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Call and Response Special Edition – Conversations With KD May 14, 2020
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.
“Listen, everybody’s doing the best they can. Period. Even you’re doing the best you can. Why dwell in judging other people? It makes you cranky and we’re all cranky enough, you know? Let it go. Let other people be who they are. You find your own way to live in this world in a good way. Don’t worry about other people and other things. Find what works for you and get it together. Don’t spend time worrying about whether other people are this or that, or whether they’re real or not real, or whether this is really spiritual. Who gives a shit? How do you get through your day in a good way? That’s all you need to care about.” – Krishna Das
So, I’ve repeated this many times before, but it’s worth repeating many times. Maharajji said to us over and over, “From the repetition of these names, the repetition of these names, of God, everything is accomplished. Everything is brought to fullness and completion.”
It’s a very powerful statement. There’s so many techniques out there. So many traditions, so many lineages and they all lead to the same place, but this is what, this is my lineage. This is, this is my guru, my lineage. This is what he taught us. This is, this is not something I got from books or heard from other people. This is direct transmission. Through the repetition of these names, everything, all our karmas are ripened. What we need comes to us. What’s not useful to us leaves us. Everything is brought to fullness and completion. So, this is my main practice. Although I do many other things, this is my main practice. And I’m sharing that with you. And I hope that it benefits you in some way like it benefits me. And it’s a practice that will go deeper and deeper and deeper the more you do it. And it cleans the mirror of our hearts so that what we see in the outside world and in ourselves and in our lives, that changes from within, the way we live in our daily life, the way we live inside of our lives, inside of our heads, inside of our hearts. This changes as time goes on as we ripen through the practice of the repetition of the name.
And I’ve been doing this for over 50 years. Basically, I still think I’m the same schmuck I always thought I was, but I think it a hell of a lot less of the time, less often. As time goes on, we spend less and less in negative States of mind. And we don’t notice that. Because we’re not in those negative states of mind. So, we don’t notice that we’re not in, usually, because the evaluator, that mechanism that puts us down, that evaluates us, that judges us, which is our own stuff, that doesn’t work quite as often and so intensely. And we become less and less involved with, with thinking about ourselves all the time, with trying to hold on to stuff we want, to try to push away stuff we don’t want. We become much more open and at ease with ourselves and with whatever comes to us in life. And this is from the repetition of the name.
So, you know, he didn’t, he didn’t give a lot of generalized teachings. He didn’t give lectures. He didn’t write books. When he asked, we asked him, “How do we find God?”
He said to “serve people.”
We went, “What? What about, you know, Kundalini?”
He said “feed people.” That’s how you raise Kundalini.
“Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God.” These are the things he said to us. And over the years, the deeper and deeper and deeper meanings of that, those simple phrases are opened up within as time goes on.
All right. Some questions.
Q: Wondering if setting mantras to melody, which changes pitch and vibration frequency changes a mantra’s effectiveness positively or negatively. Are melody key choices… based on it?
Absolutely not. When you change melodies and change the key, perhaps it helps us pay more attention because it’s a new melody or a new key, but it has no, the only thing that impacts the effect of the mantra is how much attention you pay, how wholeheartedly you do the practice and what is your intention for doing the practice? What’s your ultimate intention? And how sincere are you in the practice? Are you, where do you want? What do you really want? That’s all. The melodies are just different flavored syrups. That’s all.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Swami Chidhananda? I tried to meet him three times in India, but my wish never came true.
Well, he’s no longer in the body, as you know. He was a very, very, very good Swami. He was very pure hearted. He, I’m in no position to judge him, but I’m just repeating what I understood from the people who know. He was greatly respected, greatly revered. He was very, very open-hearted and when his guru, Swami Shivananda left the body, they wanted him to take over the leadership of the Shivananda Ashram and the Divine Life Society. But he wanted to go off and wander. He wanted to get away and go off to the jungle, but he was asked to stay and take care of the Ashram and foundation. And Maharajji, who loved him very much, encouraged him to stay and become the President of the Divine Life Society and serve people rather than go off to the jungle by himself.
