Sheikha Jalelah Fraley—Memoires of Murshid Sam 7/31/76
WALI ALI: We are speaking with Jalelah, before we begin maybe you should speak at your normal tone of voice too.
JALELAH: Yes, it is really something I have been looking forward to—coming down to talk about Samuel Lewis.
WALI ALI: I want to get a little wider range, at least to begin with. I do want to speak with Bhakti about some of the past history of the Sufi Order in America especially, but I know that you are familiar with some of this yourself, and I think it would be useful to get into a little bit of that side of things as well, if that is okay with you. So I guess your first memories of Sufism were in your family, is that right? What are your earliest memories that relate to the Sufi work?
JALELAH: I can remember just as a very little girl fidgeting at the Universal Worship and my father's really kind but steady gaze that kept me still. And I think those are some of my first memories.
WALI ALI: Where did your family live?
JALELAH: We lived in New York City, and then when I was nine, which would have been in '42 we moved to Cleveland, Ohio where my father started a center in Cleveland.
WALI ALI: And that was one of the early centers in America; what were the centers—
JALELAH: The N.Y.C. was the early center on the East coast, in fact the story that my mother tells so well, that you'll want to talk with her about again because she heard it directly from my father—was that Pir-o-Murshid asked Fatah which city, Chicago or New York, that he'd like to start a center in—he was the national representative in America at the time—and he said to Murshid that perhaps Murshid would pick the city, Murshid said, "Well, then New York," and then the story goes, he said "because that is a tougher nut to crack."
WALI ALI: Now I know that Murshida Vera has spoken about a teacher and friend of hers "Cushy" Cushing, now did she, did she later take over the N.Y. center or was she at the N.Y. center—she was there at one point.
JALELAH: Yeah, that's really information that Bhakti would be able to help with because those are bust names to me, and I met them when I was younger, but they are like—
WALI ALI: Okay, you're right, that's quite alright with me. I was just trying to get a little bit of the logistics down. Then your family moved to Cleveland, and you said that was in 1942. Then when did your father die?
JALELAH: He died in '53.
WALI ALI: And then were you still in Cleveland at that time?
JALELAH: We were still in Cleveland; in fact what was happening when he did pass on, he was getting ready to make a lecture tour in California and with the thought of establishing a center in California. He would establish centers—he was a pioneering soul—and then once it was established and could be on its own, he would go to then another area and establish—so there were two in New York City and one in Cleveland. As you know, it takes years to establish a center.
WALI ALI: It's true—of course the center that had been established out here had gone into the Meher Baba maze and consequently had not retained its identity as a center of Hazrat Inayat Khan; this is again matters that I will want to talk to Bhakti about because the whole period is one which we need more information on. I have quite a bit of information actually from conversations with Murshid and research and so on; I have exchanged a few letters with Murshida Ivy Duce and I am hoping to have an interview with her, which should be interesting, to get a different view, I'm sure. Did Samuel Lewis visit Cleveland during that time? I knew he went; in later years he visited Cleveland, maybe in the early '60's or late '50's, I'm not sure, because I had some reports from Ruth Lavendar and—
JALELAH: Right. We came out to California in about '57, and so I do remember meeting Samuel Lewis in Cleveland when I was a little girl, but what age I was I don't remember, but I can remember even if I just close my eyes—I can remember standing in front of the altar and then him coming up, it was—he had been in the audience—and talking with me afterwards. That would be my first recollection that I remember of meeting him and I don't even remember what age I was, but I would have been a girl rather than a woman.
WALI ALI: That would have been—that's what you said,—it would have had to be before 1957?
JALELAH: Right, definitely. It had to have been before that. And it was when my father was still living, so it was before '53, because he died in "53, but exactly when it is too hazy. But I remember him talking to me, and talking to me.
WALI ALI: And then you moved to where you presently are?
JALELAH: We have been there for 19 years in Camarillo, so we have just been in the same spot.
WALI ALI: Did you have any contact with Samuel Lewis during that period after you moved to California?
JALELAH: My mother did when she was housemother at U.S.C.; he came to visit her, but I didn't see him at that time. He didn't come to our house, he went to visit my mother when she lived at U.S.C.; we were in Camarillo. And then the first time that I remember seeing him again was when he had already met what he called, "The beautiful people" in San Francisco so it would have been that period whenever that was—would that have been '68?
WALI ALI:—'67/'68, when things started happening. I recall—your mother came up—I remember Bhakti came up—
WALI ALI: Because it was shortly after I had met Murshid and so it must have been, say, August of '68 or something like that, and he had her sit with him when he had the Darshan, interviews with people, and I recall very much going in there and they were sitting there together and occasionally hearing him make a comment to her as different people came in. That was still before you had—do you recall that? Did you come with her?
JALELAH: I didn't come with her but it seems to me that he came to our house with Moineddin—
WALI ALI: Oh yeah! When they travelled down to Los Angeles—
JALELAH: And he stopped in then, so that would have been before that time—within the year—
WALI ALI: Around 1968.
WALI ALI: Do you recall anything about that visit?
