Anjani (Joan) O'Connell on Murshid 8/24/76
SABIRA: Anjani, what do you recall about meeting Murshid Sam?
ANJANI: I came out to California in early June of 1969, and it was the first time I had really spent any time in California. I'd been here only briefly as sort of a tourist a year or so before, and in the meantime I had been with Ram Dass at Lama and in Franklin, N.H. and was getting ready to go back to India. And he was in a place where he thought he wasn't, he had taught everybody everything he knew at that point, and I was really consciously looking for a teacher, and there didn't seem to be anyone in the East that I knew of anyhow, and so I came out West with my daughter, and we sort of toured around looking, and went to all the places where we had friends, and I ended up in Marin staying with—who is now Shabda—and Majid and a whole group of people that were living in Mill Valley, and they were just beginning to go to some Sufi meetings. I knew Shabda from Franklin; he was still Peter then, so I began to hear about the Sufis, which seemed to be the only group in which anything was happening and with them, of course, there were people that I knew who were doing it, and then I heard a lot of very enthusiastic things about it, and at that point I think that Murshid was away at some camp, I'm not sure where, but anyway—
SABIRA: It was Colorado probably, or Arizona—
ANJANI: Yeah, it was one of those places that they went at that time. And so I went about getting settled and so forth, waiting for Sufi Sam— as he was called— to come back. And so we stayed in S. F. basically and I can remember coming down to the Mentorgarten the first time after he came back—to a meeting—and there was going to be dancing in the park, and I don't remember too much except that we did dance out in the park in front of the house, and I really loved the dancing. I think I had probably gone to one or two meetings that he wasn't at already, and I really was into the dancing, And I can remember I was really disappointed when I saw Murshid, I thought, "I'm looking for a teacher but I am afraid he's not it—“
SABIRA: Because you're not really— (both talking at once)
ANJANI: He wasn't classic.
SABIRA: What did he look like when you were so disappointed?
ANJANI: He was just this little, funny old man and of course I still had these images having only really recently got into Yoga and you can imagine—the stereotype of the yogic teacher, but anyhow I dug the dancing and thought, "I don't know what else to do and there is nothing else happening, so I'll just keep going." So I did, and so as time went on I really saw more and more of who he was, and, of course, I really loved him, and at some point later on in the summer I remember we went to Marin to some kind of an outing, I don't know even what it was. And I happened to ride in the car with Murshid and Iqbal was driving—and I just went along because I needed a ride, and somehow, as those things will happen, I was put in the car with him, and so it was all wonderful and we danced and everything. And then going back to the car at the end of the day, Murshid, as he would do, put his arm around me and was asking me something—I don't remember precisely what it was—about how I had enjoyed the day. And there had been some discussions in the last couple of meetings about who was going to take initiation. And I had sort of been thinking of it, but I hadn't really made up my mind because I was still not quite sure up to that point if I really was going into the trip, and that day I made up my mind, and I said back to him that I would like to be initiated, and he just laughed and he said, "I accepted you before you accepted me." And, of course, I was initiated then, and that did happen.
SABIRA: With a group or by yourself?
ANJANI: No, With a group—Majid was initiated and I think probably Shabda was too, and quite a few other people did the same thing.
SABIRA: I think it was Shabda that he told that he knew when that person would come in to the room if that person was to be his disciple.
ANJANI: Right, right.
SABIRA: He just knew it immediately.
ANJANI: Yeah, that was obvious as time went on, and there were a lot of incidents, but I don't remember them all terribly clearly. The thing that really stays in my mind, aside from that first time, was around Christmastime later that same year which was of course only a month before he had his accident as it turned out. I had been thinking of going back East for Christmas with my family, and I wasn't quite sure; I had only been doing temporary work and we were being evicted from our house up on Ripley St. and a lot of things were changing and it just seemed like a good time to go because we weren't really that settled and—
SABIRA: Who was living in that Ripley St. house?
ANJANI: I had been living there originally with my daughter and a friend, and then my daughter went to British Columbia and my friend went on the road with Steve Gaskin's group when they did that first bus thing—and so who moved in were: David Bartley and Steve Lawrence, who are Abdul Aziz now and Khalil—
SABIRA: Khalil—how interesting—and did Saul then live across the street?
ANJANI: Saul lived across the street in 120.
SABIRA: Because I live in 119—that's just really funny—
ANJANI: But anyway one thing led to another at that house and there was a lot of things with the landlady, and Abdul Aziz's dog and one thing after another.
SABIRA: Whose dog?
