KD discusses the importance of practice, particularly the practices of Mantra repetition and the Hanuman Chalisa, and recalls how Maharajji’s Western devotees initially began chanting the Chalisa.
“So, Maharajji said a couple of things. He said, “Hanuman Chalisa, every line of Hanuman Chalisa is Mahamantra.” Second, He said, “Hanuman Chalisa has the power to change fate.” Now, don’t, I have no idea what He’s talking about. But that’s what He said. And it feels to me, you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen, what’s coming to us tomorrow and the next minute and the next second, but not everything is pleasant. There’s sickness, there’s disease, there’s suffering, all kinds of things, so through this practice, those rocks, those boulders in the river of our lives are removed.” – Krishna Das
KD: You know, I don’t know if you know the story about how we came to know the Chalisa. I think I’ve told it a few times, a few million times. We used to come to the temple every day and we were handed this little pamphlet, a little booklet, with a picture of a flying monkey on it, you know? We knew it was a Hanuman temple. We knew that much, so after I had about 100 of these books in my room, these booklets, I just happened to ask the guy giving it out, I said, “Well, what is this thing?” You know? And he said, “It’s a prayer to Hanuman.” And I said, “Oh, really?” So, I thought, if we learn this, then we could sing it to Maharajji because, you know…
The whole, I keep saying this but it’s really, we’ve grown up with one tiny little type of love understanding. You know? That it’s between two people or two things, that it’s a, as my Indian father used to say, “Relationships are business. You do your business. Enjoy. But, love,” he said, “that’s something else that lasts 24 hours a day.” The idea is that real love is who we are. It’s what’s breathing in and out of our bodies. It’s what’s looking out of our eyes. It’s who we are. You don’t get it from somebody else. You don’t get it from anything. You don’t even get it from God. It’s God within us, is the love, is our own true nature. This is a big thing because we can hear this a million times and it just stays in the head, but it doesn’t get into the gut, you know? And even, we talk about compassion and kindness and loving kindness, you know, one of my teachers, Tsoknyi Rinpoche invited me to come sing at one of His retreats where he was going to teach about devotion for the first time. Usually devotion is a part, an integral part of the Tibetan path, but it’s not spoken of separately usually, it’s understood that without devotion, nothing happens. Not like gooey yucky slurpy slimy miserable devotion, but real natural aspiration of the heart to be living in love. And so, one of the things he told his own students, he said, you know, “You think you can have compassion for another person or all beings and hate yourself? How could that possibly happen?” It’s not possible. So, for us Westerners who are so locked inside of our little cell, a little jail cell of egoistic cravings and desires and fantasies and imaginings, for us it’s really the only way to get the key out of that jail cell, is to be kind to ourselves. Try to figure out how to be kind to ourselves. So, think for a second about how your day goes, ok? Where is your head? What are you thinking about? How are you feeling as you go through your day? You wake up, you know? Stagger to the kitchen for a cup of coffee or tea, chamomile tea… but think about how you go through the day. How much of the time you go through your day are you living in love? How much of the day everybody you see is like, full of beauty and grace and their just to bless you by their presence? Huh? How many? One? Your dog?
Joseph Goldstein, one of our good friends and great meditation teachers, was giving a private interview to one of his students, and his student was really struggling with depression and anger and all kinds of stuff that comes up in these intense meditation, and he said to Joseph, “I want to be who my dog sees me as.” “I want to be who my dog thinks I am.” You know? Total unbelievable endless love. Even if you beat that dog, it comes back. So, he said, “That’s who I want to be, who my dog thinks I am.” But how does that happen, you know? It can’t happen if we just keep like, floating downstream, making no effort to wake up. We’ve got to make some effort to show up. There’s just no two ways about it. So, so all these practices are just ways to remind us to pay attention, to open up and to care about ourselves and other people. But just think, for a second, think about your day, your normal day, and just kind of, try to remember and sense what it felt like, what it feels like, going through your day, driving around, going to the supermarket. Supermarkets are amazing. There’s nobody there. No matter how many people are in the supermarket. There’s nobody there. Really, it’s extraordinary. It’s a great place to wake up. You just walk around and go, “Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my goodness, look at that.” Or driving, that’s another. No one’s there when they’re driving. You can be “Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram,” somebody cuts you off and “Son of a!” “Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram” You know? I don’t know. What am I talking about. I have no idea.
