Many people think of Buddhism as a religion, but it is even more a science and a philosophy. In this talk and meditation, Robert Thurman elucidates how the Buddha discovered absolute relativity, 2500 years ahead of Einstein, through the rationally experimental and contemplatively experiential insight into voidness, or emptiness. The Buddha employed the truly scientific method of inquiry in the exploration of the reality of the self and the world. Turning to the nondual relative, he taught the evolutionary causality of karma as a well-evidenced, but not dogmatic, biological theory, long before Darwin and his successors. His causal evolutionary theory envisions compassion as the force that develops higher qualities in beings, intelligence, sensitivity, love, and contentment, and the bodily mutations that correspond to these qualities. Also in this session, Robert will bring the audience along with him experientially, by guiding a meditation on the process of realizing voidness or selflessness, rehearsing the entry to it through the opening of bliss awareness, and the transcending of its transcendence that leads to the embrace of the nondual relativity of love. Finally, he will critically examine the common pitfalls that seekers tend to fall into, such as the use of emptiness as a path of separateness rather than a path of union, and also the misguided nihilistic view of voidness as nothingness. He elucidates the concept of “bare awareness.” The only way to “get” reality is through a “bare,” i.e nonconceptual, awareness, which melts the boundaries between subject and object.
Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of the Tibet House U.S., a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, a non-profit affiliated with the Center for Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and dedicated to the publication of translations of important artistic and scientific treatises from the Tibetan Tengyur. Time chose Professor Thurman as one of its 25 most influential Americans in 1997, describing him as a “larger than life scholar-activist destined to convey the Dharma, the precious teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, from Asia to America.” The New York Times recently said Thurman “is considered the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism.” Thurman is known as a talented popularizer of the Buddha’s teachings.