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Lions Roar : September 2019
popular that Shambhala Publications was able to upgrade from a single desk in the basement of the bookstore to a real office. Meanwhile, Chögyam Trungpa was establishing a vibrant Buddhist sangha in Boulder, Colorado. Sam Bercholz wanted to be a part of it, so he bought out cofounder Michael Fagan and in 1976 moved Shambhala Publications to Boulder. In those early years, there were times when Shambhala was just getting by. There was even a time when no one was sending them manuscripts, so they had to publish blank books—jour- nals—in order to make ends meet. That said, enduring Bud- dhist classics came out of the seventies and early eighties. Following up on Meditation in Action, Shambhala published Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Cutting Through Spiritual Mater- ialism in 1973. In this groundbreaking book, he stated, “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality.” This tendency is shared by people of every gener- ation, which is why this book is still on so many bookshelves. But it’s also true, says Bercholz, that “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism was really speaking to a problem of spirituality at the time. People’s interest in spirituality, especially Buddhist or Eastern spirituality, oftentimes was based on drug-induced states and more on ego than nonego.” As recorded in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, a stu- dent asked Trungpa Rinpoche, “What happens when the monkey [mind] takes a little LSD?” “It already has taken it,” was his dry response. Ultimately, drugs were part of samsara, not its solution. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, was another seminal book that came out around the same time. It was released in 1970 by Weatherhill Publications, a company in Japan founded by the Texan Oscar Meredith Weatherby (1915–1997). A brazen young Bercholz was quick to let Weatherby know that Shambhala would at any time be happy to buy the rights. It was another thirty-odd years before Shambhala would acquire Weatherhill’s list, and with it the rights to Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Between the two of them, Cutting Through Spiritual Material- ism and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind did as much as anything to define Buddhism for a generation of English-speaking practition- ers, and both continue to be important influences to this day. NATALIE GOLDBERG’S Writing Down the Bones was a mile- stone in Buddhist publishing. It was one of the first bestselling books to offer a specifically Buddhist take on a subject of broad interest, in this case writing and creativity. Very much a Zen book, it presents writing as a practice, just as zazen meditation is a practice. Its publication in 1986 was another game changer for Shambhala Publications, which had just moved from Boulder to Boston. This was a book, says Sam Bercholz, that “had the potential to break out of just the little Zen world.” So, launching its very first marketing campaign, Shambhala held a writing contest for booksellers, which centered on Writing Down the Bones. This made booksellers eager to read the book, and they were so inspired they recommended it to their customers. Shambhala was now on a roll, and in 1988 they published Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Art of War, an ancient Chinese classic attributed to the military strategist Sun Tzu. At the time, it was little known in America, but a little help from basketball player Phil Jackson put this 2,500-year-old text on the map. During the NBA playoffs, it came out on national television that Jackson credited his success with the Knicks to Cleary’s translation of The Art of War. After that, people started finding Sun Tzu’s wisdom applicable to a wide range of fields, including business and leadership. As Cleary explains in his preface, The Art of War is actually less about war than it is about outsmarting your opponent. In other words, the most gifted warrior is the one who wins without fighting. Inspired by the success of The Art of War, in 1992 Shambhala published John Stevens’ translation of The Art of Peace, by Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido. Again, television gave the book a push when a 2015 episode of The Walking Dead fea- tured it. “All things are bound together harmoniously,” taught Morihei Ueshiba. “This is the real law of gravity that keeps the universe intact.” Apparently, these are wise words even in the zombie apocalypse. WHEN NIKKO ODISEOS became president of Shambhala Publications in 2010, he was taken aback when the company’s strait-laced, suit-wearing attorney said, “I just love telling my friends I represent a Buddhist publisher!” Odiseos’ conclusion was that by the first decade of the new millennium, “Buddhism reached a level of acceptance and appreciation, so even people who didn’t really know what Bud- dhism was had an inclination toward it.” The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön, and Jack Kornfield were the teachers largely responsible for this shift, and Shambhala Publications has published books by all of them. They were able to frame the teachings in such a way, says Odiseos, that “a lot of people, for whom maybe the exotic stuff was too hard to relate to, all of a sudden could connect in a very genuine way.” Shambhala Publications president Nikko Odiseos was taken aback when the company’s strait- laced, suit-wearing attorney said, “I just love telling my friends I represent a Buddhist publisher!” LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 59