There is a moment of disorientation when you lose someone suddenly, a dizzying second in which it is impossible to imagine how we could possibly carry on without them. It was this sense of vertigo that grabbed us last Thursday morning when we learned that Gene Smith, founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC), had passed.
That morning, we were busily preparing this, our second issue of Künpen Tamsar, for print. When we began planning this issue back in August, we decided to focus on projects and people working to develop Tibetan culture and help it thrive in the modern world. We began planning stories on the early days of contemporary Tibetan art in Lhasa and the establishment of the Gendün Chöpel Artists’s Guild, a program giving young Tibetans the knowledge and skills to represent their own culture, and a debate on reforming the Tibetan writing system, all of which you’ll find in the pages ahead. For our recurring columns, we tossed a number of different ideas around, but for our Profile in this issue dedicated to Tibet culture, Gene was the obvious choice.
For nearly 60 years Gene worked tirelessly to ensure the transmission of Tibetan Buddhist texts. His efforts led to the preservation of thousands of Tibetan texts, providing the essential resources for the establishment of Tibetan studies as a modern academic field. In recent years, his work led to the application of the latest technologies to Tibetan literature, producing one of the largest archives of Tibetan religious literature on earth and ensuring that this incredible store of knowledge remains a fertile ground for the continuing growth of Tibetan culture. More than simply a strong advocate for Tibetan culture, however, Gene Smith was a friend. The loss of this incredible man is currently being felt around the world. There can be no substitute for Gene’s passion, his warmth, or his kindness.
Though we mourn our loss, the way forward is clear, paved by Gene through years of constant effort. We join others in recognizing his invaluable contribution to Tibetan culture and dedicate this issue to his memory. He will truly be missed.