Jetsuma Tenzin Palmo’s brief tribute to Gene Smith is posted here with her permission.
I was truly shocked and saddened by Gene’s sudden death, but of course it happens to us all eventually. I first met Gene in 1966 when he came to Dalhousie with Dr Richard Robinson. As these two overweight guys came walking down the hill wearing jeans and plaid shirts, someone remarked “If I told you that here come two of America’s top Buddhist scholars, what would you say?”
Gene was a genius and his knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism was encyclopaedic. Through his early involvement in publishing rare texts brought from Tibet, so much was saved that would otherwise have been lost in those days of destitution among the Tibetan refugee communities.
I think all who knew him have been shaken by the suddenness of his departure – the eternal reminder – and remember him with deep respect and affection. Last time we met was at the Translators conference at Deer Park in Bir, but before that in New York with Tenzin Dolma. We went to lunch and Tenzin Dolma asked Gene if he knew anything about the Bodong tradition. For the next hour or so we were treated to a lengthy exposition of the Bodong lineage lamas, doctrines and history. Really Gene’s knowledge was like a computer: press whichever button and all the information stored there was made available.
And he was such a kind and gentle man. So courteous and considerate. Well, he can only go upwards since he was a bodhisattva who took western form to help the Tibetans preserve the Dharma.