Rev. Claude Dahlenberg—2/10/77
SABIRA: This is Feb. 10th and we are interviewing Rev. Claude Dahlenberg at the Zen Center. Do you like to be called Rev. Dahlenberg or Claude?
SABIRA: Claude, ok. Claude, what do you remember about meeting—was it Reverend Lewis that you called him?
CLAUDE: No. It was Sam just back 25 years ago at the American Academy of Asian Studies, he would come—Sam would come occasionally for lectures, and the Academy was starting some Near Eastern studies and so, particularly with Rom Landau who was an expert and scholar in Sufi, Muslim, Near Eastern, and Moroccan studies and so forth.
SABIRA: What do you remember about Rom Landau and Sam?—because we have gotten several different viewpoints.
CLAUDE: Yeah, Sam would often have some comments after a lecture or some questions or something like that, and there were not too many people around at the time who were very much interested in the Near East or Moroccan or Islamic studies or anything, so Sam was one of the few people who would show up from San Francisco who seemed to have a very real ongoing interest in that kind of thing, so I think—by the way—how much to you want me to be just utterly frank?
SABIRA: Very—be as frank as you like. If it is something that you do not wish to be in the book, it would not be put in; that's the way we are working these interviews—we are just getting everything that we can that people remember, and later on—the book hasn't even been begun yet—so, sure be as frank as whatever you remember—your impressions are what we want on this tape.
CLAUDE: I don't think Rom Landau knew quite how to handle Sam's comments or questions and sometimes I think that many people would feel that sometimes it would be hard to follow just what Sam was pursuing, and then, also during that same period I started myself going to Sokoji Soto Zen Temple and Sam—that was still during the American Academy of Asian Studies period, and Sam would go occasionally to Sokoji Temple with Tobasu Roshi and later with Suzuki Roshi—and personally I think he felt at home there. And I personally again never could quite understand his interest in Sufi practice and so on, although I knew—I was aware that he had a background in that, and that he had been working with an ashram—a Sufi ashram of some sort. I don't if they are called ashrams.
SABIRA: They are called Khankahs, it’s the same thing.
CLAUDE: My own sympathies have been Buddhist for many years and so I didn't quite understand his interest and background in Sufi practices, and being prejudiced in the Zen direction I thought that he ought to be at the Sokoji Zen center and that that was a natural place for him and that he felt at home there, so why not?
SABIRA: What did he say to that?
CLAUDE: I think that for a number of years he did feel that way actually, and felt that he had a more natural way of working with Sokoji Zen group then at the American Academy—I thought it was more of a natural place for Sam.
SABIRA: This wasn't connected with the Gold Mountain monastery?
SABIRA: This was entirely different?
CLAUDE: No, this was the Japanese-American—which is still there, by the way—it is on 1881 Bush Street.
SABIRA: I wonder if there would be anyone there that remembers Sam? That is a place that we have not contacted.
CLAUDE: We were there, the Zen Center, that was our home, see, we started out from—the Zen Center started out from Sokoji Zen Temple, and then we moved here about ten years ago.
SABIRA: Oh I see.
CLAUDE: And—so all the people probably that Sam knew would have left about the same time that we did, and came here. The people that are—that remain at Sokoji Zen Temple—that are still there— I think all Japanese-Americans.
SABIRA: So they wouldn't know him. When Sam knew Suzuki Roshi then, he would have known him there at the—
CLAUDE: At Sokoji Zen Temple.
SABIRA: What do you remember about those relations? if Anything?
CLAUDE: Nothing in detail—one thing that strikes me is that Sam was—felt that a kind of guardian role was his role in relationship to Sokoji Zen center, and that was as the Bodhisattva Fudo who is the guardian spirit of the Dharma, and after lectures and comments and so on, as I remember Sam's comments and questions were often in that context as guarding against misinterpretations and asking a question that would clarify a point, so that somebody wouldn't go astray on that point or something like that.
SABIRA: Did you ever see him adopt the actual role of Fudo, become in essence Fudo? Or manifest that, maybe that's a better word?
CLAUDE: In a very poetic sense of it.
SABIRA: Do you want to describe that?
CLAUDE: No, I think the Bodhisattva spirit, so to speak, is, is present in various degrees in various times in practically everybody, so in my own mind for him to manifest the spirit of Fudo is nothing miraculous or unusual—it's a quality of quality of practice which was manifested.
SABIRA: Do you remember what was he like when he did this, what do you remember of that?
