A Tribute to Gene Smith

In the chronicle of Buddhadharma, people will find it hard not to be filled with gratitude at the mention of Gene Smith, who saved Tibetan literature twice in one life. Born to a Mormon family in Utah, Gene Smith not only first organized the printing and re-publishing of all the precious books carried out of Tibet by the earliest wave of refugees in the sixties and seventies, but also, more recently, founded the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) in order to digitize and save the whole vast range of Tibetan Buddhist works. People who knew Gene Smith found him to be a true bodhisattva, embodying the attributes of wisdom, charity, generosity, compassion, and a total dedication to the Dharma. His charity and generosity are well attested. Notorious for buying 4-5 copies of every book so that he could share it with less privileged Buddhist Lamas and students, he devoted everything he had to the Dharma.

Despite his ill health, he traveled nearly 8,000 miles from New York to participate in the 3rd BLHP/84000 Working Committee Meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal. In addition to serving as a valuable and tireless member of the 84000 working committee, he was also one of the first donors who sponsored the translation of 4 pages of the Kangyur. Known for his levelheaded and balanced approach, Gene Smith was the wise counsel during debates and discussions; and always humbled people with his combination of vast knowledge and modesty. He was the bridge between the traditional and the modern, at ease conversing with both the traditional Lamas as well as Western academics. He was a precious gem adored and respected by all. His departure left a rich legacy of priceless Dharma resources that it has now become our mission to continue.

As we remember Gene Smith, we must remember and honor his spirit of selfless giving and dedication to the Dharma.

As Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche expressed it, “I hope that not only we the Tibetans, Bhutanese, and Sikkimese, will emulate a great person like Gene Smith’s courage and relentless diligence, I hope that the Western Dharma students will also emulate what he did. And if we do that, then I think we will not forget Gene Smith for a long, long time.”

Rest in peace, our old friend, and bless us to continue your unfinished mission in this world. We will remember you for a long, long time.

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Posted: 15 Apr 2011