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Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

If you’re using a different device, our show is available on the following platforms.

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Episode 119
The Doctor's Farmacy

Why We Suffer And How Not To

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

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Before I became a doctor, I actually studied Buddhism. I wanted to understand the root of human suffering, and through that understand the way to creating happiness. 

I realized that by becoming a doctor, I could help people alleviate suffering in multiple ways. Better yet, through Functional Medicine, I could get to the root cause of why the body is struggling and correct it from the ground up. 

My interest in Buddhism was sparked when my sister took me, at just 15 years old, to a lecture by Professor Robert Thurman, the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism. My life has never been the same, and I was thrilled to sit down and tell him that on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy

Our spirited conversation kicks off with an explanation from Robert of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism. In understanding these we can be liberated from suffering and follow the path of happiness. There are actually many similarities in this methodology with that of Functional Medicine, which Robert and I dig into throughout our talk. 

I was curious and inspired to hear Robert’s take on COVID-19. He shares how we can use Buddhism as a lens for navigating this difficult time, whether we are directly or indirectly impacted. He shares his personal experience in learning to manage difficult emotions so they couldn’t manage him, something I think we can all learn a lot from during this time. 

For those of you completely new to Buddhism we also get into some great resources and so much more. I hope you’ll tune in.

Listen to Robert’s podcast at

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn:

  1. Robert’s description of “Buddhism in a nutshell”
    (11:02 / 11:04)
  2. The first Noble Truth (or fact) of Buddhism: Recognizing that we suffer
    (15:28 / 15:30)
  3. The second Noble Truth (or fact) of Buddhism: Misunderstanding that our reality causes suffering
    ((20:11 / 20:13)
  4. The third Noble Truth (or fact) of Buddhism: Freedom from suffering
    (22:42 / 22:44)
  5. The fourth Noble Truth (or fact) of Buddhism: The 8-fold path of education, or training
    (26:22 / 26:24)
  6. Using Buddhism as a lens for dealing with COVID-19 and all the resulting suffering
    (31:00 / 31:02)
  7. Changing our relationship to fear through empathy
    (37:35 / 37:37)
  8. Robert’s experience as a young man, traveling to India, and meeting the Dalai Lama
    (42:14 / 42:16)
  9. Robert’s psychedelic experience and how psychedelics can be used to treat and educate
    (45:19 / 45:21)
  10. Book recommendations to go inward, and learn more about Buddhist thought and the environmental movement
    (59:00 / 59:02)


Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

Robert Thurman

Robert 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.” Thurman is known as a talented popularizer of the Buddha’s teachings. He is a riveting speaker and an author of many books on Tibet, Buddhism, art, politics, and culture.

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Robert Thurman (00:00:00):
Buddhism teaches you to look for the silver lining and focus on that. On the other hand, it doesn’t teach you passively to accept the bad stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:00:15):
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s Farmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y, a place for conversations that matter. And if you care about waking up as a human being, this conversation is one you should listen carefully to because it’s with someone who was the person that got me going on the path that I’m on many years ago when I was 15 years old; Professor Robert Thurman, who’s a professor emeritus of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He’s the president of Tibet House, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and he’s the president of the American Institute of Buddhist studies, a nonprofit center affiliated with the Center for Buddhist Studies at Columbia. And he’s dedicated to the publication of translations of really important artistic and scientific treaties from the Tibetan world.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:01:10):
Time Magazine chose Professor Thurman as one of its most 25 influential Americans in 1997, describing him as larger-than-life scholar-activists destined to convey the Dharma, the precious teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha from Asia to America. And the New York Times recently said, “Robert Thurman is considered the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism.” He’s known as a talented popularizer of Buddhist teachings. He’s a riveting speaker and author of so many books on Tibet Buddhism, art, politics and culture. Welcome, Professor Thurman.