CLAUDE: He was rather adamant and as many of those. In art Fudo is often the fiery Deity with his sword and so on, and, and I think Sam myself, I know he was, to some degree torn between practicing as a layman and practicing as a kind of ordained priest or an ordained teacher or something like that, and that's been my problem for many years, and that too is a kind of practice problem that I have been wrestling with is practicing as a layman and practicing as a priest, and I did have several conversations with Sam along those lines and one of the reasons that I felt close to him was because—as I understood it anyway—he was trying to practice as a layman and wasn't giving into all kinds of diplomas and ranks and superficial trappings and so on.
SABIRA: He used those when he had to "impress" (quote/unquote) someone, if he felt that he had to—
SABIRA:—but he preferred not to.
CLAUDE: Yes, at Sokoji he never did, during that period, and for example he has had some Zen experience with various Roshis and so on back to Senzaki's time and also in Japan—
SABIRA: Yes, he studied with him, and then when he came back from the Orient in 1956 he apparently had been ordained by several Buddhist sects at that time.
SABIRA: Was he actually ordained by Suzuki Roshi?
CLAUDE: Not that I know of. And during that period again he could have, he could have mentioned for example his experiences with Senzaki and so on. Many of us would have been quite interested in that, and as he—being one of the old timers from back then—had had some experience with a Zen monastery here in the East Bay back in—I guess that must have been back in the 20's or something like that.
SABIRA: We have no information on that—I know that he did go to Gold Mountain for 3 or 4 years, to their classes—
CLAUDE: That's much later because Gold Mountain doesn't … (both talking here).
SABIRA: Yeah, that was the fifties I think—
CLAUDE: The Zen monastery would have gone that he—through Senzaki, because Senzaki was at that monastery for awhile in his day—
SABIRA: Do you know the name of that place?
CLAUDE: No, no I don't—it folded—they only lasted, I think, for something like 5 or 6 years and then most of them packed up and went back to Japan but Senzaki went North for awhile and then eventually down to Los Angeles again.
SABIRA: Let's go back to the days of the American Academy of Asian Studies. I'd like to find out what else you remember—for instance do you remember the visit of Malalasekera, if I can say it correctly, Malalasekera.
SABIRA: That's one item we'd like to find out about, that we have very little information about, The other is, what do you remember about the way Sam was treated there at the Academy?
CLAUDE: I think maybe he was kind of a problem for some of teachers there because he would ask embarrassing questions sometimes that they couldn't answer.
SABIRA: For instance?
CLAUDE: Oh, it is hard to remember incidents specifically—not strictly academic questions, not the kind of questions that a professor would be expecting.
SABIRA: And then they could answer or they couldn't and that would be a problem situation?
CLAUDE: Yes, however I think, as I remember, most people came to have a respect and a very sincere warmth towards Sam, but not in terms of the Academies rank of teachers or something like that.
SABIRA: What would happen when he would ask a question that they couldn't answer?
CLAUDE: There would maybe be embarrassed silence, or maybe they'd try to answer another question which he didn't ask instead of answering his question—they'd answer another question which he didn't ask—maybe somebody else might be asking or something.
SABIRA: Did they ever ask Sam to lead a class or give a talk?
SABIRA: Now what about the visit of Malalasekera?
CLAUDE: I don't remember anything specifically of Sam's—any special relationship with Malalasekera—no I don't remember that there was any—as I remember there was very little.
SABIRA: He had apparently met him when he had been in the Orient I guess, and then he came and—
CLAUDE: Yes, he taught at the Academy, Malalasekera taught at the Academy—of course Malalasekera was an internationally renowned Buddhist scholar and the founder of the World Buddhist Fellowship and editor of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism and various things like that, but I don't remember any special relationship between them—between the two of them—a little bit more, as I recall between Princess Poon and Sam—
SABIRA: What do you remember about that?
CLAUDE: Nothing, other than that they seemed to be quite close to one another.
SABIRA: What year was this?
CLAUDE: This would be, this would be about 23 years ago—1954
SABIRA: Because when he went to the Orient he looked up Princess Poon and was with her during his trip—in fact he has several references—this is 1961—to you. Another question about the Academy—what do you remember about Alan Watts and Sam and what was your relationship to Alan Watts and so forth?
CLAUDE: I was house manager of the Academy, and head janitor and cook and building manager and things like that—kind of student-body manager, you might say in that—in the building itself on Broadway there, and Alan became the dean of the Academy, primarily responsible for administering it, directing it for its well-being etc, and I regarded myself, at that time, as Alan's student, and although he never did take students in an ordinary sense of the word like a Buddhist priest or a Roshi or something like that might take students and graduate them at some time or something like that, Alan never did anything like that, so of all the people there I felt closest of all the faculty I felt closest to Alan myself.
