by Christiana Polites
The very first seed of SKY Press was planted December 2015 when a close friend in Portland, OR forwarded me a Facebook post by Ben Joffe, whose name many of you know well by now. It was an English translation of the table of contents of Dr Nida Chenagtsang’s Tibetan language book about Mantra Healing. My friend who had met Ben several years earlier in India, wondered if this was the same Dr Nida that I studied with, and yes indeed it was. I forwarded the post to Dr Nida and was surprised to find out that not only had he not seen it, but he had no idea who this person was who spontansously translating his work. Intrigued, I connected with Ben directly and asked him who he was and what his interest was in Dr Nida and in mantra healing? It turned out Ben is a cultural anthropologist who was living in Dharamsala doing research for his PhD at University of Colorado, Boulder on ngakpa communities in exile. In his research he had stumbled upon various Tibetan writings of Dr Nida’s and finding them to be remarkably elucidating, he began to do rough translations and share them via social media for English speakers who might also be interested. Coincidentally, Dr Nida was visiting India for his very first time soon after, and I encouraged Ben to travel to South India to attend the Mantra Healing course in Bangalore which he enthusiastically did.
The fire monkey year, a very powerful year in the Tibetan lunar calendar was approaching and Dr Nida announced that he would begin giving Yuthok Nyingthig Ati Yoga instruction publicly for the first time as this was the time the humans were most ripe for these teachings. I straight away requested Dr Nida to offer an Ati Yoga program at Sorig Khang Portland and found out shortly after that at their meeting in Bangalore, Dr Nida had asked Ben to translate his four chapter commentary on Yuthok’s Ati Yoga writings, entitled ‘Mirror of Light.’ Ben, who is not a professionally trained translator, was a bit stunned by the invitation but agreed to attempt the work, bolstered by the powerful Tibetan name, Jigme Dorje (‘Fearless Indestructibility’) that Dr Nida offered to him as a protective pen name. Thrilled by the coincidence, I encouraged Ben to work fast so that Dr Nida could teach from his fresh translations of chapter one and two in Portland later that summer.
A few months later at the Sowa Rigpa conference in Tallinn, Estonia, in the midst of the buzz of enthusiasm surrounding future potential projects, Tam Nguyen, MD was introducing her project (one of many) — a Tibetan Medicine point study book she had put together under Dr Nida’s instruction. Her massive work complete, the book was almost ready for publication. I approached her afterwards and for reasons that I honestly don’t understand, offered to help her to publish this book. I have no experience in the publishing industry and didn’t know at all what I was offering, but it nevertheless seemed the most natural thing to do. Her response was an enthusiastic ‘great!’ (much like one of Dr Nida’s ‘great!’s which have the magical power to put vague conceptual ideas in to concrete motion). A few ensuing converstations followed over the next days and this ‘great!’ turned into the birth of a new publishing house for the new foundation, Sorig Khang International. What on earth did I just agree to??
Now it was time to choose the name! Sorig Khang International (SKI) is affectionately pronounced as ‘sky’ amongst Dr Nida’s students. The sky is a quintessential symbol in Ati Yoga (Dzogchen) teachings. The true nature of our mind is likened to the spacious blue sky which is limitless and can never be obstructed by the clouds of our thoughts and emotions. In his ‘Flight of the Garuda,’ the great Ati Yoga master from Amdo, Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol says:
The nature of the sun’s disc is radiance that a thousand aeons of darkness cannot obscure. Similarly, luminosity is the nature of one’s mind that aeons of confusion cannot darken. Just as the nature of the sky transcends the limits of color and shape and is never stained by black or white clouds, the nature of mind also transcends the limits of color and shape.
For the average person, the word ‘SKI’ has nothing to do with the sky, but rather the winter mountain sport — not a wonderful name for a publishing house I felt, especially a publishing house that sought to bring a relatively unknown medical system and its even lesser known spiritual counterpart, the Yuthok Nytingthig into the public light. After weeks of considering various names, Tibetan and English, of varying degrees of esotericism and obscurity, we agreed to simply call the company ‘SKY Press’ so as to refer indirectly Sorig Khang International, while still having a catchy mainstream name that at the same time held a very deep and significant meaning for meditators. And for students of Dr Nida, we know that it is the Sky that is the backdrop for the Sun and the Moon, the Nyima and the Dawa of our beloved teacher’s name, Ni – Da.
Meanwhile, Ben Joffe was ploughing away at the Ati Yoga commentaries. Dr Nida’s Tibetan words flowed through him magically, seeminlgy effortlessly, and appeared on paper in beautiful and poetic prose at an almost miraculous speed. I eagerly awaited the drafts that he sent me regularly, and at times was so stunned by the profundity of this work that it would move me to tears and simultaneous laughter thinking that all this was arising out of a FaceBook post. I still did not know that these translations would become the bones of SKY Press’s first book ‘Mirror of Light’ until Pearse Gaffney entered the scene. Professional graphic designer with years of experience working for Rigpa and other dharma organizations, Dr Nida suggested that he help us to create a nice booklet for the upcoming Portland teachings. In the process of creating this booklet, it became very clear that this would of course become a book, the most appropriate and auspicous beginnings for SKY Press.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have found such a wonderful team of characters to work with — fun, brilliant, witty, patient, sincere, eccentric, professional, and to have Dr Nida’s wisdom, guidance, and support as a constant motivating force behind this project. I hope that you will enjoy and deeply benefit from this and all other future publications produced by SKY Press.
For more information on the project visit skypressbooks.com .
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All images are taken from http://www.skypressbooks.com/