Call and Response Ep. 28 Suffering, Gratitude and Burning Out
So, I can feel this softening thing happening in my personal relationships and my everyday life. I’m having a really hard time with the world stage, how to not either not run away from it or like, bring just furious disgust and I’m not sure how to handle, like, what do you suggest with that?
“We don’t know what’s going on… Western culture is a few hundred years old. Modern science is a couple hundred years old, maybe, at the most, and we think we know everything about everything. We don’t even know who we are. How are we going to know who anybody else is. So, the best idea is to become the best human being that you can and everywhere you go and everything you do should be from the best place you can do it from.” – Krishna Das
Q: So, I can feel this softening thing happening in my personal relationships and my everyday life. I’m having a really hard time with the world stage, how to not either not run away from it or like, bring just furious disgust and I’m not sure how to handle, like, what do you suggest with that?
KD: Well, what can come from furious disgust except more furious disgust? And what can come from running away? Just keep running? So, neither one is very useful. Now what?
Q: Go on twitter and practice, I guess?
KD: One time, somebody came to Maharajji, you know, Janaka in Indian stories, King Janaka was a raja, a king, also a rishi, a saint, a realized Being. So He was a Rajarishi they called Him. He was a king that was a fully realized being, but he was still a king. So somebody came to Maharajji once and said, “Baba the world is so screwed up.” This was 40 years ago. Can you imagine? “But what’s going to happen in, you know, I wish there was some king like Janaka who could…” Maharajji said, “There’s a king much greater than Janaka.” We don’t know, you know. The ones who know seem to know. All we see are the results of everybody’s negativity.
Q: All the suffering which is so hard to watch.
KD: Yeah. But you know the story in the Ramayana, right? You know the story of Ram. So, Ram was an incarnation of God who took form to destroy the negativity in the world. And the negativity in the world was represented by this one demon king named Ravana, so however, the whole story was essentially written by Brahma, the Creator. The whole, the story about the release of negativity, the destroying of the negativity in the world, this whole story, the drama was written out by Brahma, so Brahma was looking for somebody to play the role of the demon, so there was this great yogi who had just three lives left before he was fully enlightened. And Brahma came to him and said, “Hey man, we need somebody to play the bad guy, and if you agree to do it, Ram is going to shoot you in the heart with His arrow and you’ll be liberated and just, it’ll just be one birth.” He said, “Fantastic, I’ll do it.” So Ravana was actually a great yogi who agreed to play the part of the bad guy so that all that negativity can be destroyed in one shot, so to speak. So, we don’t know who anybody is. We don’t know what’s going on. We have, Western culture is a few hundred years old. Modern science is a couple hundred years old, maybe, at the most, and we think we know everything about everything. We don’t even know who we are. How are we going to know who anybody else is. So the best idea is to become the best human being that you can and everywhere you go and everything you do should be from the best place you can do it from. What else can you do? And the less you react, the less you allow the world, you know someone once asked the Dalai Lama, “Your Holiness, are you happy?” And He said, “Well, I guess you could say I had a really hard life. I had to take the reigns of my country at a very early age. And then I had to watch the Chinese invade and take my country and kill millions and millions of my people, and then I had to escape and now I live as a guest in someone else’s country, but I’m happy.” He said, “the Chinesse took everything from me. Am I going to let them take my happiness?” And that’s the real bottom line. Do we allow ourselves to suffer because of external events or do we find a way to keep our hearts open, really, really, really open and caring and not let it destroy us? If we let it destroy us then what are we going to do? Then we’re destroyed. Who can we help? We can’t help ourselves.
Q: How do you keep your heart open and still not be destroyed by all that?
