Remembrance by Peay, Fazl

Fazl Peay—August 1976

BABA: I think it best we start unless you want to describe this for some other tape, you can just talk about the first time, the first meeting.

FAZL: Okay, sometime in the summer of 1968, much to my dismay, I met Murshid Samuel Lewis for the first time, not with the slightest intention of going to see him for any spiritual training, or any sort of in quest for any sort of spiritual realization or practices of any sort. I had just come up for the summer and I had some friends who had met Murshid Samuel Lewis, and in turn, I went there on one Sat. evening. The first time we met was at the Sat. night dance class that was at the basement of the Mentorgarten. And it was a rather strange experience for me at that time, because I hadn't prepared exactly for what it was, and it was a total mind-blowing experience to be in a small basement with this funny, little, bearded man with long hair, and all these girls holding on to him and dancing around him and looking into him. I thought, "he had the greatest job going," all these beautiful young ladies sitting around and holding his hands and dancing with him, and I remember distinctly—I think that I had went with Yusuf and Paul and maybe Amin and we were tremendously stoned. I remember we had smoked 3 or 4 mishlakaa (sp?) joints the moment before we came in, and it was so intense for awhile that I had to leave during the middle of the class, because it just got to be a little bit too heavy for me to actually (whole section not audible) and I was totally mind-blown from then on—not so much of what we were doing, but who we were doing it with—it was so foreign to what I was used to. So things progressed for the next six months to a year. I went through gradual exposure; I continued to go back. Not at first necessarily seeing Murshid as a spiritual teacher—going to him—but more as a force of habit, and out of, it just being the thing to do.

CHALICE: Because you friends were doing it?

FAZL: Yeah, my friends were doing it. We were all just kind of doing it. There wasn't an explanation for the reason that we went, and we would—actually one of the reasons that I used to go the Wed. night meeting at the Theological Seminar was due to the fact that it was a rather large gathering on Wed. night, it only cost $1—we didn’t have much money, and that there were a lot of people there that were quite interesting. We used to have a great time dancing and singing, and we’d all meet there, and we’d all get stoned together, and we’d all leave and go get stoned together—and it was a nice social event, so it took at least a year for me to get into a place to be able to see through this mask that I felt that he really was a very high spiritual being—

CHALICE: Oh, what was the mask like?

FAZL:  First off you aren’t in a place to be ready for a spiritual experience, or opening for it—you aren’t going to have it no matter who it is—I don’t care if it is Jesus Christ or Buddha that probably comes through, during Jesus’ time there were people that would see him all the time and there were people that would crucify him. And they weren’t ready for it then. So if you’re not in that place, if you’re not open to it, you aren’t susceptible to it anyways, but if you did have some sort of conception—which as Murshid always said, “you are supposed to try and blow your conception of something." But the last person that you would probably think would be a very high spiritual person, maybe from the exterior would be Murshid. I would see this funny, little, old man who was—he didn't preach; he laughed and giggled and had a great time, he just hugged all the girls and danced, and he would say, "Okay, we're going to have a meditation now on peace. We would say, "Alright." Now everybody get up and let's dance—it was a 15-second concentration which totally dismayed a lot of people, so from that standpoint it was just his mannerisms, and the jokes, and he would raise up with this thundering anger which you would think was anger; it was just a projection of his voice. It was never anger, very seldom; there was something, from that point, there was the mask. Like you would have seen this very humble, meek—or maybe not necessarily meek, but this being, very pious, at first what I would consider to be a spiritual being, whereas now my feelings are totally blown and I would think that that would be the last person, so that more or less was the mask and it took me a great deal of time. And I don't know whether it was necessarily that it took me awhile to see through the mask, or put me into the position where I was able to see clearer, one or the other.

CHALICE: So at some point you felt a need to connect with him on a spiritual path as your teacher? Was it about a year after you had started going to him that you were initiated?

