Anyone who ever emailed Gene probably got a helpful, thorough, and brilliant reply moments later; he never missed a chance to extend himself whether or not it was 3 a.m. He would drop whatever he was doing to help whoever asked for it. His knowledge and memory were encyclopedic. You could mention the remotest village in Tibet and he could tell you which monasteries, lineages, and masters were associated with it. You could mention a text and he could unfurl for you a blanket of associations: geographical, biographical, historical, philosophical, political, textual, sociological. He was a polyglot and polymath.
Gene’s standards for excellence in the preservation and archiving of Tibetan texts were unparalleled. He truly single-handedly helped save a wisdom tradition, starting long before TBRC, and he never let you know he was doing it himself, with the outstretched arms of his devoted and exceptional staff. He didn’t have a trace of an agenda other than to rescue, preserve, and make readily available the great texts of Tibetan sacred literature. He shunned politics and posturing. He was one of the most unpretentious persons I have ever had the sublime privilege to know.
Gene’s easy lack of self-reference combined with an incisive and vast mind made him a joy to spend time with, and if you were lucky enough to, you would likely witness the many big and small ways in which he cared deeply; he could drop a generous bill invisibly into the hands of a homeless person; he would often pass on flowers brought to him to the Rinpoches and Lamas that would visit TBRC; once he instantly burned a CD of the late great Ngulchu Dharmabhadra’s collected works when he heard that his young Tulku had arrived that evening in New York for a visit with the touring Tashi Lhunpo monks. He did this sort of thing regularly. There was a magical dance of spontaneous goodness issuing from him always.
He was utterly unrehearsed in that goodness, and such was his mastery, that he played down the enormity of his accomplishments completely, always making others feel perfectly at ease on the one hand; and totally challenged on the other because he worked harder than anyone I know. He resisted delegating if he could do it himself.
Gene could always be found praising masters of all lineages, and finding the exquisite qualities of every religious tradition; but he was also unafraid to point out injustices and lapses when they were in gross opposition to the truth or the founder’s intentions. He never allowed himself to become polarized by the controversies and uninformed opinions that often rock Dharma communities. In fact, he often made light of such things, and donated the grand perspective of true humility. For this alone, I will ever regard him as a true bodhisattva, great leader, and impeccable role model.
In Gene’s presence you were brought in direct contact with what it means to consider and deeply engage multiple perspectives. To me this ability is the distinction of profoundly mature individuals, but never exists apart from an equally playful and self-ironic mischief and ease that in his case would crease his face and crescent his eyes with the rays of that unforgettable smile.
- Chance Meeting With A Guru August 12, 2013
- གོང་དཀར་བ་བློ་གསལ་དོན་གྲུབ་ཀྱིས་ཕྱི་ལོ་ ༢༠༡༡ ཟླ་བ་ ༡༢ ཚེས་ ༢༣ དགེ་བའི་ཉིན་གུས་ཕྱག་བཅས་ཕུལ། January 3, 2012
- From Tashi Tsering May 6, 2011
- A Mountain among Hillsides, An Ocean among Streams… February 18, 2011
- From Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, seat of His Holiness Karmapa in North America February 18, 2011
- དྲན་གསོའི་མཆོད་སྡོང་། February 18, 2011
- To the Family of E. Gene Smith, to his colleagues and to our mutual friends, February 7, 2011
- From the Ven. Lama Chime Rinpoche, Kagyu Benchen Ling, Todtmoos-Au, Germany February 2, 2011
- ༈ རྗེས་དྲན་པད་དཀར་འདབ་བརྒྱད། February 1, 2011