James Halim Pickard
I first heard of Samuel Lewis in 196$ when I was living in the Height-Ashbury in San Francisco. The lady I was living with heard he was speaking at the Church of Man, she went down and saw him, she came back and told me he was an egomaniac and from there, I went to some of his meetings and I was really quite impressed by him, so I decided to split San Francisco and go to the country and get it all together. And after about eight months living in the country, I decided I'd really like to get involved in the group that he was spear-heading and I had several friends who were involved at that time. I met him through Amin and there was a whole crew of people surrounding that scene too.
So I started coming to his meetings, I think, in 1969 again. And somewhere in the spring of 1969 I went to Aspin where I went to ask him for initiation, and there was a meeting at his house in San Francisco and after the meeting on Sunday night, I quietly walked up to his chair, and sat myself down and leaned over and whispered in his ear, "I'd like to take initiation." And he immediately blasted the whole room with, "Oh, you'd like to take initiation Ha Ha Ha Ha." I shrunk into the chair, and he said, "Go see Daniel." That was has secretary at the time. So that was my initiation in one sense, I got the formal initiation later. I guess one of the most amazing things about him was his sense of joy and his ability to just be so outspoken, and to speak out in such a way that you couldn't help but laugh. And to be able to be sarcastic with a sense of humor that you felt the heart in, so that it wasn't like from personal point of view, but from the point of view of heart consideration. I used to dance in San Anselmo, which was at—I think it was a Theological college, it's a seminary in San Anselmo—I guess everyone knows that's when we used to dance and I started in with Abd al Rahman who was then his secretary, and I was into music then—playing guitar and my aspiration was to be a Rock and Roll star and I was dragging about $5000. worth of equipment with me and I slowly let go of that, when I started selling my equipment off. And at that time he had really a high activity of meetings, and I was living in Novato and he was in Novato twice a week. I'd go over to the Khankah there and work and see him, occasionally I would drive him around and ne was always exceedingly busy. I got much closer to him in the summer of 1970 and succeeded Abd al Rahman as secretary treasurer and from that time on, I was working with him. And I used to come to San Francisco on Sundays and I would play guitar for the Sunday afternoon dance. Then I would cook the meal for the Sunday evening meetings. He was convinced that I could become a cook and open a restaurant at that time, so he was seeing to it that I learned to cook. He showed me how to cook his curries, those were incredible things, his curries. He'd make his curry base out of split pea soup, then he'd add all the these spices and onions and he'd toss it all together and then he'd come in and he'd check it. I'd do the whole thing and he'd check it and he'd add a few spices, real quick things, sometimes it got burned. So, we used to spend the night on Sunday night, and go out and do errands on Monday morning.
One time we went to Berkeley. This was really a shining time; we went to see two people, one was the head of the Eastern Studies Department U.C. and he wanted to go there and meet this man and set up an introduction to Abd al Rahman, because a Abd al Rahman was a very brilliant intellectual doing the Buddhist philosophy. So, I drove him over there and we were walking down the street in Berkeley towards the University and I was feeling tremendous, I was feeling about ten feet tall, and I was looking around, I was just in ecstasy walking down the street with Murshid. And I was thinking about how little and insignificant I used to feel when I visited Berkeley before, thinking I was, you know [?] and so forth. And just as I was saying that, he turned and he looks at me and he said," You know, when I was much younger, I used to walk around Berkeley thinking how insignificant I am, and what a poor fellow I am, now I have to keep myself from thinking that I'm ten feet tall." Ha H a kinda looked me in the eye kinda blew my mind ? ? ? He went to see this professor, and he just walked right in and sat right down and said," Hi, I’m Samuel Lewis," and he gave his Buddhist name and he gave the name of all his teachers and he gave the name of all the Sutras he knew by heart, and he gave the states of all the realizations that he had and furthermore he stated that he was in that state of realization right at that time, in that very moment and this PhD just sat there and went "Hum, hum, hum" and told him [?] The minute Murshid got through saying it he got up and said," ah, excuse me, I want to go down the hall and talk to so and so down the hall." So he ran down the hall and talked to so and so ( I don't know what he did) and then he came back and he said, "Ah, I'm glad you came by, very good to meet you, I hope your disciple comes by." He was just mind blown, that Murshid just came in and said" phlaaaaaaa." It was really a high day.
