Call and Response Ep. 32 Keep Coming Back and Cleaning Out The Dark Corners
“You don’t have to know anything. All you have to do is be happy. And think about other people once in a while instead of yourself. That’s all. It’s ridiculous how happy you can be when you don’t think about yourself. Ridiculous. Completely absurd. You wouldn’t think that would be the case but it is the case.“ – Krishna Das
So, these are the people who couldn’t get enough abuse last night, right? Very good. I can’t wait. In India they call it “teasing.” Galli, it’s called. It’s when a teacher, not me, but when a Guru or somebody teases His devotees by, you know, like, abuse, flinging abuses at them. Huh?
Q: It’s a sign of love. You love us.
KD: Oh, very much. It means you’re really; it means there’s no, you’re really close, you know? You’re really, there’s no distance or formality, you know? You miserable… How many, there’s no children here today, are there? Anybody under 30?
You see what I mean? It’s going to be a good night. There’s, well, I ‘m not going to go into the curses. I actually learned, you know, Maharajji used to do this all the time and the Indian people would kind of just look down like this, like… and we kept saying, “What’s he saying? What’s he saying?” “Oh, never mind.”
“You naked babies!”
I mean, if you really want to get somebody angry in India, call them a “naked baby.” Oh, my God. So, I had learned all these curse words and abuses that He used to offer to people, so to speak. I had to force myself to forget them because I was using them in the wrong situations.
So, what we’ve just been doing is called the repetition of the Names of God. That’s what they call it. Personally, I don’t know about God. But that’s a Name that doesn’t appeal to me that much. But in India, all these Names have different qualities and different aspects and they understand there’s only One. All One. But it has many Names and can be approached from within each one of us, our own particular shape or form, insanity. And it’s through all that, these Names will pull us through all our stuff into our Self. Another Name for God is “Self” with a capital “S.” The sense of Being. It’s not a Thing. But it’s a, it’s a, the Presence. So, when we sing, we try to pay some attention to the sound of the Name, whichever Name we’re repeating and as soon as we notice that we haven’t been paying attention, we come back to the Name. At least for the next millionth of a second. And then after a while, of course, you notice that you haven’t been paying attention, so you come back again, but actually, the moment when you notice that you haven’t been paying attention, you’re already back. How did that happen? We didn’t do that. We were lost in our thoughts. How did we come back? How did that happen?
Well… first of all, that’s the fruit of practice that we ourselves have done before. That’s the fruit of our own practice. Every time you come back, we’re planting a seed in our own consciousness that continues to grow and that seed keeps bringing us back. The other aspect is that we’re always here, we just forget. And so, when the energy of a particular thought runs out, we’re back because that’s where we were anyway, but we weren’t paying attention. So, that’s why it’s not necessary to create anything or manipulate your emotions or try to feel any particular type of thing, like I don’t care about bliss or ecstasy. Screw it. I just want to be here. And if some of that comes, well, good, I’ll enjoy it. But if it doesn’t come, that’s ok, too. Don’t try to make anything happen. Why would you join a club that they’d actually let you join? I wouldn’t.
