Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: Chants of a Lifetime: Searching for a Heart of Gold, by Krishna Das

My girlfriend, Jami, accidentally agreed to review this new book from Krishna Das (Hay House, 2010), then ended up really enjoying the book.

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Chants of a Lifetime: Searching for a Heart of Gold
by Krishna Das

Hay House, Inc.
Released February 2010
Reviewed by Jami Parrish

Okay, this is embarrassing to admit, but I need to be honest here, right? Then this is my confession: when I first heard of the book, Chants of a Lifetime, I thought it was about Ram Das. Don’t ask me why. It seems that the two teachers blended in my mind. I had heard of both, but knew next to nothing about each. In fact, I think I thought they were the same person. I had heard of Krishna Das and his music only in passing. When someone mentioned him to me, I only heard Das, and the only Das I knew was Ram Das, so I thought it was Ram Das chanting. Now the name Ram Das was only a bit more familiar to me. Other than he went to India, wrote some books and said some cool things, I knew nothing about him. I wanted to learn more about Ram Das and so decided to review this book. Since I was also interested in chanting, I figured this would be perfect. Big time confusion, right?

So some, or many, okay maybe even all of you may think I am a complete idiot, so be it. I have my flaws and this is clearly one of them. Needless to say, when the book arrived with a picture of Krishna Das on the cover, (I knew enough to know what Ram Das looked like and to realize I had made a big mistake) I was a bit disappointed. The great surprise was that reading this book was a complete delight.

Chants of a Lifetime: Searching for a Heart of Gold, is the story of his life (Krishna Das that is, just in case anyone else is confused). It starts with his traveling to India and then his return to America, his practice and his faith. While it is an interesting story, words of wisdom abound in the pages. Sometimes subtly, other times directly. Not only is this an autobiography, but also a sutra (of sorts). Through his story we learn of attachment and grace, enlightenment and falsehood. While I don’t have a guru or teacher, I can get a taste through Krishna Das’ experience with his teacher, Neem Karoli Baba.

This book seems to have been written with honesty. Krishna Das shares his foibles and attachments, making our own journey toward truth bearable and less lonely. He shares his humanness and makes it sacred. And humorous. The journey through and beyond our humanness is the essence of the journey, isn’t it? We all need laughter on this trip.

I don’t chant. I love listening to others chant, but it isn’t something I do. This book made me want to chant. His passion for chanting as a path seeps through the pages and into the reader’s psyche. I didn’t get the CD with the proof copy, and what a bummer that is because I think the CD would greatly add to the experience. (In fact, I think I am going to buy the book so I can get the disc.) For those of you who do chant, this book will speak to your practice.
…by the repetition of the Name, we are tuning in to that essence within us. … [T]he repetition of the Name can free us from our thoughts and allow us to be here in a deeper way. …Let me start where I am. I’m here, I know I’m here. Now, what’s in here? Who is here? That’s what I want to know. My belief is that what lives within me is that divine reality. All I have to do is uncover it. The path is a personal, individual quest for each of us. It is a journey of spirit, not necessarily having anything to do with organized religion. When we can live in spirit, meaning that which lives inside of us already, we will see it everywhere. (p. 61)
For those who have a deeper understanding of this path, I think Chants of a Lifetime would still be useful. The simple things really aren’t so simple. If the CD is anything like the book, I imagine that it will also be of value to those who practice regularly, adding a new dimension of singing with the master. But that is only a guess.

I could say more about Chants of a Lifetime, but I think it would be best if you read it yourself. A summary just doesn’t do it justice. And if you don’t know who Krishna Das is, you will quickly learn and may become very interested, as I did.

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Krishna Das is currently on tour supporting the new book and CD. His schedule can be found at his site. He will be in Tucson on March 31, but both Jami and I will be in classes that night, so we will miss him.

Sacred Song & Kirtan: Krishna Das and Deva Premal & Miten:

Seattle, March 24 Portland, March 25 Los Angeles, March 27 San Francisco, March 28 Mesa, March 30 Tucson, March 31 Santa Fe, April 1 Denver, April 3 Dallas, April 5 For other dates, see his site.

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