Samuel L. Lewis

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Samuel L. Lewis on the cover of a book of a series of lectures made by him in 1970

Samuel L. Lewis (October 18, 1896 – January 15, 1971) was an American who became a mystic of the Sufi Chisti order. A student of Inayat Khan he was given the name Ahmed Murad in 1946. Samuel Lewis now Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti or Sufi Sam as he was popularly known devoted his life to peace through action. To this end Sufi Sam worked to develop drought resistant grains, safe organic fertilizers and salt water conversion.[1] Later in his life he was recognized as Murshid the Arabic for "Exalted Teacher". As a spiritual leader he founded the movement: Dances of Universal Peace. The Dances of Universal Peace continue to be practiced and shared by the murids of Sufi Sam, most notably Wali Ali Meyers.


Lewis was born to Jewish parents. Lewis' father Jacob Lewis was a vice president of the Levi Strauss jeans manufacturing company. His mother was Harriett Rosenthal, the daughter of Lenore Rothschild of the international banking family.

To his parents' dismay Lewis showed a keen interest in religion and spirituality from an early age and later rejected their attempts at as business career for him. Lewis studied mathematics at Columbia University in 1916.

In 1919 Lewis entered a Sufi community in Fairfax, California where he met Murshida Rabia Martin, a student of the Sufi teacher and musician Hazrat Inayat Khan. A year later he began Zen study with Sogaku Shaku, a disciple of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist Abbot Soyen Shaku. The twin spiritual influences of Sufism and Zen were to remain central to him throughout his life.

Lewis remained in the Fairfax Sufi community through the early 1920s. In 1923 a vision of Hazrat Inayat Khan lead Lewis into initiation by the Pir-O-Murshid. In 1926 he collaborated with Nyogen Senzaki, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk, in opening the first official Zen meditation hall (zendo) in San Francisco.

Lewis continued to study Sufism and Zen, as well as yoga. He developed an interest in horticulture and promoted seed exchanges internationally.

In 1956, he visited Japan, India, Pakistan and Egypt, seeking the company of other mystics and teachers. In 1960, while visiting Pakistan, he claimed he was publicly recognized as a Murshid by Pir Barkat Ali of the combined Chisti-Qadiri-Sabri[disambiguation needed] orders, founder of Dar ul Ehsan. Following the death of Nyogen Senzaki in 1964 Lewis assumes the position of librarian of the "Mentorgarten". In 1966, he was ordained a "Zen-Shi" (Zen Master) by Korean Zen master Dr. Kyung-Bo Seo.

In 1967, whilst recovering from a heart attack in a hospital Lewis claimed that he heard the voice of god say, "I make you spiritual leader of the hippies." For the remainder of his life Lewis traveled around California developing and teaching the Dances of Universal Peace, which draw on all the spiritual traditions he had encountered. The movement he created continues today in a formal way as Sufi Ruhaniat International, as well as informally through the wide adoption of the Dances of Universal Peace by many other Sufi and non-Sufi groups.

His brother died in 1970. Though Lewis had a strained relationship with his brother through most of his life, they had finally reconciled six years earlier in 1964.

Lewis died in January 1971 as a result of a fall one month earlier.[2]


"no mechanical means, no rules, no rituals, nothing controlled by man alone can liberate man"[2]
"The Sufi dervishes, using their feet...rid their minds of useless luggage. The ridding of luggage is more important than the method. What is needed is a method that works, not a philosophy about method which can be very confusing."[2]
"Words are not peace. Thoughts are not peace. Plans are not peace. Programs are not peace. Peace is fundamental to all faiths. Peace is fullness, all inclusive...and must be experienced."
"One of the reasons I am teaching this music and dancing is to increase Joy, not awe towards another person, but bliss in our own self. This is finding God within, through experience."




  1. ^ Samuel L. Lewis (1987). Sufi Vision and Initiation. San Francisco, California: Sufi Islamia. ISBN 0-915424-10-X. 
  2. ^ a b c Ram Dass (1971). Be Here Now. San Cristobal, New Mexico: Lama Foundation. ISBN 0-517-54305-2. 

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