KD: You’re still here. It hurts but it hasn’t destroyed you yet. That’s good. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s not that you don’t feel the pain. You do feel the pain, in fact, somebody like Maharajji or these great saints, they feel all the pain in the whole universe all the time because they have become everyone and everything in the universe. It’s not like they’re, “I’m happy. I’m happy. I’m happy all the time. This is so great.” It’s not like that. They have ultimate compassion because they feel the pain all the time but it doesn’t, when the deeper you go, when, your true nature is ok, so that’s where you have to go, that’s where we have to go. And when we’re on the road to that so we can’t expect to be ok, you can’t make it ok up here, it has to, you have to recognize the ok-ness through the dharma, through these kinds of spiritual ideas and practice and if you don’t, you don’t. You can kind of full yourself, but hey, it comes out, you know? Your relationships suck, your kids hate you, the car doesn’t work, the bank takes the house back. All these things happen. If we let them destroy us, then we haven’t done anything for ourselves or for others, then we don’t know the truth about things. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt. It hurts. It hurts more. Maharajji said, “A Saint’s heart is like butter but not like butter. Butter melts when it’s put on the heat, but a Saint’s heart melts when somebody else’s heart is put on the heat.” But it doesn’t destroy them. It motivates them to do compassionate actions. So, don’t expect it all to be ok right now even though it is, but that’s in here, that’s here. It has to be ok here. But the real underlying program that’s going on is our own personal unhappiness is projected onto the world. That’s what, that’s the real situation. And so, we take the world’s suffering as our own suffering, but it’s really our own suffering, our own unhappiness that we’re projecting. Buddha looks out at the world, it doesn’t destroy His peace, but He sees everything. Maharajji looks out at the world, it doesn’t destroy His peace, but He sees everything. We see one little thing and we want to go hide. So, and that’s because of our own issues that we’re projecting on the outside world. You know? It’s not that it’s not happening. I’m not saying it’s not happening. It’s happening. Really. And it’s pretty weird and very painful but, if it’s destroying us, if it’s crippling us then that’s because what we’re seeing out there is really our own projections. Our own unhappiness. Because when we don’t have unhappiness, we don’t see it out there. And the Dalai Lama is not destroyed by having to run away from His country, by having the Chinese completely, the Chinese government, not the Chinese people, being on His case all the time, etcetera etcetera etcetera, so that’s the deal. On one hand you say, “Oh that’s selfishness. Not letting, not feeling that.” Well, that’s the backwards way of looking at it. Self-caring is different than selfishness. Why would you let yourself be destroyed? What reason could we have for that? But we do. We have a lot of reasons. I know my parents. I know what I went through as a kid. I know what they went through. So, it’s very hard to blame them for just transmitting their own pain to me. They couldn’t help it. So, I know. I have some clue about this, the programs that are running, and I have some clue about why I see them out there all the time. They’re not out there, but it’s my projection of my stuff. And the more you, the practice you do, the more you dedicate yourself to learning how to take care of yourself, in a good way, the more sense this will make to us. There’s a period where it seems like, you know, sitting down cross-legged for 19 minutes a day is selfishness, you know? “I’m not doing anything. I’m not protesting. I’m not demonstrating. I’m not helping people.” Well, you know, that’s not exactly the case. Sitting down and quieting your mind makes you more open to being able to help other people and be with other people as they are, not as you need them to be.
Q: Thank you.
Q: I had an experience during the chanting today which I sort of hesitated about, whether to share or not, but a week ago, just exactly a week ago, a friend of mine, a 90 year old man that I was very good friends with, he lived in New York City and I would see him at least once a week and he died a week ago. And during the chanting, I thought of him and then I thought of other close friends that have died over the years as well as my main partner of 20 years who died, but that was 8 years ago, so I was thinking of all these different people and, you know, feeling like the sadness of the loss but then I felt like, I guess like a heart opening and I felt grateful that I had had all of this love in my life and so tears were coming out but it wasn’t like, it was more like gratitude than sadness and then I went from there to close friends that are in my life and daughters and grandchildren and you know, people I love in my life now and I felt gratitude for that, so it, I wasn’t, I actually had gone away from the chanting because I was having this experience but it almost felt like the chanting was like, like a heart opening where instead of focusing on the loss I was feeling the gratitude, you know? Of having this…
KD: That’s good. That’s a natural result of being here, being open. Yeah.
