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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 4 2020
“We have to find a way to help implement the changes that have to come in our society, the changes that we hope will correct the imbalance of power and the devastating way that people of color are treated and hurt and abused and victimized. We definitely have to find a way to help make that happen, but we can’t allow our actions to come with negative emotions, if we can help it. It’s very hard, very hard, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do what you do. You do whatever you can do to help.” – Krishna Das
Namaste. Welcome back. Hope everybody’s okay, feeling good physically and hopefully able to deal with all the emotions flying around inside and out.
Believe it or not, It’s said that human birth is the best place to be to do work on ourselves, to actually achieve peace, find liberation from suffering, enter into the place within us that is real love, find compassion for ourselves and others and find a way to live in this world in a good way. Because they say that in human birth, we’re right in the middle, between the lower forms of birth and the more subtle planes, and they say in either one of these places, it’s impossible to do practice, because in these two places, we are too consumed with experiencing the fruits of our karmas. In the heaven worlds, in the subtle planes, it’s very pleasant. In the hell worlds, in the lower realms, it’s not very pleasant to say the least. That’s what they say. But here in this world at this time, we have the opportunity to get a vote how we respond to the world around us and how we respond even to our own stuff within us.
But somehow, we have to find a way to get the strength, to release the emotions, the feelings, the knee jerk reactions that we have to everything that we come in contact with, because for the most part, all day long, every day of our lives, we are responding blindly with no mitigating factor of consciousness or awareness to the things that show up in our awareness, in our consciousness.
So, the idea is how do we get a vote and why do we want a vote? We want a vote so that our own actions won’t create more suffering for ourselves and others.
So, in this situation that we’re in now in the world, which seems very intense, it’s a very good mirror for us to look within and see our reactions, see the causes of our suffering, and then we can expand that awareness to the outside world, to social action, to living in the world and to dealing with the issues in our culture and our politics and in the way we treat other beings.
So, the way that I find that space to, when I’m lucky, not react blindly and instantly to everything that comes towards me, is through chanting. Because in chanting, we start repeating one of these mantras, one of these names of God, and then the deal we make with ourselves is that when we notice that we’re lost and not paying attention, we come back. We let go of whatever we’re thinking about. We don’t try to figure it out. We just let it go and we come back, again and again and again and again and again and again, and as time goes on, we begin to feel more comfortable being more present. We’re released from that obsessive flow of constant evaluation and judgment, constant flow of emotion, negative emotions, positive emotions, everything that pushes us around. Little by little we’re released from being the slave to that, and then we can extend that feeling to others and our own actions will extend that feeling in our relationship to every one of our situations in our lives.
Same, same, same old story from day one. The outside world looks different, but it’s the same stuff recycled again and again, and our work remains the same: to be clear, not falsely clear, but to really be at ease with ourselves and then extend that to the world. Regardless of what it is that we do in the world, the motivation is to relieve suffering, not to add to it. So, it’s up to each one of us to figure out what that means. But once again, without a practice, without some understanding of what there is possible to find in life, in this world at this time, right now, within ourselves and within everyone, it’s very difficult to accomplish the destruction of suffering.
So, the key is, first, well, the key is to have some understanding of the path and to do some practice, and to expose your, expose our knee jerk, gut reactions to things, to the light of awareness, to the love and the space that lives within us.
So, let’s get some questions.
Q: Namaste, KD. I’ve been listening to your track, “Narayana For Your Love.” Is there a story behind combining the Yardbirds song “For Your Love” with this track? We’d love to hear the story, if there is one.
I’d also love to hear the story. It was just one of those things came out of my mouth in soundcheck. And that’s the story. That’s the whole story. There’s no… it just showed up. We were, I was, I don’t know what I was doing, what I was playing, and all of a sudden it came out. So, there it is. Yeah. What can I say? I’d like to take some credit for it, but there is none to take.
Q: Thank you and guru’s blessings. With so many distractions, how do you keep up your sadhana?
Well, distractions are exactly what makes you do sahana. You get pulled out of yourself so strongly that you start to hurt. You’re so gone and so lost that it begins to feel terrible. So, it forces you to come back and try to find a way to center and let go and release stuff.
