Buddhism as a Science: A Talk by Robert Thurman
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Robert Thurman, an internationally acclaimed American Buddhist scholar specializing in Asiatic religions, especially Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, also recognized as one of the twenty-five most influential Americans of 1997 by Time, visited the Vivekananda International Foundation on 5 April 2016 to deliver a talk on ‘Buddha as a Scientist’. He was accompanied by Lama Lobzang, Secretary General of the International Buddhist Conference, who incidentally happened to be among the moving forces behind the ‘Global Hindu-Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment’ held by the VIF in early September 2015.

In his almost an hour-long illuminating talk filled with humour, Robert Thurman described how Buddha was way different from the founders of other world religions. Buddha was not a prophet to the extent that he made no tryst with God, nor was he authorized by Him to found a new world religion. On the contrary, Buddha was someone who truly understood the nature of reality of himself and the world at large.

Buddhism, according to Thurman, is more knowledge-based than faith-oriented. Unlike many others who would tend to be believe ‘Nirvana’ as the convergence between the soul and the greater soul, it is the state of knowing the ultimate reality which brings about real change i.e. ultimate happiness to mankind. The essence of Buddha’s teachings lies in the fact that the more you know the less you suffer and vice versa. Buddha stressed on knowledge at its cutting edge - education of ethics, mind and wisdom. Needless to say, Thurman kept the audience spell-bound with his mesmerizing talk, a refreshing change for the VIF faculty who otherwise remain bogged down mostly in strategic affairs. As with such talks, questions were fielded to the Speaker by an inquisitive audience. A consensus view emerged during the interactive session that while the pan-Asian effort to revive the world’s oldest university at its original site at Nalanda in Bihar is indeed praiseworthy, there is crying need to incorporate religious studies in its curriculum, failing which the entire effort to revive the university to its pristine glory would turn meaningless.

Event Date 
April 5, 2016
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