Tuesday, April 07, 2009


The story begins when Joel Shefflin decided to visit Benares. He met a lama there, and they exchanged addresses. I think Joel probably forgot all about it, until one fine day when he received a letter saying, "I want to come to America." So, Joel went around begging and borrowing until enough money was raised to fly the lama and his wife to San Francisco. The lama turned out to be Tarthang Tulku, founder of the Nyingma School in the West.

I will say this in all sincerity: America owes a debt of gratitude to Joel.

The next fellow to come along was John Reynolds, seen here at left. That is His Holiness Mindrolling Trichen pointing, and His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche at right. This picture dates from October 1973, but that is John as I first encountered him in 1968. He was our translator in the early days; first on Laguna Street, in San Francisco, and later on Webster Street, in Berkeley. In those days, "translation" consisted of Tarthang Rinpoche screaming, and John taking notes.

You know, John is one of the most gifted and experienced translators in the world; actually, he is a lotsawa, in the grand sense of the word. I have long thought that someone should publish an anthology of his works. Among other accomplishments, he was the first person to render Shower of Blessings into the English language, in the spring of 1968.

The division of labor was something like this: Joel put up money, and his turquoise 1957 Chevy; John did the translating, and engaged in scholastic pursuits. From such humble beginnings, a vast effort grew forth, and today -- 40 years down the road-- there are not many left who recall those early (always hungry) days.

Today, Joel is a part-time financier, and full-time philanthropist, and John is energetically teaching dharma in the former Soviet Union. 

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