Oh the Chalisa.
So, I had the idea, I said, “Well, if we learn this, we can sing it to Maharajji.” We were always trying to find ways to buy more time with Him because His main thing was, “Go away” you know? One time, an Indian devotee came, brought a friend of his to the temple to see the temple and meet Maharajji, and his friend had another guru who had an ashram. Maharajji looks at the guy, said, “Why did you come here?” He said, “Oh I just came to see what you do here.” “Here? It’s nothing. All it is, is come, eat, go.” He said, “At Your place there’s all kinds of bhajan, kirtan and praying going on. Here it’s just come, eat, go.” But that’s very interesting. Maharajji wasn’t a teacher. He’s not a teacher. He didn’t teach. He drew hearts out of their dark little corners into the open and let us feel what could be possible in life. And He’s not that guy in a blanket. That’s just one little manifestation. A nice one. He’s here. He’s the love that lives within us. That everybody knows exactly what it is. Everybody’s looking for the same thing. Some people call it this. Some people call it that. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s the feeling you’re looking for of “ok-ness” about life and about ourselves. And unfortunately, for the ego, or for the sense of the separate self, which most of us spend most of our time in, that’s the much deeper reality, that “ok-ness”, which is just covered up and slimed over by our stuff. So, these practices uncover that place inside of us. We don’t get anything that we don’t have.
So, Rameshwar Das and I decided to learn the Hindi alphabet so we could go through the Chalisa letter by letter and kind of figure out, you know, what it is and how to pronounce it and it took us all spring and all rainy season to actually get through the whole thing and try to pronounce things semi-correctly in good New York Hindi.
So, then we, it was another one of those things where we had planned to do, to sing it the first time, to Maharajji, on a Tuesday, and we ordered Ladhus and a whole thing and we were going to do a big thing and once again, the day before, He comes out of His room, “Hanuman Chalisa. Sing it now.” We ran and got our books, standing there, reading and singing to Him, you know? So, we got to one line and He stops, and He tried to correct me, right?
And I went… “Huh?
“Nevermind, nevermind, just sing.” He never corrected me ever again. My mind just went totally blank. “Huh?” “You’re talking to me? Huh?” He was always… when He would look at you, He would just go “Oh these Westerners I can’t believe it.”
One time… I always wanted to take His hand. He would get up and He would walk across the courtyard or something like that, and one of the Indian devotees would put their hand out and He would grab their hand they would walk. So, I always wanted to do that. So, one day, I just happened to be in the right place as He got up, you know? So, I put my hand out and He looks at me like, and He takes my hand and we start walking, but instead of going to His little room across the courtyard, He walked to the back of the temple. Walking, walking, and I’m thinking, “Wow this is so great.” Then He lets go of my hand and He takes a few steps. So, I took a few steps. And He looked at me and said something that I didn’t understand in Hindi, and He took a few steps. So, I took a few steps. And then He said something else in Hindi which I didn’t understand and He took a few steps. So, I took a few steps. He just looks at me, kneels down, picks up His blanket and pisses right there. He just wanted a couple of inches to pee in peace and I wouldn’t give it to Him.
So, He said, He said, you know people talk about Mahamantra and there are certain groups of, certain lineages that say their mantra is the only Mahamantra. God. That’s why this is called the Kali Yuga. It’s a bunch of bullshit. The name of God is Mahamantra. All the names of God. There isn’t one name that works better than another name. Because sometimes I call you “Sweetie Pie” sometimes I call you “Honey.” You respond just the same. Sometimes you call “Ram,” “Krishna,” “Kali,” whatever, the same. It’s not two things out there. It’s just, it’s all in here. And any name that we use with the right intention and the right aspiration is correct.