ANJANI: Abdul Aziz had this dog and there were just a lot of those things happening and we were evicted anyway and that was just rough. I think it was the first of December that we had to be out of there. So I went through this thing of going back East, even though there was a lot of attraction to staying, and I talked to Murshid about it, and he said, "Sure, go," but there was this feeling that I had about not really wanting to go at the same time that I did want to go. And there were a few meetings just before we left, and there was one—the Sunday night class that is held in the Mentorgarten—
SABIRA: Dharma night—
ANJANI: Yeah, and Murshid danced with me a lot that night, and he was obviously doing something, and I thought, “Oh well he is being very attentive because I am going away and he is giving me a feeling that it is alright," and I remember at the end of that meeting saying again to him, "Should I go or not go?" And he said, "I may not be here when you come back," and I said, "Then I won't go," and he said, "No, go, go anyway, it's alright." And even though I heard what he said, I didn't hear it.
SABIRA: It could have been anything really—
ANJANI: I did hear it even at that when he said it—
SABIRA: He did have premonitions?
ANJANI: Yeah, of course—I think that he obviously knew. And then later that week was the dance class up in Marin and I went to that. That was actually the last class I went to before he left. And again Murshid danced with me a lot—and one of those dances—I don't remember now what it is called, but it ends up, of course, with everybody in a group together, and Murshid would be in the center, and everybody would be all around—
SABIRA: It sounds like the Krishna dance—
ANJANI: Yeah, probably, I just don't remember that well, and I was dancing with him. And he did a thing where he put both of his hands on, one on each shoulder, and the energy that he gave me was so incredible. He was both knocking me out and holding me up at the same time. I really felt that there was some very far out transmission, because that was the last real contact I had with him before I left, and of course I never did see him again after that. And then after he left his body—of course I was very upset when that whole thing happened—I was in New York when he had his accident and I didn't know what to do and I had a very strong feeling to come, but people said, "No, don't go."
SABIRA: Did you know Sitara at that time?
SABIRA: So you were together perhaps at the time—
ANJANI: She had come back—he, in that fall, had gone to New York and returned to San Francisco, and Sitara—
SABIRA: Well she didn't come back with him, she stayed in New York.
ANJANI: That's right, she was there, yeah—
SABIRA: That's why I wondered if at the time of his fall you had contacted her—
ANJANI: No, I was living with him, these other friends who then I later went to India with, but the thing was, of course, one thing led to another and I didn't come, but I did come after he died; I came back for the funeral and so forth. And then I was working, and by that time I had made plans sort of—I hadn't decided that either about—there was this thing about going to India, and so there was this, of course I came back here for the funeral. And there was a very strong feeling of being tied to people here; those ties through Murshid. And so there was really a lot of conflict. I went back East, but I didn't really know what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to go to India in fact, because although it sounded glamorous, as far as another place to be, but I was horrified by the whole idea of India, and I thought it was really presumptuous of me to think of going because not many people that I knew at that time had gone and that was 1971, and it seemed a little far-fetched for me to go, and I also had the feeling to come back here, and I was working then with a woman named Hilda- Charlton (?) and she was very much into having people go to India. She had been there a great many years and was close to Sai Baba and all that, so she was really recommending it. And I couldn't quite decide one way or the other, and finally I had a dream of Murshid, and it was one of those dreams that once in a while happen that are so real that you know they are not the same as the other ones.
SABIRA: Can you describe it?
ANJANI: Yeah, we were in a church and there was dancing going on—it was somewhat like the last time that I had been with him—except that this dancing was the waltz, and we were waltzing to the tune of—I think the tune actually is Tales of the Vienna Woods, but it's been adapted into a sort of spiritual song with words—new words put to it. Actually, it also has been a sort of popular song I know, and I don't know if anyone was singing, but I could hear the words and the first part of it were the new sort of spiritual words which were some of the Yogananda songs—
SABIRA: Oh God beautiful?
ANJANI: Right. And that went on and I was waltzing with Murshid and there was a fantastic vibration with love which you could get from him and nobody else and at a certain point the words just switched into the words that the popular song had had, which were, "And I love you so," and which was the culmination of it, and it was just fantastic, and that dream made me realize that my contact with him actually had nothing to do with S.F. per se or where I was. It was outside of the physical plane really. And the fact that that song was also one that Hilda used, because in her meetings she uses a lot of sort of, you could call them corny and schmaltzy or whatever, but they are that kind of music that she uses a lot in a very conscious way, and the fact that that song we were dancing to and the whole vibration of the dream, I decided to go to India.
SABIRA: Did he contact you in India in any way?
ANJANI: The only thing I can say about it is that the only person—I eventually went to Maharaji, Neem Karoli Baba, and that's where I spent all the time when I was in India, and the only other person that I'd ever met in my life that was in any way like Maharaji was Murshid. And there was a very strong feeling similarly for me with the two of them.
SABIRA: This was Baba Ram Dass’ guru, right? How long did you spend there then doing that?
ANJANI: I was there for 13 months.
SABIRA: Shabda said that you would probably have a lot of stories to tell. Do you recall any, do you know what he might have meant when he said that?
ANJANI: No, I really don't know. He may be able to remind you of some, but—I should ask him actually because he may remember some things that I have forgotten. Those particular things really stand out in my mind, and if I sat down and thought about it, about Murshid—no, most of my contact with Murshid was in classes. I was working then, so I didn't have so much free time, and so I didn't, I wasn't one of the people that hung out in the house or anything—just once in awhile.
