Shabda Kahn—on Murshid Sam—6/3/76
WALI ALI: I think you’ve probably prepared some things; I see you have a list of things, so why don’t you start?
SHABDA: I put it into three categories: New York, Boston, and then just around here—experiences with Murshid, so does it matter where I start?
WALI ALI: Why don’t you start in terms of experiences—chronologically?
SHABDA: The way I came to meet Murshid: I met Baba Ram Dass in N.Y. and he gave a talk in a church, and then a week later Pir Vilayat gave a talk, and invited us all to a camp in the summer of 1969. The talk was in ‘68 in December, and then he invited us that summer of ‘69, and so I arranged to come to the camp; I quit my job and gotten clear with the draft, and I had a few weeks before I was supposed to meet Ram Dass and live on a community with him, so I came to the Colorado camp. Even at the time Pir Vilayat offered me initiation and I decided against it, because I was going to this other thing with Ram Dass. I met Murshid Sam’s disciples and they invited me to come to California for two weeks before I went back to New York—actually it was in New Hampshire, for this retreat and I came out, and Ayesha was the one who introduced me to Murshid, and I met him at the Khankah the first time, and I went to one of his Wednesday night meetings, and I think that is what drew me back, because I’d never been to a meeting with so much joy.
WALI ALI: Oh that was what drew you back, you brought Charlene back here? Yeah, I remember that time; I was here when you came in. Your story about your first interview with Murshid, was that the first time you came out here?
SHABDA: No, the first time I came out here, he just said, “hello,” and this and that. He told me later that he knew at first glance all his disciples except for one, and I never found out who that was. But he says he knew all his disciples at first glance, so he must have known already then. And then I went to New Hampshire and that happened for three months and after that I came back out here with a girl named Charlene, and by the time we got out here we were really far from being together. We were as far apart as you can be, but we owned this bus together, and we got a free place living at Omar’s house in Larkspur, and we started going to Murshid’s Wednesday night meetings. Charlene started going to Murshid’s house and doing work, and I think that that had an effect on me because I thought that she was getting to him quicker than I was, so I—it gave me a kind of a spur to get closer to him quicker. Apparently she had made all these complaints to Murshid about what I had been doing, saying I’d been nasty and this and that—I don’t know what she said, but it must have not been very nice. So he called me in one meeting—this wasn’t actually the first interview—and said, “Charlene told me all this and that, and I meditated and asked God and He said it wasn’t true.” I was just going to—I had only been to four or five meetings, so I had some feeling as to who he was, but he had completely gotten my case covered.
WALI ALI: I remember that first time you brought Charlene back over here, and you came over and you came into the house and you had dinner.
SHABDA: That first day we arrived—that’s right—
WALI ALI: You came right straight in from the bus I think there is somewhere that Charlene wrote about that—
SITARA: In that letter—
SHABDA: Every time I came into Murshid’s house from a trip, he would say, “Okay, I’ll give you a shower and a meal, and that’s all I can do for you.” But he had that sense that when we came in, I remember, he sat down and he received us for almost an hour. I know that if I consider my work today, if someone comes over and wants to hang out, I’ve got to really surrender to that, if I feel they are really—that they need the space to hang out in. But when we came in, I’m sure he was busy, but he hung out with us for an hour, and then said, “Take a shower, take a nap, and have dinner,” and then I think either we slept here or we drove to Ayesha’s. The first time I came here I slept here, but Murshid was at Lama, I guess. I was staying with you, and you took me over to see Master To-Lun.
So, the first interview with Murshid: so I scheduled an interview; I hadn’t really caught on to anything, let’s say, and I went there and I just sat down and, “Hello, how are you, what’s your name again,” and this and that, Murshid asked me. And then, he says, “Do you have any questions, why did you come for an interview?” And I said, “Murshid I don’t have any questions, or anything in particular; I just felt like I was supposed to come and see you.” And he said, “Very good, thank you so much for coming,” and he walks me out of the door. That was it, and he says, “Here Mansur, give him some papers to read,” and actually at the time I think he gave me “notes on irfan,” with some other things to read.
WALI ALI: So then did you go back or stay here that trip for a while?
SHABDA: I stayed out here at Omar’s-
WALI ALI: You stayed at Pineal House?
SHABDA: No, that was later. I stayed at Omar’s house; we were evicted and I was looking for a place with John Roshek and these two girls; this harp player Thea, and some other girl. And we couldn’t find a place, and my date for initiation was coming up. I had asked Murshid later on if he would give me initiation, and he said that he would be glad to—that he felt I was real seeker, and I didn’t have to have probation or anything like that. So that was scheduled for February 15th, I guess it was 1970. So at the time Jim Fellows, who wasn’t a disciple, and who I’d lived with in New Hampshire, came by and said, “Listen, there is this place to live for free down in Southern California; they are building an ashram for this guy Sai Baba who is supposed to come in April, and I haven’t heard anything about him really; he showed me this record of him and the record said that he was an avatar and that he hadn’t come to be a guru or anything like that, that he was already the avatar, and so I thought, “Far out, I’ve been looking already for a month for a place and I couldn’t find anything and here someone comes along and says you can live here for free.”
I went to Murshid and said to Murshid whatever happened, and I said, that I wouldn’t go there without his blessing, so he says, “You have my blessing as long as you don’t make him your guru.” and I said, “Oh well, he said he is not a guru, and all of that.”
WALI ALI: you were pretty naive, right?
SHABDA: Yeah, really—I just didn’t catch on.
WALI ALI: You were very Neptunian I remember when you came, very touched somewhere in your spirit but not too tuned in to—in a certain sense to what was going on in human beings and—I think Shirin gave you a really rough time at the Colorado camp. As I recall she was sort of giving you a bad time, but you probably didn’t notice.
SHABDA: I didn’t notice. I think what happened was that before I got into any type of sadhana, I probably wasn’t as spaced out but I got the idea from being around Ram Dass that that was the way you were supposed to be. I must say I got a lot of wrong ideas from that work at the time. And I am sure that he has changed his approach too, considerably—
WALI ALI: So you were off to—
SHABDA: Yeah, so the day after I took Bayat, if you can imagine, I left the area. I went with Jim Fellows who took in this girl Heidi who was with us; you met her at the camp in Colorado. The next morning we left for Southern Calif., and to this place, Tecati, and it was just a house right near the border of California and nothing special was happening down there. The people were trying to have their idea of what an ashram was which means they got up at 6AM and they did chanting and then they did pranayama and this and that, but it was all very routine, and I was down there, and I did some fasts down there, and we went and visited the shrine of Yogananda and we went to hear Krishnamurti speak. Those are some of the things we did for one or two days. And then I had been fasting for about five days and I just got this strong message to drop the trip and come home. And so my plan was to go and fast for nine days, so I just went to town and got something to eat, packed my bags and put my thumb out and I got one ride from there to San Diego and another from San Diego to the door here at the Mentorgarten. And I opened the door and there is Murshid at the top of the stairs and he said, “You are lucky, Marsha is not here for dinner, so you can stay for dinner, but that’s all I can do for you.” So, over dinner, you probably remember this, I do anyway—Murshid says, “What did you do down there?” And it takes about a minute to say, “Well you get up at six to do this and this and this and this,” and so then I started spacing it out and saying, “And we went to see this disciple of Yogananda’s and he was all full of light and all this jazz, and we went to see Krishnamurti,” and later I understood that both of them he didn’t get along with very well.
WALI ALI: He didn’t think they were particularly deep.
SHABDA: Anyway, I went on and on, and “Oh Murshid,” and he slams his fist like this: “What the hell are you running around for when the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, the Kingdom of Heaven is within you!!!”—slamming his fist on the table, and when it was over, he just went back to eating, as far as I can remember. Is that how you remember it?
WALI ALI: Yeah! I remember it; he was trying to break through your fog. It was kind of like Nataraj used to be—because he is a little closer, you can remember, because as a person changes they forget what they were like—everything is so wonderful and spiritual and everything—it was beautiful but it was from an angelic place or something. And then he did give you a real blast, I remember—I don’t remember the essential. I was just waiting to see how long he was going to hold out because after all he had been very tolerant in a certain sense—just giving you a lot of rein. He knew before you left, “I’m going to go down to this guru,” but he just let you play it out and then at a certain point…
SHABDA: It’s funny but I always appreciated getting busted, in fact I still do—I feel that it’s so much quicker instead of carrying it out yourself. So I came back and by chance I met these girls who lived on Pineal Street who turned out to be Majid—who is Majid now (Joan) so I started living at this house and there were ten or twelve or thirteen—
WALI ALI: It was beginning to be the—everybody was beginning to live there right?
SHABDA: They hadn’t been, but they all started living there after the camp.
WALI ALI: Oh I see! That was before; that was when the scene was more together.
SHABDA: Yeah, right; it was before any trip happened and before Frida was coming in for counselings, and before it was a big trip.
SITARA: You were the only man there, right?
SHABDA: There was one other guy but he was totally spaced out.
SITARA: Oh yeah!
SHABDA: He was crazy!
WALI ALI: He ended up committing suicide right?
WALI ALI: That was after you left?
SHABDA: Two years after I left. So I lived at this place in a tent with Majid and we had this two week romance and after that it was hell. After that it was how to live in the same tent and not be together. But we lived right outside this garden and we were doing gardening work and just to give you a sense of how Murshid cared for his disciples—the kind of interest he took. I came in and I said to Murshid, “We have aphids on our plants—on some cabbage or something we had planted that we’d been growing. So he took it in. Later I came into a crowded Monday night meeting, and he used to be upstairs in the Mentorgarten, and he’d walk in and he’d take his big finger and he’d say, “Come here, come on up to the front of the room,” and when I got to the front of the room, he says, “Follow me,” and I followed him out to the kitchen, and he opened the ice box and there was an enormous bag of asparagus ends, and his advice was to boil the asparagus in water, and take the juice, and spray it on the plants, as an antidote against the aphids. This was printed up in the book, In the Garden, and they missed the point of it because the idea was to give people the antidote for how to get rid of aphids. But it never got too clear in the book, they mentioned it but—
SITARA: Did it work?
SHABDA: It worked pretty good, but then, see, then we left for a camp and so I stopped taking care of the garden; but I started coming to the house and doing cleaning work and trying to help Murshid out. I remember one time I was vacuuming down here, downstairs, and Asa was here (Leslie and Asa, right?). And so Asa came downstairs and I started playing with him and I wasn’t doing much vacuuming, and then Murshid opens up the door and he sticks his face in. And I don’t know if I said anything, but I know I got very worried that I wasn’t doing the right thing because I wasn’t vacuuming. And he says, “Oh no, you’re doing the right thing, you’re doing the right thing,” and so that’s always stuck with me. And so from there other things I remember that happened in that period were that we had a nice May Day celebration out at Deer Park in Fairfax. And I remember it was a very hot day—
WALI ALI: That was the day of Shibli and Vashti’s wedding, right?
SHABDA: Was it?
WALI ALI: Was that after Shibli and Vashti’s wedding?
SHABDA: It could have been, but I was at both things and I’ve never connected it in my memory. It was May Day; it must have been May 1st, of course you could find out.
WALI ALI: It was real hot, I remember—
SHABDA: It was about 90 degrees and I remember that—
WALI ALI: Because Murshid kept dancing and everybody else was just too tired—they were stretched out under the trees—
SHABDA: Murshid said, “Now everybody up” and everybody was sitting down, and he was just dancing away. I remember it seemed so remarkable that he had all the juice and everybody else was flaked out at age 20.
Let’s see what happened next. I remember one time—I think this may have been before we left for that camp in Paradise, the first Paradise camp—Abraham came by. He came visiting this area, and so I—
WALI ALI: He’s coming by again soon, I understand—
WALI ALI: This week I think; his band is playing somewheres—
SITARA: Is he coming with Karmu?
WALI ALI: No.
SITARA: I thought Karmu was coming—
WALI ALI: He is.
SHABDA: Anyway, I brought him to a meeting, and the meeting used to be upstairs; we’d have the first part of the meeting upstairs and Murshid would give a little talk and maybe read from one of the volumes depending on which night it was. If it was Sufi night or Dharma night—and then we’d come downstairs and do dancing. So Abraham came in—and when you bring a friend you always are wanting that Murshid should like him. Actually it was more important that he should like Murshid—from where I was sitting. And so Murshid picks him out with his eye, right away and he says, “What’s your name?” And he says, “Roy.” His name was Roy. And Murshid says, “Where are you from?” He was also from the Ram Dass group, he was living on the East Coast with Ram Dass at the time too. So he says, “Where are you from?” And he thinks and thinks, and he says, “The Universe,” and Murshid, “No! No! Where are you living?” He said, “Where are you living,” not where are you from, I should correct that. “Where are you living?” “The Universe.” “No, where are you living?” “The Cosmos.” “No! Where are you living?” And Abraham says, “uh, uh....” “No, damnit! Where are you living?” “My Volkswagen bus.” “Very good!” I imagine by this time he was ready to crawl under the carpet.
WALI ALI: Oh I remember; this interrogation went on because he was—actually he asked him, “What have you studied?” Do you remember that?
SHABDA: “What’s your favorite poet?” I think.
WALI ALI: Right, and it was just like pulling teeth to get him to say anything. He was so indrawn and so self-conscious and introspective and withdrawn that it was really hilarious and painful. The interrogation was all in that same vein. He’d been to Yale or Harvard or somewhere and he wouldn’t talk up when he said it. Murshid said, “Where did you study?”
And he said, “That’s alright,” or something like that. ”What did you major in?” “English,” Abraham would mumble. “Who was your favorite author?” And every question was like that. He would cringe.
SHABDA: Right! I remember that. He would always say that meetings were always like that, like one day I walked into a meeting and he—Siddiq and Shahida were there (Hans and Frances). He calls him up, “I want you to meet these people and talk to them,” because they were friends of Ram Dass when he was at Lama, and I’d known Ram Dass before so that type of thing would go on.