SABIRA: An interesting comment here from Sam's 1960 diaries, it says, "Claude" (referring to yourself) "was once a very devoted follower of Alan Watts, but he has learned," and I wonder if you could comment on that.
CLAUDE: I'd say that I was a devoted and devout follower of Alan, and one day Alan gave a lecture in which he said that the things that he had to teach were very very simple really and very, very few, and maybe—maybe there were just 6/7/8 things that were basic themes, basic ideas that he had, and he just told them over and over again, and in different and interesting and often very beautiful ways, and he couldn't understand why people would come again, and again, and again to hear the same old ideas over, and over and over again, and as some of us did—as I was doing—and he suggested that if you really think that they are, that it is worthwhile, that these are really important, "why don't you go out and do it yourself?" Which I took seriously—I took quite seriously, and I have—I felt that at the time that that was truth, that was what I should do, and partly because then and now I don't quite understand how it's good that someone comes and sits at the feet of the teacher year after year after year after year. To me it seems that after a certain point that maybe it's not good for you anymore to be doing that, and I felt that I had come to that point myself, and that it was time to try to do it, and not just sit at the feet of the teacher.
SABIRA: He says here, this was (Feb. 6, either 1960 or 61, he says, "Today I met an old friend, Claude Dahlenberg, and he used to live at the American Academy of Asian Studies. I am taking him with me to see the man who makes the slides and have slides made for both California and Pakistan." Now this apparently was in Asia where he met you and then he says here, "Imagine bumping into him literally in a city far away from home; that's Zen! Anyhow he knows something about the real Zen now and looks fine." Do you remember when that could have been, where it was—?
CLAUDE: Yes, that was—I went to Japan and studied Zen and so on in Japan and then went on to India and eventually to Cairo, and walking down the street of Cairo one day, not particularly in a tourist section as I recall, but anyhow, lo and behold, who should be walking gaily, or how would you say, happily down the street, was Sam Lewis.
SABIRA: Isn't that interesting?
CLAUDE: Yes, yes that was fantastic.
SABIRA: So what happened from then—from that point then?
CLAUDE: I would often go to Mosques for silence especially in countries where there wouldn't particularly be any Buddhist temples or Zen temples or something, but there would commonly be Mosques, and so I guess at that point I was much more in tune with what Sam would be. At that time I wanted to know Cairo or Egypt or the Near East in a spiritual sense, in a religious sense or something like that and he understood that, so he took me to a couple little Mosques where he thought the silence was particularly nice and also introduced me to a Sufi spiritual leader if it would be that I would want to stay there longer and begin to do some more serious spiritual studies along those lines, and to my surprise, but actually very consistent with that part of Sam that I felt I understood—the person who he took me to was a secretary at a small hotel and I thought maybe he was going to take me to some VIP big-shot or something like that, and I was quite surprised—I thought that he would probably try to impress me or something with all kinds of hoopla or something like that. No, it was a very, very plain introduction, and again I understood that, and that fitted in with my remembering him and Sokoji, and I remember a little conversation that I had with Sam at Sokoji. There was a big Buddhist parade sponsored by Sokoji on a Buddhist holiday in Japan-town and I had not yet become ordained at the time but I was participating in the parade—
SABIRA: Japan-town here in San Francisco?
CLAUDE: Right, and there were all kinds of Bishops and Priests and in fancy robes and so forth, and Sam was standing right near me—the parade was about to start—and he said, "Hey Claude, where's all your robes and stuff?" And my answer as I recall was—"I am wearing them the same place that you are." That is a kind of inner sense of it.
CLAUDE: And he laughed and laughed and he got it, and he felt that was very amusing and we had sort of a heart-to-heart meeting on that one. So then I felt nevertheless that Sam was looking for some way to be a teacher, and for many years at the Academy and—and at the Sokoji Zen Temple—and during that time I don't think it was satisfactorily so—it was kind of big koan, a kind of a big problem he was wrestling with, and as I understood it anyway, that one side of it was this practicing as a layman without all the paraphernalia and sort of a direct relationship with the people not through the intermediary of social position or rank or teacher or whatever. That was one side of it, but on the other side of it he—I think that he had a very natural feeling for being a teacher, and somehow he couldn't find out quite how to do it.
SABIRA: Do you think it was his Dharma to be a teacher?
