Apr 10, 2011 Addressing addictive behaviors
Why do some of the most otherwise intelligent people fall into destructively addictive behaviors, including overeating, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, child pornography (addictive to some), excessive Internet use, and addiction to sex? On a professional level alone, I need to understand this, because I have so many clients with serious addictions.
If we did not have human bodies, the addictions would be fewer. I have generally thought that such daily practices as t’ai chi, meditation, and yoga — as well as proper diet, rest and exercise — can help transcend addiction, depression, and many other psychological ailments. That is not enough, though. Otherwise, the pharmaceutical and professional psychological industries would not be the multibillion-dollar industries that they are.
A case in point about the power of addictive behavior is Krishna Das, born Jeffrey Kagel in 1947. Krishna Das learned about guru Neem Karoli Baba (aka Baba-ji, whose picture is in my car, given to me by one of his devotees) through the amazing Ram Dass, and spent a few years with him until being sent back to the United States from India. Baba-ji later asked Krishna Das — a singer before ever meeting Baba-ji — to return to India to chant for him. Krishna Das delayed his return, enjoying himself in romance after a long stretch of self-imposed celibacy in India.
Baba-ji died before Krishna Das’s return. He got back to India too late even for the cremation. Krishna Das went into a tailspin of depression over having missed spending time with Baba-ji before his death, and smoked mass quantities of freebased cocaine, before the invention of crack. Krishna Das learned after a visit from his mother that while he freebased in one-room of his home, his mom was swigging the bottle.
Later on, Krishna Das’s father-figure K.C. Tewari firmly told him to promise that he would not do cocaine any more. And Krishna Das says he stopped right then and there. If it were only so easy for everyone to go permanently cold turkey on their addictions. I take it that Krishna Das finally found a way to view Baba-ji as ever present, and to take comfort in feeling Baba-ji’s presence, and in chanting.
It might be easy to throw up one’s hands and ask if Krishna Das became addicted even with the benefit of several years with Baba-ji, how can one expect others to break through their own addictions. One might also ask the same question of Ram Dass, who went into deep depression over his severe stroke, even though he had been anointed by Baba-ji. However, it seems that Krishna Das’s cocaine abuse took place in having not overcome a deep attachment to Baba-ji. Furthermore, absent their experiences with Baba-ji, it may well have taken even more time and struggle for Krishna Das to have broken his cocaine addiction and for Ram Dass to have transcended his depression over his stroke, which he eventually viewed as fierce grace.
Non-duality/non-attachment is easy to understand but tough to practice for anyone. Interestingly, when Krishna Das returned to Baba-ji’s temple many years after his death, the Indian people there to celebrate him did not seem to be acting as if Baba-ji had died.
For more in Krishna Das, see his webpage and his recent autobiography and accompanying chanting CD Chants of a Lifetime. I have calendared to meet Krishna Das when his tour stops at Yogaville near Buckingham Virginia at the end of May 2011. Much of the information about Krishna Das in this blogposting is from Chants of a Lifetime, and the information about Ram Dass’s dealing with his stroke is from his autobiography Still Here.