Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

Robert Thurman at the AAWW

I went to the Asian American Writer's Workshop last night to listen to Professor Robert Thurman speak on Buddhism. The talk was billed as a discussion of Buddhism as a "new threat" to other religions, but instead Professor Thurman gave a basic talk about the Buddha, and the four basic principles. He also stayed around to sign copies of his new book.

I used to study with Professor Ryuichi Abe, whose office was next door to Thurman's. Even then students would go in and out of Thurman's office; he definitely has star power and charisma. He's also clearly passionate about Tibet and its particular brand of Buddhism; I know a lot less about this, having focused more on Buddhism in Japan.

There were a couple of loonies in the audience. One wanted to talk about how we are all possessed by aliens, to which Professor Thurman emphatically replied, "No, no. You are a free man. I can tell." Another wanted to know if the Dalai Lama, Richard Gere, Tibet House and Thurman himself were actually CIA agents. (Can you say paranoia?) The same guy wanted to know how Thurman could rectify being the father of Uma Thurman, a wealthy, glamorous and successful movie star, with being an authority on one of the world's great spiritual traditions. Thurman handled this beautifully as well, which tells me that it is not the first time he's come up against crazies.

I always rather liked the fact that the Buddha said it made no sense to completely divorce yourself from a material life -- to deprive yourself. As Sting said, "we are spirits in a material world."

Comments:
Hey Marie,

What do you know about Uma in terms of spirituality? Does she share her father's interest in the subject?

She was on Oprah the other day, and it seemed like Oprah was lecturing her about getting in touch with her self and her spirituality and Uma almost had to contain herself from rolling her eyes.

Just curious.
 
I didn't realise there was a connection to be honest. Yeah, there does seem to be a lot of crazies into Buddhism at the moment, gives it a bad name.
 
lavurn&shirlee -- I don't know where Uma stands on Buddhism. But I must confess, I did see her on Oprah the other day and thought it was unfortunate how much Oprah interrupted her, and tried to fit her experiences into the "Oprah spiritual cannon." I did notice that Uma chose to be silent at key moments -- silence being a wonderful way to make it unclear if you agree or disagree with another person. Quite Asian of her.
 
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