Bob Thurman at Chendebji Chorten. Photo by Emily Davidow

The SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series presents Robert Thurman on Tibetan Culture and Buddhism

by Editor

The Suny Distinguished Speaker Series presents: Robert A. F. Thurman: Monday November 4 at 7:30 p.m. In the Lecture Center Room 100 on the SUNY New Paltz Campus

Robert A.F. Thurman, an expert on Tibetan culture and Buddhism, will speak on “Tibetan Culture as World Treasure: What It Is, How It Came To Be, What Are Its Gifts Today.” In his talk, he will discuss the unique role Tibetan Buddhism plays in a variety of world cultures, including its inception, characteristics, contributions to the world, and what the religion will continue to contribute in the future.

Robert Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-​​Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of the Tibet House U.S., a non-​​profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, a non-​​profit affiliated with the Center for Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and dedicated to the publication of translations of important texts from the Tibetan Tengyur.

At the age of 24, he became the first Western monk of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A close friend of Tenzin Gyatso, he has served as occasional translator to the 14th Dalai Lama. He has lectured all over the world. He also is the co-​​founder and president of Tibet House New York and currently holds the first endowed chair in this field of study in the United States. He is the father of five children including the actress Uma Thurman.

Taktsang Lhakang,  temple in Bhutan, Photo by Emily Davidow

Taksang Lhakang temple in Bhutan by Emily Davidow

Time chose Professor Thurman as one of its 25 most influential Americans in 1997, describing him as a “larger than life scholar-​​activist destined to convey the Dharma, the precious teachings of Siddhartha, from Asia to America.” The New York Times recently said Thurman “is considered the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism.”

Thurman is known as a talented popularizer of the Buddha’s teachings. He is a riveting speaker and an author of many books on Tibet, Buddhism, art, politics and culture, including The Central Philosophy of Tibet, Circling the Sacred Mountain, Essential Tibetan Buddhism, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, Worlds of Transformation, Inner Revolution, Infinite Life, and, most recently, Why The Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World.

His own search for enlightenment began while he was a student at Harvard. After an accident in which he lost the use of an eye, Thurman left school on a spiritual quest throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He found his way to India, where he first saw H.H. the Dalai Lama in 1962. After learning Tibetan and studying Buddhism he decided to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk and was ordained by H.H. the Dalai Lama, the first Westerner to earn that distinction. However, some years later, he gave up his robes when “he discovered he could be more effective in the American equivalent of the monastery: the university”. He returned to Harvard to finish his PhD. A very popular professor, students call his classes “life-​​changing”.


Trongsa Dzong in Mist by Emily Davidow

As part of his long-​​term commitment to the Tibetan cause, at the request of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Thurman co-​​founded Tibet House US in 1987 with Richard Gere, Philip Glass. Since then Uma Thurman, Melissa Mathison Ford, Natalie Merchant, Leila Hadley Luce and others have joined the board. Tibet House US is a non profit organization in New York City dedicated to the preservation and renaissance of Tibetan civilization. It maintains a lively museum and cultural center, and offers programs in all aspects of the Tibetan arts and sciences. It recently founded the Menla Mountain Retreat Center in the Catskill Mountains to advance the healing arts and wisdom of Tibetan and Asian medicine traditions and offer their resources to the growing demand for alternative and complementary health practices.


Wheel of Life — Trongsa Dzong

Inspired by his good friend the Dalai Lama, Thurman stands on Buddhism’s open ground, but thence takes us unfailingly into an expanded vision of the world, whether the sweep of history, the subtleties of the inner science of the psyche, or the wonders of the life of the heart, helps us to clear away shrouds of fear and confusion, and leaves us with the cheerfulness of an enriched present and the realistic hope for a peaceful future.

To purchase tickets or for further information: call 845 257 3880 or 257 3973
or email:  developement@​newpaltz.​edu
Ticket prices:  $13 — SUNY New Paltz Alumni/​Faculty/​Staff; Seniors (62+); non-​​SUNY New Paltz students.  $18 — General Public

SUNY New Paltz students are admitted FREE with New Paltz ID and on a first come-​​first serve basis. One ticket per student. Tickets may be picked up in advance at the Parker Theatre Box Office or in the Lecture Center lobby the night of the event.

Please be sure to visit Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art, at the
Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art through Dec. 15

Featured video is from the film: Journey With Robert Thurman in Bhutan

Featured image: Robert Thurman by Emily Davidow



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