Hazrat Inayat Khan, 1882 - 1927

Hazrat Inayat KhanPir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan was born in Baroda, India in 1882, into a family of musicians. “Music and mysticism,” he says, “were my heritage from both my paternal and maternal grandparents.” Maula Bakhsh, the founder of Gayanshala, which is now the music faculty of the University of Baroda, was his grandfather, and it was in his house that Inayat Khan was brought up. The prominent position of Moula Baksh Khan brought its members in close contact with Muslims, but also with leading Brahmin and Parsi families, so that Inayat Khan grew up in an interreligious atmosphere. Even as a child he had a great love for music and poetry.

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Murshid Samuel L Lewis, Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti, 1896-1971

Murshid Samuel L LewisSamuel Leonard Lewis was born on October 18, 1896, to Jacob Lewis, a working class Jew from San Francisco who began at Levi Strauss as an elevator operator and ultimately became a senior executive of the company. His mother was the former Harriet Rosenthal.  He once said, “My parents never forgave me for being conceived out of wedlock.” He was an unusual child, a child prodigy; his mother often claimed to have had a dream of the Prophet Samuel before the child’s birth and therefore gave him that name. But these unusual qualities did not endear him to his family. His father never could accept the otherworldly tendencies of his oldest son.  He was angered time and again that Samuel was not interested in business, competition and material success.

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Pir Moineddin Jablonski, 1942 - 2001

Moineddin JablonskiPir Moineddin assumed leadership of the Ruhaniat in 1971 upon the death of Murshid Samuel Lewis, after the latter designated him as his spiritual successor. Continuing his teacher’s vision, Pir Moineddin oversaw the spread of the Sufi Message of Love, Harmony, and Beauty through spiritual practice, the Dances of Universal Peace, the Healing work, SoulWork counseling, and conscious community involvement. The Ruhaniat grew from some 150 people to a worldwide network of Sufi communities throughout forty-two states, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, Kuwait, The Philippines, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.

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Pir Shabda Kahn

Visit Pir Shabda's Website

shabda kahn by beverly duperly.gifShabda 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
Tai Situ Rinpoche

Shabda Kahn & Joe Miller
Shabda Kahn & Joe Miller

Pandit Pran Nath
Pandit Pran Nath


Tamam KahnShabda 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

Nyogen Sensaki

Nyogen SensakiNyogen Senzaki was born on the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeastern Siberia.  Little is known about his parents except that his mother was Japanese and his father was either Russian or Chinese.  A traveling Japanese Buddhist monk found the infant Nyogen beside the frozen body of his mother.  The monk brought the orphaned baby back to Japan where he was adopted and raised by a ship carpenter named Senzaki whose family lived in Aamori Prefecture in the northern part of the country.

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Sokei-an Sasaki

Sokei-an Shigetsu SasakiWhat follows is a description of the Zen teacher Sokei-an Sasaki in the words of Samuel Lewis in one of his spiritual autobiographies, “Dharma Transmission.”

Mohammed said, “I am an ordinary man like you.”  God made the ordinary man in His Image.  Sometimes this is manifested.  Sokei-an was not a Swami Ramdas or Sufi, whose love-vibrations permeate the atmosphere.  Neither did he show power or beauty or repose; he was, in one sense, the most ordinary person one could meet and, in another sense, the most complete.

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Papa Swami Ramdas & Mother Krishnabai

Papa Swami RamdasMother KrishabaiIn the 1950’s Murshid SAM reported a recurring vision with the face of a saint accompanied by poetry, “By one year’s time, by land or sea, I will come to thee.”  In 1954, in keeping with the vision, Papa (Swami) Ramdas and Mother Krishnabai came to San Francisco on their World Tour and Murshid SAM found his “Hindu” Guru.

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Sufi Barkat Ali

Sufi Barkat AliIn one of his spiritual autobiographies, The Lotus and the Universe, Murshid Samuel Lewis (Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti) offers the following description of his Sufi teacher in Pakistan:

"Sufi Barkat Ali combines the tasawwuf of the Chisti, Kadiri, and Sabri Schools.  The Chisti use music, mainly, and there have been some excellent kawwals (songs of devotion) presented in his community by individuals and groups. 

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Joe & Guin Miller

Joe & Guin MillerThe Life & Teachings of Joe Miller, 1904–1992

By Shabda Kahn, written as a book review for Yoga Journal after the publication of Richard Power’s book about Joe

Joe Miller is one of the great “homemade” American Mystics of this century.  He was recognized as an enlightened being by many spiritual authorities and revered as a mentor by many young seekers.

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Murshida Vera Corda

Murshida Vera CordaVisit Murshida Vera's web site

Murshida Vera Corda was a lifelong student of Hazrat Inayat Khan, dedicating her life to the message of Love, Harmony, and Beauty.  From her first contact with Inayat Khan in the spirit body before the age of five to her last breath leaving this plane on the zikr of light, Murshida Vera was an exemplary student of inquiry, practice, discipline and devotion to the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan.  Murshida speaks of her life’s guidance; “Well, you can imagine that for a person who had met Inayat Khan in the spirit body at five years of age, it was a tremendous guidance in my entire life work before I ever knew that he lived on this plane…” 

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Ruth St. Denis

Ruth St. DenisRuth St. Denis was a major influence on Murshid Samuel L. Lewis, who called her “Mata-Ji” (Honored Mother) and referred to her as “my fairy godmother.”  She was a source of inspiration in Murshid SAM’s creation of the Dances of Universal Peace and of the Spiritual Walks.  In his diaries, Murshid SAM reports several profound encounters with her at pivotal times in his ministry, and says she taught him the faculty of “drawing music and dances right out of the cosmos, out of the heart-of-God.”

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Frida Waterhouse

Frida WaterhouseA Brief Autobiography

The amanuensis, Frida Waterhouse, was born of Jewish parents on October 12, 1907, at Gloversville, New York.  She has a sister who is still living.  The year 1907 was a prelude to an economic depression in the United States, and there was barely enough food in the house for the two children.  Ultimately both parents became quite ill, which meant a separation of the family unit for a period of time.

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