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Murshid Samuel Lewis Dargah Project

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this Dargah being built?
Murshid Samuel L. Lewis said, “The connection between the teacher and the disciple is in no way dependent on one or the other being in the body.”

Appreciating this paradox, we find living presence at Murshid SAM’s grave; there is an opening and expansion that occurs when we are able to sit and listen.

And there is a wonderful unfolding through the path of pilgrimage to a sacred site. Murshid Samuel Lewis made pilgrimage to the dargahs of many saints. While visiting them, he was able to receive their direct guidance. What a blessing that Murshid SAM received inspiration for the Dances of Universal Peace at the Dargah of Hazrat Salim Chishti, in Fatehpur Sikri, India.

Before his passing he predicted that his own resting place would become a touchstone; a place where pilgrims could receive guidance and answers to life’s questions. To his disciples, he stressed the importance of creating such shrines and pilgrimage places in America.

Why is Murshid SAM buried at Lama Foundation?
Murshid Samuel L Lewis passed on January 15, 1971 and was buried at Lama Foundation in New Mexico. It was his request that his body be interred on Lama Mountain. Murshid SAM visited Lama Mountain in the summers of 1969 and 1970, having been asked to present workshops there. He was profoundly impressed by the inter-spiritual work, the depth of the community, and the universal and inclusive vision that was made manifest there.

Are there other reasons for such a project at this time?
First we consider practical concerns. Currently, when sitting or dancing by Murshid SAM’s grave, one is not able to stay for more than a short time because of the intense sun at an elevation of 8,700 feet above sea level. The structure of the Dargah (the Arabic term for the shrine of a Sufi saint) will provide protection from the sun for many people, along with sitting benches. There will be the addition of a composting toilet facility. All these create a space for individuals and groups to spend a more lengthy time for meditation or group retreat process at the grave site.

Second, is the support of a vibrant lineage - the influx of coming generations of seekers are inspired by the enduring spiritual presence and revelation of those blessed ones from earlier lifetimes (baraka). With the passage of time, fewer persons are alive who knew Murshid SAM “in body.” The Dargah is a place to return to that which holds his direct baraka.

Many people have commented that this project is for the Ruhaniat to honor their teacher. Although it may serve in that way, the reason for the Dargah Project is to provide a more beautifully protected teaching and guidance facility for Murshid Sam and the Spirit of Guidance to serve, now and for generations to come, where people and groups can stay for longer periods of time.

Finally, manifesting this vision will be a powerful and vitalizing force for the Ruhaniat, for Lama Foundation, and for humanity for many generations to come. Such sacred spaces offer infinitely more than a quiet place to meditate - they can become a portal to the Awakened Heart.

How long has this project been in the making?
In 2007, Pir Shabda Kahn received compelling inner guidance to design and build a proper, beautiful and functional Dargah at Murshid SAM's grave site and entered dialogue with the Lama Foundation.

Has the SRI Board of Trustees approved this project?
On September 24, 2014, the SRI (Sufi Ruhaniat International) Board of Trustees passed a motion wholeheartedly embracing the Murshid SAM Dargah Project and offering “its full support of, approval of, and accountability for the project based on the following understanding and conditions:

     The Board of Trustees understands that the intention of the project is to:

  • Secure permission from Lama to perform a major upgrade of the facility at the grave site of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis
  • Raise new funds to cover the costs associated with performing the upgrade
  • Complete the construction and perform agreed upon rehabilitation of the surrounding land
  • Provide a solution to fund ongoing maintenance of the project”

Further, the SRI Board of Trustees created a Murshid SAM Dargah Project Committee to consider legal and financial aspects related to the project and recommend the necessary framework for its realization. Chaired by Board trustee Kabir Stuart McKinnon, the project committee has completed review of agreements with Lama Foundation and the general contractor, as well as the form of agreement for those who have agreed to provide bridge loan funding. Acting on recommendations from the Project Committee, the SRI Board of Trustees has approved all of these matters along with the overall project budget on August 11, 2015.

What has been the process for consultation with Lama Foundation about the project?
Lama is composed of three circles: current residents, continuing members, and the Board of Trustees of Lama Foundation. All three have been involved in various conversations over the last 9 years. Every effort has been made to maintain a respectful, open and supportive process throughout these consultations. After some time of consideration, consulting with the architect, hearing plans, altering plans, and countless hours of conversation with all concerned circles, the final agreement between Lama Foundation and SRI was reached on the Spring Equinox 2015. See the letter on the Dargah Project Main Page

Who designed the Dargah?
The Dargah was designed by Eric Doud, a California architect who has designed other “sacred buildings.” Eric was recommended to the Ruhaniat by Lama Foundation. He is known for his work in sacred geometry, environmental impact and sustainability. The overall design is a synthesis of Southwest architecture and traditional Eastern dargah elements. The dome design mirrors the main dome at Lama – in terms of sacred geometry, both are “zomes”.

What will it look like?
The general outline for the Dargah is an open pavilion or gazebo; no walls, with eight stone carved pillars at 24 feet across, a dome, and an overhang for shade. Murshid Sam's existing white quartz stone covered burial mound will remain untouched.  It will be surrounded by a stone floor, cut in a geometric pattern.

What materials will be used?
We are building the shrine in stone, Douglas fir and copper to provide a container to experience the magnificence of the inner reality that is our Eternal and Infinite Source. Our hope and effort is to build a structure that will last 500 years! The concrete and steel understructure, largely hidden from view, will provide the ideal foundation; the stone floor will be maintenance free; the heavy timber framing will assure longevity with minimal maintenance; and the copper roof is exceptionally durable, also improving the structure's fire resistance.