Robert Thurman (00:01:42):
Thank you. I’m so happy to be with you, Mark. Wonderful.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:01:46):
So, here’s the story of Professor Thurman. I am 60, and I won’t tell you how old he is, but 45 years ago, my sister was at Amherst College in Massachusetts as a student, and Professor Thurman was then a professor of Tibetan studies there at Amherst, and she dragged me to one of his lectures on Tibetan Buddhism. And it was obviously an impressionable time at 15 years old, but it was the most, I think, important lecture of my life because it sent me upon thinking about the world, and consciousness, and personal development, and meaning of life in a way that has literally guided my entire life.

Robert Thurman (00:02:32):
I am so amazed.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:02:34):
It’s true. And my sister turned out was a babysitter for Professor Thurman’s children as well, which is so ironic. And then it led me to go on to study, in college, Buddhism. That was my major. Tibetan Buddhism-

Robert Thurman (00:02:52):
Really? Wow.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:02:52):
… Chinese Buddhism. Yes.

Robert Thurman (00:02:55):
Where was that?

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:02:56):
At Cornell, I studied Buddhism at Cornell. You might know my Professor, Allan Grapard.

Robert Thurman (00:03:02):
Oh, yeah, sure. Yeah. He used to be a Columbia. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:03:05):
Yeah. He was at Cornell and Columbia. He was this guy from Paris who was very eccentric, crazy professor who studied Zen Buddhism in Japan. And then I studied the Medicine Buddha with Raoul Birnbaum, who you probably also know.

Robert Thurman (00:03:24):

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:03:25):
And I nice Jewish guy, but-

Robert Thurman (00:03:28):
He was great. I love Raoul.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:03:30):
Yeah. And I began to think about healing, and Buddhism, and the kind of methodology of Buddhism as a system of healing of the mind, and that’s really what led me to choose medicine-

Robert Thurman (00:03:46):
That’s so great.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:03:46):
… was that route and to understand the interconnection of things, the interdependence of things, the nature of reality, it was always what I was trying to find and seek and it’s definitely what led me to functional medicine because it’s a deep systems thinking model about root causes, which is what Buddhism is. It’s a root cause analysis of suffering.

Robert Thurman (00:04:08):
That’s right. Exactly. And happiness.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:04:10):
And happiness.

Robert Thurman (00:04:12):
How to get rid of suffering. That’s very key.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:04:14):
How to get rid of suffering. Exactly. So, I feel so honored and privileged to be able to have Dr. Thurman on my podcast, because without him, I wouldn’t be thinking like I think-

Robert Thurman (00:04:29):
Oh, sure you would.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:04:31):
… I would be doing what I’m doing. He was the catalyst. He was like the spark that lit the flame that’s guided my whole life.

Robert Thurman (00:04:37):
Well, that’s really great. It’s your own karma, but I must say that just from what you said about the deep causation, then functional medicine and connecting to that through the discovery of relativity by Buddha 2,700 years ago, 2,600 years ago, that’s why, as a doctor, you have done this wonderful thing of looking at the causes in the food system, in the life system of our somewhat distorted culture that has gone wrong and is mistreating our bodies in this amazing way that blows my mind. I’m so amazed, I’m so thrilled at what you have done. No, seriously, I really am. I mean, I liked your metabolism books and your other books before and I tried to use some of them for our own health and I found them helpful, but when I discovered that you actually were tackling the whole industrial disease forming system, a corrupt system in our country, which doctors often loathe to do, I was so excited. I honor that. And so I am deeply honored to be with you.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:05:45):
Oh, thank you, thank you. That means so much to me.

Robert Thurman (00:05:47):
I really am.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:05:48):
Actually, as I think about it now, it’s the same methodology. So, Buddhism is a methodology for understanding the root causes of suffering and the root causes of healing or happiness.

