Digital Dharma

Gene Smith was born in Utah and raised a Mormon. After studying science and anthropology, Smith relies on an interest and ability in obscure languages to avoid the Vietnam-era draft. While studying Sanskrit and Tibetan at the University of Washington, he takes up Tibetan Buddhism as an academic pursuit and offers to help Tibetan refugees – brought to the U.S. to teach – to assimilate into American life. He is assigned to live with the family of Deshung Rinpoche, one of the most learned lamas to escape Tibet. Smith teaches English to Deshung, and Deshung teaches Smith about Tibetan culture and Buddhism. In 1959, Red Army Soldiers destroy thousands of homes and temples. Tibetan refugees are forced to leave behind countless artifacts, the sole evidence of their culture. A 1500-year literary tradition, in Sanskrit and Tibetan, is in danger of disappearing. Smith travels through India, Bhutan and Nepal…