October 24, 2022

Nobody Has to Tell You When You’re Home: A Conversation with Krishna Das

By Madison Margolin

Krishna Das (KD) was born on Long Island as Jeffrey Kagel. As he puts it—echoing the words of those like Lama Surya Das and Ram Dass, also Jewish-born devotees of Indian spirituality—he’s “Jewish on [his] parents’ side.” Or as my family puts it, he’s a “HinJew”—but in fact, KD’s spiritual ethos transcends the distinction of any religion. A Grammy-nominated vocalist, KD is famous for his practice of kirtan, an Indian tradition of devotional chanting. His journey began in the ’60s when he met Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now and formerly known as Richard Alpert, a Harvard psychologist who was fired by the university when his psychedelic experimentation (conducted with Timothy Leary) went too far. After Harvard, Ram Dass went to India, where he met the guru Neem Karoli Baba, known as Maharajji.

Captivated by Ram Dass’s stories of the guru, KD traveled to India in 1970, leaving behind his dreams of becoming a rockstar. In India, KD fell in love with the practice of bhakti, or devotional, yoga; with no plans to return home, after two and a half years, he was sent back to the West at the behest of Maharajji. (Similarly, my own father, who spent time with the guru, was also sent back to America to be of service using his own skill, or “boon,” as an attorney.)

In 1994, KD began to lead chanting at New York City’s Jivamukti Yoga Center, and continued to develop his style of call-and-response kirtan, blended with Western rhythmic motifs. He now chants around the world, bringing kirtan and the teachings of Maharajji—summed up in the phrase, “Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God”—wherever he goes.

I myself grew up on a steady diet of KD’s music. It was the go-to soundtrack to my childhood, whether for car rides with my parents or for just hanging at home on Sunday mornings. As a child, my parents would take me to KD’s kirtans when he was in town, and host their own in our living room. Because every family comes with its own dramas and traumas, at first I rebelled against anything my parents were into, but ultimately, KD’s music (among other things) helped me find my way back home. Chants like the Hanuman Chalisa (specifically this version) brought me back to myself, and enabled me to make peace with where I came from.

In this interview, I discuss with KD many of the themes that defined my upbringing, but which I once took for granted. I’d always had questions surrounding religion and spirituality, dogma and practice, but never thought to articulate them—until now. I’ve only just begun to reflect on my own positioning as someone raised Jewish by flower children in the satsang (community) of Maharajji’s devotees. And I’ve noticed a handful of overlaps between the “HinJew” and more traditional Jewish (and even Hasidic, or heimish) worlds—the way people sit together and sing religious songs or chants at a kirtan or kumzitz, the way they follow a guru or a rebbe, and the familial bonds amongst friends and community members. In exploring the religion(s) I grew up with, I’ve come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of Judaism through the experience of psychedelics and the “chassidis”1 of Maharajji—topics that KD lays out so eloquently in the words below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Madison Margolin

Before you ended up in India, what was your relationship to religion and mysticism, and how was that influenced by psychedelics?

Krishna Das

Well, I would say that, initially, I had absolutely no interest in spirituality, let’s call it that. But between my junior and senior year of high school, I took peyote. That was completely life-changing, and afterward, all of a sudden, what I cared about a lot was finding out what life is about, and how I could be happy. Because, once the peyote started to affect me, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that what I was experiencing was more real than anything that had happened to me in my life up to that point, and that was really powerful. So, after that, I started to explore—how do you get there? How do you stay there? How do you live in that place?

MM

So, what did you find?

KD

I started doing Zen meditation. I was doing yoga—asana practice and pranayama. I did more psychedelics. I scored ten capsules of pure Sandoz acid, when it was still legal even. Each tab was 1000 micrograms (the “average” dose is considered to be 100 micrograms), and when I took the first one, I split it with a friend; the next nine I took all by myself. I did them over time, not all at once. I probably wouldn’t be here if I did them all at once.

At the time I took the first tab, I was in school, had a job, was playing basketball. By the last one, I was in the mountains of Pennsylvania, living completely on my own, with my dogs and cat and horse. So, after that, I didn’t take acid again for a long, long time—maybe I took one more trip—but I recognized that I needed to find out how to live in this world, in a good way, without fear and without being pushed around by my own stuff! I wanted to figure out how I could live in that incredible, open, blissful space, because that’s what those trips were for me. They were all totally extraordinary, just wonderful.

