An Interview with Robert Thurman

My initial encounter with Robert Thurman was during the early 1990s at a former Boy Scout camp located in the middle of the Michigan woods. This was the yearly summer retreat for Jewel Heart, a Tibetan Buddhist center.

Gelek Rimpoche, my lama, was a close friend of Thurman, who was there to give a speech. Everyone, including Rimpoche, fondly referred to him as Thurman.

Thurman was a tall, clever, and attractive individual whose books were almost always tucked under his arm. Even when surrounded by a crowd, he still managed to converse with all of us.

Later, I had the chance to take one of his classes at Columbia University, which was filled with enthusiastic, young students and not enough chairs. There, he effectively steered numerous, often enthusiastic, debates with the talent of a professional conductor.

Robert Thurman, a professor emeritus of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, is now 79 and the president of Tibet House US, an organization that he and Richard Gere founded in 1987 on the request of the Dalai Lama.

He and his wife of over 50 years, Nena, a psychotherapist and former model, recently opened the Menla retreat center and Dewa spa in the Catskills, which The New York Times labeled “the long and successful family business that is the Robert and Nena partnership.”

As a result of his work translating some of the 4,000 works in the Tibetan Tengyur collection, Thurman received the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards, given out to only a few foreign recipients each year.

Thurman had a very different upbringing than his current life. He was raised in New York City and attended the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire until he was removed for trying to join Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolutionary forces in 1958. 

Following this, he went to Harvard until he had a mishap that resulted in the loss of one of his eyes, and then he journeyed through Europe, the Middle East, and India.

 Here, he found the Dalai Lama and soon became friends. In less than three months, Thurman was conversant in Tibetan and, within one year, he had become the first Westerner to be a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

Eventually, Robert Thurman decided to go back to Harvard and he earned degrees in English, East Asian languages, and Buddhology. After, he decided to leave his religious vows, marry Nena, and have four children, one of which is the actress Uma.

 Thurman has put into English many difficult Tibetan Buddhist texts, such as the beloved Tibetan Book of the Dead , and has dedicated his life to increasing the knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. 

He has written both scholarly and popular books–including the worldwide best seller _Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness _and the well-known Essential Tibetan Buddhism — and has been named among

 _Time ‘ s “Twenty-Five Most Influential Americans” and one of _New York _magazine ‘s “The Influentials.” _

In the autumn of 2018 I had the pleasure of visiting Thurman’s home in Woodstock, New York. It was an amazing and expansive abode, constructed by Thurman himself and extended as his family grew.

The interior was filled with what he calls “deity tchotchkes”, a plethora of books, cosy couches, and a number of canines – one of whom made itself at home in my lap as we sipped ginger tea and discussed topics such as ecstatic experiences, heroes and world peace.

— Jane Ratcliffe expressed

An image of Robert can be seen here: .


The term ‘heroin nirvana’ is often used to describe a state of euphoria caused by taking the drug. This phrase can be replaced with ‘heroin paradise’ to describe the same concept.

THE OPTIMIST: It had been roughly a decade since our last conversation, and you had that same characteristic hopefulness about the planet’s condition.

ROBERT THURMAN: The overall story; not popular these days.

BLVR: Are you still feeling positive? What is the basis of your optimism?

RT: I firmly believe our planet is on a positive trajectory, as the current leadership structure is proving to be a failure. This is due to people wanting health care, not war, and their inability to convince a whole nation of their ideologies.

Anthropologists refer to this as pseudospeciation, which is when they attempt to make a false species out of another type of human.

A large number of us desire to live a comfortable life. We possess the understanding of how to do so. We have the technological means to generate enough food, healthcare, and shelter for all, if some individuals didn’t hoard far more than they require.

I’m not suggesting communism. We need a form of Scandinavian capitalism that is creative and innovative, with businesses owned by their employees. Therefore, when a person has made it to ten or twenty million, they can take a break and go sailing.

