Call and Response Ep. 65 | The Repetition of the Divine Names
“Thoughts are going to come because thoughts come. That’s what they do. What we have to do is train ourselves to release them as soon as we notice that we’re stuck with them.” – Krishna Das
How sweet the sound. So, what are we doing? In India, this is called, “The repetition of the Divine Names.” The Names of God. We don’t like the name, “God” here in the West. It’s such a hard sounding thing. Some guy up in the sky with a big beard throwing down thunderbolts at us. Not my idea of a fun night. That’s what I was doing last night. Getting thunderbolts thrown at me. How sweet the sound… so these Names, these are the, what are these the Names of? Some God floating around up in the sky or maybe by Venus or Mars or something? No. At least probably not. Well, maybe. I don’t know. These are the Names of who we really are underneath who we think we are. That’s a big thing to say. Because we spend most of our lives in a very narrow bandwidth of who we think we are. We wake up. “What am I going to do today? Ok. I’ll go there. What’ll I wear? Yeah, I’ll wear that. Then I’ll go do this. I’ll do that. Maybe they don’t like me. Maybe I should go somewhere else. Maybe they don’t like me. Maybe I should go somewhere else. If I do this, maybe they’ll like me. I’ll do that, they’ll like me. I do this. Maybe I’m going to get my…” all day long. The movie of “Me.” We write, direct, and act in the movie of “me.” And we play all the parts in our movie. I’m playing all your parts in my movie. I don’t know who you are. But you know, you sit there like this, “Oh, that guy’s grumpy.” Or something else. The way you hold your hair. I’ve got a version of you and me in my life. It has nothing to do with who you really are or even who you think you are, but in my movie, I know who you are because I’m playing your part. And then, you write reviews which you read and get more depressed. And that’s how we go through our life. Stuck in this movie that we’re creating. So, these names, they come from a place within us that’s deeper than the movie and through the repetition of the Name, gradually but inevitably, the presence within us, the love that lives within us as who we really are is uncovered. It’s uncovered. It’s already there or we wouldn’t be here. It’s not something we get in each one of us, in everybody. So, through the repetition of the Name, that place, that presence within us, that living love is uncovered.
But it’s not so easy to… you can’t stop thinking. That doesn’t work. Thoughts are going to come because thoughts come. That’s what they do. What we have to do is train ourselves to release them as soon as we notice that we’re stuck with them. So, you’re chanting, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,” and then you know, you wind up thinking about what you’re going to buy tomorrow when you go shopping, you know, “Maybe I shouldn’t leave too early, there’s a lot of traffic Monday morning, you know,” and then, “that’s ok, I’ve got Sirius Xm. I’ll listen to the Krishna Das channel.” And then you remember, “Oh, wait a second, I’m supposed to be singing and I haven’t been paying attention,” and so you come back. And that happens every millisecond if you’re actually paying attention. You can’t pay attention for more than two breaths before you’re gone. Neither can I. But we keep coming back. That’s the thing. And that’s the amazing thing, if you think about it. Why do we ever come back from Dreamland? I don’t know. But we do. So, you’re chanting and you know, “Wow, this is so great. This is fantastic. Oh, man. This is great. I can’t wait. You know what, I’m going to lead chanting myself. Yeah, next week I’m going to get people over to come, you know, we’ll vape a little bit, it’ll be great, man, yeah. Yeah, fantastic, you know?” And then you remember, you’re supposed to be chanting, you’re supposed to be paying attention. “Oh shit,” right? “But I can’t wait to vape. What time is it? Yeah, I think I can make it til then.” You see, it’s not so easy because we’ve been spending our whole lives believing everything we think and feeling that’s what we should be doing. We don’t even doubt that for a second. We believe everything we think. “I’m feeling a little fat today. Nobody’s going to like me. I’ve got to get bigger pants. This is terrible.” You know? Totally identified with everything. All life long. There’s only one way to, one thing to do is eventually, is to do some spiritual practice. Spiritual practice means anything that helps free us from the storylines that we, the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves all life-long. Even if they’re nice stories, like “Hey, I’m really cool.” Yeah. “This is great. I’m cool. I’m walking down the street, see? They like me. Hey, this is cool. Yeah.” It’s just a story. But it makes you feel good so you hold onto it until you walk into a goddamned wall. “Oh, shit. I should have been looking. Oh, man, my head. Oh, this is terrible. God, I’d better go to the hospital. This is bad.” So, then you have another story that you believe in. We’ve gotta calm our asses down, little by little. If you don’t deal with it, it deals with you. There’s no way around it. You’ve got to deal with it. Yeah, did I miss something? I don’t want to… don’t leave me out of the joke. So, that’s what it’s all about.
