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Krishna Das

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What keeps us away from the gentle rain of grace? It's our endless obsession, all day long, with I, me, mine. We wake up in the morning and start writing "the movie of Me": What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? How am I going to get there? Is this enough? Is it too much? What's going to happen? What am I going to wear? How do I look? Does he like me? Why not? All day long. The movie of Me. We write it, direct it, produce it, and star in it. We write reviews that we read and get depressed! Then we go to sleep and do it again the next day. I've seen it so many times. And still, every time I turn on the TV, there it is: me, myself and my stuff.

Gradually (key word) and inevitably (the other key word), spiritual practices like chanting remove this subjective version of life by slowly dissolving the attachments that keep us feeling separate from the people around us, and separate and cut off from the beauty that lives in our own hearts. Everything we do in life is connected to everyone and everything else, but because we're locked up in our own little world, when we reach out to touch another person, all we touch is our version of the other person, and all they touch is their version of us. We're rarely *really* touching each other.

In 1997, when I first started traveling around to chant with people, a friend of mine arranged for me to lead kirtan in Tucson, Arizona, at a Middle-Eastern restaurant called The Caravan. I was going to be singing in a small waiting area that was part of the entrance to the restaurant. On the other side of this room was the kitchen. I was sitting on the floor with my friend Bub, who was drumming; the eight or nine people who showed up to sing were sitting in chairs by the walkway that the customers and the waitpersons took to get to the dining room. 

Customers were staring at us quizzically; food was going back and forth from the kitchen; pots and pans were being washed; espresso was being made; and there I was, singing and thinking, This is as bad as it gets! But I was wrong. As I was about to start singing the last chant of the night, Namah Shivaya, two big Native American guys -- they had to be over six feet tall and 300 pounds each -- wandered into the restaurant radiating an aura of alcohol. They plopped down in the two empty chairs right in front of me and stared blankly. I thought, I'm going to sing my [tail) off because I will probably be dead before the chant is over. 

I started singing. And I really sang. When Bub and I finished, we ended with a long Om. Then it was quiet except for the noise from the kitchen. I was sitting with my eyes closed when I realized that one of the guys had gotten up and was standing over me, staring down. I looked up at this mountain of a man. "Now what, Maharai-ji? What are you going to do to me now?" The man said, "I'm Native American. [Pause.] I was in Vietnam. [Pause.] I know the real thing when I hear it. [Loooong pause.] And you got it." As he wandered away, I started to breathe again. 

I'd been so caught up in the movie of Me -- my own program of who and what I was afraid of -- that there had been no room to see who this person really was. It was very humbling to recognize how deeply I was caught in my own projections, even after a whole night of chanting. 

All of us live in our own universe to some extent. We must become aware of the way these programs of ours work, and how they color our lives and cut us off from other people, seeing them only from far behind our private barricades. Everybody brings their own past and carries their own future within them at every moment. We carry the sense that we are the most important thing in the universe and everybody else exists in relation to us. I look at you and see the way you dress and your hair, and it brings up a lot of unconscious assumptions about who you are. It's not who you are; it's only my version of you. This is what human beings do. Buddha said that comparing is actually the last kind of thinking to go. We're always comparing: She's higher than me. He's this. She's that. All day long, we see ourselves through the eyes of other people. 

Krishna Das is a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba, a world reknowned musician who has chanted Sanskrit verses at the Grammys. Excerpt above from his autobiography, Chants of a Lifetime.

Seed questions for reflection: What do you make of the notion that 'when we reach out to touch another person, all we touch is our version of the other person, and all they touch is their version of us'? Can you share a personal story of a time you became aware of your own projections? What helps you let go of comparing?

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14 Previous Reflections:

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    On Sep 17, 2020 Alan Brisley wrote:
    I was wearing a skirt, a colorful one, too, I think. In my obviously male body, this can be a bit unusual, but I wear skirts so often that I usually forget about the fact. I was in the line to catch the car ferry going to Seattle, standing next to my car when a middle aged white guy with a big belly, baseball cap, dressed in boots, Levis, big belt buckle and a t-shirt under a dirty jacket approached me with a clear intention of talking to me. I flashed on how I was dressed and internally steeled myself for some kind of attack. "Great game yesterday, wasn't it!" "It was awesome! Best game I've watched in years! And the Seahawks even won it!!" I had forgotten I was wearing a Seahawks cap. I was really moved that what this person noticed about me was our commonality, while what I perceived was difference. His reach was from enthusiasm and kindness. My withdrawal was from projection and fear. I think of myself as an extememely kind person, yet here I exhibited b... [View Full Comment] I was wearing a skirt, a colorful one, too, I think. In my obviously male body, this can be a bit unusual, but I wear skirts so often that I usually forget about the fact. I was in the line to catch the car ferry going to Seattle, standing next to my car when a middle aged white guy with a big belly, baseball cap, dressed in boots, Levis, big belt buckle and a t-shirt under a dirty jacket approached me with a clear intention of talking to me. I flashed on how I was dressed and internally steeled myself for some kind of attack.
    "Great game yesterday, wasn't it!"
    "It was awesome! Best game I've watched in years! And the Seahawks even won it!!"
    I had forgotten I was wearing a Seahawks cap. I was really moved that what this person noticed about me was our commonality, while what I perceived was difference. His reach was from enthusiasm and kindness. My withdrawal was from projection and fear.
    I think of myself as an extememely kind person, yet here I exhibited bias, prejudice and fear. This is akin to a kind of hate. Not an active burning kind of hate that is easy to spot, but the simmering, silent form of hate that builds walls and barriers, that isolates, retreats . . . . . . . readies itself to attack or defend if the perceived threat expresses itself to my filters, now in ready alert.

