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Lions Roar : September 2019
Shambhala Publications has particularly strong ties with Pema Chödrön, who, like Bercholz, is a student of Chögyam Trungpa. When her first manuscript crossed Sam Bercholz’s desk, he thought, “Who in the world is going to be interested in an Irish-American Buddhist nun?” But it was so good they published it anyway. That first book was The Wisdom of No Escape, released in 1991. Six years later, Shambhala published Pema Chödrön’s break- through book, When Things Fall Apart. As the Boston Globe said of her writing, “It’s nothing less than transformational.” Meanwhile, changes were brewing at the company, and in 2010 Sam Bercholz transferred ownership to his two children, Sara and Ivan Bercholz. “My father always told me that if I decided to go into pub- lishing that I could meet the people I wanted to meet, learn the things I wanted to learn, and go the places I wanted to go,” says Sara Bercholz. “But it took some time for me to figure out what that really meant for me.” Then it all clicked, and she spear- headed the founding of Roost, a new lifestyle imprint with a strong emphasis on crafting and cooking. “I really see it as the creative, domestic side of what Shambhala means,” says Sara Bercholz. “In the Kingdom of Shambala, there’s room for enlightenment in everything that we do.” Case in point, she says, is At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin. It’s chockablock with recipes and never mentions Buddhism, but all the same “it is a practice book in disguise.” Buddhism has a wealth of tools and perspectives that can benefit individuals and society, yet not everyone wants to read about capital-B Buddhism, and Shambhala is sensitive to that. They’re also keyed into the fact that even self-identified Buddhists have many different types of interests and needs. “What we do is meet people where they are,” says Odiseos. In 2012 Shambhala showed its commitment to supporting Vajrayana practitioners when they acquired Snow Lion Publications and added hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist titles to their list. Now an active imprint of Shambhala, Snow Lion publishes translations of important Vajrayana texts, building the Tibetan canon in English with the sup- port of organizations such as the Tsadra Foundation. The material is not generally what one would call beach reading. Though Shambhala Publications is a for-profit company, it is, at the same time, mis- sion driven. As Odiseos says, “We’ll do projects that we know won’t make any money but that we feel are an important contribution to a small group of com- mitted practitioners.” Shambhala Publications is also turn- ing their attention to children, and this year Ivan Bercholz launched the imprint Bala Kids, whose Buddhist and Buddhist-inspired titles include Where’s Buddha? “Buddha can be fast. Buddha can be slow,” little readers learn. “Buddha is everywhere you go.” This year, as Shambhala Publications celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, they’re taking stock of where they’ve come from and where they’re going. Now back in Boulder after thirty years in Boston, they’re publishing about a hundred titles a year. When asked about the future of the company, Sara Bercholz says her hope is that they don’t grow in terms of size, but rather in terms of reach. “I genuinely believe that our books make a difference in people’s lives. Getting them into as many hands as possible in order to help pave the way to enlightenment is a lofty goal,” she acknowledges, “but I suppose that would be it.” ♦ Shambhala Publications now has over 1,700 titles in print. More than half of them are explicitly Buddhist. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 60