Have you ever thought about your thoughts? Not in the generic sense as in, wow I can’t believe I had such a lustful thought, ugly thought, pathetically mundane or masterfully intelligent thought. That’s kid stuff. A dime a dozen. How about going deeper into the thought machine itself and its continuous letting loose of one after another, after another new idea or impulse, ad nausea. It’s a busy factory up there, the mind churning and burning with rapid-fire suggestions, reactions, negations and desires. So exhausting, but what can one do? After all, the mind is in charge, right?

But what if you could find a switch, that secret on-off button to give you a little vacation from the mind? Would you use it?

This Thursday at 7 p.m. the choice is yours when Krishna Das comes to Union Chapel to perform a kirtan, an ancient practice of call and response singing.

Krishna Das, or KD, as everyone calls him, is a tall man with short hair, glasses and a bit of scruff on his face. This description could fit so many people. The difference with KD is not in what one sees, but what one feels in his presence. Good. Very good.

KD has been called the rock start of kirtan, and there is a rock star element to him in that he plays to thousands all over the world. Just this past month his tour has taken him to Spain, Hawaii, and Brazil. However, while rock stars, let’s face it, are mostly about making us fall in love with them, KD makes you fall in love with the whole world. And how does he do this? By making you fall in love with yourself.

Perhaps it’s time to let KD do the talking.

“There is nothing wrong with the mind, essentially,” he says. “It’s just that it doesn’t lead anywhere except into more thoughts, more thinking and more fascination with the outside world and alternately that world doesn’t give us any peace of mind or happiness.”

And so what does?

“Our true nature. Actually who we really are. It doesn’t need anything from the outside. It doesn’t depend on anything from the outside to be happy or complete. There is nothing that has to be added to who we are already. All that has to happen is to uncover what is within us.”

And this is done by singing?

“Remember sing-a-long with Mitch? Well, this is like sing-a-long with Krish. I sing a line and then the audience will repeat that line and we keep going back and forth and the music goes on and, as time goes on, the mind tends to relax into it. And what we’re singing in India they call the divine names or the names of God, the names of that place of divinity inside of our own hearts. The love that lives inside of us.”

For those who worry that this might be too difficult, that they have no singing voice, know nothing about India, or gods, or are just afraid they won’t get it, the beauty lies in there being nothing to actually get.

“The chants have no meaning other than the experience we have by doing them. It is not something you have to understand intellectually what is going on because ultimately you can’t.”

In other words you’re off the hook as long as you keep singing.

Krishna Das has been singing and leading kirtans for almost two decades. As a young man in the 1960s he traveled on a pilgrimage to India. His guide was Ram Dass, a seminal figure in the consciousness movement who wrote the culture defining Be Here Now. While in India, Ram Dass introduced KD to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji.

KD describes being with Maharaj-ji this way: “You enter into a different field of energy, almost a different world of love. It’s not separate from this world and it’s not separate from yourself. So it’s familiar, so much home base that you just can’t believe it. Nonetheless it’s really true. And his is a being who lives in that place forever and has the ability to let others into that [place].”

After Maharaj-ji passed, KD went through a rough period trying to recapture what he had felt in his guru’s presence. He kept looking on the outside, searching for something tangible to make it right. Finally, he looked within and began singing.

“My epiphany that I had in 1994, which is 21 years after he [Maharaj-ji] died, was that I had to sing with people if I was ever going to have the chance to clean out the dark places in my own heart. So it really wasn’t about doing something for anybody else. It started with myself. Over time the joy of sharing and the joy of seeing other people enter that space has grown tremendously. And I’m really doing something that I love to do and I don’t know if it’s for me or for other people. I don’t really think about it anymore. It’s just what I do.”

This Thursday’s kirtan will last for about three hours. That might seem like a long time, however they can be much, much longer.

“Sometimes I’ll do a retreat and we’ll sing in one place for five days or a week and we’ll sing every day and it gets deeper and deeper as you keep going back to the well. We even do chants that last for 24 hours with different people leading for an hour or two at a time. It’s a very powerful practice, a very cool atmosphere to put yourself in. Quite wonderful. It’s not an endurance test. Not at all.”

KD thinks of a kirtan as a way of planting seeds of consciousness so that long after the kirtan is over people will continue to short circuit the mind by looking inward rather than outward.

“One thing we begin to discover is that we can find what we’re looking for in life, in a way that is quite different from what we’re taught as we grow up and by our culture. And that’s what this practice is about, really uncovering what’s within us. And what’s within us is quite extraordinary. It’s just that we’re not directed towards it as we grow up and as we live in the world.”

With so much experience, one would think that KD himself is someone who walks the world with both eyes wide open, completely in control of his thoughts. But of course nothing is easy when it comes to the mind.

“I’m still waking up,” KD admits. “In fact, I’m barely out of bed.”