Farid Watson's recollections—6/2/1976
SABIRA: Do you recall when you met Murshid?
FARID: I think I met Murshid around the fall of 1968, and at the time I was a student in Berkeley, and I was already somehow or other extremely interested in Buddhism and was studying philosophy, but my main orientation was Buddhism. I had taken classes as sort of introduction to what meditation was, and I had been doing meditations, chanting basically OM, and this was maybe in the year before I met Murshid and I was beginning to get a feeling for spiritual practices. The summer before, the summer of ‘68 I believe, some friends and I did a very, very long hiking trip in the Sierras, which for myself was wonderful—and I did pretty much the walk as a practice, and the only mantra I knew was Hare Krishna and OM and the only meditation I knew was just to try to get peaceful. It was a very, very early stage in what I see everything as nowadays. Anyway I think this is important because Murshid was a reflection of a lot of things and then a lot more than that too.
And so in the fall of ‘68 after very much getting acquainted with spiritual practices—and I remember at the time that I was doing lots of OM’s as practices—I met Murshid. Actually I was hitchhiking up Mt. Tamalpais to spend the night and just to be quiet and to be away from everything for a while because on the mountain top at night it can get very quiet and basically to meditate and to do practices and whatever I felt inspired to do. The person who picked me up was a person by the name of Daniel Lomax who had very long hair, a long, long, long beard and this old guitar in the back of his car, and so he told me almost immediately about his teacher who was a Zen Master, and my whole orientation, as I said at the beginning was in Buddhism—and I had had an inner feeling that I was going to get involved with a teacher of Buddhism somehow, and this was very many years before. And I always kind of thought that I would finish school and then travel around and then may be try to get to the East or something like that. Anyway, so Daniel picked me up—me and a couple of other people—and he turned me on immediately—"Oh well there is this Zen Master-in San Francisco he has a class on Sunday nights at 7:30 PM and bla, bla, bla, bla—so I said, "Far out," and I went the very next time to meet this Master, and I had never met a Master before, and did not know what to expect. It was in the front room of the Mentorgarten; it was quite a small class, there were people sitting around in the chairs up around the windows and he was sitting, as he always did, in the middle, for those classes. He would just be talking in a very humorous and serious at once tone, and just talking. He would say, "I did this and I did that, and I visited these people, and I did this, " and he was very much into his personal stories.
SABIRA: Did you find that egotistical?
FARID: No, I didn’t, I didn't at all because, although he used the word "I" a lot, "I did this, and I was this, and I was the first person to do this and the first person to do that," and the people that had known him longer and the closer disciples who would just be sitting around him were just absorbing things, and now and again people would say things. But mostly it was a narration of Murshid’s just talking about these things, and he would break that with either a practice—a very short one—or we would go downstairs and do some dancing or something like that—some walks.
SABIRA: Was he doing the dancing in those days?
FARID: Yeah, he was beginning. I remember doing the Bismillah dance and doing some of the walks. And most of those were the Astrological walks right at the beginning. And anyway this is sort of like a preview of the various times when I came, this very first time I saw him. I don’t know if others have these certain kinds of energies—but I never doubted in any way that he was a spiritual Master; I felt that very intuitively. The evening before coming, I sort of accepted that this was a spiritual Master. My whole orientation of what I was doing was trying to reach a certain stage of realization and I felt very deeply the striving in myself which was reflected even before I met him. And so I went in expecting things like Koans to be flying off the walls, and things like that, and his general introduction—and he said this to many people—was "Don't sit in the doorway." And everybody would laugh or chuckle and he would say, "I charge a dollar for every foot away from me that you sit," or something to that effect. He would just sort of joke around and be very familiar and friendly and narrating his spiritual experiences and trying to communicate something to the people there—and to me too, because I was trying to get everything that I could. The mental side of things was very much where I was coming from. That was just part of where I was at in school and everything—so I was just trying to appreciate and understand the things that he was saying. I never felt any kind of egotism, it was almost the reverse. His style was very direct, and everything grows, our feelings grow and now thinking back I see myself as this kid sitting down in this room and listening to this man, Murshid, who is himself sitting there, and I can see the two of us sitting there and I can see it all differently now—even though I was a part of it then.