BLVR: The initial lesson that the Buddha shared was “Life is full of distress,” however, you frequently discuss how the fundamental understanding of the Buddha wasn’t about anguish–it was about nirvana.

He only brought up the difficulty we have endured due to the situation when he realized that we had a potential way out of it.

BLVR: You have expressed that “resistance is futile; everyone will eventually be brought together in nirvana.” I am curious, is this process automatic, or does it only occur when you are actively trying to reach this state?

Does it still apply even to those who have committed heinous acts such as rape, murder, or animal cruelty?

RT: To say it another way, we were brought up in a culture of fear. The European and Mediterranean societies were the least affluent parts of Eurasia, so there was near to no acceptance of dissimilarity and those who had yogi-like beliefs were commonly executed.

Even Jesus–who said, “Everything is splendid, every sparrow in the field and lily in the field,” and “Be here now”– he was an archetypal “Be here now” individual. They took him to mean, Oh, you are all going to damnation unless you become part of precisely this or that church and comply with this or that order.

Throughout the centuries, we have been oppressed in our culture, but now we are gradually freeing ourselves from this oppression based on the mistaken assumption that nihilism is true.

We are deluding ourselves into believing that we do not possess a soul and thus there is no need to worry about our afterlife. This misguided trust in the thought of nonexistence is akin to a false paradise: a heroin-like dream of no sensation, no experience, and no existence.

We are even more depressed by the fact that we do not exist right now. The thought of pulling the trigger and then reverting to oblivion is part of our real nature.

After three decades of studying Buddhism, I eventually started to comprehend the Buddha’s message that nirvana is within reach for any intelligent person who puts forth the effort to open their heart and mind. Furthermore, this enlightenment is also available to others.

BLVR: Thus, one need not necessarily perform a routine practice each day.

No matter how often we die or experience an intense orgasm, whenever we fall asleep we let go of ourselves with a sense of assurance. This is the basis of the nihilist’s deception, as it is so alluring to believe we’re entering a state of nothingness and escaping the difficulties of being conscious.

Death is the most extreme example of this phenomenon, and accounts from those who have returned from clinical death show that many of them do not wish to come back due to the bliss they felt.

This is because the reality of nirvana is the ground upon which we stand; it is not separate from us, and when we let go of any sense of separation, it can be experienced as nirvana.

BLVR: The Buddha taught that all things are transient, which can cause distress. Do you have any tips for handling the anguish that comes with fluctuation?

RT: Yes, certainly, those who lack understanding may experience pain during the process of transformation. However, those who are enlightened are in a state of joy.

They are not apathetic but instead radiate bliss, which they share with those who feel confined by the turmoil of transition or other issues.

BLVR: For those of us who have not achieved enlightenment, are there any practical steps we can take to lessen our suffering?

RT: Absolutely. The first step is to alter your outlook. This is the first part of the Eightfold Path, the Fourth Noble Truths.

The initial shift in perspective should be away from the idea that the world is essentially bad, a type of hell, where “nature, red in tooth and claw” exists, cultures are inherently aggressive and everybody needs to be heavily militarized, or that more nuclear weapons are necessary.

I need to keep a large arsenal of guns in my house to be safe. All these thoughts should be replaced with the idea that The world is ultimately good.

The message behind Why the Dalai Lama Matters is that it’s essential to strive for happiness. My slogan for the book is that even if we are killed, we should have the ambition to die cheerful.

Q: What is the best way to proceed?

Question: What brings you joy?

BLVR: Your canine companion!

Question: Are you the owner of a canine?

Response: Affirmative.

RT: So, you comprehend what’s going on. The main point is that when someone has a certain kind of ecstatic experience, their perspective may be transformed. At times, the ecstatic experience can come from something very negative, for instance, war.

Take the example of Sergeant York, who was so carried away with the energy of the moment, he didn’t even notice the bullets that went through his leg until later.

On the other hand, it is also possible to have ecstatic experiences from positive sources, where one can surpass pain. That is the work.