Q: Really lovely.
KD: And there’s no… that’s a natural feeling. That’s good. Very good. And when something like that happens, you don’t push it away. You don’t say, “that’s just this feeling.” When those kind of, beautiful open feelings come, it’s not, they’re coming as the fruit of the effort you’ve made to, coming as the fruit of the efforts that we make in our lives to be good people. They’re not something to push away, nor do you want to get lost in them forever, but they don’t last forever but they don’t last forever anyways, so if you enjoy it while it comes, and you keep chanting, you keep chanting and you enjoy and you keep chanting and enjoy, and just like if your knee’s hurting, you don’t enjoy but you keep chanting. You don’t enjoy but you keep chanting, and then eventually you might forget about your knee for 10 minutes. And then you go, “Well what happened. It’s still my knee. It still hurts. Where have I been?” You’ve been chanting. The knee might still be hurting but it’s not grabbing you the same way. And you didn’t have to push it away, you just released naturally and then when these beautiful experiences come, those are wonderful. You don’t try to kill them and come back to the chanting. You allow to be what is, but you stay with the chanting as much as you can while these things come through, while they move through.
Q: I realized that over the past year I’ve been focused on trying to be more into gratitude rather than kvetching and
KD: Kvetching is a path in itself.
Q: I was always good at that so I try to, you know, even make gratitude lists. A friend of mine had suggested that and I think that maybe this is a result of that effort over the past year or two.
KD: There’s never going to be a time where thoughts are not arising. Probably. For most of us. So, what we tried to do when we talk about compassion and kindness and caring for other people is substitute those thoughts of kindness and openness for the thoughts of self-destruction and self-hatred and judging ourselves and all those other thoughts that are so common for most of us. We’re trying to create a positive flow of thought. There’s always going to be some thought flow. But for most of us, and many of us, it’s usually very limiting to say the least. So, when we start thinking about other people, then we’re not obsessing about ourselves. And we’re not creating more negative thoughts about ourselves. It’s very interesting. It doesn’t mean you start grabbing people and say, “Oh, what can I do for you?” You know, like everybody in the street. You can see the guy in the street. If you don’t give him 10 cents you at least don’t have to kick him as you walk by, so that’s a good thing. You just start to feel more naturally less obsessed with your own feelings and like, how I feel is the most important thing in the world. Because for most of us, that’s the way we go through our day. And we kind of map out our paths to have minimum pain and maximum pleasant feelings. It just doesn’t work. You have to be with it all the time. With anything that arises and that’s the idea when you chant, you simply release it and come back. You don’t push it away. You don’t judge it. It doesn’t matter what the thought was. It doesn’t matter what the thought was. It could have been a horrible negative aggressive terrible angry vicious thought, you just let it go. You just keep coming back. Just keep coming back. Just keep coming back. And then eventually we just wind up living here where we are. But this idea about gratitude and lists like that. Anything that generates positive, you know, as a depressed person, talking about positive thoughts kind of just makes me sick inside. I have to admit it, you know? I can’t barely stand myself talking about that shit. Unfortunately, it’s true. I can’t get away from that, either. We need, we’re going to be something all the time. If we’re just constantly obsessing about ourselves and how miserable we are, which is what people like me do, then what’s going to happen, right? So you try to cultivate some thinking about other people and about the situations in the world and radiating a kind of loving kindness outwardly to that and then you can’t be, you know, thinking about killing yourself when you’re doing that. As soon as you’re finished, you can come back to killing yourself, it’s ok. But at least you spent some time away from that. And then when you come back to killing yourself, then you know, then you don’t take it so seriously maybe. All right. But Right.
Q: Mine’s real quick. As yoga teachers, or really anyone in general, it’s easy to get burnt out.
KD: Say what?
Q: It’s easy to get burnt out
Q: Just protecting your energy. You’ve been doing this for quite awhile…
KD: From whom are you protecting your energy? Is there somebody out there?
Q: Oh, no, I was just asking if you get burnt out just showing up and doing this time and time again?
