On April 5, 2006, Glen Roger Eddy, a long time student of Chogyal Namkai Norbu and member of the International Dzogchen community died of a stroke in Cordoba, Argentina.
Born in San Francisco, California on May 17, 1941, Glen was among the first wave of Westerners to become engaged by Tibetan Buddhism in the early 1970’s. His formal training as an artist began at the San Francisco Art Institute. Later, he was introduced to Tibetan art at Pema Ling under the direction of Tarthang Tulku, eventually studying Tibetan art with several lineage masters including Tarthang Tulku, Dudjom Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche and Gyaltrul Rinpoche—all who contributed to his knowledge of traditional methods. In 1974, he attended the Naropa Institute’s first summer along with other thanka painters of his generation. Considered by many, a foremost master of Tikse or proportional drawing, his elegant line drawings of yidams were highly regarded and adorned such early publications of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche’s as, “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism,” “The Myth of Freedom,” “The Dawn of Tantra,” and internally published images for practitioners within the Shambhala community. Images survive of a thanka painted with Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche as the central figure that was lost in the mail.
In 1974, he married Terri Parkin with whom he had two sons, Glen in 1977 and Austin in 1981. They lived together for 14 years in Berkeley and Oakland, California. Glen first met Choegyal Namkhai Norbu with his family in 1983 when they attended an early retreat at a private home in Berkeley.
From 1994-2000 Glen resided in the vicinity of Tsegyalgar in Conway, Massachusetts where he initiated the Golden Vajra Guild at the newly inaugurated Shang Shung Institute founded by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu for the preservation of Tibetan culture. For several years, he served as Gekod living in the schoolhouse with his then wife, Natasha. During that time he was commissioned by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu to create a number of large scales thankas representing Rinpoche’s Dzogchen lineage. These include a refuge thanka with Padmasambhava; the Primordial Masters; Ekajati, protector of the Dzogchen teachings; and Goma Devi, one of the ancient 21 Semde masters from whom Choegyal Namkhai Norbu received his Longsel terma cycle of teachings. All of these works remain at the Gar and can be viewed on the Shang Shung website. Among many other private commissions is a large thanka with the central figure of Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, as a yogin giving pointing out instructions that was commissioned by John Shane. All these works are available as reproductions through Tsegyalgar’s bookstore.
In recent years, Glen experimented and produced hundreds of mixed-media small scale watercolors for community members-- mostly of Tara, Mandarava, and Goma Devi.
Initially reluctant to create non-traditional works, Glen’s new work was deeply appreciated as it was affordable yet masterful. While at Tsegyalgar he created dozens of line drawings that were reproduced in the Mirror and Shang Shung Editions publications for practice booklets and in publications by Choegyal Namkhai Norbu. Many community members and gakyils over the years were enthusiastic patrons of his works financially supporting his efforts, so that he could paint fulltime.
An uncompromising artist, Glen focused daily on his work, making his own paints using minerals he collected and ground himself according to the centuries old traditional recipes, as well as executing line drawings and preliminary studies with exacting precision, often consulting Choegyal Namkhai Norbu for accuracy. Over the past thirty years, numerous individuals studied thanka painting with him including Cynthia Moku, Greg Smith and other prominent Western thanka painters. At Shang Shung Institue in America, the Golden Vajra Guild, Glen had three main apprentices-- Susan Handlen, Nanji Davison, and Martha Braun.
His thanka works display a radiantly transparent quality as they depict the luminous realms of their central figures rendered in the Rimed non-sectarian style (Karma Gardri) Glen favored that is characterized by a simplicity and spare clarity. Suspended in an ocean of space, the central figures are displayed against a background with minimal rainbows, mountains and streams uncluttered by details typical of other Tibetan thanka styles. The use of hand prepared mineral paints in these works create an unusual palate of subdued color that contribute to the sense of shimmering transparency found in Glen’s work. No one painted like Glen. His mastery of style, palate, and form as a thanka painter reveals a brilliant technique leading to works infused with light befitting the subjects he painted. His line drawings were considered by such masters as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, an artist himself, to be “very special and beautiful.” At the time of his death Glen was working on a step-by-step primer to thanka painting, “The Treasury of Luminous Manifestation,” for what he said, would be the thanka painter of the future a hundred years from now.
It was Glen’s dream that the Golden Vajra Guild become a center for teaching Tibetan art, especially in Tashigar Sur, Argentina, where Glen had retired to build a home and studio for himself that he bequeathed to his eldest son, Hala, also a gifted artist and practitioner in the community who plans to catalog his father’s complete works as a master thanka artist. Austin too is a successful artist in the film industry and along with their mother, Terri Antony, the entire family is knowledgeable about aspects of Glen’s artistic works and processes that we have yet to learn more about.
