Category Archives: Krishna Das

Singing beyond yourself

Susan Werner

What a feast of music and connection this week has been. Julia and I went to see Susan Werner in an intimate setting on Sunday. Julia opened for Susan in Iowa years ago.  You may not have heard of Susan but everyone should. She is a prolific master of all her instruments.  Her voice is stadium powerful while remaining melodic, soothing and welcoming. Her piano and guitar playing allow you to marvel without envy, and her lyrics are a gallery of portraits that paint the full gambit of the human experience.  She came right out and put everyone at their ease and had us singing along.  She brought us along with her on a musical journey to Cuba and then sang one of our favorites songs, “May I Suggest” (that this best part of your life.) For the encore, she came out into the audience and sang the Edith Piaf’s classic La Vie en Rose and the tears rolled down my cheeks.  She is one of the most amazing performers I have ever seen live and even her wonderful recordings can not fully capture the experience, because what she is providing is the essence of life itself.  It is full, it is sweet and it is temporal.  She does not hold back but is fully present and gives confidently without arrogance, the immense capacity that music can bring.

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Last night, we saw Krishna Das and two members of his group in an intimate setting with Robert Thurman, who is not just Uma Thurman’s dad, but a prolific author and leading authority on Eastern religions, spirituality, a close friend of the Dalai Lama and an influential advocate for peace and compassion. He is also a serious prankster.  He was wearing these crazy colorful polka dot socks and kept laughing as he talked about being able to exchange positions with those who are in front of you;  To be able to be the speaker in front of the crowd and then be the crowd watching the speaker. Not just to imagine these two perspectives but to embody them and hold them simultaneously. He said that there is a common openness where true reality lies… a place that can’t be reached intellectually or by declaring that you are enlightened… but reached only through bliss.  He credited the beauty of the music to bring us into that bliss. The music was indeed blissful. The real treat was seeing Krishna Das and Robert go back and forth like two school boys talking about countless old times.

Krishna Das talked about going to see a holy man in India who gave him a seed from the esteemed Bodhi tree (the tree the Buddha sat under when he attained enlightenment.)  Krishna Das was going to put the seed in his pocket and the man told him “No, eat the seed.” He almost broke a tooth on it, but he ate it.

Some five years later, his guru Maharaji Neem Karoli Baba, asked him to show him the seed. This was surprising because Krishna Das hadn’t told him about that event.  He told Baba that he had eaten the seed as directed in the moment.  “Well, that’s good.  Now you’ll become enlightened,” Baba told him.  Krishna Das is quite down to earth, always “robed” in t-shirts and flannel and he wouldn’t suggest that he walks around in bliss all the time.  But It seems to me that every time he plays, he offers the fruit of that seed…and the Bodhi tree blossoms.

Last night there were people chanting along, receiving something vital to their path from the music, the stories and the teachings.   I felt the same thing happening at Susan Werner’s concert. Both audiences were there to connect, to sing along, and conscious of it or not, to create a higher vibration that extends beyond the moment, beyond self.

When Krishna Das asked his guru how to access things like Kundalini energy, he was told, “Feed everyone.”   Robert Thurman pointed out that when the Dalai Lama was talking with you, he wasn’t above you, he was you.

May you be fed and feed everyone from a bliss that knocks off your polka dot socks.


May I Suggest

May I suggest /May I suggest to you/ May I suggest this is the best part of your life /May I suggest/ This time is blessed for you/ This time is blessed and shining almost blinding bright /Just turn your head /And you’ll begin to see The thousand reasons that were just beyond your sight /The reasons why /Why I suggest to you/ Why I suggest this is the best part of your life /There is a world /That’s been addressed to you /Addressed to you, intended only for your eyes/ A secret world /Like a treasure chest to you/ Of private scenes and brilliant dreams that mesmerize/ A lover’s trusting smile/ A tiny baby’s hands /The million stars that fill the turning sky at night /Oh I suggest/ Oh I suggest to you/ Oh I suggest this is the best part of your life /There is a hope /That’s been expressed in you/ The hope of seven generations, maybe more /And this is the faith /That they invest in you/ It’s that you’ll do one better than was done before/ Inside you know/ Inside you understand/ Inside you know what’s yours to finally set right/ And I suggest/ And I suggest to you /And I suggest this is the best part of your life /This is a song /Comes from the west to you/ Comes from the west, comes from the slowly setting sun/ With a request /With a request of you/ To see how very short the endless days will run /And when they’re gone /And when the dark descends /Oh we’d give anything for one more hour of light/ And I suggest this is the best part of your life.

–       Susan Werner

The music of our unmarred wholeness

I finally got to see Love and Mercy about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. It really illuminates how his genius was intertwined with a high level of sensitivity; an enlightened perception that became madness when the delicate balance needed to maintain his musical vision was upset by various external factors. What stuck me was how much one person in our lives bringing love and mercy can overcome the bludgeoning effects of cruelty and the ego’s need to dominate joy.

Brian can hear music in his head and is able to translate what he hears to other musicians. This is his way of connecting to his source.

Whatever we call our source, from love to the stream, by opening up our hearts and aligning our being with the music of our unmarred wholeness and sending it out in waves, we can alleviate suffering in the world.

“We think we are separate individuals and so all of our actions are involved in maintaining this separateness. Protecting it, feeding it, clothing it, moving it around and everything we do actually keeps that illusion of separateness going. That’s who I am, I’m me and your you; it’s obvious isn’t it? Yea, they say. On one level it’s obvious but people who know say there’s only one of us. And so if we are not planting seeds that are going to reveal that oneness to us, we are simply perpetuating our own pain because all of suffering comes from being lost in separateness.”- Krishna Das

Krishna Das: Sewing Seeds of Oneness:

May your music, whatever that is for you, not only be heard but plant the seeds that grow into a tree whose roots break up the concrete of separateness.

Krishna Das chants in the Spring

The song that reaches us from beyond all that we know is the answer to the yearning we have sent out as a signal.


Between the posts of Passover and Easter, the themes of emancipation and renewal welcome in the Spring with a pagan delight. I found it interesting that this holiday weekend was bookended by attending a kirtan and watching a documentary – both with Krishna Das. Well, sort of- we got to meet him Thursday night, which inspired us to see the documentary about his life on Sunday.

The kirtan Thursday night was the first time we had seen Krishna Das.  He leads the kirtan while paying harmonium, joined by a tabla, bass, guitarist, percussionist, and singing chime player.   It was a benefit for the Tibetan House of Hope that currently houses, feeds, clothes, educates and loves 140 children who would otherwise be homeless. The children aren’t put up for adoption but live and are raised in a Tibetan community where they dance and thrive together.

“I don’t know why they wanted a Jewish Hindu to sing Buddhist chants, he laughed, “People think I’m Hindu because I sing these songs.” “I’m not Hindu, I’m from Long Island.  I think being a good human being on this planet is what is needed now. That’s what I’m going for.”

Kirtan is wonderfully inclusive. He sang two lines and then the audience repeated back. The audience becomes part of the prayer, even if they don’t know it. The ensemble hypnotically settles you into a meditative state and then press into the tempo, raising it up until your atoms are dancing, whether you have gotten out of your chair or not. High vibration!

There are people who follow him around, like the Grateful Dead but without the drugs and as many strung-out and lost feelings.

I encourage you to see the documentary One Track Heart about his life.  It points up the difficulty of finding and staying on our path. He was solidly on his path, but allowed self-blame, doubt and his ego to mislead him. When he made his way back, I felt like I had made the journey with him. The feeling that prevailed opened me up to viewing my own path with renewed perspective.

Wherever you are, may Spring find you fully.