Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He is also 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, dedicated to the publication of translations of important texts from the Tibetan Tanjur.
Thurman also translates important Tibetan and Sanskrit philosophical writings and lectures and writes on Buddhism, particularly Tibetan Buddhism. He's also an expert on Asian history, particularly the history of monasteries in the Asian civilization.
Thurman's writings focus on the "inner revolution" of both individuals and societies to discover the true nature of reality, and on Western culture's progression toward a "second Renaissance" — the merging of the scientific method and empirical truths with the "inner science" of ancient Indian culture.
Thurman believes America is uniquely poised to realize the Buddha's vision — that the happiness guaranteed by America's founders "should be ours, and that there are methods for discovering which happiness is really reliable and satisfying and then securing that in an enduring way without depriving others."
Thurman is the author of many books on Tibet, Buddhism, art, politics and culture, and has collaborated on several important traveling art exhibitions.
Thurman has a B.A., A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard and has studied in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in India and the United States. In 1962, Thurman became the first American ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He gave up his robes after several years, however, when he discovered he could be most effective in the American equivalent of the monastery — the university. Thurman has five children and five grandchildren.
Bill McQuay, NPR
Bill McQuay, NPR