Later in that day, we visited the Institute for Eastern Studies. This was in Berkeley too. Murshid was real close with those people, he knew them really well, he wanted to set up a scholarship, so he did that, this was in the fall of 1970. Another Monday outing we took, we went to the Pakistani Council, which is located in Pacific Heights, in the bottom floor of some very fine mansion. I'm sure it was donated by some very wealthy philanthropist and I think this was right during the Bangladesh wars. We went over there and Murshid was dressed in his gardening clothes. We walked right into this thing, it was a real formal, uptown reception office, chairs and real curvy receptionist. Murshid walked right in and said, "I want to see the Counsel. I'm Samuel Lewis." "Very good sir, do you have an appointment?" The whole thing. "No, no, I want to see him, It's very important." "All right, I'll see what I can do" and she got one of the secretaries to come and see us, so we went to see the secretary and he sat down and said, "I'm Samuel Lewis, Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti," got it all down who he was. And his energy was so strong, she couldn't even relate to what he was saying. So she went and got one of the attachés to the counselor, and said, "Will you talk to this guy because I can't even figure it out." So we went and he sat right down and said, "I'm in a constant state of God Intoxication, I'm constantly saying Zikr." The guy said, "Oh! Far out! wait right here." He went and got the Counsel. Then the Counsel came to this office, and Murshid said, "My teacher is Sufi Barkat Ali from Pakistan and I'm in a constant state of Fikr? I'm teaching the young, I'm teaching dancing. "The Counselor said, "Alhamdulillah! my Murshid is" and he said who his Murshid was and they swapped Murshid stories, and that was that and they kind of embraced, aid said well, "So long, good bye." That was the Council from Pakistan, the formal representative of the Pakistani Government in the United States. Himself and several aids and a whole big pizzazz office. And Murshid just wanted to go there and give him a "hit" of what's happening. You know, because whatever is read about in the papers was never of any value what so ever.
We got in the papers with "Sufi Sam dances in the Park with thousands of people." People didn't know quite what to make of that. He was really outspoken about being the spiritual leader of the Hippies, how he received the vision to lead the Hippies, and he used to go speak on Haight Street too, at the—I think it was called—the "Thou Coffee House" or something like that and he used to get a lot of flack there from people who were realty into psychedelics and speed. He always managed to pull it off real well; there was just no problem, he'd just walk right in and just hit everybody hard with lots of energy.
Murshid always had the ability to be the teacher that you needed to have to become yourself and so for that very reason, lots of people, after he left, assumed they knew who he was—he was a different person to many people. I know, in my case, it really came out true, because many times when I was driving him around, we were going somewhere, but, I decided that I was going to lay my whole problem on him again. I'd worked it all out. I’m not going to suffer this! So, the minute I would get into his presence, all these really important questions that I really felt were important completely dissolved and it would be gone and I didn't have the nerve I guess to lay my limited trip on him at that time. The thing about him is, I know he was aware of, if not the thought, the whole vibe that was going through my mind. But he would never initiate that kind of thing. If you were weren't going to initiate, asking a question, seeking an answer, he didn't say a thing. And there was this tremendous power just staying in his own being, and not trying to draw you out, so you thought, this fellow, he was just the principle involved, is that you hadn't asked for, setting up a science.