So, anything I can create with my mind is going to pass sooner or later. What’s the sense? Just keep coming back and what’s within us will start to be uncovered, and we’ll start to have direct intuitive experience that’s beyond the thoughts and emotions. Beyond the coming and going. The real changes take place under the radar. You don’t get, we don’t get to pat ourselves on the back about how spiritual we’re getting. If we do, then we’re not. Being spiritual doesn’t mean getting a bigger ego, a bigger identity, more feeling greater and stronger and bigger and more powerful. It’s means actually, not thinking about yourself at all. Which really makes you strong and powerful inside. All we do is think about our self all day long. All lifelong. The movie of Me. We write it, we produce it, we direct it and we act in it. And we play all the parts. I’m playing your part in my movie. Do I know you? I don’t know you. But in my movie, I know who you are. And then we write reviews, which we read and get more depressed. Right Kim? And how do you stop the movie? You can’t stop the movie. It’s not stoppable. It is “let-go-of-able” or something. With a little practice. Practice is unfortunately necessary. That’s the good news and the bad news. You know, the only reason that I can chant these days is because, back in the old days in India with Maharajji, we were in the temple, hanging out with Him, usually all day, when He came out, which was just usually a couple of hours a day, and the rest of the time we would sing with the kirtan wallahs that were in the temple. He would bring these guys up from Vrindavan, which is this town or village down in the plains, Krishna’s place, so He’d bring up these Kirtan singers from there and they would sing pretty much from four in the morning until about elven at night. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna… all day long. Different shifts. There were different groups of them. So, we used to sing with them when Maharajji was in His room, but as soon as He came out, you know, I had to do my spiritual practice, which was …
That’s all I wanted to do was stare at Him, you understand? All the beauty in the universe was wrapped up in that blanket. My eyes did not want to leave that Form. And then, one of these kirtan wallahs, these Indian guys, came on to one of the Western women who was hanging out with us in the group, and Maharajji found out about it and in about ten seconds, all twenty of these guys were thrown out of the temple, loaded onto the back of a truck, driven down to the train, sent back to Vrindavan. So, one of the Indian people said, “Baba, you just kicked out the kirtan wallahs, who will sing now?” “The Westerners.” “Ahhh…” This was horrible news because you had to sing in this little room around the corner from the courtyard, and you couldn’t see Him if He came out. You know? What could be worse? The only thing worse was listening to ourselves sing. We didn’t know anything. “Hare Krishna… Hare Krishna…” I didn’t know how to play harmonium. And then, they had a, hanging from the ceiling, they had a microphone that was left over from World War I and it was broadcasting our cacophony to the whole valley. And you could see the women digging potatoes in the field going like…
So, there I was. And you don’t understand, there was no instruction about how long we were to sing. We were to sing. Forever.
Oh. Horror. Total panic inside, you know? Just, what are we going to do? How long is this going to go on? I can’t stand this. And then, God forbid, you ask your mind to actually pay attention. What are you, joking? I’m out of here. You know, you’re just thinking about everything but the mantra’s going on. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna…” You think, I remember my old girlfriend back in the East, back in New York… “Hare…. Krishna Krishna Hare Hare…” And then I remember, she broke up with me, “Hare Krishna…”
I relived my whole life. You know, “Gee I remember when I was two.” “Hare Krishna…” “Oh yeah, I pooped in my diapers…” “Hare Krishna…” Everything. Just on and on, nonsense, you know? But the mantra was still going.… because you had to sing. So, even if, I mean, I can’t say we never tried to pay attention, but I don’t think I really tried very hard. But I had to keep singing, which means there was some attention being paid to what was going on. And I remember when we were supposed to be singing, He wouldn’t let us come to see Him. So, I would go out, like to pretend I had to take a pee in the back of the temple, and He’d be sitting over here with all the other Westerners having a great time, they’re laughing and joking and there’s prasad, you know, apples and bananas and everything thrown around. And so, I would walk towards the back of the temple. I would face the back of the temple, but I’d walk kind of sideways over to where He was, you know? And He’d see me, “Jao!” Ok, “go away,” He said. So, I tried the same thing on the way back. “Jao!”
It was horrible.
But believe it or not, and it’s hard for me to believe, but something actually happened. Who knew? Not me. I was just singing because He said “sing.” I had no, there was nothing. So, there I am singing “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna” and little by little, the mantra just, it started feeling comfortable and I kind of relaxed into it, you know? And then, and like, stuff, thoughts would come and they would just kind of float through and I wouldn’t really be thinking them. Or if I was, it was just for like a minute or a second, you know? And the mantra kind of just got like home base. I kind of sunk into it and it was the first time I’d ever, well, almost, the second time, but in a different way, I’ll tell you about the first time. But this was the first time I did it without LSD that thoughts just came through and I wasn’t thinking them. And there was just this wonderful space filled with the mantra and all these thoughts just kept going through and they didn’t stop to grab me. They just flew through. It was wonderful and it was the first glimpse I had into the way that this chanting practice might work. The first time that something like that happened was a long time before in America. I went to my 50th High School reunion not too long ago. 50. I went to High School when I was four. I was a little ahead of my time. I went to the reunion and there was a guy there who was also in college with me on Long Island. And I had scored ten hits of acid from him. This was back, it’s so long ago. Acid was still legal, believe it or not. Ten hits of pure sandos acid. And I had taken the first one while I was still in school. I was playing basketball. I had a job in the library. By the tenth one, I was living alone in the mountains of Pennsylvania with my dogs and my cat and that was it. No human beings in sight. So, on one of those trips I remember, I was lying in my bed just zoned, just blitzed, totally. And all of a sudden, I felt something coming. What is that? It’s coming closer and closer. And closer. What, what? Oh no! No! It’s a thought. Crash.