JALELAH: Yes, I think I can recall quite clearly because Samuel Lewis always made a deep impression on me—you notice I could always remember that one visit even as a child, I could always close my eyes and picture him standing there, but I was older now when he came to our home, and so I remember him clean shaven, business suit and polished shoes—jumping out of the car with a lot of energy, and coming in taking of his shoes and sitting cross-legged on the chair, and immediately fascinating everybody of course, just a wealth of stories, and we all sat spellbound. Then he would, as you know him so well, just suddenly capture the children in kind of a squealing contest and the children would always look forward to when he would come down. He was so natural with them, and we always found him—I personally found him fascinating with the stories and all the travels he had gone through the people. To me he was always a figure—you could say—from the past, and I was always happy when he was coming—there was a lot of energy.
(adding this from end of tape, because it fits in here)
*SABIRA: We are still talking to Jalelah, go ahead and tell us what you just said:
JALELAH: My first impressions of Samuel Lewis that I remember as a child when he first came to our home in the middle or towards the late '60's of being clean shaven and with a business suit and shiny shoes, a fastidious and very clean man—and then seeing him as he came down the coast in later years, with some of his disciples where he had been starting to let his hair grow, his beard grow and his hair grow, then I did notice the change where the shoes were not shined. In fact the only reason that I have to admit that I noticed these things is that my mother noticed them and pointed out and so I became aware of them. Because I was still captivated with Samuel Lewis' being, more so than how he was dressed and there was an obvious change. My feeling, based on what I have gone through in my own personal experience getting in touch with an aspect of one's nature one realizes that there are more important things, and if people will judge you by your hair or your beard or the cleanliness of your clothes than they are going to fall by the wayside, but those who will see your real being, what you are in your more real sense are not even going to see the other—or they are going to stick with you until they see it. They are not going be put off by your outward appearance. It is almost like a protection having what you could call a shoddy or slip-shodd appearance, because it culls the wheat from the chaff, it tells the sincere from the curious—
SABIRA: I think that is very true and many of these tapes have shown that, where the people who were to be his real disciples, they simply overlooked that—
SABIRA: And commented time after time on these tapes that they saw it, and that's the way he was! They ignored it.
JALELAH: It reminds me of that woman that Pir Vilayat speaks about who sits like a beggar woman with a very dirty bowl, and yet the greatest blessing would be—wasn't it his father who was to take/eat from her? She picks it with her fingers and puts it in her mouth, and yet how repulsive that seemed on the outside to do, and yet for those who could see, it was an initiation, like a blessing—
SABIRA: A transmission?
JALELAH: A transmission, right.
WALI ALI: Do you remember any kind of incidents that happened on that visit or any other visits that stick in your mind: amusing stories or just things that happened?
JALELAH: Yes, I would say that I remember the point that he made, since we were a vegetarian family, that I found very valuable—about the fact that he liked his disciples to feel comfortable being able to eat anything because they would be travelling, he hoped, in different countries, and he felt it was very valuable being comfortable eating various foods, so I got the impression at the time that for his disciples that it would be valuable to eat meat or not eat meat and to feel comfortable doing any of that. And mostly I always felt that he was coming to have visits with my mother and he always found the time, the both of them, to go off to her little Zawiya (spelling ok by JA) and they would have their visits. So I would say that some very meaningful conversations went on there. There was a particular incident, and I believe Moineddin was there, and Mansur Johnson, my husband and I, my mother, and Samuel Lewis—I certainly could share it from my viewpoint, and I am a person that feels it is good to be candid—there was a difference of opinion that came up—but it was a very powerful meeting because of my mother's power and her viewpoint of things, I believe that Samuel made the—I don't remember his exact words but in effect, "I think that the $100 that Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan would charge for initiation," was the jist of what he said—I can't remember at the time—
WALI ALI: I remember he said that when he was initiated, at that time, there was a fee of $100 which was very difficult for him to pay or something like that.
JALELAH: That may have been right; that would be just about what he said—
WALI ALI: Something like that-
JALELAH: Yes, and when my mother heard that, all her knowledge of Pir-o-Murshid was that there was no money involved, especially for initiation, and so she chose to defend that viewpoint. So a real phenomena happened; my husband and I watched it. It was a sunny, summer day, I don't remember what month it was, but a very typical southern California day, blue skies and such—and quite suddenly as—I guess you would call it anger or energy grew within my mother as she realized that this statement had been made—the skies got very grey and the wind started to blow down our driveway and hit the leaves up against our house in a very—like I lived in Ohio where you have tornadoes, and the only time I have seen winds like that where the leaves would beat against the house would be similar to that situation—very unusual for Southern California in that time of year. And so this was what was happening outside of the house, and my mother was oblivious, and I think Samuel Lewis was oblivious to it, but Tansen Muni and I were observing it because to us it was a phenomena to see the grey skies and the wind and the leaves hitting up against the trees. And my mother stood up and it was as though she wanted to stop what he had said and almost shield us that that statement had been made, because she was so sure within herself that that wasn't true—and so she put her arms out and she got very angry. She said, "Don't say that again," or something like that—but we were so caught up—I had seen my mother angry—so that phenomena wasn't impressing me as much as the weather, you see. And so when she was finished, then she just walked out of the door, and we stood there in silence, and Samuel felt—he came over and stood in front of me and he wasn't reneging what he said at all, he was visibly—I don't know that the word would be saddened—but sorry that my mother had felt that she had to get angry, and then he said to me a very interesting thing, he said—and why he said it at that moment you would know more than I would know, but he said, "I would never get married as long as your mother was living."