Audience Member: I’m bad, I’m bad.
KD: What’s that?
Audience Member: I’m bad.
KD: You’re bad? You’re not bad. Diedre, don’t give me a hard time.
Audience Member: She was just agreeing with you.
KD: Oh, good. Hey, what do I look like here? Yeah.
So, yeah. So the repetition of the Name, that’s what I do mostly. That’s my main practice and it’s a very interesting practice. So, and different people and different groups and different lineages share that practice in different ways, ok? There’s many ways to do this, I just do it the way I do it, just because that’s the way I do it. Nobody told me. And so I share it with you. And I say, “Don’t try to manufacture any kind of experience.” Don’t try to feel blissful. Don’t try to feel high. Don’t do anything except repeat the Name. And when you notice that you’re not paying attention, repeat the Name. And when you notice you’re not paying attention, repeat the Name. And when you notice… because that’s what it’s like. But here’s an interesting thing, I don’t know, you know, it’s interesting, so ok, so, “Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram, ok, you know, oh, yeah I’ve got to go to this store tomorrow, and I’ve gotta go to a doctor’s appointment… oh, Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram,” Ok, so, you were chanting and you were paying a little bit of attention to it. You were hearing the chant go on and then you got lost in your thoughts, right? Then, you noticed. You became aware that you were lost in your thoughts, right? I hope. At least once this life. At least once every second. So you became aware that you were not paying attention. How did that happen? Hm? Anybody got an idea? How did that happen? I’m sorry…
Yeah, yeah. That’s reasonable. How did that happen?
How did you notice that you weren’t paying attention?
Ok, I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.
But the idea is, every time you come back, so, you’re chanting and then you’re gone and then you notice you’re gone and then you come back. You just created a deeper neural pathway in your brain. And they’ve actually proved this. And that neural pathway, that pathway through the, to the present moment gets deeper and deeper the more you travel on that pathway and it gets easier and easier the more it happens. So, but how does it happen? You know, nothing can happen, every effect has certain causes. Everything is caused by something. So, what’s the cause for waking up? It must be that we’ve woke up many times before. We’ve woked ourselves up, however you say it. We’ve awakened ourselves many times before. Otherwise we would never wake up now. So, that’s what the practice encourages and emphasizes and deepens is that moment of when we wake up and remember that we’re actually sitting in this room. You actually drove here and paid a few bucks to come sit here to sit down and remember. I don’t know what you thought you were doing, but that’s what this is about. We’re here to remind each other that we’re really here. And gradually, what “here” means changes to us as the moment deepens, as we get more comfortable being here, being with ourselves and it’s a feeling like, eventually it feels like coming home and little by little we stay at home no matter what happens, no matter what thoughts come through. They don’t think us anymore. And if they do, it’s not as long or deep or when you get depressed, it doesn’t last ten years. It only lasts nine years, eleven months and 30 days. I’ll take that. So, that’s the fruit of coming back and of training our minds, training ourselves to come back, little by little. Because “here” is where everything is. Where are we now? We’re here. Right? Tomorrow, if you ask yourself the same question, “Where am I now?” The answer is going to be “here.” We’re always here. But our thoughts take us out of this moment into the past, into the future. We live in Dreamland and it’s hard to wake up. Well, why would we even want to wake up, right? I’d rather sleep through this shit. Maybe in four years it’ll be over. Who knows? Well, the problem is, that even in our dreams, we’re getting eaten alive by our suffering and our unhappiness and we don’t like that and so we want to find a way out of that dissatisfaction. Out of the “not getting enough in our lives”, enough of what we really want. So, that’s what forces us to try to wake up. Sometimes, many times, dreams are not that much fun either. Because in a dream, you get no say about what’s happening. It just happens and life is like that. We’re not running the show and until we find a way to meet each moment with a kind of openness and presence and not be so reactive all the time, because we’re reacting to things that aren’t even happening half the time, you know? Somebody looks at you weird, like there’s somebody at work, right? And he never talks to you and he’s always moping around and everything like that and you develop a storyline about that guy. “That guy hates me. What did I ever do to that guy? He never talks to me. Sonofa… I’m going to…” and then somehow or other it gets back to you that the guy’s got a brain tumor, you know? And it isn’t about you at all. It was never about you.
