Amin Quantz and Amina Erickson—Feb. 3, 1977
WALI ALI: Alright I'll try to pose some questions; I think I have some that could be posed, and should we start that way, or do you want to start.
AMINA: We could start with when we met Murshid.
WALI ALI: That seems like an easy place.
AMINA: So maybe you should start since you met him first.
AMIN: The way I met Murshid was very unusual because I was introduced to him by a person—the whole story is that I was overseas living in Nepal, and it was pre-psychedelic days but getting close, and one day in Katmandu, Nepal, where these strange hippies were all hanging out this fellow came to town and he had some L.S.D. and he turned me on for the first time, and then months and months later going in two different directions—I was going West and he was going East—I was walking down Haight St. and I see this fellow walking up Height St. And almost the first thing he says to me is, "There is somebody that you have to meet," and I said, "Alright," and he said, "Come to my house tonight and meet this—meet Sam Lewis."
WALI ALI: Who was this fellow?
WALI ALI: Oh, he's the one who also introduced Moineddin and Fatima—
AMIN: Yeah, but what I didn't know was that a few months before that, and months and months before Kirke was overseas, he met Moineddin, Carl Jablonski in Chicago for the first time and he said, "Here, try one of these." He turned Moineddin on for the first time and in Evanston, Illinois—
WALI ALI: Was it the same guy that you met in Nepal? At home?
AMIN: Yeah, and he also met Pat, whatever her maiden name was in Evanston, Illinois or something like that, and he said, "Here you try one of these." So he went on and met me in Katmandu, but months before I got back Moineddin and Fatima were walking down Haight St. since they were together and they were walking down the street and here comes Kirke walking up the street and he said, "There is someone you've got to meet. Thousands of miles and months later in Katmandu and then months later here I come walking down the street, its Kirke and he says, "There is someone you've got to meet."
WALI ALI: I think that he introduced Yasmin to Murshid too.
AMIN: So he was—he played that fundamental role and that was in—it must have been in the spring of '67—let's see, I keep thinking '66 but it must certainly have been '67 when I met Murshid Sam for the first time and he was living on Clementina St. and he had this little flat there on this tiny little street off of Fulton, and he was the first spiritual teacher that I'd ever met, but I was very primed because I was sort in depth without direction, because of the things of the time, so the first time that I met him had quite an effect on me. One of the first things that I wanted to do was to go and bring my mother to meet him, so I brought my mother to meet him the next meeting. And then at that time I was involved in things that would keep me up for days, and I got this sort of pulled, strained muscle in my back and I had this constant burning sensation in my back—it was really painful—and one of the first times that I saw Murshid actually do a healing was on me—we were sitting there and he used to give us lectures and talks in his bedroom while sitting on his bed—and he just looked at me and he said, "Lay down on the floor," and I lay down on this rug, and he took his Zen stick and he put it in one hand like a cane and he put his left foot on the ground alongside of my hip and he put his right foot right in the small of my back on the pain, and it felt just like a vacuum cleaner and it just went ‘sh-u-p-p-p’ and the pain was gone, and I went sort of numb for about three days and eventually it did come back but it was less, and eventually it went away altogether, but it was such a relief because it felt just like a cigarette was burning into my back all the time when I sat there or I’d lie down and couldn't move and it was just constantly burning, constantly burning, and sure enough—he took that pain right out of me—
WALI ALI: That was—that was over at Clementina St.? What do you recall about those meetings over there, the first meeting—
AMIN: He was living with someone else at the time, and I don't remember if it was Mr. Hunt or not. It was a smaller place and he had the apartment in the back and it was like a kitchen with a couple of front rooms, and I think one of those served as a bedroom, and then his bedroom was in the back, and I remember just this—an inner experience of a kind of attunement, it was like a jolt. The first time I saw him I had had an experience—he really had quite an effect on me because I was sort of opened up in a way, and my first experiences you might say—in an inward sense, was a jolt, it almost made me go "eek," like this—an electrical shock or something and like, but not quite like that, but a real jolt, and I remember that just saw his profile of his head so clear it was like a jolt when I looked at him, and then he talked—at that time Akbar Simmons was present, and Brian Carr, and Moineddin and Fatima, and these two fellows who live right near us in Corte Madera—
AMINA: Not Howard Mussell—
AMINA:—and George somebody—
AMIN: Howard Mussell and George somebody—
AMIN: George White?
AMINA: They were—
WALI ALI: Were they older?
AMIN: They were older, yeah,—
AMINA: Not much older—they weren't like—they were in their maybe 40's—
AMIN: Early 40's—
WALI ALI: And they were gay, right?
AMIN: A couple of gay guys, yeah, and they had this pad and they were students of Murshid's, but I don't know on what basis, because I don't recall them being even at the meetings that I went to on Clementina St., although I know he was in connection with them, because one of my first errands for Murshid was to deliver a letter to these two fellows because they lived so near us, and then they in turn were friends with Bill—
WALI ALI: Yeah, who we are trying to run down; we'd very much like to get his story on tape—
AMINA: I bet you those people still live there in that house, and I imagine that they would know—
WALI ALI: Would you go by?
AMINA: Sure. Last time that I saw Bill Hathaway he was staying with them.
WALI ALI: I really would appreciate it if you could—he is an important person to get his memories down, because he knew Sam very intimately as a friend for many years.
AMINA: He is very articulate too, I think.
WALI ALI: Yeah, he is. So I would really appreciate it, we have been trying to run him down—we wrote his former wife, and she didn't seem to want to help—
SABIRA: I think I wrote Howard Mussell—
WALI ALI: Yeah, but I don't think writing is the answer—
AMINA: I'll go by if they are still there, okay.
AMIN: Bill Hathaway, at that time he would spend—it sounded like as much time as he could afford—in Mexico, and that's maybe, if he isn't on the scene—that's maybe where he is now. Then there was another disciple who was a friend of Akbar Simmons and his name was Gary somebody. I think it was Gary—
WALI ALI: Gary—wait a minute, Gary, I think it was Clarke, it could have been Clarke—
AMIN: Clarke, Clarke that's that was it—
WALI ALI: Clarke—he was a tall guy—and Clarke Brown—
AMIN: Yeah, a straightish sort of fellow—
WALI ALI: Yeah.
AMIN: He wasn't so straight because he—
WALI ALI: He ended up getting busted for pot and—
WALI ALI:—and doing time, but that was, according to Akbar, he was pretty innocent, it was a friend who was living with him that was really doing it.
AMIN: Yeah, greenhouse growing thing, I know what you mean, and then, let’s see, so this period that—when I first met Sam—the meetings themselves weren’t divided up, they were the way they were when he moved to the Mentorgarten, they were—he would be speaking on a theme but the emphasis was more along, what I would say—it was a dialogue of enlightenment, not necessarily associated with a particular religion, but it seemed to have a particular emphasis on Zen.
WALI ALI: Yeah, that’s what Moineddin said too, at that point, it seemed to be more of an emphasis on Zen—the Sufi emphasis came somewhat later; it was always there, but it didn’t become real clear that he was going to make that his primary emphasis—it wasn’t clear in 1967 that that was what he was going to do.
AMIN: And then away from Clementina St. he came to visit—
WALI ALI: Were you living in Marin?
AMIN: No, at that time I was still in the city, I had just got back and I was trying to get out of the Army and doing all this stuff.—
WALI ALI: Oh you were living in Langley-Porters.
AMIN: Yeah, right—I was a day patient in Langley-Porter until my I Y4F came through, so I was shooting pool and being hippie—seeing Murshid Sam. There were a few meetings out but they weren’t necessarily consecutive, they were for awhile, and one of them was like an informal gathering where he was present at probably what would have been a party at Kirke’s house, but at that time he was living with Cosmic Alan downstairs—
WALI ALI: Kirke was?
AMIN: Kirke was, yeah—he lived in the same apartment, he was sharing a commune with Cosmic Alan and with other people.
SABIRA: Alan Noonan?
AMIN: Alan Noonan—
WALI ALI: Oh that’s how, that happened that Murshid went over there.
AMIN: Yeah, it was Kirke’s place too, and Kirke was going around with a girl who is now known as Janet Planet who eventually became the girl friend of Van Morrison, and she had a child and I was never sure if it was Kirke’s child or not, and I don’t remember very much about the meeting except that it was a short gathering. And there wasn’t any real connection made for me there; it was sort of scattered energy, but Murshid was there. And—maybe I’ll have to come back to it as I think of it—
WALI ALI: Did you even know him when he was on Clementina St.?
AMIN: No, this is pre, pre most of the disciples who are—most of whom are still active now that—
WALI ALI: Did you become a disciple at that time?
AMIN: No, I didn't, I didn't even know that there was such a thing. I was really out of touch with anything—I had this strong permeation of the atmospheres around India and the temples and things, and I did all these intuitive, instinctive things the first time I really got high in Nepal, like sitting in the temples playing drums, and the people there at that time—it was as much an exception to see—as far as they were concerned, we were some kind of sadhus, we weren't hippies yet because there weren't that many people there.