Well, just the principle involved, is that it's really foolish for a teacher to answer something to a disciple if the disciple isn't willing to accept the answer or trust the answer. So I think he was very conscious of that. I’d like to say something about Murshid and his women mureeds. Murshid was often seen playing Krishna to his woman mureeds, and he had many close female disciples. They all were madly in love with him and he had an amazing capacity to love them all equally and just not get caught up with the individuality or personality of each of those women. And it's overwhelming, the capacity and the power of the women that were directly and specifically around him and the amount of energy they used to put toward him. I can think of several. I think one was on the phone to him three times a day, and big problems every time and he'd tell them to cool off, say Allah and every time he 'd give just the energy she needed and I know he did this with several women, and it always amazed me and it still amazes me now, because, then it was a phenomena, and now I'm more amazed by it that he was able to carry it off. One time he confided in me that there were several of us, who were his disciples, that he kept his distance from, because, implied by his nature and by their nature that if you got too close to him it would just get too outrageous so I know there were some whom couldn't understand that distance he kept either. So, I really think that was one of his transmissions through his men disciples, is that Krishna aspect towards women and of course at the same time comes the test of self control. And one time after getting the Krishna "hit" and falling in love with all the female disciples, I very seriously asked Murshid about Polygamy and what he thought about it. And he said, "Oh, I think Polygamy’s fine. All you have to do is love them all equally and support them equally." And he said, "In Western consciousness it's usually done with a wife and a mistress." "But," he said ,"You have to love them equally and support them equally." Personally I've come to see his is almost impossible or next to impossible, not impossible, but it's an outrageous idea.
Now I'll talk a little about money, seeing as I'm the secretary-treasurer. First of all, Murshid believes in paying for the teaching, he initiated the policy of paying dues and a registration fee, and he was really stern about it. In fact, I remember one story (this is a story of Amin's I just happen to know). So here's a story about money, it was an experience Amin had, "We were negotiating to move, it was Amin's. The Wednesday night meeting used to be at Amin's house, his old house in Corte Madira, and it was getting very packed, so Amin was out looking for another room. And he found the Seminary in San Anselmo, they said you can have our room, but you can't charge any money for it. You can’t make money off us. And, it was an ideal room, so Amin went back to Murshid, and said, "Well Murshid, we can have this room, but we can't charge any money." And Murshid didn't say a thing, and then he came back and said," Do you expect me to work for nothing?'" I guess that's kind of an introduction to money. Because Murshid was very straight and very sincere and serious about that, and most of us were coming out of the Haight-Ashbury "Love Science" or around the periphery to it and there was a real strong feeling that if you put a price on it, it was a “rip-off" and everybody resisted the idea of money, but he insisted upon it. And furthermore he pointed out that he paid in 1928, a hundred dollars to the Sufi Order to get initiated, when a dollar was worth a dollar. So he set up a dues policy and a policy of charging money for his meetings. And even though he had his own personal income which was a set income based upon his age and which had been arrived at through his life. The income was not necessarily for his own person but was to build a center, to build up an Order and set down principles.
So that's where the dues thing came from; however, he never imposed a hardship. We used to sit down periodically every two or three months and see who was paying dues and who was not paying dues, he would say "this person shouldn't pay," and it was all based on his personal situation and the ones that should pay, "This person should pay, and if they don't pay, you tell them to come see me," and that's the way he approached it. We used to do banking together in Novato, at that time that was where I lived and he was there 2 days a week, And we used to go in the bank, it was really an outrageous experience, we'd walk right in. He had a loan out, a personal loan out at that bank, a couple of thousand dollars, which he was paying on. Walked right in, the assistant manager was the fellow he zeroed in on, he'd walk right in and say," "Hi! How are you." Sat right down. "How are things going?" Said how the dancing was going, I'm going to Geneva for a conference, everything's going great guns, people are happy and joyful and ecstatic, and my work's getting out and alhamdulillah you know. And the guy would just sit there, and he seemed to enjoy it, and he certainly was a good listener (laughs) which was the key to him being that. He was, "Oh, wonderful Mr. Lewis, I'm very glad and blah, blah," and we'd do our business. And after Murshid left, I continued doing business with that bank, and with that officer, and I'm amazed 1ooking back now, after having banked with other banks, about how open that man was to me, and how Murshid must have opened his heart, because there was so much personal exchange, and a continued personal concern on his part about how things were going. There was a time when asked about a loan, and he said "If you need it, you have to get it, we'll do it in your signature alone." Your signature alone, without any collateral, and it's just a real far out experience. The thing was to take the spiritual experience right down to the real level of the common coin of the world, money and banking. People have all these concepts about money and banking, and just walk right in and go, "Pizzazz and find that everyone just "Pizzazzes" you right back. It was an amazing experience. And that was the quality of a lot of experiences. I used to walk around with Murshid, we'd go and do all these business deals, where he had any business, I'd go along with him and the same real outgoing, sun-like energy, completely open and completely outspoken, was always successful, a hundred percent successful. Completely successful.