And besides, I don’t think I do that much sadhana anyway, but I do what I can.
Q: Any tips on maintaining balance between sharing Maharajji’s ways; love, serve, remember God; and being righteous?
I’m not sure what you mean. Balance between sharing love and being righteous? Maybe you mean, feeling righteous, thinking that you’re better than others and that you are doing something for others, something like that.
Well, that’s just part of the delusion that we live in, that we think that we are who we think we are and that everything revolves around us and that we are the doers of all our actions, when really, they say, that mostly we’re on automatic all the time. And even when we think we’re doing good, we have so many different motivations for action in this world that the so-called righteousness that we think we’re good people. We’re not really seeing ourselves very clearly. We’re good inside for sure, because that’s our true nature, but that’s covered up with tons of shit. And that shit takes over. That neurosis grabs on to everything we do. We feel proud about our service. So, then it’s not very good service.
So, you do what you can. You do the best you can, and you keep surrendering, letting go, noticing the stuff inside of you and trying to keep letting go of that stuff. And of course, practice, the formal practice is what precipitates the changes, precipitates a new way of seeing things, of experiencing things. Because the experiencer is being thinned out. So, you don’t get the pet yourself on the back.
“Wow. My experience has totally changed.”
Nope. Not like that.
The practices, the continual growing awareness and understanding of your motivations and the hidden stuff within us, that gradually thins out the evaluator, the judgmental mind, and we see things differently. We experience the world differently, so we act differently.
Q: Do you know the story Ram Dass told of seeing Maharajji screaming at some guy in the courtyard? Ram Dass was upset, felt betrayed, and then Maharajji sent the message to him later.
First, he said, “Tell Ram Dass I’ll explain everything to him,” which he never did.
And then later he said, “Never put anyone out of your heart, no matter what you do.”
Well, that’s an interesting story. Yes, I was there at the time.
So, the puris and potatoes which were given out to people as prasad in these bags when people came to the temple, were cooked in the back of the temple in the kitchen, and this devotee, a very new kind of devotee, was put in charge of organizing the cooking of the prasad and this… So some time went past and Maharajji started asking Dada to check the puris for no apparent reason. So, Dada would go into the room where the prasadwas kept then he would look at the puris. Fine. Okay. But every day, Maharajji just started sending Dada back to check the puris.
“Dada, check the puris.”
Dada would look at the puris.
After about a week, Dada comes back and says, “Baba, the puris are black. They’re burned.”
So, then what happened is this guy, this village guy, this new devotee was taking the ghee that had been donated to the temple, he was diluting it with mustard oil and using that dilution to cook the prasad and he was selling the ghee out the back of the temple to the villagers, to local people. And Maharajji knew, which is why he started asking Dada to check the puris, because at some point, when the ratio of oil to ghee gets to a certain place, the puris would be turned black instead of the golden brown that they are from ghee.
So, then he called the guy to him and he screamed at him and sent him them home. And all Ram Dass heard was the screaming without the backstory. And he got very upset because Maharajji had been telling Ram Dass to love everyone. But we have a misunderstanding about these things. We think loving everyone is somehow artificial and it’s something we have to do. And if we love everyone, we can never be angry. I think you can be angry at a person’s faults, at a person’s negative actions, or negative actions in general. Anger can arise, but you don’t have to want to kill the person and throw them out of your heart.
For a great being like Maharajji, all of us, all of us separate beings are part of his reality. We’re part of him. He’s become the whole universe and everything in it is a part of him. So how could he throw a part of him out of himself? But he can use anger to correct somebody and to… also, by yelling at someone like that and throwing him out of the temple, that guy gets to experience the negative fruits of his actions right away and not sometime later down the line. Because to steal from the temple, to steal from your guru, that can’t be very good. So, by Maharajji responding with that force in some way, it allows that guy to immediately experience the fruit of his negative actions and he doesn’t have to experience them later.
I never thought of that before, and maybe it’s not even true, but it seems good.
You know, there was things like that that happened all the time, but Maharajji said, “Do what you do, but don’t throw anyone out of your heart.”