SABIRA: Did you only go on Sunday night or did you start to attend some of the other functions?
FARID: The initial thing was Sunday night and then Monday night I believe was at the Mentorgarten still then, where we began talking about Sufism—he also did something up in Sausalito, and did something eventually up in San Anselmo, and I was hitch-hiking around and getting from one spot to another wasn't easy. Before coming up here today I went down to the Mentorgarten and I walked around several times trying to do a Tasawwuri practice, just trying to feel Murshid as he would walk around the room, and this is almost how I feel in general now in terms of his whole attitude and manner. At the beginning, even though I didn't know it then, but I feel it now, was that he really appreciated everybody who was coming and listening. One can read from tapes, or one can read from books, one can read from this and that, in the sense of the Rejected Avatar which is a reflection of Krishna, but this man Murshid himself had all this spiritual wealth, and for years and years and years and years and years nobody would listen to him, and the very fact that the young kids as he called us, and which we were…
SABIRA: He used to say that he was your "ersatz grandfather."
FARID: And what I think now is that he continued to have a spiritual laughter and a glow and a strength too; the Jelal aspect of him was very overpowering, but it was all conscious and it was all done with compassion—you could underline that, that the use of the power really had compassion.
SABIRA: And then did you eventually become initiated by Murshid?
FARID: Yes, but this was somewhat later. The thing is that the whole time that he had people around him he had this spiritual glow and he felt so happy that people were listening to him. So he would go on for hours and hours and hours telling this experience and that experience—"I went to Japan, and I bought the flowers here, and I did this and I did that," and the whole tone was not so much egotistical like "I did this," but he was just spouting off because people were listening to him, because there was really a communication and the channels of his Baraka were open with people because people accepted him. In my case—even without knowing the whole background or anything one way or the other—I was just there, and he was to me a recognized teacher, and so I tried to open and listen to what he said; I didn't try to doubt anything, I didn't try to evaluate anything, I just wanted to be open. I'm sure that many, many of the early disciples, a whole bunch, felt that way. So what I see of him now is just this appreciation, just being able to express and communicate and transmit all the things that he had been able to pick up in his sixty or seventy odd years in the spiritual discipline. So that's how I see him and that is not to say that he wasn't very strong, he wasn't very gentle, he wasn't very loving, he was all these things for different situations, different people, and he was—he could be very Jemal and he could be very Jelal.
SABIRA: Which side did he show to you?
FARID: I think it would have to be the Jemal or the gentle side—but there was a communication of power that he tried to express to me, but he expressed a Jelal attitude in his—the Bodhisattva, the protector of the Dharma—he did that and everybody in the room felt it—if he was expressing it to a particular person, and everybody would feel it. It is a reflection of…
SABIRA: You mean his Fudo side?
FARID: His Fudo side, yes, so his sense of being able to use power was there and one could see how it was being done but that power that was directed at different people.
SABIRA: Some people have told us that he would only spend a few seconds with each man in interviews. Did you experience anything like that?
FARID: In a sense, after initiation he gave me a practice and I tried to bring forth the things that I felt were close to the energy, and used it to open myself as deeply as I could, I had interviews with him and they were short, they were very short. He understood immediately, and there was no need to go through all the words, he would say, "Alright, alright, yon are in good shape," or whatever, "Alright I got it, alright, alright," and he was extremely busy and he would listen to the interview and would have this—in Sufism it is called Kashf—but in those days it was considered prajna—it is the same sort of faculty, just immediately understanding something. And he pretty much had that.
SABIRA: Did you experience any contradiction between your wanting to be a Buddhist or studying Buddhism and then finding that you were actually studying Sufism?
