Call and Response Ep. 57 Where Do Thoughts Come From, Suffering, Favorite Chants
Q: I’ve been coming to see you for many years and the last time I came after I left, there were just these uncontrollable tears for days, for weeks, like someone a sponge and tears were coming out and it felt like grief. And sometimes, when we’re together, when we come here I feel like, collectively there’s that energy of grief and I don’t know if it relates to suffering, you know, it seems like all humans are trying to avoid bad feelings and suffering, and like that’s the thing we push away.
“We’re already being called and when we, when we call out, we’re actually just calling back. When we chant here, we think we’re doing it. We think we made the decision to come here. We made the decision to sit in here instead of going for a walk on the beach. We made the decision to do this, do that. That’s our reality. There might be another reality which is that we were brought here and we were forced to sit down by our own hearts and made to chant because that’s what’s going to connect us. And that’s what we really want inside is to be connected to that love. “ – Krishna Das
Q: Hi. When you chant the song, “Saraswati,” I get that feeling, this like, incredible feeling like you fall in love and then I can’t listen to the chant because I spend the whole time saying, “Oh, I love this chant. I love this chant. I want to hear it, I want to hear it. Then I miss it, and then they have to play it over and over and over again.
KD: Could be worse.
Q: But it’s like insatiable. Like it’s a desire that like something pumps and I don’t know what it is and I’ve tried to listen to that chant with all the same words in a different chant and it doesn’t create the same feeling. It’s only that chant, that time. And so, it’s interesting to me why, like it’s not the words, it’s not the vibration, what it, it’s a crazy desire… and I hardly ever hear the chant because I spend so much time in my head saying, “Oh I love this so much, I love this chant, I want to hear it again and again,” and then I miss the chant. Do you know what I mean?
KD: Luckily we have a tape loop. Just put “repeat”
Q: Over and over again. But how is it that some of the… it’s the same words, you’re the same singer, you’ve sang it different ways, different times, it doesn’t have the same effect but that one, it’s like, “Just take me now.” You know? It’s that kind of feeling, you know? So, how… what are the differences… what’s happening there?
KD: How am I supposed to know?
Q: You sang it.
KD: So, I sang it. That’s all I did. That’s all I did. I sang it. That’s all I know. The rest of it’s your stuff.
Q: But when I hear it, like when you explained that you saw your guru, it’s the same feeling. If that song was, I would be there.
KD: Lock yourself in a room for three weeks with just that chant and see what happens. You might just levitate right out the window. If you do, come see me though. I’d like to know. That’s a good thing. Don’t worry about why, so much. Don’t worry about why. Why’s not necessary. That’s just actually resistance to going into it more. Just keep letting go and hearing it, letting go again and hearing it. Letting go… ok, eventually you’ll be through with that and you’ll be hearing it again. That’s all you do. That’s the practice. That’s great. You’ve found something that really pulls you, that your heart really responds to. That’s a wonderful thing. Don’t spend all of your time thinking about why or how or what is this and how did this work and why is it this way and it doesn’t work that way…
Q: That’s what I do, yeah.
KD: Those are what you call “the things you let go of.” Again and again and again and again. And little by little, you’ll just, you’ll be there. We’re so used to not being here. You don’t understand. From the moment we wake up til the moment we like, crash at night, we’re just gone. Gone, gone, gone. It’s very hard to get used to being here. We don’t even think, “Ok, I’m here, so what?” No you’re not. We don’t understand what it means to really be here and present and at ease within our own Being. So, you’ve found something good. Knock yourself out.
Q: Thanks. Thank you.
Q: Hi. Would you share with us what you think thoughts are coming from if they’re not coming from the Divine?
KD: You know, you look at the ocean. Ok, so there’s a wave that’s crashing on the shore. That wave started somewhere out there. Way out there. Just slowly made it to the shore. We don’t know what started that wave moving. We don’t know what wind blew that made that wave, right? All we know is what it feels like right now. Right now, we let it crash over us and disappear. That’s all our job is. Those waves were caused by something. They didn’t come from nowhere, but what caused them is beyond our ability to know. We don’t even know, most of the time, that the wave’s crashing over us over here. We’re too busy listening to Saraswati. Or watching TV or doing whatever we do. So, the beauty of it is, all we need to do is recognize this wave that’s crashing us, maybe it’s some kind of thought or some kind of emotion or some kind of feeling or some desire or some fear or some anger or some shame or greed or selfishness. Something in this moment, whatever it is, we just let go. That’s all we have to do. It’s not, no one knows, you know, where this stuff starts. But one thing you can guarantee, that if it’s happening now to us, this is a result of our own past karmas and how they’re manifesting right now in this world with all the other forces at work in this world at this time. It’s a mixture of stuff. Our own karmas and the atmosphere that in which we live. So, still, it’s simple. Let go. It’s so simple. That’s all you have to remember. It’s not so easy to remember because you can’t make yourself remember. You can only try to remember to remember. And then, oh, ok. Next wave. Ok. So that’s the deal. That’s where we are. We’re trying to be here with what’s happening right now. Yeah. There’s some good books about this. There’s a book by a Buddhist psychiatrist called Mark Epstein, called The Thoughts With No Thinker which is pretty good. There’s stuff you can read about. The Buddhists have got all their shit together. They know what’s going on. They like to talk about it.