WALI ALI: Yeah.
AMIN: So I had this wonderful experience of opening where people just threw red chalk dust on us as we walked through the streets and left us alone—it was completely un-paranoid, so I got back here of course and there was the tension and the pressures and everything, it was quite a different thing. During this period when Murshid was living on Clementina St. I had gotten a job with the post office and then I started to make some friends and one of them was named Jim Pickard, another guy whose name was Phil Davenport, another guy’s name was—from that original group—then there was Phil's wife Claire, and another person who came along a little bit after that whom I had known, and who hung out in some of the same places, was Halim, and so I move to Marin with some other friends from the post office, and a little community started in Marin around Larkspur. Eventually Phil and Claire moved over, and then I met Amina. I was living in Larkspur during that period that this circle of friends was forming in Marin, that I heard that Murshid had ptomaine poisoning and I was never straight whether that was what it was, and I don't know if the record has ever been checked to see if he was admitted for ptomaine or if he was admitted for heart trouble and ptomaine, because later on I found out that there may have been same other complications. So I heard that, and then by this time Moineddin and Fatima were very close to him and I think they saw him on a regular basis during a period when I didn't, where I'd moved to Marin and out of the city, and then one day—part of my purpose for moving to the country was that I was convinced that because of my initiation into being free that the answer for me was to just save up my money and buy hundreds of dollars worth of drugs and move to the country and just get stoned, and when that ran out to just walk out into the woods somewhere. And this was my big plan, so I did that, but I never got as far as the woods, I never quite ran out, but toward the end of that—what I thought was the truth at that time—I began going off the brink, I was venturing into the dark night and I didn't know where I was going, I was going into it backwards, I didn't know where necessarily I was going but it was my time to go through some really heavy changes, and I would prefer to think that just meeting a spiritual teacher in any capacity puts you along into the changes in which you eventually have to go, but I was also blowing myself completely looney with drugs, and looney in a smart sort of way—and I was having some very heavy experiences, and so one night I was sitting there and Vasistha and I got stoned and he—we were sitting up on the mountain/on the hillside and looking at Mt. Tam where I used to live, and I had this big cardboard tube that I was making rumble like a [?] and so all of a sudden for no reason at all, I just took this tube and I hit Phillip with it. I just went POW just like that, right on the shoulder, and he leaped up and took off all of his clothes and ran raced down the hill and ran through the town of Larkspur and punched out a guy and jumped into this guy's yard who was mowing his lawn and went over and said, "You square," or something like that, and POW, hit him on his jaw, and he was eventually apprehended by the police department in Larkspur, and Clair, of course, she said, "What are you?—some kind of magician or something," here's my old man and while you're up there tripping out and all of a sudden he races down the hill and is arrested with no clothes on. And so I was walking around and I felt in complete control of whatever it was. This was kind of like the alter ego coming up, and, then, that night—it becomes more relevant—because that night I had my deepest, initial personal experience with Murshid Sam—I was sitting outside of my cabin and we were still really gone, and I started just listening, and listening, and listening, and then I could hear the winds in the atmosphere, I could hear the winds in the stratosphere and I was listening to the sort of moaning sounds of the wind, and then in my mind—it seemed like my third eye felt this—I just saw Murshid Sam's face and it was all gold, and it was just his face and it was very pronounced across the bridge of the nose and I just heard this little word that said, "Buddha," then absolute silence/peace—but it was peace, and it wasn't peace until I thought about it as a word, but the impression that I had was peace, and so, okay, that did it, alright, it was after that experience—then I was in such a space that I didn't consider that necessarily extraordinary. And at the same time I was going through, about three months later, some kind of breakdown, so I went to see Murshid Sam again, and this was when he had moved here in the meantime and his struggle with the poisoning and everything was over. He was living here and Mr. Hunt was living in the back, and I came to see him one day, and who was here but Kirke, sitting in the kitchen.
WALI ALI: That must have surprise?
AMIN: I knew he was connected but I didn't expect to see him here or anything like that, so I came in and I waited to see Murshid Sam and I can't remember what it was that I said, but something was really bothering me, and it was just my own ego, but I was really blown out, and I came to see him and he gave me Alaho Akhbar as a mantra and I kept saying—like you remember your school gym and the lock combinations, Alaho Akhbar, Alaho Akhbar—and then he went out of the room and he came back with a tasbih, and he said, "My disciples use these, and you use it say Allaho Akhbar," and transcend your problems. So I went down the stairs, and I said, "Gee, I'm going to help this old guy out sometime," and I started talking to Pat and I said, "If there is anything I can ever do to help you, just give me a call," and that was first blast with Murshid and he said "Uh uh, I don't call you, you call me!" Ha ha, and said, "Ooops that's it," and so then I started The circle of friends, I wanted them to meet Murshid Sam, so one day I brought Phil and Claire and Jim Pickard and a couple of other guys: Bill Lawson and Paul Briggs and Amina and when we came it was a Saturday morning and we all arrived, and I said, "There is somebody you've got to meet," and they said, "Yes." And by this time Phillip had completed his troubles. I think he was just having some kind of liberation experience where he was—because he’d just come from the city and he had been living in the city for awhile and going to school and everything, and he was free, now and—I don't know why I did it—and hit him with that but bonk! Like that—harmless but enough, like a Zen stick it went Bonk!—just like the plan clicked into place and he just threw off his clothes and raced down the hill and punched this square in the nose, so that was that, but anyway and—I didn't—
WALI ALI: You brought all those people over here—had you been seeing Murshid outside of the class at all?—
AMIN: No, not at all, just here at the Mentorgarten, and I brought my woes and I got my mantra and after that I just started thinking about him, more and more and more and more and I had this very romantic sort of, almost savage dog attitude about disciples, because I thought that disciples of spiritual masters—my conception at that point—was that they were really tough and they were just this sort of wild, samadhi-crazed creatures in total control of the world, and real wild stuff—and of course it's true—part of it—so then Amina came and maybe you'd like to take it up from there. The first thing I remember her saying was that it was either going to be one of these things where she either liked him or she didn't, and she said, "I just love him," or something like that, "I just love him."
AMINA: It was as simple as that, that's all there is to tell. He just walked in the door and I just loved him.
AMIN: It was to a meeting.
AMINA: It was to a meeting, add there were other people in the room, even more than—I don't quite recall who—
AMIN: He'd have the meeting and then he'd go take walks—
AMINA: But this time—the first time we came here we didn't go on a walk.
AMINA: We just all walked in and there was a meeting. The whole first times when I met him I didn't know what he was talking about, I didn't really know what he was talking about. Amin, you had told me that he was a Sufi teacher, but I'd never heard of Sufism, I didn't know what it was or—and I wasn't particularly looking—I didn’t know about spiritual teachers or disciples or the whole business. I just was unaware of it and I wasn't directed toward religion so it didn't occur to me that it was a religion, and I just came because you told me that he was far-out—
AMIN: This was 1968
WALI ALI: Yeah, I think they moved into here in March of '68—
AMIN: March, April, May—somewhere in late Spring I think, the first time. It was peoples’ friends, and then people I brought also had some friends, but I don't remember those connections very clearly, but I know that the people who originally came….
WALI ALI: Do you remember anything else that you might think might be particularly interesting about that early period before he had many disciples? About his behavior or the way that he talked or any particular stories that you'd remember that kind of indicate something of the mood of that period.
AMINA: I just think to say that my initiation—like I met him and I felt instantly connected to him—it's like I'd been through Wellesley, I’d been to college, and then I’d been through the whole of Haight-Ashbury, and so I’d met people who thought they knew on one side and people who thought they knew on the other side—and I’d concluded before I’d met Murshid that there might be something to know but nobody really knew it—I just had to proceed on my own, and then suddenly there was this man who very obviously knew—and so there was that. I didn’t know what he knew, it didn’t really matter to me, it was just like I saw instantly that he knew—and so that was one level and then on the other level I felt instantly connected to him—I just felt an instant bond, and so a few meetings after the first time that I met him—and I don’t remember about the meetings—those few meetings—except that he just talked, and I think he talked—I don’t believe he ever talked about Sufism—
WALI ALI: He probably told his stories.
AMINA: He just talked about different things.
WALI ALI: Did you meditate or…
AMINA: It was always very short, like the peace-meditations.
AMINA: Jhanas—maybe concentrating on your feet, and maybe just a few breath things—I think he had us breathe up the backbone right, instantly—practices like that, but then suddenly it was like the possibility of initiation came to us—I think he said, “There is going to be an initiation on Sunday night”—period, that was the statement, so it wasn’t even like “you are going to be initiated into this and here’s what,“ all I knew when I was initiated was that I was formalizing this connection with this being that I was so connected with—it was like nothing—the initiation was like holding his hand, reaching out and holding his hand—shaking his hand, it was almost that, and I don't think I had any idea what Sufism was when I got the initiation—or I don't—I never felt that I was being initiated into anything; it was that this link was being established.