And then I was thinking.
“Hello. I am thinking now. This is very nice. I like to think. I think all the time.” And then, oh no… no no don’t go, don’t go…
Little by little, the thoughts started coming faster, like they would crash over me and then I’d be thinking, right? And then they’d leave and they’d come and they’d… after a while they came so fast that I was back. That’s called “coming down.”
But this was totally different. That’s the politically correct thing to say.
No, it was different. It really was very different. Because the feeling at the temple in the chanting was really deep, a deep feeling of being home and being at peace and at ease. Because the thoughts weren’t grabbing me. I wasn’t identifying with them. I wasn’t trying not to identify with them, I was just staying with the feeling of the mantra, so it was very beautiful. It was a very beautiful experience. And it only happened because He forced us to sing. So, I had to go through the boredom, through all the different states of mind that happen when you try to slow down. You try to let go. You try to meditate. You go through all this shit. Basically, what we do is just turn the channel. We get up and we watch tv or we do something else. But I was forced to sit there for hours every day until finally my mind just gave up and said, “I’m outta here.” And that’s how it works to some degree. You don’t necessarily have to force yourself but He wanted me to have that experience at that time so that’s what He did. If we force ourselves too much, we get very ego maniacal about it. We’re really trying to get something. We want to have some experience. We want to make it work. All you do is you get bigger and shinier and stupider because you think you know something. That’s the height of stupidity. You don’t have to know anything. All you have to do is be happy. And think about other people once in a while instead of yourself. That’s all. It’s ridiculous how happy you can be when you don’t think about yourself. Ridiculous. Completely absurd. You wouldn’t think that would be the case but it is the case. When I was going to kill myself in India, in the temple with Maharajji, He looked at me and said, “What are you going to do? Jump in the river? Ha Ha” He wasn’t taking it very seriously. He said, “You can’t die.” I was thinking, you know, the river was six inches deep, so I figured if I got my head lodged under a rock, one of these big rocks, for long enough, I could make it work, you know? He said, “You can’t die. Worldly people don’t die. Only Jesus died the real death.” I looked at Him, “Are you kidding me?” I’m in a Hanuman Temple high in the Himalayas and you’re talking to me about Jesus? He said, “Only Jesus died the real death. Why? Because He never thought of Himself.” What He meant was, the “Me”, the planet of “Me,” no longer existed in that Being. Thoughts of “Me” no longer arose there. This was a completely enlightened compassionate Being. And He was only here, like all the other real saints, they’re only here for us. They’ve already got everything they need. They’re finished. It’s not about them anymore. They’re here for us because we’re suffering. That’s the only reason a Saint is here.
Ok, so let’s have some questions and answers. I’ll ask the questions. Raise your hand and I’ll ask you a question. Yeah.
Q: Thank you, KD.
KD: You’re welcome.
Q: I just love hearing your stories about Maharajji and your time in the Kumaon mountains. I was recently there last year on a pilgrimage to Maharajji’s temples. So, my question, I guess, how long were you in India with Maharajji and, you know, I hear stories about Ram Das and how he was suddenly changed. Did you have an experience like that while you were there or was it over a period of time?