Glen will long be remembered by his family, many friends and dharma practitioners as a generous and insightful friend leaving behind an important legacy of work for future generations. As a practitioner, he exemplified a deep devotion to Choegyal Namkhai Norbu integrating the profound essence of the Dzogchen teachings in an authentic manner.
April 12, 2006
* * *
A Celebration for Glen Eddy in his own words
Personally, I will miss Glen Eddy a great deal as I consider him one of my dearest dharma brothers—someone with whom I could always discuss in depth the meaning and application of the teachings in relation to one’s life. He is someone who proved an insightful ally and friend in difficult times. I tried to reciprocate this gesture in return whenever possible, as such friends are rare.
After being out of touch for many months, we recently engaged in a brisk correspondence between January-March 2006 about a variety of topics—the bureaucratic difficulties of assisting him with the paperwork to receive his social security benefits in Argentine, his enthusiastic response to my offer to put together a web site for him and all that he needed to do around this project, and of course, an ongoing conversation about his recent troubled state of mind.
When a friend dies, it is as though a piece of one’s own history incinerates too. Whom now will I share a few unique circumstances of common history-- a bohemian upbringing in Southern California circa 1950’s by difficult European mothers—his Portuguese, mine Russian; our mutual love for poet friend, Allen Ginsberg and appreciation for Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche; our shared devotion to Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, the great and kind but sometimes unpredictable master whom we both owed our lives to, finding at last what we were seeking for years.
Glen had a warm domestic side to him. During the time he was gekod at Tsegyalgar living there with his wife, Natasha, I was secretary of the gar for a couple of years. For many months, nearly every night, they graciously invited me to dinner which allowed me then to go back to work for another couple of hours. He communicated a real family atmosphere to whoever was present. Glen made great soups, the true mark of a fine chef. I still remember a bean soup he made as one of the all time culinary events of my life, only to find out later he made it from a box. Sometimes, he would come into the office and chat a few minutes, little gems of humor or odd gossip. But, mostly it was the bond of practice and insights I so appreciated about Glen. Once, when I had gone to Tashigar traveling in the dark with him after some practice back to the little casitas I stayed in across from his own, he mentioned that he had passed a beautiful woman on the pathway earlier in the day but couldn’t tell if she was a real woman or just an apparition. I appreciated this aspect of Glen’s mind—his ability to manage multiple realities with a childlike and open simplicity. On the other hand, he could be quite bilious. So, I am not surprised that in the months before his death he did “not go gentle into that good night," but raged against the dying of the light.
Early in March 2006, hearing through the grapevine that Glen was having emotional and financial troubles at Tashigar in Argentina, I wrote him asking him if he had filed for his social security benefits at the recommendation of some community members who thought it might help his financial burdens. On Mar 9, he wrote back:
“I'm having some kind of mid-life crisis, and I'm in therapy, and
Rinpoche has allowed me to remain in Tashigar, so I'm painting
everyday inspite of my crazies. Sometime I can relate how it is for me, but not this time. I'm feeling good and getting clearer everyday. Now when the tapes start I realize it and can just relax and notice, and it calms down. Sometimes I get carried away for a while. But mostly my days are not too bad…. I’m out of gas, Much love, Glen”
I then responded with a reminder of the co-emergent aspect to his emotional upheavals—that behind every great yogin was a similar experience of shedding baggage. I talked about how it’s never too late for therapy; how courageous he was to face his demons and go into the cellar, very atypical of most men at his age. Having beaten his serious drug addiction once, maybe this was an opportunity to clear up the last vestiges of unfinished business. In previous conversations, we had discussed how to dissolve intense emotions in the moment. Glen understood things well in his bones, not just in words. It seemed that he was handling his state of mind when on March 17, 2006, he wrote back, his last email to me:
Thanks for the inspiring words.
I am doing really well, I saw my therapist again last night, and she’s really good. I feel great. She also has transmission from Norbu and has been to see Pema Chodron, etc. So she knows pretty much where I 'm at in terms of the Dharma. And she speaks English. And Rinpoche is allowing me to stay in Tashigar. So my balance is coming back. But I have to get to the bottom of this anger thing that I have. It's coming, and my presence and clarity are manifesting like never before. So I feel as you were intimating that this is a good thing. Today I'm actually happy!”
I have no doubt that Glen died an appropriate death and will navigate his way to some purer dimension. A couple of years ago, after I posted a poem on Norbunet, I received a cryptic but stunning poem in return from him that I later incorporated into a long poem I’m still working on. Today, on the day of his death, these words of his seem to me to say everything about the beauty of his mind and his life’s work as a thangka painter that will continue to give so much inspiration to all of us and to future generations of practitioners.