FARID: Oh none, none! I was basically studying Buddhism and trying to meditate and realize whatever it was to realize; you don't know what it is until you realize it and so I accepted him as a spiritual teacher. The realization of the thing that I wanted personally or the understanding or the growth or whatever—I didn't say, "It has to be Buddhist, this isn't right or wrong," I accepted him as a teacher and the methods which he taught—I trusted his judgment in everything that he did. So it wasn't any contradiction, it wasn't a matter for me to weigh what he was doing against what I felt was right, because I didn't feel that I really knew what was right anyway one way or the other. So it was just trying to be empty. I think that was just another way to receive and absorb, when you go through all these things, and basically myself and I think others too—I was in a very receptive state, just empty, just trying to make myself more and more empty to try and receive as much as I could from him, and just trust that what was going on was right—whether I understood it or not, it was right. Actually I am time jumping because this isn't really chronological, just sort of impressions.
SABIRA: It all makes sense.
FARID: I just think he was extremely appreciative of the people who were beginning to listen to him, as well as being a spiritual master, And he could say everything—he could go on these dialogues about how I hated this and that and the other thing; it really wasn't what he said that was that much importance, it was who he was. And his teaching was not different than himself, and so he was—everything would flow along—but he was also a spiritual Master, and he was appreciating the fact that people were beginning to accept him as a teacher. He didn't even let that appreciation, which I am sure he felt, interfere with his being a spiritual teacher. So that, even though he really appreciated the people, his work was absolutely Toward the One. And there was no watering that down at all even though he was extremely happy that people were beginning to accept him. I see this nowadays, but then I didn't see that; then I was just trying to experience him as a teacher and to experience the different things. I have looked back even before I met him, and I just feel that I was drawn towards him—I feel that very strongly from the different moves that I have made, the physical locations on the earth plane, and just the connections being made.
SABIRA: We have seen this with other interviews—that each person seems to have been drawn to him—that he sent out that energy, and the ones came that he needed. This isn't coincidence: the musicians, the astrologers, the healers…
FARID: It is marvelous to think back on it all. I came as much as I could to the different classes and I think I came somewhat regularly, although after initiation, at one point within the year after meeting him or something like that, I am not sure of the dates—but I waited about 8 months before the actual initiation took place and he initiated me and it was a Saturday morning or afternoon or Sunday night—either before or after a meeting and it felt like a blessing and that occurred in Jan. of '70. From that point I ended up having a post office job in Richmond, and I spent basically the next 10 months or so in Richmond and getting up like at 4 in the morning to go to the post office by 4:30—so I didn't make many of the classes during that whole first year after being initiated. I had received some practices from him, and basically I did the practices the best I could in the first year—and did a lot of them just walking because I was a post-man. But at the end of that time I really felt the drawing to be closer to him and the teaching and everything—so I quit the post office and moved to the City. At the time I thought I was getting rehired by the post office, but it was at the time of a strike and they changed the lists around, so I was never rehired by the post office after I returned to the City, but I did have some time, and I did have some money saved up—so I would come into the Mentorgarten and just volunteer some typing space. And you might every once in a while run across some Gatha papers with lots of XX's (x'ed out words in them)—those are probably mine. I did that for a long time, and three or four months after I started giving my time to the Mentorgarten he fell down the stairs and then a week or two later he had passed on. So I was introduced to him from the years prior to that, my initiation, and I had learned some of the things, and I just wanted to get more and more involved—and accepting him as a spiritual teacher means. I felt the interaction he had on me was of a being who represents God, and suddenly the osmosis, and the atmosphere and the communication and the inner-exchange between the teacher and pupil coming to see him begins to awaken God's reality again. Often it gets covered up through the world.
SABIRA: Were you into Astrology in those days, and if you were, how did your Astrology fit in with his Astrological walks?
FARID: I was actually aware of Astrology and had some very elemental understanding. I had known what my chart was, I had some feeling for some of the planets but I didn't know the mechanics of Astrology yet and I didn't know the walks. I had learned the walks before initiation, or practiced them before initiation, and he used Astrology for people so that they could help find themselves.