But then it came time to go—I had to go to the Paradise camp, and I had to go back to the East Coast because my father was having a pin put into his hip, and I was going to go to be the nurse, or just be there for support; and the feeling was always in me—I wanted to become more and more a part of the family. You could feel how much love always poured out of Murshid naturally; especially to the people he loved. And so I remember coming for an interview and Murshid had that feeling like he was really opening up the doors with me, or was starting to open the doors—he gave me a dance manual to take with me, and he said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” And I said, “No, I just like to sit here and hang out.” And he said, “That’s okay, too." He’d be playing solitary, or something like that. So then I left for this camp in Paradise, and we had this camp with Pir Vilayat. I think there were about 100 people there. You helped organize it, right?
WALI ALI: Yeah, that was the first one—
SHABDA: Right! Then I went back to the East Coast, and I was seeing friends there and getting a house, and seeing and visiting all of the spiritual circles of the people I had known in New Hampshire and so on. I got up one weekend to New Hampshire—they had a reunion and actually led Sufi dancing which is that dance that’s on Sunseed—it didn’t seem to me that way at the time—
WALI ALI: You didn’t remember how spaced out and loosely strung out you were.
SHABDA: That was it, I didn’t have the feet-on-the-ground-understanding yet. Even if I said it, I might have announced it, but I didn’t understand it yet. So I thought the idea was to try to get high and get out of your body, or something—
WALI ALI: Fall on the grass?—
SHABDA: I wouldn’t have ever done that myself, but I didn’t stop it or anything or think it was the wrong thing. People were having a good time but about that particular dancing. I wrote a letter to Murshid and said—somebody had given me a photograph—so I sent the photograph, and the letter, and said, “Dear Murshid, this is the scene of the Sufi dancing that I led in New Hampshire.” And Murshid wrote back, he said, “Your picture made me cry; the dancing made me cry, I saw the picture long before you sent it.” In the same letter—I’d been in downtown New York and I saw a poster which said, “G. van Essen (?) Sufi Master will give a talk.” It had this Heart and Wings symbol, so I didn’t really know if that was the Sufi Order that we belong to or a symbol for all the Sufis or what, so I wrote Murshid and said, “There’s this Sufi Master, G. van Essen who wants to give a talk,” and Murshid wrote back—this is all the same letter—and he said, “A Sufi is one who sees from the point of view of another instead of himself,” and I went to this guy’s meeting and he was—he gave some talk on—he was a disciple of Inayat Khan’s—and he gave some talk about his experiences with Inayat Khan. And then very soon after that—of course all the while, I am taking care of my father who had had a very strong operation, and the fact that I was there gave him some—we had a very strong communion. We’d sit in the hospital room and cry together, or laugh, or this type of thing. And Murshid wrote me a letter saying, “I’m coming to New York for five weeks or so, will you be at my aid, can you help?” Or, “What can you do?” I don’t remember exactly how he said it, but you can look in the letters I’m sure. So I started setting up talks—
WALI ALI: Was there another man who was supposed to set something up too? Bob Kaufman or something?
SHABDA: He must have met Murshid; he never did anything, I don’t think he ever materialized; I think he met Murshid here and then he was going back—
WALI ALI: He met Murshid at the Temple of Understanding conference, and then he ended up coming here, and so Murshid always took that as a sign, because he was the youngest person at the Temple of Understanding conference—
SITARA: He showed up in New York, he was there—
SHABDA: He showed up, yeah, but he didn’t materialize as a worker.
SHABDA: And he didn’t set anything up. But the odd thing about Murshid, at the time of Murshid’s visit, cosmically or whatever—New York at the time was pretty dry—this woman Hilda Charlton was giving her meetings and that was very small at the time. Maybe it was at a private home and 15, 20 or 30 people as opposed to now where she has 500 people a week, I would suppose. She was announcing every week the arrival of this Swami from India who she said was very, very great and everyone should come and meet him and so on—Muktananda—so when he came the whole entourage of the spiritual movement which in New York at the time was more like the nexus of one group with little mixtures here and there—there weren’t all those other movements yet. And so they all went to see him, and were going there week after week for his lectures and meditations and he had a retreat up in Big Indian. And so anyway, I set up these programs for Murshid Sam; the first program was at this Theosophical Society on 72nd Street or something like that—is that where it is?
SITARA: Yeah, the Philosophical Research Society.
SHABDA: Philosophical Research Society—run by these two old ladies; one played gongs.
WALI ALI: These were the ones that you got through Pir Vilayat—he’d done some talks there?
SHABDA: Right. So anyway, it was arranged, and Murshid was to stay at Shahabuddin’s house and I remember reading Shahabuddin’s interview—anyway they arrived, and we looked out the window and they had arrived in a VW. We ran down and hugged Murshid and he came upstairs and more of less the way I remember it the first thing he did was he went to the Yellow Pages and looked up R for Restaurants. I was sitting there, and most of all my eye was on Shahabuddin seeing what he was going through, because I couldn’t imagine it. Here was his first take of the spiritual Murshid, of a spiritual teacher—and he was looking up R for restaurants. Later on along with all the things we did in New Work, Murshid would somehow always go to the Yellow Pages with his intuition open—he connected many far-out things that way.
WALI ALI: Alright, let’s get into New York now; let’s take it up chronologically.
SHABDA: I have a long list; I’d just as well just go down the list although it may not be chronological. There was a meeting arranged at the Theosophical Society; the first meeting was set up and because it was Murshid’s first meeting and I had been advertising it at all those other meetings with Swami Muktananda, everybody came. We had a real nice audience, probably about 50/60 people, do you think?
SITARA: Yeah, Saadia was there, or was that later?
SHABDA: I think she came, I’m not sure; but Murshid was just electric. He sat up on this little stage on a chair and he gave a talk and he told all his stories about meeting the Dervish with the haircut, and this Dervish and that, and the one about the taxi-cab—he told all of them, and then he said, “I want to show you my astrological walks,” and he got up and did walks one by one across the stage walking back and forth. I think this may even be on tape—there is one tape that Don Miranov made.
WALI ALI: Don Miranov, Do we have that tape?
SHABDA: You have that tape, or Carlos has got it. Anyway I scored it a year later when I went back to New York Carlos has got it.
SITARA: Maybe you could get it from him.
WALI ALI: It would be a good idea.
SHABDA: And also that was when I started playing for the dances, because my sister had given me a dumbek she had brought back from Israel—she lives in Israel—and so I brought it because there were no musicians there. So I started playing dumbek for the dances.
WALI ALI: Did he do dancing that night?
SHABDA: He did dancing, and he did real well. And it was a large group so we did about half and half: this group sit down and this group stand up—not too much dancing, though.
SITARA: It was a great audience, they loved him.
SHABDA: It was fantastic, and I think Hilda was there too that night? Anyway, she came some later night. But the odd thing about the meetings that were set up at that 72nd. Street place was that the first meeting they loved him but then nobody came back except for a real small group because they were all plugged into this other trip that was happening, and they had been plugged in for over a month, so just a few people, either who were free to start with or who were just really drawn came. So, along the lines of this Swami Muktananda, this girl had arranged a luncheon, and from her point of view it was a very special events this great saint Swami Muktananda would come to her place and have lunch, so everyone was invited to come a half-hour or an hour to her place—before he was supposed to come, including Sitara, Murshid and myself. Remember that? And Murshid would never say anything, he just went along with it all. He never said that I should come or this or that. So we arrived at this place, and Murshid was wearing his sport jacket and he looked pretty straight, and he walked in, and apparently—it wasn’t obvious to me—but apparently he walked in and sat down right at the guest-of-honor’s seat! This was just a bench, a window seat type of arrangement, but it was the higher place in the room or something, and he just sat down because he was used to sitting in chairs I think. And some guy in front of him was doing his tasbihs, his mala, so Murshid said, “If you’re going to do it, I’m going to take mine out too.” He was so outrageous that day.
WALI ALI: What else did he do?
SHABDA: He wasn’t going to just sit there while 20 kids were just sitting around doing nothing, being bored—so all these pictures of the Hindu pantheon were around: Ram and Sita and Lakshmi and so on so he says, “Does anybody know who that is? And somebody says “That’s Ram and Sita.” “Anybody know who that is?” And so on until he gets to Saraswati. And then he says, “Anybody know who that is?” And somebody says, “That’s Saraswati,” and one guy, I think, was the only one who knew them all, and he was giving all the answers. And Murshid says, “That is actually who I worship,” and then one guy in the audience put the question, “Who is Saraswati, Murshid?” And Murshid said, “I’ll show you,” and he rolls his legs up—when he sat cross legged, it looked pretty funny—and he starts going “Hu u u u u uuuuuu” and he did it for about a minute or a really long time and the whole atmosphere of the room was really affected by that. And then he snapped out of that into the next thing as if very little had gone down, and that’s all I remember because Muktananda came then.
WALI ALI: Do you remember anything more Sitara?
SHABDA: If you want to add things, please do—
SITARA: I just want to add that I remember that when Swami Muktananda walked into the room, a cat jumped on to Murshid’s lap, and he leaned over to me and ,said, ”That’s a sign that God is with us.”
SHABDA: The room, I tell you, it was…
SITARA: Very hot.
SHABDA: This girl didn’t realize what she’d done by—like everybody was sweating it—there was no peace in the room. Everybody was afraid that this electric person, Murshid Sam, would punch him in the nose, not literally but that—
WALI ALI: That he was going to blow the scene!
SHABDA: Right. It was supposed to be very peaceful.
SITARA: A man did ask him to leave the seat; there was a lot of whispering going on, but nobody told him—
SHABDA: Yeah, I only found out afterwards, nobody even told us, and we didn’t know; but everyone was scared they were going to argue or have a fight. So he came in and they embraced and they threw some questions back and forth to each other, and I remember that Murshid said that his guru was Papa Ram Dass and that he went with Mother Krishnabai, and Muktananda said he went to visit her every year on his birthday. In fact the whole conversation between the two of them was real—how would you say—the air was electrified, it wasn’t real mild like when two friends meet; they didn’t just embrace and feel real close. Everybody in the room was just petrified that something would break out—
SITARA: They were very happy when they discovered that they had Ram Dass in common. SHABDA: I didn’t think that they were overjoyed; I didn’t feel anything more than that they both somehow accepted each other, but they didn’t join somehow, their hearts didn’t meld—or maybe they did on some plane, but I didn’t feel that kind of closeness. I don’t know if you did.
SITARA: No, I just felt that that was the point of relief, and that was a step.
SHABDA: Yeah, they both had a connection there.
SITARA: Murshid was very pleased to see.
SHABDA: Murshid told me afterwards that he accepted Swami Muktananda, and he said that he had one shortcoming and that was that he couldn’t speak English, and he was going to have trouble with that.
WALI ALI: He told me that he is one plane above most of these Hindu teachers. He said that most of them are on the third plane flying around with the angles.
SHABDA: So we went and had something to eat, and we went into the other room. It was interesting because if there was anything that the people were receiving some kind of talk from, or lessons, or living examples, Murshid was just in there all the time. Like if you went to eat, he was talking with everybody and just getting to know everybody very closely; and Swami Muktananda was sitting in the other room all alone, being served on a special plate and a special this and a special that, away from everybody else—it just shows the difference of approach so strongly. Like here is this one person, he wants to be as visible as he can so his heart can touch everybody; and the other one sets himself so far apart nobody can come in the room, or the disciples set him apart.
SITARA: Murshid said, “This is the Hindu way, the Hindu guru eats alone; the Sufi way is that he eats with his people.”
SITARA: Do you remember what happened when Muktananda left Murshid and all the kids were in the room, and Muktananda got up to go and everybody sort of rushes to the door and Muktananda pushes his way through and brings a bunch of flowers to Murshid.
SHABDA: I remember another incident sitting in Shahabuddin’s apartment, we were sitting, probably over lunch I think and Wahid, whose name was Tom Miller who wasn’t a disciple yet—in fact I think he actually became Murshid’ s disciple.
WALI ALI: No, Pir Vilayat’s later.
SHABDA: But he came out here, and he was asking Murshid—as I remember this conversation—”Murshid, how is it to get jobs out in San Francisco?” And Murshid said, “Oh, it’s very easy, all my disciples get jobs!” And I said, “Murshid!!” I’d been trying to get a job for months in San Francisco! And he says, “Oh, don’t worry.” When he said that, I just knew that I’d get a job at New Age Foods. It was like a it was somehow a click, because I had wanted to work there at the time.
WALI ALI: Did he mention New Age? He always used to mention it—
SHABDA: Yeah, my friend Fred Rohe, and we go over there with our vegetables, and the damn fig tree, and he’d be yelling at people, “We have too many figs,” and there’d be two or three figs on the tree or something.
SITARA: “When we’ve got a natural food store in San Francisco—”
SHABDA: Right. I also remember him reading people’s charts, when people would come with their charts; I remember him reading my own chart.
WALI ALI: He went to that public event, but how many people were drawn to seek him out at that time?
SHABDA: Not too many, maybe ten or fifteen or so. All the people were very glad to get together with him because they knew when they were high but not too many were attracted to him as a teacher exactly—I remember that.
WALI ALI: How far away were you from him? Were you with him every day?
SHABDA: I was in Queens, and I think I came out almost every day from Queens.
WALI ALI: By this time you weren’t taking care of your father?
SHABDA: By this time my father was out of the hospital and it was the perfect way to be weaned because I had this other work to do. I was walking him every day up and down the block, fifteen steps, he was off all the drugs so he wasn’t so emotionally loose and that kind of trip, so friends lent me their car and I drove in and did whatever was asked. But I remember that either I’d take a nap, or sometimes we slept over, and I would always wake up about ten seconds before Murshid would open the door out of his room. So I asked him, “How come we always get up at the same time?” And he said, “It’s just attunement.” So that kind of thing was going on. We would go for walks in Central Park. And we’d be walking and he’d say, “Now what walk is that guy doing?” And you’d stop and say, “He’s doing the Sun or Mercury or this or that.” And he’d say, “Right,” or “Wrong,” there was always something going on, if you weren’t saying something, he was! And then every now and then he would be quiet but mostly we were—I remember particularly discussing people’s walks as we walked in the park. We went one day, also to somewheres in the ‘70’s, to Meher Baba’s book store.