CLAUDE: Yeah, but the times weren't right for it then.
SABIRA: Right, it's—
CLAUDE: And I think actually he didn't change much; it's the times that changed, and then in his later years he—
SABIRA: He approached a different generation—but how did he come on to the generation that you remember, what was it that prevented him from being a teacher in those days, do you think? What was his charisma, or how did he appear—you know what I'm asking—
CLAUDE: Yeah, he felt more like a maverick, and someone who didn't quite fit in with the social scene or with the institutional religious scenes here in the city—he didn't quite fit in, and partly I guess, too, he was younger and he wasn't a kind of grand old man you might say then, he was still—although very actually quite—everybody was always surprised when they would find that he was maybe twenty years older than they thought he was—during that time—
SABIRA: You are speaking about 1950?
SABIRA: Let's see, he would have been 54 in 1950—do you mean he actually looked like he was 34 perhaps when he was 54?
CLAUDE: Maybe 40, yeah. I think maybe most people maybe would have taken him to be 40 rather than 54, and so he wasn't a grand old man although actually he had all those years of experience with all those teachers with practice and everything, but then later on in his life he not only was a grand old man but he looked it too.
SABIRA: Of course that came after the beard and the robes and things. It was all part of the trip.
CLAUDE: Yes, yes.
SABIRA: In those days, would you consider the word opinionated or egotistical fair—how did you see him? What was your impression of what he was like?
CLAUDE: No I wouldn't say egotistical; I thought of him as a religious type and maybe even almost kind of born that way.
SABIRA: What's that mean in your vernacular?
CLAUDE: He was—I thought he would—he's not cut from the ordinary mold, and so he might be eccentric or maybe part genius and part very stupid in various things, and then there are certain religious types that seem to be almost born that way and so the kind of knowledge and the kind of interest and the kind of focus that Sam had, there was no way that you could learn that in a university or in an educational system or that your family could teach you or something like that either. No, it came from somewhere else.
SABIRA: Would you call that Grace?
CLAUDE: Yes. Something like Grace.
SABIRA:—or whatever words that one uses—
SABIRA: Might he have made a good teacher at that time if he'd been—if he'd been given the opportunity?
CLAUDE: Probably so, but if not, there seems to be kind of an old spiritual truth that works something like, "if you need something terribly, terribly bad, then maybe it's actually better that you not have it. It might be very dangerous for you if you need it so badly to have it. I think—I felt that Sam had a very deep hunger to be a teacher back then and so that he might even interrupt a lecture or two at the Academy—for example stand up in the middle and make a kind of intuitive statement which nobody could understand maybe, and I felt that as a—I didn't—my guess was, my own intuitive guess was that he wanted so badly in a way to be a teacher that it distorted things to a certain extent, and somehow—and I didn't know him when this happened, but I had the sense after not seeing him for some number of years, and then seeing him again, that somehow he had found some peace in that.
SABIRA: When did you not see him ,and then what was that time—what years had elapsed?
CLAUDE: Somewhere between—when I saw him was one of the occasions that Reps was here visiting, and that must have been about—when did Sam die?
SABIRA: January, '71—
CLAUDE: That must have been about 9 years ago, and I hadn't seen him in any meaningful sense just—no I guess maybe I hadn't actually seen him at all for something like eight years—six or eight years before that—was it that long? I don't know—anyway, some length of time, 5/6/7/8 years, and I had the feeling then that he had come to peace with what I understood to be his—partly because it is my own problem—I don't know how much I am projecting my own problem onto him and how much of it was his problem, but if you will, that Koan of needing to be a teacher but realizing that one doesn't actually need to be a teacher—you don't need all those trappings of names and positions and so—and then on the other hand recognizing what maybe his natural Dharma was, and that a teacher isn't something to be feared. If the circumstances in one's Dharma are such then it is a beautiful thing to happen for one to be a teacher. And I felt that he had come to some resolution of that, to some peace in that problem, and at that point I felt, too, quite plainly he was a teacher.
SABIRA: And this would have been like say 1969 during the time that he had all these disciples and so forth?
SABIRA: How did that come about that you managed to meet him?
CLAUDE: He was giving a little "Let us practice together," let us do these practices kind of thing, and I went and Reps was there too.
SABIRA: Where was this held?
CLAUDE: At a building near the corner of Guerrero and Duboce—I think they had a series of meetings there, I don't know—I went to one. And Reps being an old friend of Sam's, he invited Reps to come on over for one of those meetings, and I knowing Reps—Reps was staying as our guest at the time, I went along to the meeting.
