About this blog
Krishna das (born Jeffrey Kagel; May 31, 1947, New York) is an American vocalist known for his performances of Hindu devotional music known as kirtan (chanting the names of God). In August 1970 Jeffrey traveled to India where he became a devotee of the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba (maharaj-ji, devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman) who gave him the spiritual initiation and the name Krishna das, which means the servant of Krishna. Krishna das has for many years studied the Buddhist meditation and the Vaishnava practice of bhakti-yoga. He has released fourteen albums since 1996. He performed at the 2013 Grammy Awards, where his album Live Ananda (2012) was nominated for the 2013 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Krishna das's albums contain Hindu bhajans and kirtans of famous mantras, such as Hare Krishna and Om Namah Sivaya. Krishna Das travels extensively, performing concerts and engaged in teaching activities.
Кришна дас (имя при рождении - Джеффри Кагель; родился 31 мая 1947, Нью-Йорк) - американский певец и музыкант, которого называют самым известным западным исполнителем индуистской религиозной музыки в стиле киртан (воспевание имён Бога). В августе 1970 года Джеффри посетил Индию, где обучался у индуистского гуру Ним Кароли Бабы (махарадж-джи, преданного индуистского божества Ханумана), который дал ему духовное посвящение и имя Кришна дас, означающее слуга Кришны. Кришна дас в течение многих лет изучал буддийские медитационные практики и вайшнавскую практику бхакти-йоги. C 1996 года выпустил четырнадцать альбомов. В 2013 году альбом Кришны Даса "Live Ananda" был номинирован на премию Грэмми в категории "Лучший альбом нью-эйдж". Альбомы Кришны Даса содержат индуистские бхаджаны и киртаны известных мантр, таких как Харе Кришна и Ом намах Шивая. Кришна Дас активно путешествует, выступая с концертами и занимаясь преподавательской деятельностью.
Entries in this blog
"It's all Maharaj-ji (Neem Karoli Baba), but sometimes it looks like us and that's just too bad. It looks like that because we're in bodies, we have minds, we have emotions, we see everything through our senses and filter it all through our history. So we look like people to each other, but the puppet master is pulling all the strings...Maharaj-ji is doing everything without doing anything at all."
- Krishna Das
Summer 1970. Krishna Das sitting with Ram Dass, Love Serve Remember and Hilda Charlton at Ram Dass' father's farm in New Hampshire. Hilda was a spiritual teacher, dancer and healer, who taught in NYC for more than 20 years. She was a disciple of Bhagavan Nityananda, who was Swami Muktananda's guru.
"We had these big gatherings at the farm that summer, and people would come from all around to be with Ram Dass, and hear him tell stories about Maharaj-ji." - Krishna Das
Enjoy this video of livestream of KD’s kirtan in Yokohama few days ago. Next he will lead kirtan and workshops in Australia and New Zealand. Please see EVENTS for details.
For the last year, I’ve been gathering content for our new site DrugsOverDinner.org. In much of the information, I’m hearing that there’s a connection between early emotional wounding and later-in life-addiction. You and I both have extensive drug use in our past. What are your thoughts on this?
The stories we replay in our minds about our lives are so painful. That’s what drives some people to drugs. The stories are painful, and they just keep playing, and we keep reacting and reinforcing them.
People don’t know how to deal with consciousness. We’re programmed to believe that the only thing real is what we think and believe. Our culture doesn’t teach that there’s an alternative to living in our heads, so we’re stuck in these thoughts and they torture us. People who’ve been hurt so much that they can’t stand it anymore have to find something to do. Otherwise, it’s like sitting in a fire. It’s completely understandable that people struggle with addiction.
It would also be helpful if, in our culture, we were taught from an early age that pain is part of the experience of being alive. Modeled for us instead are ways to hide pain, run, pretend, compartmentalize, distract...
Or dull ourselves to it. We dull ourselves to everything.
Yes, instead of saying, “Hey, this thing pain is part of life and you don’t have to escape it. You can be with it, and here’s how.” That’s an unheard of practice for most people.
Because everybody’s taught that happiness depends on getting things — relationships, jobs, cars, money — things that come from outside ourselves.
Nobody can ultimately get what they need from the outside. We aren’t taught that it’s inside of us.
Twelve Steps wasn’t my jam when I tried it a couple of decades ago, but finding deeply supportive community — who accepted me without shame or judgment — that was a life changer for me.
Satsang — spiritual community — is so important, because you’re surrounding yourself, at least for periods of time, with people who are making the same type of efforts, who want the same thing.