In order to combat suffering, one can resort to yoga, which is likely a Buddhist or tantric invention. It is important to note that tantra does not exclusively signify sex, but rather the “inner-streaming energies.” Have you heard of Wilhelm Reich’s work?

BLVR: Negative response.

Without being conscious of it, he was a scholar of tantra. His status was second only to Sigmund Freud’s among disciples. One of them, Carl Jung, branched out to explore the collective unconscious, while the other, Wilhelm Reich, focused on the body.

Reich argued that emotional issues such as neurosis, trauma, and repression are stored within the body’s muscular structure. Do you comprehend the concept of Rolfing?

Affirmative: That is correct.

RT: Rolfing, formulated by Ida Rolf, is based on Reich’s notion of the “emotional plague” which arises out of militarism and male domination.

His work The Function of the Orgasm was not intended to be an instruction manual for sexual practices, but rather to explain his theory that ordinary sexual conduct, usually for procreation, is what he termed “armored sexuality” meaning it is not as strong.

This could be seen in the process of ejaculation, fertilization and so on, which can still be powerful, but not to the same degree, and once it is completed, it is gone. This is the pain of change.

He proposed that a couple in love creates a dyad, yet that does not have to involve anything sexual. They simply lay together and let go of their individualism, and they are then engulfed in a sustained, complete physical sensation.

This is the nature of humanity and its physical presence. A healthy human being has internal joys that are not just limited to genital gratification, as Freud suggested. This does not reject genital pleasure, though it is not restricted to it.

He was able to observe that the “emotional plague” was linked with a certain military stance.

This stance involved the diaphragm being pulled in and cramping of the muscles, the chin being pushed down into the throat to block off sensation, and the pelvis being moved backwards with the buttocks down, thus disconnecting the central nervous system.

This enabled the people to feel they were in control and well-protected, which meant they would not feel empathy when their target cried out in pain, and they would be able to carry out killing without fear of being killed themselves, as they shut off their internal experience.

The remarkable thing is that when those with closed off neuromuscular systems come in contact with Jesus, who is radiating and creating a streaming field, they feel this streaming, and it feels like a sickness to them.

They feel as though something bad is about to happen, that an outsider is about to be reborn in them, so they attempt to stop the streaming person by crucifying them, burning them at the stake, or putting them in the Inquisition, stating that Satan has influence over them.

The foundation of hatha yoga is that your body is a tool to gain awareness and enlightenment. It helps you to break down any mental or physical blocks and armoring. That’s what makes it so much more than just physical exercise.

This is why yoga can help you to avoid arthritis in your later years; it allows your energy to circulate freely, instead of becoming blocked by muscles that are too stiff. So, what can we do? The answer is yoga.

I am not in favor of those who promote meditation as the cure-all. I appreciate the mindfulness movement and concur that it should not be considered a religion.

Buddhism is an educational practice, not a faith, and it only transforms into a religion when people think that simply venerating the Buddha will get them to nirvana. The Buddha himself was saying that you have to take action in order to achieve this.

Thus, if you use it in order to learn, it is not a religion.

The Buddha’s three higher educations focus on ethical, psychological, and scientific knowledge about reality. This is what the Eightfold Path is promoting. The mindfulness movement is helping people become increasingly aware of their thoughts and behaviors.

Although mindfulness and meditation are often confused, they are distinct from one another. Mindfulness is not attempting to think one thing, but rather to be conscious of one’s thoughts and actions.

Meditation, on the other hand, involves focusing on one thing and silencing the mind. Mindfulness, then, involves observing the mind, and being aware of how one expresses themselves and their biases.

In order to help reduce suffering, mindfulness is a form of self-reflection. For instance, those who are in the upper 10 percent of income in the US, and feel anxious about those who are not doing as well, should ask themselves questions.

Such as, what stocks do they own? Have they invested in companies that produce guns or military equipment? Are they making money from Exxon? Are they able to practice yoga and still be content with their lifestyle choices or is it based on processed food full of chemicals?

