Here we have Robert Thurman—as posted in Tricycle magazine and shown on Facebook with today’s news feed. Thurman is pretty much a mainstay in contemporary Buddhism in the U.S. What many people don’t know however, is that Uma Thurman is his daughter. Yes, the movie star. Once knowing that, I’ve been unable to see or read anything about Uma without thinking of her dad. Pretty sneaky way of keeping Buddhism in your mind, I’d say. (By-the-way, Uma is the name of a goddess.)
“I am insisting that Buddhism be taken seriously as a knowledge system. The arrogance of Western materialist scientists, that they understand the world and know how to fix it, is ridiculous because they are destroying it, not fixing it.” —Robert A.F. ThurmanRobert Thurman in Ubud, Bali. Photo by Christopher Michel
I met Thurman in Shaker Heights before I went to Colorado, some time back. The above photo does him no justice—he is a handsome and charismatic man. I doubt seriously that he has lost all of his characteristics with time. He has an edge. A twinkle in his eye. And a deep husky voice that speaks with great enthusiasm on the topic at hand—usually Buddhism.
He was the first American to ordain as a Tibetan Buddhist monk before returning to lay life to become Columbia University’s Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies, the co-founder and president of the nonprofit Tibet House US, the president of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, and a prolific author and translator. Did I also mention that he has great stamina? You can feel the energy emanating from him.
And he is quite a character. His original house (if it is still standing) is a hodgepodge of thoughts as they ran through his mind, and some that fell though the cracks. Robert’s design and build has leaked from time to time, had parts of rooms fly off in a storm, and a whole section of roof implode. It doesn’t seem to bother him much, he just carries on.
The NY Times published an article in 2017 titled 50 Years of Marriage and Mindfulness With Nena and Robert Thurman. Nena is of course Robert’s wife. Much more can be said of the Thurmans and many articles have tried to capture it all. It will take many more.