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Jan 01


The need for a global renaissance 

- from an interview by Bindu and Jana


Robert Thurman is Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, an acclaimed translator of many Tibetan texts and co-founder and President of Tibet House, New York. He is a close friend of the Dalai Lama.
At the end of November he gave a talk about India and the new spiritual renaissance at the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture in Auroville, in which he mentioned that the main spiritual gift of India to the world is 'inner science', the knowledge of how to cultivate the soul.

Auroville Today: From your experience of studying Tibetan Buddhism and of living and teaching it in the West, do you think there is a difference between eastern and western notions of consciousness?

I don't believe that East is East and West is West.. The key factor in distinguishing between societies, in my opinion, is the presence or absence of militarism. There is a strong addiction in some societies to violence or militarism, and the presence of violence in a society makes people shut down their sensitivity tremendously. I think of all the Asian societies India, through a long and steady effort, had become the most open., but then they were rebound again by being conquered by the Muslims and the Europeans.

AVT: Yet Westerners continue to be drawn to India and the East. Why?

Here I find Sheldrake's concept of morphic resonance is helpful. It is not surprising that people have amazing experiences in ashrams or in the Himalayas because there the resonance is such that there is more room for them to relax and let go, and than there is more energy available for the individual to do inner work. Western people have come to India and learned a great deal here. In this context, I think it's very crucial for the spiritual health of the world that Tibet is restored, the spiritual Tibet, to help us with the new leap everyone has to take.

AVT: What brought you to Auroville?

I came here because I wanted to see the experiment and to be a tiny bit helpful with the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture. Fifteen years ago in New York we created Tibet House to help preserve the very important but neglected Tibetan culture, so I was delighted that Auroville. is also doing that.

I think Auroville's marvellous, I love Matrimandir and people have a wonderful spirit: it's wonderful that many people from many nations are trying to live in a higher way. Many young people on this planet, looking at the challenges the planet may be facing over the next 50years, are discouraged, but they should be encouraged to come here and look at what you are doing. Auroville is not centred around a living guru, like one of the Tibetan lamas, where an active charisma is experienced. Here you have a vast body of knowledge and writings, but without a living teacher you are forced to be more mature, more self-reliant.

AVT: What do you think is the most important task facing humanity today?

It is to develop an alternative to the financial and intellectual powers which are in control because, at least in the West, everybody's brain is locked up in a materialistic culture. My idea of a global renaissance is based upon the way of inner science, a new way of thinking about and understanding problems from an integral view. This means we should energetically pursue new forms of education, like teaching samadhi at high school and having institutes for advanced studies which bring together spiritual people and scientists.

This is why, for me, a place like Auroville is of the utmost importance, because it is a place of education where you try to understand the nature of reality and yourself: where practically , intellectually and spiritually you work from the base of inner science.

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