WALI ALI: Right.
AMIN: It was the first Bayat, and that's when I took initiation too.
AMINA: And I think everybody who was initiated in that very early period—those initiations were like that.
WALI ALI: Was Jayanara initiated that night?
AMINA: I think she was.
AMIN: Yeah—Jayanara was out here at some point, she and Fatima went to high school together.
WALI ALI: Yeah I know, I believe she was because I believe that we have that initiation on tape.
AMIN: Oh boy! Really!
WALI ALI: So I think we have a tape of it—
AMIN: Let's see, that was you and who else? I, Phillip, James Pickard, Selima or Claire—
AMINA: I don't know if it was all those people; I recall James Pickard, but I am hazy on who else it was, because all those people came all at the same time, and right after that there were other initiations—
WALI ALI: Krishnadas was initiated that night, too, I think—
AMIN: It could have been so great…
AMINA: It all happened very quickly—the initiations happened quite quickly—a group formed around him—and that was the same group that went on these walks which almost immediately started where we would walk around—to begin with it was just around these couple of blocks up here.
WALI ALI: What did you do on the walks, what sort of practices?
AMINA: The Elements is what I remember most clearly, most often it was the elements—and that was when the first that I know of where he put us on a path of mastery, so to speak—that was the first time that I became aware that that was the path—there was a certain development, there were certain things that one could learn that would take one—and it was also symbolic, we were going on this walk—walking on this walk anyway—mostly the elements—I don't remember if there were—I just remember him going up—the first one was fire—going up this hill—and I wasn't into walking at all in that period of time, and I hated going up hills, and I looked at that hill that is right up there, and then he got us to do the fire breath, and I just remember him shooting off—just seeing the sight of Murshid just shooting up that hill and then—and that was the way that the teaching came too during that period—he would just do it, and you just couldn't help—you were just part of this comet, and so then we all went up that hill, and I was so amazed because I had never been able to go up a hill at top speed without getting feeling drained by it, and it was the same—I don't remember in between that first time that he did those walks but I remember him going down, and he said, "Okay, now, water," and he showed us the breath and then the same thing, he shot down the hill, but it was water instead of fire, and here was this little—it was just water, and it was just all so immediate, and then shortly after that the Planets came but that wasn’t out—
WALI ALI: You didn't do those in the street, did you?
AMINA: I don't believe we did those on the street—
AMINA: What's that, the walks of the Planets?
AMINA: The Planets and—
AMINA: I don't recall doing them—
AMIN: It was the elements, Planets, and then he started approaching the subject of like the Tasawwur through different teachers—Swami Ramdas was the first one, I think, and that was being centered here with Uranus—a high centered Uranus going up the hill—
AMINA: We did do Swami Ramdas outside—
WALI ALI: Yeah, that one I remember doing outside. What else do you remember about those walks? That's a good subject to try and fill in a little bit—
AMINA: We walked—walking was so much just a part of daily seeing Murshid—there were a few classes and then there was this formal walk, but then we went on walks, remember that?
WALI ALI: I used to go to the grocery store all the time with him and carry back the groceries—
AMINA: We used to go to Chinatown and—and he would have sort of specific—like on a particular day we would go on an adventure frequently in Chinatown, and we went to To-Lun's one time and we would walk around Chinatown. And we went to a sort of new Buddhist temple that had just been built—
AMINA:—one time and we went to a Chinese Buddhist temple down south of Kearney and one time we went to the museum—
AMIN: Ching Wah Lee's?
AMINA: Ching Wah Lee's—
AMIN:—He was an old friend of his—an art dealer—
AMINA: It was always an old friend of his would be someplace in this walk, and then we would end up eating—
WALI ALI: So what would he do when he would meet his old friends? He would say, "These are my disciples," or?—
AMINA: Yeah, yeah—Yeah, I remember one—when Murshid and introduced Moineddin—“This is my disciple Carl, I picked him up out of the gutter."
AMIN: Yeah—sometime afterward Carl and Murshid went to L.A. together and we stopped at Alla Rahka's house down in L.A. and he just went in and he said, "I am Sufi Ahmad Murad Chisti," and he started doing Ya Hayy, Ya Haqq and I always thought that there may have been something associated with me there even though I wasn't there, because why in the world out of the whole of Los Angeles would they happen to go to Alla Rahka's ?
WALI ALI: I know why—you remember the girl who was Alla Rahka's student, who was Pir Vilayat's disciple and she knew Murshid Hallie?
AMINA: Oh yeah—
AMIN: Oh! That's right that would be it. In those days Murshid he would never pronounce himself our teacher. In a certain sense, from the beginning, it was more like he would say, "I'm here to—I'm not here to lead you, I'm here to work with you,"—toward the One—it was like that approach, I remember it very clearly—he was the teacher, you were the student, chela/guru/mureed. But as a group we spent a long time and he spent a long time with us—and what he was actually doing was making friends with us, because he couldn't create a foundation of spirituality without a foundation of knowing each other for awhile. You see, he used to come to our parties and things like that—
WALI ALI: He had some adjustments to make himself and what he needed was to understand these people because they weren't exactly the kind of person that he was.
AMINA: And it came down so fast, like right before this time when we came here—when I first met him was when he was in the hospital and got the vision that he was going to lead—be spiritual teacher to the hippies—and that's who we were we were all just straight from Haight Ashbury, or somewhere like that—
AMIN: Yeah, it was pretty rough—
WALI ALI: I remember him talking about the Christmas Eve party at your house or New Years—January, it would have been the end of 1967 or Jan. 1968—
AMIN: It was the '68 Christmas.
WALI ALI: '68 Christmas? It must have been '67, Amin.
AMIN: It's when he started the dances.
WALI ALI: Yeah, but the first Christmas that he went to your place he read from "What Christ, What Peace," he read his poem—
AMINA: And that was the first Darshan—
WALI ALI: That was an internal change that happened to him that evening that allowed him to be able to understand and to open up to these young people in a way that he had never been able to open up before.
AMINA: Isn't that the night that he started the dancing too? Didn't that happen all on the same night?
WALI ALI: What do you remember about that night?
AMINA: I am trying to think if I am putting several nights together with all of those things. I remember the first Darshan. He was sitting on a mattress on the floor at one end of that room. This was on Morningside Dr.
WALI ALI: Yeah, your early house.
AMINA: Our first house—and—
AMIN: Half a block away from George Mussells' house—it seems to me that was all the same night and he gave the jist of the evening—it was pretty crowded—but it was Christmas and he gave the Darshan of Christ to everybody and then he lept up and it seemed much later in the party, some people had left, and mostly just his students were there, and he said, "This is going to be our work for the new year," and he had us line up and do the first dance—"right foot, left foot, Allah, Allah" and it was all that same night—
AMINA: What was the first dance that we did? Do you remember? I know we said "Allah," but I don't remember what dance it was—
AMIN: Gee, I'm not really—
WALI ALI: Was it Ya Hayy, Ya Haqq in the middle, or was it Er Rahman, Ar Rahim ?
AMIN: I think it was Ya Hayy, Ya Hagq because the original Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim, with the hands up above and like the wheel and changing partners, but he announced the dances at that same night—I thought that was ’68 then—
WALI ALI: I just—
AMINA: We could find out—
WALI ALI: I'm pretty sure that something was at the end of '67, because I came on the scene in June of '68 and I never missed a meeting or anything after that.
AMINA: So then it couldn't have been that, it must have been '67. Did you come to a Thanksgiving dinner at our house at—on Morningside Drive?
WALI ALI: I wasn't always invited to all the things—
AMINA: Everybody came—anybody connected with Murshid came.
WALI ALI: Thanksgiving?
AMINA: A thanksgiving dinner at that same house?
WALI ALI: I think so, and he gave—I remember several things that he did at that house. I remember one meeting—I get it mixed up with your other house, because he did give Darshan at your other house too, I remember, on a couple of occasions—I can't recall the Thanksgiving dinner, you'd have to tell me something about it—
AMINA: I just don't know if that was before or after that Christmas dancing—I was just trying to figure the time out, by finding out when we moved into that house and when we left, we could probably figure that out.
AMIN: Mansur Johnson had appeared at this point, and Carol/Jemila, and they were—at that party—at that Thanksgiving there were about 80 people—I remember, because we served food to everybody and I was pretty conscious of the number.
AMINA: I remember because my—the oven broke, I also remember because I had never served food to any number of people at all.
WALI ALI: Had Mansur just showed up?
AMIN: Mansur? I can't remember when he appeared, he came from back East—
AMINA: He was there when I first met Murshid—he and Carolyn were there before I met Murshid—
AMIN: That's because Moineddin and Fatima had moved and—
WALI ALI: Yeah I know that, I was just wondering because when I met Murshid, Mansur was already his secretary.
