The need for a global renaissance
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.
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
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
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