WALI ALI: H'm, that's very interesting—
JALELAH: Nothing ever before that, nothing ever after that, just that statement, so that impressed me because of the phenomena, and because that was the first thing said after this was all over, and that he would come to me and say that. And he went to sleep in our living room—we had a pull-out couch and he was curled up in it, and when my mother came over to say goodnight to him—because she didn't want the day to end without her saying goodnight and just being friends, and she came over then to the house—this was several hours later—to say goodnight, and he was already sleeping. And I remember that she took a blanket and covered him and she stood there looking at him very tenderly, and she, she wasn't going to back down on what she had felt and said either, but the friendship was still there, you see, and nothing would destroy that. So the next morning she was the first one over there to drink coffee with him in the morning, and she was a little bit sorry that she hadn't gotten over there before he went to sleep, but it was still alright, and she came over the next morning. Of course they were great friends and just went on from there, but that would be, I would say, the most remarkable thing, other than I remember the light and the squealing of the children as he would chase them around that was always nice—and then roll over on the floor to play humpty-dumpty and things like that, that would be, I would say, my most memorable experiences of him.
WALI ALI: I don't know the background of the actual facts of the matter, I know I recall him speaking about that thing on a couple of occasions only, and I think once he said something to the effect that, if my memory is correct, that he was sure that Hazrat Inayat khan wasn't particularly aware of what people in the organization were doing in some instances. He was in, I guess it was the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Santa Monica, very expensive—maybe it was, I forget—but some hotel, and that the representatives were charging large fees for some things. And I think I recall him saying it was in regard to the initiation. I do remember him saying on one occasion, and I only remember him mentioning it a couple of times. He was defending, in one sense, his policy of charging an initiation fee here of $50—which seemed large to people who were not supporting themselves He said: “I paid more than this when money was a lot harder to come by," and he felt, dealing especially with hippies, that there was some value of putting a price on things because people tended to take everything for granted. But that is all that I recall basically about that particular background of things. Now I do—when we interviewed Shamcher—it is interesting to know, he had a similar kind of conflict with Paul Reps in Los Angeles, at some point—I am not sure about the dates right now, but it revolved around a similar issue in which they were trying to organize something after the passing of Hazrat Inayat Khan they had a meeting of mureeds and Shamcher said something about—It is in his tape, I should show you a copy of Shamcher's tape—
JALELAH: I've heard it—
WALI ALI: And he said something about—
JALELAH: It was a poor tape and I couldn't hear because his voice was soft and because of his delicious accent.
WALI ALI: But there is a full transcript of it now.
JALELAH: That would be of value.
WALI ALI: But he said something that they were even wanting to charge—he brought up the subject of charging small dues or something which people would get into, and Reps said, "I just saw Murshid's face and he was very angry," and that made Shamcher very angry too that he wasn't aware of his presence himself, supposedly, but I know that there had been previous issues about that—
JALELAH: We are both probably very aware of Pir Vilayat's stand on that at this point, that he said at the leaders' conference at the Abode, and I think he brought it up at Hurkalya in January, but I can't remember, that at absolutely this point in time there should be no charge for initiation, but he made it very clear at the leader's camp at the Abode, to all those leaders there—
WALI ALI: They are asking something like $25 a year dues—
JALELAH: Yeah,—dues—I think he separates that there are dues, but as far as initiation—I think what he is trying to point, as I understood it, the point he is trying to make is not connecting any money with initiation.
WALI ALI: Right! And he made this policy clear to us some six or seven years ago. We retained the fee as a registration fee for people who are studying here in our center and wish to study here on a full-time basis.
JALELAH: Yeah, that seems to me completely different from initiation—
WALI ALI: And a number of people receive initiation and don't pay for initiation, which I think is a very valuable principle. It is an interesting thing and what I hear when you say that Murshid came up to you afterwards and said that, "I don't want to get married as long as your mother is alive," was showing respect for that element.
JALELAH: That's what I think I felt.
WALI ALI: Similarly the kind of fire in her being that he respected and, in a sense, felt a real affinity for, for he was always breaking up meetings and encounters by standing up, like the fire in front of something.
JALELAH: That's right, he has said to my mother that he recognizes in her really the purity for the Message and the sincerity—my mother will tell you that because that was said directly to her, but I think to another feeling that he has had, I either intuited it, or the words were spoken—he felt somewhat in a guardian position to mother in our family. He felt kind of guardianship on the inner-planes perhaps, more so than physical outward physically but it was always like a protector, or a watchful eye or an interest at least in mother and our family.
WALI ALI: You don't recall a similar incident—I'm trying to piece together my memories now—and I'll have to ask perhaps—who did you say was present there? is Moineddin? Was he with him on that occasion?