Maharajji loved him very much. I know that. And he was very, he loved Maharajji very much. And did I tell you that story? I told it last night. In 1969. I’m not sure if I had met Ram Dass or not yet, but I used to go hear lectures by Swami Satchidananda in New York and one, one spring or summer, he was upstate at the ashram, and, for the weekend, and he was giving some kind of program. So, I went one day, and he was giving a lecture and sitting next to him was this very austere looking Swami, Indian Swami, who I had no idea who it was. And He sat there, like very, you know, like this while Swami Satchidananda was talking. And then when Swami Satchidananda used to finish his lectures, he used to go, “Hari Om” like this. Right? So, he finished talking and I was waiting for the Hari Om, but instead I heard “Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.”
I had my eyes closed and my whole body just, it was like electricity, a million volts running through me. It was unbelievable. I guess, you know, I couldn’t believe it. And that other Swami was singing and he sang for a little while and then he stopped and then everybody dispersed and I didn’t know anybody there, so I never found out who it was.
Three years later, living up in the mountains in India, I’m living in the temple with Maharaji and one day a car pulls up outside the temple and three or four or five of these swamis come across the bridge into the temple. And they go right into Maharajji’s room. So, they obviously knew him, and they went right into his room. And in a few minutes I heard “Sri Ram Jai Ram”… The same Sri Ram Jai Ram. And it turns out it was Swami Chidhananda and he used to sing for Maharajji all the time. Maharajji loved it. And so, he used to sing for him. And when I first heard that Sri Ram in America three years before, from Swami Chidananda, he had already been singing to Maharajji. He already knew Maharajji. And so, I got the juice from that, their connection, even then, before I even knew of Maharajji. So that was super cool.
Q: You’ve talked about suffering and how to deal with it. But what about the suffering we personally cause? It’s so hard to live with the suffering I personally caused to so many.
Well, first of all, did you do that on purpose? Did you do that consciously? Were you out to hurt people? No, probably not. And even if you were your feelings that created that, that, that created your actions that you say created suffering for others, they came out of your own pain. We hurt people out of our own pain, and our pain, you could say was caused by other people as well; the way we grew up, the culture we grew up with, the way we reacted and acted with our friends and acquaintances, the way our teachers treated us. So many things went into us, feeling a certain way about ourselves, and out of that pain that we have, other people are also hurt.
So, you can see yourself also as a victim and as a perpetrator, or you can see yourself as somebody who’s trying to figure it out and release the suffering within yourself. And it’s the same with the people that you say you hurt. They’re also a part of your karmic situation. Why are you going to take responsibility for all of this completely?
You have also been programmed and you’re also programming others. So, you get free of your programs and then see how you feel about shit. So, we we’re just so ready to judge ourselves and give ourselves absolutely no breaks whatsoever. And your self-hatred is doubling up on everything and making it more hard for yourself.
Find out why you’re in pain. Find out what, what created your suffering. Start to work with that. Start to let it go. Start to open up. Start to forgive yourself, start to forgive others. Everybody’s included in all this. So do the work on yourself and that will help everybody that you’re involved with; past, present and future.
This is all ego. “I did this, I did that. I did this.” Nobody does anything. We’re all reacting blindly. Everything we do is a knee jerk reaction. Very few of us make conscious decisions to do anything. All our decisions are based on so many factors and most of it comes out of the shadows, our own shadows. So, let’s get rid of some of those shadows, find out who we are, and then we’ll see if we’re really to blame or who’s to blame or what blame is in the first place. There really is no blame, even though we need to take responsibility for our actions. That doesn’t mean we have to beat ourselves up for our actions. We need to clean our rooms, clean our hearts and get on with our lives.
Q: Are there any practices you know to help trauma and healing?
