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Lions Roar : September 2019
Contrast that with the wide selection of Buddhist reading material that’s available in English today. Now the writers of Buddhist books are people who have put in long hours on the meditation cushion, and based on their personal experience, they have insight into how to bring the dharma into virtually every facet of our lives. Shambhala Publications has been a leader in bringing about this sea change in Buddhist publishing. With almost two thou- sand print titles, more than half of which are explicitly about Buddhism, the company is still finding innovative ways to share the dharma with an ever-wider readership. Over the years, big publishing houses have made bids to buy them out, but Shambhala Publications remains independent— true to its roots. IN 1967, Sam Bercholz was working the graveyard shift at the post office when he struck up a friendship with his coworker Michael Fagan. Both college kids, they shared a deep interest in Buddhism and a desire to make Buddhist reading material more accessible. In 1968, the two friends got the go-ahead from the owner of a large bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, to set up a section in the back dedicated to Buddhism and other wisdom traditions. Bercholz and Fagan dubbed their bookstore within a bookstore “Shambhala Booksellers.” Shambhala, they’d read, was a word emblematic of an enlightened way of living in society, and that touched a chord with them. Shambhala Booksellers was, as Bercholz puts it, “strangely popular.” They had to order a thousand copies of each book because, Bercholz says, “they sold like hotcakes.” In 1971, Shambhala Booksellers graduated from being a bookstore within a bookstore when they established their own independ- ent store. It was also on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue, a famed center of the counterculture. Besides the books on Buddhism and other wisdom traditions, this new location had places to sit and chat. It became not just somewhere to buy books, but a place to meet people and talk about books and spirituality. But Bercholz had further aspirations. He wanted to publish books, especially Buddhist books. His publishing mentor was Vincent Stuart of the English company Stuart & Watkins. When the two connected in London, Stuart said he’d just gotten a manuscript from an obscure Tibetan lama living in Scotland. Bercholz, who’d never heard of the lama before, was welcome to consider it for publication. The lama was Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. His manuscript was Meditation in Action. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 57