JALELAH: I'm almost positive Moineddin and Mansur Johnson and so their views of this would be valuable to this.
WALI ALI: Was that the first visit?
JALELAH: It is hard to say because there were all together maybe three or four visits, maybe more, my mind doesn't zone in on details—
WALI ALI: Me either—
JALELAH: Just generalities, and dates and how many I don't really remember, so I don't really think that was the first one. In fact I am almost positive that it was not the first meeting because I can remember him coming down times before that where his love was to gather Avocados and bring back boxes of them—
WALI ALI: Oh I remember him doing that—that was great!
JALELAH: Yeah, in fact, I a remember that was the very last meeting that we saw Samuel Lewis, it was the last meeting, so he had definitely been to our house a number of times before that. Because we didn't see him again in the body after that.
SABIRA: When you were living in New York—I want to go back to something—(I remember when I was in N.Y.) did you meet the man who ran the center around 1950, and if you remember do you recall his name?
JALELAH: Not Ezra Winston?
SABIRA: Yeah, I talked to him when I was in N.Y.
JALELAH: I did too.
SABIRA: And he had this thing to say about Sam that I'd like you to comment on if you can. He said that Sam came to several meetings and he tried to change things, he said, "You've got to change this, it is not the way it should be," and that's all that Ezra would say about it—
JALELAH: I wonder if that was in connection with the Universal Worship?
SABIRA: He didn't say, he just said that Sam would come to these meetings and would say, "It is wrong, it's wrong, you've got to change it," and Ezra told me on the phone, he said, "I couldn't change it." Any comment on that?
JALELAH: No, not directly. I know that when Samuel did come down to our Universal Worship service that we were holding at Unity-by-the-Sea in Santa Monica he did take it on himself to stand up afterwards and make comments on certain things, and I remember one of the comments which I felt was very valuable. We had a very small stage and usually the stage for the Universal Worship for the altar has more room on either side of the altar so that people doing the service can stand to the side and people can see the altar, but in this particular circumstance the room was very narrow so that when the scripture reader read he stood more in front of the altar than you would otherwise because we like to stand to the side. So Murshid Sam's comment was, and suggestion that you never ever stand in front of the altar which I felt was very valid and good to point out. There were a few other comments that my mother may remember but I don't remember what they were, so I know in our case he certainly was ready to share his—
WALI ALI: I know that this willingness often made him have the role of being the catalyst; for whatever reason you express something and then you get a reaction and you had to fight to remain.
JALELAH: My mother functions in very much the same way. She may present it in her way but she is the catalyst to wake people up and get things going so I'm veryñ….
WALI ALI: Do you recall when on one occasion he came down there, or a conversation with your mother, I don't know which other people were present, but I remember him speaking to me about it, and he said, something—I'd like to remember it exactly but I can't—but the jist of it was that Hazrat Inayat Khan—there is no comparison between me and Hazrat Inayat Khan but my disciples are greater than Hazrat Inayat Khan's disciples were—and that he would have given his right arm to have the kind of disciples that I have. And I don't recall what the action or response was to that.
JALELAH: What you just said really rings a bell, and it may be only the second time I have heard it maybe, the first time was the original time, because it is not like I've heard any conversation about it since then, but what you have just said strikes a response in me like I've heard that before, and it probably was—
WALI ALI: Could it have been at that same discussion when that matter of initiation came up?
JALELAH: It could have very well been at that time—
WALI ALI: Because my memory was that he came back after that and he said something about—he didn't mention the other thing particularly, but he felt that that was what there had been some reaction to.
JALELAH: Ah, I think there was more of a reaction to his saying that there was a time when Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan cried on his shoulder or that he had said that—Pir-o-Murshid actually did say, I believe, that he could count on one hand his true disciples, I think it was Pir-o-Murshid. But it was the fact that Samuel had said that Pir-o-Murshid cried on his shoulder that tremendous exceptions were taken to that, tremendous exception, there still is—I don't know anything about it in that direct sense (inaudible) but both Shamcher and Reps have remarked at his pain, Inayat Khan's pain, in terms of problems he was having—
JALELAH: Definitely the pain! I think exception was made that it was hard to imagine Pir-o-Murshid crying on anyone's shoulder—that was the exception, not absolutely the pain which was tremendous agony over the nature of some of the people he had to work with; he was so much a sensitive man, but the physical act of someone crying on someone’s shoulder was hard to accept.
WALI ALI: Right, and knowing Murshid, I know that he spoke metaphorically quite a bit too.
JALELAH: Yes, I can picture that someone was saying like, "He shared with me his feelings and the pain." He exposed his pain. And that would be a metaphor—a metaphor would be, "Cried on my shoulder." If you took it literally then you could take exception, perhaps that was his meaning, that it was taken literally.
JALELAH: Yeah, well this is—
JALELAH: The semantics!
WALI ALI: It may or may not be, again, that is the way I would choose to understand it basically, because I recall him speaking about those interviews that he had with Hazrat Inayat Khan many times when they were together, writing about them on several different occasions, and I can't remember or recall, there were so many. I don't recall him saying using that as a description of the events that transpired, but I do remember very much speaking about how shaken he was, and surprised to have Pir-o-Murshid expose his pain, his agony to him—it gave him a tremendous dedication to him, I think—that lasted his entire life.