Which for us is impossible. because everybody’s already out, we’re out of our own hearts. We’re trying to get in there and figure out who we are and realize our truth. So, for us, we’re all out of our hearts and we’re only judging and reacting and liking and disliking and wanting and not wanting and pushing away and holding onto this. That’s the world we live in, but hopefully it’s not forever like that.
The other story like that, I was there also. Across the street, down the road a little bit lived the man named Purnanand and he had 12, he had 11 children, I think, or 12 children at the time and he was very poor, and he was a devotee of Maharajji and in fact, he was partially involved with Maharaji getting that land for building a temple in some way.
Maharajji created a job for Purnanand so he could feed his children. Every day, the buses would come from the local village. They would pass by the temple, and Purnanand’s job was to make a check mark.
“Yes, the 3:30 bus passed by. Yes, the 5:30 bus passed by.”
That was his job and for that, he got, he was paid a certain amount of rupees, with which he was supposed to be able to feed his family. But in fact, every month he took the paycheck and he bought a month’s worth of hashish to smoke because he was addicted to smoking hash.
So, on this particular day, he had just bought his month’s supply and came to the temple to see Maharajji, and Maharajji saw him and he started coming down the walkway. Maharajji was in a very sweet, relaxed mood, very beautiful, and all of a sudden, Maharajji sees him and he sits up and he starts screaming at him like an enraged monkey. Purnanand, he had to keep coming. He wanted to run away, but he had to keep coming and it gets down and he bows down to Maharajji. Maharajji hits him on the back and starts screaming at him, “Get out, get out!”
This happened almost every month. So, what can I tell you?
He still had the job. He still has the job. He died a long time ago, but his children.
There’s a lot of questions about… Here’s one.
Q: I lack determination to get up at Brahmamurta…
Which is 4 am. Hey, welcome to the club.
Q: What should I do to get the discipline in life to do Sadhana?
Do it when you can do it. Just because you can get up at 4 it means you can be an asshole all day long? Just do it when you can.
Q: So, I live in Denver less than a block from the protests. I hear the pain and suffering every night outside my window. How can I serve best my Dharma? How can I serve best? My Dharma compels me to participate.
Here’s another one.
Q: Maharajji said, “Cultivate mercy and awareness for the benefit of all sentient beings,” and I think Ram Dass is saying that “As our veils begin to lift, our suffering leads to grace.”
These teachings are very important to me. Can you speak to these in light of our current unrest and intolerance?
Well, so once again, I want to tell you this story of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Someone once asked him, “Your holiness, are you happy?”
So, he said, “Well, I guess you could say I’ve had a hard life. I was discovered as a Tulku, a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama at 2. I was raised in the monastery. My parents were there a bit, but not all the time. Then I had to take the reins of my country as a teenager and negotiate with the Chinese who finally invaded, and I had to escape, and I had to watch helplessly as the Chinese murdered 3 million of my people.”
He said, “The Chinese have taken everything from me. Am I going to let them take my happiness?”
So, in this situation, now the Dalai Lama is doing whatever he can, according to his principles to save Tibet from extinction because of what the Chinese are doing. However, no matter what’s going on in the outside world, and it’s always going on somewhere, are we going to let it destroy our hearts? And if we do let it destroy our hearts, how can we help anyone? How can we help alleviate suffering in the outside world or in ourselves? If we’ve allowed, if the fear and anxiety and suffering and anger, we’ve allowed that to destroy us and push us completely off balance so that we are also in total reaction mode?
So, we have to find a way to help implement the changes that have to come in our society, the changes that we hope will correct the imbalance of power and the devastating way that people of color are treated and hurt and abused and victimized. We definitely have to find a way to help make that happen, but we can’t allow our actions to come with negative emotions, if we can help it. It’s very hard, very hard, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do what you do. You do whatever you can do to help and to find out what…
It’s funny. I just saw Conan the other night, and he was saying how he grew up in the seventies. I mean on TV, I saw him. Were social distancing. He was saying how he grew up in the seventies and he, you know, he was just in this bubble thinking that we fixed it. It’s over. We fixed it. It’s all good now. So now we are, it’s being revealed to him, how much has still needs to be fixed and how deeply ingrained this horrendously hurtful way of treating others is ingrained in our culture and in our society.