Robert Thurman (00:06:00):
Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:06:01):
And functional medicine is the same exact thing. It’s a methodology for understanding the root causes of suffering/disease, and an understanding of how to create healing and happiness. So, it’s actually the same, and it’s sort of like this complete layering over this framework, and it’s the training I had in Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism that really helped me to see what I see in a different way. And that’s why I’m such a weird doctor.

Robert Thurman (00:06:33):
No, no, every doctor… That’s what I’m going to talk about with you, is every doctor should be doing what you’re doing. I’m sure you read Ivan Illich’s Medical Nemesis book years ago.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:06:46):
Yes, I did. I read that in college.

Robert Thurman (00:06:48):
And what that book, among many other things about that book, although he’s kind of disappeared off the radar people nowadays, but what that said was that the great advances in medicine are not this and that high tech drug, and not this and that skill in surgery developed from war experience, but the public health initiatives over the centuries, over the last century or two, that medical awareness has caused, sewage, this and that. So, what they do for public health as a group, the doctors, is actually almost more important than inventing some gimmick-

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:07:31):
Yeah, I think that’s true.

Robert Thurman (00:07:33):
… that does some symptomatic thing, you see. But in order to get back to that, we have to break through the corruption, and that’s what we’re going to do, that’s what we’re doing right away. We’re starting on November, whatever it is, and we’re going to do it now, definitely, and you’re a big part of it.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:07:52):
Well, thank you. I’m actually going to have the privilege of being on Dr. Thurman’s podcast as well talking about this work from a different perspective.

Robert Thurman (00:08:01):
Yes, okay. So, yeah. Ask me questions.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:08:07):
So, many things that Dr. Thurman has done, he’s published so many books and he’s translated so many important texts like the Tibetan Book of the Dead, he wrote the foreword to one of my favorite books. It was so influential. The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Govinda.

Robert Thurman (00:08:22):
Oh, yeah, Lama Govinda. Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:08:24):
And this guy, Lama Govinda, was a Viennese guy who went and became a monk and was studying a certain type of Buddhism, and on a whim, went to a conference in India where he learned about Tibetan Buddhism and he moved to Tibet before the doors were all opened up to the world through China.

Robert Thurman (00:08:49):
Yes, that’s right. He was with the early people.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:08:50):
And it was just an incredible kind of tapestry of discovery of what that culture was that focused not on outer space or discovery of the material world, but inner space and the discovery of the inner world, because they had nothing except their minds and the inquiry into their minds. And that’s really what Buddhism is. People think it’s a religion. It’s become that, but it really is this deep inquiry.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:09:21):
And I want to sort of start the conversation with your journey, which is quite unusual. You were a student at Harvard, and then you had an accident where you lost an eye, and you got out of school, you went to Europe, Middle East, Asia, and you found your way to India where you met the Dalai Lama in 1962. And he had just emerged from Tibet in 1959, so kind of take us through the accident, your spiritual quest and how you ended up meeting the Dalai Lama and becoming the first ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk that was a Westerner ordained by the Dalai Lama.

Robert Thurman (00:10:06):
Well, it’s kind of an evolved tale. I’m working on autobiography actually, a little bit, although my wife’s autobiography first takes precedence, which is very interconnected. But yes, what happened was I lost an eye, and as my old Mongolian guru used to say, who was my first teacher before the Dalai Lama, he used to say, “Whenever you talk about that, say, you lost one eye and you gained 1,000.” He said, “Just say that so people don’t feel worried.” There’s 1,000-armed Buddhist, icon of compassion, have a look at [inaudible 00:10:47], the Buddhist icon of all the compassion of all the Buddha’s, and the 1,000 eyes is only a symbol of the fact that for the Buddhists, Mahayana Buddhists especially, the presence of enlightened beings is everywhere, and they are trying to help us, to heal us. Because this is the big breakthrough from Buddhism.

Robert Thurman (00:11:10):
If you want Buddhism in a nutshell, the big breakthrough from Buddhism in India, in ancient India, it’s not an East, West thing, it’s in every culture, but Buddhism is an education and a healing system based on the insight that Shakyamuni Buddha Siddhartha achieved, which is that we can be healed, and that we can be happy.