AMINA: He was—when I was initiated he was—
AMIN: Yeah, I don't remember exactly when—and then Hassan came—he came out to marry Jayanara—
WALI ALI: The thing I would like to get if you can remember, regardless of whether it was that particular Christmas Eve, or Christmas or not, but that earliest thing that you can remember of what happened; if you could say something about the change that Murshid went through when you first met him—
AMIN: Oh I know some changes that he went through—he was in the position of "joy without drugs," and his exposure to hippies—it wasn't a consequential statement—this was a way of approaching what he was going to teach us, as opposed to the norm of the time. He never ever told people what they shouldn't do, he just—he gave them things to do, and then you could do that, and then you would change, everything would change. But the cases in point, I remember going on walks with him—during Saturday morning walks, and I could just tell that what we were actually doing was meeting him as a man, and he would meet different people, and I have so many outstanding impressions of Murshid Sam in different postures, different poses and I see now that we were learning about him, we were meeting him as a man, then we could know him as a teacher, but we also knew Sam Lewis, and on Jayanara's birthday in Mesa at Bolinas, this was a period where everyone was still meeting each other and he was becoming our teacher, and he was our teacher, but the way that he was becoming our teacher was by being really close to all of us, so close that there was never a thought about Murshid being at a party where a lot of people were going to be smoking dope, say and I can remember lying on the floor at Jayanara's house, rolling and smoking big J's with Carl and Murshid would be sitting on the bed with a headset listening to the Beatles, and having a little cake and having a little party, but that was like a little current, it was just running through the people at that time, and the whole thing was going on in a more and more pronounced form.
WALI ALI: He had real control; when you think back on it of all that he knew and all the practices and training that he had to be able to begin so circumspectly and just introduce a few things and not push it at all, it shows great control, because we rush to teach everything the first time that we have any exposure to—
AMIN: Yeah, he didn't approach—he gave us very definite things; most of the things that he gave us we had to do right then and it was just that, and it would be simple, and that was one of the things, it was so simple, what he was saying initially—it was so simple to do these things—
AMINA: He wouldn't say anything about it either, it would just tell you like what you were going to do, like the Sun—and he wouldn't say anything about it, he would just do it, in almost no words about any of the practices that he gave or—his words were about adventures or experiences or meetings with people or whatever but—
AMINA: I'm always aware of that—when I start talking about something I'm trying to get, in a class, if I'm trying to hear the words coming out—and I remember Murshid never used any words at all.
AMIN: So then the initiation after that first group took Bayat, the very next development was a more direct relationship with him as the teacher by various individuals—like I came over from—
WALI ALI: Did you have the impression that you were taking Bayat in the Sufi Order, or did you know anything about the Sufi Order or—
AMIN: Yeah, it was definitely the Sufi Order—
AMINA: I did—
AMIN: He had his Sufi Barkat Ali robe on and he gave the Bayat and said the Sufi Masters—
AMINA: Yeah, he said—
AMIN: Do you accept me as your teacher? [?] And I used to come over—take the bus over here every day, and be here by nine in the morning, and Murshid would be up, he would have written 16 letters by 9:30 in the morning and I would go over to the typewriter and I would type—my first assignment was to make five copies of all the Gathas in all three series of the Gathas which I did, he'd compile things—
AMINA: That's probably what we're still using—
AMIN: Yeah—the things that—
AMINA: They were pretty good ones too, I think—the atmosphere around here was so—he was who he was, and we were learning who he was, that is basically it. He was our teacher, and we were coming from all ends of the roads of the world and from all different backgrounds to our first experience with a spiritual approach, and just being around here, they'd never thought about fasting before, and staying here typing the Gathas, and I got this idea-thing, "I'm going to try fasting," so I take on this kind of practice where I do this sadhana or something that has to do with self-control, and it just seemed natural, never an instruction about it; I am sure that he always knew it, but the very first development was more classes—after that Bayat then the first Gatha classes started, and they were always here and they were all Gathas—
WALI ALI: And he taught those first Gatha classes, which he didn't after that. You were one of the first people that he appointed as a Gatha reader, you and Moineddin, right?
WALI ALI: He then established your class in Bolinas or in Corte Madera or someplace like that.
AMIN: Yes, by the time that the Gathas were in Marin County, there was already Githas as well.
WALI ALI: I see.
AMIN: After that initial Bayat, he started introducing people into the Order by different grades—like he wouldn't necessarily give them first Bayat—he initiated Jamshed into third to start and—
WALI ALI: But Jamshed had already received a first Bayat from Pir Vilayat—
AMIN: Oh, I didn't know that, I just thought it was Bayat from Murshid and it was the third and then he used to travel on meeting nights to Marin County so there would be a Gatha class here for the City mureeds and then there would be Marin County and maybe there would be one or two places, and then when the Khankah came, it changed and we would go to the Khankah. He used to read Gathas and Githas in Novato on Thursday nights.
WALI ALI: Oh I remember, yes.
AMIN: That same program?
WALI ALI: Oh, no, I remember it later, I guess. The Gatha classes that he led, what do you remember about them as being different than the others?
AMIN: After having read the Gathas a number of times as a reader—it seemed like the whole evening was just full—and we would just take a couple pages of the Gathas—I remember we would come and there would be this whole big meeting, 2 or 3 hours long with tea served and everything, and it was at Gatha meeting remember? It was this great, full meeting, only it was the Gathas and not too many of them.
AMINA: He would talk a lot, though, every sentence he'd read, he would talk a lot.
WALI ALI: I think I have a little bit of that on tape, him reading the Gathas and talking about it, but then I recall later when we had those lessons from him, that those meetings were rather brief, he did all that at other meetings and then the Gatha meetings were rather brief.
WALI ALI: That was when he was having meetings that were rather brief.
WALI ALI: That was when he was having still an open class on Thursday night, and at 9 o'clock or whatever, he would ask people who were not his disciples to leave, right? And he would read the Gathas.
AMINA: That was at our house, right?
WALI ALI: That was here.
AMIN: That was here.
AMIN: At our house he had the Gathas first and then the Githas separately, and then we would come together afterward it was the program as now.
WALI ALI: Do you remember, getting back to the walks a little bit—do any stories stand out in your mind of things that happened on the walks when you went to To-Lun's or Ching Wah Lee's or people that he might have accosted on the street?
AMIN: Oh Boy! He made us walk down Haight St. one time—
WALI ALI: Yeah—
AMIN:—and Moineddin's big huge mala broke, and his beads were scattered everywhere. And we were so uptight, it was like an assault on a beach head or something, and we parked off at one end of Haight St. and got out of the vans and some big people were wearing little jenner-caps.
WALI ALI: Jenner caps?
AMIN: Yeah, those little two-pointed Pakistani hats, and we started right at one end of Haight St. and walked all the way up Haight St. and all the way down the other street, and he had to chant, right? And it was like –
WALI ALI: You did? What did you chant?
AMIN: Jai, jai Ram—
WALI ALI: Om Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai, Jai Ram out loud while you were walking?
AMINA: Out loud!
AMIN: And people were just curling their socks—
AMINA: That was the first test—the people—who was—going to—
WALI ALI: Who was willing to—
AMINA: Were you willing to do that?
AMINA: And that wasn't the only one—
AMIN: Oh boy! And then—
AMINA:—but that was the first one—
AMIN: We did it too and it was beautiful when we really saw what was happening. Here was this spiritual teacher and his disciples walking down this hippie mecca, a perfectly natural sight—you see it in India too, and in other places. Here is a guru, and there are the chelas, and they are going off somewhere together—
AMINA: It was also an effacement—
AMIN: But we were effaced—as I said, my socks were rolling up and down, I was just walking around, and trying it, then I got into the spirit and got an overview of what was really happening, and I thought it was quite beautiful, and we went on our way.
Another time I remember that he said, that he met these two people—we were shooting up this hill in Chinatown—and really got into the walks and pretty soon we were getting pretty good at it. So we started up, and these two girls stopped Murshid at the top of the hill, said, "Who are you?" And he said—oh gosh, what were the exact words that he said?" I'm Sam Lewis…." And he says, "All positive," and he goes like this "chong"—and I just got this terrific hit, like it was all positive, "And Yogis don't get tired," and off we went again.