In dreams, they come with out-stretched
hands the color of malachite
palms formed by leaf and wind,
As they pass to me the white lotus bud
grown up from mud, its stainless bloom
Midnight, April 6, 2006
Brattleboro, Vermont, USA
[Photo credit: Ellen Pearlman at Tashigar Sur, Argentina]
In memorium E. Gene Smith (1936-2010)
It is with great sorrow we learned that E. Gene Smith, founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center and an old friend of Choegyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche died at home in NYC on December 16, 2010. Gene was universally known among Tibetan and Western scholars as the man responsible for saving the vast treasury of Tibetan Literature through innovative programs he created to collect, publish and digitize Tibetan texts. His digital library is the most comprehensive in the world. The leap from the centuries old and labor intensive tradition of printing with carved woodblocks to storing an entire library of millions of pages in the palm of your hand within a generation is one of technologies most gripping stories and Gene was at the forefront of this unique solution.
Upon hearing of his death hundreds of colleagues from around the world including many important lamas began circulating testimonials to Gene’s brilliant intellect and his prodigious scholarship of Tibetan bibliographic history, which was made available to all who sought his advice. Matthew Ricard recounted that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche used to address him affectionately as “Mahapandita Jamyang Namgyal” “The Great All Victorious Manjushri Pandita,” a well-deserved name. Gene’s legendary kindness and generosity served to manifest a culture of serious scholarship for virtually anyone studying in the field-- both high and low. His influence is unparalleled among scholars. Without his work, there would be no field of Tibetan Studies in the West, as we know it today, for there simply would be no texts to study and translate.
For nearly five decades Gene Smith dedicated his life to preserve Tibet’s heritage as a steward of Tibetan culture, Smith became acquainted with Tibetans in the early 1960s when he began study of the language among other obscure languages as an acceptable option for conscientious objector status to avoid military service during the Vietnam era. While working on his PhD he studied with Sakya master, Deshung Rinpoche at the University of Washington who encouraged him to seek out collections of Tibetan texts for publication. Armed with letters of introductions to the leading lamas of all schools, Gene embarked on his mission eventually becoming employed by the US government’s Library of Congress in the Delhi field office and later South East Asia for whom he worked until his retirement in 1996. Hi innovative programs of recovery and publication resulted in making available large collections of Tibetan works that were disseminated to major university libraries and Buddhist libraries across the world. After retirement he founded the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center with the aim of creating an online digital library.
Personally, I found his book Among Tibetan Texts: History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau, an extraordinary introduction to the greatness of Tibetan culture. Originally part of his textual annotations, these essays glow with keen insights and deep appreciation for the subject matter. His excitement is palpable. Once while doing research on Tibetan poetry, I stumbled upon his entry on 15th century author, Mon rtse pa kun dga’ dpal dan where Gene writes,
“Mon rtse pa’s style is graceful and his verse demonstrates a mastery of the idiom of folk poetry. He often succeeds in making his reader feel what 15th century Tibet must have been like.”
Then in perfect meter, Smith translated an exquisite ballad that is Shakespearean in scope rivaling the greatest of Western literature. I was blown away, as they say. Reading this brief entry deeply inspired me that indeed there are meritorious works of complex literary achievement to be found in Tibetan literature. I believe Mr. Smith intended this to be the correct response.
Gene Smith is the recipient of many awards and accolades that can be found online. A movie called, Digital Dharma: One Man’s Mission to Save a Culture, is in production. To view video selections go to You Tube. For further information about The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center visit, http://www.tbrc.org. Continue the work………
REPRINTED FROM The Mirror
On December 16, 2010 E. Gene Smith, founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center passed away. Gene was universally known among both Western born and Tibetan scholars as the man responsible for saving the vast treasury of Tibetan Literature. His digital library is the most comprehensive in the world. The leap from the centuries old tradition of printing with carved woodblocks to storing an entire library of millions of pages in the palm of your hand is one of digital technologies most interesting stories.
A memorial service is planned in NYC at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on February 12.
There is a blog dedicated to Remembering Gene Smith with a rapidly growing list of eulogies.
NY Times Obituary
I met Gene once on a trip organized by the Shang Shung Institute where a number of us (Jim Valby, Stephanie Scott and myself) accompanied Chogyal Namkhai Norbu to visit Gene at his home in Cambridge, MA. Every square inch of the multi-storied townhouse was filled with colorful cloth-covered Tibetan texts in various stages of digital scanning. Not only was Mr. Smith responsible for collecting rare Tibetan texts over the past 40 years but his digital library with over 4 million scanned pages preserves for future generations the vast treasury of Tibetan culture. The availability of these texts also ensures access by everyone of completemanuscripts, a major advantage of digital formats over printed folios used in Tibetan books. To read more about his contribution to Tibetan Culture, see the links below. A film about his work is currently in production.
Announcement on the Tibetan Resource Center's site of Gene Smith's passing
A few videos on You Tube about Gene's work and achievement on behalf of Tibetan culture. There are probably more on the internet.