(someone in the audience comments on the Saraswati chant)
KD: I’m gonna sing it for two hours and I’m going to watch you the whole time.
Q: I’ve been coming to see you for many years and the last time I came after I left, there were just these uncontrollable tears for days, for weeks, like someone a sponge and tears were coming out and it felt like grief. And sometimes, when we’re together, when we come here I feel like, collectively there’s that energy of grief and I don’t know if it relates to suffering, you know, it seems like all humans are trying to avoid bad feelings and suffering, and like that’s the thing we push away. When you went to India and you saw, met Ram Das before and you felt your suffering was gone for that moment and you had to go to India to be with your Guru and He would relieve your suffering, that’s what you’ve talked about in the past, so I guess my question is around that. It feels like the relationship between suffering and being at one with our hearts, is there a really close connection to those two things?
KD: Well, I’m not exactly sure what you’re referring to, what kind of suffering you’re talking about. Are you talking about longing to be in that space or are you talking about emotional pain?
Q: It’s more of an energy. Like people who’ve come here before, I’ve brought many people and they say “Wow, when I first walk in, it almost feels like people are depressed.”
KD: What’s that?
Q: I said, when I’ve brought other people to come and experience these, some people say at first, well, there’s a really heavy, almost depressive energy here.
So to me, when I say, “grief” I feel like, I don’t know, it’s not the emotion of actually losing a specific person. Maybe it’s a loss of what we know is already true, which is that connection to the Divine and so there’s this grief of knowing. We already know it and then the grief is that we feel so far away from it.
KD: That’s good. That’s good that you feel you’re far away because you are. And so, once you notice that, then you try to get close and you do what you have to do for that. The longing is actually the connection already. That’s the way we experience, actually being pulled towards our own true nature… is longing. There’s a beautiful poem by Rumi which I’ll screw up ridiculously, but… One night a man is chanting, “Allah, Allah” and his lips grew sweet with the praising and then a skeptic walked by and said, “Why are you calling out? You’ll never get an answer.” And he thought, “That’s right.” And he stopped singing. Then that night he had a dream where the Guide of Souls came to him and said, “Why did you stop calling out?” And he said, “I never got an answer.” He said, “The calling out is the answer.”
We’re already being called and when we, when we call out, we’re actually just calling back. When we chant here, we think we’re doing it. We think we made the decision to come here. We made the decision to sit in here instead of going for a walk on the beach. We made the decision to do this, do that. That’s our reality. There might be another reality which is that we were brought here and we were forced to sit down by our own hearts and made to chant because that’s what’s going to connect us. And that’s what we really want inside is to be connected to that love.
Q: I feel like the grief is like falling in love with the perfect lover, you know, the Divine. That you’ve been in love and then you break up and there’s no way to get back together.
KD: That’s… the first part was true. The second part is not true. Did you… you know the story of Krishna, right? You know how He sported and played with the Gopis and they fell madly in love with Him, all they did was think about Him all day, totally immersed in His love, and then He left. Right? And they wept and they cried. So, Krishna had a disciple named Uddhava who was a non-dualist and in other words, He believed that, I can’t even describe it, but He wasn’t into devotion like that. So, Krishna sends Uddhava back to Vrindavan with a message for the Gopis and the message was something like, “Don’t worry, I’m always with you. The One… we’re all part of the One” and this and that… The Gopis just kicked Him right out of town. “We don’t want to hear that shit. Where’s Krishna? We want Krishna? We want our Krishna. Where is He? Where is He?” That devotion is the connection. That’s the connection. The longing we have, it’s, it feels like grief but it’s not emotional grief, interpersonal grief, it’s different. It’s the grief that we have because we’re separated from our own true self, from that love which lives within us all the time. It’s like the famous thing about the musk deer that goes around searching for this smell. Where is that smell coming from? It’s coming from its own navel. Where the musk is in their own navel. They’re going, “Where is that? I’ve got to find that. What’s going on?” And it’s right there all the time. Everywhere they go. It’s like that.
So, the longing is the connection and it’s a saving grace. It also ruins the rest of your life. Because nothing will ever be enough. Because nothing is made to be enough. Stuff doesn’t satisfy for more than a minute and a half at the most. It’s not supposed to. That’s not the way it’s made. Stuff doesn’t satisfy fully. And but we keep grabbing onto rocks and squeezing them and trying to get water to come out of the stone. And our hands get bloody and bruised. But it’s never going to come out. Because the water’s in there already. And these Names come from that place where the water is. And they lead us back to that place within us. Bitch and moan all you like. It’s good. Scream it out. It’s all good. And really get into that grief. Don’t push it away. It’s not a mistake. That’s the part of you that knows what it needs and doesn’t have yet. Doesn’t know that it has it yet.
