Robert Thurman is Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of Tibet House US, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies. The New York Times recently hailed him as "the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism."
The first American to have been ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk and a personal friend of the Dalai Lama for over 40 years, Professor Thurman is a passionate advocate and spokesperson for the truth regarding the current Tibet-China situation and the human rights violations suffered by the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. His commitment to finding a peaceful, win-win solution for Tibet and China inspired him to write his latest book, Why the Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet and the World, published in June of 2008.
Professor Thurman also translates important Tibetan and Sanskrit philosophical writings and lectures and writes on Buddhism, particularly Tibetan Buddhism; on Asian history, particularly the history of the monastic institution in the Asian civilization; and on critical philosophy, with a focus on the dialogue between the material and inner sciences of the world's religious traditions.
Question: What lessons did you impart to your children?
Robert Thurman: Well I don’t know how much I imparted to them, I think they imparted things to me actually, I think that luckily there are really great beings still coming to this planet who, beings who are I think in each generation there’s kind of room for beings who are better than old beings, and I think the old beings actually, some of them unfortunately feel negative about that, and they think that there must be something wrong with the new beings and they don’t really care about them, and actually if you look at, there’s so many countries that there are so many countries that are having authority crisises now where there are people with the old timers, people with power freaking out and trying to turn the clock back and like get back to some sort of medieval situation in America that, you know the huge fundamentalist movement is doing that, because I think they’re afraid of their own children actually. They’re afraid of their women, and they’re afraid of their children, and they’re unwilling to admit that their children might be more visionary, better, more developed, more far out than they are so they’re like citing some old ancient rule and law, some dogmas from some old supposed ancient text written down by some funky old fogeys a long time a long time ago, and they’re like trying to crush down, you know, like Iran I think, something like 60% of the population I think is under 25 and Iraq, we killed so many now, but a lot of people there were young, you know, the older people are less, and so the whole world is kind of like that, the young, there’s this huge amount of youth to the world, and I think they’re all smarter than the older people actually, and they’re brought up in a better, more open way, even in the craziness of it all, you know, and, and so the older ones are still clinging to like “We’re still knights in armor” or “We’re World War II warriors” or we’re a powerful people and something like that rather than recognizing the sort of common humanity of themselves and all the other people, the young people are moving against that in a certain way, younger people, and I think we, we have to, you know, we have to hope that they will move more strongly, soon enough, to reverse the destruction that is taking place.
Question: What do you make of your daughter Uma’s success?
Robert Thurman: How do I look at Uma? I’m a big fan of Uma, I think she’s wonderful, I think that the industry she’s in doesn’t take proper advantage of her, they don’t really realize how remarkable she is, she’s had a few things done for her, fit her in a certain way, and they’ve been tremendous successes. But often she’s asked to squeeze into something that is really less than her subtlety and her intelligence and her brilliance, I remember, I think an Anthony Lane review of Henry in June, long back, where he said that she was like Dietrich that when she appeared on the screen she brought a jolt to the screen or that a wonderful term like that and that is I think the case, that comes from her own, we call it karma, her evolutionary background, she’s an amazing being in her own right and it’s just, you know, she’s often put in the roles that are really not up to her, and she needs more things especially designed for her, you know, Quentin did a couple of good things but, other people should really do that and realize that, but in a way she’s not the conventional sort of, you know, Miss American be good or something like that, she’s complicated, you know, like Garbo was or something she’s like, like Garbo was never used properly until some director fell in love with her and started making movies especially for her. There are these extraordinary beings who are vehicles like that who have a special, who have a special, convey a special sensibility to the world I think, just by being this – themselves, irrelevant to what they – what they do and then they use all the great dramatic models, you know the great dramatic vehicles to do that and new ones that can be created, so anyway (Peter tries to ask question) I’m a frustrated screenwriter myself I’d like to write things for her but then she’d just “Oh, Daddy” about you know, this and this, brushes me off, you know, heh heh heh heh heh.
Recorded on: 6/1/07
Robert Thurman: Everybody has a Buddha in there and Buddhas have more fun.