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American Buddhist Scholar Robert Thurman to Receive India’s Padma Shri Award

Prof. Robert Thurman with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From
Prof. Robert Thurman with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From

American Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, and co-founder and president of Tibet House US in New York City, has been named as a recipient of India’s Padma Shri award for literature and education for his contributions to Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies.

Indian president Ram Nath Kovind approved the Padma Shri award for 118 recipients, which included Robert Thurman among six foreign awardees on 25 January, a day before the country celebrates India’s Republic Day.

The Padma Shri medal, instituted in 1954, is India’s fourth highest civilian award and is presented by the Indian government each year on India’s Republic Day, 26 January.

The father of Hollywood actress Uma Thurman, Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies in the Department of Religion at New York’s Columbia University. He is also president of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. 

Thurman, born 1941, has earned renown for his translations and explications of Tibetan Buddhist religious and philosophical literature. He has written, edited, and translated several books on Tibetan Buddhism, and notably translated the Vimalakirti Sutra from the Tibetan Kagyur into English. In 1987, at the behest of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thurman cofounded the non-profit organization Tibet House US in New York City, with actor Richard Gere and composer Philip Glass.

Thurman was named one of the 25 most influential Americans by Time magazine in 1997. He received the Light of Truth human rights award from the International Campaign for Tibet in 2003, and in 2006, New York magazine named him one of the “Influentials” in field of religion.

In a letter of congratulations to Thurman, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile, in Dharmsala, northern India, wrote: “In recognition of your outstanding contribution in the field of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, the Indian government has honored you with a prestigious award which in itself symbolizes your remarkability as a pioneer in the translation of Tibetan Buddhist literature into the English language and the impact you are leaving through your teachings to the audience.” He added: “Your abiding dedication towards Tibetan people in preserving Tibetan Buddhism and your achievements today have made us proud.” (Central Tibetan Administration)

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CTA President congratulates Padma Shri Awardee Robert Thurman (Central Tibetan Administration)
Senior Tibetan Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman to be conferred with Padma Shri by Indian Govt. (Central Tibetan Administration)
Tibet House US
The American Institute of Buddhist Studies

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