One thing I've really come to treasure about knowing Murshid Samuel Lewis, was, if I were to trace it it would have came from his Zen training, but it was his insight to know if your question was coming from your heart or from your head, and if it was coming from your head, he wouldn't answer it in any rational or reasonable way whatsoever, and the answer would be right to your heart, and your answer wouldn't make any sense at all. I'm not going to think of a particular instance at this time, but I recall it happening several times and, right, someone would ask a question and Murshid would answer him back personally, right to his intent, and if the guy took it personally, right, it would be a slam to his ego. I've come to treasure it, because what I'm left with is these real, clear, ringing directives and there's just no way of getting around them. That's what he said, and it's real clean and it's real precise, in my own personal, you know, Sadna. One thing he said to me, he said," I don't give a damn whether you do what I tell you to do but you better do what you say you're going to do." And also, along the same line, he said, "You can lie all you want to me, I don't care, but you better not lie to yourself." And he also served as a perfect mirror to you of anything you said you were going to do. If you said you were going to do something in his presence, and he flashed that you should do it, every time he'd see you, he'd say, "What are you doing about it?" Up to a point, and then "either do it, or do something else,” he would say. But he was real strong on, "what are you doing about it?" What are you doing in life? and another thing he was really strong about was, "What are your tools?" What have you done to earn money in the past, are you going to throw them out the window?" Well I threw them out the window, because the tendency at that time, I guess everybody had just gone through this scene with psychedelics, and everybody wanted to be an Artist or a Musician, real free thinker, high flying easy life, and everyone wanted to have nothing to do with their past. And from one point of view, I can understand it, because I personally felt—some people had a lot of direction in life and some people didn't. I didn't necessarily have much direction, so I'd just as soon not look back on it. But, like, skills you had, he said, "Those are your skills, those are what you've got. Use them to benefit you on the spiritual path." And it got down to your concept about what was spiritual. To work with your hands, perhaps wasn't, from a lot of points of view. He really emphasized that, "what were you doing?" and people often got a shock when they came to take initiation from him and they'd sit down and he'd get this his data sheet on them. He'd say, "all right. Where did you go to school? Did you get your degree? What skills do you know? Do you want to go back and finish school? Are you going to leave it hanging?" Questions like that, you know. And it was all based on, "Do what you say you are going to do." I remember real strongly, at one meeting, his whole thing was," Be positive, don't second guess yourself, don't doubt yourself, not the little doubt, maybe the big doubt, the little doubt, the continual, eroding worrying syndromes. I remember one time at the meeting, there was I don't k now, from one point of view, one could say there was a kind of a "Peyton Place" scene going down amongst the community; it wasn't outrageous, but there was always that sort of thing going on and he said, "I don't care if you commit adultery, as long as you do it in a positive frame of mind. I don't care one way about it or the other, I just don't want you to be negative, I don't want you to be doubtful, I just want you to be positive, and if you think you should do something, do it!" And that was really his way, he really had a tendency to go to extremes. He said one time (I can't think of the instance he was drawing it from) if he wanted some something, he would go hundred percent away from it, the absolute extreme, I guess to test himself on his reason and intention for wanting it, and then he'd come back the around the other way in a real balanced sense, and get what he wanted. But he really was one of extremes, and he used to constantly break his habits, too. He'd form a habit, he'd constantly break it, just to keep his will power and test his will power instead of being attached to things like that and so, he really believed in extremes as a way of getting to that clear space. That was for him. I don't know if that applied to all his disciples but that was for him.