And another time in Ching Wah Lee's we were celebrating- not Ching Wah Lee's, but Ye Jung's. He used to take us to Ye Jung's to eat, and we would walk in there and someone asked him about the crowd, and he said, "I am the crowd." All kinds of those things, just moments of things that he said, but they were great teachings to me because I understood what he meant. I just had this intuition about what he meant. We'd sing , and sometimes we'd sing the grace—he was very outspoken, it was like just-consciousness in the world and it was so hip, just so powerful that like he could polarize a whole restaurant, a whole space just by going in there—it was real, but a lot of times we would go in to be laid back and have our social behavior and our schemes and stuff like that and here we are singing away at the table, laughing at every—
WALI ALI: There is no way to just mold in and merge with the crowd—
AMIN: No. But he never expected—like if you weren't expressing an exuberance that was really joy and natural and true, you'd feel so foolish because it wasn't real, it wouldn't be real, and yet he would be so dynamic all the time—more than once, a few times, I would say to myself, "Oh no, I don't want to sing grace in this restaurant" and everybody stops eating and turns around and looks and all the restaurant gets quiet, and here is this bunch of freaks, and this old man sitting there at this table singing away, but it got dropped out or I just stopped caring at all, it was just too much fun what we were doing,
WALI ALI: Here is a good question; it comes up all the time, I don't even know if it is a real question, but it is the sort of thing—one wonders whether this is just simply a teaching or an unconscious expression of who was which happened to be, as you say, a teaching of effacement and growth of the mureeds, or whether it was a conscious kind of testing of people, putting them through a situation of this or a similar nature.
AMIN: He put us through it as a group—no one was ever really singled out necessarily—something expected of them that was beyond them to do, or anything like that, nothing like that.
AMINA: He rarely single anybody out, or put anybody on the spot or—in fact he never put people on the spot—it was all designed so that if he put anybody on the spot it was the whole group—
AMIN: Yeah, it wasn't, and that's what you were—you say, "Alright, I'm going to be really with it, unless you were being real, and felt joy, or you were in a state of real communication with people, it was just a contrivance and you knew it instantly—
WALI ALI: Do you remember the night that he took the Saturday night dance class over to his old folk's?
WALI ALI: I was there that night—
AMIN: He said that any disciple that wanted to take folk dancing, he would pay their way—oh, all these old people dancing around—
WALI ALI: And the wonderful thing was that I think it helped to break down some of people's separations between the sub-culture and the rest of the world.
AMIN: Yeah, it did, it sure did. There was this very heavy distinction—part of the working philosophy of a lot of people was the straight and the hip, and most all of us got off on blowing straight people's minds—that was great, you are walking down the street in a certain gear, that was part of the fun—
WALI ALI: But Murshid was straight and hip; he was one of the straightest people one could ever imagine, at least that was my first impression of him—short hair, sitting there, very straight clothes—
AMIN: Plain brown shit, white shirt , no tie, yeah, I had the, same impression too, it was, but of course—we knew he wasn't.
AMINA: I was just thinking about this all the time that we were talking about it—the whole thing about the brotherhood really was a whole part of his teaching, and the people getting together—like all the times that we all ate together, and all the different ways—we were always going out to restaurants. Also, there were always meals that everyone would share before the meetings, like I guess it was Sunday where there was always the famous curry dinners were served, and were there other nights where there were meals, big meals?
AMIN: Sunday was what it started on—Murshid was becoming the spiritual teacher of the hippies—just the numbers of people he was involved in grew so fast—from Sufi dancing at the first Garden of Allah, saying, "This is what our work will be, and five people and "Allah, Allah, Allah," —and six weeks later at the Family Dog there were 2,500 people, "Allah, Allah, Allah," there was the snake dance going around the whole place, people just chanting and dancing around—thousands of people, thousands of people—
AMINA: It really happened fast—
AMIN: It happened so quickly—
AMINA: And he just get dances, he would say he couldn’t sleep, he would come the next day and say. "I couldn't sleep, I was just getting dances all night."
AMIN: He'd be so exhausted—
AMINA: He would be trying to get them out—as fast as he could.
AMIN: He'd be too tired to go to sleep, he'd say that he works all day and at night he has visions of dances all night—and he was during that whole period. And another time Omar had a party at his house in Madera, and this is an example of the way that Murshid was, that the people at Omar's party weren't necessarily his students, some were, some weren't—it was a party, but during the course of the party he and I just started doing Sufi dancing together right in the middle of the party—boom! just like that, and then wherever, wherever we went and whatever happened, this was a part of—
WALI ALI: Do you remember being with him in public situations where it got into big verbal arguments with—
AMIN: I never saw the biggest one, that Yogi Bhajan thing, I didn't—
AMINA: Oh I did—
WALI ALI: Oh I was there—
AMIN: I didn't see that one—
AMINA: Where the man accused—said that he was a jackass and then he started braying?
WALI ALI: Yeah, I was right next to him at that. That was a great one—
AMINA: It was an interesting one. I learned something—the ladies' dance class had come to that one, Murshid had brought the ladies dance class and we were all sitting there watching this all come down, and then at some point all the policemen's energy focused on the outer periphery of the circle, and they started yanking people up and throwing them into the back of their paddy-wagon—just indiscriminately plucking people from the audience and I started getting caught in it. Like I started feeling like going—I was going to go over there and help—they were little teenagers that were just sitting there in the sun , and just as I felt that feeling, I was just like this to go over there and get involved in it, Murshid grabbed my arm and said, "Come on, we're getting out of here," he said, "This isn't our work," and like that he rounded everybody up, and we were gone—right in the middle of that whole fray we were gone from there. I betcha that we got out of there in three minutes. He said, "This isn't our work."
WALI ALI: I remember that some people did get involved with politics, and he did support them, Josh Sager was one person, Banefsha was another—like that very day Banefsha was all involved in that scene, she was taking down the names of somebody that was taken up in the paddy wagon.
AMINA: I don't know if that was the same day, or maybe that all happened before we—
WALI ALI: This was—that may have happened before you—Amina—got us out of there—
WALI ALI: Yeah, he got you out of there—that was the thing with Yogi Bhajan out at Golden Gate Park, it was a strange event; it was the last event that was done in Golden Gate Park for about five years of that nature, because of the hassle with the police and other things. Somewhere there is a film of Murshid doing the dances at that meeting, he let it go on endlessly because he was being interviewed on television while the dances were going on. What about over at the Cultural Integration?
AMIN: That was a shame, that was something, after thought made it just a riot, I felt like just throwing chairs through the window—
WALI ALI: Why don't you tell the story—
AMIN: I got fired up about it because I understood by listening to the different stories what it was like for someone like Sam Lewis to live in such a square world, where meetings would shut down„ and he was—he was real, he was there.
WALI ALI: That he couldn't fit into their box—
AMIN: He couldn't fit into any of their boxes, and he wasn't that interested in it—the people who were really his close friends, considering the number of people that he knew—they understood or they got the message through him somehow, or his disciples, things like that,—but he had had a really hard time, and we knew that about him just in the course of knowing him. We knew that he had had long periods of rejection from the society. Siddiq Abdul Selim, the successor of Sheikh Allahudin came here—I'm sure you’ve heard the story—we were there and everything, and here are these big Muslim Sheikh Sufi, and when they said, "Are you going to open a Khankah here, Sheikh," and he said, "No, I'm not going to open a Khankah because someone here has the baraka," and he pointed right at Sam, right at Murshid Sam—
WALI ALI: Were you there that night?
AMIN: No, this was the late '40's, I think.
WALI ALI: No it was much later, it was like 1966—or something—
AMIN: Oh well, I thought it was much earlier, but anyway, I know that he and Joe Miller and Ajari Warwick were personally around this Sheikh for the transmission of the baraka, at least this is the story I've heard, but anyway he said "This man has the baraka," and so the lecture was over and everybody got up and left and not one single person went to meet this man, who had this Sheikh who said that the reason he wasn't going to open a Khankah and didn't have to—because he was there—not one person asked to meet him after that.
WALI ALI: Murshid said that he was very glad because he wouldn't have wanted to work with those people. Tell the story of the Cultural Integration place, remember?
AMIN: Yeah, I don't know what it was about Haridas Chaudhuri or some things about Hinduism and things, I don't know what it was. I know that he was one of Murshid's devils in a sense, but I remember that Murshid Sam was coming to speak on Sri Aurobindo, who of course is supposed to be the central figure of the Cultural Integration Fellowship. He was going to give a talk on Sri Aurobindo—he went to the Cultural Integration Fellowship, his disciples came with him, and we got charged two dollars each to get into that little room to sit there and listen to our own teacher, and there wasn't one person from the Cultural Integration Fellowship, not the director, not any of his flunkies, not the librarian, one guy selling books who stood way in the back and didn't even come into the room, didn't know anything that was going on—so we got charged at the door to come and hear our own teacher, and there wasn't one person from the Cultural Integration Fellowship there, so Murshid gave a talk, we were overjoyed—by this time we just loved him so much, and we didn't care where we were, but then I thought about it a couple of days later, and I thought, "Jeez, why didn't I throw a chair through the window?" make them pay a little bit, because it was such a bad show.
WALI ALI: I'm going over there to give a talk in a couple of weeks, I just have to—it really amuses me, and I just think of Murshid, I just wonder what is going to happen, I think it is an interesting subject the people that he had wars with—there were several people that he had a war with—Chaudhuri was one, Suzuki Roshi was another.
