the Mala of the mind, the beads of the mind, and then you will continually hear within yourself the praises of the great master, the Lord of creation, like the never ceasing music of the boundless ocean. You will hear the land and the sea, the air in the heavens reverberate with the song of his glory. This is called ‘The all-pervading presence of the name.’”
That’s why I always say, just do the practice and live your life. It’s not up to us to make something happen. All we’re doing is trying to tune into that place where it’s already happening within us.
Remember, try not to attract, don’t get caught in trying to manipulate yourself into one particular type of experience that you feel might be blissful, et cetera, et cetera. Through the practice of the repetition of the name, the presence within us is uncovered. That presence is always here, but we’re not looking. We are not paying attention. Through this practice of the repetition of the name, we’re continually invoking that place within us.
Q: It’s wonderful chanting with you this way, but I find myself missing the ecstatic moments of chant together in person when the energy and excitement really heat up. Do I miss that?
I miss chanting with people, but probably not for that reason. It’s a wonderful experience to be in a room full of people, everybody chanting, and to feel, hear the name, and to feel the presence more deeply.
When you chant, the idea is to focus on the name itself. The name is the name of your true nature, of the place within you that is joy, happiness, peace, bliss, the kind of bliss that doesn’t come and go. It’s the kind of bliss that you are. One can’t see it from here. It’s covered up.
So, if you’re desiring a certain type of experience while you’re chanting, then you’re looking for that experience and you’re not looking at the name itself. The name is a door. We’re in a room full of stuff. We’ve been playing with stuff our whole lives, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, too much of this, less of that. I’ll take this. I’ll throw that away, playing with ways to feed our senses and feed ourselves pleasurable experiences.
The name is a door out of that room into real love, love that doesn’t come and go, love you don’t have to buy with affection or attention, the love that is who you are, and it’s vast and huge and includes everything and everyone. So, if you’re not paying attention to the name, you’re not aiming for the door, so to speak. That’s okay. We’re all doing the best we can and we are planting seeds within ourselves of the name, just like I read from Anandamayi, just now.
“Through the practice of the name, enjoyment, liberation, peace, all these will blossom forth.”
She’s not talking about everyday stuff. She’s talking about a much deeper level of experience, an experience of reality, of truth, of being, an experience of that place within us, that flame within us that cannot be extinguished ever, no matter what is happening in the outside world. That’s what we’re here for, to enter into that presence within us.
So, please pay attention and notice how you feel if you’re not getting what you think you wanted, and then let go of that feeling. You keep letting go and coming back to the name until only the name exists, and that name is who you are. It is not something else or someone else or somewhere else.
Q: Did I meet Mingyur Rinpoche before or after his four-year going forth into homelessness retreat?
I met him before, some years before, and I’ve met him since, and he was wonderful before, and is if it’s possible, even more wonderful now. An extraordinary being, Mingyur Rinpoche, Tibetan Lama.
Q: Is there anything called “Shambala” in reality?
Shambala is supposed to be a kingdom or a world, a place of where great, perfect, where perfection, everything is perfect. Everything is the Dharma. Everything there is dharma, is dharmic and it’s supposed to be, I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be, if it’s supposed to be eternal or not, but it’s supposed to be a place that’s essentially beyond this world.
So, the question, “Is it real?” Well, I don’t know, are you real?
You know, it’s probably more real than you and I, but other than that, I don’t know what to say.
In Hinduism, it’s called “Siddhapur.” Shambala, the kingdom of Shambala is a Buddhist way of talking about it, and in the Indian Hindu tradition, it’s called “Siddhapur” and they are analogous. It’s just a different lens. They’re looking at the same thing.
Q: Did you compose the music and song for “God is Real?”
Well, “God is Real” is a gospel song that I learned when I was growing up. My father had these records of Mahalia Jackson who was great gospel singer, one of the greatest ever, and she sang a song, “God is Real.”
The way I sing it, it’s essentially a different melody, different music and she certainly didn’t sing “Hare Ram,” that’s for sure. So, it’s kind of my own perverted version of that song.
Q: I saw Ram Dass and Baba Neem Karoli in my dream last night. I can’t figure out if they wanted to give me Darshan or it was psychological subconscious, as I keep reading about them.
I don’t care what it is. I’ll take it. They say that we can’t create the forms of a higher being with our minds and that if we see them in dreams or in visions, they have actually come to see us. So, there you go.
Q: I recently started working through the Bhagavad Gita. I’m struck by the incredible wisdom that can be interpreted through this story. Is there any part of this story in particular, that sticks out to you?