Mindfulness is about taking the time to analyze our environment and how we are contributing to it, then acting to make a difference for the 90 percent.

II. Contemplating the Possibility of Dick Cheney as My Mother from a Past Life

BLVR: It appears that many individuals apply a broad concept of meditation and spiritualism to avoid engagement with their reality rather than to become more aware of it.

A potential hazard exists.

BLVR: What is the difference between using technology for escapist purposes and using it to gain knowledge?

RT: Our shared intuition necessitates that, according to the law of relativity, nothing has a concrete character or identity since all items are formed through a relationship.

Anything that is composed of segments or an action, those components will eventually be separated or deteriorate. This is what “emptiness” means: that everything, including the individual, is lacking an intrinsic, non-interactive core identity, objectivity, or reality.

BLVR: What is interdependent arising? [This is the belief that nothing is completely independent, stable, or absolute; everything relies on something else for it to exist. The idea is that all of existence is linked.]

It is understandable that someone with a heightened sense of self-awareness may feel repulsed by a life of delusion, greed, hate, anger, irritation, and fear and choose to look for another way of living. This is perfectly acceptable. What they may not realize is that what they are ultimately seeking is already within them.

To begin with, one should practice renunciation. This is a crucial concept, but unfortunately, it is frequently misinterpreted as self-denial. Rather, it is an act of self-kindness, since many of the goals we strive for are not ultimately satisfying.

We may think that having a million dollars will make us content, but then we start worrying about losing it. Or else, we overindulge or splurge, and end up either unwell or without friends, as they want us to share our wealth, and we are not willing to do so.

Renouncing traditional expectations gives you the freedom to pursue what truly brings you joy. For instance, if petting dogs is your passion, why not open a dog pound rather than striving for literary greatness?

It is said that when you pass away, your entire life flashes before your eyes in an instant. Is this the same for individuals who have spent the majority of their lives in a perpetual rush, with only a few moments of joy?

Do they only remember the positive moments, as they have been so focused on getting to the good times, while simultaneously being bound by stress?

BLVR: Is it possible for all individuals to be equipped with sound judgement?

RT: Generally speaking, red lights and green lights tend to work in most situations.

I’m not one to recklessly speed down the street; after all, I’ve seen enough movies with characters like James Bond who manage to make it through the middle of a street without a single crash, but that’s not exactly a practical example to follow.

We all have a certain level of common sense; we don’t get up in the morning and consume three pounds of ice cream, and we don’t do anything too absurd. The vast majority of us have a good sense of judgement.

BLVR: To what extent do you feel that you are practicing what you preach?

RT: As a young person, I was deeply influenced by the Protestant ethic, although I do have to give myself credit for not buying into the idea of an omnipotent god. I didn’t attend much Sunday school, but that was okay with my parents. My mother only really realized my beliefs when I was ordained as a Buddhist monk.

Apparently, when I was baptized, I kicked over the font and drenched the priest, which apparently made him very mad. My mother said this was a sign that I was resisting even then.

I have always had a fondness for Jesus, although I did not care for the traditional crucifix. I much preferred the Russian icons that depict the Risen One. The idea of Jesus is that no matter what you do to him, love proves to be more powerful.

On the other hand, my parents followed Roman tradition, which I detested. I would tell the priest that I thought that God was unfair, to which he would respond in shock. I would explain to him what God had done and he would be appalled.

BLVR: Do you find it difficult to stick to the Buddha’s teachings?

RT: I was brought up with the notion that I should strive to achieve great academic results. I attempted to break away from this mentality every so often.

At one point, I even attempted to join Fidel Castro’s cause, not knowing he was a communist; I had just assumed he was a revolutionary. Fortunately, my attempt failed or I wouldn’t be here today.

I always felt uneasy and it wasn’t until I stumbled across the Tibetan alphabet that I felt true joy. From there, I studied the Four Noble Truths, which helped to lighten my mood. However, I inevitably returned to my high-achievement attitude.