SITARA: It was Meher Baba’s center.
SHABDA: It was the Center too, yes? Murshid wanted to check it out apparently, and so we walked in, and in the background in another room you could hear some arguing going on. And there was a young boy, he was probably a new recruit, he’d only been there a few weeks or so. He was selling the books, so Murshid is picking up the books off the shelves and he is saying, “Oh I know this fella, I know this one,” and we started talking to him, and one of us must have addressed him as ‘Murshid.’ So this young guy was very surprised, and he goes and tells the lady in the back room, who apparently was the Murshida there, and also in the interim Murshid said he wanted to meet this woman. Right?
SITARA: Didn’t the boy say, “You’re a Murshid from California? I want my Murshida to meet you.”
SHABDA: Yeah, that’s right, that is how it went. So he went—he really liked Murshid, I thought, he was really moved.
SHABDA: So he went into the back and they finally finished arguing—and Murshid is sitting in a chair pretty much like you are, with his arm over the leg of the chair and his foot in the air, and she walks in and she starts gelling! “Get your foot off the chair, this is terrible! I’ve never seen anything like it!!” and Murshid looks at Sitara and he says, “That’s all I wanted to know, let’s go!” And he stormed out! Is that how you remember it? He had also bought some books.
SITARA: Oh! That’s right, he had bought some books. Did he have to pay for them?
SHABDA: No, but it took a long while to find his shoes or something like that.
SITARA: Oh! Someone had taken his shoes; they weren’t where he had left them. So it took a long time and she started yelling and yelling, and all I wanted to do was to protect him.
SHABDA: There was always—
SITARA: The shoes mysteriously disappeared.
SHABDA: Just like at Swami Muktananda’s; travelling with Murshid you always had to be ready for some—I can’t think of the right word—some events where he would start doing something outrageous, and whether you agreed or not you would have to stand there and support him and be ready to help him however. So he also started doing some work with the Three Rings, and in this connection I remember a letter came one mornings “Dear Murshid, we have been doing our work very hard and Abdul Haqq has come over and done filing work and Murshid blew up. He said, “This is terrible, I don’t want him working on this project; he isn’t supposed to, he should be in the garden!” And I think that in a matter of seconds you were at the typewriter and he wrote some letter back which I am sure you could look up. Tell Abdul Haqq to go work in the garden and you do the rest. I think they had some kind of meeting and they invited all these people, nice people to help them: Amin and Amina and—and Murshid was really made about that. And also at the same time he was writing Commentaries while we were there on the prayers Saum and Salat, I think, or on the other three prayers.
SITARA: It was Saum and Salat—in fact I think it was just Saum.
WALI ALI: It was just Saum, because he had done Salat years before.
SHABDA: So he was writing the Commentary there? Along with this same thing with the Three Rings, he said, “Alright, I want to go down to the UN, so in this case he took out the Yellow Pages and we went down, and I tried to remember the name, and you might have it the place we went to from the phone book. Was it Dr. Mehdi?
SITARA: Oh yes! Arab Information Center.
SHABDA: He was still in contact with them in those days?
SITARA: I think so.
SHABDA: So we went to visit this man—
WALI ALI: He is a very big political activist in the Palestinian movement, Dr. Raymond Mehdi—
SHABDA: I’ve seen his name since then—
WALI ALI: He has gotten some international publicity. He used to have a newspaper that we used to get, but I doubt if we still get it.
SHABDA: I think that is why you got it because we subscribed to it that day. I remember his office wasn’t too much bigger than this one and it was piled up with papers. I wasn’t too tuned in to what came down there, but I do remember just walking around the streets there near the UN and trying to feel what was happening.
SITARA: Mehdi wasn’t at the U.N.
SHABDA: That’s right, it was two or three blocks away.
SITARA: But that was the same day you went to the UN?
SHABDA: What did we do at the UN?
SITARA: I think you went to the UN alone with him. The day we went to see Mehdi I was with you.
SHABDA: I don’t remember—
SITARA: The day we went to the UN—
SHABDA: Oh we did some dancing at the UN? No, I don’t remember him going to the UN, but I do remember him seeing this guy Mehdi.
WALI ALI: What happened there, do you recall anything? Was it any angry exchange? SHABDA: No, no, it was a good exchange; Murshid said he was working for peace, and they had a real nice exchange. I don’t remember anything coming down.
WALI ALI: Do you remember anything Sitara?
SITARA: I just remember that I was disappointed; I thought that something bigger was going to happen. It was very matter of fact, enormously matter of fact. Mehdi just greeted Murshid and they exchanged some ideas and talked and then it was finished. I expected something different, and Murshid didn’t seem overjoyed at the results—
SABIRA: Did he show him his Peace Plan?
WALI ALI: He admitted he was writing it—
SITARA: That’s right, he was writing it—
SHABDA: He was writing it at the apartment—
SITARA: That’s right.
SHABDA: That’s right
SABIRA: Because Shahabuddin said that they had gone to the UN with the Peace Plan.
SHABDA: I don’t think he was along—I don’t know, maybe we should ask him more particularly if this is what he meant—
WALI ALI: Of course Murshid was always talking about his Peace Plan, but nobody had ever seen anything on paper. It was always, “My plan,” and nobody ever knew exactly what he was doing—
SHABDA: Right, and Gunnar Jarring said it was the best—
WALI ALI: Right, Shabda, and that was the thing, and you see this in Shahabuddin’s interview, Murshid would, wherever you’d go have the same stories that had the same themes—just like the different tides: there is a day-to-day tide and a month-to-month and a yearly tide—so there was the yearly theme and the monthly theme and the themes were always going on.
SHABDA: At the same time Pir Vilayat was coming to town and at the same time we received a letter from Fazal—I guess Shahabuddin mentioned the letter. I didn’t really—
WALI ALI: We have copies of that correspondence-
SHABDA: Was it about the Gathas, is that what it was? He wanted some papers? That’s what Shahabuddin said.
WALI ALI: It was much more than that—Murshid had written a letter to the Sufi Movement headquarters in Geneva which had been read by the then Secretary General, an older man who wasn’t too well and Murshid had pointed out some things about the order (Movement)—I can’t recall exactly, but it was something to do with his relationship with Inayat Khan and sacred papers and all that stuff and he and this guy forced Fazal’s hand apparently because he had read the letter, and he gave the letter to Fazal to answer. So the answer—the first thing that came from Fazal was rather more courteous, though, there was an underlying tone underneath of challenge—
SITARA: That was received here or in New York?
WALI ALI: No, that was the first thing that came and then Murshid wrote a very—I’m not sure whether it was here or New Work, but the letter that came back from Fazal the second time was very—
SHABDA: I think that’s the one that we received in New York—
SITARA: I don’t think so—
SHABDA: We can check it out, but I do remember that Murshid wrote a very strong letter back, but at the same time he kept saying, as I read the letter, “I’m leaving him room to change his mind. He kept leaving him room to change his mind; if he wanted to change his mind it was cool.
WALI ALI: Yeah.
SHABDA: I thought that—
End of side ones
SHABDA:—for Fazal to get a little bit more humble and finish what was happening.
WALI ALI: You were taking all this—
SITARA: Yeah, I just wanted to say, he dictated two letters to Fazal.
SHABDA: That’s right, the first one he tore up—
SITARA: The first one he tore up—the first one was mild. He asked me, “How shall I answer this?” I said, “I think you should make room, leave enough room.” He said, “Do you think I should get angry or do you think I should just leave the way open?” I said, “I think you should leave the way open, and Inshallah it will open.” So he writes a nice, quick, short, mild letter; Shahabuddin walks in the room, and Murshid shows him the letter from Fazal, and Murshid says, “What do you think of this?” And Shahabuddin says, he got very angry, “Murshid, this is horrible, it is so discourteous, it is so disrespectful.” And Murshid says, “How do you think I should answer it?” And Shahabuddin says, “I think you should get tough with him, tough!” And so Murshid says, “Okay, that’s from God,” so he tears up the first letter, and he writes a very strong letter—
SHABDA: Right: Because I remember that the first letter was too strong and Murshid felt he couldn’t send it. Isn’t that strange, I just remembered it.
SITARA: I was disappointed; I just didn’t think it was right, but I just had no way to change it for that was how it was coming down.
SHABDA: So in that connection we went to Pir Vilayat’s for an interview. That’s it, he wrote one letter, and then he saw Pir Vilayat and then he rewrote the letter; wasn’t it something like that?
SITARA: I think it was the very same hour.
SHABDA: Jemila was there with Pir Vilayat and we went to Shems’—Ira Friedlander’s apartment, and it was very odd because I always felt that Pir Vilayat had no idea who Murshid was. He treated him like a very nice old man, who was a little off the wall, but they discussed it.
WALI ALI: They discussed what? Fazal?
SHABDA: They discussed this letter to Fazal and I guess in his Diaries Murshid said that he had gotten this message that he was supposed to work with Pir Vilayat, that Vilayat was, the “Rumi” and he was the “Shems i Tabriz,” and I was amazed how Murshid would always work; he was so understated. He wouldn’t really say what his deepest thing was.
WALI ALI: An outward bluster and actually there was something very subtle going on that most people could easily miss—
SHABDA: Really! So I think that’s what it was: that he got Pir Vilayat’s okay on his letter, and at the same time I remember that they discussed Pir Vilayat had just been to India with a film crew, that was it—and he was saying that he had visited Neem Karoli Baba and he’d had a terrible meeting with him, it didn’t work out. Pir Vilayat said—and I remembered Murshid responding, (slaps thigh), “I don’t think very much of him either.”
SITARA: “Just what I thought.”
SHABDA: Yeah, alright, something like that, which was another blow because he was a first connection for me since Ram Dass was his disciple.
SITARA: Pir Vilayat called him a magician—
SHABDA: Yeah, I didn’t remember that but the meeting was just so disappointing when you read, when you have this romantic idea of Murshid’s meeting, and Murshid’s description of Senzaki’s and Inayat Khan’s meetings, or different meanings like that. And here he is sitting with the man who was at the time the head of the Sufi Order, and your Murshid, and the more I served Murshid, the more I became attuned to him, and so I was staying to get closer, it was just disappointing. It was less than he would have wanted it to have been. And so we also went to a meditation of Pir Vilayat. And it was five o’clock in the afternoon for some odd reason—and it was over at this same Philosophical Society, it was terribly hot and Pir Vilayat gave one of those meditations—he was probably dead tired from his plane ride—and he talked the whole time, “Now we’re on the fifth plane, the blue sky with the green this ... now we’re on the…,” and after that we went out to a restaurant to the Maharaja on 98th Street and we were sitting around, I think a few other people came with us—Sitara and Shahabuddin I know were there—and maybe a few other people, and maybe Wahid, I don’t remember who else, and before dinner was served—you have one description of it from Shahabuddin already—we sang “as salaam aleikhum” and all those other songs. Those things didn’t bother me, I loved them. That’s funny, because living with Amin—he couldn’t stand it. I loved it when we would sing grace and have some sort of personal relationship going with the restaurant. So I said to Murshid, “Murshid I didn’t get anything from that meditation; I couldn’t follow it at all.” And then he said, “How’d you do?” (asking Sitara), and you said, “I didn’t do too good,” and then he asked Shahabuddin and he said, “I didn’t do too good either, and I don’t know if he asked the others or not—so Murshid said, “That’s not meditation, that’s bunk!” So that was what he said! It just wasn’t meant for us or our time, I guess.
SITARA: He said, “The man doesn’t understand that you have to teach meditation from attunement and not from words. If he would just work from breath and from attunement, he would bring everybody with him, and this way he doesn’t bring anybody.” Then he mentioned counseling to him, and Murshid was very interested in what was counseling. Remember that, you said, “Frankly I prefer counseling, when Pir Vilayat does counseling and not meditation.
SHABDA: I don’t remember that.
SHABDA: I remember also in the same stream with Fazal we were going to several meetings that were going on at that time. One I’d gone to, this meeting of Fazal’s group to check it out—in that letter I’d written, that one I talked about before, I’d visited that group when I went to hear that Sufi Master. I gave them a very beautiful introduction. I said, “I am a disciple of Murshid Samuel Lewis and he has received these wonderful dances.” And I spoke to them about it, and so this man who was leading the group, I think he was a younger man, do you remember his name, about 40 years old?
SHABDA: Nathaniel or something.
WALI ALI: Nat!
SHABDA: Yeah, Nat. Anyway, I offered about the dances, and I guess he must have written to Fazal to check it out and I wrote to Murshid. So I asked Murshid, “I met this Sufi Master and I went to this group, can I teach them the dances?” And his reply was what I’ve already said about the Sufi Master, “The dances are for the world, you can teach them to anyone. Just keep it high with love and devotion." And so I went back at the time and he said, “We aren’t supposed to do those kind of dances,” I guess he must have gotten the “no” on it. But we went, Murshid and myself—and did you go to that meeting?
SHABDA: We went to their weekly meeting which was on a Tuesday night, I think, with this guy Nat. And it was a group of 8 or 9 kids, in a small hall; we sat around in chairs; he read from
Inayat Khan, lit some incense and said, “We’ll meditate now,” and that was the whole meeting. And Murshid dug it. He said—
WALI ALI: It was just silence?
SHABDA: Yeah, He was reading from Inayat Khan and silence and there was no real discussion—
SITARA: There was about a half hour of reading.
SHABDA: Yeah, he read from some lesson and then did about five minutes meditation—
SITARA: It was only five minutes though—
SHABDA: Yeah, that was even more like Murshid’s style than sitting for an hour probably. And at the same time we were going to these meetings that Pir Vilayat—they were in his name, he was the head of the Unity,—not the head of the Unity Church but the Unity Church was sponsoring a series of weekly talks by leaders of different religions. And Pir Vilayat was the president of something like that.
SITARA: Yeah, it was his own organization.
WALI ALI: International Meditation—or something; I know just what you’re talking about—Hugh Dandrade was connected with that.