    I use affirmations and deep breaths to let go of bias, when my awareness picks it up. When I get blindsided, as I was above, first I recover from my guilt and shame then I dig for gold. It is golden, what we find buried beneath our biases, especially our unconscious ones.

    Once I am aware of a bias, I begin to track it. I notice what it's very first hint of an appearance feels like and I teach myself to pay attention for that so that I can affirm the truth of what my bias seeks to deny, before my reaction moves into my nervous system. When I am successful, I am capable of acting from my integrity instead of my bias. This feels good. The more I practice, the better it feels until my new behavior becomes habitual. Then, my nervous system only gets triggered by intense situations, where, sometimes, it might appropriately help me to protect myself or someone else.
    r[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Sep 15, 2020 Jackie Ehlers wrote:
    It is difficult to share this story, because I still cringe at my stupidity in letting a simple difference in culture cause such a great mis-judgement in my view of another human being! In Zambia, we made friends with a food scientist who made wonderful, nourishing foods from local plants and trees. His wife seemed to be a simple, quiet homebody who prayed five times a day, cared for their two children, and cooked wonderful vegetarian dishes. Our children played together, and she taught me how to make banana flower cutlets. Our conversations always seemed to center aroundhome and children. A number of years after we returned to the US, we got a letter from hersaying that she was coming to America and would love to visit us in Detroit. It turned out that the reason for her visit was that she was going to speak to the United Nations assembly. This "simple homebody" had a Masters degree in Urdu literature,was now a Member of Parliament in Bangladesh, and had recently become the ... [View Full Comment] It is difficult to share this story, because I still cringe at my stupidity in letting a simple difference in culture cause such a great mis-judgement in my view of another human being!
    In Zambia, we made friends with a food scientist who made wonderful, nourishing foods from local plants and trees. His wife seemed to be a simple, quiet homebody who prayed five times a day, cared for their two children, and cooked wonderful vegetarian dishes. Our children played together, and she taught me how to make banana flower cutlets. Our conversations always seemed to center aroundhome and children.
    A number of years after we returned to the US, we got a letter from hersaying that she was coming to America and would love to visit us in Detroit. It turned out that the reason for her visit was that she was going to speak to the United Nations assembly. This "simple homebody" had a Masters degree in Urdu literature,was now a Member of Parliament in Bangladesh, and had recently become the leader of the opposition party.
    She did come to Detroit, and our conversations included all that we had missed before because of my "unconscious assumptions" about who she was.

    [Hide Full Comment]

    4 replies: Matangi, LilaH, Alan, David | Post Your Reply
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    On Sep 15, 2020 Jennifer Faith wrote:
    Just moments ago, on this sharing site, I read the incredibly beautiful story of en enlightened man who suffered and survived Auschwitz as a child. Right away, his story related to the one I am currently writing, in an effort to understand this Godliness on earth. I often ask myself why am I writing this? Who am I to write these stories and in this case, why did I decide to share the self referential connection? The question posed has helped me with some answers. These are the stories to be told and shared, of our collective human experience, now mute than ever. We are all one and everything relates, if we would only remember this and forgive our human flaws to become more God-like. thank you for this site, these posting, these questions and these comments.

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    On Sep 15, 2020 Victoria Crawford wrote:
    Thank you for sharing this. It's a beautiful piece. I can so relate.... "Even after he had chanted for hours he still found himself getting caught in his own projections, the 'movie of me'- his own program of who and what he was afraid of."

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    On Sep 15, 2020 Patrick wrote:
    It’s all part of “belonging” — simply sit with it, hold it, then let it hold you. }:- a.m. “en Christo” #TUC

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    On Sep 15, 2020 Jaya Sarkar wrote:
    This is such an eye opening revelation. Read it a few times to hold it within. Feels to be a step closer to the universal self....

