What is your counsel?
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 is your counsel?
Robert Thurman: Well I think one of the most important things, Henry David Thoreau, 180 years ago and so, he said “The mass of men today lead lives of quiet desperation”, and I think that’s definitely what they’re still doing. A great many of them, it’s getting more noisy in the case of some. And it is despair I think that really causes all the violence all, in other words people get into a mindset where they think the situation is hopeless, and I love Al Gore, and I bless Al Gore because his whole promotion of the thing about the environment, but one problem with it I think is that a lot of people misunderstand him, and they think that he’s saying that it’s more or less hopeless and they, in order to get people to wake up he is, he does paint the picture as it’s being very difficult, but people then take that to think it’s hopeless and once they think it’s hopeless, then what are they going to do?
They don’t do anything, you know. And people who have power in this world basically think everything is hopeless, they really do. I think really, basically people live in fear, and therefore they don’t really try, and because they don’t really try, they just stick to there immediate comfort, they are getting ruined and they are ruining everything. So I think the major thing that I conclude and that people have concluded in whatever way, as an artist, as a teacher, a philosopher, whatever form of what it takes, is to try to kindle some sense of the viability of life in people and to challenge them to look critically at the sources of their feeling of hopelessness and of despair and to realize, help them to realize that they, they can do something, and they might as well try to do it because not doing it is the equivalent to doing something negative.
Recorded on: June 1, 2007
Thurman's advice is, that even in the midst of life's gloom and doom, we should try to, "figure out how to understand things to be so joyful, that even if they kill you you'll die happy.
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