KD: Well, I was in India while Maharajji was in the body for two and a half years. He kept me there. He got me my Visa. He let me stay. I did not have that kind of experience that Ram Das had with Maharajji. I think. Maybe I did. I don’t know. But I had, later, many years later, after He had left the body, I had a different experience that changed my life completely. And I wrote a book about it called Chants of a Lifetime. And in that book, the experience is written about in great detail. I had, when He died, I was destroyed because I was very attached to His physical body and being with Him physically was the only thing that ever made me happy as far as I could remember. Really happy and it was the only time I ever felt completely and totally loved in a way that was beyond anything I had before. So, when He left that body, what am I going to do? It’s finished, it’s over. It’s done. I have no possibility of ever finding that again. And that’s the deal. And I believed that. And I lived that way for a long time. It wasn’t a lot of fun. Then I had a couple of experiences, one in 1984 and one again in 1995 which completely changed that whole, totally changed everything. And, the catalyst for the change was that I had recognized that, if I wanted to clean out the dark corners of my own heart, which I understood completely was the only thing that was causing me suffering, my own stuff, then I had to sing with people. Chant with people. That was the only thing that I had that was being given to me that would do that for me. I just understood that one day. It wasn’t easy to start doing that. Coming out of the kirtan closet, you know?
Q: Were you chanting at all by yourself?
KD: I wasn’t chanting anywhere. Not at home. Not outside. Not in my head. Not in the bathtub. Nowhere. I mean a little bit here and there. But nothing, and even when I was chanting, it wasn’t, it was more of a way of rubbing salt in the wounds of my heart. And I would cry and I would feel bad and I’d think that that was devotion. It was so bittersweet. A pain in the ass. So, I wasn’t even doing it as a practice at the time. Really. So, when I recognized, when I had this epiphany that this was what I had to do otherwise nothing was going to happen, I tried to do it and so I started singing at Jivamukti in New York and David and Sharon were very kind, they said, “Come down, we do these things on Mondays,” you know and “You could sing a little bit and we talk and we do questions and answers and some readings,” and stuff like that. So, they let me sing for like 20 minutes or so and then, and then there were like 10 people there. They were all the teacher trainees, you know? So then after a couple of months I get there and they’re not there. They went to India. It’s just me. So, I sang for like three hours and they were gone the next week and they were gone the next week so I just kept singing and people started coming and they were hearing about it and lots of people started to come. So then after like, they were gone a long time, like two months, three months… and they came back, I came back one day and now there’s three cushions in the front of the room again. Oh, I said, “They’re back. Oh, great.” So as usual, I started the evening with singing. About 45 minutes later I realized “Oh shit, they’re here, I’m not supposed to keep singing like this,” so in the middle of the chant I just kind of looked over at them like this, and they kind of looked at each other like… so Mondays became my night. And it just kept going from there. Ok, so, but after some time, you know like, you make a soup, you’re making a soup? And it’s smelling pretty good, you know, and then all of a sudden, something weird falls in the soup when you’re not looking and it starts to smell like shit and you don’t know what happened… what happened? That’s what was happening to me. Something fell in the soup and I started to feel really weird. It wasn’t good. And what had happened was that I realized that all this stuff was going to come to me. All this energy was now coming towards me. I was singing. People started to look at me like I was something. And when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see anything. But people started to look at me like I was something special. And it changed the way they talked to me, acted around me, how they, all this stuff, you know? And I saw that, hey, I kind of enjoyed that. You know? And I saw that I was a hungry guy. And stuff was going to come and I was just going to gobble it all up. And there was no possibility that I would not do that. You understand? There was no possibility. And that’s not why I started chanting. I started chanting because I had lost my connection from my side. You know, Maharajji had said many times, He said, “Once I take a hold of your hand, I never let go, even when you let go of mine.” Not “if.” He said, “When” you let go of mine. So, I had let go of His hand and I couldn’t feel it anymore and I was trying to reestablish that, find that place again. And here, everything was going to be handed to me on a platter and I was not able to, I was just, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sing the right way. I couldn’t sing to Him. And even when I was singing to Him, it was not really 100%. And so, it was a horrendous experience because I was being prevented from doing the only thing that I could do to save my miserable ass. I was being prevented from doing it by my own stuff. By me. And there was nothing I could do about that. Nothing. So, I quit. After nine months, I quit. And I had a long talk with Him, He was dead but I talked to Him anyway. I said, “This is Your problem. Ok? I’m singing to people in Your Name. Either you fix this or I’m not singing and that’s the deal. Good night.” And you’ve got to understand the despair I was in. I had never experienced anything like that. I could not do this. The only thing I could do, I couldn’t do. And I had nobody, there’s was nothing I could do about it. I was helpless. The only thing that I could say, “Maharajji, this is your problem,” you know? “You want me to sing, you fix it. You don’t fix it, I don’t sing. That’s the way it goes.”
