One Track Heart: A Life Changing Film about a Life Changed
“Bless you,” my husband chuckled.
“No, “ I smiled at him, “it’s something about some guy who went to India.”
I wasn’t too excited to be spending my Saturday night alone in LA in a movie theater, but it sounded interesting. I didn’t really have a lot of information about Krishna Das, or One Track Heart previous to finding out about Director Jeremy Frindel’s screening, but I’ve always been interested in Eastern religions so I figured it couldn’t be that bad.
I arrived at the Nuart Theater on Santa Monica Boulevard just on time. I picked up my ticket, and navigated through the dense crowd of people to a seat not too close, not too far from the screen. The crowd was very diverse.
“Look at this girl,” a guy sitting behind me that oddly resembled Jesus said as he pointed to a magazine cover, “she’s spineless like a chicken”. “Uh let’s keep the judgment circle closed,” replied his friend, a petite brunette. “We’re here to see a movie. That’s it, “she laughed and poked him.
“Fine,” he retorted, “so, you want to get some sushi after this?”
The previews began and the lights dimed slightly. Not so much to where I couldn’t see the pen and paper on my lap, but just enough to make the crowd quiet down and focus all eyes on the screen. The smell of popcorn was intoxicating. You are here for work not for popcorn, I thought to myself. Luckily, I had already eaten dinner.
The lights got darker still, to the point that I could barely see the notebook in front of me. The film began with Kirtan Chanting. Hearing these mantras, even for a moment, gave me chills. Kirtan chanting is one of the oldest sacred music traditions in the world and helps the mind become quiet and open to experience peace and in this moment I could feel it resonating within every cell of my body. I found the chanting to be peaceful and quieting.
There in front of us on the screen sat a man. He wasn’t overly boisterous; he had a calming look about him. “I’m dispensing divine grace,” said Krishna Das with a little smirk. Born Jeffrey Kagel, Krishna Das’ music is melodious and beautiful. The interesting thing is that, to me it’s not his voice that makes his music so compelling; it’s because of his message, even if I couldn’t understand it. Das, affectionately known as K.D. to his friends, performs not for the people but for Maharaj-ji, the lover of love.
An Arrival- An Awakening
When K.D. first came to India he said that the village where the Hindu guru named Neem Karoli Baba (also known to followers as Maharaj-ji) lived and where he would spend the next year of his life was “extraordinary in its naturalness”. He had always dreamed of being a Sadhu, a wandering monk, but with the guidance of Maharaj-ji he found his place at the forefront of the Kirtankar, leading devotional chants. Das grew close to the Maharaj-ji and had a unique perspective on Kirtan since he embodied Eastern spirituality but still recognized our modern, Western culture. Krishna Das said one person called him nothing but an “American burger with Hindu ketchup”, but with rati (love) and bhakti (devotion) in his heart he came back to the United States to practice his devotion.
I can’t help but to interject that while I was watching this film, every once in awhile I looked around to see the onlooker’s faces. I was feeling so inspired and moved, I wanted to see how other people were viewing it. With their pale faces a glow, I could see tears flowing on many of their faces, accompanied by great big smiles.
The End of the Beginning
Everything changed very quickly in the story and in the theater when the storyline advanced to September 11, 1973 and K.D. received the news that Maharaj-ji died. In the interview on camera, K.K. Shah smiled at the thought of Maharaj-ji moving on because he knew that Neem didn’t die, but simply left his human body and was still able to be found. Krishna Das didn’t handle his passing as well. He promised he would come back, at the request of Maharaj-ji, but sadly didn’t get to return to India before his passing.
Initially, K.D. sought out drugs to for fulfillment after the passing of Maharaj-ji, but this soon only led to destruction and darkness. Through his spreading of Kirtan and his return to music he gained his strengths back.
Sharon Salzberg, New York Times Best Selling author, teacher of Buddhist meditation practices and close friend of Krishna Das, said that K.D.’s chanting has brought people through divorce, death, and loss of all types.
Krishna Das said that even now “every time [he] sits down [to play] it’s practice… [He does] it so often with such intensity, it’s like the button gets pushed…Boom. It’s practice”.
I loved this film and that K.D.’s music isn’t a product, but a process of devotion and self-discovery. We all need a little bit of inspiration to remind us of our greater purpose, what ever it may be. Peoples’ paths may take them up and down, but with love in your heart, you will go far.SHARE THIS