FAZL: Yeah, I met him in '68, I think it was about a year after that that I actually took initiation from him. It was something that I felt though that at a certain point—quite awhile actually before I actually took initiation, because at that stage I was hanging out with Krishnadas and Paul and Yusuf and all of those, and I went to all the Sat. night dance classes, Sunday walks with Murshid, I would go to Dharma night in the City, and then we would go to Wed. night meeting, and I was not even conscious of what I was doing necessarily in that I was doing my discipleship or laying the groundwork for initiation or Bayat, but it was just something that I was doing that was flowing, and then it finally got to the point—I had felt, received a lot of different cosmic initiations from him at a lot of various levels at different times before then and had the connection with him without the formal initiation, but it got to a point that I decided that I should have what was considered a formal initiation. As Hazrat Inayat Khan used to say, "There are a lot more people that are Sufis than are in the Sufi Order," and now I notice that there is a tendency for people to associate or classify people as Sufis that are only card-carrying members which I think is totally absurd and ridiculous, so from that standpoint I think that maybe led me. I realize that my initiation from Murshid was the actual greatest moment in my life. You sort of just turn yourself over in to the hands of the Murshid, but a lot of it at that time, being where I was at, it wasn't necessarily so much, that gave me—that I did the actual initiation as it was the thing to do. From a certain standpoint that was true, and from a certain standpoint it wasn't. It was true that I wanted to receive initiation just on my own, but I wanted to receive initiation because there would be things in which they would say, "For disciples only." "What's a disciple?" "Have you received initiation?" "No." So I hadn't received initiation so I said, "Gosh I have been doing this for a year or so and I might as well get initiated too.

CHALICE: What was your relationship to Murshid now—what you were into? Did you feel a change or (inaudible).

FAZL: Yeah, very definitely—I think the day that I actually received initiation I was introspectively trying to see what difference there was in my being, and it was something like from looking at the perspective from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill. You wanted something very clear-cut—which it wasn’t just like that—it was a continual process, uplifting, but there is a very, very, very definite change—especially looking in retrospect after several years, you really begin to realize and understand the actual difference of being an initiate or having received Bayat from somebody, than in just knowing a person or having seen them. There is a totally different commitment, because not only do you have a commitment but the spiritual teacher also has a very great commitment for whatever 1/10th of the energy you put into it, he puts in 100 times, so I always felt—and I really feel now that I had a protector. There was somebody that took on my spiritual karma, so there, there is no question that it is different.

CHALICE: And you feel that now even though it's…?

FAZL: Stronger than ever. I can honestly say that he was my first spiritual teacher and then Murshid, and the greatest blessing that ever happened to me.

CHALICE: And you thought it in some way he changed your life?

FAZL: I won't say some way—in every way he changed my life, and I was totally transformed from a pleasure-seeking  non-meaningful life as to something that took on a very great meaning to me, took on purpose, took on direction—a whole new attitude, a whole new life's perspective, whereas now, I see old friends that I used to hang out with and things, and I realize that it was totally superfluous. Totally just—like what I considered a good time hanging out, and just doing whatever I wanted to do then, I consider a total waste of time and boredom. I can still do the same things, but I do them with a different attitude towards it, which to me is all the difference in the world.

BABA: Can we come back to the first meetings that you went to? Are there incidents that stick out?

FAZL: Oh God, what's really funny is that each individual meeting was unique in itself, I just wish I had a better memory because every meeting that I went to there's something that was so profound that it just lodged in your mind for—forever, you know. It wasn't like going to a great concert and having a great time and walking out but there would be an earth-shattering realization or some sort, or something that would take place that would just blow your mind. At first I used to go just totally stoned and I didn't know all the people—this was in 1968, the original Sat. night dance class—I got to know a few people at first, but it was sort of nice because I felt sort of inconspicuous in that nobody really noticed me or paid any attention to me, so I just sat on the bench, and I remember that I used to be really paranoid that we were doing very, very advanced practices at that time—and here I was just totally in the most gross state you could imagine and so when Murshid would stand up and say, "Okay, your turn, do Moon/Mars/Venus conjunct walk," I know I was just walking around like a total fool and I used to get a complex—after awhile he would say, "No, you don't have it, try again," and then I would do it. And after about 7 times around and everybody kind of watching you, he would say, "Okay, okay, sit down, you need some more practice/concentration on that one, you can do it a little bit later, sit down." Usually in that space, it's like totally breaking away from the whole family scene, the last thing that I wanted to do was to get told things and get put down in public, right? But here I was and I kept subjecting myself to it, to something like then was like criticism in front of everybody which really, nobody enjoyed.

BABA: I think there was something else that was going on that was drawing you to him that you weren't even aware of.

FAZL: Oh sure.

BABA: On the surface it just seemed to you that you were going because yours friends were.