Every practice I know is to help trauma and healing. We all have so much trauma. Many of us have very severe traumas. Some of us not so severe. But the trauma of being caught in a physical body in the first place is unbelievable. We think it’s perfectly natural because that’s all we know. But from another point of view, this is really heavy, just being identified with our bodies, which we all are. And yet there are many different practices for trauma, many ways that we can help heal ourselves and others. And you should look, you should look about, do some research into that. I’m not an expert on the specific practices, but chanting certainly helps anything you want to do, any way you want to heal. Chanting helps that as well.
Q: How do we overcome selfishness in this culture which encourages it and especially considering it as one of the main impediments on the path?
Just do your work. Do your sadhana. Do your practice and try to be good hearted in your daily life and your daily reactions and work with people, interactions with people. And spiritual practice is what gives us the strength to be good hearted and kind and aware and not so selfish all the time.
Q: Recently I mentioned an experience I had long ago in London with Swami Muktananda resulting in out of the body experience. Could I speak to what that experience may have meant to you?
Nothing. In the long run, absolutely nothing. Zero. It was like going to a movie except that it happened inside my head. To tell you the truth, yeah, it was, it was exciting, but, so what? Did it help me be a better person? No, not that I can tell. What helps me be a better person is remembering the love that I experience with my Guru, that I found in my own heart, that I find everywhere I look, as I find that in myself.
Experiences come and go. Big deal. I’ve heard about this Swami, that Swami, and all the disciples going to meditations, they bounce up and down. I spent almost two and a half years with Maharajji and nothing happened like that. What happened was love, love, and more love and more love and more love. That was it.
I don’t mind the experiences, but it’s not about that. Those experiences don’t help you necessarily thin out your ego and thin out your fascination with yourself. In fact, they tend to encourage that and make it bigger. And then we, then we have that motivation for practices, to have more experience like that. So, take a drug. What the fuck? Are you going to sit around and meditate for 20 years? You want an experience? Take a drug. It’s not going to help you very much. Sometimes experiences can help free us from certain illusions or certain identifications with ourselves, but it usually doesn’t last. What lasts is who you truly are already and who you always will be, which is Sat-chit-ananda. Love, truth, awareness, reality, and bliss that doesn’t come and go, because you are that.
Q: Could I explain the meaning of karma?
If I knew it, I would explain it, but I don’t. Basically, it’s the idea of cause and effect. Every action we create, every action we perform has a reaction. If we push things away, they come towards us. If we reach for things, they… if we act out of selfishness, selfishness increases. They call it the law of cause and effect, that every effect, every action is a cause of future actions and future effects. So, if we want to plant seeds of joy and happiness and love, if we want those things, then we have to plant those seeds. Seeds of selfishness, seeds of shame and grief and self-centeredness and anger, those are actions that cause more of that. And they say that not only is the… karma is not blind, is not fate. Karma is the reason we can be free because our own actions will create that freedom for us. As we choose to do the right action and good action and harmonious actions and act in a good way in the world, that’s planting seeds that will create openness and finally liberation or merging with God, finding real love.
So, karma is not fate that can’t be changed. Karma is actually the key to freedom. By doing spiritual practice, by recognizing the causes of our suffering and trying to remove those causes, we are creating the future that we want for ourselves and others. So, it’s the key to freedom.
Q: What do I think of the health and wellness craze surrounding us? Goop, Dan Harris…
I know Dan.
Headspace, etc., the commodification of spirituality…
Listen, everybody’s doing the best they can. Period. Even you’re doing the best you can. Why dwell in judging other people? It makes you cranky and we’re all cranky enough, you know? Let it go. Let other people be who they are. You find your own way to live in this world in a good way. Don’t worry about other people and other things. Find what works for you and get it together. Don’t spend time worrying about whether other people are this or that, or whether they’re real or not real, or whether this is really spiritual. Who gives a shit? How do you get through your day in a good way? That’s all you need to care about.
Q: One of my yoga teachers often says, “Follow what feels good to you in your life and on the mat.” But what about when what feels good is fueled by some trauma? How can this be what one should do?
You know, I’ve often said that for me, the whole path comes down to learning to trust one’s self. If we don’t trust ourselves, then the changes that happen within, we won’t pay attention. We won’t accept those changes. We won’t honor the inner growth.