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    On Sep 14, 2020 Priya Shukla wrote:
    I can tesonate with the story. The story of "Me' id always playing and we form judgements about others based on looks, style of dressing, personality etc. I am working on myself to not to judge others. My Buddhist practice, self work, being with people who practice it is helping me in that direction. I have realizes through experience that higher education doesn't necessarily means being more flexible or open minded and being more wealthy doesn't always translate it generosity.

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    On Sep 13, 2020 Shyam Gupta wrote:
    Even before we actually meet another person ,we form a mental perception of that person , which may be based on theirexternal appearanceand it is most of the time coloredwith our prejudicesand is also based on what movie is playing, in our head, at that time . Our perception about others also gets affected whether we see them from a space of fear or whether we see from a space of love.
    This happens throughout the day as we are caught up in our movie "about me " all the time. We are constanly thinking about our past and what we are going to do next.
    Meditation or chanting helps us in breaking that pattern and makes us calm . This calmnessbrings us back to the present moment and and with this awareness t we can meet another person without our prejudices and we would be able to see the other person, as to who he actually is, rather than our projection about him. In the calm and aware state we can see the real " him".

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    On Sep 11, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Clear version is created by clear vision. As I was growing up, I learned many valuable lessons of life from my father, by his words and by his actions. I remember one wise saying he used to say, " Yahtadristi, tatha sristi". As is my vision so is my world. If my vision is colored by my prejudices, judgments, assumptions, and expectations, I am going to create my mental, emotional and behavioral world by my vision. The same way the other person relates to me by his vision. Our versions of each other is created by our vision.Clear versionis created by theclarity of my vision. My mother used to say that when your eyes are affected by jaundice, you see everything yellowish. Buddha uses the word sati for clarity with no clouds of prejudice or selfishness floating in the mind.It is difficult to be free from prejudiceand judgments whichhave slipped into our unconscious mind. As a result as Krishna Das says. we"create the movie of me...we write it, direct it, produce it, and sta... [View Full Comment] Clear version is created by clear vision. As I was growing up, I learned many valuable lessons of life from my father, by his words and by his actions. I remember one wise saying he used to say, " Yahtadristi, tatha sristi". As is my vision so is my world. If my vision is colored by my prejudices, judgments, assumptions, and expectations, I am going to create my mental, emotional and behavioral world by my vision. The same way the other person relates to me by his vision. Our versions of each other is created by our vision.Clear versionis created by theclarity of my vision. My mother used to say that when your eyes are affected by jaundice, you see everything yellowish. Buddha uses the word sati for clarity with no clouds of prejudice or selfishness floating in the mind.It is difficult to be free from prejudiceand judgments whichhave slipped into our unconscious mind. As a result as Krishna Das says. we"create the movie of me...we write it, direct it, produce it, and star in it."

    Creating clear vision is a life long project. Our life is created, shaped and sustainedby the illusory perceptions of who I am and who others are. When we mindfully relate to our own illusory world and work on it, our vision of ourselves and of others changes for better. We wake up from the sleep of illusion and see the light without any walls created by our ignorance. This illumined clear vision frees us from the bondage of ego. In this statewe see oneness in manyness. This is the journey I am going through. I see more light than darkness and I feel free fom my self-created bondage.

    Daily practice of mindfulness meditation and living mindfully has been very helpful to me. Self-knowing and self-acceptance has created wholeness in me. I do not feel the need to see myself better than others or worse than others.
    May we create clarity in us to relate to others like ourselves.
    Namsate!
    Jagdish P Dave'








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    On Sep 11, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    My perspective is that all is one, and I am part of the one. From my side,when I see and touch the other, all I see and touch is me and my version of the other. All I a little bit know is me. What the other feels in my touching him or her, I don't know. I assume all this is the same for 'the other' who touches me. I started to become aware of my projections in my early 20s, during the same time that I began psychotherapy. I'm not sure which came first -- I am sure they affected and enhanced one another. This was also the beginning of the seeds of what became my spirituality. My awareness grew that I look out and see me, or at least see my thinking including my assumptions, expectations, prejudices, judgments. When I let go of comparing, what helps me let go of it is that it's not good for me. If I compare me to be better or worse than the other, above or below the other, I'm separating myself from the other, which is false, negative and harmful for me and for th... [View Full Comment] My perspective is that all is one, and I am part of the one. From my side,when I see and touch the other, all I see and touch is me and my version of the other. All I a little bit know is me. What the other feels in my touching him or her, I don't know. I assume all this is the same for 'the other' who touches me. I started to become aware of my projections in my early 20s, during the same time that I began psychotherapy. I'm not sure which came first -- I am sure they affected and enhanced one another. This was also the beginning of the seeds of what became my spirituality. My awareness grew that I look out and see me, or at least see my thinking including my assumptions, expectations, prejudices, judgments. When I let go of comparing, what helps me let go of it is that it's not good for me. If I compare me to be better or worse than the other, above or below the other, I'm separating myself from the other, which is false, negative and harmful for me and for the other.[Hide Full Comment]

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