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James George passed away on Friday night, February 7, 2020 at the age of 101. He was an important person in Trungpa Rinpoche’s life, and in the history of the Vajradhatu/Shambhala world. James is survived by his wife Barbara Wright, his daughter, Dolphi, and his son Daniel. His son, Graham, died in 2003.
Although perhaps best known as a distinguished Canadian diplomat and an effective environmental and political activist, James George was first and foremost a spiritual seeker. He was a devoted student of the Gurdjieff Work for more than seventy years and was a close disciple of the late Madame de Salzmann, one of Gurdjieff’s primary students. With her encouragement, James and his first wife, Carol (who died in 1996), explored the spiritual traditions that formed the foundation for Gurdjieff’s early training. While stationed in India, Sri Lanka, and the Middle East, the Georges met with a number of remarkable men, including Krishnamurti, Thomas Merton, Yogaswami of Sri Lanka, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (Sufi master from Teheran), Dudjom Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. This underlying interest in spirituality is the thread that runs through all of James George’s activities and accomplishments.
During the autumn months of 1968, James and Carol George hosted Trungpa Rinpoche in their home, the Canadian Embassy in Delhi. Of that period of time, Rinpoche wrote:
Returning from Bhutan through India , I was delighted to meet again with His Holiness Karmapa and also His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I also made the acquaintance at this time of Mr. James George, the Canadian High Commissioner to India, and his wonderful family. Mr. George is a wise and benevolent man, an ideal statesman, who holds great respect and faith for the teachings of Buddhism. [From the Epilogue to Born In Tibet by Chögyam Trungpa, (c) 1966 by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.]
In regard to this same period of time, Mr George said the following in a 2003 Chronicles interview.
During that visit in the fall of 1968 Trungpa [Rinpoche] began to speak a little about Shambhala and Gesar of Ling and I, as I’ve written, asked him to describe what he was able to tell me about Shambhala. He pulled out his mirror – a metal disk mirror that he wore on a cord around his neck – and started to look into it with deep concentration and describe Shambhala, just as if he was looking out the window. It was very vivid and it got me researching Shambhala in a more serious way with a view to perhaps publishing something. Eventually I produced an article called Searching for Shambhala, which was published in Search: Journey on the Inner Path, edited by Jean Sulzberger. I had sent it to Trungpa in 1976 to see if I was allowed to publish this material and he gave his permission. In this article, I was exploring whether Shambhala was an allegory or a real place or both.
At the 2003 Kalapa Assembly, which he attended as the guest of honor, James George spoke to the Shambhala sangha about the importance of applying our spiritual practice to the problems facing the larger world. James George was a true warrior, and a profound and gentle man.
James, you shall be sorely missed.
Searching for Shambhala: an article written by James George in 1976
Interview: Chronicles 2003
Chronology: a partial timeline of James George’s accomplishments
I had a wonderful conversation with James George at a Gurdjieff event in Philadelphia some years ago. His book “Asking For the Earth” reflected his dedication to the environment and we spoke about Rachel Carson, a hero to us both. And I knew his wife Barbara from the SF Gurdjieff Foundation. Of course his circles ran very wide as a diplomat. A wonderful man and a life nobly lived.
Here's the 12 minute interview with James George that is quoted above. In the second half, he talks about Trungpa Rinpoche's mission and accomplishments in North America. [ Link to Interview ]
I knew Jim George for many years, but only saw him now and then. He came to Halifax in ... I don't remember the year ... I think it was in the last milennium ... to hear the Sakyong teach at Dorje Denma Ling. Jim was a wonderful man--modest, humble even. I'll miss him.
Hello brother George,
Personally i do not know you but from what i read, i was inspired by you and your deeds. Here's to wishing You :
May Your Transition to the Buddha's Pureland Be Free from All Outer, Inner & Secret Obstacles.
I only met him a few times, worked with him once, I think, at Silver Lake. A gentleman and a scholar in every way. The Work is poorer at his leaving.
Sorry to hear the news. A great man who carried the News for many a year.
I had the good fortune to attend the Kalapa Assembly in 2003 and heard James George’s poignant and inspiring talk. It was a wonderful gift to have his wise and gentle counsel.