Krishna Das at Lovelight Festival this August
May 31, 2016 09:38PM
Robin Fillmore, the publisher of Natural Awakenings DC, had the rare opportunity to spend some time with KD as he shared his wisdom on music, life, love and finding joy
RF: So many readers of Natural Awakenings are learning to navigate this new world in which we live – new paradigms in health, balance, love, spirituality and even music. My hope is to introduce you to those who haven’t yet come to know you – and make them curious about what their friends and neighbors already know about. Because you play to packed houses in DC [throughout the country], you are on the way to becoming a household name to many readers but just in case there are some new to kirtan and to you, how would you introduce yourself to someone navigating these new paradigms?
KD: It is all about the music. I have been doing this a long time. The more of these practices that I do and the more that I immerse myself in what you might call spiritual life – which I just call life – the more you realize that it is very simple. All the issues are very simple. Everybody wants to be happy. Everybody wants to avoid suffering. Everybody wants love. Nobody likes to be judged.
You are looking around at your life and you start to see how you hurt yourself, how you hurt others and how the things that happen to us in daily life can be very difficult to deal with. We recognize that we have to find some strength – some inner strength that is deep inside of us—so we don’t get destroyed by these waves that come at us every day. That is what I think these practices are about.
It is very hard to describe what these practices do exactly other than the fact that they transform one’s life—little by little. They move us from being externally oriented – from being reactive and go to stronger, quieter and to have a wider sense that life that can contain and envelope the different things about ourselves and the world.
RF: It is such a transcendent experience when you are there – it’s beyond music.
KD: Yes, it is. I always say that there are two things. There’s the music and where the music is carrying you. In this case, it the names of god, the divine names. The names that are inside of us, that is real. You can call that anything you want and aim in that direction by what you are calling it.
If your child is sick and needs to take medicine, you hide that medicine in the sweet syrup. The syrup gives you joy and some sweetness, but it is the medicine that cures the sickness and the suffering. In the same way, the music is the syrup that feels good, helps us take the medicine. But the medicine itself, which is what we are chanting, is what relieves us from the hurt and grief that we carry around with us. How it does that, I have no idea. But the fact that it does —there is no doubt about that.
What do we do all day? We think about ourselves—all day long—all we do is think about ourselves. We react to what is in our minds and bounce this way and bounce that way—all day long, all night long—every day. We never get out of that flow of obsessive thinking and it is in that flow of crazy thinking –all the stuff we tell ourselves and other people – that we don’t like. So, it all comes down to – how do we get out of that? How do we release that flow of insane, obsessive thinking? All our pain comes from that.
It’s an individual situation. If we want peace in the world, then every individual needs to find peace, otherwise, they won’t find peace. But it comes from within. You can’t create peace with anger. You can’t create happiness with anger and selfishness. We can release ourselves from this storyline—whatever it is—and touch a deeper place for a few minutes, or an hour or a couple of hours. And then, when we go back into our lives but we are standing on slightly different ground because we have actually trained ourselves, to some extent, to let go a little bit.
It is a gradual process. It takes time and some effort but it’s also a joyful practice, in its way. It’s not like all your problems are going to be solved or will disappear. The situations will still be there, but the way that you approach them will be less and less reactive and hurtful for yourself and others. One heart at a time.
If we don’t have peace in our own hearts, how can we make peace out there. It’s a dream, which is one of the reasons why in the 1960s, everyone thought they were going to change the world but they forgot, they have to change themselves too. People thought they could make external changes in the world, but that didn’t turn out that way because there was no work done inside.
RF: Do you see a shift in the thinking today, as opposed to the 60s? Do you think we are poised to do that better this time?
KD: Well, I do think that the suffering is more apparent right now. With the Internet and all the things that are happening, the state of the world is much more apparent. If someone gets killed in a country on the other side of the world, it is on the front page of the paper, it’s on Facebook, it’s in your face right away. So we are much more aware of what’s been going on. It’s always been going on but it’s been hidden from us because we didn’t have the technology to make it available. But now, people are feeling much more fear, which is unfortunate. But on one hand, it could be the impetus to deal with that fear, rather than to give in to it.
One of the real issues is that many people don’t understand what is possible anymore. We don’t understand how we can be happy and at peace in the middle of a burning fire and so, we don’t recognize the tools that are available to us to create that kind of light for ourselves and others. We keep on trying to rearrange the outside world and that doesn’t work.
So, on one hand, the awareness of suffering is so gigantic these days. The tenuous nature of the world --will we go on or will we blow this place up or is it already too late? Have we heated this oven too high so the earth itself won’t last? All these questions are right in our face, every day. How do we get to a day when we don’t create more suffering for ourselves and others?
The real issue underneath is that most people don’t understand that there is something they can do. They think that religion and spiritual practice have nothing to do with life or they are just an escape. They don’t get a chance to use the tools that are available—that enable us to dig us out of this hole.
That is the heavy stuff. We are not going to do anything to change our game unless feel deeply how much it needs be changed. It doesn’t have to be harmful in our own life. We can find joy inside that extends to the outside.
RF: You inspire so many people. What inspires you?
KD: What inspires me are my experiences in my life every day, and of course, the times I spend with my guru and the people I met, and continue to meet, who have conquered this world and have the kind of love that holds everything – the joy, the sorrow, the negative and the positive – the highs and the lows. They hold everything in the wideness of their hearts. That inspires me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it done but it certainly inspires me.
RF: That’s why it is a practice.
RF: What is next for you? I receive your emails and was surprised when I heard you were doing LoveLight Festival because I knew you were taking some time off. What is the next big thing in your life, even if it is to rest a bit more?
I am continuing to rest until that weekend of the festival, which means that I am not on tour. I am doing some local kirtans in NY because that is where I live. So mostly I am resting and exercising and taking care of myself – getting ready for another 20 years on the road.
To learn more about Krishna Das, visit him at KrishnaDas.com.
To learn more about the Lovelight Festival, visit LovelightFestival.wordpress.com.