SHABDA: Right. So we went to several talks about it at the same time and Murshid kept saying, “I’m very embarrassed, I’m very embarrassed, this talk we went to, this little meditation we went to at Fazal’s was rea1 and the other talks we are going to are not real.” I remember we heard some Rabbi talk.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I want to get into that because I remember getting letters from him on that subject how he just stood up and said that the Rabbi was a liar.
SHABDA: Yeah, he stood up and—and talk about feeling funny in a room—here’s this room with maybe a couple hundred people listening to a lecture by—he’s a younger man—in his forties I guess. Some Rabbi, I don’t know his name, but he gave some kind of talk which had its little package of hate and indifferences—and Murshid got up and blasted him. I tried remember the content but….
WALI ALI: Did he interrupt the talk or did he stand up at the end of the talk?
SHABDA: I think that near the end he interrupted and then sat down, but afterwards he zoomed up to the front, and stood about two inches from the guy and just blasted him for about five/ten minutes, yelling back and forth—and this guy, he was doing alright, because he was yelling back.
SITARA: But he did bring everybody in the room in on it because he yelled at him right in the middle of the talk—
SHABDA: Oh yeah, he let everybody know what was happening.
WALI ALI: Was Pir Vilayat there?
SITARA: Oh yes:
SHABDA: Was he there that time?
SITARA: Oh yes. That was the complication. That was like his Universal Worship in those days was to have a representative from—
SHABDA: Wasn’t it that every week there was a different talk and this week there was the Rabbi’s talk? And Pir Vilayat came to a later talk and then later made a big introduction?
SITARA: You’re right; there was one other time-
SHABDA: You’re right, and Hugh Dandrade at the end, after Murshid had yelled at the Rabbi, came up and gave a nice closing talk or something. He made it all nice.
WALI ALI: You don’t recall any of the particulars do you?
SHABDA: I really don’t.
WALI ALI: I remember one thing that happened and maybe it will trigger something else. Apparently the Rabbi said something about that no one could right a single instance of any Christian politician who’d done anything against anti-Semitism, and Murshid stood up and said, “Everett Saltonstall in Massachusetts,” or something like that.
SHABDA: It was something like that. The guy kept saying, “Nobody helped us out, nobody this kind of bitter. And I guess Murshid was in a very funny place because he had all the facts when he went to the Jewish people in San Francisco and they threw him out. This was during the wartime. There was another talk we went to, too, wasn’t there? A different topic?
SHABDA: Yeah, a week before on some other topic?
SITARA: There was a lesson—Dr. Rauf was speaking.
SHABDA: Right. And I think that Murshid didn’t yell at him, or anything but I don’t think it was especially good—it was just kind of a dull, drab talk. But that’s what this thing—
WALI ALI: It didn’t have anything of the mystical element, just a sort of religious time.
SHABDA: Right, it was impossible; it didn’t make any sort of impression, let’s say. I don’t even remember what he spoke about, but I do remember Murshid saying that he was very embarrassed because the head of his order was sponsoring them and they weren’t happening. The little meditation group he thought had a lot more juice, a lot more power.
SITARA: He was very disturbed because there was never a mention of Hazrat Inayat Khan in any of the meetings under the aegis of the Sufi Order. Whereas the meetings under the aegis of the Fazal group was all Inayat Khan.
SHABDA: I remember at the apartment being disturbed with you because you were always sleeping in until 9:30AM and Murshid would be like when I’d be staying there—I don’t know if you remember this, or if you remember it the same way I do.
SITARA: That’s quite an exaggeration, Shabda, I never could have gotten away with 9:30.
SHABDA: 9AM, anyway, whatever the time was—I don’t want to embarrass you—but it is just the way I remember it.
SITARA: That’s alright.
SHABDA: Murshid would get up at 6:30 or 7AM, right? He’d go out for a walk, buy the paper, get some doughnuts or some white flour cakes, bring them home, eat breakfast, write two or three letters filled with mistakes—it was just his style of typing—just kind of hitting the typewriter. And by this time he was just bursting with all the kinds of stuff he had to do; I guess he wanted to dictate all his letters, or Commentaries—and I remember him blasting you a couple of times. “Get up or get out!” That came later in Boston.
SITARA: It only happened once, and it wasn’t over that.
WALI ALI: I do recall that when you lived here it was always a problem, because Sitara wanted to sleep late—
SITARA: I’m still not quite over it.
SHABDA: But I remember in the same connection that I came over one afternoon, and there was a bunch of dishes to be done and Sitara was doing something else and I said something like, “They made the dishes dirty, they should clean them.” Murshid picked it up and he blasted, “Wash those dishes and shut up.” It wasn’t like that, but it was that kind of sentiment. If Sitara had made them dirty than Sitara should clean them. And Sitara had some work for Murshid. And so I had some kind of thought like that and he picked it up and blasted me.
SITARA: I was very glad you did that—
SHABDA: Do you remember that?
SITARA: Yeah, I remember it well.
SITARA: I was staying home alone with him. Shahabuddin would come in from time to time and would take walks with Murshid. And to Murshid I was his Wali Ali, Moineddin, Mansur, laundress, valet cook etc.
SHABDA: That’s true, you worked hard.
SITARA: And it was murder!
WALI ALI: And you always said that you never forgave me for not letting you know what you were getting into.
SITARA: I used to say, “How could Wali Ali not tell me what to expect here?”
SHABDA: While we were in town in N.Y. we had to set up Sufi dancing in Central Park by Shahabuddin, and at the time some kids were making a film, and probably there is some footage of Murshid Sam doing Sufi dancing in Central Park. Do you remember that film, of the kids taking films?
SITARA: Yeah, was that the day Ram Dass was there?
SHABDA: In fact I think I know the people. Do you know that Ajathan, that fellow Ajathan and his brother’s name is Sudarshan and they are disciples or students of Baba Hari Dass now. They were the ones, I think, that were connected to that film making.
WALI ALI: Did they put up notices about the meetings in Central Park or was it just whoever he caught out there?
SHABDA: No, we made notices and we let as many people as we knew know about them. SITARA: There was a small corps of followers who came—ten/fifteen people.
WALI ALI: And then did he just draw people out of the park?
SHABDA: A few, not many, but we were dancing with about 15 people when they were taking films and Ram Dass was there, Baba Ram Dass, and to see them next to each other—
WALI ALI: Oh: Ram Dass tells that in his thing In the Garden. Apparently those were the people who were doing a film on him, on Ram Dass, and they just happened to follow him on that day—you must have arranged for him to meet Murshid in the park or something like that?
SHABDA: Right, I think we might have known he was coming, but the thing that stands out about it to me was this. Here we were dancing, and we had just gotten done with the dancing—Ram Dass was trying to figure out what the dancers were doing—Murshid walks right up to him; Murshid was about 5’2” and Ram Dass is about 6’2” and looks up as if very funny and says, “Okay, we’re going to say Ram for this next dance; is that okay with you?” And this is his principal mantram, Ram Dass—he used to say Ram, Ram all the time—and he just kind of adjusts and says, “Oh sure!” He was very surprised. It was a nice day of dancing and it really got a family feeling. There is a photograph of it, of the Krishna dance—the two lines where Murshid would be Krishna in front and it looks almost identical to looking at a photograph in San Francisco. And it was one of the few times that there was a nice family feeling. Along the same lines I remember Murshid saying, “This is the first time in my life I am homesick.” And he felt, maybe the same time he was sad at being homesick, he also treasured it because he felt it was first time in his life that he’d had a family to feel homesick about. It was such a moving thing, and I remember him telling me about Moineddin being in the hospital when he’d left San Francisco and what he had done—his description to me which is probably one you’ve heard before is that he went in and said he hadn’t visited Moineddin the whole time he was in the hospital, and that he felt that Moineddin was on his way, that he had already kind of half decided to split. He went in and he blasted him as hard as he could. He said, “Get the hell out of this bed, or I’m coming in with my Zen stick and beat you, and I don’t care if the nurses call the police or whatever, I’m going to beat you!! If you think you’re going to heaven, you’re not, you, you’re going straight to hell!! And if you want a job in a mattress factory, that’s okay. You’ve got a mission, and a wife, and a child, so you get out of this bed or I’m going to beat you!!” He said to me that it was the hardest thing he ever did in his whole life.
While we were there, also, I remember walking with Murshid once in Central Park, and I asked him about Hilda. He had just met Hilda, and he also said about her that he didn’t think she was that great. I had been going to her meetings—
WALI ALI: That must have been awfully difficult for you because you were the person who would always see the best side of all these teachers, what did you think when Murshid would say things like that.
SHABDA: Right. I asked him about it several times; I kept trying to get him to say why he would say that; and finally he said to me, “She’s a nice person but she’s…
SITARA: …“Not as high as she thinks she is.”
SHABDA: And he says, “I have very high standards.” From the answer, whether it was in the words or not, I started to get a glimpse of what he meant. It wasn’t all or nothing; they weren’t all either enlightened or not, and they weren’t either the greatest of nothing. He took every person as a human.
We also visited the Cloisters in New York, and you were with us. I’d had a very unusual experience there. Just when I’d met Pir Vilayat a year or a year and a half before, he told us about meditating by seeing a beam of light coming out of your third eye. So I went up to the Cloisters, with someone, and it was my first experience ever in trying to meditate, and I sat down and concentrated on this and finally it seemed as if absolutely nothing had happened, and I got up to leave. Then this woman comes up to me, and she says, “I can’t believe it but I saw this glow, like a beam of light coming out of your forehead.” Like a beam of light. And I just went—like I stood back and right away the other side of me steps in and says, “Yes, I was concentrating etc,” so anyway I don’t know who she was; you feel that some people are given assignments or something.
WALI ALI: There are those unicorns at the Cloisters with that thing coming out of their heads—
SHABDA: Right! There’s a beautiful tapestry and I got tuned in to it and some nice poetry form tapestry. So we took Murshid there to see this place and we got as far as the front and the guard was there, and Murshid looked at brick and said, “I’ve already gotten the message from here.”
He said, “This one rock is speaking so much to me. I don’t want to go any further, or it will jam the system.” And we stayed there for ten minutes or so and we left. He said it was like that poem. “I see books in running brooks.” And I don’t know how that poem goes but he said it was that kind of entranceway and that was just—
SITARA: He did sit down and go into a state, I remember that. He said, “I don’t have to look at any of tapestries, the rocks have it all.”
SHABDA: Yeah, it was so brief, and we just sat there for five or ten minutes.
WALI ALI: You went to other museums too?
SHABDA: We went to the Roerich museum.
WALI ALI: Yeah, he had a thing about Roerich.
SHABDA: In the earlier days he thought that Roerich really had a chance of getting something out.
WALI ALI: Of course I think that Roerich was probably the Bubba Free John of his time: he had a lot of money and the media behind him and he had the great pretensions of all sorts of stuff, and they had the whole art-set working. The analogy breaks down, but Roerich had the museum and Murshid tells the story of how he went to New York in the twenties, and being a social-nobody, they had this little secret thing, he was going with the Buddhists like with these Buddhist Tankas and so on, Murshid was going to try to explain all this stuff. He felt that he knew something about the whole universal experiments in Roerich, and the pretensions of individuals and it was a theme of….
SHABDA: I remember we walked in there about five to five or something, just before they were going to close, and we made a three-minute skirmish of the three floors of paintings. And Murshid, mostly what he concentrated on was buying about ten copies of the Mother of the World which he distributed to—
WALI ALI: The women in the Ladies Dance class.
SITARA: And he said, “There’s nothing here, there’s nothing left; the baraka’s all gone.”
SHABDA: Right, I remember him saying that. And he was very nice to the old lady who was managing the museum—
SITARA: Who was very rude to him—
SHABDA: That’s right, she was very rude, “We don’t want to stay open late.” He had that kind of rough exterior that people didn’t tune in to who he was—
WALI ALI: People in New York are rather rude anyway.
SHABDA: So we also visited Cleve Backster in New York and he was, to give some background on him, he used to work for the FBI and he was their expert on lie detectors—another name for them is galvanatic skin response, they measure change of potential. And while he was in his office, this was maybe five years before we met him, he said that “was now going to hook up the machine up to the leaf of a plant, and I’ll water it and see how long a reaction will take to show on the needle.” And that is how he started. So he watered it; right away the needle would show in the leaf that there was a change in the temperature—a difference in temperature in the leaf in the electric field, and he said, thought to himself, “I wonder what will happen if I burn the leaf?” And right away the needle goes off the edge of the machine, and so this led to five years of research in to what has now become, I guess, the psychic world of plants. And he dropped out of the FBI and started his own research projects and did some very far out experiments. Murshid went there, and I just remember their discussing Murshid not so much giving him information, but just giving him all the juice he could. You were there?
SHABDA: Just poured it and poured it, as much love as possible, positivity, saying, “What you are doing is fantastic,” and he kept turning, and I remember—we’d be on the side—he’d day, “I knew this years ago, but God told me to stop, I was too far ahead of my time.” And I don’t remember.
SITARA: And he likened him to Jagadis Bose—
SITARA: Some Indian—
WALI ALI: Indian scientist, right. He had done similar work.
SITARA: And every time Backster would go out of the room, he would turn to you and me and say, “This is better than I ever would have believed.”
SHABDA: Right. He was just overjoyed, and he just showed him by giving a lot of support by listening too.
SITARA: And finally he discovered that his father, Backster’s father had been a preacher, and that Backster had turned away from religion because it seemed phony to him or something, and then when Backster walked, into the room, he said, “This is better.”
SHABDA: Yeah, I remember that
SITARA: But do you remember that you hooked Murshid up to the machine?
SHABDA: No, I don’t remember that.
SITARA: He hooked him up to the machine, and he sat watching the needle and Backster is just going out of his mind-
SHABDA: Oh yeah, the needle kept going off the edge—
SITARA: He said, “I can’t believe it, it went off the edge of the top, and off the edge on the bottom, and the needle just kept jumping back and forth.” And I thought it meant that Murshid was upset, but, I later realized that it was just his juice, it was the measuring of his energy that was coming through. And Backster said, “My God I’ve never seen anything like this,” and he kept circling it in red where it would go off.
