“San Diego holds a very special place in my heart,” says Bhakti Yoga devotee Krishna Das, called “the Chant Master of American Yoga” by the New York Times. “I’ve sung at the Seaside Church in Encinitas for the last ten years or so and love the area, especially the enthusiastic local chanters.”
The practice of kirtan — chanting the names of God — is at the heart of Bhakti Yoga, which means “union with God through devotional practice.” “It’s a way of getting in touch with yourself,” says Krishna Das, “of opening the heart and letting go of the mind and thoughts. It opens the inner eye residing in the heart and cleans the mirror of the heart, so it may reflect with clarity and purity the truth within.”
After traveling to India in the late ’60s to study with Maharaj-ji, Krishna became an appointed pujari (priest) for the Durga temple in Maharaj-ji’s ashram, in the Himalayan foothills.
“At what would turn out to be my last darshan of Maharaj-ji’s physical body , I was petrified with fear about returning to the U.S. after so many years. I hadn’t worn a pair of jeans or shoes for such a long time that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. All of a sudden, I blurted out in anguish, ‘Maharaj-ji! How can I serve you in America?’
“The words came to me: ‘I will sing to you in America.’ ” Krishna has released several CDs mixing Far East and Near Western sounds, featuring original songs, invocations, Sanskrit prayers, and Hindi verses. Accompanying himself on harmonium, violin, cello, bansuri flute, organ, trumpet, piano, and guitar, the Western influences are particularly notable on his Breath of the Heart album, coproduced by Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys, etc.) and featuring vocal accompaniment from Krishna’s Kosmic Kirtan Posse.
Krishna’s book Chants of a Lifetime was recently released by his own San Diego–based Hay House Publishers, detailing his life as a kirtan leader and packaged with a CD of private chanting sessions. He’ll perform at the I Can Do It! conference and wellness event, taking place May 13 through 16 at the San Diego Convention Center.