Bhagawati reviews the film – the story of Krishna Das.
A Tour De Love Force!
What joy to watch a documentary about a fellow traveller and master chanter. This sensitive film by Jeremy Frindel touched a lot of chords in my being and I was flying high as a kite as the story unravelled.
Krishna Das – at that time Jeffrey Kegel – met Ram Dass in the late sixties after the latter had returned from India. Ram Dass had met and stayed with Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj ji) – widely known as a saint in India yet very few people in the West had heard about him. Walking into the room where Ram Dass was sitting, he recalls that something happened to him:
And in that moment without a word being spoken I knew that whatever it was, that was what I had been looking for. It was real. It existed. It was in the world and you could find it…. Later I realized that what I felt at that moment was Maharaj ji’s presence and he’s never left me. I may have left him a few times but he has never left me. So, when I went to India and actually met him it was strange, because now there was this body attached to this feeling that I had all these years, it was amazing.
In 1970, Krishna Das walked away from his possessions and dream of becoming an American rock ‘n’ roll star and arrived in the Himalayan foothills in the small village of Kainchi, near Almora. There he stayed with Maharaj ji for almost three years while an incredible love story between him and the master unfolded.
His life was enchanting, he enjoyed singing, playing the guitar, and learned to play the harmonium; Maharaj ji encouraged him to sing kirtan – “sing with the people.” He also learned and practised bhakti yoga, served his master and was part of the ashram’s activities. Many photos and footage from that period illustrate the locale.
When Maharaj ji told Krishna Das to return to America and live the real purpose of his life, he was in shock. In an interview with David Calicott, The New York Press, the conversation that followed is shown here in Krishna Das’ own words:
“At what would turn out to be my last darshan of Maharaj ji’s physical body, I was petrified with fear about returning to the US after so many years. I hadn’t worn a pair of jeans or shoes for such a long time that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. I didn’t want to ask Maharaj ji what I should do in America, but all of a sudden I blurted out in anguish, ‘Maharaj ji! How can I serve you in America?’
“He looked at me with mock disgust and said, ‘What is this? If you ask how you should serve then it is no longer service. Do what you want.’ I couldn’t believe my ears. How could doing what I wanted to do be of service to him? I didn’t have that kind of faith. I just sat there, stunned. Then, after a minute or so he looked over at me, smiling sweetly, and asked, ‘So, how will you serve me?’
“My mind was blank. It was time for me to leave for Delhi, to catch the plane back to the States. He was looking at me and laughing. I bent down and touched his feet for the last time and when I looked up, he was beaming at me, ‘So, how will you serve me in America?’ I felt like I was moving in a dream. I floated across the courtyard and bowed to him one more time from a distance. As I did, the words came to me, ‘I will sing to you in America.’
“Soon afterwards, during the full moon in September, Neem Karoli Baba left his body. Now he had to be found within. The chanting, the meditation, the puja and all the wonderful time spent with Maharaj ji turned out to be seeds that he himself had planted in my heart… seeds that would keep growing and blossom by his Grace.”
Back in America Krishna Das had a hard time finding his equilibrium, having hit rock bottom: “I was grieving. I was lost and my heart was broken. I thought that I could never find that love again. And fuck it – I wasn’t doing anything. I did a lot of drugs, I came to a lot of trouble, I did everything that I could to destroy myself and I failed. So, I’m not even good at that. It took about 20 years before I started singing.”
And singing he does, his life is devoted singing to Maharaj ji – presented wonderfully in the documentary – and the moment he started singing kirtan publicly, his popularity soared and he became very successful all over the world. His singing is accompanied by him playing the harmonium which bears an image of Hanuman, and he generally wears red/maroon T-shirts when he performs, a colour associated with Hanuman and of course endearing to Osho’s sannyasins. Watching him in concert, he is obviously coming from a deep space within and clearly in ‘a zone’ of devotion.
It is pure delight listening to Krishna Das and I do so a lot, often also while driving. His voice has a calming and simultaneously elating effect on me, inviting me to chant along!
Special features on the DVD include more than 45 minutes of extended and deleted scenes with Krishna Das & Ram Dass and additional Krishna Das concert footage.
Highly recommended for people on the path and lovers of Indian music and chanting.
Bhagawati is a regular contributor
More articles by the same author on Osho News
Neem Karoli Baba aka Maharaj-ji