SABIRA: Did you find Sam vastly changed, how was he?
CLAUDE: Yes and no—one of the things about Sam is I think he won on peoples' love—I think in fact that that would be the best word for it would be just love—although for some of the teachers at the Academy he might be a problem, but over the years I think that he won peoples' love, in spite of some things that they would be critical of about Sam, people would be critical about Sam—but for one thing he was a very loving person, and I think it was almost impossible for him to really take offense if someone might be very insulting towards him particularly in those earlier years. Some people would think he would be a little nuts and let him know and I imagine that it must have gotten to him quite often, but from what I actually saw, from what I actually know firsthand, is that his reply was always love.
SABIRA: What was that series of lectures like, or at least the one you went to where he was at, that he was at?
CLAUDE: It was very happy. A celebration in a way, I felt, but I would hesitate to say anything more because there were so many people who participated in it directly and over not just one meeting but during that period knew Sam much more closely, so I'd hesitate to say anything more than that.
SABIRA: But he was actually a speaker at this meeting?
CLAUDE: Yeah—not so much a speaker—maybe that was one of the changes, he was more of a, "Let us do these practices let's do these practices together." He wasn't speaking about something that happened in Afghanistan or something like that—maybe that was a change because back in the Academy days he would be speaking about something that happened—it had a kind of a distance rather than us here together right now, and we are all here together right now kind of a meeting.
SABIRA: Did you go up and introduce yourself or just talk to him?
CLAUDE: Yeah, yeah—
SABIRA: And then what happened after that in your relationship with him?
CLAUDE: And then I didn't see him again until maybe ever; I think maybe that was the last time.
SABIRA: I see. He said something else here that I felt was interesting—this was again in 1961 that he says, "I suppose I may run into Claude someday. To me he is a symbol rather than a person, but I guess there is nothing wrong with being a symbol." You're on, I don't know what that means—
CLAUDE: I don't know what that means either, but—
SABIRA: A symbol of what, do you suppose?
CLAUDE: I don't know. But I did feel that way, too, about Sam—you feel that way about some people—
SABIRA: Oh yeah!
CLAUDE: There is a closeness between you that if you don't see each other for the next 20 years that someday you'll be going to a movie in Boston and there Sam will be sitting there next to you.
SABIRA: Alright, I know some people like that—
CLAUDE: Although it might not actually happen, but you feel that way. But with Sam, say like in Cairo—that was really fantastic—it didn't exactly have the sense of being purely by accident either, although I try to be very rational about such things—
SABIRA: It depends upon whether you believe in accidents or not—
CLAUDE: Yes, that's right. But it had a natural feeling to it—not an accident feeling but a natural feeling—our meeting there.
SABIRA: Did you two ever discuss Buddhism and Sufism or any of these in particular?
CLAUDE: Yes, yes, yes, he would write fairly frequently, I don't know how often he would write but I guess 10/20 letters I got from Sam. Frankly, I couldn't quite understand then what he was saying but I felt that I had no problem at all in understanding what he was doing or saying or trying to do when I went to that meeting where Reps was at, so—
SABIRA: Then what was he a symbol of?
CLAUDE: Of partly just to keep on in good spirit, and in spite of any adversity of social position or accident of geography or history or health or whatever—just to keep going in good spirit. So—partly also he—although he would have a very intense relationship, say, for example with Sufi practice—contrary to most people that I know, it wasn't exclusive. That didn't mean that he would therefore exclude everything else because there wouldn't be room for anything else, and from what I knew of Sam, that was always true, and I've always tried to in some sense be nonsectarian—to have that kind of non-sectarian way of practice and—but so often that might mean that you would never really get into anything but maybe 10% into a lot of things, a lot of non-sectarian kind of practices like that—but Sam wasn't like that at all; he got very deeply into different practices, and I felt without a really a sense of barrier in between the two, and that is partly one of the reasons why, too, I was so drawn to Alan Watts, that he could teach Christianity When I first met him actually he was teaching Christianity, he was an Episcopalian priest, and he could move without a sense of conflict from Christianity to Buddhism or from Buddhism to Hinduism, and also without a sense of shallowness that ordinarily you would think of if you were moving around from one to the other, that you couldn't get very deeply into any one of them if you were going to move around like that. And Sam I felt—I was trying to do that kind of practice too, so if you will, between the three of us we, we share—they actually did it, Alan did it and Sam did it; I'm trying to do it.
