Shabda Kahn has been a disciple of Sufism since 1969. He is a direct disciple of Murshid Samuel 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 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 of the Chisti Sabri School of Music. This has become 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 5th, 1977, at the tomb of Hazrat Inayat Khan in India. In October 1997, 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 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.
Shabda married his wife, Tamam, in 1976 and they make their home in San Rafael, California. They have two grown children, Ammon and Solomon, and many godchildren. Shabda has a regular zikr meeting in Marin County, California. Throughout the year, he travels the world, 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.
As Pir of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, he directs the Jamiat Khas, the leader circle of the Ruhaniat, directs its Board of Trustees and is the spiritual director for the Dances of Universal Peace, worldwide.