Thursday, September 07, 2006

W.Y. Evans-Wentz

Every Western Buddhist of the past generation is familiar with the American, Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz, PhD (1878-1965) (right). For the final twenty-three years of his life, he lived in a small room in the Keystone Hotel in San Diego. It is said he chose the Keystone because it was near the city's only vegetarian restaurant—the House of Nutrition—and near the public library, where he sometimes checked out his own books because he had given all of his copies away. He also owned land and a small retreat house at Mt. Cuchama, a few miles away near the Mexican border. According to his will, Evans-Wentz deeded Mt. Cuchama to the State of California with the provision that it be made a public monument to symbolize goodwill and fraternity between the races and faiths of the Occident and the Orient. I do not know if this has, in fact, been accomplished but if it has not, then the site deserves a 108 foot stupa. Every Tibetan Buddhist teacher alive owes a profound debt of gratitude to this being. He died near Encinitas, California, after having donated his papers and books to the Oxford Library where, because of water damage, many were subsequently thrown away.

Evans-Wentz, shortly before his death in 1965.

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