Remembering Gene Smith

Message from His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

From the time the Buddhadharma arrived in Tibet, the translation and production of texts formed a key area of activity, mobilizing and shaping Tibetan culture. During the mass exodus into exile in the mid-20th century, Tibetans could easily carry the meaning of the texts written in their hearts but had to carry the books on their own backs. In this process, and in the subsequent years of exile and during the Cultural Revolution within Tibet, texts and wood blocks were scattered, and painfully many were lost. In such an era, to dedicate one’s life to seeking out, preserving, publishing and digitizing Tibet’s vast textual heritage, as Gene Smith did, is a kindness that cannot be expressed in words. I do not believe it unfair to say that his life’s accomplishments follow in the example of the great Dharma kings of Tibet. 

Gene was not merely a collector of words written on paper. He made all he found freely available to others. He read widely and deeply, and became a vast treasure of knowledge of Tibetan history and culture. The fact that Gene preserved texts of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, without regard to sectarian differences, makes his achievements particularly worthy of our respect and admiration. Gene leaves behind an invaluable resource that will be of great benefit for many generations to come. As he now moves on to his next life, Gene does not take any books with him. But he does carry an extensive library of merit. He also goes accompanied by my own gratitude and prayers.