Krishna Das is a modern master who awakens the heart with his sacred music.
KD has been recording albums of traditional Indian chants and song since 1996, but has been on a spiritual journey his entire life. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, he has been an innovative traditionalist, utilizing western melodic sensibilities in Hindu kirtan (chanting) while maintaining its traditional base and structure, and is a master of infusing the Indian tradition with modern influences. While staying true to the path of Bhakti Yoga (the Yoga of Devotion), his music is energized with modern grooves and harmonies to create soulful chanting that is eminently accessible to western hearts. Iconic spiritual leader Ram Dass describes Krishna Das as “an example of someone whose heartsongs open the channels to God.”
Krishna Das was first exposed to Indian culture and spirituality in his early 20s. In the winter of 1968, he met Ram Dass, who had just returned from his seminal first trip to India. After living and traveling with Ram Dass in the U.S., and hearing his many stories about his remarkable guru, Maharaj-ji (Neem Karoli Baba), Krishna Das traveled to India, where he was blessed to meet and stay with this extraordinary saint.
While living in India for nearly three years, Krishna Das’ heart was especially drawn to the practice of Bhakti Yoga—the yoga of devotion. Fanning the flames of his inner longing, Maharaj-ji led him deeper and deeper into the practice of kirtan—chanting the Names of God. As an appointed pujari (priest) for the Durga temple in Maharaj-ji’s ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas, Krishna Das immersed himself in the worship of the Divine Goddess.
Krishna Das spent as much time as possible with Maharaj-ji during those first years in India, opening himself to the flow of Grace and purifying his heart. Early in 1973, he was asked by Maharaj-ji to return to America.
As Krishna Das recalls:
“At what would turn out to be my last darshan of Maharaj-ji’s physical body [last time seeing him in physical form], 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. I didn’t want to ask Maharaj-ji what I should do in America, but all of a sudden I blurted out in anguish, ‘Maharaj-ji! How can I serve you in America?’
“He looked at me with mock disgust and said, ‘What is this? If you ask how you should serve then it is no longer service. Do what you want.’ I couldn’t believe my ears. How could doing what I wanted to do be of service to him? I didn’t have that kind of faith. I just sat there, stunned. Then after a minute or so he looked over at me, smiling sweetly, and asked, ‘So, how will you serve me?’
“My mind was blank. It was time for me to leave for Delhi, to catch the plane back to the States. He was looking at me and laughing. I bent down and touched his feet for the last time and when I looked up, he was beaming at me, “So, how will you serve me in America?” I felt like I was moving in a dream. I floated across the courtyard and bowed to him one more time from a distance. As I did, the words came to me, ‘I will sing to you in America.’
“Soon afterwards, during the full moon in September 1973, Maharaj-ji left his body. Now he had to be found within. The chanting, the meditation, the puja and all the wonderful time spent with him turned out to be seeds that Maharaj-ji himself had planted in my heart…seeds that would keep growing and blossom by his Grace.”
In 1990, Krishna Das founded Karuna/Triloka Records, a leading distributor of world music recordings. His debut album, One Track Heart, released in 1996, focuses ..d chants from the ancient tradition of Bhakti Yoga. His second album, Pilgrim Heart, released in 1998, features a guest appearance by Sting, who sings on the tune, “Mountain Hare Krishna,” and plays bass on “Ring Song.” Krishna Das released the double CD Live on Earth…For a Limited Time Only in early 2000, and followed it with Pilgrim of the Heart (Sounds True), an instructional recording of a day-long chanting workshop (re-released in 2008 as a three-CD set).
2001’s Breath of the Heart was produced by Rick Rubin and features a kirtan choir of fifty people (including Beastie Boy Mike D) and ten top eastern and western musicians and was followed in 2003 by another Rick Rubin production, Door of Faith, a departure from Krishna Das’ signature call-and-response-style chant that is, instead, a deeply moving collection of solo prayers. Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga, released in 2004, is a compilation of old favorites and new chants accompanied by a DVD, One Life at a Time, featuring clips of live kirtan and interviews with Krishna Das and friends.
Krishna Das’ next CD, All One, is a dynamic 70-minute recording of the Hare Krishna mantra in Krishna Das’ own unique style. This was followed by Flow of Grace – Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa in 2006, released both as a CD and in CD/book form, and 2007’s Gathering in the Light, a collaboration between Krishna Das and composer/overtone singer Baird Hersey utilizing only voice and percussion to create new arrangements of seven of Krishna Das’ most beloved chants.
Krishna Das’ CD release, Heart Full of Soul (two-CD set; early 2009) is a vibrant live recording that immerses the listener in the joyous experience of an evening of devotional chant with Krishna Das, from beginning to end. (Note: A full discography is available on krishnadas.com.)
Over the years Krishna Das has made numerous pilgrimages throughout India, meeting teachers and saints of many spiritual traditions on his quest to open and purify his heart. Living in jungles, in ashrams, and in holy places throughout the sub-continent, he has had many unique opportunities to absorb the ancient truths that have been held by the Indian culture for thousands of years. In addition, he has studied Theravadan Buddhist meditation practices with Anagarika Munindra and S. N. Goenka, and has been initiated into Tibetan Buddhist practices by lamas from various lineages.
Krishna Das conducts intensive retreats, workshops, and chanting sessions. He leads kirtan on a regular basis all over the world. He continues to teach with Ram Dass and has sung for many saints, lamas, and yogis here, in India, and all around the world.
In his own words: “Chanting is a way of getting in touch with yourself. It’s an opening of the heart and letting go of the mind and thoughts. It deepens the channel of grace, and it’s a way of being present in the moment.”