Homage to E. Gene Smith from Gelek Rinpoche
Produced by Jewel Heart
Dear Friends--fellow poets and meditators:
Poet and Zen master, Philip Whalen, Roshi died on June 26 at 5:50 AM. Among the last of the surviving beat generation writers, Philip was a remarkable and authentic presence. I count him among my first dharma teachers. He was a friend and teacher to many Buddhists from all the practicing lineages. As a poet, he was uncompromising in his dedication to remain true to his calling, outside the range of conventional literary circuits--so rare these days.
On October 6, 1955, he was a participant in the historical Six Gallery reading in San Francisco where he read with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Snyder, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. His poetry appeared in issues of the Evergreen Review, as well as other small
journals of the period, and in 1960 he appeared in Donald Allen's New American Poetry anthology. Whalen is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Like I Say and Memoirs of an Interglacial Age which, along with other early books, were collected in the 1967 publication of On Bear's Head. He is also the author of two novels, You Didn't Even Try and Imaginary Speeches for a Brazen Head. More recent books include The Kindness of Strangers, Severance Pay, Scenes of Life at the Capital and Canoeing Up Cabarga Creek.
Throughout the 1970's and 80's he taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied poets at the Naropa Institute (now university) where I had the privilege of living with him and Allen Ginsberg one summer. I owe allot to him for breaking through my ignorance about the 'nature of mind.' An imposing presence and mountain of a man, he could stop your mind with a gaze.
Not one to actively seek fame, in fact, outright rejecting its lure at the height of the San Francisco poetry renaissance and his own burgeoning career, Philip was among the first generation Americans to fully embrace the Buddhist teachings living for many years in Japan while studying with traditional Zen masters before returning to the US where he spent the last 30 years or so devoted to his practice primarily-- then some on his poetry. In recent years, although nearly blind and in failing health, he was installed as Abbot of the Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco, a hospice dedicated to working with Aids patients. His life's work embodied
the classic paradigm of the monk/poet living simply and with great impartial compassion towards all.
Warm Regards, Jacqueline Gens
Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park in Spring
I come to look at the cherryblossom
for the last time
Look up through flower branching Deva world
These blossoms will be gone in a week
I'll be gone long before.
an excerpt 2:iv:65
Philip Whalen 1923-2002
Nanao Sakaki (1923-2008)
Nanao Sakaki, the hip beat generation Japanese poet, died on December 21, 2008. In acommunication from Gary Snyder, some details of his last hours are recorded. Nanao was 86 years old.
Snyder writes: "Last night I got word from Japan that Nanao Sakaki had suddenly died. He was living with friends in the mountains of Nagano prefecture in a little cabin. He had stepped out the door in the middle of the night to stargaze or pee and apparently had a severe heart attack. His friends found him on the ground the next morning. Christmas afternoon they'll hold the otsuya -- intimate friends drinking party in his room, sitting with his body -- and a cremation after that. He was one of my best friends in this lifetime".
An elusive figure of the counter culture, Nanao was renowned as a great walker and hiker whose poetry was full of surprise and deep irony. He was revered in Japan among followers of the ecological movement and young people living on the land.
I once spent the summer of 1985 living with Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen and Nanao for about eight weeks in Boulder, Colorado while NAROPA was in session. One of my fondest memories of that time was when my car ran out of gas on a small hill at a busy intersection on Arapahoe Ave. I was driving Allen, Philip and Nanao back to 1001 Mapleton Ave where we were living. When my car stalled--Allen jumped out of the car and had me open the hood. Several young men stopped to assist us as Allen sagaciously inspected the interior under the hood while traffic wildly swirled around us in the middle of the intersection. Philip did nothing and remained sitting calmly in the back seat while Allen was engaged in various discussions with the young mechanics. Nanao disappeared and returned about 20 minutes later with a red gasoline can filling the gas tank without a word. He knew exactly what to do!
Nanao had a strong will that must have served him well. I don't think he was one to coddle neurosis. Once at a party, a friend's small child was having a major two-year old melt down. Nanao, without missing the opportunity, while stirring something on the stove, quietly said, "World War III" as the child wailed on. I always had the feeling that Nanao did not suffer fools lightly or even childish temper tantrums.
Allen was very fond of Nanao and supported his various causes in Japan--even sacrificing an extremely lucrative photographic exhibit contract with the Japanese department store, Parco, so as not to offend Nanao's politics.
For years I carried around a small hand-made book of Issa's poems translated by Nanao. Issa (1763-1827), like Nanao, was something of a vagabond and deeply skeptical of any kind of authoritarianism.
Grasshopper, good singer!
take care of my tomb
when I die*
*Inch by Inch, 45 Haiku by Issa, translated by Nanao Sakaki, Tooth of Time Press, 1985.
Bob Holman's Links (great resource)
Joanne Kyger Reading Nanao