Every effort you make to interrupt and change your habits of thought and behavior is huge because it’s completely against the flow that we were born into. The flow is out through the senses, through the thoughts. Everybody around us — relatives, teachers, enemies, friends, the President, everybody in the world — is flowing out through their senses.
To turn that around and move in to awareness — it ain’t easy.
Glimpses of pure awareness, while incredibly fleeting, propel me to keep living in a conscious way.
It’s a process of going in and out, in and out. You get a hit of awareness — whether from spiritual practice or something else — and something opens up. But your own habits of thought close you down. The more hits you get, though, the less attached to negative thinking you’ll be.
Almost everything we do — all the self-improving — what is our motivation?
Self-loathing. We believe if we fix something on the outside, it will solve the way we feel inside, but the good feelings never last when our motivation is self-hatred.
Yes. We should try to avoid that.
About 10 years ago, at my first 10-day silent-meditation retreat, I made an appointment with the teacher. I don’t remember my question, but her response was, “Were you a general in your past life? That voice in your head! Sheesh. Where is all this self-hatred coming from?”
(Laughing) Our parents felt that way about themselves, their parents felt that way about themselves. Everybody in our lineage felt the same self-loathing. So what do you expect from us?
KD, what would you say to people who, in this moment, are fighting with addiction and feel like they’re losing?
I have tremendous respect for people dealing with addictions. You have to be very patient with yourself and process your stuff, including the self-loathing you have for being addicted. No question — you have to dedicate your life to developing good habits of thought. And action. Good habits support more good habits. Our negative habits are huge, but you have to keep planting seeds of good habits, of not going down that hole of the addicted behavior.
There’s a practice where you repeat, “May all beings be safe, just like I want to be safe. May all beings be happy, just like I want to be happy.”
You’re extending compassion outward. This practice replaces the way we usually think, like, “I can’t stand myself anymore — I’m going to go do something. I’m going to a movie. Or I’m going to go out and get laid or get stoned.”
It replaces that.
Why do we dislike ourselves so much — why is that inner voice so harsh?
Our culture is based on original sin, which means we’re no good from the time we’re born. That has partially led to the problems we have. Until we can change our view about what life is and who we are, it’s difficult to eliminate negative habits that cause us pain, which only arose because we didn’t want to be in pain in the first place.
To experience the sense of connection we talked about, you and I do spiritual practice, and these practices train our attention. Would you suggest that people struggling with addiction do the same?
Of course. A practice like meditation is very useful for dealing with addiction. Chanting, asana — these practices can slow you down. Even if you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons, it still has an effect. When we do a spiritual practice, it temporarily, to some degree, moves us in the right direction.
What people will experience during the course of these things is really up to what seeds they’ve already planted — their own karmas.
And how ripe they are.
Exactly. The whole process is really a ripening process. When we do these practices, we’re turning toward the sunlight within us, which ripens everything.
When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died, some people said he was selfish. That’s what people say when accidental overdoses happen. I get frustrated, because that view disregards a root problem. There’s no compassion in it.
As if people who aren’t addicted aren’t selfish. Theirs may not be as self-destructive, but they’re just as selfish. They’re not opening their hearts or serving humanity from a selfless place. They’re just stuffing their faces and buying more things. That’s just as selfish and stupid. They just don’t have the thing going on in their brain chemistry that makes them want to destroy themselves in that way.
In Dr. Gabor Mate’s book “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts,” he says that, from the time we’re in the womb, through the first four or so years of our lives, our brain circuitry forms based on how we’re nurtured. The architecture of our brain actually depends on how well we’re nurtured! Nurturing means emotional presence with a child (versus just physical presence) and compassionate physical touch. When you don’t receive enough, your brain develops differently than people who do. For one, you won’t get a solid supply of brain chemicals that make you feel like life is generally okay. There’s always this undercurrent of not okay-ness, so you seek ways to feel okay.
When I met Gabor, the first question I asked was: For those whose brain circuitry got shafted, what’s the antidote?
He said, “Compassion.”
Yes. Compassion means you’re not dwelling on your own stuff, regurgitating it, re-chewing it, which is what everybody does.
Maharaj-ji (Neem Karoli Baba) said: How do you find God? Serve others. How do you raise kundalini? Feed others.
Because you stop spinning in self-obsessive thinking.
And as Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If everybody did that, the whole world would be completely different immediately.