FAZL: Oh yeah,  I know that—See I know that now, looking in retrospect at it, but then at the time I did it, it wasn't just because my friends were doing it, because I had to go by myself, or I'd go and I'd see them there, or even if they didn't go, I would go, but there was something that was drawing me. I thought, "Okay, it's Sat. night,  I guess I'll go to Sat. Night dance class. There was this very, very subtle thing that dragged you there, and when you didn't go, you just kind of felt that you really had missed something even though you couldn't define it in words. I remember one time— It was very, very standard for us all to go and just get bombed out of our minds, especially for the Sat. night dance class. And you would go in there, and if you've ever been in Murshid's presence you know that—especially like the Sat. night meetings, which were very, very high at the Mentorgarten, it was very difficult to be in the same room with him when all these people,  were doing stoned on grass so there would be a lot of us in there and we'd kind of be looking at each other. And it was like I was on the verge of hysteria all the time, like at some points I wouldn't know whether to laugh or to cry or to jump up in the middle of something and stop, or everything, or walk out, and I remember one time that Murshid finally did say something about it. He would never put down anybody because they were smoking grass. Like he never went out and advocated that everybody should get stoned, but he always said that people's spiritual experiences on psychedelics were valid and that he wasn't telling people. He said that what he called drugs were aspirin and so on, but I remember one time that he—we were doing something and in the very middle of it he got very stern and kind of looked—I shouldn't say stern, because actually he was different, he put on another character, one of the 99names, and he looked at everybody and he said—"You know" (looking around the room) with a glance and a very piercing look)—"it gets very difficult to lead these practices with some of the states of mind that people are in around here,” and like looking at you—and he looked at me, and I thought that the whole thing was to me, and that at the same time he looked at everybody else, and I am sure that everybody else thought the same thing, but I felt like he nailed me to the cross right there, and man I didn't go to the classes stoned after that. It was just too much, because there was a certain point where it was a drawback, you know. Of course I, always did get stoned after the class, of course, but it just wasn't before.

CHALICE: So what do you feel that you were since he was teaching you through the dance and the walks about yourself? You were one of the people that were there since the beginning of the dance class.  What do you think he was trying to teach you?

FAZL: I really firmly believe that he was trying to teach you to know yourself better solely, because he was one that was very into the idea of not worshipping him, and he tried to make that clear very easy, and I sincerely believe that a lot of his characteristics were for that sole purpose, so that people wouldn't worship him because all of his disciples did in the end anyways. They all still do, we are all part of him still, but he would always say, a Murshid's job is not to have his students worship him, but through him to know himself and to know God, right? So these classes and the dances were actually—it put you in the time and the space that you wouldn't create on your own, especially at that stage, because we weren't strong enough in our practices and things that you would get in tune with this at that given opportunity, and at that opportunity you would have a chance to explore your inner being more and farther. Because in doing these practices the sole concentration was on sacred names and things that actually work that wasn't just a hypotheses or a guess; they were based on actual experiences, so that you couldn't say, "Metaphysically or theologically this is how I feel about this, but it was an actual experience that you had through, saying Allah, Allah, Allah, you actually gained this inner experience and peace by doing these dances; it helped you in doing them, and that's what his mission was. So from that standpoint I see that it wasn't necessarily for me to say what the purpose of it wasn’t and to say, "Murshid, you are the greatest, I love you, you are Buddha or the avatar," that wasn't it, that had nothing to do with it. It was so that I myself, personally, would have the realization and the understanding to grow and to develop and to use it. So I really think that that is what it was, and it was just the opportunity of him being here for us to be able to do it. How many times do you come home even now and walk around your room with other people saying Allah. The only times we ever do it, maybe we go to our rooms and meditate and do something, or we come to a dance class, but if we were left on our own I doubt very seriously whether any of us would sit around unless we formed a class to do it. And nobody then had it necessarily on the ball to do it and he was a forerunner by far of his era, and so he provided the environment and the opportunity for people who either through their own accord, or just through sheer ignorance or whatever would come and do it. So…

BABA: Chance.

FAZL: Chance yeah

CHALICE: As a teacher he had a lot of other interests besides just teaching the dancing and so on, what were you able to observe about him as a man?

FAZL: As a man I was just totally impressed just due to the fact that he didn’t really—I totally enjoyed going to his classes, and I learned a lot of the esoteric arts and sciences from him, but I really thought that the reason why I really loved him and really respected him was—he was the very highest person I could possibly have had the blessing to have met—because in his everyday life and as a man—was that he taught in everything that he did. When I first received initiation from him—why right after the initiation I sat down and watched Perry Mason and peeled potatoes with him. That was his transmission, that was part of it, without that there wouldn't have been anything. He would have been another spiritual teacher laying the same trip, you know, do pranayama, do this do that, go sit in a cave, go do that—which maybe then if I had gotten into it then, I would have done it, but now I laugh, that's not part of it—he was always stressing in the world, doing things in the world, and your only excuse for missing a class is for making money, and so if you were making money or doing something in the world which seemed to fortify that aspect of your life, it was alright. From a worldly standpoint he was definitely very manly and at the same time he was very receptive and open, so from everything to cooking for you to, wanting to eat ice cream and tell stories and jokes, I couldn't think of a more well-rounded person.