SABIRA: And yet Sam and Alan didn't get along, from what we understand—
CLAUDE: No, not particularly, but from what I know of Alan and other teachers at the Academy, and other teachers that I've seen, that very often they don't have many friends. It might perhaps be one of the prices that one might perhaps have to pay for being a teacher, is that you are always thrust in that role of being a teacher then, and therefore it is very difficult to have friends—partly because students are demanding your concentration, but I don't think that Sam and Alan got along particularly well together. I did know Alan very well for a long time, and I don't remember any specifics of their not getting along together or their getting along together, but knowing Alan very well I hazard a guess that he had a respect for Sam. But so many teachers don't—even with, even with—say they belong to the same Buddhist sect or something like that—say they are—say the Rinzai Zen teachers here in the United States, they are very—
End of side one, reel one.
SABIRA: Why is this?
CLAUDE: We almost seem to have a rule, yeah—why I don't know, it doesn't make much sense to me, but there is—if I look around and see what actually seems to be happening, that as a matter of fact they don't have hardly anything to do with each other.
SABIRA: I think I asked before but you didn't answer, did you and Sam talk about Buddhism together?
SABIRA: What do you remember about those conversations?
CLAUDE: Nothing much more than him—he would correct (?) his role as Fudo, and I remember occasionally he would correct what he felt to be was a misunderstanding in many of our own conversations on my own part, and I took him seriously enough to try to see, whether maybe I was wrong and Sam was right, and more often than not he was right.
SABIRA: In what instance, for instance?
CLAUDE: I don't remember.
SABIRA: How did he feel about the Zen Center and the policies here?
CLAUDE: While we were still in Sokoji, he stopped coming—I don't know why—that was before the Zen Center moved here so here—I think he might have been here two or three times or something but no more than would just be natural happenstance that he would come here. And why he left Sokoji or why he hardly ever came anymore, I don't know.
SABIRA: He told—and I don't know whether this happened with you—we interviewed Della Goertz a couple of months ago and she said that he felt there was too much sitting and not enough dynamic living, and I don't know if that occurred here with you but—she felt that he was critical of her sitting so much, but she felt that this was her Dharma, her way of life, and it was right for her and so she continued to maintain this concentration, and is still doing it.
CLAUDE: Yeah, by the way have you talked to Jiyu Roshi?
SABIRA: I've been to Shasta Abbey—we've been trying to interview Kennett Roshi but she's been too ill.
CLAUDE: That's the one, that's Jiyu Roshi—
SABIRA: Oh Jiyu—sure, we're in contact with her.
CLAUDE: And with, what's the Theosophical president, what's his name?
SABIRA: Joe Miller.
CLAUDE: Joe Miller.
SABIRA: Right, oh sure. And we've talked to Gold Mountain and tried to reach a few of the other Buddhist priests that he knew like Anh The, if that is pronounced correctly, And we haven't received—we can't seem to find the correct address, and we've contacted Dr. Seo; he knew so many priests from so many Buddhist sects that—of course a lot of them have passed on since—
CLAUDE: Yeah, that's right—
SABIRA: Because they were all older men and I wonder—Sam referred to you once as his protégé, do you—could you comment on that?
CLAUDE: Protégé? How do you think that he might have meant that?
SABIRA: I don't know; he just said in one of his Diary letters, here, this was the other thing, he said, "A San Francisco protégé of mine is here," I think it was meant at the same time that he was in Cairo.
CLAUDE: He might have meant—I don't know, but just offhand—at that time he was my teacher, if you will while I was in Cairo—
SABIRA: That makes sense.
CLAUDE: Yeah, I felt that way although I never particularly thought about how I felt, but if I look back at it, I was looking to him for spiritual guidance and spiritual help.
SABIRA: Did you ever talk about Sufism to him?
CLAUDE: To some extent—while we were in Cairo, yes, yeah, yeah, but we mostly did like go to a couple of mosques and so on, not so much talk. Maybe my understanding was—as I mentioned—part of Zen practice is just a kind of simple silence and which is just simple silence, it is not particularly Zen practice.
SABIRA: You mean Zazen?
CLAUDE: Yes, but Zazen sometimes is a very kind of noisy practice, if you will, that is if you have problems that you are working at—
SABIRA: Oh well, inner noises—
CLAUDE: Yes. And so I think of it more as visiting Sam there in Cairo as more of a kind of non-verbal being together, which by the way is a practice that, in contrast to most Buddhist sects which are much more verbal, much more Sutras and doctrines and so forth, but Zen is much more of a doing—much more non-verbal.