Ok? Are you all right? Are you ok? Not 100 percent but that’s ok. That five percent’s what will save you.
Q: I have hopefully a very quick question… and not a philosophical question…
KD: I have a very quick answer. Next question.
Q: Of all the chants and songs that you sing, do you have a personal favorite or a few favorites or Names of God that really speak to you and make you feel, in a way, different than some of the other songs? I’m just curious. Thanks you.
KD: You know, some times you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. One day this one works, feels the best, one day this one feels good. I don’t really have a favorite. You know? Sometimes, you’re Sweetheart, sometimes you’re Honeypoo. It’s all the same, you know? It doesn’t really matter to me. The question is, what can I give myself to? How can I give myself to the practice the most? That’s all. There’s no real favorite. They’re all the Names of the same place. Right? Do you have a favorite? What is it? What did she say?
Q: Om Namah Shivaya
KD: We did that last night, so you can leave no.
Q: I was very excited. I listen to your chants every day on the way to work, walking through lower Manhattan…
KD: Oh my.
Q: And that’s a good way to center myself on the way to work in amidst all the hubbub. So, thank you for enriching my life and helping me center myself every morning on the way to work. And because there’s usually people on the sidewalk next to me, I can never chant along with the music in my earphones, but I do try and whisper it or have it in my head or you’re suggesting to get into the groove.
KD: Mentally is just as good. You don’t want them to put you away in a padded cell. Stay quiet. This woman once came up to me and she said she was getting divorced from her husband. They kids and everything. And I said, “Why? What’s going on?” She said, “Well, you know, I play your music in the house all the time.” I said, “yeah?” “I play it in the living room. I play it in the kitchen. I play it in the bedroom upstairs. I play it in the bathroom. And my husband hates it.” I said, “Turn it the hell off.” So she did and they’re still married. It’s good. You have to do what’s appropriate to the situation.
Q: Ok. I do 15 minutes a day. So, yeah it’s good.
Q: So, do you have that same…
Q: Soham, yes. Do you have that same feeling of the way of love, of devotion…
KD: Are you kidding?
Q: Well, I didn’t finish my question.
KD: I’m depressed all the time.
Q: No you’re not. You’re around a lot of people that like, want to share in your joy and your love…
KD: You don’t know me. I just mope around all the time. Ask my daughter, I mope around all the time. She’s afraid to even call me. She goes, “Hello, dad…” “ahhhh why are you calling?”
Q: It must be a parent, you know, child thing. I get it. It’s ok.
KD: Yeah. What are you asking?
Q: Well, I’m getting there. Do you feel that love, devotion, that joy, even if you’re not chanting but you’re still singing?
KD: First, do I feel it when I am chanting? That would be nice. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
Q: You just kind of roll with it.
KD: Don’t you understand? You don’t make that happen. You do your practice and you allow whatever to arise to come and to go. And what’s left is you. Again and again and again. And then that gets deeper and deeper and you start to feel things from within that you’re not manufacturing with your emotions or your needy little stuff. “I want to feel good, I don’t want to feel bad,” all that stuff. You just do your practice and you get to something real eventually. Sometimes I feel ok, sometimes I don’t. But I still sing, because as soon as I sit down to sing, anything that arises, you let go of and you stay with the chant. Again and again and again and out of that chant, out of those Names arises many things, many wonderful things.
Q: Well, even if you’re not chanting, if you’re just singing a song in the shower or on the radio, in the car or… you know, do you still feel like that? Those things still come up for you? Is what I’m saying…
KD: What things?
Q: Just, the joy of music, of sound, of vibration…
KD: I’m from Long Island. We don’t have joy.
Q: You fake it?
KD: Yeah, I fake it.
Q: There’s a lot of fake things, right?
KD: We have a modicum of pleasantness.
KD: That’s what we have.
Q: But I’m just saying, music, in general, do you have that, the love for music moreso just wanting to share the music? The vibration? The energy of it?
KD: The chanting is definitely intensifies the moment, yeah. But whatever I experience while I’m chanting is not the point and I don’t really dwell on it. I just keep coming back. Again and again. I don’t push it away. I don’t… It’s not negative. But I just let it go and come back. Let it go and come back. Let it go and come back. And as far as the rest of the day, all day long I’m trying to do that. Whatever it is, I’m trying not to be lost in Dreamland the rest of the time, too. You know, your whole life is your practice, not just the moment you’re sitting your ass down. Your whole life has to be a practice. Even if you’re not doing formal practice, you’re still trying to treat people well, to be kind, to be caring and compassionate, to meet people in a good way and to treat them the way you would like to be treated. That takes a lot of awareness and a lot of energy to remember to do that and not be lost all the time. So, the whole day becomes your practice. Your whole life is your practice. Ok?