Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 164 – Robert Thurman

For episode 164 of the Metta Hour Podcast, Sharon talks with her longtime friend and colleague, Bob Thurman.

Known in the academic circles as Professor Robert A.F. Thurman, Bob is a talented popularizer of the Buddha’s teachings and the first Westerner Tibetan Buddhist monk ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is the author of many books on Tibet, Buddhism, art, politics, and culture and was named by The New York Times the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism. Bob is a Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and the Co-Founder and President of Tibet House US/Menla in service of HH Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet. A close friend of the Dalai Lama’s for over 50 years, he is a leading worldwide lecturer on Tibetan Buddhism and a passionate activist for the plight of the Tibetan people. In August of 2021, he released his most recent book, “Wisdom is Bliss” from Penguin Random House.

In this episode, Sharon and Bob reflect on when they first met in the early 70s, and Bob shared his story of what drew him to the east, and ultimately Tibetan Buddhism. They discuss Bob’s new book at length, the teachings of the Four Noble Truths, and how they can be helpful, fun, and friendly. The conversation closes with Bob leading a guided meditation practice. 

Learn more about Bob’s work and offerings at
Wisdom Is Bliss

Sharon welcomes Bob to the Metta Hour podcast and inquires as to how he first wound up in India. Bob shares stories of traveling the world as a young man, finding his root guru, becoming a monk, and having a little fun with his friend, the Dalai Lama. Sharon digs into Bob’s new book, Wisdom Is Bliss, and why he turned the Four Noble Truths into Four Friendly Fun Facts.

“We don’t understand about ‘noble’ in the West, since we’re supposedly all equal in our democracy, but we do understand ‘friendly.’ And someone who cares for you and feels your feelings can be relied upon as truly altruistic.” – Bob Thurman

Take a deep dive into the Four Noble Truths and the concept of Dukkha with Joseph Goldstein on Insight Hour Ep. 30
States of Expansion and Contraction (22:22)

Sharon and Bob go over the Four Friendly Fun Facts. Bob talks about getting over ourselves, bringing joy to the world, and how the actual reality of the universe is freedom from suffering. Sharon brings up the new book she’s writing, which is about states of expansion and contraction, and asks Bob to explain the different meanings of the concept of dharma.

“Once you’re over yourself, you have the much greater fun of caring about others and seeing that affect them in a positive way.” – Bob Thurman

Samantabhadra Meditation (45:03)

Sharon and Bob discuss states of expansion such as love, compassion, gratitude, and bliss, as well as the book they wrote together, Love Your Enemies. Bob reads from a note the Dalai Lama sent him on his birthday and talks about the connection between altruism and good health. Bob ends the show with a meditative reading from the Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra. 

“So reading a sutra is like a kind of samadhi; it’s adopting a narrative that is a guided meditation, basically.” – Bob Thurman

Ram Dass explores the trance-like state of samadhi on Here and Now Ep. 15