KD: Why would I get burnt out.
Q: Ok. That was the question I was looking for.
KD: I mean, here I am.
Q: Really? You don’t, really, just, no?
KD: What burns me out is traveling. Moving around. But being with people doesn’t burn me out. It might make me physically tired but it doesn’t… because I get to talk about Maharajji. I get to be with people who are interested in hearing about this nonsense and how would that burn me out, you know? I get burnt out from watching television for 40 hours but this doesn’t burn me out.
KD: You know. What do you call it? What do you call when you watch the same show for…
KD: Binging. Binging burns me out but it doesn’t stop me. And I watch the darkest Nordic noir serial killer murder mysteries you could possibly imagine. I love it.
Q: Me, too.
KD: It totally fucks me up. But I can’t stop. So when I’m doing this, this is great. Are you kidding me? Keeping me away from the television. Keeping me away from people who kill in different languages. It’s amazing. I don’t have to read subtitles. Jesus. This is wonderful. So, the burned out thing, if I was trying to do something for you, or to you, oh boy, I would have been burnt out a long time ago. But I’m not. I have no agenda for you, for anybody here. I’m happy to be here. Chanting is the best thing I could possibly do for myself. And I get to do it. You know? So it’s amazing. And then to sit around and share stories and you know, my favorite thing to do with, when Maharajji was in the body, besides staring at Him, was to stand just behind Him on the side and watch people as they looked at Him, right? You know, somebody would come, some crazy drug and hippie would come and sit there and he’d be like, and you’d see this miserable guy just, the shit just falling off him and his heart opening and all of a sudden he’s like,, feeling loved. It was the most beautiful thing in the world. And that’s what this is for me. We’re all bringing all our shit here. We’re bringing our lives and all our history and then we’re here in this place together and it just, a lot of it falls off and we just kind of blossom and that’s, it’s the same thing as me standing behind Him watching people look at Him. Because that’s what I see. How could I possibly get burnt out. I could find a way, I suppose, but I’m not looking to get burned out.
KD: On the other hand, I’m not trying to make that happen for you. I’m simply being here with you and with us and doing what I do. If you feel good, good. If you feel bad, good. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just do what I do. I’m not trying to make anything happen for you. I’m simply being with Him. But I still get plenty of time to Binge. I get burnt out on my own time.
Q: Hi. So, question for you. The first time I heard you perform was the first and unfortunately the last time I heard Dada Vaswani speak in New York and just really curious how you came to know Him and perhaps if you could share a story or two.
KD: Oh boy, He was so beautiful. You know, He died last year. He died, he was just 100, I think, just about to be 100. I was in Chicago and Jeremy Frindel, the one who made the movie about me, was there. I think he was still making the movie. So he told me that Dada Vaswani was at some of His devotees house somewhere in Chicago. And I’d heard about Him for a long time but I’d never met Him. So, we, Jeremy arranged that we should go over there and visit with Him. And so, we’re sitting there and He just comes out and this was like the sun coming out behind the clouds. It was so beautiful, I mean, so… I sang for Him. I sang Hanuman Chalisa and He just sat there the whole time really with His eyes closed like this, and then one of the Indian people there said, “Oh Dada, when Krishna Das sings it makes me want to sing and dance.” So Dada just kind of opened His eyes and looked at Him and said, “When Krishna Das sings, it brings my mind to peace.”
I just went ohhhh….
Killed me dead. Right?
