The Passing of John Odenthal

John Odenthal, a long-time student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and a dear friend to many passed away in Halifax on February 25. Please hold him, and his daughter, Brighid, in your thoughts and prayers.

John Odenthal, photo courtesy of Suzanne Townsend

A funeral service will take place on Wednesday, February 28th, at 12:00 pm Eastern (1:00 pm Atlantic) at the Halifax Shambhala Centre.  For those unable to attend in person, please join on Zoom:

If you are able to help with the funeral, please contact Deborah Luscomb: (  


John Grover Odenthal was born August 1,1949 in Staten Island. He died peacefully at about 10:00 am on Sunday, February 25, 2024, in Halifax.

John first met Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche at the City University of New York in New York City in the mid-70s. He attended the first Naropa session in 1974, after which he started a Dharma Study Group in Staten Island. He moved to Karme Chöling in 1976, where he stuffed cushions, did PR, and served tea to the 16th Karmapa. He attended Seminary in 1978 at Dixville Notch, New Hampshire.

Coming to the realization that he was a “dharma bum”, he moved to Boulder where he worked with Alaya Preschool and became interested in teaching and working with children.

At some point, he served as Assistant VP of Finance under Ron Stubbert.

He spent two years in Boston, earned MS and MPA degrees (Public Administration) before moving to Halifax in 1988 where he work at APEC as an economist. In his later years, he was a Professor of Environmental Economics and Policy at St. Mary’s University.

At the Shambhala Centre he worked on outreach, organized Interfaith Council events, was proud of initiating residential programs combining Levels 3, 4, & 5 at Dorje Denma Ling and Karme Chöling. John worked for many years as a volunteer, Assistant Director for Shambhala Training programs, Interfaith, and Dorje Denma Ling. 

He married Judith Arisz and in 1996, their daughter, Brighid was born.

His body is now lying in repose in the Main Shrine Room of the Halifax Shambhala Centre.  If you would like to practice with John, please contact Deborah Luscomb for the door code at: (

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Jim Hathaway
1 month ago

I knew John from our time together before, during, and after the Karmapa’s visit. I hadn’t seen him since, but as soon as I saw this headline it triggered memories of what an overall nice guy and true gentleman he was. Happy trails John.

Ed Sheldon
2 months ago

I knew John from long ago, in the galaxy far, far away that was Staten Island in the '60s. We worked together on the idealistic community projects that defined us in those days. The last time I saw him was in 1974 in Boulder, where I'd landed briefly while on a cross-country motorcycle trip. He invited me to lectures at Naropa which were very interesting. It was a magical time, and he was a magical person. Though our ways diverged, I was greatly saddened to hear the news of his passing.

Betty (Elizabeth) Lees
3 months ago

It's been 49 days now. John O was my good friend from way back in the early 70s in Staten Island, through his time at Karme Choling and his early days in Boulder. He introduced me to the teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche 50 years ago, always encouraged me to take steps along the path, never with a heavy hand. We lost touch some time in the 80s. I'd been thinking about John, meant to get in touch and looked forward to talking to him and seeing him in Halifax this spring, sharing that I will finally receive Vajrayogini abhisheka all these years after he pointed the way. I'm very sorry that he's gone. I'm not surprised to learn that he helped many. John was so smart, warm and generous.

5 months ago

Till we meet again, John. May your journey home be peaceful and filled with love, light and laughter 🙏🏼 💚🤟

Daniel Montgomery
5 months ago

Mr. O: we had a long arc of friendship from Boulder to Boston to Halifax. Seems so long ago now. Last time I saw you it was sadly clear how much our lives had gone in different directions. But I'll always remember your lively energy.

Happy trails, old friend.

Jan Morrison
5 months ago

John, you are the open door, the sweet welcome, the come on in the water's fine, the happy warrior.
...the generous Spirit, who, when brought among the tasks of real life, hath wrought upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought: whose high endeavors are an inward light that makes the path before him always bright. Wordsworth

Marcia Norcia Phillips
5 months ago

(Note: Just last week I told myself, I should get in touch with John Odenthal. It's been too long. See how he's doing and how Brighid is. And then this news. Ah.)

I met John at the first combination Levels 3,4,5 he organized and directed at Dorje Denma Ling. He held the ground, was fully present and caring and patient with us, new to this Shambhalian world. That he was able to do that was critical to the health and well-being of the participants. Doing those 3 levels in 10 days, we could have easily spun out, but John's presence as a real human being, keeping the container, kept us on our seats (although we didn't know it then). The teachers were free to teach unbounded. It was extraordinary.

John and I kept in touch as I continued on the path through Warrior Assembly and Seminary he always had cogent comments and guidance. We each had a child, born just months apart (mine a Seminary baby). I remember talking to John, Boulder to Halifax, rocking my infant son, and hearing him marvel at baby Brighid and of his deep, overwhelming love for her.

As parenthood overtook us, our connection dropped off.
And then years later, as my 17 year old son, Jesse, was heading off on his first international trip to Denma Ling to work on a crew building a hemp bale structure, I emailed John out of the blue. Would he be an emergency contact for Jesse?
He not only agreed wholeheartedly, he invited Jesse to spend a couple days with him and Brighid in Halifax, taking Jesse on a beach outing and giving him valuable advice on Canadian colleges. Although 16 years had passed since we'd last been in touch, John readily opened his heart and home to my son.

