Mark your calendars, and get ready to pass the popcorn. On May 8, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das, a documentary about chant master Krishna Das, is set to open in movie theaters across the U.S. Directed by Jeremy Frindel (cofounder of the Brooklyn Yoga School) and distributed by Zeitgeist Films, One Track Heart has already screened at a film festivals, earning a couple of awards for Best Documentary. Yogis are sure to flock to the film but, now that KD has rocked the Grammy Awards, it’s fun to imagine even larger audiences getting in line to see a movie about the yoga path.
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And why not? In a sense, the movie represents the zeitgeist of America’s peace and love generation of the 1970s, when a New Jersey rocker named Jeffrey Kagel, who jammed with the band that evolved into Blue Oyster Cult, decided instead to follow his spiritual teacher Ram Dass to India. (Imagine, for a moment, KD singing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” rather than the Hanuman Chalisa.) In India, he met Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass’s guru, and joined in chanting the traditional hymns that imbued the ashram with the spirit of bhakti yoga.
Six months after Krishna Das returned to the U.S. he learned of Maharaj-ji’s death, an event that plunged him into depression, drug abuse, and self-destruction. Chanting became his practice and his salvation. Eventually he decided to share his music with live audiences, beginning at Jivamukti Yoga in NYC. The rest, as they say, is history.
When Krishna Das released his first chant album (also titled One Track Heart) in 1996, the yoga community embraced its combination of Western melodies and traditional lyrics. The music itself is appealing, but kirtan’s appeal goes much deeper, offering an antidote to the separation and anxiety of modern life. In singing to clear out the darkness in his own heart, Krishna Das opened the hearts of thousands gathering to sing along at yoga studios, festivals, and concert halls across the country.
Western yogis have increasingly integrated bhakti yoga practices with those of hatha yoga, enriching their lives on and off the mat. Could this be the movie that helps bhakti yoga achieve critical mass? If you happen to be humming Narayana at the grocery store, will your checker chime on Om Namo Bhagavate? Will finger cymbals start to outsell video games? Will the state of our union change from “stressed-out” to “blissed-out”? Stay tuned…
What’s your favorite yoga-related flick?