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May the information that shapes our ever evolving practice integrate into every aspect of our waking life
Just behind the sign-in table at Karuna there are a few framed photographs. You may have glanced at them once or twice. The beautiful juxtaposition of B.K.S. Iyengar in Natarajasana and Eku Pada Urdhva Danurasana may have inspired you to open your chest just a little more. Or the fiery look in Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s eyes may have inspired tapas in your practice. You may have noticed the gentle expression of Ramana Maharshi and felt a bit more peaceful as you start to settle in to class. If you know anything about Ramana Maharshi, this picture may signal quietude for you, or remind you of the great power of silence. If you aren’t familiar with his life and practice you may see something else when you glance at his photograph: compassion. There is something powerful in this man’s face. There is acceptance, willingness, clarity, and love. Next time you come to class take a moment longer to look at his photograph. Lift up your eyes and you chin and let your chest open and you shoulders gently release down your back and remember the kindness in this mans face as you journey onto your mat.
Recently Karuna hosted a Kirtan and workshop with Krishna Das. KD, as many affectionately refer to him, has been visiting the Karuna community for nearly 16 years. Now synonymous with the practice of Indian Kirtan in the states and around the world, KD has created a bridge for many from the west with this practice of the east. One way that he does this is by incorporating western styles of instrumentation and chord progressions with the chanting of traditional Hindu devotional poetry. Another way KD supports and enlivens our practice is by sharing stories of his own particular path to becoming a practitioner of Bhakti Yoga,the Yoga of devotion. In the workshops that typically follow his Kirtan at Karuna, KD shares stories of his practice and of his teacher, Neem Karoli Baba or, more commonly referred to as Maharaj-ji. In these stories it is clear to the audience how profound and deep KD’s love for Mahara-ji is and how that love fuels his practice of Bhakti Yoga. Once an aspiring rock musician in the 60’s, KD spent three years in India with Majara-ji learning the practice of Bhakti and Kirtan. He has spent his time since those powerful years expressing the grace of his teacher through music and chanting.
KD speaks of his devotion and faith in a very accessible way. He does not position himself in front of us as our teacher but rather as another walking beside us in our practice. He humbly and honestly admits to his own struggles, offering his experience in a relational way that puts him alongside the audience. His insights don’t come across as challenges but rather as encouragements and support.
The energy generated by the beautiful music and chanting is uplifting. In a radio interview with Gary Goldberg KD remarked that “trying to think yourself out of a box made of thought won’t work”. Practicing Kirtan with KD invites us to replace thought with prayer and analysis with love.
“The words of these chants are called the divine names and they come from a place that’s deeper than our hearts and our thoughts, deeper than the mind. And so as we sing them they turn us towards ourselves, into ourselves. They bring us in, and as we offer ourselves into the experience, the experience changes us. These chants have no meaning other than the experience that we have by doing them. They come from the Hindu tradition, but it’s not about being a Hindu, or believing anything in advance. It’s just about doing it, and experiencing. Nothing to join, you just sit down and sing.” ~Krishna Das
We feel fortunate to have shared the Karuna space with this beautiful practitioner over the years and look forward to seeing him again next year!
Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart, Without knowing it, from various
ills- A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
Karuna is a scent-free, toxic-free environment.