SABIRA: The story that we are told of when Senzaki met Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan is that they simply met and looked at one another and they went into Samadhi—no words at all were exchanged.
CLAUDE: Yes, he would often mention that, by the way. He would mention that Senzaki had had that meeting. I don't know—was he there himself at the time? I don't remember.
SABIRA: I don't know—
CLAUDE: He was with Senzaki, so to speak in an intimate association with him, anyway at the time so he obviously was—
SABIRA: My memory says that he introduced them, but that may have been Reps, I don't know, that's one of the two.
CLAUDE: And I often would have wished that he had written a kind of a memoires of his earlier—has he?
SABIRA: Oh yes, yes he has—
CLAUDE: Way back to Senzaki and so forth—
SABIRA: He has a whole series—must be about 30 pages of the transmissions that he received from Senzaki; they are very interesting, very beautiful. In fact, I believe it's going to be published, it's one of the things that we are going to publish. We are trying to publish many of Sam's writings and I believe that is the one that is going to be published. What else do you remember about Sam and what are some of your overall impressions of him? Maybe as a spiritual being, or whatever you remember.
CLAUDE: One of the things that he taught me in a way is if people hurt you, you reply with love, and of course I'd heard that and people teach that and spiritual leaders teach that and all, but I saw Sam actually doing that and—
SABIRA: It's a great lesson.
CLAUDE: Yeah, and you keep going, I've felt that maybe fate or something had made Sam have a kind of big struggle in his early middle years, and which somehow he didn't deserve, but somehow it had come upon him anyway and part of that was his kind of social—I don't know if it was his social problem or his psychological problems or what that made things difficult—
SABIRA: Probably all of that.
CLAUDE: I felt that it really didn't stop him, it slowed him down a little bit, but it really never did phase him and I would think that if I put myself into his shoes I would have been very, very discouraged, but I saw again that he didn't become very discouraged, he kept going on.
SABIRA: Yeah, he struggled for a good 68 years anyway before he was acknowledged by anyone except for the trip to the East, to the Orient, and there, of course, he received all this acclimation and then would come back here and people would ignore him.
CLAUDE: Yeah, yes, yes—
SABIRA: A dichotomy there—
CLAUDE: Yes, but I am happy that in his last years that that somehow was resolved for him, but my intuition said anyway that he had come to peace with that problem whether he had recognition or students or not; he had come to some peace with it, and it happened—I don't know quite why—that he did have students in his last years.
SABIRA: They came about through a vision that he had had when he had had a heart attack or food poisoning or whatever it was—he was in the hospital and he received a vision that he was to work with the young people and that is where it started. This was about 1967 or something like that—that's how this phase, the last phase of his life began after leaving the hospital. I think it is interesting what you say about that you see the need to be famous, or the need for recognition, the need to be a teacher, and that he became unattached to that, you say, and that—
CLAUDE: I felt that, yeah, all that—and therefore he could be a teacher—
SABIRA: Yeah, that may have been what the inner planes were looking for, or however you say it.
CLAUDE: Yeah. Maybe so.
SABIRA: He had to come to that recognition himself; that is a very interesting statement—
CLAUDE: When I went to that meeting for example, I didn't feel that he had to have that hunger to be a teacher that I had sensed very strongly in him in his earlier years—a struggling for some place, some way to have some position, and I didn't feel that hunger at all then. He was that then; he did have a stance. He did have a way of standing, holding forth and relating with students and so on and I felt somehow that he had gone beyond worrying about all of that.
SABIRA: Did you happen to go to his funeral? Or anything of that sort?
SABIRA: Have you read any of his books, and the things that have come out?
CLAUDE: Yes, I was very happy with his Krishna thing. I thought that was a fine piece of work. And I was a bit surprised too; I knew he had all of that kind of background where he could write something like that if he wanted, but I had been mostly familiar with him as a Buddhist and as a Sufi, not particularly as a writer.
SABIRA: He was a very fine writer. I forgot to bring you a copy of "The Jerusalem Trilogy," which is his latest book. Have you read it?
SABIRA: I'll send you one as soon as I get back to the office. I just blanked out and didn't bring it. It is an extraordinary piece of work. I think you'll enjoy it so we'll send you one.
SABIRA: When Sam would come on to people in his ineffable way—abrasive or—what do you think he was trying to do?