Let me give you a sense of the work he was doing; he would be giving a talk, and he had this one plant that became his subject that he would use a lot, so he’d be giving a talk on this plant 1000 miles away, and the plant would be in New York, and he would be giving a talk and showing photographs, and the plant would be showing a reaction in New York. And his evidence would seem to show that his distance didn’t play in the receiving of thoughts to the plant. They tried encasing it in a lead shield and that didn’t seem to help—they would take brine shrimp and pour boiling water on them—and if anything in the room was being killed the plant would show a reaction. Somebody would come in to the room who was uptight, and the plant would show a reaction—the most amazing things happened. How sensitive the plant was—just what you would have expected if you thought of it or considered it from the correct point of view. And he had done it in a scientific way so that the evidence was demonstrable.
SITARA: I remember Backster making a big point about if they killed a life in the next room that was of lesser evolution than the plant, the plant would not react—would react the first time but its reaction would decrease each time.
SHABDA: Yeah, because they noticed that the first time there was a reaction; what they did was that after awhile they left the machine on all the time, and they connected it to a sound, so they wouldn’t have to watch the meter to see what was happening, so every time the plant would react above a certain amount the sound would go off, and they would know that something had set the sound off and then they’d have to backtrack and figure it out. Like when they poured the boiling water from the coffee down the sink the plant would react the first time, so that was what led them to investigating killing different life forms and having the plant react, because the bacteria in the sink would get burned up. Murshid was really pleased with that. I remember that. I remember also—you might know more about what happened there but I remember we went to Weiser’s while we were there and he bought that book by Shahabuddin which led to Shahabuddin’s name.
WALI ALI: Awarifu-l-Ma'arif.
SHABDA: Right: And he also said that he’d used that book on a retreat, I think, on some retreat he had taken that book in with him.
SITARA: That was the June 10 Fairfax retreat.
WALI ALI: In any case it had been one of his early studies in Sufism because they didn’t have this great availability of literature then.
SHABDA: I went back to Weiser’s and they said they remembered him—when Murshid’s book came out—I was in New York the next year—
WALI ALI: Which book is that? “Toward Spiritual Brotherhood”?
SHABDA: Yeah, and I took a bunch of advanced copies there—20 copies or something, and they said, oh yes, they remembered him. I was kind of surprised because he had only been there for ten or twenty minutes or something like that.
SITARA: He spoke to Weiser himself congratulating him on publishing—it was his own publication and he was very glad that he was publishing these books which had been out of print for years. And he spoke to him about his own works that were coming out, and Weiser was very interested and said, please “Contact me when they come out and I’d love to sell them.”
WALI ALI: I remember a story he told about this, he said, “I went in there and there was one shelf all full of these books on Zen, and the next aisle full of these books on Sufism, and he pointed to the books on Zen and said “these are all worthless.“ He said, “This is all very good.”
SHABDA: Yeah, I remember him making things like that, and there were things that I just didn’t have any understanding for and I just kind of let them go through; I never knew what he was trying to say about those types of things. We also did some dancing at Columbia, didn’t we? We went up to Columbia where Shahabuddin later led the meetings? And it was a very small meeting I remember.
SITARA: Yeah, there were only about six people there. Tom Miller, Wahid, was one of the regulars.
SHABDA: There was this very beautiful, high, high, high ceiling like a chapel—St. Johns? Shahabuddin can give you the name of it. I always felt like when we were there—even when we were there at the time that it was much more like seed-planting than anything; he was planting the seeds for the work in New York. Shahabuddin said that he made him his New York representative; that he’d said, “I want you to be my New York representative, do you want to do it?” He said, “Okay.”
WALI ALI: Did Saadia come in to New York?
SHABDA: She came in twice; she was with her husband at the time.
WALI ALI: They were to be married—
SHABDA: Right; and I remember that she had made some appointment to come at a certain time and she was late and Murshid was very disturbed with her. I remember he got very angry with her for being late.
SITARA: He was very hard on her that trip, very hard; she was arguing with her husband all the time about Gandhi and Islam, and she was saying that Gandhi wasn’t real because he didn’t read Koran, and Ata, her betrothed was saying that he was a good man. Murshid just lit into her a lot. He’d say, “You’ve got to listen to your husband” (inaudible). He said he lit into her about Islam and said, “Mohammed said, ‘seek wisdom even unto China,’” and he said, “You can’t stop with Qur’an, you can’t stop with the Holy lines of Islamiat, you have to go further than that, and Saadia was … he was very hard on her.
WALI ALI: I recall also—you have Saadia on your list?—I want to discuss this while Sitara is here. What about his relationship with Ata? He never took him on as a disciple? Was Ata attracted to Murshid, do you recall?
SITARA: Yes: very much, and Murshid loved him very much. After we met him we took a walk—this was still in Ithaca—and he said, "This is better than ever would have hoped for, he is almost a perfect man." He loved him very much and he said he was just the perfect man for Saadia, and I told this to Saadia and she said, "Please have him write a letter so I can show it to my family in Pakistan," which he later did, and we gave it to her to take with her. He loved Ata very much.
WALI ALI: He was—of course it is curious what happened with him. Of course now Saadia has arranged it in her consciousness, she has it all set up, she has a way of doing that.
SITARA: What does she say?
WALI ALI: Well now he's—
SITARA: No good?
WALI ALI: No, great!
SHABDA: Didn't he commit suicide?
WALI ALI: He committed suicide and went through all sorts of numbers. A lot of pressure she put on him too without a lot of psychological understanding of how to work with somebody. There are a lot of explanations that there is no point to our going into. I never met him myself. No, I was just interested in what you had to say.
SITARA: I have a lot to say about it, but I can do when we tape my interview.
SHABDA: I wasn't real tuned in because they did most of the meeting in Ithaca, and then they just came back
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, you went to Ithaca with Murshid?
WALI ALI: And you said something about that Saadia wanted to go shopping and Sitara had to take her….
SHABDA: Right, oh yeah, that was terrible, she kept saying, “ Won’t you come with me, I want to go to Macy’s,” and Murshid kept saying, “I need her here, I need her here,” and I couldn't understand it. This was my first meeting with Murshid’s Khalifa god-daughter and she was about as tuned in—she wasn't very tuned in—at the time.
SITARA: She was kind of bossing.
SHABDA: Yeah, it was like when he would meet with Pir Vilayat, they were missing each other. One would go one way and the other another. I remember just to tell a funny, story, I never told this to Majid and Saul—but I told you I was living with Majid before I left and when we went to the camp together we were finally working our trip out and we were getting close again, and then I went off to New York and so we were writing letters back and forth to each other, and then there was no answer after a couple of weeks, so I was suspicious that something was going on, when this girl Ellen Blum, who used to live with us, came to New York to visit her parents, and she told me that everyone had gotten kicked out of Pineal Street; this was when all that stuff was happening that I wasn’t around for, and that Majid who was Joan was staying over at Saul’s place so I put two and two together and I wrote her a letter, said, “Don’t worry about whatever is happening; if that’s what’s happening, great! And I had the letter and I was driving Murshid somewhere in Central Park or near Central Park, I remember where we were even, I think it was in Central Park West. And I said,
SITARA: That’s it!
SHABDA: You were in the car too? It was in Central Park West around the 70’s, and Murshid said to me, “Who is that letter to?” And I said, “To Joan,” and he said, “I have two disciples named Joan, which one?” There were three.
SITARA: I was a Joan.
SHABDA: Maybe he meant the two back there; there was that, what’s her name now?
WALI ALI: Anjani, yeah, Anjani O’Connell.
SHABDA: And so, I said it was to Joan/Majid. And he said, “What did you say to her? “ So I said, “I was living with her and this and that, and now I understand she is staying over at Saul’s,” and this was a big thing for me because I had to go into my heart, mind and give it up, right? “And I wrote her a letter that everything is okay whatever she wants to do; I’m not going to hold on to anything.” And so Murshid’s answer to me was, “Oh don’t worry, Saul doesn’t stay with anyone very long!” This is what he said, so that really put me through a change, for here I’d given her all up and he comes and says, “Don’t worry.” And thank God they have a wonderful trip going together.
SITARA: I think later that day or maybe that moment he said, “If she succeeds in softening him, they’ll stay together.”
SHABDA: Maybe he said that to you, but not to me, or I didn’t hear it.
SITARA: Yeah, it was to me.
SHABDA: We visited Rye but that was when we came back from Boston, right?
WALI ALI: Oh, you went with him to that conference in Rye?
SHABDA: I don’t know whether we should talk about that now or after the Boston trip?
WALI ALI: We'll take it up chronologically.
SITARA: I really don’t remember, it may have been on the way to Boston.
SHABDA: To Boston? I don’t think so, because I didn’t drive with you, I flew to Boston remember?
SITARA: And you drove up to meet us?
SHABDA: Let’s talk about Rye since we mentioned it. We were invited by a guy named Charles Berner.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I just heard him on the radio; now he is Yogishwarmouni.
SHABDA: I knew he got some name and I couldn’t believe it! Yogishwarmouni! Great! I hope he has a better line now; he was really off the wall. Anyway, we were invited along with Swami Satchidananda, Rabbi Gelberman, this guy—
WALI ALI: Had Murshid met Rabbi Gelberman at that point before?
SHABDA: Ni, We met him there , and then we went back to his place and we went to a Kabbalah seminar.
WALI ALI: Right.
SHABDA: I've heard it said about Murshid in other places that he was so fantastic that he could always be person’s student. He wasn't always trying to be the big teacher, just the student.
WALI ALI: So there was Satchidananda and?
SHABDA: And this guy from Pennsylvania, Amrit Desai—
WALI ALI: Who was a Sikh?
SHABDA: No, he was a yoga teacher; he had a little group in Pennsylvania. Hilda was there?
WALI ALI: Who else?
SHABDA: Charles Berner—
SITARA: Oh another young girl from Pennsylvania who was teaching yoga; do you remember her a real sensitive girl?
SHABDA: The first day was spent—
SITARA: And Yogi Bhajan—
SHABDA: Yogi Bhajan, right! Yogi Bhajan and Murshid were getting along, because just before he had come to New York, that trip came down—
WALI ALI: In Golden Gate Park—
SHABDA: Right! There is a story about that, he says, "This one guy gets on the microphone and says,”—I wasn't there, I am just telling you how I heard it—this guy gets on the microphone and starts putting down Yogi Bhajan, saying, "You have beautiful girls for your secretaries, and you take them with you on the airplane," and this and that. And Murshid says, "I grabbed the microphone—you're telling us all his good points, if you want to put him down, at least tell them the bad points!" He said, "That shut the guy up pretty quick."
WALI ALI: That was a funny encounter.
SHABDA: So the first day we spent, everybody was supposed to tell about their guru. And it was just ridiculous, it was really ridiculous; here you think that all these people who are spiritual leaders should really get together and it was really—it wasn't very get together. Anyway, along the way when everyone was telling about their teacher, this one guy, Amrit Desai is praising—"I have this great guru," and this and that and this and that guru, guru, guru, my guru is great—everybody told something. And then in the afternoon session, after lunch we all met in the conference room with Charles Berner and he is putting forth this plan and he says, "I called you here because we want to have a world enlightenment festival," and he didn't get more than into the second sentence when Murshid just blows up. He says, "This is ridiculous! All we are here are: one Rabbi, two Swamis and a Yogi, and you are calling this the world, I won't take any part in it until you get eight Japanese, eighty…." and then he starts naming who—"and beside it is not from Divine Guidance," and he was really—just like that and Swami Satchidananda didn’t get the message. I guess he’s like you said, in the third plane—he’s real angelic. And he is going, “Oh well, Mr. Lewis I don’t think it is quite so bad,” and Murshid says, “I do!” He was trying to be very nice, and then Yogi Bhajan in the same time would say—at that time he was acting the mediator, I guess this was his role. And he was saying, “We should listen to the Murshid, he has some real wisdom.” He was trying to play both ends, right? But Murshid just blasted them and he said, “It’s ridiculous, and I don’t want any part of it.” And I think it is very interesting that later Swami Satchidananda lost a bunch of money on some conference.
WALI ALI: Oh, he ended at the place where he wouldn’t even—he got so burned by this Abilitism or Charles Berner trip down in L.A.—I haven’t heard all the details of it—it was many years ago, that for years he refused to participate in all sorts of programs, everything he just pulled back—it’s real funny.
SHABDA: I don’t know what his memories of Murshid Sam are.
WALI ALI: It’s real funny in a way that karma brings so much that happens.
SHABDA: I remember that evening some girl who was a newspaper reporter asked Murshid if he would write up an account—if she could meet with him for the newspapers to—and this guy, Amrit Desai shows up—and he just kind of sits in on the conversation and takes over the whole interview with the chick—and he is saying, he writes up this very mushy thing from Krishnamurti, and the day before Murshid was just steaming at him because….
WALI ALI: Because he was talking about his guru.
SHABDA: Right and Krishnamurti says, “Oh there is no such thing as a guru and all this other jazz,” and Murshid was really pissed off at this guy. He just kind of—I don’t think he even bothered giving it to him, it was that far gone. And I remember that night saying “goodnight” to Murshid and he was in a hurry to be in his room and he was just sitting on his head and he was doing his practices silently—and his head was going—he was probably doing the Zikr practices. And I remember I was really moved by the feeling that there he was, and he was making himself nothing before God. He wasn’t going to his room and sitting there like the great king, or anything like that—because we were staying in some other room there was a dormitory type of thing for the helpers of the teachers. To us also, he said, “All these swamis and everyone think they are so great, I think this Rabbi is the best man here.” Do you remember him saying something like that? Anyway, he liked Rabbi Gelberman, I don’t know if he thought he was anything great or less but he appreciated him because he was honest. What were you going to say?
