INNER REVOLUTION by Robert Thurman


Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness
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 A renowned scholar of Tibetan Buddhism issues a popular appeal to the West to refashion its inner life according to Buddhist enlightenment teachings. For Thurman, Tibetan Buddhism is life philosophy, object of study, and worthy cause; he practices it, teaches it (at Columbia University), and promotes it through Tibet House, an advocacy group for the Chinese-occupied nation. His latest book introduces the history and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to those unfamiliar with it and urges Westerners to appropriate five of its central ideas: individual spiritual development, nonviolence, spiritual education, social altruism, and democracy. Thurman envisions an evolutionary entry into these ideas--the inner revolution of the title--that will complement the West's outward, technological revolution. What distinguishes this book from others on Buddhism is the pains it takes to connect personal enlightenment to social ethics, especially in the chapters on the ancient Indian king Ashoka and the Dalai Lamas of Tibet. Thurman underscores the role of institutions in the moral life of societies, and provocatively casts monasticism and militarism as mirror-image competitors for the soul of nations. But he is sometimes careless. He aggrandizes when he suggests that spiritual developments in 14th-century Tibet precipitated the European Renaissance; generalizes unfairly when he identifies the West's inner life with its declining Christian monastic traditions; and tells only half the story when he celebrates the equality of women in Buddhism's religious past (the tradition records the Buddha's initial resistance to orders of nuns; their advocate was the Buddha's undersung disciple Ananda). Still, for readers new to Tibetan Buddhism, Thurman makes an impassioned and engaging guide. The more deeply curious will want to consult his introductory anthology of Tibetan texts, Essential Tibetan Buddhism (1995). (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-57322-090-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998


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