But once again, whatever you do, do it as completely as you can, as totally as you can. Give yourself to it. But if you let yourself be destroyed by the situation, what good will you be to anybody?
It’s difficult. If you’re on this, if you recognize that you’re on the spiritual path and that you are committed to trying to relieve suffering in this world, then whatever your actions you take, you do your best to make sure that you’re not creating more suffering with your actions. This is for each individual to figure out what that means to them in terms of what actions they take in the world.
But just, just becoming aware like we are now how much work has to be done, it’s intense and it forces us to really deal with these deeper emotions that we have, our own fears, our own anxiety, our fears for our self and fears for our friends.
So, whatever you do, I think practice, finding a way to keep coming back to home, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter what protests you involve yourself with, no matter what group you involve yourself with to try to revamp the system and save our culture, our society, America, which is a very complex society.
You know, Maharajji was born in India. There’s a caste system. Supposedly they’ve done away with that, but they haven’t. It’s ingrained in the culture and there’s tremendous amount of caste discrimination, a tremendous amount. Every day, everywhere you go. But Maharajji’s templates were open to everyone. No one was kept away. Everyone was allowed to participate. He let the Westerners serve the prasad and help make the prasad. Do you realize we’re not even qualified to be in the caste system? We’re below that. In terms of the caste system, we’re even further out. We don’t exist. And yet he allowed us to do things and he said, “Their hearts are pure. They can serve, they can do anything.”
Pure or not. He let us do it. A lot of the Indian people didn’t like it. Really. But that didn’t bother him. He saw everybody as God. So, when we can do that, then we’ll see what we do. But until then we just do the best we can, and we do our best not to hurt ourselves or others and still try to accomplish the goals that we need to accomplish, to try to make this right, to fix this and not be suckered into hating the other side, because they are us too on some level. We may not like what they do, but we don’t have to throw them out of our hearts. Like Ram Dass said, like Maharajji said. But we can still say, “No more. Enough of this shit.”
So, we have to figure out a way to do that without, with at least as much loving compassion as we can muster. And it’s not easy. We’re not taught about that. We’re not trained how to do that.
Q: Would I agree with ice Cube’s lyrics, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself?”
Well, if he means what I think he does, definitely.
Q: How do you find the strength to choose when you’re at a life-changing crossroad and terrified? My mom says I’m suffering from analysis paralysis.
I never heard that one before.
But I can’t stop worrying or start moving forward.
Well, in this case, you know… You know who Yogi Berra was? He was a catcher for the New York Yankees and he was apparently quite a guy and he, he used to say, he used to have these aphorisms that came out of his mouth that were so extraordinary. And one was, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
You know, all I can do, I can speak for myself. You know, I never decided anything. I just let, I try to let things happen and I follow my heart as best as I can. To try to decide in the mind what’s best for me, it doesn’t work for me. I try to feel what, which way I should go. No one can tell you how to do that. No one can tell you what’s right for you. A lot of people do, but they don’t know. They certainly don’t know better than you.
It doesn’t even matter. Do what you want. See how it works out. Then do something else. What’s the big deal? You learn from walking into walls. You go, “Oh, I guess this is not the way to go.”
There’s no other way to learn. You have to engage in life. You have to get into it. You have to really do it, really be in it. You can’t protect yourself and hide and you have to go for it. So, listen to your heart, figure out what it is you want to do. Feel what you want to do, and then just go for it. And if you can stop worrying, then just keep worrying. But do it anyway. If you’re some person who can’t stop analyzing things, try to figure out what it is in you that causes so much fear, why you have no self-confidence. This didn’t come from nowhere. This is, this is something inside of you, a program that’s developed over the years and your mother says, you know, she said something about “analysis paralysis?” Well, that’s her idea, but she’s not you. You are you. Maybe you will always be stuck just like this. It could be worse. You’re still here. Recognize that you’re here wherever you go, whatever you feel. You’re still here. You’ll always be here. Just take a step.
Q: Please tell us how mantra helps us to be present. It’s a custom in many traditions to remember mantra all the time. Is it a tool to be present?
I don’t like the way that sounds, “to be present.” You are present. You are here. You are not somewhere else already. You’re here. Mantra can help you recognize that you’re here, but it’s not something you say, “oh, now I’m present.”