Everything we do is a program, is programmed response. Some is trauma. Some is this, some is that, some is this. Everything we do as humans is basically reacting to our previous actions and things that happen to us in our lives before, so, almost everything. And so is the longing to be free. That is also a reaction to being in pain. If your hand is in fire, you will have the longing to remove it from the fire.
So, trauma or whatever kind of programming we have, we have to find a way to release that trauma, and to release that, those knee jerk reactions that come from that. So, you have to pay attention, you know, you have to listen to your heart.
Yeah. So, let’s say some of the things you do come from your traumatic experiences, reactions to that. Yeah, okay. But if you’re paying attention, if you’re doing practice, if you’re learning to listen to your intuition or your deeper feelings, you will notice what’s happening. Or someone will slap you in the face with what’s happening and then you’ll go, “Oh.”
So the idea is to keep your eyes open, pay attention to what’s going on. And when you see yourself reacting and you recognize that what you’re doing is a reaction, a fearful reaction or a defense mechanism, then you can start to let go of it, but you have to notice it first. Otherwise, it keeps going, going, going. So that’s a very good question and it really describes all of us to some degree or other. We are all in this world victimized by the culture that we were born into. This culture does not believe that there’s any way to be free of suffering. All we believe in, in this culture, is the more pleasure we get, the better. The less pain we get, the better. We have to hold onto the stuff that gets us off and push away the stuff that hurts us. Those methods won’t work very well. We, this culture doesn’t believe in a love that isn’t based on selfishness, and real love is not based on selfishness. It’s based on the true self, who we really are.
So, yes, listen to yourself and pay attention to what you’re doing. See what you’re doing. Nobody has to tell you. Keep your eyes open. It will dawn on you that what you’re doing is a result of this and that. And then you can begin to release it. How do we get the strength to release it? From practice, from the repetition of the name, from watching the breath, from mindfulness, from mantra meditation, all these different practices. They give us the strength to release the knee jerk reactions, to release the negativity that we hold in ourselves, even in our being.
Q: How karma from the past life is fair when we don’t remember our past lives and what is the best way to heal our past karma?
Well, same, same. You’re here now. Pay attention. You don’t know if you were born before. You have no proof of that. You have no idea of past lives. All you know is what’s in your life right now. So, transform that into beauty. Transform that shame into openness. Transform that guilt into love and forgiveness. See what’s in your life now. It doesn’t matter where it came from really, but if you have to see what it is, that’s there now. And then you could say, “Oh yes, well, this is my karma,” but you know, we don’t even know what that means.
Let’s just deal with the stuff that’s in front of our face and not make up big stories about it. It’s hard enough. So…
Q: Where do I go in the silence at the end of my chant?
I don’t go anywhere. Where do you go?
I’m here. Aren’t you?
Whoops. I was just going to answer something and it went somewhere. Maharajji just said to eat simply and purely. He didn’t really, he didn’t talk about diet and that kind of stuff. He himself ate very little. He ate mostly squash, loki squash like, squash, simple, very little spices and maybe some milk.
So, but he ate very simply and, you know, we didn’t really, it’s like Jesus said, it’s not what you put into a mouth. It’s what comes out of the mouth that’s important. So that’s the main thing.
Q: Why is it that in these times we cannot see, there are no saints like Maharajji present in form.
Because they don’t want you to see. If you were supposed to see, you would see. These great beings are always here. We’re are the ones who aren’t here. So, let’s get here first and then maybe we’ll see something.
Q: I see you have a photo of Haidakhan Baba behind me. Did Maharaji ever talk about him?
Maharajji didn’t talk about him to the Westerners. I mean, but the Indian people, you know, when he first arrived in the mountains, Maharajji first showed up in the mountains and started meeting people. Earlier on he had lived in the jungles and he would come out every once in a while, but, and play with children. Like that’s when Tiwari met him, when he was a school kid. Maharaji took his lunch. So, Tiwari slapped him. Maharajji slapped him back and their whole lives, they spent together.
