Robert Thurman (born August 3, 1941) is an American Buddhist writer and professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University.
He is also the 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.
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 Ph.D. A very popular professor, students call his classes “life-changing.”
Thurman once said:
“But apparently, this is a strange paradox of life. When you’re no longer locked in yourself, and as the wisdom or the intelligence or the scientific knowledge of the nature of the world, that enables you to let your mind spread out, and empathize, and enhance the basic human ability of empathizing, and realizing that you are the other being, somehow by that opening, you can see the deeper nature of life. And you can, you get away from this terrible iron circle of I, me, me, mine, like the Beatles used to sing.”