No, you’re not. If you’re saying that, if you’re thinking that, you’re thinking, and thinking is not being present. When you become aware of presence, it’s a very different level of being. It’s a different feeling. So, stop thinking about the mantra. Stop thinking about what it’s going to do for you. Stop thinking about if you’re making it or not. Stop thinking about if it’s working. Stop thinking about what it would feel like if you finally get here. Yada, yada, yada, yada, just more stuff. Let go, do your mantra and shut up. Shut the mind up. And if you can’t shut up, just let it go and do the mantra.
Maharajji said, “Repeat the name whether you’re feeling good, whether you’re angry, whether whatever, whether you’re feeling in devotion or not, it doesn’t matter. Just do it.”
Because you’re planting the seeds. By doing that, we are planting the seeds of liberation within ourselves. So just do the practice. Stop trying to analyze it. You don’t have to figure out if it’s working or what it’s going to feel like if and when it works. Just the doing of the practice is already grace coming to you, coming to us.
Q: Other than the Hanuman Chalisa, did Maharajji have a favorite chant or prayer?
You know, he loved all the Names. He loved all the prayers. He always had this chapter from the Ram Charitamanasa, which is Tulasi Das’s version of the Ramayana. He always had Sundarakand read wherever he was on Tuesdays, which is Hanuman’s day.
Sundarakand is the chapter about when Hanuman jumps over the ocean and finds Sita. It’s called “The beautiful,” Sundarakand means, “beautiful chapter.” And he loved hearing that read. And it’s actually sung because it’s all poetry. It’s all in rhyme. And so that was one of his favorites. The Hanuman Chalisa was one of his favorites. Sri Ram Jai Ram was one of his favorites. He was always repeating the name of Ram. But all the names were his favorites. Everywhere He saw, everywhere He looked, he saw God. But not in a stupid way. In a real way. He saw everything. He saw who you were, who you’re going to be, what you’ve done, what you’re going to do, who you really are. And he loved, loves us as we are in this moment. We’re all inside of that space of Ram. We’re all inside of that vast presence, which is Buddha nature, which is being. So, any one of those Mantras or names that represent that place, which they all do, are very much the same. But like I said, there’s different little, there’s different streams, different lineages. And it would, one could say that He was in the Ram lineage, the lineage of Hanuman. That doesn’t mean that he judged any other. He accepted all ways, all religions. Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, everybody came to him because he was beyond all those differences and differentiation.
Here’s a question about suicide.
Do I have any advice for this person who tried to commit suicide?
All I can tell you is that when I was in India, I was having a nervous breakdown, whatever you want to call it, and I was thinking about suicide. I was very crazy and I couldn’t, I was like in free fall and I couldn’t find any ground and I couldn’t stop freaking. And, Maharajji called me over.
And He said, “What are you going to do? Jump in the river?”
He didn’t seem to take it very seriously. The river was like six inches deep and I thought, you know, if I got myself, my head under a rock or something, maybe I could make it happen. He said, “What are you going to do a jump in the river?”
H said, “You can’t die. Worldly people don’t die. Only Jesus died the real death.”
I looked at him like what? Why? Because he never thought of himself.
In other words, in that Being there was no “me.” There was no deluded, delusion of separateness. The real death is the death of the ego, so to speak.
And then He said, “Oh, somebody dies and people cry and moan and they stop eating. But after a couple of days, they’re laughing and drinking and eating again. This world,” he said, “is the flow of attachment. Samsara, this world, is the flow of attachment. One attachment after the other. No attachment, no world.”
Meaning, no attachment, no delusion about separateness and thinking that what you are is real.
So, for people who are experiencing extraordinary pain and think that they can alleviate that pain by killing themselves, he was saying that that’s not going to work. Now, I know that’s a big pill to swallow for most of us, because basically we feel that we are this body-mind complex and we die. We’re going to be done. That’s it. It’s over. So, if that was true, then of course suicide would work. But apparently it doesn’t.
They say there are no dead people. There are no dead beings. Bodies drop and change, but the soul, so to speak, takes another body, on and on and on until the karmas are exhausted. That’s what’s believed in the east. And that’s what he said to me, basically.
