Manual Make a Joyful Noise: Searching for a Spiritual Path in a Material World

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He was in Canada, and I went up to see him.

Spiritual Bliss

I never smoked cocaine again. I returned to the States and went into therapy. It took a long time. The real guru is actually my own heart, my true nature. Unfortunately, Western psychology views love and beauty as outside of us, just beyond our reach. Krishna Das: Absolutely. When someone asks the Dalai Lama about compassion, he says the first person who deserves compassion is ourself. We Westerners overlook that important first step. Adams: Do you still need to remind yourself to love yourself?

Krishna Das: Every day. I need to remember to allow the practice to soften my heart. Adams: For many of us in the West, the word guru evokes a negative stereotype of a religious huckster who deceives his followers. Can you imagine meeting somebody who is completely, unconditionally happy? That just makes you want to be there all of the time, because it allows you to be yourself. True gurus love you for who you are, not for what you can do for them or give them.

He could not be bought, because he had everything. Sometimes he looked like just a little old man, but other times he sizzled with radiance. You could barely look at him.

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You had to look away. The whole universe was right there in him. He was, like, Mister Universe. He would cover himself so that he could be in the world with people. They peel away the self-hatred, the guilt, the shame, the fear. A guru is someone who has truly conquered all of that and lives only to help people. Get with it! Adams: When you were with your guru, did all of your shame, fear, and guilt evaporate? Adams: You had direct experience with your guru. Is it possible to feel that love from an individual who has passed on or lives thousands of miles away?

Maharaj-ji is as present to me now as he was then, if not more so, because then, even when I was holding on to his foot, there was still the person I thought I was between us, and that was a huge obstacle to overcome. I had to go through years of despair to get to where I am today.

The void, nothingness, emptiness — these are philosophical concepts that are hard to understand. Trying to understand it with your mind is impossible. It has to be experienced, and when you experience it, it is exactly the opposite of what you thought it was. The part of you that thinks it understands ultimately has to go away before any real truth arises.

And over time the tiles break down, and the seed can take root in the clay. And then those roots grow, and keep growing until they destroy the whole roof, the whole house. Adams: It sounds as if, in the process of trying to find it, we risk losing ourselves. Krishna Das: Yes! But we risk losing only our separate self, and the suffering that comes with it. You know, these great beings like Maharaj-ji have a completely different sense of who they are. And the awareness in you is the same as the awareness in him.

We have to keep letting go of everything: the story lines, the habits, the attachments. And we have to be aware, because otherwise the shadows will come back and haunt us. We have to become aware of them in order to let go of them. We can be free of the shadows and make every day new, but we have to start by asking: Why am I creating all this suffering for myself? Where do these patterns come from, these habits of thought? First we have to plug that hole in the bucket that the water is pouring through, and then the vessel can fill up. And the hole in the bucket is all our self-hatred and inability to take care of ourselves.

Music: Its Role, Qualities, and Influence

The way to become aware of that is to practice, because then you begin to see your patterns differently and stop identifying with them. Eventually you can let go of them, and a natural feeling of happiness arises. Our lives are full of people, places, dogs, cats, dust in the closet, piles of laundry, dirty dishes in the sink. How we deal with it all — how we greet it — is essential to the way we feel about ourselves. I bow to the guru. Everything you see — the person in the mirror, the dishes in the sink — is the guru. And if you accept everything as the guru, as your teacher, then you learn how to deal with it as best you can, rather than try to fight it.

Krishna Das: I can only speak for myself.

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But the process is gradual. We can float and wiggle our toes and throw vegetables at each other. Doing a practice is a rare and precious thing, but no one pats us on the back for it. A practice should be judged on how you feel. But in order to know how it makes you feel, you have to pay attention to how you feel. Part of this process is learning to pay attention to what works for you. And then you start to engage with your life as a participant, not a victim.

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Just sit quietly and turn off the phone. Turn everything off for five minutes. The more you develop the ability to do this, the more you find echoes of it in places that are quite unexpected. How we feel is always changing, but the place that the chants come from, and the place that they move us toward, never changes.

I still mope around. Krishna Das: You can think of it that way. Once I heard a story about an old Tibetan monk who was imprisoned by the Chinese and tortured and beaten for decades. Never in a million years can we understand it, but we can become it through practice. Practice means learning from life instead of being bounced around by it.

Adams: Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One thing that really spoke to me was your music. For a while, during the more frightening time of diagnoses and surgeries, it was all I could listen to. Krishna Das: The same reason I sing it: because it works. One of my dearest friends pulled the plug on his kidney machine listening to my CD.

I feel that my guru uses me to transmit his blessings and his presence and his love to the world. I also get the benefit, which is why I do it.

Make a Joyful Noise

Nothing touches me as deeply as chanting or straightens my ass out and gives me perspective as quickly. All I have to do is sing. We have a resistance to truly opening our hearts and letting go, but suffering has a way of cutting through that resistance. When something really scares us, practice then begins to make more sense, because it relieves the fear. And you do what you can to get out of the fire.

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Make a Joyful Noise: Searching for a Spiritual Path in a Material World

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