MM

So how did your relationship to psychedelics change after you found the practices that could help you get there on your own, and after you met Maharajji?

KD

Well, I met Ram Dass when he came back from his first trip to India, and obviously he had a tremendous amount of experience with psychedelics. His understanding was that psychedelics showed you something real, but it was just a glimpse; you couldn’t stay there. You had to find another way to live there all the time. Then when I got to Maharajji, and people asked him about psychedelics, he said, “The yogi medicine takes you through the doorway, into the room with Christ, but you can’t stay. The only way to stay is love.”

So, I agreed with that very much in my heart because I knew that if I kept shooting myself into space and coming down and crashing, up and down and up and down, I couldn’t live in this world. It was destroying my ability to function in the world. I was just too spaced out, it wasn’t good for me, it wasn’t healthy. And I felt that if I stopped doing that, the plateau of my consciousness would rise over time.

MM

So would you say that by now you’ve been able to sustain that psychedelic consciousness, or is it still an up and down?

“What I began to understand is that the less ego, the more space—the less ego, the more your experience of life changes.”

KD

Well, it’s a very subtle question, and the answer can only be misleading. See, at the beginning, you’re trying to find that bliss and you want it to last forever. The problem is that it’s the ego having that desire to maintain that experience forever, and that can never happen for the ego. What I began to understand is that the less ego, the more space—the less ego, the more your experience of life changes—so it isn’t about getting more and more and more and more, and hoping it lasts, but it’s about craving egoistic experiences less. It’s a tricky, slippery slope because it’s hard to understand. You think, “Well, I want this experience, how do I get it?” You are not going to get it. You are what’s standing in its way.

Once you understand that it’s you—your ego—that’s actually limiting your experience, then you try to find ways to free yourself from egoistic identifications. It’s not all about me all the time. And the result is that you think about yourself less, which means you limit yourself less, which means your experience of life changes.

A lot of people think if they just keep taking acid, they’ll get what they want, but actually they won’t, that’s the problem, and that’s my understanding. For instance, I was with Maharajji when he took acid—you know the story of Ram Dass giving Maharajji acid for the first time?

MM

I do, but I’d love for you to tell it anyway, it’s such a great story.

KD

Well, Ram Dass gave it to Maharajji the first time and nothing happened. Maharajji just sat around all day, the way he always sat around, and Ram Dass was really blown away, because now he thought, here’s somebody who is beyond acid. It didn’t affect him. However, when Ram Dass came back to America and started telling people about that experience, some people said, “Ah, come on. He probably just threw it over his shoulder. He scammed you.” Ram Dass also had a little bit of doubt. So, at one point, me, Ram Dass, Rameshwar Das, and maybe two other people, we were all with Maharajji, and he looked around and said, “When you were in India last time, did you give me medicine?” (He called it the yogi medicine.)

Ram Dass said, “Yes.”

And then Maharajji looked at him, and he said, “Did I take it?”

And Ram Dass said, “I think so.”

Then Maharajji asked, “Oh, you got any more?”

“Yes.”

“Give it to me.”

Ram Dass put his hand out with four pills of acid. Maharajji went like this—[KD opens his mouth wide like a fish, picking up each imaginary pill individually, and dropping them one by one into his open mouth]—four times just like that.

Then he drank some water and took his blanket up over his head. And all of a sudden, he opened his blanket up, and went like this—[KD pops his head up and sticks his tongue out like Kali, but silly]—like he was playing hide-and-seek.

At that point, Ram Dass turned purple, absolutely; I’d never seen a purple human being before. And he thought, “Oh my God, he didn’t take it the first time. He wanted to prove to me he could. I’ve killed my guru. Now it’s over.”

And then as soon as he thought that, Maharajji just stopped and laughed. He said, “Yogis have known about this stuff for thousands of years. For a yogi, a real yogi, no poison can affect him.” It was apparent that Maharajji understood exactly what it was, and that he was beyond it, it couldn’t affect him at all. When he would say, “It can bring you into the room with Christ, but you can’t stay,” we had to believe him, because we could see that he knew what he was talking about. So then if you’re serious about being free of suffering, and finding real love, you have to recalculate and recalibrate your position. Are you going to just keep trying for these experiences? Or are you going to remove the stuff that’s preventing you from living in your true nature—which is that experience all the time? That’s the way I feel about it.

But, you got any good acid? [laughing]

MM

[Laughing] Ok, so, talking about other forms of practice that can help one tap into and sustain the type of experience you can have on psychedelics: When you do kirtan, or mantra meditation, would you say that your self-awareness just turns off? How would you describe your consciousness or mind-state when you’re in practice?