BABA: Did he change at all during the time that you knew him?

FAZL: That would be the hardest thing for me to really try to say, because he was so far above me that I couldn't really say. He always seemed to be the same to me, he always seemed to be the most positive—he oscillated back and forth between different states and things, and his personality changed all the time, but he definitely always seemed the same to me. As a matter of fact, I used to think that that was the reason why he was so positive and attracted people because he was the backbone of the Order; he was the Murshid, and every time something went wrong, you could go and see him and he was this same unpredictable self—if you went to get counseling on something, whatever you thought you were going to get you didn't get, whatever you were expecting you wouldn't get, you got! So in that sense he never changed, but in another sense he changed every second, and you couldn't bank on him, asking him one question one day and it being the same as asking the same question, and getting the same answer the next day, it just didn't work that way, so he did change but, I certainly never could notice it, it wasn't something I could noticeably say. I can honestly say that Pir Vilayat I have seen changing mentally, I think possibly a lot of it has to do with that  I have gained more realization and more understanding as time goes on and progresses, and from a certain standpoint I think when you get to a certain level, you can also witness and notice changes, now I don't know think that that had anything to do with me not noticing changes in Murshid, but I think that he was that type of a person where he had gained ultimate Shakti experience and realization, and he was there, and it was something that was continually constant. But I could also say that my realization was so next-to-nil then that whether he was changing or not, I couldn't realize it, but now I could definitely say  that with other people I've noticed and watched and lived with that I see there is a definite change—but with him I would say no.

CHALICE: Were you aware of his great intellect, and where he was intellectually?

FAZL: Yes, but he never, never really came on that way that—you can see somebody who is very articulate and who is very intellectually oriented and just all he does is use his intellect. I always considered Murshid very, very intelligent and intelligence is a gift of God. I don't care who you are, everybody is intelligent. Intellect is something that people develop, right? And Murshid, I think, had a great intellect and was very intelligent. I always knew that he was very intelligent, but I didn't think that he portrayed himself as a very high intellectual, because you find intellectuals are very snobby, and you would never see them get down and roll on the ground with kids, and just do things with the mentality maybe of a two year old, and he constantly did things like that. He would give a sermon, you know, and he would come off with some very elaborate words on occasion. He wouldn't, he wouldn't try to overly intellectualize something which made it beautiful. I know that he could have gone into a 35-page interpretation of a certain passage of the Qur'an or even in the Bible if he wished to, but he didn't because he knew that that wasn't really what people needed. It was more short, brief to the point, concise, and hoping that one got a very deep realization and actually had an experience. I think his whole teaching was based on the premise of experience.

CHALICE: Did you hang out with him ever socially or did you get to go with him to dinner or ice cream parlor?

FAZL: Yes, a little. I did, not as much as I wish now that I would have.

CHALICE: Is there an experience with being with Murshid outside of the Mentorgarten or the Khankah or somewhere else that you remember?

FAZL: I arrived at the Khankah with the intention of working in the garden with Murshid, and subsequently having an interview thereafter, and I came in, "Okay, come with me out to the garden,” I went out and Murshid was in his usual appearance with the v-necked white tee shirt and the stained khaki pants and with his socks on, and he was walking out into the garden with all these dirt clots sticking to his feet, and I had come with the intention of working actually in the garden. When we got out to this plot of land, he dropped to his hands and knees and started crawling around in the dirt pulling a few weeds, and basically it looked like just doing nothing and he said, "Now do exactly what I do," I just kind of looked at him, that didn't seem necessary to crawl around on my hands and knees. I didn’t say this, I was mentally going through the process of thinking it and so I had work clothes on but I dropped down on my knees and I was crawling around and getting all dirty and pulling things and I actually thought I could have done more work if I hadn't been crawling around, but so I did that for a little bit and he was carrying on: it's a way to grow up—go on over there—come on in now, it will be lunch time, probably something—and I was crawling around, doing this, hoeing in the dirt just playing with my hands mostly in the dirt, and I really didn't realize,  until afterwards it wasn’t really the idea of working. But I really believe that there is a blessing that is left by a man of his spiritual magnitude on the earth where he walked there for the rest of the lives. It is the same principle of the tombs Jelaluddin Rumi and Shems-Tabriz and Ibn-Arabi. There is a presence that stays there continually, and what it really was was picking up the baraka from him, doing what he was doing, getting in the rhythm, breathing with him, being in the same space, and just basically tuning in to where he was at in that and that was the real blessing, it was to realize and to see how that was possible, not only in the lotus position, or in the middle of one of our Dervish dances, but pulling weeds and ringing up a cash register, and polishing my shoes, so I really saw the blessing in that which was disguised, for actually a week later I was walking in the sidewalk and it dawned on me what had happened. Totally out of the blue, there was nobody around me, it all of a sudden dawned upon me why I did what I did that day, and then soon after that I had lunch with him—a lot of people would think that you were going to discuss spiritual matters with him, but it was really never that, it was, we just had a good time talking about Perry Mason or something, I don't know really know, current events or things, but that in itself was real—very interesting to me. It is just so hard—there were so many times when we'd go and get ice cream with him, and things, that it was just real out of the ordinary just because you were in his presence. It was out of the ordinary—going to get an ice cream by yourself and going to get an ice cream with Murshid was not the same thing at all. To most people you'd say, “ I went and got an ice cream," and they would think, "So what?" We all do, but if you knew Murshid and you said that you went and got an ice cream with Murshid, It was like the difference between night and day. It is hard for me just to think off the cuff of some striking occurrence that happened and what we did, because everything that we did was incredible. Every time you'd get out of the car with him. Here were all these hippies pilling out of out of his bus, and there was this guy with his robe—but actually he took his robes off when he got out of the car—that in itself was sort of shocking. I think all of us were kind of in a spaced out scene.

