Where are we?
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 are the major issues confronting us today?
Robert Thurman: Well they’re the same as, Jumpy out, everybody, I used to teach a course thirty years ago called “Utopia or Oblivion” or something like that, based on Mr. Fuller’s work. Although I called it I think “Apocalypse or Enlightenment” is what I called it as a matter of fact yes, the book was called “Utopia or Oblivion”. And, in that, you know, there’s the great trends: the population explosion, pollution of the planet, the danger of thermonuclear holocaust, resource completion, you know these are all the things everybody knows, destruction of environment, and, those are the big issues, and those are all doable, we can deal with all of them with very easy measures as – we don’t have to invent some new gimmick to do it.
You know one by one you go down the list and you can easily solve them all, if people would just decide that you can. The great thing that is defeating everybody is everybody is taking the excuse that nothing they do will do any good so therefore they don’t do anything, especially the people with the power. You know, Jesus said a great thing that I like, that, you know, that I would never have liked if I had just been a normal Christian I think, but I – and I don’t think most of them do like it actually they – they don’t really want to listen to it, and he said “The weak shall inherit the earth”, and they – I didn’t understand that, I probably don’t still, but I think I have a little hint about it nowadays, which is that that means that the people who are really up against it and who are day to day, you know, they cannot afford to be too despair or to be freaked out because they have to get a meal, they have to go straight ahead, they have to protect their children.
So they’re going to keep being normal in a certain way, try to, you know make life viable, they’re gonna do that. But people who get in the sort of level of insolated from things you know, and who think they’re powerful because they have money or they have some sort of status or something, then they get more and more feeling of weak and freaked out and desperate, hiding in their high security housing downtown and watching TV, all the bad news, and maybe buying some gimmicks to amuse themselves, and having like an extra trophy wife or something, and getting divorced, and having their kids freaked out, and getting more and more isolated actually, you know, insolating themselves against the contact with other beings. You know, reality through that thick power that they think empower, and feeling weaker and weaker. So they actually feel that nothing can be done, and become – it becomes so huge that they don’t do anything. (Peter interrupts) Whereas you know people could easily live more green you know we know what stops population explosion, it is the education of women, and some monacle of wealth. If it’s poverty that creates poverty and the consentity of violence that creates population – maybe boomers all came from big war, you know.
So when people go crazy and lose control of themselves, then they start having children that they can’t take care of, you know, in countries where they’re desperate in the poorest places where the population explodes. So, we know that, so, you know, we say oh, listen then appeal, let’s get a, let’s do this, let’s go have vasectomy, that won’t work. What works is educated the women, look at the ideologies that says they shouldn’t be educated and start critiquing those and help those people critique them from their own sources, you know. And, pollution, we know that means don’t pour your crap in the river, General Electric, you know, and they’re – clean it up if you did, you know, we know that too, and we just have to do it. And war, oh, we really don’t have to do war, ‘cause we really don’t have to be frightened by governments and by war mongerers and governments that we need war because it’s very obvious if anybody thinks for a minute that war is not working, it hasn’t been working for fifty years, it simply doesn’t work.
Recorded on: June 1, 2007
Thurman talks about the major issues of the day and says that they are fixable if people put their minds to it.
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