KD

Well, people ask me all the time, what do you experience when you sing? And I say, how do I know? My job is to let go when I’m singing and just sing, so if some thought shows up, I let go and come back to the chanting. I don’t write down what the thought was and give it a number of stars. You see, that’s what I’m saying. It’s exactly the opposite of how one would normally approach the situation, from the point of view of a separate being, an ego. So, what does it feel like when I’m stuck and I need to let go? Yeah, I’ll calm down. I’ll do some chanting or meditation. I’ll sing Hanuman Chalisa and things will shift, and whatever is holding me, whatever negative emotion I’m stuck to, might dissolve and disappear. Maybe. And then I’ll feel more at ease, more open.

From being with Maharajji, I came to appreciate that love, real love, is what we’re looking for, and those experiences on acid and peyote and PCP and all the other chemicals, like ecstasy, all those experiences were fun, but they’re not love. And when I finally tasted real love in Maharajji’s presence, I no longer craved those experiences. And that love is with us all the time. It’s like the air we breathe. There’s nowhere you can go where it isn’t, but you need to remember how to look for it, how to pay attention to it.

MM

It seems like being with Maharajji itself was a psychedelic experience, just being in the presence of someone so present and connected to God . . . That leads to another thing I’m curious about: What is your level of religious involvement, so to speak, with Hinduism?

KD

Zero.

MM

But do you understand what you’re chanting? A lot of kirtan is reciting the names of God. You studied it; you memorized those verses?

KD

Yeah, but it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with my personal experience. Maharajji never initiated us into any “religion.” He didn’t tell us, “Now you’re Hindus, you have to do this and that.” He loves us as we are. We don’t have to change to be in that love, or to feel that love. And the founders of all religions were actually in that love; it’s the followers who are fucked up. So I don’t want anything to do with followers, I just want to go to the source.

Here we’re talking about organized religions where people identify as being Jewish or Hindu or Muslim or Sikh . . . I don’t identify with any of that. I’m just trying to be a human being, the best human being I can be. It just so happens that I got the hit in India, that’s where I learned my techniques to connect with the Divine. That’s where I learned how to plug in, how to say “the names of God,” but I’m plugging into the same thing that a Christian monk plugs into in a monastery. We just call it by a different name, we speak a different language, that’s all. You look up in the sky, you see the sun. In English, it’s “sun,” right? On another side of the world, in another language, they might call it something else, but they’re looking at the same thing.

MM

Right. But I guess, when I say religion, I’m referring to, for instance, the way my father practices yoga religiously, he does not miss a day. And he meditates every night, I’ve never seen him not do it; and every time he eats a meal, he says a blessing.

KD

I’ve seen him do that.

MM

Right, so that to me is religion. What’s religion? It’s sober, ritualistic practice. For me, you have spirituality, which is connecting to God and the Divine and whatever else, and religion is the embodied practice—things that you do, on a regular basis. It’s the discipline of harnessing a container for that connection.

KD

That’s a very liberal interpretation of religion. You won’t find many people who agree with you—because most people identify themselves with a set of beliefs: I am a Jewish person. My religion is Judaism, and I worship this God. I am a Muslim, I worship this God. For those people, it’s very serious stuff. I mean, people kill over that stuff. Recognize that your way of using that word “religion” is already very different from how most people in the world use it; it’s a big difference.

For me, these mantras and these so-called “names of God” are part of a language that refers to something. The words are different than those in other languages, but it’s all the same thing they refer to—God, the world, whatever. Maharajji never imposed religion on us. He would just go like this [putting his forefinger up]. When we asked, “What does that mean?” he said, “All one. Many names, many forms, all one.” That freed me from worrying about any of it.

MM

So it sounds like the words themselves are not the point then, in a way. But do you understand the words that you sing?

KD

Yeah, most of them, sure. For instance, the Hanuman Chalisa is in Hindi. It’s forty verses. I know what I’m singing.

MM

Do you think that adds a level of depth to the experience?