JALELAH: I'm sure Pir-o-Murshid would really been aware of those beings to whom he could really open his heart and say certain things, and also move beyond that, that there were spoken words that would quicken and deepen this dedication, not really for that reason but trusting that person and yet knowing that that person too would take that trust and deepen the search for the Message. Like I have such a high regard for the study of human nature that Pir-o-Murshid has shared with us all—his teaching—that it has made me very aware of his depth of insight into human nature, so I am sure that if he shared his feelings with a being, he was very aware of who and what—he wouldn't do it lightly.
WALI ALI: Do you remember any other particular events related to Murshid Samuel Lewis that you would like to share with us when you came up here, what was your impression?
JALELAH: My general impression of him would be his naturalness, and I think that's what always appealed to me, because although he was to me a genius he was always comfortable to be with even though I wasn't at his age level, so it wasn't like a—our relationship—I always felt more like his daughter capacity. I remember once that he said something to me—I was so stunned that he turned and said it of the blue that I can't even recall if I've got the name right, but I remember he was sitting in my living room—I don't remember what we were talking about, but he looked at me and out of the clear, blue sky he pointed and said something like, "Siva.“ I think it was Siva's mother it may have been another great saint—"Siva," or some one of the great beings—"was greater than you, she had seven sons." And that set me up for a couple of years, trying to—I wish I could remember who had the seven sons, I was so stunned when he said it. That was all, nothing else, no explanation, so I was still—I guess I am still pretty much pondering—but the thing that has come to me since which has been very interesting—I don't know if I woke up with it or something—because I have to admit that it bothered me, there must be some reason he said it, "She is greater because she has seven sons, and I only have four sons and two daughters. But he said it for a reason, and being Sufis, we all know that nothing is just incidental, and what am I going to do now, have three more sons so that I can know that—that wasn't going to work. And then what it brought me to is perhaps the reason that he said it, and I don't even know if I can bring myself to what it brought me to because I haven't said it to anyone. You know how that is, that one realizes something and to put it into words is to lessen it, whereas to keep it inside, it continues to grow, and I think at this point it is still so within me. But I realize, many years after he said it, I had a realization from it that is complete balance, harmonious, beautiful—until that realization brought on by that statement there was nothing but puzzlement of why he said it, but because he said it it made me realize something that has brought for me—but I think at this point I still have to keep it in my seed—in my heart as a seed.
WALI ALI: Do you have some questions Sabira?
WALI ALI: I notice you have some notes; I didn't know if you had any questions or not—
JALELAH: I can't really think specifically when I came to S. F. I was with my children, and of course whenever I am with my children it seems like all that I can remember is keeping the show on the road as far as children's clothes and everything, so my goodness, nothing specific other than being with him and having him talk to the children and being happy to be here. And I do recall what a lovely moment when he was down at Mothers' on the swing—my mother has a glider—and I can remember walking over, to her little Zawiya, which is her cabin—and the glider is on the outside of it—to get something while they were visiting, and I can remember the picture of her sitting in a chair, and there is a rope on the glider—and she always made a cushion and made him very comfortable—and she would, she has done this for other people that are travelers on the path like Iman, Pir Vilayat's sister-in-law, a friend of ours and I can remember her on the glider at times. It seemed for special, certain people close to her, and that she was very—a peer in her peer group—she took, you maybe you’d call her or gracious hostess, but would make them comfortable, and then would pull on the rope and sit there and rock them. And I can remember that view of her sitting there, and Samuel Lewis on the glider with her rocking him. It is a very lovely scene, so I do remember that. Yes, there is one other thing, and I think if you get to interview Tansen he has the most vivid memory of this—I certainly remember it well myself, but I think it made the deepest impression on Tansen. After Universal Worship that we gave upstairs in the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles, he came up to Tansen Muni, that's my husband and myself, and he said something like, "I’d like to show you a picture of how to play the flute or become the flute, you’ve no doubt seen him do this—and he took us off in a little room and sat cross-legged, and his whole attitude and his whole being of becoming the flute—and then making the sound that went with the, Krishna, and it was he and I and Tansen Muni, and that made a deep impression on my husband, he is a musician, and the sound—and I think for him to tell that, his view of that would be very nice.
WALI ALI: That inner flute sound—the saying in the Gayan-Vadan Hazrat Inayat Khan says, "Let my heart become Thy lute, Beloved and Thy wish and my body Thy flute of reed." And Murshid, reports getting an inner message from Hazrat Inayat Khan which says, "Become a flute." He says, "How can I do that?" "Become a flute." "How can I do that?" "Become a flute." and then he says, "One way you are not going to become a flute is by arguing about it!" And so he went within, and he discovered this place and he had that for the rest of his life, and when he went to India and he went into the various shrines in India, he would walk up to the altar of the God of the shrine and he would sit and he would make the sound of the flute on a number of occasions. Our budding Los Angeles chorus needed a name when they were going to play for a Jewish old peoples' home in L.A. and they didn't have a name yet, and one of the mureeds suggested Flutes of Reed, so it seems to have stuck; so I think that the L.A. branch Sufi Chorus group calls itself the Flutes of Reed. That's a nice tie-in with what we were just saying.