WALI ALI: I was going to say that he said something about how Yogi Bhajan could see that Gelberman had something going and that's why he tried to get him involved in this conference. Yogi Bhajan later told me, "Yeah, I wanted him to be the chairman of the whole thing," but he could sense Murshid's energy. And Swami Satchidananda was so put off by the outer disharmony.
SHABDA: We left there the next day.
WALI ALI: How many days did that thing last? He also said something about how that conference was like going to kindergarten, and he said, "And it was so offensive the way the people came on to say, “We'll meet without your disciples so you can open up and talk and put together all of these inner teachings," he was just so rebellious about it—
SHABDA: Yeah, it was just one of those disappointing facts of life when you go there and you were hoping that something nice would come down and it was just a waste of time. The time was spent revealing to you what wasn't happening, so either before that or after that we went to Boston. I think I flew up there and you drove, right? I was still connected with helping my father all this time, and he needed me to drive him to the hospital for checkups and things like that. So in Boston we stayed at Sally Ann's Schreiber—now Azimat.
WALI ALI: Azimat Dowla.
SHABDA: At her house on Speridakis terrace.
WALI ALI: We stayed there when we went there too.
SHABDA: And she still has the same place. There was also a cat there, I remember Murshid happy that there was a cat and
end of side two, reel one.
Reel two; side one:
SHABDA: I remember one of the people who was tuned in up there was a fellow named Ronnie White who is still up there and is one of Karmu's students. And I remember he was in the School of Divinities—and he set up for us the use of this room because at the time—was Abraham there?
SITARA: Abraham was still—
WALI ALI: Patty Martin—
SHABDA: Patty Martin was there; there's a great story about that since we've just mentioned her. We were at Patty Martin's house visiting, right?
SITARA: You were there; I think you stayed there—
SITARA: Yes, you stayed there one night—
SHABDA: Maybe—I was there—
SITARA: Yeah, and then we visited them—
SHABDA: The way I remember it, we were sitting in their house, Sitara, and Patty and Murshid and myself, and in walks this guy who is coming to visit who is a stranger, and Murshid jumps up from the couch and says, "This is perfect, there are five people, I can show you my new Ram Nam for five dance," and I don't know what the other fellow's take was on the whole thing. It must have been very unusual, so he showed us his Ram Nam for five dance.
WALI ALI: When I was in Boston this time, I saw her and she said that her father really loved Sam, and he would say, "Sam, you are too old to dance, "and Sam would just laugh and keep on dancing.
SHABDA: There are some things I remember, let me go back to New York for a second. I took my mother to meet Murshid and we went out to dinner together and we went to another Indian restaurant way downtown, which was certainly not her line, but she wasn't going along for the dinner, she didn't mind that, and we sat around, and I think that Murshid paid about one second's worth of attention because there were all these young people.
WALI ALI: He could ignore parents like anything.
SHABDA: He just ignored her and then it came time to pay the bill and she wanted to chip in and she gave him this ten dollar bill and I think she was expecting some change back or something; he just took it and he didn't even say thank you, or anything, and he just went—
SABIRA: Shahabuddin was there too—
SHABDA: And then we had a meeting downtown in this church in Greenwich Village, which was a medium sized meeting, ten/fifteen people. I remember it was on 8th. Street or something—yeah we had a meeting down there.
SITARA: Alright, that was where we started having meetings—
SHABDA: Right, we used that room and the Columbia room, those two rooms, and I asked him later. I said that I didn't understand why he was like that.
WALI ALI: About the dinner?
SHABDA: No, about to my mother, why he was so—I said, "Murshid, how come you were so nasty to my mother?" He said, "I don't have to act any way to anybody." That was one thing and also other times he would say, "Sometimes I try to make a bad impression on people, because if I made a good impression I would have to live up to something."
WALI ALI: Did he say that to you?
SHABDA: I don't think he said that in connection to this experience, but he always said to me in response to my question, "I don't have to act any way," so I just took it in as another facet of Murshid. So back to Boston, I remember sitting around this room, we had gone there earlier to see what room we were going to use for the meeting and meeting with Ronnie White and Murshid saying to Ronie White, "I'm giving you my dance manual and if you like I will make you my Boston representative." And he decided against it. He didn't decide at that moment but Murshid made the offer again, "I'm making you my Boston representative," and he said he didn't want it later on. And we had this meeting there, and we had gone out to dinner that night with Khadija's parents, and we ate in some Chinese restaurant.
WALI ALI: Were you there for that?
SITARA: You bet!
SHABDA: And we sat around and we were talking about—
WALI ALI: Did her mother try to dominate the conversation or was she listening?
SHABDA: It was a nice balance! When we got there, she had told him that she was working for cancer research so when we got to the meeting after we had done some dances Murshid starts giving his talk. He says, “And all this bunk about cancer research and they think it is cigarettes and alcohol, it's—how did it go? “And cigarettes are the scapegoat. I think it is a lot of bunk, beef and alcohol are just as responsible, really it's just because people are uptight, "and she, she had been doing—she was the vice-president or something in charge of cancer research, she was just outraged. And she started getting up and yelling and they stood about two inches away from each other and they yelled at each other for a good five minutes. And he had been invited at dinner time to go up to their cabin on the coast and play bridge and this and that so that was the end of that.
WALI ALI: Did he ask her to leave—did he kick her out of the meeting? No, she left.
WALI ALI: She left in the middle?
SHABDA: She left in a huff!
WALI ALI: He said something like, "I won't go on with this unless this woman shuts up—
SHABDA: Probably, something like, "Will you shut up?" He wasn't nice to her and she wasn't nice to him, either, they were having an argument, they were at it tooth and nail, so she left in a huff in the middle. And it was always odd because all these people who were around had to be there for this encounter, right. Here's this spiritual teacher they are just meeting, and he is just yelling!
SITARA: They didn't know who she was; they didn't know she had just been out to dinner with him—
WALI ALI: Apparently at dinner—was that the dinner where he wouldn't let people order what they wanted? He ordered for everybody or something?
SITARA: Yeah, he had sat down after me had and the Halls started ordering,
SHABDA: And he got very badly disturbed because here he was—
SITARA: Yeah, but he blew at me actually, and said, "When you eat with your spiritual teacher, you let him do it."
SHABDA: Right, but he actually took us out to dinner maybe twenty five times—
WALI ALI: And he always paid for it.
SHABDA: He always paid for it, yeah, and in New York we went out to eat a lot—
SITARA: Right: Lunch and dinner.
SHABDA: And I was 80% vegetarian at the time but I sure changed fast. I guess Shahabuddin said he ordered a salad, but I wasn't in to that anymore—I caught on.
SITARA: Yeah, one correction about Shahabuddin's tape; do you remember he said that Murshid used to tip small and it used to embarrass him but he learned to accept it? But before he learned to accept it he used to come back to the table and add to the tip from his own pocket change, but then I guess he realized it wasn't necessary.
SHABDA: We did—because as Shahabuddin said, where we went we would sing Grace and Murshid would go back in the back and talk to the cooks—
WALI ALI: Did he insist in ordering for the Halls too?
SITARA: I think he ordered for the whole table, there were about six of us at the table—
WALI ALI: He always used to do that at Chinese Restaurants—he didn't do that at other restaurants.
SHABDA: We went to eat in a Greek restaurant and he ordered retsina once in Boston—
SITARA: Oh yes, and he drank quite a bit of it. It was wonderful, I had a great time there—
SHABDA: So we had that meeting and we also had an interview in that same room with some girl for a radio show—
WALI ALI: In Boston?
SHABDA: Right. You have the tape of that too? Right?
WALI ALI: Somewhere:
SHABDA: I remember also that whenever we went to a restaurant he'd always take a doggy-bag home to the animals. He was always tied in to the animals. Also while we were there, we went to this meeting called Dance-Free, and Murshid was really happy with that. This was a meeting that some dancers were putting on and every week they would put on different music and everyone would just dance-free! There would just be a room of a hundred people dancing and they'd put on music from Rock and Roll, Middle Eastern, Indian, drum music, African, they just tried to be as universal—in the sense of music from all over the world—as they could. And they invited Murshid to come, and I remember he was telling us on the side, "This group is very advanced and I am going to give them my Elements walks." And we had a line, there were a lot of people there—
SITARA: I remember—
SHABDA: What it was, was that we went there in the middle of a meeting and it wasn't a meeting but he was invited to come and when he came everyone came and sat around—
SITARA: After he had done something at a church—
SHABDA: Right, that's right, because there was the same … that happened to have been scheduled the same night as we done our own meeting and he had everyone walking behind him and doing the walks of the Elements, and clapping the fire walk and he was very happy with that meeting I remember.
SITARA: He said after that that Boston was the San Francisco of the East. And "These people had it," and more than any other place he'd been. And all I saw was a room full of Uranian crazies—I can't tell you I was so blown out by what I saw I just wanted to get out of there. I finally saw what they were; they were just free, they were free-flowing.
SHABDA: Yeah, I remember that was the one place where he really blew up at you, Sitara, in Boston, about tuning in to what he wanted. I don't know if it was just getting up or what, but you can probably say better what it was about—
SITARA: It's a long story—
SHABDA: I was just sitting there and I was just feeling terrible for Sitara because he was really pulverizing her and then he gave me a little blast, like a mini-blast and I felt very happy to get that, to get in on the energy. Because I was just sitting in the other room just listening, and he said, "Either get it together or get out." It was that heavy, "Either you get it together now or forget it."
SITARA: He didn't even give me a choice; he just told me to leave!
SHABDA: It was really heavy, and so I think that that day, either that day or because you were out on some other mission or errand I was his secretary for interviews—
SHABDA: And I guess you must still have it because we kept a record of what he said to everybody that he saw for interviews.
WALI ALI: I think I've seen it, yes.
SHABDA: I remember this one girl, I don't remember her name, that one who married Ronnie White later on—what was her name? She had been coming around and she was a very sweet person but she was a little bit Neptunian, I guess. It was easy for me to see being of that type, and she said something, "I think they are very sweet," and he said, he blasted her and she left crying, and I felt very sorry for her. We went to Karmu's—
WALI ALI: Who was very sweet?—
SHABDA: I don't know, there was some conversation, I don't remember, maybe it was about Yogananda—
WALI ALI: Oh I see, something like that?
SHABDA: Yeah, something like that—and she was just going around saying things like, "isn't that nice?" And he was saying, "It is not nice! shut up:" And he was very gruff with her.
SITARA: He got gruffer and gruffer—
SHABDA: He also was having some hives type of things and he was scratching, and I think he tried to get it cleared up when he got back too. Because I remember when he was in the hospital he was always scratching—
WALI ALI: He never got rid of that—
SITARA: He was also constipated—
SHABDA: Oh yeah, but when we got back to New York he wasn’t, because he was running to the bathroom every minute and his pants were just as wet.
SITARA: That's because Karmu gave him those pills.
SHABDA: Yeah, he said, "This is impossible," because he'd be trying to dictate and every five minutes he would run to the bathroom to take pooh. So we went to Karmu's and he gave us the dope on who Karmu was—about the pole,
WALI ALI: How'd he happen to meet Karmu?
SHABDA: He met him with Mansur the year before, I think, at the conference.
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, he'd been to Boston the year before, he had been in Boston.
SHABDA: He went on his way to Geneva, or something like that. So we went there and Karmu was very happy to see him and Karmu worked on him—I remember that Murshid had just his tee-shirt on. And Murshid was just giggling and giggling, the whole room was just getting all this bubbly air.
WALI ALI: Karmu is going to be here this weekend.
SHABDA: Just coming here or coming to town?
WALI ALI: He's coming here to San Francisco for a few days. Paul Stein is taking him around to a few places.
SHABDA: And then he had Karmu work on me, I remember, and my whole back was just flaming red, remember that? He just—yeah, Murshid was laughing all the time, so that was our introduction, I remember it well. You were really tied into it too, and after that you started going to him.
SITARA: He had actually brought me to Karmu to be healed, because you see the reason I wasn't getting up in the morning was because I had mononucleosis and then this tooth-ache. I was a mess. So he brought me to Karmu.
SHABDA: Another interesting experience is when we were there it was Murshid's birthday—Oct. 18—
WALI ALI: In Boston?
SHABDA: And so Siddiq came by (Hans) who was in to—
WALI ALI: His parents lived around there—
SITARA: Right, and they were in town and they took us out to a Russian hot-bath—this was his birthday present to Murshid and so here we were—you didn't go to this one because it was only for men, we were all sitting around with towels around our waists sitting in this steamy hot bath with all these fat business men—and it was great because the business men would be saying—they'd be talking about their girls, right? So Murshid started perking up and says, "I've got some girls, and I've got a ladies dance class, and I’ve got a….” and I was getting a little worried about him too, because it was a little much for an older. And I remember there these special guys with these oak-leaf brooms and they would come and rub you down, and Siddiq said, "You have to have this guy do it," and I had him do it to me and it was a real trip that he had taken us there.
WALI ALI: Did Murshid dig it?
SHABDA: I think he dug the fact that Siddiq was giving him some juice, that's all. I don't think he cared at all about the baths or the guys there at all. But he did tell them what he was doing, and that night we all went down and had dinner together—
WALI ALI: I would think that—Azimat has the same birthday as Murshid—
SITARA: That's right, they planned a dinner—
SHABDA: Yeah, we had a big birthday dinner at that Orson Welles' place.
SITARA: Orson Welles, right, which he loved; it was a new restaurant.
SHABDA: It was a new-age restaurant because they had vegetarian food, they had fish and they had meat, and they also didn't have the same menu every day. They had—every week or every day they would change it to some different nationality type of food, so he really liked it. They had a big birthday party, there were about 20 people all ate dinner together.
WALI ALI: He was going to go to Washington but he called that off, right?
SHABDA: Right, for some reason.
SITARA: Yeah, he called that off when he got back to New York—
SHABDA: You asked me if he liked the hot bath. These two girls who had been coming to the meetings, who I think later came out here for awhile, took us to the Hippocrates Health Institute and this woman there was doing work with wheat grass, sprouted wheat for healing, and I don't remember too much of what he said but—except that it was alright.