I initially desired to become a monk but ultimately failed. Monasticism offers free sustenance and lodging, and one can remain tranquil by focusing their Eros into creative or meditative works.

The robe is symbolic of this peace, and it is a wonderful tradition. However, the last of the great monastic countries were destroyed, so I returned to the USA and took up lecturing. To acquire tenure and write a book, I had to overachieve.

BLVR It is said that the Buddha believed the aim of life was to love, and when we conscientiously practice this with those we are fond of or with whom we have some difficulty, it can be both uplifting and gratifying.

Yet, how do we carry out this approach with someone like a school shooter or the current president?

RT: Meditation is a practice that Tibetans and Indians have used for connecting with the universe. The idea is to contemplate the idea of every being in the universe having been a mother to you in one of your countless past lives. Even those who have been your enemies in this life were once your mother, and it can become more believable when you consider the idea of beginningless lives.

The focus should be on the positive, as the ultimate goal is to understand that we all love each other.

BLVR: What is the process for transforming the hurt that someone has caused us into something positive?

RT: When looking at the great works of drama, it is important to remember that even the villains–like Iagos or the uncle in Hamlet–have a good side to them. The same is true for the protagonist, who usually has a tragic flaw of some kind.

To have a better understanding of your opposition, it is essential to meditate on them having been your mother, no matter who they are. In an interview with The New York Times Magazine, the interviewer was surprised that I tried to imagine Dick Cheney as my mother in a past life.

I visualized him with a bonnet, dress, breasts, and cuddling me while thinking I was cute. Doing this activity can help to not hate those people in the same way, while still opposing their actions.

Though I might not be enlightened, I do have compassion for people like Trump, who are truly despicable.

They are incredibly cruel, inhumane, and destructive. McConnell, too, is a part of the “emotional plague” – lacking any real feeling and having never achieved satisfaction in relationships. They are always so angry and stressed out.

Even though I feel sympathetic, if I could, I would evict them from the White House in a heartbeat – an act of compassion.

BLVR: It’s effortless to feel spent if you’re a component of the resistance right now. Most of my acquaintances are enduring high levels of anxiety and despondency. How could we go on to be a part of the resistance and not get demoralized?

RT: To avoid feeling burned out, one must remember the prime directive of finding joy in the task they are doing. A positive attitude can make a big difference when trying to get people to think about something.

If a person is tired and has had enough before they even finish the job, their success rate will be poor. This is because they will appear to be a victim and the person they are talking to will pick up on that. When one is feeling energetic and up to the task, they will perform much better.

Therefore, we won’t be desperate in our activism if we view the world through a different lens, believing that it will all work out in the end. Do you understand? We’ll still be doing our part, but there won’t be reason to go crazy.


BLVR: Could you explain the Buddha’s approach to standing up against injustice with kindness? Since the current government has been in power, I have developed a strong sense of hatred that I have never experienced before. What do you suggest as a remedy for this?

RT: It is permissible to feel a burning desire to stop them from their actions. This sentiment is only valid if it is targeted towards what they are doing and accompanied by wisdom. It is important to remember that it is likely out of confusion and manipulation that they are engaging in such behavior.

It is essential to think of this individual as a machine executing their emotion. Bear in mind your own experience of being intensely angry and doing things that you wished you hadn’t. You could have caused destruction or injured people, or even hurt yourself.

You may have even struck something and harmed your hand. The more aware you are of this, the more you will be able to control your outrage, ire, and rage, and it won’t become something which takes over you.

The result of opposing an action with strong energy and wisdom is that the individual who is doing wrong will no longer appear as an absolute evil; instead, the person will be understood and seen as something other than a completely wicked thing.

This will make them less likely to take action from a place of defense or feeling righteous in their wrong-doing.

BLVR: You have a special relationship with His Holiness. Out of everyone in the West, it seems like you are the most connected. What is it like to socialize with him?