I went to India. It’s funny, I arrived on the spring solstice and I left on the summer solstice. Totally unconsciously. And every day I’d wake up and I’d say, “You haven’t done anything. What’s the problem? Get it together. You know the deal, right? I ain’t singing til you fix this. Ok. See you later.” Nothing happened for three months. I was in agony. I was… it was torturous. It was so horrible. So, I was in Kainchi in the temple that I had lived in and every night I’d go to this… in the old days there were no lights in the whole valley, maybe a couple of light bulbs, in the whole valley, and in the temple, in the front courtyard, there was one tiny little lightbulb at night. Now, in 1995, 20 years later, there was like, flood lights and all kinds of shit. You couldn’t go anywhere. But I would find one little corner where there was shadows, and I would look up at the sky, in the dark I could see the sky, and I’d look up and I’d say, “Hey, you haven’t done anything yet. What’s the deal? Ok, get it together, good night.” And the next day I’d do it again. And the next day I’d do it again.
So, now on the 15th of June there’s a big celebration. It’s the day that the first temple was opened there. Hanuman Temple. And they have a bhandara where they feed… tens of thousands of people come. So, the night, and I was supposed to leave Kainchi the day after the bhandara.
So now it’s the night before the bhandara and I go out to my little corner in the back and I look up at the sky and I say, “What is the deal here?” I said, “I don’t understand. You can do this if you want to. I don’t… why aren’t you doing it? I don’t know why. I can’t make you do it if you don’t want to. Ok, I’ll go back. I’ll sing. How bad could it be? Good night.”
In retrospect, that was a moment of surrender. That was the moment when I said, “Fuck it, I’ll go back. Whatever. I’ll sing.” I accepted things the way they were. And I agreed to go forth anyway without Him doing anything. I said, “Ok. All right. I got it. This is the deal. Thanks.” Well, the next day, everything changed. That’s all I can tell you. Everything changed. He just did… He… He pulled back the curtains and I saw the way things are and because of that experience that day, I was able to come back and sing. 100%. It was amazing. He saved me. I could not save myself. It wasn’t the first time He saved me but… He saved me. I couldn’t do this, you understand? I couldn’t do it. But, nor could I make Him do it, which is what I was trying to do. But when I accepted it and said, “All right, I’ll deal with it,” then everything changed. But you can’t fake that moment. It has to happen, that surrender has to happen. You don’t really surrender. You are surrendered finally at some point. And so, I was able to come back and sing. And I don’t want to spend three hours on it now, but if you really want to read about it, it’s a nice story, it’s in the book Chants of a Lifetime. It’s in there. But the idea was, it was His grace. It was grace. This whole thing is about grace. Believe it or not. And if you don’t believe it, that’s grace. And if you believe it, that’s grace. And if you don’t care, that’s grace. It’s all grace. I once asked Siddhi Ma. She was Maharajji’s great devotee. I said, “Ma, is it all grace or is there personal effort?” She said, “Krishna Das, it’s all grace but you have to act like it isn’t.” Ha. And if you think about it, though, “yeah, right…” You know?
“Ok, it’s all grace. I think I’ll just watch tv for the rest of my life.” No. You have to act like it isn’t. You have to get your shit together. You have to do some practice. You have to start treating people the way you would like to be treated and you have to become a good human being. And that takes personal effort. And exercising personal will and making choices. We have choices to make all day long. “I’m not going to make any choices, it’s all grace.” “Oh, ok, I should have made a choice to stop at that red light.” We make choices all day long. Now let’s make the choices that create a harmonious opening and a caring situation within us for other people, too. Treating other people the way we’d like to be treated is all that’s required. That guy said that, didn’t he? “Do unto others? That kind of shit? That’s all that’s required but do you think you can do that? Right. Not so easy. It takes some serious introspection and a lot of practice to develop the inner strength and the inner awareness to be present enough not to react to things the way we usually do. Ok, so that was the answer to my question.