SABIRA: Did he give you a walk?
FARID: Yes. He would read the charts, and tell us these stories about this and that about how he had all these armies of Djinns behind him, and "I can do this and I can do that, and I am so good,"—and he was! But it was never egotistical; it was like objective truth. So being a spiritual teacher—God is real, and so there you are, aren't you? So for a person that is knee deep in the world—God is real? And so that was the kind of subtle effect he had on everybody—like injecting the God-ideal into everybody, and just by his presence, by his force, by his knowledge, and certainty—it was there and it was just never really doubted. He had his own methods—he was a spiritual teacher, and so his method was the way he did things, and it was his being with people as well as the practice.
SABIRA: Did he trigger your interest in Astrology?
FARID: Actually he did—the actual growth of Astrology, which I'll talk about seems to be a little bit delayed—my own interest was not necessarily Astrology but spiritual realization, and he was teaching through Astrology—he was just showing the different rhythms that different people have and he worked with the Elements and beginning to use the body as the Temple of God and the Walks and the dancing—and it was just the beginning stages of all of that. The planetary walks are capacities, they are individual capacities; he was concerned about people finding their own rhythm or style—but that wasn't the goal—the goal was to fill that accommodation with God-consciousness. So it was giving people a positivity if they needed that, and receptivity if they needed that, and being able to show different styles of rhythm through the walks, and that let the person find the rhythm that was close to them, something that they could align themselves, even then it is an accommodation. And so having found a walk that one can be sure of, an Astrological rhythm, it still has to fill that with the Sifat, the qualities. And that was very much a part of this—it wasn't the Astrological walks by themselves—it was the Astrological walks and using them to help people understand themselves, and then trying to bring the God-ideal into it. So nowadays that is how I see the walks too, and that was very much what he did. And he would get up and do the walks, and he would ask certain people to come and join him in the walks, and inside you could see him just enjoying it immensely, and smiling, and often breaking into a laugh, he would often chuckle or inner chuckle about doing this or that, and "Yeh-sss I did this, and yeh-sss I did that, and what would this walk be good for?" Just very loving and very strong.
It is interesting, but before initiation I continued to come and continued to do everything else I was doing which was going to school and smoking lots of dope and hanging out on the hillside, and I was doing practices of OM, I was doing OM as much as I could and did it for quite a long time now and again—and I was always drawn to him and tried to understand the reality of the Buddhists things that he would do—like the God-ideal, the God consciousness—and the time of adjustment in myself, and being receptive and going through my own changes—you know how one does: you have to drop this and add this, add a half a cap of this, and all these things, which is what I had to do to myself. So this whole first year was just like—I felt that a lot of things happened to me, I felt like I had experiences, I felt like I was growing, I felt like I was getting to a goal—I was getting an understanding and beginning to appreciate the spiritual realities. But all this wasn't integrated; so the first year is where I think I gained a lot. And there is still having to integrate the whole thing together. He was the catalyst for so many things. So then I was granted initiation after some time of waiting and kept going back and forth, and then the job in Richmond, so that for 10 months or so I had basically not been around. And then I finally got back in the City and started going to classes again. I was getting closer and closer to him, and he was just trying to teach people, just trying to awaken people and just trying to make it real, make reality real, and so I had no assumptions or presumptions or anything—and it was hard to open one's mouth, because "I don't know nothing"; it was very much a knowing thing in those days; you had to know something. He had the answers; I could ask him questions and he would have the answers. But he died shortly after I got back to the City. After he died I felt I had a very strong picture of him in his red robe—I don't know which one it was. But he was very regal, very royal, like he was assuming his proper position; it was a very strong impression afterwards. I feel that after his passing there was a very strong guidance—I feel that he guided me several times after his passing. In particular, he used to say, "Use the heart," not to stay in the head, but to use the heart, so I felt that very strongly coming from him, after his passing.
SABIRA: I Did you go to the hospital any time?