SITARA: Oh I know, he came back and he ran a whole spiel. He said, "Raw foods, I’ve evidence whatever that raw foods are the best thing for you.”
SHABDA: Yeah, I've heard him say at other times that he felt fire was a gift from God and that some raw food was okay, but cooked food was important too. But anyway I always felt like he was going there and he was taking pleasure in the place because these girls were there—like he was going to the place of his students, saving then. When we went back to New York, he had started taking Karmu's capsules, and he'd constantly be running to the bathroom. He was really a mess, like he'd always have pee stains all over his pants; he was just really funky, running back and forth to the bathroom, and he had these hives that had started. Remember anything else about that, washing?
SITARA: Just that you left, and we drove down and stopped at Dinny and Chris Brigg’s house and—
SHABDA: And I had to fly back, that's right.
SITARA: Oh yeah, the radio interview; did we discuss that?
WALI ALI: He was generally comparing the response of people in Boston and in New York. They were more responsive in Boston?
SHABDA: It was more innocent—honest and innocent, all those people all those people in New York were sophisticated because they already had Swami Muktananda coming so they were all looking at it from a different point of view; they were already on someone else's bandwagon, and it was more like that kind of thing. So we spent a few more days in New York, I think, another week, I don't remember—I think that was when he was doing that Commentary on Saum—
WALI ALI: When was he writing the Peace Plan?
SHABDA: Before then, and that's when the letter came in the middle of that, wasn't it?
SITARA: I don't remember.
SHABDA: He was writing that day to day, he didn't write it all at once, he wrote a few pages one day and a few pages the next, I think—it came out over a period of a few days. And one thing he'd always do when you got there is he would always show you the letters he wrote and say, "Read this," and I remember the same type of thing he would say, "You are serving me by reading my Diaries; you are helping me by reading my Diaries." I remember reading his Diaries—it took a lot of reading. Then we flew together back to San Francisco; you stayed in New York. Right?
WALI ALI: In New York, when you went back there what did he concentrate on when you went back? Was he more—I recall that there were more things to do with the peace thing—
SHABDA: I think that that is when the UN thing started happening.
SITARA: Wasn't that when he contacted somebody at Columbia?
WALI ALI: Ambassador Badeau.
SITARA: Ambassador Badeau—I can't remember when that fit in—but that was a wonderful meeting, he was very pleased—
SHABDA: There was a father in N.Y., Father O'Malley was the guy’s name?
SITARA: Oh, in South Orange?
SHABDA: We went to some guy in New Jersey, who was a Father—
WALI ALI: It wasn't O'Malley—
SHABDA: I don't know, I tried to remember—
WALI ALI: It was somebody who had been at the Temple of Understanding conference—
SHABDA: And Murshid showed him the movements to the Lord's Prayer.
SITARA: My uncle was working for the American Jewish Committee and I called him and said, "Who should meet this Murshid that I have with me—and I told him about the work he was interested in in the Middle East—whom should he meet that you know?" He said, "He should go out to Seton hall and meet this father," which he did, and his name is in a letter somewhere. It turned out that this guy had stacks of papers on his desk all about proposals for peace in the Middle East and scientific studies on salt-water conservation and this sort of thing. It was quite a meeting and it was very high. I don't remember much of what was said, and it ended with Murshid—he just simply started sating the Lord's Prayer and doing the movements and putting his head on the floor, and this guy is sitting there at this big massive desk and Murshid just…. (three conversations—inaudible)
SHABDA: Yeah, it was always the feeling that if he'd meet with someone he was so far ahead that you never felt that it was like a normal conversation. It was like he had this enormous thing to get out and he'd say a few words and if you knew all the history you could hear him saying it, but he would say a few words, and you knew the other guy kind of maybe caught something or maybe he didn't. I remember that feeling that it must have been very frustrating for him—maybe if you'd ask some more questions about New York—
WALI ALI: Weren't there other things: Like the UN Plaza—there were people that were—
SITARA: No one went with him that day except Shahabuddin on that UN trip.
WALI ALI: Oh, I see!
SITARA: I was very disappointed about the whole thing, so you'll have to ask him.
SHABDA: That day I didn't go with him—
SITARA: What about the UN?
SHABDA: I don't know, we could have done some dancing at the UN plaza, but I don't remember because I think I wasn't there for that, I just heard about it, otherwise I'd remember it seems.
SITARA: I know I had to drop him off and I had to watch them walk away.
SHABDA: I do remember visiting your friend Sindoori—
SITARA: Oh yeah.
SHABDA: On thirteenth st.
SITARA: Did you go over there with him that day?
SHABDA: Yeah, he went over to Sindoori's shop, he bought some Tasbihs, the plastic ones.
SITARA: The shiny ones?
SITARA: And then he said that Sindoori had the biggest heart of anyone you'd met in New York.
SHABDA: He must have said that to you because I wasn't that friendly with him. He'd say that about Sindoori, but Sindoori didn't think that Murshid had the biggest heart.
SITARA: He might now.
SHABDA: Yeah, he might now, but he didn't when they met.
SITARA: There was one contact that he met at Columbian University that was sponsoring a trip to the Middle East and they were going to award one free one to someone who wrote the best essay, and I remember he had me send it to Banefasha, and said, "If she doesn't go, you should go"
SHABDA: We went to a recital, a music recital at Columbia, I remember: a vina concert and some dancing, it was lovely.
SITARA: Oh yes!
SHABDA: And Murshid liked that a lot, he was very moved by the vina thing.
SITARA: Yeah, and they had presad and it was a real totally Indian thing—
SHABDA: Yeah, right, he enjoyed that.
SITARA: It was wonderful, it was the only time I remember that he was very…
SHABDA: South Indian vina—
WALI ALI: So did he initiate any people in New York? He initiated Shahabuddin.
SITARA: That's right, he initiated Shahabuddin.
WALI ALI: Did he initiate any people in Boston?
SITARA: I don't remember, but he had an esoteric notebook—
WALI ALI: Did he initiate Azimat?
SHABDA: Wasn't she already initiated?
WALI ALI: Oh well maybe he'd met her before.
SHABDA: I don't know, maybe he didn't initiate her.
SITARA: Harry—what's his name?—he initiated. And gave him practices, I remember that, and he invited him to a few dances—but he never turned out.
SITARA: He wasn't in the space to turn out.
SHABDA: I remember that Wahid was coming around; he came around a whole bunch of times, Tom Miller, and also that other lawyer friend of Shahabuddin.
SITARA: Yeah, Murshid liked him very much.
SHABDA: What was his name?
SITARA: His name is Vakil now.
SITARA: Richard, I think?
WALI ALI: Okay, let's go on and leave N.Y. behind. What else?
SHABDA: We came back to San Francisco.
WALI ALI: You flew back with Murshid?
SHABDA: I flew back and he was very definite that we should fly TWA because that was the one that served the best food—
WALI ALI: I remember meeting you at the airport; there were a bunch of people there, I think it was that trip—
SITARA: He said he didn't want a bunch of people there.
SHABDA: No, there weren't a bunch of people there—
WALI ALI: There were a number of people there, and he just came up to me and said he didn't want to see anybody, that he just wanted to go home with me.
SHABDA: I remember it was interesting for me. Here I was being Murshid's assistant for so long, and I knew that when I got back here it would be a position that wasn't as close to him—or even just physically, so it was like a kind of withdrawal symptoms thing. I came back and I stayed up at Joan's—the other Joan's place.
WALI ALI: Joan O'Connell—
SHABDA: Joan O'Connell which was across the street from Murshid—
WALI ALI: Across the street from Murshid's?
SHABDA: Across the street from Saul's up on Ripley street—and I was coming down here, and I guess I was trying to find my work again—what I was supposed to do. And in that interim Murshid was always saying that his secretary left him and that he didn't have enough typists. And I would say, " Murshid I'll go to typing school," and he would say, "No, I don't want you to type for me," and this kind of thing, so he never wanted me to be his secretary. I later did that work for Moineddin for two or three years. I remember he started a men's dance class.
One thing before the men's dance class. I remember we went to an arboretum in Boston, remember?
SITARA: Yes, oh yes.
SHABDA: And Murshid really gave me the sense there—like he told us that—a story of going through an arboretum in England and he said that the manager was taking him around, or the head gardener, and he said, "Oh I wish you were here in the Spring when all these were blooming," and he said, "Don't you think that I can see them blooming now?" And he said that when he looked at his disciples, he always saw the flower and not the seed, and I got that sense when we were at the arboretum. Remember anything else?
SITARA: Oh that was a very personal day for me which I will have to describe later some other time.
SHABDA: Also I remember asking him if he would ever teach an organic gardening class. I guess he just never had the time. So he started a men's dance class. He said, "I only want my men from the city." You probably remember more about it than I do. There was you (Wali Ali) and Mian and Saul, and I think Farid was in it.
WALI ALI: Saul was in it?
SHABDA: Maybe he wasn't.
WALI ALI: Farid was, Frank Welch—Halim—
SHABDA: Halim, right! I would sleep over Sunday nights after Dharma night because it was on Monday night and he said, "This is going to be a very short class and very intense." And we right away started taking up the walks of the Prophets, I think it was in the order presented in Salat.
WALI ALI: I don't remember that at all. I remember his teaching the number one and the number two, I remember those movements, and I think we got up as far as five, I don't remember doing the walk of the Prophets.
SHABDA: We did the walk of Rama—
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, we did Rama—
SHABDA: And Shiva, and I think we did Krishna too, but I'm not sure. We only had like two or three classes, right?
WALI ALI: Yeah. I do remember us doing something with the numbers—
SHABDA: That's funny, I don't remember anything about it; I must have not received it—and we did some breathing and some walks of some kind I don't remember what they were. At that time Pakistan had a big tidal wave—
WALI ALI: That was in East Pakistan.
SHABDA: And Murshid said, "I want to do something about it"—this was a few weeks later, by this time I had moved into the Garden of Allah. I asked Murshid if it was okay and he thought about it for a minute and then he gave me his permission. I had taken up weaving and Basira wanted to take up weaving too so we got this room together and Basira made me this longee—those things that they wear in Pakistan—it's like a skirt—
WALI ALI: Right, a wrap-around skirt for men.
SHABDA: So finally, Murshid, who had been trying to figure out some way of getting something—some money or supplies or food to the Pakistanis, came up with the idea that he was going to buy a bunch of cloth and have the girls make longees and mail them to there because they needed clothing, and one night I came into a meeting, and it was the same thing as with the asparagus, he puts up his big finger and says, "Come up to the front," and I came to the front and in a very soft voice he said, "You are the first one I am telling, I want to get longees for the people in Pakistan and I want to give you the first one of them." And so we went downtown to try to find some way—we went to places, the Red Cross and this and that, to try to find some way to mail them over to Pakistan and then I think that before the plan had ever finished out, Murshid left his body. He had that accident.
WALI ALI: He was—he also wanted money to be raised from the Whirling Dervish Bazaar and from the record of the Sufi Choir or something to go to Pakistan, and I think that $100 was actually sent, from the proceeds of the Whirling Dervish Bazaar, maybe more. And I don't know if the longees were ever sent or not, do you?
SHABDA: I don't know, no. I think something was sent because he had bought the material already and I ended up getting Murshid's longee as one of the pieces of clothing after he died. But to go back before we get to that period, when we came back from New York—all the time that we had been in New York I had wanted to have an interview with Murshid just to straighten out my practices and that sort of thing and so when we got back to San Francisco—
WALI ALI: He just never had time to give you an interview—it just never happened because the people who were close to him were the ones he found it difficult to interview with—
SHABDA: I think it was like that but I also think—
WALI ALI: You did not want to impose, because you were in a place of service and not wanting to take more of his time than necessary—
SHABDA: Yeah, so when we got back he gave me the interview, and I came in, I think it was around 9:30, and he was wearing his tee shirt—it must have been a warm day—apparently he was in quite a high state because he was dictating some letters to you—I don't know if you remember that day but it obviously stands out in my memory. We went in to the front room and he sat on a chair, I think you were there, and I was kneeling in front of him and this time I had a list of questions, I wasn't going to space out, and he answered them like (clicks fingers: 1, 2, 3): Question/Answer; Question/Answer; Question/Answer; it was really something! He initiated me into the third grade then. One of the last things I asked him was, "Sitara told me that when you were on the plane going to New York that you had a vision or something and that you got a name for me, but you never gave it to me, and I don't know if I necessarily want a new name or not. I’m just reminding him, and he said, "All I can say is Jesus Christ saying 'why would someone with a name like Peter want to change his name?'" So I felt like I had gotten my name certified—which was Peter at the time. He gave me a new set of practices to do.
WALI ALI: I remember there was a picture of you and Iqbal (Jemaluddin) which was taken at the Arizona camp, and he liked that picture.
SHABDA: Yeah, I remember Iqbal and I were at one of the meetings, and Murshid was very tired that night and he said, "Iqbal, kiss the girls goodnight," and Iqbal kind of winced, and Murshid said, "Okay, you do it," he said to me, and later on he said, "You passed the test and Jemaluddin failed!" And so also that night, I was living at the Garden of Allah, I got tuned in to Murshid coming there on Thursday night Githa class or Sangatha Githa class, and he used to take you into my room and the Khalifs and Sheikhs into the back room for the later part of the class, and I just remembered that he would lead Zikr from that big chair in the front room of the Garden of Allah.
SITARA: How was Murshid on the plane back from New York?
SHABDA: Nothing much was happening, he was just anxious to get back. We didn't have anything special, he read the newspapers. I do remember one time that he called and he said, "I want all my Jewish disciples to come to a Sunday night class, and he said it several weeks in advance. And that night he gave us all in a very strong way what he felt about saying the Shema.
WALI ALI: We did a dance of the six-pointed star—the stanza for the six-pointed star was Ain ke loh hey nu—
SHABDA: Ain ke loh hey nu—that was it—
WALI ALI: Some of those dances were so un-rhythmical, there were so many different words that people just couldn't, nobody ever could dance them.