I feel like we have gone around. I wonder, from your perspective, whether you have anything to say about Murshid Samuel Lewis' role in The Sufi Message.
JALELAH: To me one of the most obvious roles he played was the opener of the door where the young people came in. My recollection of Sufi centers—growing up in them—the ones I grew up in in New York and Cleveland—was always that the young people were the children of the mureeds, but they were not the ones that were the active seekers on the path. It seems, just from my limited view of it, that he was a real opener of the door for the age group of those in the twenties and early thirties. Now surely there were people in their twenties and thirties in the sufi Order but it just seems to me like the vast numbers, and obviously of course the dance came through in that sense. So I see his role in that way, but it was a recharging of the youth that the Message made it for this stage in its development. I feel that in those beginning 40/50 years you needed the pillars, you needed the establishment, and the stability of people who had that kind of discipline, that kind of energy, money, prestige and aristocracy—those were the people that tended to gather around Pir-o-Murshid. The stories you hear—you look at pictures of the summer school and you see the types of people that were there. There are no types, I think that now what is the Message seems to really be to me was the energy of the youth and fresh vistas and keeping—and surely the leaders in the Sufi Order always had the new horizons and were the teachers, seemed to always keep open, it's the teachings to keep open, the new horizons, but the impetus for the youth certainly seems to me to be Sam. Is that this?
WALI ALI: I recall very vividly when Pir Vilayat visited here for the first time, I had only been around for a few months prior to that if that long, and just how much he was taken by the fact that the room was just packed with young people, and so he changed his whole schedule and came back again in two weeks because he was—he thought this was the opening of the door to the message at the Khankah—he had the contact.
JALELAH: I know it was Pir Vilayat who really explained in my mind the fact that in ages past a handful here and a handful there would be born awakened to the scope of the message, in all ages, but now with the beginning of the New Age which, as he so thoroughly explained it, we are just at the threshold of, in which the New Age people are still going to be our children and our children's children—the forerunners, as I understand it—they are being born by the dozens and the hundreds now and they need to come in at this time, and so this is why, again, you have the interest in the young because they are being born more aware of unity whereas before they almost had to learn it in this life's experience. Now they are coming in with it, and whether their parents are aware of it or not, they are shedding their parents. But the parents are not ready for it, and that's why they are leaving, and seeking it in teachers and in communes and in spiritual living; but now we have, of course, Sufi communities and other religious communities where the parents too are aware of it and raising their children with that awareness.
WALI ALI: You raised in a Sufi family, did you ever go through a period where you wanted to rebel against the whole thing and turn your back on all those teachings or whatever?
JALELAH: Never! I can't remember a single moment ever feeling like that. I am also deeply aware that my father was such a clear transmission of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan. I've heard so many stories about my father now, and someday my hope is to write a book on Fatah, but I think that transmission was so pure and so clear that it left no room for any moments doubt or anything negative as far as the Sufi Message goes. In fact I would have to say as I have grown into maturity I have just been awed by being born into a Sufi family, and very much in feeling the responsibility of having been born into a Sufi family as far as what my purpose is in spreading the Message. I was like a fish in water, when I was a child I really thought everybody had all this respect and understanding for the Hindu religion, and Buddhists, and since I was two I have been able to say the lighting of the candles and I had to learn that the opposite was true—that it was more wise to learn what religion a person was in, and then just learn from that person about the religion rather than to be talking about many religions. Because I soon got shut out of and closed down in conversations when I was younger when I would broach the subjects and such a broad interest in different religions. I really feel deeply privileged and moved (inaudible) and just becoming into this.
WALI ALI: We are getting a VW van, and God willing. Once we do—and it has to be rebuilt—and when our baby gets a little older, maybe what we'll all plan to do is to come down with my family to Camarillo, let's say a weekend or something, and possibly have a little time to spend there and to interview Bhakti, and just to imbibe the atmosphere.
JALELAH: When you mentioned that in a letter a while back, a number of months ago, I remember the feeling of delight that you were coming, so we'll just look forward to it—and you are so welcome!
WALI ALI: Thank you, I don't know where all your kids are, but we'll probably be able to manage with a minimum amount of space.
JALELAH: Oh yes! Oh absolutely! There's really no problem at all, it's just one family after all, so we have had friends with families come and it's just—
WALI ALI: You are the one person I wouldn't mind coming to visit with a large family.
JALELAH: Right! Our house is just geared for kids, and children usually just love it because of the orchard, but I only hope you will come at a time when the avocados are plentiful, the drought has really cut down the supply right now, and it looks like the September crop will be excellent, and God willing, February and March of next year we'll begin again, and my hope would be that you would come so you could bring back a lot.
WALI ALI: September—it may be possible for us to do that, and we would look forward to it actually. Now when is the Universal Worship done? Do you do it on the one Sunday a month?
JALELAH: Starting in September we are going to do it the first and third Sundays and we would like in January to be able to do it every Sunday, and that is our projected….