AMIN: Suzuki Roshi was—that's the angriest that I've ever seen Murshid Sam Lewis get, was at Suzuki Roshi, and it was during a class here—and that subject came up, and it seemed like he had a Zen stick in his hand, it was Dharma night, and I can't remember if he put the stick down like that or if he just hit the top of his leg, but he was that kind of angry that he got, which was this real Fudo, and of course I'm sure that his pulse was down and his breath was slower and he wasn't flushed but it was like some kind of atomic explosion, because Suzuki Roshi was—I don't remember exactly what it was either, but I remember he just funneled all this money, he'd gotten the purchase of the Zen Center here done, which it turned out is owned by the Soto Zen sect of Japan—it is not owned by the donated owners here—this is just what I've heard, and he had just funneled all this money into putting white marble floors inside the zendo or something like that and then the point was that that wasn't Zen, that he didn’t have enlightenment and that wasn't Zen and that was based on a long antagonism by a presumption of Suzuki Roshi's about Murshid's own attainment and which put Suzuki Roshi in the smaller place automatically, because his own teacher had a tea ceremony for Murshid in his honor in Japan, so it was a case of a disciple not recognizing someone honored by his teacher. And it went on for years—
WALI ALI: There was a period when he used to go over there every day or every week, I'm not sure, I'd have to look at the records, to meditate in the zendo, and similarly with Chaudhuri, you have to understand that the past history of some of this was that in Murshid's own fashion he would be receptive to these movements and teachers in the sense in which he often was with people, looking at their better qualities and trying to hope that that would be a vehicle that would really help people, and then it was disappointment with what seemed to be coming out of it that made him turn and decide that he would better serve the truth by opposing them rather than by being supportive in that kind of passive way in which he was allowed to do it. He had high hopes, I can show you papers written in the early '60's and so on in which he is praising Chaudhuri and what he is doing and similarly with Suzuki Roshi and so on. He got tired of it not going beyond a certain point—usually the people that he had the wars with and people like Lloyd Morain or Watts or Suzuki Roshi.
WALI ALI: Landau—he would oppose him as a perfect example of one these scholars who never had any real training but who set themselves up as appointed experts on Islam or something—he was just a good example of that type—but these other people like Watts and so on—I remember him talking about a session that he had with his psychologist friend, Dr. Baker—and which it came out about something why he had such antagonism for Alan Watts, "I love him so much," he really had high hopes for him and his way of using his energy was when he felt like a person was stuck or limited in what he had to give even—it was the people that he maybe had the most hopes for that seemed to be stuck that he had the greatest anger for in that way—I was trying to think of an example—Fazal Khan—
AMIN: Yeah, that was instantaneous, see he’d never had anything to do with Fazal Khan until Pir Vilayat came. Pir Vilayat's coming was an interesting period too—there were some other things that I wanted to mention about that period—Murshid was very open to real spiritual leaders coming here, and so we had the chance of meeting Dr. Warwick here for the first time and then I started going climbing with him. He said about that, that I was going because he couldn't—that I was going for him to climb mountains, because that was such an especially beloved subject of his, and Bodhisattva Anh, Los Angeles, this Vietnamese Buddhist came and gave a talk one night and I remember Murshid was just in ecstasy. Here was the real Vietnamese Buddhist, and he was talking the real thing, and Murshid was just—I'd never seen him elated in that certain way because some great thing was really being fulfilled—and we knew it, too. You could just see his face, and he was just so overjoyed because this reality was taking place.
And then Pir Vilayat, he came in here, arrived in capes and gowns, and we didn't know what to think of Pir Vilayat the first time he came—short hair and—and by this time Shirin had talked Murshid into growing his beard long and his hair long, and had set up with the Khankah, and everything had happened and we met Pir Vilayat at Olompali—he gave Darshan in a little glen there, and I didn't know exactly what to think but then they were coordinated to begin with, but I know that a good long time—after Murshid's passing—Pir felt that we really hadn't accepted his leadership, he just told Yusuf that in the back of a car one day coming from the airport, point blank, that he didn't feel that we had really accepted his leadership. And I was tuned into to him, I just felt like I was tuned to him, and left with a lot of love, I really loved him a lot, that it was defined in a certain way, and that I'd really admired, except that it was an attainment that I really wanted, a particular fineness. Anyway so there was a period—there was a juxtaposition of some kind between Murshid Sam and Pir Vilayat. Well, Murshid, of course, was human—
WALI ALI: Do you recall any references he made to Pir Vilayat before Pir Vilayat came?
AMIN: It was very played down whatever happened, it wasn't even really juxtaposition or position, although Murshid mentioned once about pulling spiritual rank, and also it was a function where he was going to be until the center—and Pir Vilayat was going to be the centrifugal energy, the circle—
WALI ALI: Yeah—
AMIN: And that was about it—and then after that it just started getting more and more resolved, and then we really did accept Pir Vilayat's leadership and it has worked out, but I know that that was a tension that was there. Pir was—was just so glad to see him—so that was all, and that is coming to the time that we got the word that Murshid had fallen down stairs—
WALI ALI: I wasn't there. for some reason I was still in the camp, or coming back from the camp, when Fazal was here, and there was that program over at the hotel or something. All I remember was that some of the stories I have heard about was that you you broke down laughing in the middle of Fazal's service—
AMIN: Yeah, that—
WALI ALI: What do you remember about that?
AMIN: That was terrible: It was so great: I couldn't help it—I felt like some Cosmic Hand. Had its little finger inside of us going like this, tickle, tickle, in this little place, that could just make me convulse, and I never had that problem until I met Murshid Sam and I have rarely had it since except only in the worst of possible times—
AMINA: Oh Amin, I don't know about that, but anyway—
AMIN: Saadia Khawar Khan had arrived and she was with Murshid Sam—in fact it was maybe even that day that we picked her up at the airport—that morning, and so Murshid was with one of his beloved god-daughters—the way he was around one of his god-daughters—he just couldn't take better care of them, he was buying them things and making sure of this and that, just going with them everywhere, so he was with Saadia and very happy, and when Saadia came he started wearing this little brown Jenner cap. And then Fazal had come to town and he was giving a Universal Worship service in one of the anti rooms of this hotel, the Stratford, or something downtown, not a real class hotel, not a town class—somewhere in the middle, so we were going to go to this Universal Worship; I was sitting there and there was Jayanara and you were there—
AMINA: No, I wasn't there—
AMIN: You weren't there, I thought you were—
AMINA: Maybe I was in Memphis or something—
AMIN: Anyway, I was sitting there—
WALI ALI: You were at the first camp, though, Amina; that was the time the camp—weren't you at that first camp that occurred at the same time as that camp in Colorado?
AMINA: Oh no, I wasn't at the camp in Colorado. I think I was at, I was—
WALI ALI: It was the first Arizona camp—
WALI ALI: So were you.
AMIN: No, I couldn't go to the first one.
AMINA: But I didn't ever meet Fazal because I was out of town at that time.
WALI ALI: Yeah. So go ahead, he was going to give Universal Worship at this hotel—
AMIN: Yes, it was terrible, it was so black and it was it just somber—everybody in black robes, these big old Roman Catholic candles, lady over here, lady over there.
WALI ALI: That was the form that they used—
AMIN: Yeah, the old Inayat Khan formula from the vault, from the vault of Suresnes, where they would stand—he used to have these in secret—so Fazal picked up on it, and here was this young punk, and he looked sort of like a greaser to me in a sense. Not to knock the guy, but I didn't—he sure wasn't—and so he was there and he was going to lead this thing—I was sitting there and I just got overcome! Hassan, and I remember Jayanara was there, Murshid was standing in the back, and they had this very respectable attendance with Saadia, and he was sitting like this with his Mala, and all of a sudden I just started laughing and trying to hold it back—and I just started biting my lips, so there would be these big sounds that would come out while they somberly would light the candle and all that—and I am biting my shirt sleeve—and Jayanara is there and she is going—"whaaaa"—she is sort of catching it and sort of started laughing—and this man comes up the aisle, and says, If you can’t control yourself you’ll have to leave." And Jayanara just about broke out laughing, so I sat through the whole thing like this [shows how in interview—can't put it on this transcription] and Murshid was sitting back there, "Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah," and I kept thinking—
WALI ALI: Was he saying it out loud?
AMIN: No, but every time I would think of him it would make me laugh more and it was so embarrassing, it was sort of (big laugh here)—there was this big grumble going on—gr'r'r'r'r'r-umble!
WALI ALI: Did you ever have to go outside and stand in the hall and listen?
AMIN: I made it through, I did, oh God it was painful! I was just torn up. The other time—there were some other times it happened too—we were coming over here for Saturda class, before Swami Ranganathananda was giving a talk at the Unitarian Church at Gerry and Franklin, and just before the Swami came on, the local pastor got up and he said, "Brothers and sisters—no, this was the one in the city—
WALI ALI: Yeah there was one at the Unitarian.