But he would run away when adults came and go back into the jungle. But after some years, He started to meet adult people. And the first place he went, the first house he went to, we understand, in the Hills, was the house of a woman who was called the Old Lady of Bhumiadar. And we met her back in the seventies when we were the first time we were in India. She was a young girl. And her parents were devotees of Haidakhan Baba. That’s a photo of Haidakhan Baba there. I think you can see, I don’t know. He was a very great Saint. A very great Siddha.
And so Maharajji went to that house to eat and he met this this young girl, this young girl had now become a woman and it was her house. She said that she was one of the last people to see the old Haidakhan Baba before he disappeared. She said they were way up in the mountains and he took her and they were walking and she was holding his hand as they walked around by the side of the river.
And he said to her, this, she was an eight year-old girl. He said to her, “Okay. You stay here and don’t open your eyes until I tell you.”
So, she closes her eyes and after some time she says, “Baba, are you there? Can I open my eyes?”
And there was no answer. So, she opened her eyes. She found herself on the other side of the river. And then after that, Haidakhan Baba wasn’t seen again. And some people say he went up to Tibet. Some people say he took Jal Samahdi, water samahdi, immersed his body in the river and left the body. Nobody knows.
But who knows? There’s, you know, you can’t understand the play of these Great Beings. And also, so then Maharaji went to, the first time he went to KK’s house, he walks in, he comes in the house and KK’s father comes to meet him. KK’s father was a disciple of Haidakhan Baba. And now this is like many, many years later.
So, Maharajji looks at KK’s father and said, “Take me to the room where Haidakhan used to stay.”
So, KK’s father was shocked because nobody knew Haidakhan Baba used to come to their house and stay in this room for months at a time. And nobody would know where he was and they would feed him, but he would just stay locked in the room. So, Maharaji and KK’s father went to the room. And when they got in the room, Maharajji looks at his father, KK’s father and said, “Are you still doing the mantra that Haidakhan gave to you?”
And nobody knew that he even got a mantra. So, there was some belief that Maharajji, Neem Karoli Baba, was the reincarnation of the old Haidakhan Baba, but no one knows for sure.
Q: Well, here’s that question again. You know, Why can’t we meet the saints in this time?
Back in, you know, while Maharajji was in the body, one of his Indian devotees came to him and said, Baba, “I wish there was a King like Janaka.”
You know, in the Indian tradition, King Janaka was what they call a Raja, Rishi, a King, but an enlightened being, a Saint, and he lived as a King, but he was also enlightened.
So, he said, “Baba, I wish there was a King like Janaka who could help the world.”
Maharajji just said, “There is a King much greater than Janaka.”
Digest that like I have to digest that.
Q: Tell him my first meeting with Maharajji…
Well, honestly, I met Maharajji the day I met Ram Dass. When I walked into the room where Ram Dass was sitting, without a word being spoken, without eye contact, something happened inside of me. And I knew that whatever it was I was looking for, whatever it was I was longing for was in the world. It could be found. And that was the deal. And that was, that moment changed my life. And I later realized, of course, that what I had felt was Maharajji’s presence for the first time. And so, after a year and a half, then I went to India. And I met Maharajji for the first time.
It was so unusual for a while, because I had been feeling Him everywhere in America, everywhere all the time. He was huge, like the sky. And then I met the body and I went, wait a minute. How does all that fit inside this little body? It took a while to kind of move into this new form of Maharajji, that physical presence, which you know, it was new for me at the time. Of course, I got totally attached to that. So, when he left the body, it was very hard for me.
Q: I’m a 16 year old and my dad’s a pilot for the Southwest airlines. He’s going through a nervous breakdown, worrying he’s going to lose his job. How do I separate his anxiety, but provide empathy?
