Through a Wisdom Eye: An Interview with Josh Bartok
An Interview with Josh Bartok
By Gary Gach
Gutenberg's Bible was the first book in Europe printed with movable type (circa 1455). Did you know? the first book printed with movable type, ever, was a collection of Buddhist texts, printed in 1377, in Korea -- transcriptions of Dharma talks. Five centuries earlier, an edition of the Diamond Sutra became the oldest known dated printed book ever. To update our awareness and attempt a glimpse of what's over the horizon for Buddhist book publishing, Patheos recently spoke with a leading exponent in the field, Josh Bartok, a senior editor at Wisdom Publications and a Zen priest.
Wisdom Publications is a nonprofit organization founded thirty years ago by Lama Thubten Yeshe, who, with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, also established the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. Wisdom publishes books from all traditions of Buddhism.
Has it been a challenge to work with and publish from a variety of practice lineages?
Wisdom's mission is to serve the Dharma . . . and our own Bodhisattva Vows to save all beings. We don't have a sectarian or proselytizing mission. It's a matter of finding books that serve, through some path or other, some piece of the Dharma community, of appreciating how each teaching lineage and teaching sect holds its own Dharma position in the larger Dharma universe. We look for authors coming from a position deeply informed by a tradition of Buddhism.
For me, it's been an enormous gift and teaching to be able to work so deeply with manuscripts and authors from so many different traditions and to get a real bird's-eye view of the strengths and styles of different lineages -- and to get to know the forest by studying so many different trees, in so many different places.
Have you noticed any of your books doing particularly well, and perhaps reflecting any broad trend or tendency in the culture?
A great deal of the "Buddhism and . . ." books have done very well, such as The Dharma of Star Wars; Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth about Reality; and Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind, bringing forth yoga as Dharma practice. Buddhism and the realm of psychology have succeeded well. In a way, our native religion is psychology even more than it is Christianity because of the way a great many Westerners interpret inner and outer experience through the lens of psychological experience (which is not the same as psychotherapy, by the way).