Sunday, June 29, 2008

Robert Thurman in New York Times Magazine

Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman is featured in this week's New York Times Magazine. It's a brief interview, focusing mostly on the China issue. They also touch on Quentin Tarantino's films, featuring Thurman's daughter, Uma.

Here is the beginning:
Questions for Robert Thurman
Seeing the Light

Published: June 29, 2008

As a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University and the first American to be ordained as a Tibetan monk, you don’t need to be reminded that the people of Tibet want to reclaim their country from China. Why won’t the Chinese give it back? The Chinese have been brainwashing their people into thinking that Tibet is an inalienable part of their territory. No Chinese people lived in Tibet before 1950. Zero. It’s absurd they claim that they were there.

We should point out that you’re a friend of the Dalai Lama and your new book is called “Why the Dalai Lama Matters.” Does he ever visit you at your apartment in Manhattan? He used to come to my house in the old days, but nowadays the State Department is all over him, so he stays in a high-security hotel. I get a handshake and a hug in the hall.

Why do you think President Hu of China keeps denouncing the Dalai Lama and has not met with him? Fear. The only reason I see is fear.

Do they actually need to meet? Can’t they just talk on the phone? They haven’t given the Dalai Lama the number. The Dalai Lama would definitely call.

What do you say to Tibetan dissidents who feel that the Dalai Lama needs to be more aggressive with Beijing? I think he’s been a bit too appeasement-oriented myself.

Yet, like him, you recommend autonomy for Tibet as opposed to complete independence, which would leave the country within Chinese borders. The Tibetans have been oppressed for almost 60 years. It’s not practical to demand independence at this time.

In a recent article Slavoj Zizek argued that the Tibetans are not necessarily a spiritual people — that we’ve created that myth out of a need to imagine an alternative to our crazy Western consumerism. Zizek is simply misinformed. It’s leftist propaganda meant to legitimize China’s aggression in Tibet.

Read the whole interview.

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