American Buddhist writer and educator, Robert Thurman, spoke to a full house of students and faculty about how Buddha was first and foremost a scientist, despite popular belief.
Thurman lectured today in the University Student Union’s South Valley Center with his sunglasses on for more than an hour. The lecture was sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies.
Covered topics in the lecture included Buddha’s scientific discoveries, truly “experienced reality,” and Thurman’s opinion regarding the current political system, media and its influence over younger generations.
Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Religion Department at Columbia University and President of the non-profit organization, Tibet House U.S.
Thurman was named one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans in 1997 and has spent his career as a Tibetan Buddhism writer and educator, according to Thurman’s website.
Thurman highlighted ways of implementing Buddhist ideas into our daily lives and how to prioritize needs as humans to be less focused on immediate satisfaction and more on preserving our planet.
“We have to take responsibility and learn to restrain ourselves,” Thurman said during his lecture.
In addition to Buddhist ideas, Thurman explained his perspective on today’s political system and why it is in such bad shape.
“Young people are so disgusted with the political system that they just don’t vote,” Thurman said. “The planet isn’t unworkable. It’s just dominated by reckless materialists.”
Media outlets influence younger generations to believe that our world is not salvageable, which in turn pushes the issues onto the next generation, Thurman explained in his speech.
“I think it’s anachronistic to believe Buddhism as a science. But it can also be problematic if it’s not seen as primarily a religion,” said Rick Talbott, department chair of Religious Studies at CSUN. “It’s based on the mutual respect of human beings and of all the world’s beings, including animals.”
Although Talbott disagreed with some points Thurman made, he believes that Thurman uses his teachings of the traditional concepts of Buddhism to advocate for a better world.
“I think he certainly represents a concern, especially those of Tibetan Buddhists,” Talbott said.