Robert Thurman

Arthur J. Magida

in Opening the Doors of Wonder

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780520245457
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520941717 | DOI:
Robert Thurman

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Robert Thurman is America's premier interpreter of Tibetan Buddhism. This chapter expounds his apparent evangelism and his “raffish James Dean way.” Thurman's life has been a constant succession of awakenings. He met his first guru at a Tibetan monastery in New Jersey—a sixty-one-year-old Mongolian monk—learning Tibetan in ten weeks. Thurman helped to build a temple, meditated, studied, and “fanatically” wanted to be a monk. Finally, his guru agreed to take him to India to meet the Dalai Lama. In 1965, Thurman became the first Tibetan Buddhist monk from the West. His head was shaved, and he wore maroon robes. After Thurman returned to the United States, his guru in New Jersey eventually convinced him that the world did not need a “white geshe”—a monk trained in important Buddhist scriptures. There was a better alternative: he could become, in Thurman's words, “a Protestant monk.”

Keywords: Robert Thurman; Tibetan Buddhism; evangelism; Tibetan monastery

Chapter.  3399 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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