Peace be with you!
Writing a biography of Murshid Samuel Lewis naturally expands one's awareness into the whole Earth, the whole Cosmos and beyond. I have been immersed in the period of his life that in the decade of the 1930s. He had a tremendous amount of involvement in working to reform monetary policy in the U.S. in lines with the ideas of Social Credit.
In this decade he led a very active life as was his usual speed. He researched and co-wrote a book on the movements of his times in California called Glory Roads: The Psychological State of California, wrote articles for magazines, was involved in a congressional investigation of the Townsend Plan that his research helped expose as a financial scam at the top, gave lectures on Social Credit to Republicans and Democrats. There were many letters to Congressmen, and lobbying for and against legislative initiatives.
At the same time, he was giving talks under the leadership of Murshida Rabia Martin in the Sufi Movement in the U.S. He was her Khalif and held her post at Kaaba Allah when she traveled here and abroad.
The Great Depression affected this whole period of the '30s-- record unemployment and poverty. Those earning $5000 a year or more possessed more than 98% of all the wealth in America. Socio-economic- political movements to address this situation abounded. Glory Roads described a variety of these schemes. Many of them were financial scams only benefitting the leaders. But the ideas ultimately had an influence, one outcome being our current Social Security system.
The change that was happening in the world was expressed by Sokei-An Sasaki, Murshid Sam's Zen teacher in New York City.
Sokei-an Sasaki was one of the very few teachers presenting Buddhism in America. In his teachings of that era, he expressed the culture of the times. He referred to the people of their era trying to find a pivot on the issue of money. What he was suggesting was a pivot in the realm of consciousness. Sasaki was the Zen teacher from whom Murshid Samuel Lewis received Dharma transmission in the manner Sokei-an preferred, which he called soul to soul. After that merging, Sam wrote that all the world scriptures became streams of light for him. While Murshid Sam benefitted tremendously from this experience and wrote about it in his book Dharma Transmission, until recently there were practically no texts available with Sokei-An's words and teachings. Thus his contribution to our lineage stream has not been given much space in our published teachings for lack of knowledge of details.
Now, because truth in the end always wins, as Hazrat Inayat Khan said, there are truly magnificent and clear writings that are available. The great universal theologian and writer Huston Smith wrote the preface to The Zen Eye, a book of Sokei-an's talks. He concluded it by saying "It is for me an honor of the highest grade to be accorded the privilege of saluting, through this Preface, one of the wisest teachers of our century—one who, until now, has not been widely recognized. It is his legacy that we hold in our hands."
Our lineage of Sufism very much embraced these particular Zen Buddhist teachings from the outset of their manifestation in America. Hazrat Inayat Khan and Nyogen Senzaki immediately came into oneness together after their initial meeting. Nyogen Senzaki and Sokei-an were from the same school and were among the first Zen teachers in America, students in the lineage of Soyen Shaku who first presented Buddhism in 1893 at the World Fair in Chicago where Vivekananda first presented Hinduism.
In researching the material now available, like Huston Smith I too became quite impressed with Sokei-an's realization and his clear way of presenting the teachings. It has inspired me to begin a yearlong class on Monday nights at the Mentorgarten in San Francisco. It is a Dharma Night class in which we focus on Sokei-an Sasaki's teachings and legacy and show its harmonization with the path of Sufism given us by Murshid Samuel Lewis.
These classes are being filmed and recorded. Ali Charles, who was our film-maker and editor of previous longterm classes is editing this material for people to access. We have now had four classes and the offerings for January have been released. Ali's recent letter gives some details on this process:
There is tremendous enrichment of being that continues to come from our work on Murshid Sam's biography. Our wish is to have this work continue to be a source of great benefit to all.
Love and Blessings,