Robert Thurman--father of Uma, outspoken critic of George Bush's administration and one of the first Westerners to bring popularize Buddhism in America--has written what is arguably his finest book. In Infinite Life
he invites readers into a fascinating new way of thinking, living, and meditating that might do more to save the world than any political act known to humans. In recognizing that our lives and even our moment-to-moment choices have eternal ramifications, we are at once free from the burden of petty pursuits yet suddenly saddled with the weight of infinite responsibility. Thurman helps students understand that carrying this weight is the only way we can free ourselves and the rest of the world form suffering. Buddhists recognize this as the path of "the bodhisattva," dedicated to the well-being of all beings. In order to help readers make this quantum shift in awareness, Thurman structures his chapters around the paramitas
, or transcendent virtues: wisdom, generosity, patience, contemplation, justice (usually called "discipline"), and creativity ("diligence"). He adds a seventh virtue: artas in the "art of infinite living." Each chapter includes a lesson on a virtue as well as meditations and life choices that support personal and global transformation. "You can try out a whole new approach to life," he promises. "Then we'll explore how can put your new ideas into practice in the world, turning your thoughts into action. We'll examine the repercussions of your personal change on society and on the fragile, opalescent planet. We'll see how personal transformation is social transformation."
He delivers his promise with political and spiritual punch. Some criticize Thurman for his outspokenness against the current Bush administration. But for those who want to use their spirituality to create political changethis book is filled with excellent meditations and lifestyle suggestions for bringing about global compassion and humanity. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
One day more than 40 years ago, when Thurman was a 21-year-old novice monk (the first Western Tibetan Buddhist monk), he had a physical experience that showed him how the idea of reincarnation, so vast and impossible to verify, can transform our lives right here and now. In his follow-up to Inner Revolution, the Columbia University professor describes how he was walking down a road in New Jersey, sent by his Tibetan teacher to buy milk for tea, when he suddenly experienced the lifting or release of a familiar "push-pressure" around his tail bone. "The pressure gone, I immediately saw that I had always been feeling as if I were being pushed along from behind toward my destination, not only to the grocery store on Route 9 but to my destiny in life, my future in general." Taking stock, he realized that under all of his ordinary thoughts, he had been pondering the Buddhist understanding of the "beginninglessness" of life. Here, in a guide that can be read through as daring thought experiment or delved into as a workbook, Thurman seeks to impart a sense of the inner freedom, the literal lightening up, that becomes possible as we begin to understand that we are all participants in an "infinite life." Thurman explores related transcendent virtues: wisdom, generosity, justice, patience, creativity, contemplation and making art in the service of others. He offers meditations but always returns to the larger truth that true enlightenment--"true awakening to the infinite"--is never an escape from life but a state of awareness and compassion for other living beings. Among the riches offered here is the insight that we do not become faceless blobs as we realize our selflessness and the infinite nature of our lives but true individualists. Liberated from a fear of death and isolation, confident that we are in a long-term relationship with life that can never be severed, we can begin to help ourselves and others to happiness.
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