FARID: I did, but I wasn't part of the regular cycle of the healing people, but I had gone for maybe two or three hours—they had asked people to go and sit with him, and nothing of occurrence happened—I just sat, I was just there.
SABIRA: Has he manifested to you since he has been gone?
FARID: Only in the case of a Guidance which was like a Voice, and it wasn't even necessarily his voice, it was just a strong direction which came from him, which I feel was maybe a reflection or something, and it felt like releasing the heart, and after his passing I felt it very strongly as a in picture of him, like in his red robe, "Hhere I am."
SABIRA: Did he ever get angry at you?
FARID: Angry? Well, no, I think not .
SABIRA: You weren't one of the ones he yelled at, then?
FARID: No. Oh, I think he did indirectly, but in those early stages, it was just that I felt very fragile, because I had nothing of what I wanted, and I felt really empty and incomplete in terms of the realizations which I was thirsting after, but I felt that I had some sort of insight. Insight isn't necessarily developing a powerful quality; and I didn't feel I had that sort of protection that the others had—so he did give the Jelal quality, the Fudo thing to different disciples that could receive it, and I don't think I could have received it in those times, but I think that indirectly I received a lot of it.
SABIRA: He did seem to know which person to use which force with; it has come through on many tapes. One person said that they heard him in the room one day simply being a "mother" to "this little girl," (that is the way it was described)—tender, loving with devotion.
FARID: I remember a Krishna dance with just the women once, how he was sitting on a stool in the Mentorgarten basement, where all the classes were, and he did Hare Krishna for the women, and he lit up totally—and just by watching the dance I was high for two or three days—there was an energy that I continued to feel. The Jelal or the Fudo he would use with somebody was actually very strong, or when he would be being very strong with somebody, but then there was the sense of the Glance as Darshan in which is Glance would penetrate and I feel he communicated something to me in that space. It was neither Jemal or Jelal—it was a seeing, a very clear seeing, and that is a lot of how I see him now. Nowadays I see him then as appreciative, full of joy, being very strong and not putting up with anybody's garbage. He was much too busy for that; he had been through it all, if people came with all these miniscule little trips that had nothing to do with the spiritual path—and he was more concerned about the spiritual path and bringing forth those realities, so he didn't vent that—it was a compassion to be strong with people because it forced them to take care of it themselves. He was teacher, there is no doubt of it. He taught different people according to their needs, according to what they could receive, and according to the whole thing. One can only express, after meeting the man, a tremendous appreciation and admiration and love and respect. How could you thank one who turns you on to the spiritual path?
SABIRA: I think you experienced him very fully. De you have any thoughts on what his real purpose in life was?
FARID: His purpose in life continues to be awakening people—and in the Tasawwuri practices which means that one tries to do the things that he did, in his manner, or walk like him—or just remember him so vividly that you see him doing what you are doing—that sort of Tasawwuri practice. So this isn't a walk, and this isn’t an attribute; lots of people were a lot closer to him than I was and had a much richer familiarity. I felt that I was a student, but not necessarily close to him like on the family level as some of his early students were.
SABIRA: If you had lived with him it would have made a difference of course.
FARID: After he died the things that I wished I had been able to develop, the things I wanted to be able to do—which I'm sure he would have loved and might have expressed something of himself—I wished that I had reached the point where I was able to kiss his feet and also to yell at him—just to screech him up and down and yell at him! I think he would have loved that, but I never developed myself to that point to be able to do it. I'm sure he would have loved it!
SABIRA: Why do you think he would have loved it?
FARID: Maybe other people did, not in the egotistical sense of saying, "I'm right and you're wrong," nothing like that, but an expression of just positivity, and just jumping out of oneself. He was such a magnetic center, and everything was around him—he was trying to awaken people to their own reality too—and so that would be an expression of really finding a part of oneself—and I think it would really be an appreciation, I think he would have liked it a lot.
