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Robert Thurman on Uma's Buddhist name
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2005-01-10 01:43:56 UTC
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Robert Thurman on Uma's Buddhist name
By Nona Walia

In an exclusive interview with Delhi Times, spiritual leader Robert Thurman
talks about his famous daughter Uma & the essence of happiness.



United States - Ever wondered how Hollywood actress Uma Karuna Thurman got
her Sanskrit name? Well, who better to answer that than the Hollywood star's
father Robert Tenzin Thurman.

"Uma means the bright one. Sanskrit is a beautiful language.I learnt
Sanskrit when I visited India. When I was 23, I took off with some of my
mates to drive across India on motorbikes. I met the Dalai Lama when he was
just 29. I became the first American to become a Buddhist monk. Later, I met
Uma's mother Nina. I've brought Uma with me to India when she was 1 and 11.
She lived with us in India for two years. Six years back, when she became an
actress, she returned to India.Though I visit India every year to meet the
Dalai Lama, Uma's really busy. We're really influenced by Indian culture. I
believe the roots of Western culture lie in India," says Robert.

Dharma-thumping, karmatalking Robert is a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist
Studies at Columbia University and also a celebrated spiritual leader. In
1997, he was listed by Time magazine among the 25 most influential men in
the US. Along with Richard Gere, Robert - who's been on Oprah Winfrey's
show - founded Tibet House in New York. Robert recalls how he returned to
the US with a shaved head and maroon robe: "Recently, after seeing a photo
of me in my monk phase, Uma said: Oh, look at daddy; he looks like Henry
Miller in drag. That phase lasted about a year."

Cognitive dissonance is Robert's way of life. A prolific translator, a
powerful advocate for the liberation of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama's cultural
liaison with America, he has emerged as the most visible and charismatic
exponent of Tibetan Buddhism in America.

So what's the essence of happiness? "We're striving too hard for a perfect
world, perfect relationships, perfect selves. We're lost in our material
pursuits. Then there's this paranoia that we might lose everything - that's
giving us stress and pain. We're trained to become workaholics, we're
programmed that way. That's wrong. We must value the good moments. Remember,
life is infinite. We'll be born again and again. We must value the good
moments. We should be satisfied. Let's find our blessings. When a tsunami
strikes, you realise how imperfect life is. Life is fragile."

As Robert talks of his pilgrimages to Dharamsala, his daily meditation and
yoga, he reveals what the Dalai Lama means to him. "He was 29 when I first
met him.He was almost a boy then. And I've seen him develop enormously.
There's a very humane side to him."

The theory of karma, suffering, and life after death is juxtaposed in Robert's
book Infinite Life, in which he warns of the consequences for ourselves,
here and now, and after we are gone. "When someone dies, you pray that he
has a better life in his next birth. We must cultivate the positive. The
transitory phase after death and before rebirth is when you need prayers for
better destiny." [TIMES NEWS NETWORK]


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`
end
Ananda
2005-01-10 01:45:01 UTC
Permalink
A Tibetan love affair
By Craig Simons

Fascinated by its faith, young Chinese are flocking to the region. Could the
Dalai Lama be close behind?

India - When Baimadanzen was growing up in Beijing at the height of the
Cultural Revolution, his Buddhist father sometimes played records of monks
chanting. But he knew nothing about the religion until he moved in 1989 to a
Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the remote western Sichuan region of Sertar to
study with a master of the ancient Chinese art of qigong. He lived among
thousands of monks and soon became infatuated with their religion.

"Their teachings showed me how to live a full life," says Baimadanzen, now a
42-year-old travel agent who goes by his Tibetan name. The experience also
changed his view of Tibet. "My parents' generation wanted to liberate and
reform Tibet," he says. "But now younger Chinese go to Tibet to learn."

Indeed, journeys like Baimadanzen's are becoming increasingly common. Over
the past decade tens of thousands of Han Chinese have sought enlightenment
at the feet of Tibetan Buddhist masters.

According to Robert Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan religion at
Columbia University, more than 3,000 ethnic Han monks and nuns have studied
in Sertar alone. Millions of Han tourists have also made the trip: in 2003,
877,000 Chinese visited Tibet-21 percent more than the year before, and
seven times as many as visited in 1993.

That has created a booming Chinese market for all things Tibetan. Han Hong,
a Tibet-born songwriter living in Beijing, catapulted to stardom by singing
about "the land of snow."

The number of books about Tibet has also skyrocketed; Beijing-based author
Wen Pulin says his chronicle of life in Tibet, "Ba Jia Living Buddha," has
sold more than a million copies, many of them on the black market. "Lots of
people take the book with them when they go to Tibet," he says.

The surge in interest has even reached the top of the Communist Party.
"Government officials won't tell you that they are studying Tibetan
Buddhism," says one academic with government ties.

"But I know that [former president] Jiang Zemin is very interested." Indeed,
one wealthy Tibetan living in Chengdu says that Jiang once personally
endorsed $36 million of government funds to restore a temple complex in
Gansu province after the head monk asked for his support.

The enthusiasm is helping to preserve Tibetan culture. Just three decades
ago, during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese traveled to Tibet to smash its
temples as symbols of feudalism and superstition.

Now they are giving money to build new ones. Wen, an ethnically Manchu
Chinese, donated $60,000 to build a temple in Sichuan. Bala, a Tibetan
living in Chengdu (who, like many Tibetans, uses a single name), claims to
have met a Han businessman who hardly blinked when his Tibetan Buddhist
teacher asked him to give $500,000 for a temple restoration.

The change in attitude is partly a result of Deng Xiaoping's reforms. Prior
to 1980, most citizens knew Tibet only through the propaganda churned out in
Beijing. Now they are able to travel there and have access to foreign media.