The story. Now the Bhagavad Gita is one chapter of the Mahabharata. So, the story is of this great war between the so-called “bad guys” and the so-called “good guys.” It’s an incredible story. It’s a phenomenal story. It’s one of the great Indian scriptures. So, I’m not sure if you’re talking exactly about the Gita itself, which is not so much a story as it’s Krishna… “Gita” means “song,” and this is Sri Krishna showing Arjuna the way things really are, because Arjuna was essentially the great warrior on the side of good and he was about to have to fight this battle, and before the battle, Krishna was going to act as his charioteer, because Krishna wouldn’t fight. He agreed to help both sides. So, but anyway, he acted as Arjuna’s charioteer.
So, before the war, Arjuna asked Krishna to drive them up to this hill between the battlefield, looking out over the battlefield, and they get up there and Arjuna looks out at this, these two armies arrayed, ready for battle, and on both sides are his relatives. On both sides are his teachers, his gurus, his archery guru. The elder of the whole clan is actually on the side of the bad guys. It’s a very complex, subtle story.
So, Arjuna looks out over this, at what he’s being asked to do, to slaughter his relatives, and he drops his bow. His bow falls from his hand and he says, “I will not fight.”
You know, it’s such a big moment. How many times have we been in situations in our lives where we’ve been forced to disappoint, and hurt in some ways, people we were involved with in order to save our own lives or in order to do the same, the right thing for ourselves and others. These situations are very complex, psychologically and karmically. So, that moment is really a great, an incredible moment.
And what does Krishna say to Arjuna? The first thing he says, he says, “These words you speak appear to be wise, but are they really?”
And then Krishna begins to unravel and expose and reveal the truth of the situation to Arjun, and show him that, why he has to fight, why it’s the right thing for everyone involved. It’s an extraordinary, extraordinary thing, and of course there’s an internal and an external Mahabharata, and there’s a way of seeing the whole story as an internal drama between our own energies inside… and what’s the best way to deal with this? and how to fight? and what to do? and how to live in the world in the right way, in a good way? Extraordinary stuff.
Q: What is my interpretation of Rama sending Sita into exile after they come home for 14 years?
Well, this is, first of all, let me say that the Ramayana, which is the story of Rama, it’s what’s called “Leela.” “Leela” means “play” or “drama,” and in this case, the Leela is a divine Leela. It it’s created by the divine in order to relieve the world of suffering.
This big demon named Rovena had conquered the world, had conquered the gods and he was creating terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible things, and so Vishnu incarnated on earth as rRam and Vishnu’s shakti, Lakshmi incarnated as Sita.
First of all, one must understand, first thing; one can not really understand the Leela, the play of God from our limited viewpoint. At times you just have to suspend disbelief, because there’s no way we can understand the scope of a drama like this. It’s very complex. Very subtle. And many times I hear people very concerned about the way they feel Ram had treated Sita, but you have to understand one thing; Ram and Sita are not two different things. They are two sides of one coin. Without one side of a coin, there is no coin. So, everything that happens, everything that happens in the story is designed to establish Dharma. Everything that happens in the story is designed and created to establish Dharma.
We don’t know what dharma is. We’re trying to find out.
So, so the first thing is that Sita, as you know the story, she is she’s kidnapped by this very demon, and then she spends a certain amount of time as his prisoner and then the armies fight, and Rama’s army wins and then Sita comes and she’s made to go into the fire before he would accept her. That’s what the story says, but the story also says, which most people don’t know that, just before Ravana came and and kidnapped Sita, Rama says to Sita, “Sweetheart, we’re about to do a big Leela here, so you have to disappear to stay safe.”
So, at that point, Sita leaves and just leaves behind a shell of herself. It’s not her real self. She’s gone. She went off and went somewhere else in some other world to relax for a while, and then it was that shell, and she was replaced, apparently, by a heavenly apsara who had been cursed that she had to take birth on earth. So, there was a switch, and towards the end of the story, when Sita is asked, Ram says He can’t accept her unless she proves her purity by entering the fire, when she enters the fire, the real Sita comes back through the fire and the apsara goes back to heaven. She finished her job, and then Sita comes out. So that’s one thing that people don’t understand right off the bat.
As far as why she was banished to the jungle, I can’t really say that I know the deeper meaning of that, other than there were people who doubted her purity because she was in another person’s home, in the home of this demon for so long, and Rama felt that in order to, in order for society to function in the right frame of mind, he couldn’t have Sita with him. He had to deny himself even, her company. So, for the next like 10,000 years, He lived with the statute of Sita and he never mated with anybody else ever in his life. But he felt for the sake of the Dharma and the kingdom that he was supposed to run as a king, he had to ask her to leave, and he lived the rest of his life essentially with a broken heart and with a statue of her next to him.
So, it’s a very complex situation and, even though it seems like we have a lot of feelings about it that, we feel that those feelings are justified, you have to remember this is divine Leela.