RT: Having the opportunity to be with him is both an honor and a pleasure, as he is an amicable and congenial person. Naturally, his Protestant-ethic makes him extremely hardworking.

The bodhisattva mindset is to do whatever is in your power to assist the most people in the most efficient way. The bodhisattvas believe in honing upaya, which is better known as an “art.” In other words, turn your life into a work of art with the purpose of helping others.

BLVR: Are there any particular times with him that are most memorable?

At a conference in Newark, New Jersey, with Tibet House called “Peacemaking: The Power of Nonviolence,” someone suggested that everyone should get rid of all their weapons.

However, the Dalai Lama intervened and said that not all should be disposed of just yet, for the sake of freedom and democracy. His Holiness believes in the notion of nonviolence and peace, but he is also realistic about the situation.

The suggestion was met with a collective sigh from the peace-advocating attendees.

I remember expressing my feelings of disappointment regarding Obama’s actions in Syria, saying, “It won’t be peaceful until Assad leaves, but the situation with ISIS is terrible, don’t you think?”

The Dalai Lama replied, “No – you must speak to them.” I was taken aback, thinking, “How can I talk to ISIS? They would decapitate me before I could get a single word out!” He answered, “No, you must comprehend what they desire.” At times, he can be quite idealistic.

BLVR: Over the course of time, I have observed the Dalai Lama, Rimpoche, and other Tibetan Buddhists to have an extraordinary sense of humor. What is it about Tibetan Buddhism that encourages such a trait?

RT: In Buddhism, nirvana is seen as something that’s already here and accessible. People who have difficulty facing life may be drawn to the concept that nirvana is something that exists beyond this reality.

However, nirvana is meant to be absolute and unchanging. It is not composed of any components, and is not something that can be attained at a certain point in time; it is the fundamental truth that has always been present.

BLVR: What is it that gives you all such a great sense of humor?

RT: I was previously rejecting the notion that we have a superior sense of humor than all others! Although, I would concede that you could be an exception when you turn your attention to the concept that reality can be positive and that kindness is potent.

I have an aversion to the crucifix. You may not be aware of this, but historians have documented that for three hundred years, early Christians did not revere the crucifix in any way. It was an instrument of execution, just like the Roman electric chair.

They venerated a figure called Christos pedagogos, which translates to “Christ the teacher,” and he was depicted much like Plato: with long hair, a robe, and a forceful demeanor, as demonstrated by his ejection of the money changers from the temple.

The introduction of the crucifix by Emperor Constantine was a result of his mother’s visit to Jerusalem. It serves as a reminder that the ‘good guys’ are not necessarily the strongest.

The ‘bad guys’, such as Caesar and Pontius Pilate, are stronger and the good guys will have to endure pain. This message is authoritarian in nature and is combined with the idea that God sacrificed himself in order to cope with our suffering.

People have created a theology around this, which is quite remarkable given our creative capacity. However, evil remains evil, regardless of its form.

BLVR: Despite the Dalai Lama’s preference for peaceful tactics, the genocide of the Tibetan people and their absorption into China continues. Furthermore, no foreign governments are coming to his aid.

Similarly, violence has not been an effective solution to other international conflicts. What then is the answer to resolving disputes in our societies and cultures?

We must possess patience and optimism. It is logical to believe that wisdom is more powerful than foolishness, thus we can be hopeful that intelligence will ultimately win out.

BLVR: What should be done with regards to a situation such as Syria? Are we expected to tell the Syrians to wait it out?

RT: Indeed, the Syrians must remain patient. Millions were forced to flee and they currently remain in refugee camps. Additionally, hundreds of thousands have perished and countless more are being slaughtered as we speak. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the future; however, the killing and dying will persist until they make the decision to be patient.

BLVR: Refrain from taking action and await a change in the decisions of their leaders?

RT: It appears that a number of them sadly have to flee. Assad is too far gone mentally and has gone to extreme lengths in terms of bloodshed, so I don’t think he would accept someone who was his adversary and permit them to surrender.