That’s the whole, that’s it. How do we, how do we remain present with people who are suffering without allowing it to destroy our peace of mind, but still being available for them and present with them, not holding back. It’s a very deep question and you know, it’s not easy. You have to keep kind of calming yourself down and seeing that you’re getting caught in it. And you have to let yourself feel without fear of the feelings. You can feel what your father is feeling, but it’s not your feelings. So, you can still be, you can still be kind to the feelings and you can extend loving kindness and an openness to that being who’s suffering without it destroying your, you know, someone once asked the Dalai Lama, “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 of the previous Dalai Lama. I was taken from my parents and raised in the monastery. I had to take over the reins of my country as a teenager and deal with the Chinese, and then I had to escape. And now I’m living as a refugee in India and I’ve had to watch as millions of my Tibetan people were slaughtered by the Chinese. The Chinese have taken everything from me. Am I going to let them take my happiness?”
So, we feel guilty if we’re okay and our close ones are not okay, but that’s all right. It’s okay to be okay. And that allows you to be more kind and more present, and allow what your father to go through what he has to go through, and just support him with much love and kindness as you can. And the reason we do practice is so that we have a way to deal with those intense negative emotions, like the anxiety about money and losing the job and how am I going to take care of my family? Well, is the anxiety helping you take care of your family? No. It’s creating physical problems, mental problems, everything else. So, we need to find a way to let go of those kinds of anxieties and still be engaged fully in the world. That’s what spiritual practice allows us to do.
So, it’s a very good question.
Q: Somebody wants to know if I’ve ever got public criticism of my, whatever I do. And how do I respond to them?
Well, I get pissed off, of course, but you know, one time one of the CDs came out and there was a review on Amazon, one of the first reviews of the CD, and it said “This guy, Krishna Das sounds like a frog that’s being sodomized underwater.”
I love that. So, I wrote back to the guy and said, “What kind of frog was that?”
And David NIchtern, who plays guitar with me, a great meditation teacher, and he wrote to the guy and said, “Well, how do you know what that sounds like?”
You know, everybody’s allowed to have their feelings. You can’t make anybody happy and you can’t please everyone all the time. You can just, I just do the best I can. If people like it, good. If they don’t like it, what can I do? As long as I’m doing the best I can and being as sincere as I can be and as honest and open, what more can I do? If somebody doesn’t like it? Good. I mean, what can…? Enjoy. Go somewhere else.
Q: What was the purpose of jao-ing?
“Jao” means go away. And like I’ve said many times, Maharajji used to say “go away” was his mantra.
And she says, what’s the purpose of jao-ing? Was it, was it really to help people? And for what reason?
Well, it would be foolish for me to try to give a reason for anything Maharajji did. However, he once said, “I don’t let people stay here because attachment grows both ways.”
He was saying that he also gets attached because so much love. And so, because he is a Saint, he can easily break that attachment and send someone away. And since the point is not to be attached to him physically, but to find the love within, he wouldn’t want us, he wouldn’t want people to become attached to his physical presence unnecessarily. If they needed that, they would be allowed to stay for a while.
But basically, he didn’t let people stay for long,
You know, one time a young man came from Lucknow. We were up in the mountains in Kainchi. He took a bus and a train, and then he couldn’t find a bus to Kainchi so he walked all the way to Kainchi. It’s about, you know, a couple of hours walk, and he gets in and he sees Maharajji and says, “Baba, my grandfather, who was your great old devotee, he’s sick and he’s dying, he’s suffering so much. Please send your blessings.”
So, Maharajji takes a banana and gives it to him and said, “Go home, mash up this banana and, and give him a little bit to eat and everything will be okay.”
So, the boy goes back on the train and the bus, the walking, blah, blah, blah. He gets home. He mashes up the banana. He goes to his grandfather, puts a little in his mouth.
He leaves the body.
He couldn’t let go, I guess, the grandfather, he couldn’t release. He couldn’t let go. He couldn’t die at peace. So, when he got that little piece of prasad, boom, he let go.
So, to see the way, to see things the way a great being sees it is impossible for us. All we have is our own narrow little point of view. They see everything. They know everything. And they do, whatever a real saint does can only be with one motivation, that’s to relieve suffering. So that’s what a real guru does.