WALI ALI: Do you do it in Camarillo? Or Somewhere else?
JALELAH: No, we do it in Los Angeles at the East-West Cultural Center the first Sunday and I have been having a Cherag's class the third Sunday because we have needed to prepare the Cherags that will work on the altar, and we are now at a place where we have got enough Cherags where we can do the two Sundays, and then I feel by January—now my mother is the Siraj in our area and I am only a Cheraga and so any final decisions—I have mentioned the two Sundays a month to her, I don't think—because this was a fairly new decision, that I've mentioned hopefully in January starting every Sunday, so the final decision will rest with her since she is a Siraj and we look to her for guidance. Pir-Vilayat has ordained her as Siraj and also given the Siraj now the power to ordain Cherags and Cheragas because as you know it was only the Siraj in India who could ordain.
WALI ALI: Oh I didn't know that he changed that. The only other person that he has made a Siraj is Moineddin—
WALI ALI: Maybe there are others that I didn't know about.
JALELAH: I don't know in the United States if there is another Siraj or not.
SABIRA: I have a question. Short of the dances, are any of Sam's teachings you know taught in your center, used in your center?
JALELAH: No, and it is because there is such a wealth of Pir-o-Murshid's teachings—of course I have been raised with them—because it is under my guidance at the moment, I certainly myself enjoy reading Samuel Lewis' works and have a great admiration and respect for them, but I feel—I am continually awed—I can't even get to Pir Vilayat's—so that is where that is at. There is such a wealth to me, I am just overwhelmed, there is an ocean I am finding of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan's teachings, that I can't find enough time to share all of those for myself, but I think it is wonderful wherever anyone's teachings are done. I think a very appropriate place for those teachings of Samuel Lewis' to be shared is the dance, the dances of universal peace, that came through him—I think that is a beautiful place for them to be shared. I have the Gatha and Githa classes of course, and I follow the guidance of Pir Vilayat and Inayat Khan in the direction that he gives us through the leaders' meetings of these classes and the Message class is under the direction of Said Osio and he—
WALI ALI: I know Said, yes—
JALELAH: And he turns to me for guidance, and I have been suggesting material that he uses in giving him candidates' papers so that is what is happening in that class.
WALI ALI: I sure felt very good when I went to Los Angeles this past year—just the atmosphere and the hearts of the people were very full of light.
JALELAH: It's nice to, hear you say that—
WALI ALI: I think that, God willing, and so on that it looks like you have a little solid basis—
JALELAH: It's growing steady and it is getting stronger and stronger. I foresee the time—it is hard to say whether it would be a year or two years or three years—that we begin another center and I would like—it is not that I would like, not at all—Pir Vilayat also. I would like to see many kinds of centers in the bigger cities that will appeal to all the groups, and so I foresee a time in Los Angeles where we have still another center, hopefully ten/twenty centers, but in the near future that we have another center.
SABIRA: Yeah, it would be my wish that we could reach people our age—
JALELAH: This is the exact type of center that I can visualize, even the way how to do it, and I have even the resource people to help establish it, but I would like to see this center now, that is getting so strong, be firmly on its feet with the right leader that Pir Vilayat will choose of course. Then I would like to lend my energies either to another center in L.A. which I certainly would, but Ojai is a very promising place, and this is where a lot of the establishment is, that are people that have been seekers for many years, they have at their fingertips all kinds of knowledge and teachers right in Ojai and Pir Vilayat gave lectures there, and Tansen Muni received his name "Muni" in Ojai with Pir Vilayat through a lecture. And Pir Vilayat has planted the seeds there, in Ojai, years and years ago, and now they are starting to germinate, we have a nucleus of Sufis there and I think we are going to see a very strong, steady growth in Ojai—
WALI ALI: How far is that from you?
JALELAH: 45 minutes from where I live—
WALI ALI: In a sense it’s as close as Los Angeles?
JALELAH: It's closer, a much more beautiful drive but to me anything I do that is Sufi mission, the drive is beautiful because of the people I am going to be with so I don't think of the distance. I have a very high regard for the City of Angels and I am why quick to remind people that Los Angeles is the City of Angels—as we know, wherever there is a center of Light you are going to get darkness gathered. It will never put out the Light, so the darkness we see in Los Angeles is also, for those who can see, an awareness of the great light that is there too, and it is the City of Angels and there is just no getting around it. So I have a very high—I never put Los Angeles down, it is a hub, as is San Francisco. I love what Moineddin said when I came up to do the wedding with him for two of the mureeds. The woman came from up north here and the man came from down south, and I came from down south and Moineddin was from up north, and he said, "it is not only a meeting of Khalil and Qayyima, a marriage of Khalil and Qayyima, it's a marriage of Los Angeles and San Francisco!” So it's a very beautiful thought; I feel very close as though we are like one big family up and down the coast and now it’s going up to Portland—and Seattle
WALI ALI: Right.
JALELAH: And it will go down to San Diego, and I think the West coast—
WALI ALI: I was in San Diego a few weeks ago; I went down to a convention of humanistic psychologists with John Wood organizing it. I did a program in the evening there with them, and then—there are a few people there, I think it is likely to—that something is going to grow out of that.