Robert Thurman (00:11:37):
And that’s a breakthrough because all cultures in history in the last few thousand years, recorded history, terrorize their participants, the humans, by telling them that there’s no hope for them except via a religion, or a high priests and a religion, a medicine man, if it’s a tribe, or through the chief, political, if they obey the orders of the king, or the president or the Prime Minister. And then after they die as an unknown soldier or as whatever it is, then either the king will take care of them because he’s God, or God will take care of them because God is God. But no one can really help them in this life because it sucks life, and therefore they’re not going to be well. It’s about Vale of Shadows, a valley of tears and all this.

Robert Thurman (00:12:28):
And on top of that, what is strange about it is, it doesn’t help that much, it helps a little to believe that. So, it’s not saying you have to believe that. What he’s saying is… he was so cool. I really love the Buddha. You have to realize this. You discovered it in a college classroom just in very imperfect channeling of this system, but what he did was he did understand, much better than me, everything about what reality is. And then he said, “Oh, good news. Reality is great if you know what it is. If you don’t know what it is,” which I hadn’t been doing, and most of us don’t, “you think it’s a terrible situation and you’re struggling with it and you lose it.” Because reality, you’re part of it but it’s bigger than just you, and if you’re fighting with it, you’ll lose you, but if you know you’re a part of it, then everything is fine.

Robert Thurman (00:13:37):
But then he said, problem with that is, that explanation by itself was not going to help you that much if you just think, “Oh, I want to believe that explanation.” So, what you have to do is experience that for yourself. So, you have to discover what reality is for yourself. And then here’s the really revolutionary thing that caught me initially about Buddhism, before I lost my eye, actually, but I was in denial that that’s what I really should be doing with my life at the time.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:14:06):
There weren’t yoga classes on every corner in 1962, there wasn’t meditation classes. Nobody was talking about this. How did you get into it?

Robert Thurman (00:14:12):
I know. Well, even in high school, I read Herrmann Hesse, Siddhartha, and Jung’s setting about The Book of the Dead and, etc. I was reading those things because I was a nonconformist already where I was always taking my own class. I wouldn’t go to some rotten professor teaching Buddhism. I would read my own book and then they would teach what they would teach, content, here you go, this kind of thing.

Robert Thurman (00:14:39):
But what I’m saying is, therefore, he was an educator. When you go to medical school, the doctor doesn’t say, “Believe you’re a doctor and you’ll be fine and you can practice.” No way. You have to study biology, you have to study anatomy, you have to study chemistry, pharmacology, blah, blah, blah. So, Buddhism is like that. You have to study it. No authority can just tell you it’s like so and so and then you believe it, and that’s that. That’s why the Four Noble Truths, the sort of main framework of Buddhism, they’re translated as truth, and that’s not wrong, but if you translate it as the Four Noble facts, that would better.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:15:23):

Robert Thurman (00:15:23):
Yeah. Aspects of reality. And the first one is, if you don’t know what it is, you’re going to misunderstand who you are and where you are and you’re going to suffer. But you can learn what it is. That’s the kicker. Everyone else tells you… in school, the religious people told me, “You can’t understand anything, you just have to believe, and you have to believe whether it makes sense to you or not, just believe.” And I said, “I don’t like that.” I refuse. That’s no good. And there’s a great joke on that. Do you the joke about that theologians joke?

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:15:58):

Robert Thurman (00:15:59):
Well, a theologian was asking his congregation like, “Define faith. Tell me, folks, what is faith? Can you tell me?” And nobody would speak. So, then the little Johnny in the front row was going like, “I can tell, I can tell,” and he didn’t go to him because he was a little kid. Then finally, nobody grown up would speak, so he just says, “Well, y’all should be ashamed yourself. Little John is the only one who’s answering the question. Okay, Little Johnny, you tell these good people here, what is faith?” He says, “I know what it is.” “What is it?” And he says, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t true.”

