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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Bob Thurman on happiness and becoming Buddha

August 5, 2010

by Arnold Kozak
August 3, 2010

The first time I heard of Bob Thurman it was
1984. I was in the small audience of the Amherst
College Chapel for the first Inner Science Meeting.

The Inner Science Meeting was the predecessor to
the Mind and Life Meetings that have taken place
since 1987 where His Holiness the Dalai Lama
confers with Western scientists, philosophers, and practitioners.

At the first Inner Science Meeting, the Dalai
Lama lectured on Buddhist Psychology and his
talks were interspersed by commentary from
Western thinkers that included Robert Thurman,
Richard Davidson, Frances Vaughan, Roger Walsh,
David Bohm, Daniel Brown, Jack Engler, Seymour
Boorstein, Kenneth Pelletier, Charles Tart,
Bonnie Strickland, Renee Weber, Joshop Loizzo,
Seymour Epstein, and G. Perry. In 1984, His
Holiness did not have the command of English that
he has now and even now translating the
intricacies and subtleties of Tibetan Buddhist
Psychology of Mind are challenging.

His regular interpreter had taken ill and Bob
Thurman stepped into this gap. At this time, he
was relatively new to Tibetan Buddhism and not yet ordained as a monk.

There were many moments in the translation
process where Thurman could not quite get what
the Dalai Lama was getting at. His Holiness's
reaction? Anger? Frustration? Not at all. It was laughter, pure laughter.

In a way this encapsulates Buddhism. While there
is a rich and complex intellectual tradition and
highly conceptual aspects (the Abhidharma, the
Mind Only School, etc.) when it comes right down
to the heart, concepts give way to laughter.
Everyone was laughing and this laughter was a
transmission of dharma. As a wide-eyed junior at
Tufts University, this was an important
transmission for me and my formal introduction to
Buddhism. The fondness that burgeoned in me those
two days planted to seeds that would later take
root and flower in my finding the Dalai Lama in
Bodh Gaya India and culminate in my taking the
bodhisattva vows, but that is a story for another
day. In the meantime, enjoy this brief talk by Robert Thurman.

He picks up on the theme of interconnectedness
that I discussed in the entry, "Her belly may be
fully, but her spirit will be empty"
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