Except Frank. We talked about Frank-ness yesterday.
But, because these names are different. That’s what they say. I can only tell you what they say, what I’ve heard. And they say that these names… Ramakrishna talked about this practice of the Name. He was in the late 1800s, ok? And He said that every repetition of the Name is a seed and once again, this tiny little seed can have a huge tree in it, right, when it grows. But, when it’s a seed, it’s just a seed. A tiny little thing. So, every repetition, every time we speak one of these Names, we’re planting a seed in our own Being, so to speak. And He said, each one of these seeds has Shakti, has power, what’s the word, has a kind of, it’s going to grow, it’s said, sooner or later, depending on how it’s planted. If you just throw a bunch of seeds out like that, some of them might grow, some of them might not. If you plant them a certain way, depending on how you plant the seed, the better chances of it growing sooner and growing more strong. So, the intention that we have when we’re practicing, when we’re repeating the Name is very important. But that’s a whole thing in itself.
So anyway, every repetition of one of these Names has Shakti, has power, has within it, the whole thing, and sooner or later they will grow. So, He said, every repetition is a seed and the wind catches the seeds and blows them around, right? Some of them are lost, some of them don’t grow, but some of them get caught on the roof of an old house, between the tiles of the roof of the house, and in those days the clay tiles were dried in the sun, and they weren’t really super hard and over time and seasons, they would soften and then the seeds could begin to grow. The seeds of the repetition of the Name that we have done begin to grow and they grow, and they grow, and they wind up destroying this roof, right? And they keep growing and then they destroy the whole house, so Ramakrishna said, that house is who we believe ourselves to be. I think I’m me. You think you’re you. That’s the whole problem. We believe those thoughts. We believe that. We identify with our thoughts and our emotions and our history and all that stuff. Which is reasonable from a certain point of view. Just like in a dream, you totally believe it’s real in the dream until you wake up. So, this is also a dream.
So, every repetition of one of these Names is a seed, the seed gets caught between the tiles on the roof of this house, the tiles soften over time, the seeds grow, the roots grow, they destroy the whole house. That house is our separateness. That house, on one level, everybody in this room is like a little bubble of “me,” right? Each one of us has our story. I’m me, you’re you. Reasonable. Underneath that, there’s a deeper reality which is the actual one-ness of us all. For instance, in a dream, you’re all the people in your dream, aren’t you? If you’re in your dream, you’re you, you could be seeing a thousand people in the dream doing all kinds of things, but really you are all those people in the dream, right? Nobody else is making up the dream for you. You made it up in your sleep. So, you’re all those things in your dream. But when you wake up, you say, “Wait, it’s just me.” That was my dream. So, when we wake up from this dream, we have the same experience. All these others that we see are no different than our self. But that’s another reality. A deeper reality. That through the repetition of the Name, that house of “me” is destroyed, is removed and there’s only open space and presence and being and love and bliss and happiness and there’s nothing to cut the space up, this inside and outside, me and you, me and the rest of the world. And it’s not that you disappear. You expand out of this little jail cell of me that we live in.
So, this is accomplished through the repetition of the Name. That’s what Maharajji said. There’s I’m sure, other ways, other techniques to do it, but this is what He said, and like I told you yesterday, there are other types of yoga, but we weren’t qualified for them. There’s ashtanga yoga, there’s all kinds of yoga, we were qualified for the five limbed yoga; gossiping, wandering around, eating, drinking and sleeping. This is what He said we were qualified for. And He doesn’t lie. So that’s what we’re qualified for. So, while we’re fucking around, let’s say a few names, you know? That’s all. Add something to the life. Don’t think you’re going to be, you’re going to rise up to the heavens bodily and the whole world will worship you, you know? If you can just get through the day without killing anybody, that’s a great thing. Even mentally. How many people do we kill all day long in our minds. Don’t think that… you think that’s invisible? That’s not invisible. That’s a karmic, that’s a karma, our thoughts are karmas. They don’t carry the same weight as if you actually go out and beat somebody up, but if you’re thinking, that’s not invisible in the universe. That’s a karma. It doesn’t have the same weight as a physical, as living through it physically and hurting somebody actually. But it is a karma. So even our thoughts create stuff. Or so they say.