But the Chinese embrace of Tibetan Buddhism-as well as of other
religions-also reflects a need to fill the spiritual vacuum left by the
collapse of Maoist ideology. Some observers say China's Buddhist roots may
make the Han more inclined toward Tibetan teachings than toward other
faiths.

Could the surge in interest pave the way for the return of the Dalai
Lama-who has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India-and eventually for
the restoration of Tibetan autonomy?

Several high-level delegations from Dharamsala have visited Beijing
recently, breaking a nearly 10-year freeze on talks. The Dalai Lama himself
told reporters last summer he remained optimistic that broader shifts in
society could benefit Tibetans.

"Things are changing in a positive direction," he said. "Among Chinese
intellectuals, businessmen [and] artists, more and more are showing interest
in Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism."

Beijing remains leery of movements with popular momentum. In 2001,
officials, worried about the rapid rise in the number of students at the
Sertar monastery-from virtually zero in 1980 to more than 10,000-moved in
and forced Han Chinese to return to their hometowns. (Many eventually came
back.) But Tibet chic will be tough to quell. When 29-year-old Beijing-born
Huang Mei saw the Dalai Lama in the United States in 1996, she cried.

A year later she traveled in Tibet and then gave up her New York City job as
an accountant to move to Lhasa. Since then, several Han friends from Beijing
have visited her-and stayed.

"The ultimate goal," she says, "is to be happy." Baimadanzen now sends as
much money as he can to monks in Sertar. He also talks up his faith to
friends, and thinks the appeal is contagious. "More Han will begin to
believe," he says. Tibet's future may depend on it. [NEWSWEEK]
Ananda
2005-01-10 01:47:36 UTC
Permalink
Buddhism's influence on American letters
By John Freeman

United States - Being that mindfulness is key to both practices, it hardly
should come as a surprise that poetry and Buddhism overlap in American
letters. During the Beat Era, a generation of poets tuned in, turned on and
dropped out. Others simply tuned in, and the results ranged from the
profound to the silly.

Five decades later, hipsters no longer carry the Diamond Sutra in their
rucksack, but the influence of Zen Buddhism on poetry remains profound, as
evidenced by Ohio poets Ray McNiece and Larry Smith's new anthology,
"American Zen," subtitled "A Gathering of Poets," which collects the work of
30 Zen poets. The book features everyone from female Beat stars Diane Di
Prima and Anne Waldman to obscure poets such as John Gilgun, Netta Gillespie
and Seido Ray Ronci. The result of this wide net is a provocative if uneven
collection that shows the highs and lows of Zen Buddhism's impact on poetry.

As Smith and McNiece point out in their casual, but keen introduction, there
are three main tributaries of Zen outlooks feeding American poetry: "the
practice of Buddhism, the writings of older American Zen poets, and the
translations of Zen Buddhist writings into English."

"American Zen" reflects all three of these streams, but the one most easily
waded into is certainly the practice of Zen. In this regard, the poem is not
just a work of art (if it succeeds) but a meditation as well.

In "Choices," Tess Gallagher describes going outside to chop down a tree and
realizing a branch contains a bird's nest. One of the oddest selections to
wind up here, but also the most beautiful, is Bill Heyen's "Sake Gold," a
poem that consists of 28 three-line riffs, including the following
selection:

Took a chance ran to

My cabin through lightning -- odds

Against satori


Reaching satori, or a sudden flash of insight, is the goal of Zen Buddhism
and, by consequence, the purpose of many of these poems. As a result,
"American Zen" is an intimate assemblage: Poets try and sometimes fail to
step outside the humdrum world. They invite us into their domestic
struggles. Smith's own "Following the Road," for example, journeys from the
details of an airport drop-off to a moment of calm out on the Ohio highway.
"As I glide past Twin Lakes," he writes, "flatbodies of water under stars, I
hold the wheel gently, slowing my body to the road."

Time and again throughout "American Zen," poets reach out to teachers,
seeking advice. "Basho," writes David Ray, "please take me/along once more
that path."

In "After Reading Han-Shan," Thomas Rain Crowe remarks, "How I love the way
Han-Shan laughs when he speaks!"

Although these poems reflect a mode of dialogue in Buddhist teaching, there
is something jarring and aggressively public about their beseeching. It
seems one thing to share a lightning bolt of insight with readers, quite
another to ask them to listen to your own private conversation with Zen
masters.

Perhaps McNiece and Smith have included such work to remind us that satori
does not occur in every sitting; one must be patient. Bravely, "American
Zen" pays tribute to this process, and occasionally it delivers its rare
results, as in Kathie Davis' poem, "Miracle."

"Maybe/the burning bush/was just autumn," she writes, in a poem that would
be a fitting epigram for this tributary book of verse. "It would have
been/enough."
[CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER]
Bill Cunningham
2005-01-10 10:22:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ananda
Robert Thurman on Uma's Buddhist name
By Nona Walia
In an exclusive interview with Delhi Times, spiritual leader Robert Thurman
talks about his famous daughter Uma & the essence of happiness.
United States - Ever wondered how Hollywood actress Uma Karuna Thurman got
her Sanskrit name? Well, who better to answer that than the Hollywood star's
father Robert Tenzin Thurman.
"Uma means the bright one. Sanskrit is a beautiful language.I learnt
Sanskrit when I visited India. When I was 23, I took off with some of my
mates to drive across India on motorbikes. I met the Dalai Lama when he was
just 29. I became the first American to become a Buddhist monk. Later, I met
Uma's mother Nina
I believe he has 5 children. They all have buddhist names.

Bill

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