A college student, on summer-break from Harvard, is making his way through the stacks of his hometown public library in Jefferson County, Colorado when a book inexplicably drops from one of the shelves. Retrieving it from the ground, he is intrigued by what he sees — a translation of an ancient Sanskrit text. Curious, he discovers that the translator, Daniel Ingalls, is a professor at Harvard. The following fall, the young man shocks his family and friends by electing to abandon his curriculum in science (he had a grant from an aerospace company), and make Sanskrit literature the focus of his studies. Today the student is a teacher — Gary Tubb — and is universally considered one of the field's finest scholars.
Ten years later, a second book mysteriously falls from a shelf. This time the book is Je Tsong Khapa's commentary on the Cakrasamvara Tantra, and it hits Robert Thurman's head while he is preparing for a meeting with his graduate student David Gray. Interpreting the incident as a sign, Thurman strongly urges Gray to translate the text for his dissertation. Today Gray is a professor at Santa Clara University, and his forthcoming book, The Cakrasamvara Tantra: A Study and Annotated Translation from Sanskrit and Tibetan is to be released later this year from the American Institute of Buddhist Studies (AIBS).
It would seem that there is some sort of translator-terma lineage here at Columbia. Gray, a former student of Tubb, says only that "serendipity works in funny ways" (shades of Early Hickey). As the most recent guest speaker to the Buddhist Studies Seminar at Columbia University, and a former rapporteur, Gray was at home in Barnard's Altschul auditorium earlier this month. In his lecture "The Illumination of the Hidden Meaning: Tsong Khapa and the Art of Interpretation," Gray gives the acclaimed Tibetan Buddhist thinker a new look; speculating that Tsong Khapa was in fact a "radical" in his treatment of tantric practices in his writings, and was in turn politically motivated.