JALELAH: There needs a catalyst, they have the interest and the sincerity, and the nucleus there, but it needs that person to be on the scene that is a catalytic person to pull it together, and then they will have a center, and that will be wonderful when it happens.
WALI ALI: It is right up and down the coast of California.
JALELAH: Like the Missions, isn't it?
WALI ALI: Yeah, right—
JALELAH: Sufi Missions! Abd ar Rahman said once that we were on a route of pilgrimage and at that time it started in San Francisco, I guess maybe Seattle even and it included Camarillo and Los Angeles and then over to Tucson, and somebody called it a new pilgrimage route, which is a nice way of thinking of it.
WALI ALI: I think too that as more people establish khankahs then the tradition is to have the guest—and then as people become more—we live in such a transient society some people, I think are transient because maybe they remember lives in which they were travelling Sadhus, let's say who didn't settle anywhere and kept constantly on the move somehow. The shape of this country in a 100 years is going to be quite extraordinary, I believe we are—I can see the new age and I see it in the children who don't have a lot of the hang-ups that their parents have, don't have a lot f the psychological negative impressions to deal with all the time sort of one foot in and one foot out, and one gets glimpses of the way things can be, and I certainly respect the work of people like yourself and Murshida Vera and others who have pointed people's attention at the children who are so often forgotten in the rush of things.
JALELAH: When you mentioned the next hundred years, it reminded me of a thought that I think that this transition that we are going through where we speak of the young people and the way that they dress and the length of their hair, and then we speak of the establishment. I really feel this in terms of birth, giving birth to something—as a transition stage, and in childbirth terms we recognize transition as a painful a trying difficult period in childbirth. And so what we are seeing now—where we seem to have a separation of things as we speak of the new-age people and when we speak of establishment people—whatever that is—I think in ten years from now, more or less, that will be a thing of the past, there will be a blending of that. But here now we are consciously thinking of how can we reach the establishment. That is just a transition stage and that—I don't think we have ever lost the establishment; I think they are—I know from talking to my mother that she represents the establishment and the thinking of the establishment, and what they have done is to have gone deeper into what they realize of the teachings in an effort to cope with the external changes that they are seeing. In other words, it is rocking the boat so much for them, it is so different and seemingly so—I don't know, if you call it radical or whatever—the bare feet and the long hair, and all these outward forms that it has taken, and so they are clinging to something, and so they have gotten back to the essence. Now what's coming through them is refined through their pain, so that what they are sharing and seeing and now coming out and realizing that there has to be a reaching out to the youth and then an enfoldment in their wings, encompassing but now that process that they went through has made them go deeper, they had to go back to the roots of the teachings and go deeper into the teachings to be able to accommodate this new age and that is what I see coming out of it—that through their pain and their disillusion—it is a kind of agony that the establishment has gone through, because they love the Message, they loved Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, they love the exquisite simplicity of the old way, the old form, but they are having to realize that that was right for that time, but it has to unfold now and that the essence is still there. But the youth have not had the time yet to reach the depth that the older people have reached, and yet they have been born with it. See, in their expression of it, they haven't had the time to express it, and yet as young babies and children in their eyes, and in their whole accommodation of things, they are born into it and so there is this transition that we are seeing. And I am living with it—I am living with the youth in the center and coming to the camps and being a camper and being on that whole side of the fence, and yet I am living in close contact and feeling this at-oneness with the establishment. I am not just speaking of my mother; I am speaking of the establishment people that exists, and being at one with them, and hearing their feelings and thoughts, and seeing where they are coming from it is to me a privilege to be in that position. So I feel that part of my purpose of the message when that time comes will be in establishing a very establishment center because I have lived in one and they are needed and we need their guidance, we need their depth, we need their wisdom—that’s family, you don't just discard the old and stick them off in some corner and pretend they are not there; we have to accommodate them as much as they have to accommodate the youth, the youth has to learn the lesson of respect and sitting at the feet of our older mureeds and realizing what a privilege it is that we have them. And that is going to happen too—it is happening and certainly the Sufi Order is the place that all this has to happen because we are the nucleus of humanity, and if it doesn’t happen—if the love, harmony and beauty doesn't happen with the Order here, where else is it going to happen? It's got to happen here! That's why I know it will happen.
WALI ALI: It would be striking if the various fragments of the Sufi Movement, Sufi Order and so forth were to reunite at some phase. And speak about establishment, I think of sometimes about the Sufi Movement being establishment oriented.
JALELAH: That would be another whole interview, I'm sure. I had the privilege of going to see Fazal a few years ago, he was a dear friend before he became Pir-o-Murshid of the Movement—in fact he learned the altar work in my mother's cabin, and so we are very close to him and his family, and then going there. It was a wonderful experience.
SABIRA: There are some wonderful stories about Fazal and Murshid on some of the interviews—
JALELAH: Yes, yes, I heard some of those myself. I want to say that I think what you are doing is historically and on all different levels just wonderful, it is a wonderful enrichment for the Message and for the Sufi Order and I wish you great fruitfulness and blessings in your work.
WALI ALI: Thank you very much.