KD

Well, there are two different things here. There’s prayer, which in India is called bhajan, and then there’s mantra. Mantras are sounds that may or may not have a particular semantic definition. For instance, hung or hum—that is a seed syllable. It doesn’t really mean anything. What it does is bring whatever mantra you’re using into the heart. And there are also what they call beej mantras that do something to you energetically, open you up. They don’t necessarily mean anything that you could hang your hat on. On the other hand, there’s prayer, like the Hanuman Chalisa, which is composed of words that do have semantic meaning. So first, we were singing it to Maharajji, and it brought us into his presence physically; he would ask us to come and sing to him. When he was no longer in the body, the singing of that prayer would bring us into his presence because that’s what it always did, even though he wasn’t there physically. So for us, that was the meaning.

But you can also learn the meanings of the words themselves, like that this is a prayer to Hanuman who destroys suffering, removes calamities, who’s compassionate and kind and powerful. Yeah, you can learn all of that. But for me, the real meaning is Maharajji’s presence. He is, we believe, a free being, one with the universe, so to speak—so he is always available, but we just have to look. And so, one of the ways of looking and entering into that presence are these kinds of prayers or mantra repetitions. I may not understand every single word, but I do understand what it’s about. I’m not a scholar, I’m a lover, so that’s what the chanting is about for me.

MM

That makes me think: Growing up, I saw people at times treat Ram Dass as more than human, kissing his feet and all that—which as a kid was weird for me, because I also saw him as just another one of my dad’s weird friends, before I could appreciate who he was in a greater context. And I’m getting a little bit of that feeling now from how you’re talking about Maharajji. Can you speak to this kind of guru/disciple dynamic? It’s a dynamic, by the way, that also reminds me of how some Hasidim speak about their rebbe.

KD

Have you heard of Dada Mukerjee, one of the great old devotees of Maharajji? He wrote By His Grace and The Near and the Dear. We used to stay and spend time with him in Allahabad long after Maharajji had left the body, and he would tell us stories. So one time I was staying with him, and I guess I was reverencing him, or respecting him a little bit too much for his own comfort, so he turned to me and he said, “Krishna Das, maybe I’m a step or two ahead of you. Maybe you’re a step or two ahead of somebody else. But we’re all on this shore. Only Maharajji has gone beyond.”

The point is: some of us get noticed, some of us don’t get noticed, some of us get revered, some of us don’t. It doesn’t matter, we’re all on this shore, we’re all working on ourselves the best we can. I am completely not enlightened, I’m not free. I’m just as big a schmuck as I always was. But, I have to admit, I think that less and less of the time. And when I don’t think it, then where is it? Not here.

MM

So—

KD

Don’t let that go by so fast! Stop. Listen to it.

I feel like I’m the same person I always was, but I don’t live in that mode as much as I did before. I’m naturally a moper; I don’t mope around as much as I used to, but it’s very hard to see that, because it’s the moper who’s evaluating everything. The moper who’s judging, limiting, measuring: “How am I now? How am I now? How am I now?” But at least that “how am I now?” isn’t always functioning in the way it used to.

Our basic understanding of spirituality as humans is that we need to get or do something in order to be happy. I need this experience or this practice, or I have to meet this person or get this book, or be this way, or wear these clothes, or act like that guru. It’s exactly the opposite. The less you’re comparing yourself with one thing or another, the less you’re reaching, the freer you are. But you can’t just let go of things so easily. It’s only prolonged spiritual practice, and grace, that allows us to let go of all that stuff in a real and sustainable way.

So yes, Maharajji’s devotees—they are not Maharajji, but they’re not necessarily bad people. They’re also just doing the work, doing whatever they have to do to get through the day. Some of them in one way, some of them in another way. And some of us get really caught, and some of us get really stupid, and some of us do things that are not in our own best interest, and create suffering for other people. But who knows what it’s all about, you know? We’re all just doing the best we can.

MM

You just mentioned grace; I know that’s a big word in satsang, and it’s also a Christian-affiliated term. So what does grace mean to you?

KD

In Indian religions, grace—kripa—is a very big thing. In all traditions, grace indicates the power of what is beyond us to help us. It indicates the beings who are more advanced than us, older than us, wiser, deeper in their ability to help us in many different ways. And, the other thing to say about grace is that there is no such thing as deserving or not deserving grace. It’s not about deserving or earning. Grace extends itself naturally. Grace is our natural state of harmony, which we are separated from at this point in our lives. When the curtains part, and we get a little hint of the way things really are, we experience that parting of the curtain as grace. It is really a very deep and subtle issue. Because you can’t make grace happen.

MM

Do you identify culturally with being Jewish? Not with being a Jew, or with Judaism, per se, but with being a person of this lineage?

