cover image INFINITE LIFE


Robert Thurman, . . Riverhead, $24.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-267-9

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. (Feb.)