Robert Thurman (00:16:37):
Langdon Gilkey, a theologian at University of Chicago told me that joke. It turns out a little bit cynical. Anyway. So, the point is, you can understand yourself and the world and you don’t have to be Einstein. Every human being with a brain is a kind of Einstein if they develop it, and that’s what he said. The human life is so fortunate, not because animals are not former humans, they are, but because they have souls, etc. He’s like Albert Schweitzer, Buddha was like Schweitzer on that one. But the point is, you have the ability to understand, one, and two, you have to understand to be happy. And when you really understand your world, you will be happy.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:17:29):
Because we kind of misinterpret our reality, and that’s what causes the suffering.

Robert Thurman (00:17:34):
Exactly. And then they reinforce our misinterpretation by telling us ignorance is bliss. You don’t want to know what it is because you’d be so scared of it, and they misinterpret Darwin as thinking that it’s nature, red in tooth and claw, they’re going to all destroy us if we don’t have nuclear weapons or something, which is absolutely wrong. But point is, even death, they tell us is so terrible and scary and they threaten us with hell and things like that. Then the scientists, they tell you, “Oh yeah, we don’t believe in all that. We’re atheists and etc, but we’re looking to understand this gene, and this atom, and this subatomic particle, and that bacteria, and this virus, but we know that we’ll never know everything. So, we still never will know, so we just always keep looking for more stuff. But we have a preconceived idea that you can’t understand everything.”

Robert Thurman (00:18:34):
If any scientist jumped up and said, “Eureka. I know everything now,” like Buddha did, they would have them arrested or give them a tranquilizer because they have a preconceived idea that you also you can’t understand. But then I used to ask them, “Well, if you can’t understand everything, how do you know you can understand?” And they could never answer that one.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:18:56):
Yeah. Well, I mean, to me, Buddhism is the science of the mind.

Robert Thurman (00:18:59):
That’s it. But also it says your mind, you
Dr. Mark Hyman, your mind, Bob Thurman, you, whoever it is, if you really develop your mind, it is capable of understanding the world, and therefore you can understand your world, not only can you, but you experience it all the time.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:19:18):
So, you started with the four facts or the four truths. So, the first one is-

Robert Thurman (00:19:24):
If you don’t understand it, it will bring you suffering because you will always be dissatisfied with everything and you will not understand what you are and where you are. And so you’ll be afraid that different bad things will happen to you, and so you’ll fight things, and you’re trying to impose your own control on them rather than go with them, and then that will fail and then you’ll be frustrated. And even happiness, what you think of as happiness, you’ll be dissatisfied with because it won’t last, and then you won’t be joyed well enough to make it last. There is happiness that lasts, but not the sort of ones that depend on some external circumstance. So, that’s the first thing.

Robert Thurman (00:20:10):
Then second noble fact is that that suffering has a cause, and the cause is our inability to understand it.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:20:18):
Understand the nature of reality, right?

Robert Thurman (00:20:20):
No, no, no, that’s just our habit. It actually is, luckily, less real than our ability to understand it. That’s the good news. But in order to do that, we have to analyze it, we have to figure it out. And therefore, he was a scientist. He figured things out, the Buddha did. And meditation is not just shutting down your mind… that’s wrongly taught, meditation is focusing your mind to a very much higher degree of intelligence, which we all have the capacity for, and then we will reach an experience of what reality is.

Robert Thurman (00:20:56):
And the third noble fact… And the reason they’re called noble is that they are factual for a noble person, they’re not factual for an ignorant person.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:21:07):
Well, can I go back to the second one, because always my learning of that was that the first is recognizing that we suffer, that the way we think about reality causes us to suffer. Second is that we’re attached to things being a certain way and that that causes suffering. Is that a misunderstanding of the second?

