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July 20, 2008

Time Magazine: Robert Thurman among Top 25 Influential Americans.

According to TIME (it’s not elephant, but you may’ve heard of it) Bob Thurman (confidant of the Dalai Lama, co-founder of Tibet House, professor at Columbia and prolific author) is a BFD. Read the below—and remember that it doesn’t take into account anything this “Billy Graham of Buddhism” has done in the past 11 years (Bob earned the recognition back in 1997!).

Robert Thurman: DHARMA WARRIOR
He is the Billy Graham of American Buddhism. Or perhaps the St. Paul, a latter-day, larger-than-life scholar-activist destined to convey the dharma, the precious teachings of Siddhartha, from Asia to America. At the very least, he is the Ziegfeld of the U.S. branch of Tibetan Buddhism and its consanguine, quixotic movement to liberate Lhasa from Beijing’s rule. His Tibet House in New York City, something of a cultural embassy for expatriates, is the magnet that draws celebrities and a new generation of seekers to the cause of the Land of the Snows, to the fabled faith of a fabled land. With two major films due on the Dalai Lama, some wonder if his lost horizon may be spoiled by the glitziness of its Hollywood adherents and entrance into the mainstream.

But Robert Thurman does not mind the company. “All that is to the good,” he says. “Certain things about Buddhism that are old-fashioned, chauvinist, stupid, teachers who are irresponsible, that will be brought to light. But in the long run, America will learn about Buddhism.” It helps to have fathered actress Uma, but Thurman, 56, has led a life that could very well be made into a movie. Like the Buddha, he once enjoyed a princely existence, but after losing an eye in a freak accident, he left his well-born wife and young child to travel as a virtual mendicant through Turkey, Iran and India, where he had planned to earn a living by teaching English to boys designated as reincarnations of venerable lamas. Eventually he converted to Tibetan Buddhism, befriended the Dalai Lama and became a monk. Convinced by his teachers that his calling lay elsewhere, Thurman gave up his vows, married Nena von Schlebrugge (Uma’s mother) and entered academia. His advisers had been prescient. Says actor and fellow traveler Richard Gere: “He just has enormous power in that arena. He’s bright, he’s iconoclastic, he’s verbal, he’s funny, he’s avuncular, he’s all of those things that you want in a professor. He turns people on.”

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