CHALICE: Did you have any kind of precognition or anything, did you feel like he was going on forever?

FAZL: Yeah, that was true for a certain. I had just seen him, how vibrant and full of life he was, one would think that he was eternal, which he really is, but on the other hand one would think that his physical being was just never going to quit, it was getting better. I remember one time very distinctly riding on Mission to Army street going back to the Mentorgarten, that I was riding in the back of the car with him, and he said something to me that carried me through his passing, because there were a lot of mixed feelings. When I first heard that he had fallen, my first instinct was to cry and the other was to say Alhamdulillah. He told me something which was very, very sober, and very, very real. He said, "Do you know, one of the greatest blessings a mureed can have is when his Murshid passes over," and we didn't discuss it any further, he just said that. When it happened that he had fallen that was the first thing that came to my mind. It was almost just like water off the back of a duck, it just kind of ran off, because here we were sitting next to this man that is so full of life,  but it wasn't relevant to what was happening. So then when it actually happened I understood for the first time what he really meant. It was no longer the Murshid caring for the mureeds, it was the great blessing and test of how true his mureeds really were. Because after his passing they were faced with the situation in life themselves. His guidance was still there, but they were more on their own. In that sense it is the blessing because you can't be sheltered—you can go along thinking it is very beautiful and it is nice having somebody pay your bills for you and do this and that, but you begin to realize that there is a certain a certain thing that you are missing by not being on your own, and that was what he meant. It was like—as long as I am your Murshid and you are my mureed, you never are going to have the realization. You can get the realization when you get to that certain level, but you get to it probably, via a very sudden realization—some people either sink or swim and I'm sure that there were a lot of people that sank, that it was over, and I know that there were people that were right on the verge, on the cusp, and as soon as he passed over, they just faded out. People that really felt strong, and felt attuned to him, I think really took the opportunity to gain strength within their own beings, and to see what he really was, and why he was trying to prepare us for what he was, because he knew that it was inevitable, that it was going to happen. It would be a joke to think but he was going to be there to settle our squabbles and disputes and to hold our hands and to say it is going to be alright, or to criticize you or slap your hands for doing something wrong, because everybody's got to face that for themselves. And that was the real blessing of it was that, Okay, he's led us along the path, we're on the path, now you can carry it all the way, so that was where I went. When he actually passed over, I had very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I was saying to myself, "Gosh what is it, it's worthless now, he was everything," but on the other hand I really felt, "Now he meant for us to be everything instead of for him to be everything." So in that sense I think that it really was a blessing. I still say today, "It sure would have been nice for him to be around a little bit longer." I miss hugging him and holding his hand, you know, and chanting Ram with him and stuff, but I still feel that attunement with him. All you have to do is to sit down and look at his picture or think about him for a little bit—I even feel sometimes that he is more present than ever, every time I do something wrong he is looking for something to whack me over the back of my head, he is there all the time; which he always was, but there was that comfort and relief in having him here. If you've noticed the way the Order has gone since his passing, you can really see that a lot of people—that it is very important to have him here so that they could spend all their time with him, sitting around, being, talking, calling him when something went wrong, asking him—

CHALICE: I know what you're saying—

FAZL: And since then people have felt very unfulfilled—they had to go in different directions, and the Order has gone a lot of different ways, because of that, because now people say, oh, they can't sit at his feet and they can't be around and it is probably for the best; it hurts me, what can you say, everything is meant to be—