By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Dalai Lama's solutions real, says Buddhism expert

Photo courtesy of Nina Schroeder: Columbia University professor Robert Thurman visits with the Dalai Lama in an undated photo. Thurman, author of the book "Why the Dalai Lama Matters," will speak on its contents Sunday at Meditation Mount in Ojai and sign copies of the book.

Saturday, November 1, 2008/Ventura County Star

Considered a leading expert on Tibetan Buddhism, Robert Thurman grew weary of people professing their love for the Dalai Lama.

"I got tired of people saying how much they loved the Dalai Lama but then saying, but that's just the spiritual side; his ideas about daily life and society and global politics are just too unrealistic, just dreams,'" said Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University in New York City.

"In fact," Thurman said, "his ideas about the everyday are just on point, realistic and practical."

Such is the focus of Thurman's latest book, "Why the Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet and the World," published in June.

"This book puts together the Dalai Lama's revolutionary nonviolent ideas about how to save this planet, how to save China, how to save Tibet and how to save ourselves, one by one, during these times of great tribulation," Thurman said.

In this era of technological revolution and economic uncertainty, we need to be poised to go inside of ourselves, said Roger Collis, board member at Meditation Mount in Ojai, where Thurman will have a book signing on Sunday.

"Robert's book really puts us back in touch with who we are with a sense of compassion and connecting to deep aspects of life," Collis said. "We are all interconnected. He reminds us of that, as does the Dalai Lama and other spiritual teachers."

Collis said he hopes those who attend the book signing will leave with a better sense of themselves, "and be inspired on behalf of something greater than themselves. It's an inspirational message to go inward and not just focus outward."

Named one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997 by Time Magazine — and hailed as "the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism" by the New York Times — Thurman is president of Tibet House US, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and president of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies.

He has written many other books, including "Circling the Sacred Mountain," "Essential Tibetan Buddhism," and "The Jewel Tree of Tibet."

As a personal friend of the Dalai Lama for more than four decades, Thurman is known as a passionate advocate and spokesman on current Tibet-China issues and human rights violations against Tibetans under Chinese rule.

Inspired by the Dalai Lama's commitment to finding a peaceful solution for Tibet and China, Thurman said, his book "gives hope that the cause is not lost, that no good cause is lost, since we're playing for keeps, for eternity.

"It is inspired by the Dalai Lama, yet it reaches out into our modern life in a way perhaps only his Western old friend could do," said Thurman, the first American to have been ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

A book like this is especially important in today's times, Thurman said, because "we are constantly brainwashed to fear, to feel hopeless and cynical, and so create the self-fulfilling prophecies of doom.

"I want it to cheer people up and encourage them to be creative in realizing their dreams," he said, "especially not failing to try, due to a preconceived notion of failure."

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