KD

I don’t identify as anything, except Maharajji’s devotee who’s trying to be a human being. But there are plenty of practices in Judaism that I resonate with, and I’ll tell you about a book that will absolutely blow your mind. It’s called The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov by Yitzhak Buxbaum. It’s unbelievable, and you know what? When I read that, it was like reading about Maharajji, unbelievable.

MM

It’s funny, I had this moment with my dad a while back, talking about the relationship between the words Hasid and chesed (loving-kindness). He got a kick out of that, since “loving-kindness”—or “loving-awareness”—is so central to the chassidis (so to speak) of Ram Dass’s teachings, which were of course based on his experience with and wisdom from Maharajji.

KD

Maharajji’s teaching was: Love everyone. That means, simply, nothing but love and kindness and compassion for all beings.

“There is no such thing as deserving or not deserving grace. It’s not about deserving or earning. Grace extends itself naturally.”

MM

Right. So can you just elaborate a little bit on the connection that you see between the Baal Shem Tov and Maharajji?

KD

It’s about the joy of merging with God, and the idea that love is the primary connection. It’s not about guilt or shame or study—it’s about love. Through the liberating power of love, and through the connection to the Divine that love makes possible, everything comes. The Baal Shem Tov was a great siddha,2 he had all the powers, all the magic powers, that any great, real yogi has—like there are stories of him being in two places at once, or traveling to different dimensions, all that kind of paranormal stuff.

And there’s one line I read in Buxbaum’s book, that one of the Baal Shem Tov’s contemporaries said something like, “We knew he did work with the goyim, but he never spoke of it to us.” My feeling is that he was really a bodhisattva, born in that time and place as a Jew, so he was part of the scene, and he didn’t speak about the other work he was doing in other worlds while he was here—because any real bodhisattva works with all beings, not just beings from their own neighborhood, so to speak.

MM

One thing I really admire about your presence in the community is that you’re just very real, and you are who you are. In spiritual communities, I come upon so many people who are not that—just wearing it on their sleeve, but not in daily practice. And in your case, rather than doing kirtan in Indian robes or the whole getup, you’re wearing plaid and doing mantra. I’ve always appreciated that. Is the way you present yourself—wearing plaid, etc.—a purposeful decision? What’s your philosophy around that?

KD

Well, you see, at one point when I was living in the temple with Maharajji, I had a full on nervous breakdown, a meltdown, hallucinating and totally flipping out. He got me through that and afterward, he told me, “You’re Hanuman,3 you have to wear red all the time.” So I did that while I was in India and for some time after, but when Maharajji left the body, I got very depressed, and stopped wearing red.

Then I started singing with people again and, after a few years, I began to wear red again. But I didn’t want to wear only red because there was this one group of—I don’t even know what to call them—out-there people who wore red all the time. I didn’t want to be associated with them or mistaken for being in their group, so I got some plaid shirts with red in them, and I started wearing those. And it’s funny, just a few years ago somebody said to me, “We just thought that you were wearing Maharajji’s blanket.” I was surprised, and said, “Oh, it never occurred to me.” Really, that’s how stupid I am, it never occurred to me. But of course! He wore plaid blankets all the time.

Maharajji

MM

What’s the origin of Maharajji’s plaid blanket thing, do you know?

KD

Well, it’s hard to know really, but he wore it all the time. Even when it was 120 degrees out, he usually covered his body. Dada said he had two blankets. There was an outer blanket to hide his body from us because he was always doing mudras (hand positions) that had the power to take others’ suffering upon himself, and so his body would spontaneously break out with sores—which would later disappear—and he hid that from people.

But Dada also said he had an inner blanket that he used to cover himself. Like we can’t stare directly at the sun, we have to cover our eyes somehow. According to Dada, that’s what that inner blanket was for. There was too much light for us, we couldn’t handle it, so in order to protect us, he had to cover himself—so that we wouldn’t be adversely affected by the power of his brilliance and his love. People were melting down, you know, people would just break out crying for no reason. Their hearts would open in his presence and they would just fall apart.

You know, my mother came to India—theoretically to bring me home, which was not going to happen—but we spent a couple of weeks up in the mountains, and every few days we went to see Maharajji. Maharajji was very kind and sweet to her, and when we were leaving for the last time, we walked out over the bridge and up the steps onto the road, and she was just about to get into the car, and she looked back down into the temple where Maharajji was just sitting on his cot, and she completely exploded with tears. I had to catch her from falling to the ground. She wept inconsolably for an hour while we drove down the road, leaving the hills, going down to Delhi. She was just weeping and weeping, and to this day, she says she never knew what it was, but it was Maharajji.