Maharaj-ji said every phrase of the Hanuman Chalisa is a Maha Mantra.
Kirtan master Krishna Das spoke with us about spiritual practice, suffering, and finding love within.
In the documentary film One Track Heart, you’re brutally honest about your struggles with depression and drug addiction. What gave you the courage to get so personal?
Honestly, it’s what I do all the time. It’s funny, because all I have to talk about is myself, and how chanting and my guru, Maharaji [aka Neem Karoli Baba], changed my life. I talk about this stuff because it helps me learn, it helps me open, and it helps me continue my practice.
There's a lot to share with people about what real, genuine spiritual practice is and what it’s all about. It's like when there's a meal on the table, and nobody's coming to eat. You kind of have to go out and say, “Hey, you know, there's all this food! Come on in.” Otherwise the meal goes to waste.
Interesting analogy. What is the “meal”?
The meal is love. Real love, real happiness that comes from within, that doesn't depend on stuff. People don't know that real love is attainable. Love that lasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
How can we experience that kind of love?
It’s not something you get from the outside or from anyone else. It's who you really are, underneath who you think you are. It’s your true nature.
We constantly limit ourselves with our emotions and our desires and our stories. When we identify with that stuff, we don't experience what's underneath it. The only way to move deeper into your own heart is by doing some kind of spiritual practice, regularly, over time. That’s what helps us experience real love and gives us the strength to manifest changes in our lives.
You often say that chanting is your main practice. What effect does it have on the emotions?
Well, it's our thoughts, and our reactions to situations that arise in our lives, that cause us suffering. It's not the situations themselves, right? Chanting trains us to become less reactive, so we don't cause suffering for ourselves in the same ways that we used to.
How does that work?
The practice is very simple. You sing, and then, after some time, you notice that you’ve been thinking about the movie you saw last night, or the date you have next week, or what you ate for dinner. At that moment, you recommit to paying attention until the next time you recognize that you haven't been paying attention. You come back to the chanting over and over, and it starts to loosen up that clinging tendency in the mind so that, over time, thoughts don’t grab you so deeply. Emotions don’t wipe you out so completely. It changes your psyche.
What are the mantras we chant during kirtan and what effects do they have?
We’re chanting the so-called divine names. These are the names of that place inside of us that is love, pure being, pure awareness, pure joy. Every time you chant them, you’re turning toward that deeper place inside of yourself and looking—almost like when you step out of the house at night and stare into the darkness. Gradually, your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, and you start to see better.
When you chant these names, it’s like that. At first, you may not see or notice much. But gradually, your sight begins to clear, and eventually, you see life differently all the time. And if what you’re seeing and experiencing is changing, then your reactions are also changing. The less you react, the deeper you go. The deeper you go, the less you react.
In One Track Heart, you talk about how you had an epiphany when you were standing in your apartment one day.
The suffering had gotten so intense. I realized that if I didn’t start chanting with people, I would never clear out the shadows in my heart. I was a drowning man, and this was the only rope being thrown to me. Now this is who I am, it’s what I do. I just pack up the harmonium, get on a plane, and go sing.
This year our practice was dedicated to our beloved Sri Siddhi Ma, who left the body on 12/28/17. Watch the full day, in three parts.
A little 'Jai Jai Rama Krishna Hare' to lighten your day - from our Workshop at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas in February.
We are live from KTC for kirtan with Krishna Das and the Kirtan Wallah Foundation Benefit Concert. Proceeds will support women practicing in the traditional Tibetan Buddhist three-year retreat at Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery
"I remember being up in the mountains at the temple in Kainchi. I remember thinking I’d always be there... first mistake!" - Krishna Das
"The heart space is described as the sky of the mind." - Krishna Das
"We sing the Chalisa to remind Hanuman who he is, and in the very last verse, we ask him to come live in our hearts. Hanuman is the "knower of all hearts" and lives only to serve God within us and prepare us to live fully in the spirit. His entrance into our lives brings about the fulfillment of every desire. It's not necessary to ask Hanuman for anything, for he knows all. But as human beings, we honor and express the longing in our own hearts, recognizing our predicament - that we are stuck in the feeling of separateness. This reaching out destroys the sense of distance from the Beloved." - Krishna Das, from Flow of Grace.
"It's all about connecting. When I sing I'm connecting with, the way I talk to myself about it, I'm connecting with my guru (Neem Karoli Baba). My guru represents presence, love, acceptance, calmness, love. Ya know, just being... where everything is ok. That's what it was like with him." - Krishna Das