AMIN: And he says, "Brothers and sisters," the Unitarian pastor says,” I 'have a very tragic announcement," and the minute he said that I started to laugh, and I tried to hold it back, and I was right in the front row and there was nothing I could do, and I put my hand on my mouth, and he says, our beloved sister, Ina Smith has passed on," and I went (@#*#@*#@*#@* laughter!!!!! !)—oh!! and it was terrible!! So that went on, and he would look up over the podium, look at this nut down there, and (@#%&&God—) with as much energy as I could to keep it back, it was something terrible; I took a hold of my shirt and went "e e e e e e e " just laugh, laugh, laugh. I can't remember the other times. I came to see Murshid afterwards, I came for class that we were having, and he was cooking up lunch for his disciples that day—
WALI ALI: Was that after Ranganathananda?
AMIN: After Ranganathananda came back here, and he had his white tee shirt on, and he was cooking up lunch for everybody.
WALI ALI: I remember that, yeah.
AMIN: This house was so….
WALI ALI: Did he have people do anything at Fazal's meeting?
AMIN: No, we just went and left, we went and saw the Universal Worships and—
WALI ALI: There must have been two meetings that Fazal did, I believe, because he went back for the second one and they said, "You can't come in and disrupt this meeting," or something like that—
AMIN: Yeah, that was because of me actually though. When Murshid went to New York he went to one of Fazal's and one of Pir's meetings, and Fazal's meeting was better.
WALI ALI: Was it? Actually I know that story which was that Pir Vilayat was doing this thing with Hugh Dandrade and they used to have these visiting speakers, in the name of inter-religious unity, they would have these lectures by these various Rabbis, Ministers, and so on, and Murshid went to one of those and he just thought it was horrible, such an ignorant guy talking and he challenged the guy; it was some Rabbi and if you can believe the story I think Sitara was there, but it was something like, he would say, "No," the Rabbi was saying, and "no Christian is ever really opposed to anti-Semitism, "and Murshid got up and said, "That's a lie! Edward Saltonstall," or something—and then he went over to this group that was run by Fazal's people and he read a section of Hazrat Inayat Khan and did a meditation, and he said that it put him in a very embarrassing position—
AMIN: I remember those times. The time that is not clear to me is the period that Murshid came back from being in New York and before he had that accident—because it was a rhythm then, a regular rhythm, we were all going into more deeper spaces at the time.
WALI ALI: Let me ask you a question a different way and out of the time sequence. Maybe I should go back and ask this question after Amina tells a few things from just that kind of chronological development of things that you remember, like for instance the establishment of the womens' dance class.
AMINA: I don't have the chronology of that at all. I don't know how long things went on, when they started—I don't remember when the ladies' dance class started or quite who, I just—
WALI ALI: I'm not so interested in the date it started, because after all the actual period is rather short—
WALI ALI: Anyway we know when it happened—between '68 and '70, but just how he was in that class and how he seemed to develop that aspect of the dances.
AMINA: He was quite different in that class than in any other situation that I'd ever seen him in publically in the sense of being in the presence of more than just yourself, in that he side of him that was the Mother was very definitely present. It was not like having a man in the room—he somehow would get himself so that his Mother energy was coming through.
WALI ALI: He did the Krishna dances, for example, in that class—
AMINA: He did some Krishna dances, we mostly just danced in that class, he didn't talk a lot about women—he didn't talk a lot about anything, he didn't give very many practices particularly—again, it was very short, mostly just dancing. He established a harmony in that group and he stated that that was the purpose of the group—was to bring his women together—he said, “My men disciples can get along with the men disciples and the men can get along with the women, but the women can't get along with the women, and that's why I am starting this class." But it was mostly just dancing and I had the feeling that he had brought together a group of his close disciples and created a state of harmony brought about largely by his presence, but also just by the way the whole class had formed, and we were a close group, and then he would just have us do these dances, and I think a lot of it was—he was able to bring them down immediately, sort of immediately into this group of people. And he brought down a lot of dances—he would try out things that didn't work at all, and he would bring down little bits of dances, and said, "We'll do more on that later," or like the heart dance, he was always trying to get an Ishq Allah Mabood Lillah dance and almost every class we would try a different one. And he would see always a shape of a heart with people moving around it, and it never worked, it was always just chaotic, it just never worked at all, but then he would try it again and again, and that was mostly what we did was dances in that class, broken with him talking, as I remember. He would talk, and every now and then he would do something on a whole other level, like I remember him giving the Saraswati practice—that was one of the practices he gave in that class, they Tasawwuri, but before he did it he went into a very deep space and then played the Vina—I don't know what to say about it. You've heard him play the flute of Krishna, and it was as incredible as that—there are no words, you can't really quite explain what it was—but it was very different from the flute of Krishna, it was Saraswati—it was like that was an initiation—I saw it as an initiation into that wisdom—I saw that as the sort of initiation of that class—into that kind of wisdom that is Saraswati.
WALI ALI: I remember him saying that originally he wanted to do a class with his women, and they hadn't wanted him to do it, they didn't want him to interfere, I think maybe that had something to do with Charlene, and then—
AMINA: She started a class and then he said, "I'll come if you ask me, I won't come if you don't ask me," and then he wanted to come immediately, of course, he wanted to—I wasn't in on that, it was almost like the class had just started, he probably put her up to starting the class and then told her to teach it or something.
WALI ALI: What you just quoted sounds just like him—his wanting to be asked and he wasn't asked immediately—
AMINA: I guess not—
WALI ALI: And then he flipped over on the inside and he was really kind of cool about it, and reticent, real reticent to go in and do something and he went through a lot of inner changes—
AMINA: I felt like that—you could feel that it was somehow—like he came there very humble—he came there very humble and it was also a humbling experience, I think, because it was for the women in the class almost like he was learning as well. It was a situation where he was learning about women, too, by just breathing in, by just sitting in his circle of very close disciples and just breathing in, I had the feeling that he was learning about women in a way that maybe he hadn't before—
WALI ALI: That's a good subject, let's talk about his relations with women, and what you saw in that in him, because when one goes into his life story, which we have to do, than one question that comes up, what about, relations with the opposite sex? Was Murshid Brahmacharya his whole life? It seems to be the case pretty much from what we can gather.
AMINA: He had a very bitter recollection that had to do with his—maybe with his only fiancée, earlier, and it had something to do with a Jewish orthodoxy, and they had swayed at approaching marriage, they had swayed her somehow against him.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember him talking about that. As I recall it was something about his views—not particularly orthodox, and then he had this friend, Hugo Selig too, and he was sort of a Jewish Kabballist who was mixed up in Vedanta, and—I wonder who this woman was, I just know him by reference, but she had said, "So I'm going to ask the Rabbi about," and he said, "Please don't, it would be disastrous if you did," she did but he just felt like the karma would rebound to the Jewish people somehow. He was very sensitive to, not only to his own personal karma, as a reflection on world karma, and the karma of the people around him, that reflected on the world stage—that was part of his inner concentration, but I know that he was real bitter about that. I remember him telling another story. There is also a certain kind of naiveté about women that he had, like a lack of a certain experience that made his relations in that personal sphere—at least in the time of his life, very difficult. I remember one story he told about—maybe it was the same fiancée or somebody else, and he said—I want to make sure, this is what I remember, maybe somebody remembers the story—something about, "I always read my newspaper at breakfast,” or something, and she said, "I won't permit you to do that."
AMINA: I don't remember that-—
WALI ALI: You don't remember that story?
WALI ALI: But I know, for example, we have some letters where after his trip to Asia there was a woman over there that he had met in Pakistan or somewhere, a European or American dancer or something, and he had gotten a big crush on her, and he had built it up with his power of idealization into a romance. It was just dropped but somewhere he refers to his own romantic involvements as the sort of thing that would come around every ten years or so—he would fall in love with somebody in that way. Of course when he was in the East all the teachers that he met predicted that he was going to get married. That was the one thing that he said that they predicted that never happened in that way. So I am real interested in what you have to say about it—what you sense about his relations with women and how that may have changed as you knew him.
AMINA: I don't know really anything about his private life. I've heard briefly about his story about his fiancée, but I've never known him to have any personal experience with women—and as you say, when he would talk about women on any kind of personal level he would seem very naive—he knew a tremendous amount about women on another level, and it was like he would seem to be trying to develop the wholeness of us as women—he had a very broad, very complete idea of womanhood, and I think that he was trying to develop the whole of it at once, and he would sometimes make you feel like—In his Krishna aspect, it wasn't ever like he was looking at you personally, but he would make you feel beautiful or he would make you feel like becoming beautiful or whatever. And other times he would make you feel like a little girl, and he would sort of cherish you in that way. And other times he would make you feel like the mother, like he did that to me a few times, in fact in my memory, the last time that I spoke to him he made me feel like that. He asked me—he just was drawing out that side of me—it was just a very unusual relationship like he was coming to me as the Mother which he saw in all women too. I really felt that, that he saw women in a very complete way when he was looking in a non-particular way, non personal way. Like this last time I remember—I was sitting in a chair, and he sat at my feet and he kind of looked up to me just like a mother. He was he was saying he was over-worked, what should he do? And he said, "I don't know what to do, I am tired and I am overworked, I don't know what to do." It was like he was—he became the child in order to make me the mother in that moment. And it was just very contrasted with what seemed to be his total lack of experience personally with women. As far as I ever knew he had had no experience with women, it was just like he never had a relationship—
WALI ALI: When you first met him was he kissing women and hugging them and dancing with them?