SABIRA: Did he give you the name Anjani?
ANJANI: No, no, Maharaji gave me that name, that name is the name of Hanuman's mother, and I really feel that somehow Murshid was aware of that connection, and for that reason—while he did give a lot of names out to people when I was here with him, he did not give me a name. He never made any mention of it in any way.
SABIRA: He didn't give Shabda one.
ANJANI: Yeah, I know, a lot of people—
SABIRA: Yeah, all the Peters and the James and stuff didn’t get them anyway for that reason.
ANJANI: Yeah, I know a lot of people he didn't name that had been initiated. That's the main things really that I wanted to contribute, and if it turns out that there are some other things that I have forgotten somehow, I will get in touch with you, or I'll write them down. I have to ask Shabda, because I am not sure what he is referring to. I know some stories that are hearsay, but, not what I've experienced.
SABIRA: No, what we want from each person are what they have experienced, their own personal impressions.
ANJANI: Yeah, that's what I felt that you were trying to get, so —
SABIRA: Oh exactly, oh no, we have a lot of stories on hearsay, we can get those anytime—what do you think his purpose in life was? Could you sum up Murshid as far as you're concerned?
ANJANI: I think that a lot of things that he said himself were exactly what he was. He was one of those people who helped all of the so-called hippies, druggies or whatever we all were then—to make that changeover into consciously doing spiritual work and working on ourselves, because practically everybody I knew who came and was attracted to Ram Dass, for example, was because we had all been in drugs so much, and we got to the place where that was over, but there was nothing else, and a lot of the traditional Eastern spiritual things like yoga—there just wasn't that much of a connection. I took Hatha yoga classes, but there was no reality to it, and I could go and listen to people give discourses, but still, it just didn't make that link enough, and Murshid was certainly one of the people who did that, especially up here. I really feel that he was a very, very important figure for changing everybody's’ lives.
SABIRA: Yeah, that seems to be the situation with most people. We thought it was very interesting, and it certainly wasn't coincidence that certainly people just happened to be around: the musicians that he needed to do the dancing, the singers that he needed to start the Sufi Choir—
ANJANI: There are obviously no coincidences—
SABIRA: It was just incredible.
ANJANI: It was all so perfect that it is hard to believe.
SABIRA: I'm sure he didn't do it consciously but somehow the energy—certain being's energy was directed to be at a certain—to be there. Did he ever put you in any embarrassing situations?
ANJANI: No I don't think so, because he was always very, very sweet to me, because I would hear him yell at people and he never yelled at me or anything like that because I undoubtedly would have freaked, especially then; I was extremely sensitive to anything like that, and he was very loving and very, very nice to me. And the worst thing he ever said to me actually, was that he was looking at my astrological chart once and he shook his head when he looked at it. And I thought, "Oh my God what horrible thing does he see in it?" He said, "I'm afraid that you have a very rational mind."
SABIRA: Is that the truth? Did he ever give you a walk? (both talking here)
ANJANI: Yes it is. Anyway if that was the worst he could come up with, I thought, "What pattern was that?"
SABIRA: What kind of a walk did he give you, do you remember?
ANJANI: It was Moon-Saturn, I have a good aspect, a very good aspect—he said, "You have a good aspect, do that." But, no, he was really wonderful to me and I feel very fortunate that although I was only with him for probably less than six months I was able to see as much of him as I did, partially because I just lived up on Ripley St. so I could come in to all the meetings, and even though I didn't spend a lot of time in the house with him except once in a while I did see quite a lot of him. And I was able to see who he was, which wasn't very easy, but then of course the other thing—it really prepared me a lot for Maharaji because it—there were so many people who saw him and all they saw was this fat old guy in the blanket, and that is practically all he ever showed, really. There were no miracles, no nothing. Certainly being with Murshid really helped me a lot to see beyond the surface manifestation to what was really there.
SABIRA: I think that those who didn't see that didn't stay to be his disciples.
ANJANI: No, of course not.
SABIRA: They only saw this man who people described as this wild—socks coming down and so forth and so on, and they would run, really— and those who ran just weren't to be his disciples, that's all.
ANJANI: That's right. My first thing, my first flash was, "He's groovy but he ain't for me." It's funny how it turned out, but it took me a little while to see that.
SABIRA: Then he was really a bridge for you to other people?
ANJANI: Oh yeah, he was certainly one of my first teachers.
SABIRA: That's excellent.
ANJANI: He helped me do a lot of things, just that thing—what he said about having a rational mind, you know, he really helped me to get beyond that place of just seeing with my mind and making those judgments on the basis of the surface thing which is what the mind reacts to, so then I started to look for what else there was. It was good, very good.
SABIRA: That's fine and we will transcribe it eventually and if you think of some other things that you'd like to add—
ANJANI: Okay, if I get a chance to speak to Shabda— I haven't even seen him since I've been back.