Can I see design plans?
The plans are online at the Dargah Project Main Page. Architectural drawings can be seen at this site, along with photos of the construction process. In addition you can find more there, including a multimedia presentation with the project’s Blessing Ceremony held at Lama in August 2014 as well as many other materials of interest.

Who is managing the construction?
Malik Lee Braun is the Project Manager. The General Contractor is Onyx Construction and Design, based in Taos, New Mexico and owned by Mark Goldman.

Who will own the Dargah?
As contributors and devotees of Murshid SAM, in one sense, we all do! Legally the Dargah is built on land owned by Lama Foundation. However, in the agreement with Lama Foundation, SRI will be responsible for its construction and maintenance. All pilgrims who wish to visit the Dargah have perpetual rights for access.

Who will be responsible for the Dargah?
The Ruhaniat is responsible for its maintenance. The structure is designed with a low environmental impact, and as a low-maintenance structure, and will be built to last up to 500 years.

What will the environmental impact be?
Lama Foundation and the Ruhaniat both commit to construction and maintenance that will be in harmony with the ecological features of the area. All measures are being taken to preserve as many living beings as possible and the ecological integrity of the area, and significant steps will be taken to remediate the site so as to return it to its ecological vibrancy and beauty.

What is the projected timeline of the project?
Construction began in August 2015 concentrating on the construction access path, and the concrete and steel foundation which has substantially been completed. The 2016 construction period saw only modest progress on site, including construction of stone benches at the edge of the dance space and completion of a combination pit toilet/storage building. The focus during this period was on procurement and off-site preparation of specialized materials that will be assembled in the next phase of the work. For example, hundreds of stone pieces that will soon form the beautiful geometric pattern on finished stone floor were meticulously fabricated in India and shipped to New Mexico. Over the past winter, intensive work has been done off-site to fabricate and carve the heavy timbers and corbels and to complete detailed design of the skylight and copper roof. The summer of 2017 will see completion of the final phase of Dargah construction!  Plans, equipment and highly skilled people all are lined up for the scheduled construction period. Landscaping, drainage and remediation of the access path will occur later that year.

How much will it cost to build?
During the design stage, the project cost was estimated to be a half-million dollars. To move to the construction phase, a detailed budget was completed by the General Contractor and the Project Manager in a process that involved in-depth consultations with subcontractors and material suppliers. With all aspects of materials and fabrication processes thus specified, it became clear that cost envelope would need to be expanded. All construction projects face possible cost over-runs as unforeseen challenges might arise. This particular project includes a number of unique elements as well as construction challenges posed by Lama's location. In the interest of completing the Dargah with as much integrity and financial support as possible, the Ruhaniat Board of Trustees has set the project budget just over 3/4 millon dollars, plus provisions for contingencies and maintenance, and increased its financial and fundraising commitment accordingly. This additional amount aims not to add components to the design or otherwise scale-up the structure but simply to ensure sufficient construction and maintenance funds.

Is the Ruhaniat on track to raise that much money?
The SRI Board of Trustees believes that this budget is within reach of our Ruhaniat membership (and other interested and supportive friends) and with the support of the Dargah Fundraising Committee has developed a plan to realize the goal. Based on professional fundraising statistics, we have been assured that this level of capital donations is realistic. Approximately $500,000 in gifts and pledges was secured (primarily by Pir Shabda) prior to commencement of construction, and donations keep flowing in as Fundraising Committee callers continue their efforts to reach out to all in our community.

In addition to making current gifts, donors are being requested to consider pledging further annual gifts over a period of three to five years (or a longer period if requested). Donations in any amount, including prayers, are gratefully accepted.

300 for $1,000 Campaign
A major Dargah fundraising campaign, 300 for $1,000 was mailed to Ruhaniat mureeds and friends in Spring 2016. The concept is that 300 People Pledge $1,000 Each Over a Three-Year Period. Larger gifts also welcome. One-time as well as multi-year pledges are welcome, accompanied by payment of the first installment. The campaign will continue until the goal of 300 donors has been reached. Click here for the latest update

Who is responsible for the fundraising?
We are all responsible to do what we can, both as individual donors as well as in our collective outreach to other potential donors. The person at the head of this concentration for the Ruhaniat is Waduda Wendy Welsh (who is a Ruhaniat Board trustee).

What is the plan for 'bridge' financing?
The Board of Trustees holds a vision for full funding of the project completed in accordance with the architect’s design. A number of kind and generous friends have extended 'bridge' loans to allow the construction to be completed in the summer of 2017 while the rest of the required donations are being raised. These 'bridge' loans, which are interest free, have been offered five years for SRI to repay them. Ya Karim! These funds will be used in the final phase of the project to keep construction timelines intact, avoiding costly delays. Obviously it is preferable to have the project fully funded at the earliest possible date so that SRI can repay the lenders well within the term of the loan period.

Where and how can I send a donation?
Sufi Ruhaniat International is a nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable organization and your contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
We can accept donations in the following methods:

  • Check: Make check payable to Sufi Ruhaniat International
    On the check memo write Dargah Project
    Mail check to: Sufi Ruhaniat International, PO Box 22, Makawao, HI 96768
  • PayPal: Go to www.paypal.com
    Send money to: info@ruhaniat.org
    In the note section write Dargah Project
  • Credit Card (in-house processing) Contact Basira Beardsworth, Ruhaniat Secretariat & Treasurer
    info@ruhaniat.org
  • Make a Pledge for a Monthly or Annual Donation:

Who can I contact with any questions?
Waduda Wendy Welsh (telephone 303-718-9712, email wendywelsh@earthlink.net) will be happy to respond to any questions. Contact Waduda as well if you (or others you know) can help with completing the fundraising effort.

Updated March 1, 2017