SHABDA: Yeah, every word was new and there was no repetition—I'll just go on and later on we can always backtrack. So I'd slept over on a Sunday night after a Dharma night, and Monday morning—in fact I'd had Jemaluddin's car.
SITARA: Is this the Dharma night when the Jewish disciples were here?
SHABDA: No, I don't think so; this was after Christmas, we had had a Christmas party at the Garden of Allah, Frida was invited, and Murshid said that this year instead of giving Darshan he was giving out cups, in the form of Baraka, and he was giving all of his disciples cups, and we did some dances and some meditation—I don't remember exactly. But I do remember that and there were an awful lot of people at the house, and always at the Garden of Allah parties there were the people who went downstairs to get stoned—they would do it on a different floor or something. So this must have been Sunday night the 27th. because I think it was the 28th that he fell?
WALI ALI: Yeah, that was the last meeting, I recall that it was a day that we had a meal here because we had a class in the afternoon—we used to have a class and then a meal and then the Sunday night class.
SHABDA: I didn't describe any of those things—
WALI ALI: You didn't have to.
SHABDA: It wasn't necessarily outstanding—but we had had a meal, and watched Perry Mason and had the night Dharma class and so I had Jemaluddin's car because he was, I guess—
SITARA: He had gone to Israel
SHABDA: Israel. And he had loaned me that big yellow Chevy Impala, and I think Halim woke me up, because he was sleeping over too.
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, right, I remember that—
SHABDA: And we had both slept over—
WALI ALI: You were sleeping in the front room.
SHABDA: I remember that I always had very far-out dreams in that front room and he woke me up and it was about 5:30 AM and he said, "Give me the keys to your car," "What for?" "Murshid fell:"
SITARA: Whose car?
SHABDA: Jemaluddin's car; that was the only car that was here! And so in a matter of minutes we were all up, and Saul came down from Ripley St., and all I can remember was putting my clothes on and getting the car started. I don't remember who had had Murshid wrapped up in the burnoose, and apparently he had tripped on his robe while he was taking an early morning bath—
WALI ALI: He didn't have any clothes on—
SHABDA: Like he—after a meeting sometimes he would sometimes leave his robe on and fall asleep like that—
WALI ALI: He didn't have any clothes on—
SITARA: He was naked—
SHABDA: He was naked? So he must have been in the bath and—
WALI ALI: I think he was under some kind of medicine. He had gone to see a Chinese physician—
SHABDA: For the hives—
WALI ALI: It wasn't for the hives; it was real difficult to ever get Murshid to do anything in terms of being in a place to do something about his health, because he was always trying to deal with it from another space, but Saul convinced him to see a doctor and Murshid went to see this Chinese doctor that he had seen before, but he had died in the meantime—but he saw his brother or—anyway he went down there and he saw the doctor. He wanted to get something for his skin condition, but the doctor said that his blood pressure was up too high, and so he gave him something for his blood pressure first, that that was the first thing he should deal with, so he gave him something for his blood pressure, some sort of drug, I don't know, and I have no idea what it was.
And that was sometime—I don't know how many days prior to that that this was—the Whirling Dervish Bazaar had been that previous week and it had been very high. And when Murshid would get high he would just forget about his body, and how it functioned, and he would come back down to his body which was giving him a lot of problems. In any case, the best we can put it together is he probably hadn't been able to sleep—his skin had been bothering him—he'd gotten up and taken a hot bath and the heat had been up too high or something and he was maybe dizzy from the medication, he went to the top if the stairs to turn down the thermostat, and either tripped over a rug that was at the top of the stairs and fell. I heard him fall—
SHABDA: I didn't, I was fast asleep.
SITARA: You were awake?
WALI ALI: I heard the sound.
SHABDA: You were sleeping in the—
WALI ALI: In the room that Karima has now, that was my room—
SHABDA: I remember in connection Murshid used to say—
SITARA: Who discovered him?
WALI ALI: I think Halim was the first one to get to him—
SHABDA: He used to say in connection that every two weeks he had to check his body because he didn't feel physical pain anymore. God took away his pain for the pain of the world, he said. I remember him saying that to me.
WALI ALI: Yeah, things would happen to his body that he wasn't aware of—
SHABDA: So anyway we drove off and Saul I think was in the car and you were—
WALI ALI: We called Dr. Alan Dattner who was a friend of some of the Sufis, and I don't know—he recommended that we take him to the hospital—I don't know why San Francisco General was chosen, whether it was Alan's suggestion or what—
SHABDA: It is so close by, it was the first one that Saul thought of probably; isn't it just over on Potrero Hill?
WALI ALI: It’s close but it’s no closer than St. Lukes, but anyway that’s where we took him. I don’t recall and it’s no point in my getting into now—
SHABDA: Yeah, right. It must have been that you and Halim took care of the official business, Saul and I, when he got there Murshid was put on a stretcher, and he was like—I remember he was in this state that he would be—
WALI ALI: He was totally in a state of shock—
SHABDA: Right, so I had his legs pinned down, and he was lying flat on his back—
WALI ALI: Yeah, he was in a state of shock but he was still very active.
SHABDA: Yeah, he was still a roaring borealis! I had his legs pinned down and Saul was pinning down his arms, pinning down his shoulders and he would say, “Allah, Allah Allah” (or Allaho Akhbar), let’s get the hell out of here! And Saul would say "Murshid, where should we go” "Shut up! Let’s get out of here, what the hell are we doing here? Shut up!" "But Murshid, where else should we go?" "Shut up!" And I remember that one time Saul relaxed his grip on his arms and Murshid went like this—and with his arm punched him square in the face. And Saul must remember this. And this went on for a long time and then he went up to x-rays, I think and he had his arm x-rayed—or the x-rays might have come later I think.
WALI ALI: He had a broken arm—
SHABDA: He had a broken arm and he had a cast put on his arm and I think that they put a strap, a canvas strap—
WALI ALI: The thing that he resisted the most was putting the catheter in which was painful, obviously—
SITARA: What's a catheter?
WALI ALI: That's the thing that they insert into the end of your penis so you can urinate—
SHABDA: Yeah, it was just terrible at the hospital. He was going between this kind of yelling, and I just remember him saying over and over again “Allah, Allah, Allah” (?) and he went into that emergency—they finally took him to that emergency room and he hated it and he was right in the middle of the floor and he used to—everybody who was either dying or on the edge of it—and I do remember that they moved him over to another section where there were only four beds, a semi thing latter on, and at that time at the hospital, Joe Miller came by, Ajari came by and all these people, and then this set up was made to have someone on the post all the time. We had to settle it with the nurses at first. I went there one time with Basira and Murshid must have gotten very excited at that time and I remember he would say, "Scratch my back" or this or that, but he wasn't—but he would never talk to you with more than a sentence that was in his normal day talk. It was always like in and out: "scratch my back, hold my hand," and you would just sit there for fifteen or twenty minutes just holding his hand. He had this really strong hand, but then I wasn't allowed to go visit him anymore. Do you remember that?
WALI ALI: That you weren't allowed?
SHABDA: Oh yeah, I don't know who decided it, but—
WALI ALI: Saul was in charge of the crews at the hospital and it had something to do with the healing circle, I'm not sure exactly how—
SHABDA: Anyway, I don't know what it was but it seemed very odd to me.
WALI ALI: He didn't want a lot of people there and he wanted people whose concentration was healing; he didn't want—I don't recall exactly his reasoning—
SHABDA: I know but I really had—
End of side one, reel two:
Side two: Reel two
SHABDA: I think he felt somehow that Murshid had gotten very excited—
WALI ALI: Oh, I see; it was something specific—
SHABDA: Yeah, right, and I didn't feel that I was involved in it, but anyway that's the way it was and I couldn't visit him anymore in the hospital and I was barred from going and then I remember that Murshid was moved to the Chinese hospital and we were working at New Age I think. Hassan was there, and Michael Suleiman and myself and maybe Amin was there—it was a Saturday and we got a phone call around 12:30 or 1 o'clock, "Murshid has left his body." And I remember that I wasn't willing to believe it until I saw it, because that letter had come out a few days before, "I'll live on as God Wills," and I always had the feeling that Murshid would live 25 years more. So we went to the hospital and there he was lying there out of his body—and Moineddin came over, and I think Saul blasted Moineddin and said, "Now you have to take over.” or something.
WALI ALI: Saul was real wasted by that time; he had been in charge ever since Murshid had been taken to the hospital, he had some kind of general authority—
SHABDA: And now he was passing this on and saying, "You take over," and I remember driving home in his Volvo—I guess Moineddin was working that day too—we were all at New Age—
WALI ALI: Moineddin couldn't have been working—he was just barely out of the hospital—
SHABDA: Maybe we just met at the hospital, but we came over directly from New Age in Hassan's bus, that's right—but Moineddin gave us a ride home in his Volvo. Amin and I were over at New Age—I did get the job at New Age later on—
WALI ALI: I guess you have given a lot of details and that's going to be very useful to us. Maybe the thing you can do now is to kind of sum up Murshid as you knew him and his influence on your life, who he was for you.
SHABDA: Alright, for me he was my first real teacher, and he showed me the meaning of what a real teacher was—somehow his life was for his mureeds and not for himself anymore. He was a total outpouring of love and he was an example to me always of what he was teaching. I still feel as if I am just getting to know him, and I feel like I learn more about Murshid all the time—it is not like after he died there was less and less. I think his impact on my life was tremendous, and I think will be the focal point of my life for the rest of my life. All my other Sadhana and whatever else I am doing now with other teachers I feel is under his umbrella. I feel that when, for instance, I went to study with Pandit Pranath—and Pir Vilayat had suggested I study with him, and I took it up. And Pandit Pranath asked me if I wanted to be his disciple. I told him I was already a disciple of Murshid, and he said, that that was alright that he didn't mind. And I asked Moineddin, and Moineddin said, "It is like this, when Amin asked Murshid if he could study with Ajari, Murshid said, 'I wish I had time myself, I’m glad you can do it.'" So I feel that all those things are attuned and are under Murshid's umbrella. Murshid, one day he did say to me—we were at Swami Muktananda's—he came in and he said, "This is Peter Kahn, my dance teacher," so he wanted me to be a dance teacher, and he never said it to me other than that, but he said it then right up front, "He is one of the people who is going to teach my dances." And I just try to make reality or whatever I got from him—in a way I'm still waiting to get to know him, it's just that a part of me yearns for the time when I'll have a real personal relationship going again—just like he said that at a certain time in his life Inayat Khan appeared to him and then he did see him every day, and I haven't reached that stage yet. And I hope someday it will come down, but I'm not quite sure that it will, but I'm not longer anxiously awaiting it, I feel very much that I am just trying to do my work, do my Sadhana, and that this is the right thing and not to worry about right or wrong but just go ahead and do it the best way I can.
WALI ALI: Okay. Do you have any questions Sitara?
WALI ALI: This is quite extensive and very helpful, so we'll shut it down.
SHABDA: To no one: here are some experiences that came down after Murshid's death. I was put in charge of the gathering together of the tapes of Murshid—which were very few—there were a series of ten talks that had been recorded—which everyone knows now—The Corinthians, which have become a book. And I was asked as part of my work on this project to go over to Father Blighton's and get them. And I had a very devotional feeling in going there. Father Blighton, as I understood it, was a close friend of Murshid's and that they had gone through several things together. And I got there and arranged to get the tapes to copy them, and Father Blighton called me in. And the Sufi Choir was just about to sing with The Grateful Dead—it was a benefit—and I told him about it, I was very excited. He said, "Don't get into that Rock and Roll, it is evil," and this and that, and then he said that Murshid had appeared to him and told him that he was supposed to take all of Murshid's disciples. He just laid this heavy trip on me. I’m telling about how Father Blighton had said that Murshid had appeared to him and that he was supposed to take all his students were now to come to him—
WALI ALI: Did Father Blighton speak to you about that?
SHABDA: Yeah! So after telling me that all of Murshid's disciples were supposed to go to him and he was taking over, and then he said, “I offer you this teacher,” and he called in Master Andres, and he said, “I would like you to meet your new teacher, Master Andres.” I just couldn’t believe this whole trip and I wasn’t about to start yelling at him, so I just said, “Oh think you very much,” and took the tapes and left. And then later on another experience very similar to that, one was that I went with Selik as a drummer to a retreat in Santa Cruz with Yogi Bhajan, because they had asked if we would do Sufi dancing at their retreats in Santa Cruz. And interestingly enough it was coming at a time when all the people who where Yogi Bhajan's disciples were doing everybody else’s Sadhanas but their own. And they had Sufi dancing coming to their ashram and they had massage, this, and that. Anyway, Yogi Bhajan greeted us in his usual manner, put his arm around my shoulder with all his weight, and said, "I know that your Murshid is dead, you don't really have a suitable teacher anymore, I know the right Murshid for you—and Pir Vilayat, well, he's a nice guy but—" And he laid out this heavy trip. I don't know, there were just several of those trips. The one guiding light in the whole thing, I think, was Joe Miller, who just said, "If you want any help just call me, 3AM or 3PM, it just doesn't matter."
WALI ALI: I remember this too—
SHABDA: I remember this with Yogi Bhajan—anyway I just told him that I wasn't interested, and that I was all set up, thanks, and that I felt that Murshid was still alive. And interestingly enough, when Murshid died I had been reading the papers Akibayat, his Commentary on life after death, and every other sentence was, he says, "The relationship between the mureed and the Murshid is not broken because one or the other leaves their body." So I'm still trying to realize this, and inshallah, I—
WALI ALI: Did you have any kind of definite visions or dreams after Murshid passed away where he manifested to you? Or where he gave you instructions or anything?
SHABDA: I've had very few dreams with Murshid, but in one he said, he came to me and said that I needed more discipline. I've had some dreams about him or with him that were just very normal, not visions. I had one dream right after he died: we were all living in a big three story house, and I remember that Yasmin was there—for some reason I remember that—and the one thing that I remembered about it was that in the dream I realized that Murshid was already dead and that he was walking around still alive, and I realized that there was very little change—that feeling that he was still just as much in our lives as he'd ever been.
WALI ALI: How about some soup?