Sunday was a bit of a local Bhakti Fest in the Confluence household.
We first headed to Venice to witness the ISKON Festival of the Chariot, aka the Ratha Yatra. It’s been going on along the beach in one of Los Angeles’ better-known weird neighborhoods for 36 years.
And then later we headed back to Venice for a kirtan with Krishna Das. Quite a bit of bhakti for two people who clearly are on the Raja / Ashtanga yoga path. One thing’s for certain, though, it’s worth dipping the occasional toe into all four — if you want to narrow it that much — paths.
During the Chariot Festival, we were more observers, watching as the three chariots carrying Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama and Lady Subhadra went past. We checked out the scene, strolled through the festival grounds right near the beach, but we were in a bit of a hurry because of the later KD event.
Also, I think we fell into a strange middle ground. We weren’t part of the event, but we aren’t bemused or unknowledgeable witnesses. The Q&A, the info and other ISKON outreach wasn’t really directed toward us.
It was a good event to see, however. And — to side track a bit — later on in the day, as the horrible events from the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin occurred, it wasn’t lost on us that we’d just been at a very public, non-Christian event. (Not to guess the Wisconsin shooters motive, but, as the photo above notes, there were protesters walking ahead of the Chariots. Thankfully, it was all peaceful, but it was a reminder of the line between legitimate differences of belief and opinion and the messed up, incomprehensible way people can react.)
The day really was about the KD event, however — the Chariot Festival was a bit of a late realization on our part. And the reason I nudged Bobbie to go was because of its scale: small. The kirtan took place in a yoga studio, and as we were waiting outside, I heard someone say the room’s capacity was about 140.
This is a kirtan more to our make-up, something closer to the private, meditative and reflective yoga path we are on. And we were participants, albeit ones still exploring this particular path to the Truth. (We may have realized we are more Shiva than Krishna, more seated alone on the mountain top than dancing in a group in the fields.) But, it’s KD, right? And with all that lead-in, some thoughts:
- It will come as no shock, but his voice is really stunning and moving. The deep depths from which it comes — physically and emotionally — are dramatic and dynamic.
- My introduction to KD for the event happened in the restroom. Bam! There he was. It should have been my chance to beg for the Hanuman Chalisa; I didn’t, and he didn’t play it.
- John Densmore of the Doors was part of the group accompanying KD. So that was a celebrity surprise.
- We realized that we enjoy the sing-a-long type kirtan more than the call-and-response type. (This also is true for the opening and closing Ashtanga chants.) It tends to be how Tim Miller leads them, so it may just harken back to that.
- Listening to KD talk, in his spare and sparse way, about his guru and the Bhakti path — we’re reaching for a love that’s within us all, I think, is one way to capture the core of the message — was a reflective addition to the earlier Chariot Festival. As the chariots rolled by, accompanied by the kirtan chanting names of God, what was on display was the simplicity of the loving relationship. But KD added a twist that, while easy — this love is in every atom of the universe — it isn’t simple. How do we get to that opening to love? He told the story of his guru’s explaining how Christ meditated (and their all hoping they’d get some concrete how-to instructions): “He lost himself in love.” Easy to say, easy to pretend (follow the lead of the woman swaying next to you, right?) but not so easy to actually do.
- Playlist? A few versions of the Maha Mantra; a little Shiva; some Narayana; a couple of Durga ones; Jesus on the Mainline.
If you’ve been reading our thoughts for a little while now, you’ll probably recognize that the complexity to KD’s message appealed to us. Our paths clearly are ones that challenge us, that unfold themselves in a difficult way. Listening to KD talk about all the years he wasn’t singing, of going back to India and — this is how I understood it — re-learning chanting as a path to God or love, it revealed more forks to this particular path of yoga. And it reminded me I need to get back in front of the harmonium. And it made me very curious about the documentary on him.
Ultimately, I think it demonstrated that chanting ought to be a part of our path; it may not be the main one — for us, anyway — but it is one to explore, to see how we can better get “lost in love” down the road.
Here’s about 30 seconds of the kirtan, during “Hare Krishna Waltz,” if I caught the name of this version correctly. I sweep over to Densmore at the end.
Posted by Steve