But you believed it was about you. And because you believe that, you suffered. And you’ve got all this shit going on, your anger, for no reason. You did that to yourself. We do that to ourselves every day all day. All day. We’re doing it to ourselves right now. So when we add a practice to our lives, we kind of, it’s like sinking an anchor down in the ocean. The wind’s will blow us, but they can only blow us around so far before we hit that chain that holds us to the anchor and we don’t go too far. Without the anchor, the waves, the wind, we’re finished. We’re gone. And that anchor is right in there. Right in each one of us. That anchor is who we really are. Right there. Right in our own hearts. These names come from that place. Somebody in this world brought that name into this world. “Krishna.” “Radha Krishna.” “Sita Ram”. They brought that Name right here into this world as a way of coming back home. And the way we do the practice has a lot to do with the kind of fruit that it brings to us, the effects it has on our lives. So many times in India, a sadhu will come up to me, put his hand out for some money, you know, and he’s going, “Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram…” He’s repeating the Name but you know, it’s not going to do him much good. That’s like taking a seed and throwing it onto the concrete. How we do these things, the intensity and the motivation and the sincerity that we live with every day has a tremendous effect on our lives. We need a lot of strength to become good human beings. Every one of us has been hurt, has been betrayed, has been left behind sometime or other. Every one of us hurts. Every one of our hearts bleeds. And it’s very hard to expand when we’re feeling that kind of pain, when we have those kind of things within us. It’s very hard. But who’s suffering from it? We are. No matter how it happened to us, it hurts us. And until we find a way to release that pain and anger and the fear and the shame and the guilt that come with it, we can never be free and we can never be, we can never really be here and really enjoy our lives. And we can never get what we really want in life. The reason I started chanting was because I had an epiphany in my room in New York once. It was about twenty years after my Guru died and I hadn’t been doing much except trying to kill myself in one way or another. And I was standing… I came into the living room and I just stopped and I was struck with the very deep instant understanding that if I did not sing with people I would never be able to clean out the dark corners and the shadows in my own heart. And I understood completely that it was only those shadows that were causing me pain. Nothing else.