I think it would be best if someone made him go away by using a bit of precise force. Apologies for the suggestion of violence.

BLVR: Are there ever moments when you believe the use of violence is appropriate?

RT: Certainly, if a venomous snake sinks its fangs into your foot, you may have to take measures to save your life that could be seen as violent. For example, using a knife to cut a gash in your leg and let out some blood.

This is a precarious situation. Compassion should always be the primary consideration.

Can anyone claim to have won a war recently where a successful resolution was achieved? At the start of World War II, Gandhi suggested that the Allies should oppose Hitler without using violence.

Churchill and the press criticized him harshly for this, but Gandhi defended himself by saying that people didn’t understand him.

Nonviolent resistance is not surrender, he declared; it implies that everyone in France, England, and other places should not fight back, nor should they go to work or do anything. This would mean that many would be killed, yet Gandhi regarded this as heroic.

He was not suggesting that they surrender or work for the conqueror, as that would have been cowardly.

If people were unable or unwilling to use nonviolence, then he advised that they should fight, but at a great cost. What’s more.

Gandhi predicted that even if they won against Hitler, those with similar ideas in their own countries would take over, meaning their own war for freedom would not be won.

He concluded by stating that violence will always create more violence, and that it should only be used surgically and only for the purpose of making a turning point, before being replaced by nonviolence, otherwise it is counter-productive.

BLVR: To what degree does Tibetan Buddhism have an impact on the feminist movement when so many of its deities and lamas are male?

RT: The #MeToo movement has become a part of Buddhist society, as it is needed in this area as well. It is not accurate to say that Tibet is a perfect place, as there is still an element of chauvinism present.

Tibetan Buddhism cannot be used as a model of perfection, yet it is believed that attaining enlightenment will bring out the feminine.

BLVR: Is there anything from the teachings that could be used to support the current feminist movement?

RT: Absolutely. The Vimalakirti Sutra states that there is no male and female distinction. Everything is relative in the end, with every male exhibiting female traits, and vice versa.

Through the belief that lives have no beginning, the Buddhist notion of karma helps to dismantle rigid identity conceptions. Buddhists excel at critiquing negative identities, transforming them, and understanding how they are created. This is a great aid.

BLVR: Women are currently displaying a great deal of anger, and I believe it is very beneficial in many ways. For example, your daughter…

RT: At the time when the Weinstein story broke, we felt a swell of pride when she stated, “I have to be mindful that what I say when I’m angry can have a negative impact, so I’m going to take some time to cool off before I express my thoughts”.

Thereafter, she shared her experiences with his deplorable behavior. We were incredibly proud of her for demonstrating self-control in the face of such intense and emotional circumstances.

BLVR: It appears that some people are under the false impression that if you are a Buddhist, you should not feel anger or find a way to avoid it.

RT: It is important to be strong and assertive, like the protagonist in the TV series Kung Fu, Grasshopper. This is the main idea behind martial arts such as tai chi and karate, which can be quite powerful in defeating an enemy.

A successful master of these forms is someone who can stay calm and focused, even when feeling strong emotion. There should be no animosity or aggression in the movements; instead, the enemy’s own force should be used against them.

BLVR: Recently, you have been discussing the concept of “cool heroes.” Would you be willing to further explain this topic and provide some examples?

RT: The epitome of cool is the patient hero; the kind of hero who is 50-51% female and able to generate oxytocin in crises instead of cortisol.

Examples of this type of hero are the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Gene Sharp – individuals who are willing to put their own lives on the line without killing others. We know that there are people who will risk their lives out of hatred, like Rambo whose mission is to eliminate the enemy.

But often in real life, they don’t make it – they get shot. Terrorists are powerful because of the hatred which drives them, but the same can be said of those who are motivated by love; mothers and fathers who will give their lives out of love.

If more people on the planet come together and agree not to kill, then leaders will have a difficult time recruiting armies and world peace could emerge.

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