Waking up to “Real” Reality as Taught by the Buddha with Robert Thurman, Ph.D.

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We’ve all been taught that meditation is good for us and mindfulness practices should be done daily. Thurman challenges us when he suggests that meditation should not take us out of the world of suffering. He’s learned this from his decades studying Tibetan Buddhism and has gained an understanding that the real challenge of the quest for wisdom and natural bliss is to remain infinitely interconnected with everything without attachment or aversion. Through his decades long relationship with Buddhism and his friendship with the Dalai Lama he’s come to realize that Buddhism is not a religion but is an engagement with “real” reality. The entire Buddhist tradition is built on a philosophical scientific foundation. The Buddha was more a scientist than a religious teacher. Here we explore how we can tap into “real” reality by removing the veils of ignorance and make our life count with evolutionary skill. His instruction on meditation is, “The most powerful and important meditation is seeing through the illusion of [you] being more real than the other things in the world. Then you will begin to feel the reality of the other things, the way you feel the reality of yourself. You equalize yourself with others. When you meditate try to hold that and constantly correct [that] habitual misperception…Then you really will, at some point, become enlightened. And you'll cheer up because you'll take yourself less seriously even while you're just working on it. That's already a big benefit.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


 Robert Thurman, Ph.D. is the retired professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University as well as cofounder and president of Tibet House, which is dedicated to the service of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet. He’s been a close friend of the Dalai Lama for over 50 years and is a passionate activist for the rights of the Tibetan people. He is a skilled translator of Buddhist texts and an inspiring writer of many popular Buddhist books. 

Robert Thurman’s many books include: 

  • Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet (graphic novel co-creator) (Tibet House 2016)
  • Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier (co-author Sharon Salzberg) (Hay House 2013)
  • Wisdom Is Bliss: Four Friendly Fun Facts That Can Change Your Life. (Hay House 2021) 

To learn more about the work of Robert Thurman go to www.tibethouse.us 

Topics explored in this dialogue include:

  • What was the life of Prince Gautama Siddhartha before he became the Buddha
  • Why the Buddha didn’t teach dogma but encouraged his followers to find true happiness for themselves
  • Why our meditation must not be a dissociative state from the interconnection with other beings
  • Why the instructions for meditation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism and yoga practitioners are to meditate with eyes slightly opened
  • How the four noble truths in Buddhism are like a medical prognosis with its instruction that leads to freedom
  • How Buddhism’s main premise is the truth of suffering and the antidote is to wake up to the true nature of reality and freedom from suffering within
  • How freedom is the deep reality of the universe
  • Why we must pursue our own authority rather than accepting, without question, outer authorities and use our own wisdom to replace ignorance
  • Why we must open our mind and develop critical insight and wisdom in the face of uncertainty
  • Why right speech is important in the eightfold path of Buddhism
  • How truth seeking speech is a way for us to enter one another’s mind and experience
  • What are unrealistic habits of speech such as blasphemy and propaganda
  • How the keys to freedom are won by educating ourselves in the “real” reality

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 8/20/2021   Program Number: 3739

Music Playlist

From Album: Quiet Mind
Artist: Nawang Khechog
1991 Sounds True #STA M001D

Opening Essay: Track 01 Year of Tibet
Music Break 1: Track 04 Freedom in Exile
Music Break 2: Track 05 A Sad Return to My Birthplace
Music Break 3: Track 06 Giving and Forgiving