John was an extraordinary being. In my experience, there are few of his caliber.
We were dharma siblings, no matter the space between us.
I will miss him.
Sarva Mangalam !

Eric Ruby
5 months ago

I only met John about a year ago but during that year he impressed me with his generosity; he grew to be a good friend and I am very sad he has left our world. My heart goes out to his daughter Brighid, who recently moved back to Halifax to be with John.
When I joined DDL’s governing council in early 2023, John was actively developing a plan for DDL to go ‘totally electric’ by installing solar panels that would be sufficient to provide all its energy. He had researched the regulations that would allow DDL to use ‘net metering’, i.e. banking electricity credits during the sunny months and using the energy as needed year round. He had also spent a lot of time working with vendors to design the various aspects of this solar-electric system.
By chance, we both happened to be going to the Profound Treasury retreat in June and we planned to spend some time in the afternoons there working on a set of slides to use in fundraising for the solar project. We were going to meet on a Wednesday afternoon, but when Wednesday rolled around, I realized I needed to start planning the end-of-retreat banquet, so I told him I couldn’t work on the slides. John said, ‘oh, do you need help planning the banquet – I can help you’. That he did, and he ended up being the MC for it. Based on stories others have told me, this was typical for John - he was always willing to jump in and help.
After he returned to Nova Scotia, John was volunteering several days a week at DDL, working on getting the practice pavilion ready for the upcoming dathun. He was very committed to making sure the facility was in good shape and that the dathun would go well, as he really cared about DDL’s reputation. I talked with him frequently in July and August, and he mentioned that his back was hurting, but he kept working on the pavilion and other projects at DDL, despite the pain. During that time he also helped Brighid pack and drove her cross country and helped get her settled to start a new job.
In late August, when his back pain became severe he started to have some medical tests, but said he would be back to volunteer more at DDL. The next time I saw him in person was during a program on healing at DDL in November. He was clearly very ill, having difficulty even walking up the 3 or 4 stairs to get into the main building. But when his health improved briefly in December and January, he joined the DDL governing council, continuing to offer everything he could.
I gather that John was devoted to his family, especially to Brighid, and to the sangha and our mandala throughout his life; and over the past year, he gave his last full measure of devotion.

ani Chodron
5 months ago

May you have a good, awakened bardo experience, filled with thought of Chogyam Trungpa

I remember dancing with you along long time ago, to Stevie Wonder.
Thank you for that dance. Thank you for being in this precious impermanent world with us. always remember the guru, always

with love,
Ani Chodron

John Tischer
5 months ago

I knew John from the old days at Tail of the Tiger. John was a natural good person. He didn’t have the colorful neurotic psychological aspects that I and other sangha brothers and sisters had at the time, which were the reasons we were there. There were a few other members of the sangha that also seemed strangely sane for that group at that time…there weren’t many. I always liked John. I haven’t seen him for many years, but, maybe not strangely, he’s come to mind more than once recently. A very good man and student.

5 months ago

Thank you John for being such a wonderful guy. You always bring those bright blue eyes and kind smile and great energy wherever you go. We will always remember how much you adore your beloved daughter, Brighid and how you were never happier than when you were together. You did so much for the dharma, the Centre, the students and just about anyone you met. May your great practice, kindness and dharma activity guide you well on this next journey. And may Brighid know that her Dad's love, pride and presence will always be with her.

Danny Mann
5 months ago

Dear dear John, Thank you for saving my physical, emotional, and spiritual life when I started and finally finished the Vajrayana practices that were imparted upon us in the 1970’s and 1980’s. So much was going on and I was starting to sink away, and get lost in the pathways of existence. From Halifax you called one dark afternoon while I was floundering in Boulder, CO. You had called to congratulate me on finishing the Ngundro practice and receiving transmission, which you made a strong celebratory point, that I was among the very few people in the world that had accomplished such a thing as this, and what good fortune it was. You welcomed me into a small but powerful community of practitioners of past and present. Your kind, gentle, and semi-wrathful expression pulled me out of and up from the slime and muck of my emotionally depressed state. You said I was receiving The Vajra Squeeze and that engaging with the practices our teachers, Trungpa Rinpoche and his Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin had so generously given to us to explore, were creating this amazing dance, and to keep going. I’ve never forgotten your kindness and wisdom on the phone that morning. It has provided me with a North Star that has guided me in my live for all these years. You so delightfully and humorously cracked my heart open which allowed and inspired me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward. We danced and certainly because of your compassion I’ve continued that dance throughout my life. Sending you relief, courage, love, and a few new dance steps!
Danny Mann

Molly DeShong
5 months ago

Thanks for your willingness to jump in on all fronts, always. And to laugh, speculate, join us in whatever large and small plots, projects, and points of view needed a mirror and advocate. I'll miss your big laugh and heart, John!

Suzanne Townsend
5 months ago

Gate gate paragate dear John, thank you for the sweet and firey years of youthful marriage that got us out of Boulder, through Boston, and into Canada. May you continue to jump up and tap the tops of doorways and continue to bring beings to the way of meditation. I love you always.

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