He got in there and he just—boom. That basically changed her life in many ways. It took her a while—I mean, she was an alcoholic, waking up on the floor, but she did three rounds of rehab, and finally got clean for the last twenty or twenty-five years of her life. But at that time in her life, it was very bad. She lived a very turned-down, low-energy life, but when friends of mine would come over to the house and ask, “You met Maharajji, what was it like?”—all of a sudden, she would blossom, she’d come to life and she’d start talking. And then when it was over, she would go back to being herself. But something opened up in there, it was so beautiful.

MM

You could say she had a psychedelic experience with—or of—Maharajji. And I guess that was the point, to help people access that part of their souls, that part that’s already there, which psychedelics can help catalyze or open us up to. But psychedelics aren’t the only method.

KD

A psychedelic experience of Maharajji—that’s funny, and to a certain extent, true. But with psychedelics, you just want to make sure that people don’t get too attached to the actual drugs or plants themselves, because they can really destroy your ability to live in the world, to stop at the red and go at the green—you still have to be able to do that. You can’t just say, “Oh, it’s all one”: you’ll get hit by a car and it’s all over. There’s relative reality and there’s ultimate reality, and you have to learn how to live in them both. There are rules in relative reality, you know? You have to eat, sleep, take fluids, do a few other things. In ultimate reality, nothing ever happened, nothing ever will happen, it’s all one, there’s no time. But that’s not where we live most of the time. The problem with psychedelics is that you tend to think you are beyond the rules of the world, and that’s just egoistic delusion; it’s very destructive. Very painful. And it can create a lot of suffering.

Maharajji’s teachings were very simple: Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God. He also said, “Through the repetition of the names of God, everything is accomplished. Everything is brought to fullness and completion.” He wasn’t a teacher; he didn’t give lectures or write books. He’s a Mahasiddha4he just changed you, ripened you from the inside out. He knew everything: your past, your future, everything you were thinking in the moment, how many times you chewed your toast . . . But he never judged you, ever. Only love, only love. It was quite extraordinary.

It’s very unusual to be with somebody who doesn’t want or need anything. This was somebody who was completely present. Absolutely. The feeling was so extraordinary. It can’t be described, other than to say that it gave you the feeling you were finally home. Nobody has to tell you when you’re home; you know it when you feel it. But then you get thrown out of the house and you have to find your way back—that’s the practice really, how to find our way back home. Without the grace of my experience with Maharajji, I wouldn’t know where home is. Not that I didn’t have it always within me, or that you don’t have it always within you. But the question is: to what degree do we know where it is? Because it is to that degree that we’ll look for it.

Ultimately, we’re all looking for the same thing, all of us; every being in the universe is trying to find its way home. Home is the feeling that you’re exactly where you need to be, where you should be, where you’ve always been, truly.

Footnotes

  1. The philosophy and practices of Hasidism, or more broadly, mystical teachings on chesed (loving-kindness).
  2. Literally, “perfected one” or “accomplished one,” siddha means a spiritual master, often with paranormal capabilities.
  3. Maharajji was a devotee of the messenger deity Hanuman, also known as the “breath of Ram.”
  4. Someone who realizes perfection through spiritual practice.

Krishna Das began leading chanting in 1994 in New York City, and has been traveling ever since, developing his signature style—fusing traditional kirtan with Western harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities—before ever-growing audiences. He’s taken call-and-response chanting out of yoga centers and into concert halls, is a Grammy-nominee, and has become the bestselling Western chant artist of all time and a worldwide icon. Krishna Das has released over fifteen albums, authored two books, has his own podcast, and is the subject of the documentary One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das. In addition to his chanting, he continues to share stories and teachings of his guru Neem Karoli Baba. You can learn more at www.KrishnaDas.com.

Madison Margolin is a journalist covering psychedelics, cannabis, spirituality, and Jewish life. She is the cofounder of DoubleBlind Magazine and has written for publications like Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Vice, among others. Also a cofounder of the Jewish Psychedelic Summit and host of the Set & Setting podcast on the Be Here Now Network, Madison has traveled from cannabis farms in Northern California to underground ceremonies in Brooklyn to the shores of the Ganges River and all over Israel|Palestine, reporting on the role of entheogens in religion, culture, and healing. Find out more about her work here, or follow her on social media.