So you can, for somebody who’s thinking about suicide or has actually tried it, I remember Ram Dass used to say that this guy once called him up and he said, “Ram Dass, I’m going to kill myself. I just called you to tell you that.”
And then Ram Dass said, “Well, let me talk to the guy who dialed the phone.”
Because there are two sides there. Somebody wanted help and he dialed the phone. Then he said, “I’m going to kill myself.”
If you’re really going to do it, you could probably do it. A lot of times they say that trying to commit suicide is a call for help, especially when it doesn’t, when somebody does it in a way that they’re not successful.
It’s a hard thing because nobody… when it hurts, it really hurts. And you think, “Maybe I could end it.” But unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be that way. So, I would encourage this person to do whatever they can do to get through the day. Medication. Anything that they can do to try to find a way to live in this world, one way or the other.
So, it’s hard stuff, really hard stuff, but all you can do for somebody is love them, and really love them as they are, and if they’re determined to kill themselves, I don’t know what can be done. If somebody really wants to do something, they’ll find a way. Very difficult, very painful, no easy answers.
Q: Did Neem Karoli Baba ever accept money for his teachings? How come people are asked to pay or donate here?
Maharajj gave almost everything away for free. He didn’t sell his teachings. He didn’t ask for money, but in India, the system supports gurus. They support spiritual seekers. When a Saint starts an ashram, his devotees, they donate food, they donate money, they donate supplies. They consider it a blessing to be able to do that. It’s been in the culture that way for thousands of years. We don’t have that in the West. I mean maybe Christian monasteries take donations from people.
In my case, I started singing with people because I had to in order to save my life. In order to save my heart, I had to start singing with people. So, I did it for free for years at Jivanmukti every Monday night when I was in New York. Then I got invited to California. How was I going to get there? I could walk, but my instruments were a lot to carry, and besides I’d probably still be on the way. So, I had to get a plane ticket. So, we asked for some money for the concert. And that’s how it started. The traveling started.
This is what I do. I don’t have another job. I’m not really qualified for much except pumping gas. So this is probably better and so, I do this. But I need to eat. The people who help me organize my tours and set everything up, it’s an incredible amount of work, an incredible amount of work. Nina, Sarina, Anna, my daughter, Janaki, everybody also has to eat and feed their family. So, if we’re going to do this, it has to also generate the money because people don’t donate here. They don’t support saints, not that I’m a Saint, but they don’t support spiritual work that way. in India, they do. In other countries, they do. In Burma, they do. Monasteries are, ashrams are supported by people who are grateful that they’re there. So that’s why we asked for donations, and that’s why sometimes we ask a certain ticket price to get in.
I have a mortgage. I have to eat. I mean, it’s the way it is. It’s life.
So, on the Thursdays we ask, we offer the opportunity to make a donation, but otherwise this is free. You don’t have to. On the other, some of the other programs that I do, we actually charge a certain amount so we can plan that we won’t have to move out of the house by the next month.
We have no savings. People think I’m a millionaire. Somebody said to me once, “Well, now that you become a millionaire, what do you think about money?”
I just laugh because I guess people assume if you’re a semi famous, you’re also semi rich. It doesn’t work like that. And in fact, many years ago, in the eighties, I was in the jungle in India with this very, very old Baba who at the time was 163. I think he’s still alive. I haven’t seen him in many years. So, I was sitting with him one day and he was sitting in a chair, and I was sitting on the ground in front of him and he looked at me and goes, “ah…”
This is back in the eighties. I was doing nothing. Okay? Nothing.
He looked at me, He goes, “You’re going to be, you’re going to be famous.”
So, I looked up at him and I said, “and rich.”
And he laughed, he laughed. And he came up to me, really nose to nose, eye to eye, and he said “Famous.”
So, that’s the story.
You know, I took my shot. I thought, “Why not?” Right? “If I’m going to be rich, if I’m going to be famous, maybe I’ll be rich too. That’ll make it easier.”
Then I wouldn’t have to charge for anything I could do, I could just travel and sing. That would be great, but that’s not the way it is. So, this is my work and it’s my offering. And people have an opportunity to help that continue to happen if they like to. And that’s the story.