Krishna Das is an internationally renowned Kirtan singer and teacher. His journey began in the late 1960s, when he met spiritual seeker Ram Dass, then traveled to India, where he was taught by the legendary guru Neem Karoli Baba, known to most as Maharaj-ji. He is coming to Dublin this summer (click here to learn all about it), so we were thrilled to interview him ahead of his visit. This interview appears in our Spring 2019 magazine – click here for a list of stockists, or click here to subscribe.
Chanting God’s Name
An interview with Krishna Das
by Guylaine Williams
It has been over five years since Krishna Das sat down at his Bhakti saturated harmonium in Dublin to begin the Kirtan with that deep, dulcet tone of Om that immediately initiates a calm among the participants. If you’ve heard this sound once, you can easily return to that honeyed tone and fall into its embrace.
It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that Krishna Das returns to Dublin in June 2019. I was delighted to interview him and share our conversation with all of you.
GW: Why the desire to return to Dublin, and can you tell me about the last time you were there?
KD: There have been many invitations to return, and I just loved my last time there. I spent a whole day just walking around Dublin for hours and hours. The chanting was great and people were really into it. Liam Ó Maonlaí from Hothouse Flowers showed up and played hand drums with me on stage. It was such a wonderful feeling: really nice, friendly, open and enthusiastic.
GW: Explain the practice of chanting for me. From what I’ve witnessed, there is not just one way to practice.
KD: Yes, everyone experiences it very differently – very individually – because it’s an internal practice. It is a meditative practice.
Ultimately, however, it’s not about an individual’s experience. It’s not even about my experience. It is about my guru – Neem Karoli Baba – transmitting his presence, compassion and love through the chanting. The repetition of these names is a practice that he encouraged us to do. Basically, Maharaj-ji said, ‘From repeating the names of God, everything is accomplished.’
The whole idea of chanting is to give oneself to it as much as one can. And when you start chanting, all your thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, fantasies, desires and so on … simply become things to let go of. Let go, keep letting go and just come back to the Name.
Any thought or feeling is transient – it can be let go. How long it takes for us to let go of something might be 30 seconds or 30 lifetimes for some people. So we return to the sound of the Name, over and over again. You simply let go and come back, over and over, and gradually, you will have trained yourself to respond in the most helpful way and to let go of the identification with the thought or the emotion. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel, notice or recognise it, but that you don’t dwell on or identify with it. It’s just a question of trying to be really present in the practice.
Eventually, the natural place that we keep coming back to – the sound of the Name – opens us up more deeply to our own true nature and our own presence. The Presence.
GW: How did the idea for the workshops begin?
KD: Well, I was invited to do one. Then I started realising that not everybody has spent half their life in India. Not everybody has met all the incredible saints, yogis and lamas that I’ve been blessed to be around. So the idea of the workshop was just to share this path with people and share some of the things I’ve gone through and continue to go through.
GW: Have you witnessed any common threads within the workshops?
KD: Yes. Everybody on Earth wants the same thing. And most people do not know how to get it. Everybody has the same question. Everybody wants to know how to be happy. Everyone wants to know how to love and be loved. It’s always going to be the same because we are all the same. It just depends on what people are working on at the moment.
GW: In a recent interview, I heard you say, ‘I would just like to always ultimately be under Maharaj-ji’s blanket.’ Can you tell more about this? What is it like under there for you?
KD: His real blanket is everywhere. It’s not a physical thing. Under His blanket is safety, is home, is love, is acceptance, is being right where you want to be and feeling okay about yourself.
He gave us the Name so we could come back into the presence of Love.
That’s why I do this practice. That’s what I have: I don’t have anything else. So I share what I have, as I can’t share what I don’t have.
The repetition of the name brings me back into Maharaj-ji’s presence. And other people are responding to those feelings in themselves in different ways. And that’s not my business. My business is to do what I do.
When I sing, I’m not singing to people – I’m singing to Maharaj-ji: to the loving presence that He is. I’m inviting people to come and sing with me, to enter that place of Love that is within them.
For more information on Krishna Das, go to krishnadas.com.
Guylaine Williams has been teaching Yoga Asana and Meditation in Nova Scotia, Canada, since 2002. She can be found this summer at The Yoga Hub in Dublin, teaching regular classes and workshops, and leading the summer 2019 YTT programme. Her schedule can be found at: theyogahub.ie/about/teachers.
We are hosting two very special events with Krishna Das this June: a Kirtan evening on Saturday June 15th and a workshop on Sunday June 16th. For more information on both events, click here.