CLAUDE: I thought that Sam felt that it would be only natural with his studies and his background and he being a kind of a senior in a way—say in the San Francisco community—people in San Francisco who were taking religious study and practiced very seriously—other than just orthodox Christian, like Sufi practice and Zen practice and so on, but Sam was then one of the oldest and most experienced persons in the Bay Area if not in California if not in the United States, and so it would be only natural in a gathering of people who supposedly are interested in the same kinds of things that Sam was interested in that he be given some sort of respect; it would be only natural, and somehow it didn't work out that way. I don't think he was trying to be rude or obnoxious or abrasive or trying to teach in some indirect way or something but I think there was a very difficult, almost impossible adjustment for him to just not do anything, to just not to say anything, because it just wasn't as he saw it—and I must say that I'd have to agree—that he was an elder for those who were interested in the same kinds of things that Sam was and he should have been respected as an elder. Most of the traditions that I know do respect elders and somehow he wasn't given that respect. Not in any—at least not at the social level, not in a recognizable social—
SABIRA: That's part of the question, like apparently he didn't try to become socially acceptable, in other words, some people have told us that if he had made his clothes neater or something of that sort he might have been accepted, but what is your understanding of why he apparently didn't do those things?
CLAUDE: No, I didn't see it that way anyway—
SABIRA: Okay, what—
CLAUDE: That his manner of dress or something like that—no, back then there was the practice of communities here were very, very few, and the Academy was still in a way—when you needed the excuse of working for a degree or something like that in order to study Sufism or something like that, and so it was still that kind of academic kind of thing, and Sam didn't have that kind of background that satisfied the Harvard-ivy league sort of—
SABIRA: Right, the polisher—
CLAUDE: Yeah, right, right—and we didn't have—until some number of years later a climate for and an actual generation of people who weren't so much interested in that sort of thing but were more interested in practice communities. That I think was that the times were changing to catch up with Sam, so to speak, but the number of people in the Bay area, say back in the days of the Academy, who were seriously enough interested in anything like Sufism or Zen or something like that to do more than go to a meeting once or twice a month was very, very, very fewand there has been an enormous change since then, since 25 years ago.
SABIRA: It seems like now that people are experiencing what it is that they talk about rather than just going to lectures—
SABIRA:—and listening, they are really experiencing something.
CLAUDE: Yes, Yes—
SABIRA:—meditations or Zazen or whatever—
CLAUDE: Yes, yes or other practices—and now there is a whole spectrum of different kinds of different ways of practice and so on which just wasn't there when Sam was at the Academy for example. I think that if there was a spectrum back then that he would naturally fitted in one part of that spectrum, but there wasn't, there was a kind of academic scene like the Academy, and a get together once or twice a month kind of scene in Sokoji Zen Center and things like that.
SABIRA: So there weren't any chances for social getting together—
CLAUDE: Yeah, there were no, right—
SABIRA: Were there parties in the Academy?
CLAUDE: Oh, at the Academy—parties? Yeah, yes. Sam would usually—
SABIRA: What were they like?
CLAUDE: If it were a student party it would be dancing and usually a younger crowd kind of scene, it would be more of old friends getting together kind of thing which Sam would come to occasionally and then he would—it would seem to me that then he would fit in quite naturally, and it would be a very smooth kind of relationship. He would seem to feel at ease and have a good time, and everybody else would have a good time with him.
SABIRA: Did he ever appear to be a social outcast in any way?
CLAUDE: No, I don't think so. Not as I recall, anyway.
SABIRA: Did you ever go to restaurants with him or something of that sort? Did you have a social relationship?
CLAUDE: No, but occasionally from the Academy we would go, and at Sokoji occasionally we would have a lunch after a lecture or something like that, and Sam very occasionally would come along with that—but no, not as a regular friendship kind of thing whatever we might do—no—
SABIRA: Probably there is just one more question: did you recognize any of his spiritual qualities, his academic brilliance, or any of these things at that time?
CLAUDE: Spiritual qualities, yes; academics, I didn't know enough myself to be able to judge. I knew—in the social side of academics—I think I knew enough of—I had enough university experience and so on to know that for myself or for anyone, you have to fit a pretty rigid mold before you get that kind of academic recognition, and I would have said that Sam would have had a very difficult time fitting that mold.
SABIRA: No, he wouldn't have wanted to; he went to school almost all of his life, in fact up to the time that he died—but he never actually got a variety of degrees. He simply went to different classes because they interested him immensely.
SABIRA: And that is how he studied. We have interviewed a lot of the different professors that he worked with, and that also is an interesting part of his life. He went to school, up to the time that he died. I think that we can stop here unless you have something else that you'd like to add.
CLAUDE: No, I guess that must be about it.
SABIRA: Alright, thank you very much.