Now Krishna did all kinds of things. He got it on with hundreds of Gopis at the same time. Why doesn’t that bother people? And those women left their husbands at home and snuck out at night to play with Krishna, and Krishna did all kinds of things. He picked up a mountain and held it on a finger. Nobody worries about that stuff, but Rama having to ask his other half, for the sake of the kingdom, to leave, that’s difficult to understand.
It’s all difficult to understand. That’s my point. Until we become truly divine, we’ll never really be able to understand at all. So, the best is to recognize that it, it seems to be something that is horrible, but believe me, there’s more to it than that. And I’m sure there’s books written about it, explaining it to some degree, but really it’s those things that, it’s very hard to understand these things. Very hard
Q: Along with the Hanuman Chalisa, I’ve been learning the Aditya Hridayam. We honor Ram in the song, but I don’t know where that story fits. Is at the Bhagavad Gita or is it a Aditya or Surya?
It doesn’t honor Ram. It’s a mantra to the sun God, Aditya. That mantra was given to Ram on the battlefield by Agastya Muni, who was a great Siddha, a great Rishi. Given to him. So, when he was confused about how to fight, how to fight Rovana, so Agastya gave him this mantra, the Aditya Hridayam mantra, and it’s a mantra that destroys negativity. By keeping the sun in one’s heart, all negativity or demons are destroyed.
So, it’s from the Valmiki Ramayana. I don’t know that it’s in the Tulasi Das Ramayana, but it’s from the story of Ram.
Q: Please give advice to memorize the Hanuman Chalisa. How, how did I do it? How long did it take me? Thank you.
So, you don’t have to memorize it. You can just repeat it. You can read it. There’s no reason to torture yourself to remember something. If it comes to you over time, fine, but it’s not a test. Nobody’s watching except your own true self.
So, the thing is when you do it to have some feeling in it, to do it wholeheartedly with some sincerity and understand that you’re, you’re offering these phrases to the guru or to Hanuman. It’s an offering. It’s a mantra. It’s not necessary to memorize it. If you want to, you can, but you shouldn’t feel bad if it’s difficult. After you do it 30 or 40 million times, you’ll probably remember it, you know, so don’t worry about it.
Q: How important is the role of dreams where one sees an ascended master or siddha who is guiding in some way or merely in silence? Is this still a cue that the guru is alive in consciousness minus physical?
Of course, the guru is alive. We’re the ones who aren’t alive. The guru is awake. We are the ones who are not awake. The guru’s here. We’re the ones who aren’t here. Of course. And when you have, that presence comes to you in a dream and a form like that, that’s a great blessing, and when you remember the guru, or God, or the deity, or your true soul, anytime during the day, that’s a great blessing. It’s all good.
And as far as what you hear in the dream in terms of guidance? It’s very hard to remember accurately because we’re in, even in a dream, we’re interpreting the energy in a certain kind of way. I think it’s best to just feel that you received the blessing and allow your heart to open and recognize that those beings came to see you to give you a blessing. Any directions they give in the dream… I don’t know. I don’t, you’d have to see how you feel. If they tell you to, in the dream, to jump off a cliff, I think you tell them, “Well, come back and tell me a few other times. I’m not jumping off any cliffs because of a dream.”
Because in the dream, many things are, the energy that you receive in a dream can be re-interpreted, interpreted, through the emotions in different ways. So, not always a good idea to believe everything you hear in a dream.
Q: If all is truly one, why would God oppress himself, torture himself, rape himself, murder himself, et cetera?
Well, first of all, when we say, “All is one,” at best, that’s wishful thinking, because we don’t experience that ourselves, and the reason we don’t experience that is because you and I, and most other sentient beings are suffering from delusion and ignorance and shame and grief and fear and selfishness and anger, et cetera. This is our reality.
The “all one” reality is called “ultimate reality.” This is the way things are. Now, here on this plane, in the human world, or in this world, humans and animals, et cetera, we make lots of choices and we’ve made lots of choices that don’t enforce the, don’t reinforce the recognition of oneness, and being born into this world, we’ve also been programmed by the world and our parents and their parents and our teachers and our friends, to believe certain things about ourselves, and based on those beliefs, we act. We’re not acting out of oneness. So, to say, “God is raping himself” is not really accurate.
For instance, when Ram Dass had the stroke, he had a catastrophic stroke, as you know about, as you must know, and he was in the wheelchair for the last 20 plus years of his life, and he almost died from the stroke, and for some years he was, he believed that Maharajji his guru, had given him that stroke as a teaching, had “stroked him,” he used to say. He thought that was cute, “had stroked him.”