He was so beautiful and so then He started, His people would start asking me to come and sing and I was so happy to do it. Last time I saw Him was at Carnegie, Town Hall, and He would always give His talk and then He would sit just off stage while we sang. And then so the evening was over and most everybody had left and I went over to see Him with a bunch of people. Some of the band came over and His Indian devotees were there and so we’re just sitting there. I’m sitting on the floor looking up at Him and He’s in His wheel chair kind of looking at me and smiling, so He tells one of the people, “Bring some of those books for Krishna Das.” And the woman said, “But Dada, they’re in the back of the hall.” “That’s ok, just go get…” So this woman goes. So for 10 minutes, we just sat there. There were people standing around and I was sitting out in front. We just sat there and just looked at each other and then somebody said, “Dada, you’re not talking to Krishna Das, he’ just sitting here, you’re not saying anything.” And He looked over at Her, He looked back at me, and He said, “Henry David Thoreau was a very great Saint. And He wanted to meet this Englishman,” I forget the name of the guy, “who was also a very great saint, so He traveled from His home by cart, horse cart, and He got to Boston, and then He took a ship to England, then He took this to that, and He finally got to this guy’s house, and they spent an hour together and not a word was spoken, and then He turned around and went back to America.” Then He looked at me, and He smiled and He said, “Krishna Das and I have said everything there is to say.”
He was extraordinary. I mean, there was nothing but Love in this guy. He was just amazing. And you know, He was so sweet and so kind and loving and one day, one time in New Jersey there was one of those big gatherings and He took some questions and answers at the end. So, this India woman who lives down near Atlanta said, “Dada I live in this community where all the people get exterminators for the bugs and the mice and everything. And if we don’t do that, not only do all the bugs and the mice come to our house, but then all the people in the community get very angry because then the bugs and the mice just go back to their place. What should I do?” Right? And I thought, what kind of a question is that? Right? So He was quiet for a minute, and then He says, “Ok. I’ll take the karma of all that. I went, “whoa. What?” Because He never said things like that. I never heard Him say anything like “I’ll do this,” or “I’ll do that” but He just said to this woman, “Ok, I’ll take that karma. You just do what you do.” So He had something going on that, you know… He was really really beautiful Being. They’re out there, you know? They’re out there. And we’re here. So, they’re Here, they’re around. They’re around, you know? And when we’re ready and when it’s the right thing for us, they’ll show up in our lives, whether inside or outside, it doesn’t matter. You’ve gotta get over that. You think that Guru is something outside of you. It’s not that way. And you don’t need to meet a physical body that is a Guru. The Guru is not limited. We are limited and they don’t care about our limitations. They’re not limited by our limitations. They can do what they have to do for us and are doing that already. Or we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be interested in this stuff at all. It’s not by our own efforts that we’re attracted to this, it’s by grace and grace alone. Nothing else. If we had our way, we’d binge 24-7 365. Believe me. But because of grace, because we have grace and blessings already, we are, we only binge 23-7 362. Ok, see you later.
Q: Can I, may I ask?
KD: Yeah you may. Oh sorry.
Q: No that’s ok. Thank you. I have a one and a half year old baby whom I love so much and I have a job that I love so much and I work with kids who have a lot of trauma and I want to know how I can balance taking care of others and taking care of myself.
KD: Well, try not to see taking care of others as different than taking care of yourself. You think you have a self that needs certain things, that if you’re taking care of others, you’re not taking care of yourself. That’s not the case. But that’s what you think. And so you get burnt out by being with others. You think you’re not with yourself? Just remove that line and you have nothing to think about. Nothing to worry about. Just live. Be happy. Take care of others. And then you’re taking care of yourself, too. Where is the Self that you have to take care of it that’s not there when you’re with others. Where? It’s right there. Right then. So when you’re taking care of others and enjoying that, why is your Self not enjoying that? Is there some Self you left home that you have to get back to? And feed it? No. It’s just you.
There’s no place that you’re not, so, and there’s no one that you’re not. Don’t try to, it’s not about how you feel, it’s about how you don’t feel, which means, when you don’t feel that you’re avoiding yourself and you don’t feel that you’re, you know, you’re not giving yourself enough time, you’re there when you’re taking care of others. You should really be with it 100% and then when you’re home you’ll be 100%.
Q: Thank you.
KD: Maybe. You’ve gotta work on it. You keep thinking there’s some “me” somewhere that they have to give certain things to that you don’t, that’s not somewhere else. But you’re just there all the time. And it’s not like that. Just give yourself 100% to whatever you’re doing and you won’t have those feelings that you’re not taking care of yourself.
That’s a story. A program.