It took me awhile to get with the program. But eventually, I did. So, that’s the reason why we sing. And that’s what happens even if it’s not the reason why you sing. We are cleaning out the dark corners of our own heart through this practice and little by little, we begin to understand that and the understanding comes from inside. The real changes are under the radar. You can’t be like, “Wow, I’m becoming a more generous person now, this is fantastic.” It doesn’t work like that. You know? The real changes are, your life changes from the inside out. You just start making different decisions, hanging out with different people, going to different places. You may not even notice, but what turned you on yesterday no longer feels like it’s worth it. And you don’t question it because it’s what you understand, it’s what you feel. But that’s the fruit of training ourselves to release the thoughts and emotions that push us around all life long. You know, it’s kind of like, you got born with a pair of glasses on that are the wrong prescription. You know? So you’re walking around like this and everything looks so weird but it doesn’t even look weird. That’s what you think it is, you know? That’s what you think people look like. That’s what the trees look like. That’s what the road looks like. But through practice, that prescription self-corrects, little by little and eventually, you see clearly and everything’s different. But it happens at its own speed. It happens slowly. Every once in awhile you might get a little glimpse. It’s called a “teaser.” You know? You give somebody a hit. You hope they get strung out so you can make more money. And that’s what happens. You get a little hit and that helps. “Oh, wow. Something might be possible.” You know, we do all these practices, yoga, meditation, all this shit, but nobody really believes it’ll work. If we really believed it’d work, boom, it would have already worked. But we do it. “Ah, maybe if I do this, something will happen.” You know? And nothing happens. So, not only do we have to do the practices, but you kind of have to deepen the understanding of what the whole thing is about. And believe me, there’s one thing it isn’t about, and that is, trying to become something you’re not. This is the last thing it’s about. I once was sitting with my guru and I would, you know, during the day we’d hang around, do this and that, and then He’d come out in the afternoon and we’d hang out with Him. We’d always, we’d take a shower and put on our clean clothes and come out and sit there, you know. And I burst out laughing one day and I realized that, unconsciously, my understanding of what enlightenment, you know, liberation, nirvana, would be, I saw that I believed it was some place where I wouldn’t be. You know? I was in going to disappear. That was going to be enlightenment. And I thought, if there’s one thing that it isn’t, that’s it. Where are you going to go that you’re not going to be? There’s no place to go where you’re not going to be. And they say, and that’s what I say when I don’t know what I’m talking about, they say that even when you drop this body, you’re still here, you just get another one. So, you’ll still be here. So where are you going to go? Nowhere. So enlightenment has to be here where you are. So maybe enlightenment is when we stop giving ourselves such a goddamned hard time about being alive.
Applause for that? I’ll say it again.
So, it was really an interesting moment for me. And you now, the funny thing was that Maharajji never, we didn’t wear the same, we didn’t wear white clothes, we didn’t all dress the same, we didn’t act, we didn’t even, all the Westerners around Him, we didn’t even like each other. Basically, we tolerated each others’ presence, but if somebody tried to get closer to Maharajji than me, “Get away.” So, yeah. We’re so busy trying to be somebody else, get somewhere else. It’s ridiculous. But that’s, you know, that comes with the package. You know? Our parents didn’t know. My grandparents didn’t know. Nobody in my family knew. So how was I going to know? How are you going to know? You trip and fall into it once and then you go, “Oh, so there is something to find out.” It’s not just hope, but when you get a hit yourself then you know what it is and it comes from inside, the hit. Nobody gives it to you. Because it’s already, it’s who we are. But we’re so busy thinking that we’re not enough. We’re not worthy of love. We’ll never get what we want. And in order to get what we want, we have to kind of give somebody else what they want and if I push that button, they’ll push my button, you know. It’s hard. A lot of business going on. And a lot of tension with business. Can we really just be ourselves, you know? It takes, you know… try it and then duck.
And nothing’s going to happen. You’re going to be yourself. And the thing was, with when I met Maharajji, you know, He never tried to make us into anything else, you know? We didn’t have to behave. We didn’t have to be good little boys and girls. It was quite extraordinary to be loved that much just as I am. Oh my god. Even my parents didn’t love me that way. You had to be good. “Don’t look at me like that. Don’t talk to me. Don’t raise your voice in this house.” You know, just normal stuff. But this was a different kind of love, you know? This was not, it wasn’t between Him and me, it was everywhere. One of my friends said, “It wasn’t just that when I was with Mahrajji I loved Him. And it wasn’t just that when I was with Maharajji, I even loved myself. It’s that, when I was with Maharajji, I loved everybody.” That’s disgusting.
Loving everybody? Jesus. How many showers do you have to take?
All right. So why don’t we have some questions…