Kirtan player Krishna Das played to a sold-out audience at the 6th and I Streets historic synagogue Sunday evening. Krishna Das, 64, appeared with spiritual writer Sharon Salzberg as part of Kalachakra for World Peace Empowerment, a 10-day visit and tribute by the Dahli Lama. Sitting in the front rows of enthusiastic listeners was a tan Richard Gere and a number of Tibetian monks.
Krishna Das and Sharon Salzberg at 6th and I synagogue.
Krishna Das grew up in Long Island as Jeffrey Kagel. Last night he and Saltzberg chanted and kibitzed. The front pews of the synagogue were packed with middle-age women moving back and forth to the chants. Younger couples, many with infants and children, also swayed to the Hare Krishna chant, filling the synagogue to the rafters.
Salzberg, a New York Times best selling author who writes about spirituality for the Huffington Post, chatted on stage with Krishna Das about the good old days they shared in Rishekesh, India — which sounded a bit like summer camp in the Catskills.
Krishna Das has a deep resonate voice (sitting in the synagogue one could imagine him as a mesmerizing cantor) and the chanting was beautiful. As a “Jewish white kid,” KD, as he is known, in fact hoped to become a rock musician, according to his Website.
Richard Gere with two kirtan fans at Ram Das concert.
He and friends at Stony Brook University started a band called the Soft White Underbelly that later evolved into Blue Oyster Cult. KD dropped out of college and met spiritual writer Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now. As a student of Ram Das, KD traveled to India to meet Hindu guru Mahraji-ji, known also as Neem Karoli Baba. KD became a disciple of Mahraji-ji.
“My guru was completely unusual,” KD recounted to Saltzberg. “He didn’t teach, he didn’t lecture, he didn’t write books. He hung around, so that’s what you did.”
After two years in India KD returned to the U.S. It wasn’t until 20 years later, in 1994, however, that KD began playing kirtan for yoga students at Jivamukti Yoga Center. Since then he has recorded 10 albums, including last year’s Heart as Wide as the World.