So back to his purpose—so Inayat Khan comes to the West, and Nyogen Senzaki and Shaku Soyen were coming to the West, and the whole tone at the end of the 19th century was a beginning of getting the stirring of things—and the whole tone is "the message is One," and the whole tone of the Message or Religious Ideals etc, etc, etc, etc,—he experienced the different scriptures in real depth. It started say from 1910 on—he was born in…
FARID: So he went through the different traditions and experienced them and integrated them in his own self and his work was very much a reflection of the entire time or age, that is to say bringing all the religions together. And he did the RamNam and he did meditations and he understood Buddhism and he understood the Hebrew and Christian mysticism and he understood his Sufism, obviously, and he did the practices. So his role was to—like the whole tide of God's Message is like this wave and his role was to be absolutely one with the wave; his work was to be a new time lag, no working on things that had already been done, he was just right there at the edge of where it needed to be done and started doing it, does that make sense? And it was like bringing the religions together, and seeing The One and being an integration of spiritual practices and that very eclectic view of the whole thing at once—and that was his work and also in terms of his horticulturist stuff, I don't know that much about it one way or the other, and I know other people do—but that whole sense of being a gardener and being close to the earth, it is very Zen-ish in one way and it is just practically helping and reach with compassion the people of the world which is to say feed people, and that was his very practical working on that level. And presenting the unity of religious ideals in himself and through his own experience and then showing how they are the same, teaching people Sufism—he said that he was teaching Sufism because different Sufi teachers listen to each other. He didn't teach Buddhism because people didn't listen to each other in Buddhism. His own view was to try to bring the world outlook into focus, but not so much in the clouds but on the earth too—just feeding people is very much a reflection of that. And so that is what I really feel a lot of his real purpose was, and he communicated that to people that came to see him which is again a reflection of Inayat Khan's Message and he was like personifying a lot of that essence and very much Americanizing it, very much in San Francisco and then the Western culture. It is a mistake that one has to borrow another culture in order to reach spirituality, and he just experienced them and then kept that Americanism or cultural folklore, he just loved the folklore and the dancing, and just the folklore of the United States.
SABIRA: I think that covers it pretty well.
FARID: That's about all I can think of. One thing, the question of how I relate nowadays to Astrological work and Murshid's Astrological work in the sense of experiencing the Planets—what I am doing now is this: I feel like the real chart is like an empty vessel and you can fill a chart with the Divine Qualities like there are just different rhythms and different styles and different attitudes so to speak; and a chart is a reflection of this and the goal is to try to understand some of this makeup, and the goal is also to try to flood this with Er Rahman, Er Rahim, with the Divine Attributes—one can be a Sun in Leo and can express God as something, or one can be a Sun in Leo and not express God as something, so the ideal is to bring the God-ideal into one's being and it is not necessary to go through all the mental things, but at the same time sometimes that is interesting, and sometimes people want to try to get a feeling. My own work is to get an appreciation for difference, of tolerance, which is an understanding, a self-understanding, which is to say to give people a certain thing to stand on and giving them a focus of who they are from an Astrological point of view, and that is just the beginning. The work is to try to manifest the Divine Qualities and trying to work on deeper levels. I know from my own chart that I am happy that I have had my chart done, and I am happy that I have spent five years interpreting it, because I can see and appreciate certain things within myself which are Astrological, and it has certainly been inspiring to me to be amazed at the whole universe. Particularly I can say, to quote the Qur'an, "Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the earth." And simply that when one gets the perspective of Astrology as an influence, the effects are…
[End of side one]
FARID: This is two incidental notes on the second side of the tape: Footnotes, or "beardnotes," I guess: After Daniel picked me up hitchhiking uptown, he had this very long hair and very long beard. When I first went to visit Sam which was the Sunday following, the whole meeting passed and I didn't recognize Daniel until the very end because that was the day or week that he had cut all of his hair bald and his beard bald. And that was the very first day, but I don't know when it was in historical time. And also I think I recall that toward the end Murshid was growing his beard, and I think I recall him calling himself "A cross between an Arabian saint and Santa Claus," something to that effect, and Wall Ali might remember parts of that.