AMINA: Yeah, but he said it was a totally unique, complete, first experience for him. And it was so hard to believe because it was almost like I had to release a certain part to be that—yeah he kissed his disciples from the very first time that I can remember—
AMIN: Oh yeah, it was always real loving, and it is funny because Tamam, Shabda's wife heard about Murshid Sam, met him, at Sausalito Art Center I think, for the first time, and like Albert, what's his name? Seijo, "Why don't you go to see this little old man who is something with his girl disciples all the time," I don't know, but the reference was sort of like dirty little old man with a lot of pretty girls strung out on some spiritual trip but he was always very loving. I remember once Murshid said, I think it was the first dance class, he came to the ladies' dance class—he told the general class later on—that when he went to that class that he spoke in an entirely different voice than he had spoken in before—and he was coming into the class—and then he sort of spoke in this voice and it was real light and gentle—
AMINA: It was his whole vibration that was completely different—
WALI ALI: Do you think there was ever any sexual energy with him in a personal way that he expressed with regard to his women disciples?
AMINA: I never saw any.
WALI ALI: I never saw any either—
AMINA: Although I—
WALI ALI: Yeah, go ahead—
AMINA: I was going to say that when I see the movies of the Krishna dance, I see how it would so seem that to anybody who didn't understand the—I guess you'd have to call it sublimation of energy, but that's just really what it was. He would make you feel beautiful and you could use a lot of other adjectives for how he would make you feel physically—he had the capacity of making you feel that on other levels—but physically he would make you feel beautiful, but there was never, what I have received slightest degree of sexual energy.
AMIN: Me either.
WALI ALI: I think it is a point worth making—Taking the question the other way, did you have any feeling on the part of any of the women disciples that they had a sexual attraction to Murshid?
AMINA: No, I didn't—
WALI ALI: Because I never had at the time, but later I heard from a couple of people—Basira was one, and some others that said that they did—
AMINA: I wasn't ever aware of it—the only time I knew—I took some-one to see Murshid one time who had a lot of of things to work out in the whole area of sex, and sure enough she met Murshid, and that's all that she could see, and I remember that that was the first time that it had ever occurred to me that anybody would see it that way. I just didn't. I saw it through her eyes and through her karma, in a sense, for —that was her way of perceiving the world, it wasn't just Murshid—and I could see how she could see that—but it seemed to me completely unreal—and then naturally everything that came from Murshid got filtered through her system and it came out—
WALIA ALI: Attraction from any women to him, or whether he was too old for that or what, I know of in at least one case one woman said that she had a real sexual attraction for Murshid, though Murshid had no response to her whatsoever in that way.
AMIN: He couldn't do that, he said that he couldn't do that, and that was exactly that.
WALI ALI: He was very critical I know, especially of the Hindu-type teachers that teach celibacy and then sleep with their secretaries or their disciples on the sly, but tell their other disciples that they shouldn't sleep with people. In fact, part of his criticism I'm sure, of Alan Watts, was the fast that he slept around and drank, and—
AMIN: Alan Watts was alcoholic—
WALI ALI: Yeah, and he said, "It is just in violation of all the precepts of the Buddha"—and he had a very strong sense of internalized precepts in his own being with regard to the standards which he set for his own action, so, this is an interesting question, and when you think about a biography it is one of the real interesting questions to talk about.
AMIN: In this one class he said that it was quite natural that the students would come to love Murshid very much, that was quite natural, but what he said after that I don't remember. The conclusion was that it was a spiritual affinity, and that it was spiritual love that they were feeling but that they would of course be prone to association because they would be starting to love—to love more and more, and that was about the only time.
WALI ALI: I remember that he used to talk, and to me it was one of those kind of Murshidisms that I found very amusing and quaint, because he would periodically say, "I"—something like, "I never touch my women and fondle," and "I never do anything that I don't let my own disciples do too—or he would say something about how you have to be very careful in this area, and I just thought that was so funny because it never occurred to me that there would be any possibility that anything like that might arrive, but he had so much experience with teachers that did get involved that way, and now looking back on it, it seems so likely that something like that could have happened if he'd had any inclination in that direction.
AMINA: I just never felt any inclination, I never felt any sexual energy at all—I just never saw any in Murshid, and I don't think I thought of it so much as age as just that was where he was at—I never saw any sign of it
AMIMA: In fact, sometimes it was just funny, because he would touch people without intending to, like that was always a sort of joke among the women. The women would joke that if you stood next to Murshid in some dances you were likely to get grabbed, but just by accident—it was really by accident. He would be oblivious to where—
WALI ALI: You mean grab your breasts of something?
AMINA: Yeah, or he would put his hand around like this and it would be too far around on that side, and he wouldn't even notice.
AMIN: So as things come up in the next few days we can just give you a call and say, "Oh I remember something else."
WALI ALI: Actually what we do is transcribe the tape and send you a copy of the transcription, and then reading it over you may remember other things. I have a feeling there is a tremendous lot of other things, and really what I'd like to do is, maybe some night over at your house to get together maybe with a group of other people just to recall stories, not try to recall events or chronology.
AMINA: Yeah, that's—
WALI ALI: Sort of have a trigger of where people were at and just telling stories that they remember happening. The question that I wanted to ask you was, what do you recall when you examine your own experiences with Murshid is the most significant encounters from a teaching point of view where something was communicated to you by some incident that happened or something like that that he did or said?
AMIN: I remember once he came to the Garden of Allah for a Thursday night class and the place happened to be loaded with musical instruments, every kind of musical instrument, and he said, "The best qualified has the most instruments,"
AMINA: I don't know of one; when I try and think of one I just get a little stream of blips of all those different moments—that's the way his teaching came to me, I guess—there wasn't one moment, unless you count when I first met him when I realized that he was my teacher on that level.
AMIN: I went with him one night to Gavin Arthur's, where Gavin used to have a weekly astrology meeting, and what I remember most about it was how at home he seemed to feel there, in Gavin's place—with solid walls of newspaper clippings and pictures from magazines in every room, but I remember sitting there and his mentioning that he had seven pairs of glasses—and that he seemed to be very much at home. It was one of the only times that I'd ever seen him relax, like he was with an old friend, he sort of sat a different way, and had a different sort of atmosphere at Gavin's place, and he was listening to Gavin talk and just talking to people on a more social level.
WALI ALI: Maybe you can think about that question and there might be a few incidents of things that will come up and would be really good to get.
AMINA: I think it is a good question. I could say several different things, but I sort of feel like that maybe this is enough.
WALI ALI: We have certainly gone on for a good while, and I don't think there would be any way to get everything because there would always be something different that one would remember on a different occasion—somebody who had as much time with Murshid as you both did.
AMIN: What I don't remember, Wali Ali, is when I was initiated as a Sheikh. I don't remember—it was by total surprise, Jayanara had made this gold robe up and I don't know if I was the first Sheikh or if I was—
WALI ALI: Yes, you were—
AMIN: I was the first Sheikh? Yes, that's right. And he came and it was a Thursday night meeting and he gave me initiation as a Sheikh without saying a word, just as the meeting started, and we had gotten our names quite a while before that, about six months apart—
AMINA: He gave Amin's name first and then months later up at the Khankah, he had me stand up and then he gave me the name Amina.
WALI ALI: I remember when Murshid initiated you as an Amir; do you remember that?
AMINA: No, that I don't remember. I was an Amir and that was when I was working with Ajari Marwick going climbing with him—where he used to go once a week at Mt. Tam, and Ajari referred to me as Amir, but I don't remember the initiation at that point, and I think it was probably because it was a very short sort of informal pronouncement. I can't remember.
WALI ALI: Because he also initiated me as Amir after he made you a Sheikh, and I am trying to think if that was the same time. Was it out at that lake, Lagunitas, or wherever it was where that film was shot, that day?
AMINA: The Nicasio? yeah, that wedding.
AMINA: I don't think that was when you were initiated as a Sheikh.
AMINA: No, no, I was initiated as a Sheikh at Thursday night at Garden of Allah in 1969, early '69, the initiation as Amir I don't remember. Shabda's initiation I remember.
WALI ALI: I did that actually, initiated Shabda as Amir.