But when he went to India the only time after this stroke, Siddhi Ma, Maharajji’s great disciple said, “Ram Dass, you say Maharajji gave you that stroke? That is not true. The stroke is your karma. Maharajji’s grace has given you the strength to learn from that karma and be with that karma and transcend the karma of the stroke and use that to advance on the path.”
So, our karmas create these actions and the divine is what gives us the strength to overcome the effects of these negative actions and negative emotions that we carry around with us.
We have to be clear about ultimate reality and relative reality. Ultimate reality is the whole story and relative reality is inside that.
Ultimate reality: no one ever came, no one ever goes, there is no one, that’s all done, there’s no time, nothing. Relative reality: If you don’t stop at the red light, you get hit by a car. Ultimate reality: there’s no one to be hit by a car nor is there a car.
So, you can’t think ultimate reality. You can’t create that in your mind. You can’t up-level yourself into that. It has to be a direct experience that comes from within, based on the ripening of those karmas that you brought into this life and the practice that you do to uncover that place within you. So, don’t get confused between karma and ultimate reality, the world of our actions and our reactions where we keep recreating suffering for ourselves. Two different things. Well, not exactly, but that’s very subtle stuff that I don’t understand either.
Q: Can I say something about loneliness?
I’m sorry that you feel lonely. I’m sorry that anybody feels lonely.
There is a difference between loneliness and aloneness, being alone.
I find, when I’m alone, I actually feel more connected to the universe. When I’m surrounded by people, I get involved with acting, reacting, relating all of that stuff, and I lose some awareness in those situations, which is why this, this forest retreat, because of the pandemic, has been for me, so far, a very rejuvenating and a wonderful opportunity for me to deepen the way I go through a day and help myself to remember more, remember the name, to remember the presence and feel more connected.
So, when you’re chanting, when you notice the feeling of loneliness, you let go. You simply come back to the name. That emotion of loneliness is a cloud that’s passing through your life at this moment. It might be a really big cloud, but it’s moving through, even though it seems like it’s right here, will always be here. It won’t always be here and you don’t feel lonely all the time, but when you do feel lonely, it feels huge. So, if you’re chanting or if you start to chant or are doing japa, the repetition of the name, or meditating, you notice that feeling of loneliness. Who’s noticing the feeling? You are. So, you are obviously not that feeling. That feeling is something you are, that you feel glued to, to some degree.
That’s why you keep coming back to the practice. Every time you come back to the practice, you’ve released some of that glue. This is how we work with any emotion. They are not real. They’re as real as we think we are, but they’re not ultimately real. They come and they go, and we experienced them, and they, they hurt us. We hurt ourselves, believing these feelings and identifying with these feelings. We’ve been trained to do that. Our whole lives, we’ve been trained to live in our emotions and react with our emotions.
When you’re chanting or doing some practice, you are asking yourself to pay attention, to be present with whatever arises. So, you’re doing Sri Ram Jai Ram, but you’re feeling this loneliness… Sri Ram Jai Ram… feeling the loneliness… Sri Ram Jai Ram… You keep coming back to the mantra, not pushing, you can’t push the thing away, but you can come back to the mantra for a second because it’ll grab you again. We are so glued to these emotions that we identify with. There’s just no one button to push that’s going to make them all go away.
So, little by little, as we get used to releasing the hold of these negative emotions, the hold that they have over us, we also are training ourselves not to identify so quickly and get glued to them so quickly as they come and go. It takes time and you can’t, the evaluator within us can’t really see the level that any real progress is made. What happens over time is that you wind up spending less time in these negative states of mind. That’s all. Less time. Which is really good.
But you don’t get to do a trip I’m on, “Wow, I’m spending less time…” because it’s the evaluator within you, the judger that’s being thinned out, the one who thinks about themselves, “How am I doing now? How am I doing now?” all the time, all the time, all the time, that’s being thinned out.
So, keep doing some practice. Get more comfortable in what this path is about. And, I mean, at this point where there’s not much we can do about changing the physicality of aloneness without a mask and social distancing and all that, it’s not so easy, it can be done, but, I mean, we’re connecting right now, and you’re connecting with a whole group of people who are here right now in an internal space, a psychic space we’re all sharing through the internet.
And it’s not nothing. I mean, many of the teachers that I know, the Tibetans, they all say, “It’s okay, this is good. We’re here together, and if I give you a teaching now, that teaching is, you’re getting that. It’s not, just because we’re not in person doesn’t mean you’re not getting it.”
So, there’s a real, there’s a way that even through this camera and the computer and the internet, we actually are connecting in a very deep place, and so little by little one learns to be more aware of the places that we are connected and the way we are connected and those emotions, which once seemed so huge, don’t seem so huge anymore. So good luck with that and good luck for all of us.
All the best.