But you know, just give it your 19 minutes. I just want to see if you’re listening. You did 20? God bless you. Buddha will bless you. He will come and sit on your head. Not shit on your head. Sit on your head. That’s a whole other thing. That’s the secret teaching. You don’t get that.
Ram Ram. Oh God. How did they let me out of the house? Well there was no one home to keep me there, that’s why.
So, ok. So, Maharajji said a couple of things. He said, “Hanuman Chalisa, every line of Hanuman Chalisa is Mahamantra.” Second, He said, “Hanuman Chalisa has the power to change fate.” Now, don’t, I have no idea what He’s talking about. But that’s what He said. And it feels to me, you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen, what’s coming to us tomorrow and the next minute and the next second, but not everything is pleasant. There’s sickness, there’s disease, there’s suffering, all kinds of things, so through this practice, those rocks, those boulders in the river of our lives are removed. We may not know exactly the details of the story and also, the Catch 22 is that “you” can’t do it. You can’t do the practices out of fear to remove those boulders. That doesn’t work. But through the practice, and the chanting of the Chalisa and the Name, these negative karmas are neutralized. That’s what they say. I mean, I have no proof. But that’s what they say. And they know what they’re saying. They even know what they are. I don’t know who they are. But that’s the deal. So, the programs that we ourselves have put in motion, not only in this life, but in all of our lives, that are manifesting right now as Us and as our lives, those programs are changeable. They are transformable through practice. Practice is such a dry word, but through love, let’s talk about it that way, we’re trying to unlock that love in our own hearts and as human beings, we like to use other beings to do that. But the problem is, the other human being is doing the same thing with us.
So, it’s only relatively successful for a limited period of time.
But the love that we’re really looking for is already looking for us, looking out of our own hearts at us and offering a way in and these chants and these practices are a way in. So let’s do it.
I don’t know what.
And through these practices, eventually, you get some vote about how you feel. Like, you wake up feeling like shit and you just believe it and you go through the whole day like that. But through doing practice and chanting and getting deeper into these practices and these understandings, those negative karmas don’t last, don’t hang around so much. They become more cloudlike and they get blown away by the wind. But this is something that takes some kind of sincere dedicated lifestyle changes. We have to kind of do something to wake up. We have to set the alarm before we go to sleep. But, unfortunately we already went to sleep and we forgot to set the alarm. But I think we set it last life, so that’s why we’re here today. If we hadn’t set the alarm, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have woken up, at least this much, to start looking for something. That’s a big thing. Everybody’s looking for something. We all have one problem. Bad aim. Very bad aim.
Call and Response podcasts are made possible by the Kirtan Wallah Foundation
Your support via direct donations go toward offerings such as this series, new teaching materials, as well as the the compilation of all of KD’s work on the Path, for the purpose of sharing it with everyone in a variety of media. Kirtan Wallah Foundation is also be able to offer assistance to organizations around the world, whose efforts are in alignment with the teachings of Neem Karoli Baba. For more information about the work of the foundation you can visit our blog for recent updates as well as sign up for our foundation news letter.
A note about your donation:
Donations can be made via Paypal below and are tax deductible under 501c3 guidelines. If you prefer to give via a check, please send your donation to Kirtan Wallah Foundation at 228 E Route 59 #85, Nanuet, NY 10954 . We thank you in advance for your generosity.