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Lions Roar : September 2019
“I read the book,” Bercholz recalls, “and, as they said at the time, my mind was blown. It was the best thing I’d ever read. I said, ‘Yes, let’s do this.’” Bercholz and two other people put in five hundred dollars each to produce the first print run of just a thousand copies. It was a modest beginning that, claims Bercholz, “started a revolu- tion.” Meditation in Action was exactly the type of book needed at the time: it was grounded in actual Buddhist practice. It was a happy, or perhaps karmic, coincidence that the start-up publisher was called Shambhala and Trungpa Rinpoche had a unique body of teachings based on that very same tradition. Trungpa Rinpoche himself is said to have been very surprised to learn that a company called Shambhala had published his book. (In spite of the shared name, though, Shambhala Publications has never been affiliated with the Shambhala International community founded by Trungpa Rinpoche, nor its network of Shambhala Centers.) In early 1970, not long after Meditation in Action went on sale, Bercholz got a call asking if Shambhala Publications would sponsor Trungpa Rinpoche to give a couple of talks in the Bay Area. Jumping at the opportunity, Bercholz met Trungpa Rinpoche for the first time when he went to pick him up at the airport. With his Oxford crest tie and Oxonian English, Trungpa Rinpoche was not what Bercholz had expected of a Tibetan teacher. Yet he felt an immediate connection. Trungpa Rinpoche became Bercholz’s teacher, as well as an advisor and board member of Shambhala Publications for many years. All the while, Shambhala Publications was coming into its own—sometimes struggling but ultimately growing into North America’s largest publisher of Buddhist books, as well as much else. EDWARD ESPE BROWN was the head cook at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Northern California. In 1969, Sam Ber- cholz offered him a one hundred dollar advance to write a cookbook steeped in Zen, and in 1970 three thousand copies of The Tassajara Bread Book were released. “Recipes are only a guide, a skeleton framework, to be fleshed out according to your nature and desire,” wrote Brown. “Your life, your love, will bring these recipes into full creation. This cannot be taught. You already know. So plunge in: cook, love, feel, create. Actualize breadmaking itself.” What Brown taught his readers about bread—and food in general—was transformative for many people. They’d grown up consuming bland, store-bought white bread, and Brown showed them that, by getting their hands caked in flour, they could truly taste the richness of life. The Tassajara Bread Book was eventually described in the New York Times Magazine as “one of the most influential cookbooks ever, an inspiration not only to bakers and chefs but also to an entire generation of food writers.” The first print run was so Shambhala got its start as a bookstore in Berkeley in the late sixties. It wasn’t just somewhere to buy books, but a place to meet people and talk about spirituality. The company began to really grow after its move to Boston in 1985 and the publication of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in 1986. Founder Sam Bercholz, center, in a staff photo, circa 1995. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 58