Saturday, December 18, 2010

E Gene Smith (1936 - 2010)

E. Gene Smith, the man who did more than any other person on the face of the planet to save the written knowledge of Tibet, has died.

There is not a lama anywhere, of any generation, who does not owe him a debt of gratitude.

He passed away at approximately 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, 16 December 2010, and was immediately attended by Alak Zenkar Rinpoche.

In the old days, he ran PL-480 operations for the Library of Congress Office in India, and he always found ways to funnel assistance. Later, of course, he became famous for founding the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, which now holds the largest collection of Tibetan books outside of Tibet.

Dr. Smith was an early mentor to many, including Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche, and a great inspiration to me. I first met him when I was seventeen years old, and he remained a force in my life ever since. He was the first person Tarthang Rinpoche introduced me to, when we were trying to figure out how to republish Tibetan books, back in the 1960s. Of course, nobody had any money, and it was really such a desperate situation. But, somehow, and I think it was around 1963 or thereabouts, he was able to get help to Tarthang Rinpoche, who had started the Dharma Mudranalaya press, and was trying to do publishing at Varanasi. It wasn't just about saving the books for the older generation. There were young people who would be needing them, so there was always this great sense of urgency. There were so few people in the West who even knew of the problem, much less understood or cared, but he understood... he really understood... he really cared... and he spent his entire life on it. I want to tell you, that in the 1960s, he was the only person who gave us the time of day. There was never a single occasion in all the years since when he would not stop whatever he was doing and help with this or that question, or situation. He is actually the person who, during a 2006 telephone conversation, suggested that I name this blog "Digital" Tibetan Buddhist Altar. I tell you, I feel his loss so deeply.

Please, take a few moments and watch this trailer for the Digital Dharma documentary. It will help you understand who he was, and what he meant to all of us....

I will update this as more information becomes available. Quite frankly, right now I wish only to say prayers for him.

This was a great man, and I want to say that I loved and respected him enormously.


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7 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

He is truly blessed! To die in the presence of Alak Zenkar Rinpoche is also testament to this.

Anonymous said...

May he meet the dharma in all his future lives.

cloudhand said...

a beautiful man, and - as you say - a real friend...
his loss is an enormous blow the Tibetan and Tibetological community, but, fortunately for us all, he managed to set it up in such a way as to have the least negative impact.
extraordinary!

Anonymous said...

I think the right response to our grief might be to send a donation to either "Digital Dharma" that is making a film about his life, or (of course) to Tibetan Buddhism Resource Center, which has a big responsibility carrying on his vision. I already did one and am thinking about the other. No light has gone out, although it surely feels that way.

GK Sandoval said...

Om Mani Padme Hum for his auspicious rebirth.

Such an amazing mindstream with such strong connections to teachers will not be gone for long. I'm very sure he'll be back in a capacity that will allow for continuation of his work with a new generation of lamas. E. Gene Smith's work should be an inspiration to all aspiring lotsawas out there.

I am simply amazed at the amount of Dharma material that is available online today. I often think about the people who had to endure great hardships to accomplish this feat--the translators, the people who carried the texts and the patrons. I also meditate on the ordinary people who walked hundreds of miles for Dharma material or to hear a great lama speak. We, who live during this time, are very blessed, indeed.

Mahalo Nui Loa to Mr. E. Gene Smith for his great work in preserving Tibetan culture.

Anonymous said...

I met Gene in the mid-eighties at his home in New Delhi where he was hosting HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. We arrived there for a teaching. I knew that Gene was involved with the Library of Congress. Years later I got to know the full extent of his contribution. As I had never had the chance to say thankyou to him, this is that.

Anonymous said...

very sad a great loss. he helped bring tibet to the world and to the tibetan community in exile.