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Krishna Das

A Conversation with Krishna Das (continued)

PM: Now, to return to our incredible story, after that time with Ram Dass, then you went to India, correct?

KD: Yes. It was about a year and a half after I met Ram Dass that I went to India. And I went specifically to find Maharaj-ji, the old man, Neem Karoli Baba.

PM: Right. And in what region was he living? What town?

KD: He lived mostly in north India. And in the fall, which is when I went, he used to go up in the mountains a lot. So I went up there and found him there.

PM: And what kind of a place was he living in? Was it palatial? Was it residential?

KD: Oh, no, it was a very small humble temple, a very simple temple. In those days there was very little flair, and it was very simply done, nestled in a little valley with the river between--oh, it's a beautiful spot.

PM: Now by that time, how many westerners had he been approached by, or come in that kind of contact with?

KD: By the time I got to him, I think he'd probably met three.

PM: Wow.

KD: Yeah. There was Baghavan Das, who had been there before, of course. He's the one who'd brought Ram Dass to Maharaj-ji.

PM: Right.

KD: And then there were another couple of westerners who might have met Maharaj-ji over the years. But basically, I was the beginning--me and two other guys--we were the beginning of this next wave of the few hundred people who might have met him over the next three years.

PM: Who was with you at the time that may have been part of that wave? Do you recall?

KD: Well, there were two guys. One was Danny Goldman, who wrote the book Emotional Intelligence.

PM: Ah-ha.

KD: He's a very well-known psychologist writer now. And the other guy was Jim Litton--he's a photographer out of Long Island, a good friend. Ranesh Ra Das and Jugga Nas Das, if you want the Indian names.

PM: Yeah, and I'll attempt the spelling.

KD: That's okay.

PM: So are those guys still friends?

KD: Oh, sure, yeah. We're all very closely connected even though we may not see each other that often. We share a tremendous connection.

PM: Would you tell the story, please, of how Baghavan Das came to bring Ram Dass to Neem Karoli Baba? What do we know about that?

KD: Essentially, Baghavan Das had been in India for a long time, and his visa had expired. And he wanted to stay in India, so he knew that Maharaj-ji could get him a visa because Maharaj-ji knew all these politicians. If Maharaj-ji wanted to, he could get him an extension on his visa. And so he was up in Nepal. Ram Dass met him up in Nepal. Richard Albert met him up in Nepal. Baghavan Dass decided to go down to find Maharaj-ji, and Ram Dass had borrowed a Land Rover--

PM: [laughs]

KD: --from a friend of his. And so, because Ram Dass had the Land Rover, Baghavan Das decided to take him with him.

PM: [laughs]

KD: For no other reason, really.

PM: That's great.

KD: And because of that, that's how Ram Dass got to Maharaj-ji.

PM: The Rover. Ah, that's pretty funny. Is Baghavan Das still a friend?

KD: We know each other, sure, we're still friends. He's around.

PM: And he's a label mate, right? He's on Karuna Records as well?

KD: He did one CD for Karuna. I'm not even on Karuna anymore.

PM: No. You do your own label now, or--

KD: I don't know what I'm going to do, Frank. I don't know. I'm trying to figure out the best way to go.

PM: Right. You're like other indie artist friends of mine in that respect. You started your own label, and now wonder if this is the way to go, or do you farm it out to somebody and let them handle the publicity and all the headaches.

KD: I just don't know.

PM: Yeah, because it's too much rigmarole, really.

KD: Yeah.

PM: Now, you tell me, please, if this is an acceptable or an appropriate topic, especially based on where you are at the moment. I gather that following the years at the foot of the guru, he bade you go back to the U. S. to work there--

KD: Uh-huh.

PM: --and there was some confusion as to what your work would be, or how you would serve him there, what would that be. My understanding is that following his passing from this life, a dark night of the soul period followed for you.

KD: Very much, yeah. Well, he sent me very specifically to deal with my shit.

PM: Ah.

KD: He didn't send me back to sing with people--at least he didn't say that. I mean, he didn't give us orders like that--at least he never told me to do that, verbally. But his original instruction to me was, "Go back to America, you have attachment there. You have work to do there. You have shit to deal with."

PM: Indeed.

KD: So that's why he was sending me back. Because I had been in India a long time, and I was really avoiding a lot of my problems, and trying to kind of override my desires and all that stuff. And the price I was paying for that was I was very tense and very tightly wound, and I wasn't really flowing and allowing things to flow. It wasn't going to get better. So I had to come back and kind of work through stuff, you know, a hands-on--

PM: Right. And what form did those lessons take?

KD: The dark night of the frickin' soul, that's what it took, yeah. I really fell away, in my own mind, from grace, because I--not that one ever really does, but I felt that I had blown my only chance by not going back to see him before he died. And the only thing that had ever really worked for me and made me happy was to be sitting around with him in this incredible humorous, sweet, intimate, funny, deep, loving space.

PM: Right.

KD: And I lost that completely when he died. Really, my whole life since then has been a big arc, trying to get back to that kind of way of living. That's the only way to explain it. I feel like my life is like a grindstone, and it just grinds away my stuff, my bullshit. And it grinds just enough away that you don't believe in death, you know?

PM: Right. Now, the dark night of the soul that you walked into wasn't start a family, get a job--life's general travails...

KD: Well, actually, it developed into that. My girlfriend got pregnant--but that was later on. That was in '79. Now we're talking '73, '74.

PM: Right.

KD: Outwardly, it might not have looked that bad, but inwardly--I had died inside. I was really suffering. I was really unhappy and really lost.

PM: So what did you begin to do?

KD: Well, are you talking about drugs?

PM: Or just with life, wherever it led. I don't know at what point they popped up.

KD: Yeah, that was later. Because at first, I never really had a job, so I used to go around friends' places and crash. And I'd paint somebody's house here, somebody gave me a car. I mean, it was a very wandering kind of life, you know.

PM: Right. In the New York area, or out West?

KD: In New York, California, and New Mexico, mostly, I think. continue

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