Shabda Kahn has been a disciple of Sufism since 1969. He is a direct disciple of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis (Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti), and he worked closely with the great American mystic Joe Miller. Shabda is currently the Pir (spiritual director) of the Sufi Ruhaniat International and the director of the Chisti Sabri School of Music.
After living in community with Baba Ram Dass in the East Coast, Shabda met Murshid Sam and moved to San Francisco in 1969. In the fall of 1970, Shabda had the good fortune to travel with Murshid Sam for five weeks as his personal assistant on the East Coast, which helped deepen his relationship with his teacher and the Path. He received his spiritual name from Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan in 1971, after Murshid Sam’s passing.
In 1972, Shabda was initiated by Pandit Pran Nath, the Master North Indian Classical Vocalist and began the daily practice of Raga singing in the Kirana style. Pandit Pran Nath, a Sufi mystic, requested that Shabda carry on the 800-year-old oral transmission under the name, the Chisti Sabri School of Music, now an umbrella for teaching vocal music and performing Raga.
In 1984, Shabda became a disciple of the illustrious 12th Tai Situpa Rinpoche, a venerated Tibetan Buddhist incarnate lama of the Kagyu Lineage.
After Murshid Sam’s passing, Shabda was one of Pir Moineddin’s secretaries and helped lead the Wednesday night dance meeting, eventually taking over the meeting when Pir Moineddin's health deteriorated.
As Pir Moineddin’s condition worsened, he requested that Pir Vilayat Khan initiate Shabda as a Sheikh. This occurred on February 5 1977, at the tomb of Hazrat Inayat Khan in India. In October 1995, at a Sufi camp in Maui, Hawai‘i, Pir-o-Murshid Hidayat Inayat Khan of the International Sufi Movement initiated Shabda as a Murshid.
Shabda has appeared as a musician in concerts ranging from Visions for a Perfect World at New York's St John the Divine Cathedral, for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for New Music America in Chicago, at Delhi University Music School, and at Shivaratri Festival in New Delhi. He is one of a handful of Americans who have dedicated themselves to carrying on the legacy of the treasure of North Indian classical vocal music.
Tai Situ Rinpoche
Shabda Kahn & Joe Miller
Pandit Pran Nath
Shabda married his wife Tamam in 1976, and they make their home in San Rafael, California. They have a son and daughter-in-law, two young granddaughters, and many godchildren. On a sad note, their beloved son Solomon was tragically killed in an automobile accident in January 2012. He is remembered online in Tamam's blog, and with audio and video recordings of his April 2012 Memorial Celebration.
As Pir of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, Shabda directs the Jamiat Khas (the Ruhaniat leader circle), directs the SRI Board of Trustees, and is the spiritual director for the Dances of Universal Peace worldwide. He has a regular zikr meeting in Marin County, California, and travels the world throughout the year spreading the Sufi Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty. He brings warmth, humor, and clarity in his efforts to help seekers on their path to awakening.
Top photo of Pir Shabda Kahn courtesy of Beverly Duperly