Robert Thurman (00:21:25):
No, that’s correct. But the certain way that we’re attached to them is that we can’t understand them. They are not us. In the case of materialism, which is our mainstream view in America nowadays, it’s a vast material realm. Nobody can count all the fish in the ocean, or those kind of things. So, knowledge is quantifiable, has to be, and in a infinite universe, you will never get to the full quantity ever.

Robert Thurman (00:21:55):
So, our misunderstanding of the way things are has to do with our inability to be all right within everything, you see, and a key component is that we’re ignorant but we know we’re ignorant, so therefore we’re attached to being ignorant, actually. And if we really realize what ignorance means, then we will realize that we can’t be sure that we’re going to stay ignorant, and then we can change our mind. You follow me? So, it’s that first beginning point that’s a shift, that’s the big shift. We can know, and we can develop wisdom, and wisdom can overcome that cause. That’s the antidote, right?

Robert Thurman (00:22:36):
But wait, then the next thing is the third noble fact. And the third noble fact is freedom from suffering; happiness. And this is what nobody, I’m afraid, really teaches well, who teaches Buddhism. They all stick on this suffering, and that’s joining and terrorizing people. And the Buddhists themselves do that, and they say, “Oh, I’m so happy. I’m allowed to suffer.” That’s nonsense. Nobody’s allowing… Buddha doesn’t want anybody to suffer. He’s compassionate. He doesn’t want them to suffer. That’s the whole point. The recognition of the suffering is just a way of starting to cure it. It’s like when you’re a doctor, if you go into the patient and you say, “Oh, you are diabetic. You’ll never get rid of that.” Have you done the job as a doctor? I don’t think so. You’re just taunting people basically, right? That’s no good.

Robert Thurman (00:23:39):
If you see a patient and they have a problem, sometimes you may have to say, “I don’t know how we can deal with this.” Get ready to move on to a new life. But, of course, that’s a big problem, and that’s a big problem for materialist doctors because they’re trained that all people have is the physical life, so they don’t know how to help them across that frontier, which is actually not that bad. Once you let go, actually… In French, they have an expression for orgasm. You know what that is? It’s the little death, La petite mort. But that’s not what you’re fighting to stay alive, that’s when you let go and you’re no longer burdened with a body that’s malfunctioning, and then you think you’re going to be nothing, and that, of course, is typical delusion.

Robert Thurman (00:24:39):
Science, supposedly, goes by experiencing things, to experiment, and experimental data is supposed to outweigh theory, no dogma, like everything is matter, for example, that’s a big dogma, but experience is supposed to outweigh that, right? And yet which scientist discovered that nothing, that a materialist is so certain they’re going to when they die, which one discovered that?

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:25:11):
That’s a great question. So, if we think there’s nothing after death, who proved that that’s true? Nobody.

Robert Thurman (00:25:19):
Exactly, exactly. Not only did nobody do it, but common sense will tell you nobody ever will because nothing is a word for something that you don’t discover. And therefore, you won’t get there by dying. The law of thermodynamics, the conservation of energy goes for the mind. It’s the conservation of energy of the mind, but the exact what it is, well, that’s an open question and that we can investigate, and science should be investigating. And Buddhist science investigated that thousands of years ago and has some descriptions, but this is also the great thing. They say that no description of relative reality is the final description, a dogma, except for that, that it’s open, in other words, that it’s always open for a little more refined better analysis and helpful in this context. But all such explanations are only good in certain contexts, and your mind is doors open for further deeper understanding.

Robert Thurman (00:26:22):
So wait, then the fourth noble fact, the fourth noble fact is the Eightfold Path of education. And here’s where typical mistraining comes from Buddhists, most Buddhists. They say, training, they call it, but the word adishiksha in Sanskrit, or in Pali, or in Tibetan, Shiksha, today in Hindi, is the word for the Department of Education in the Indian government. Shiksha.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:26:57):
Professor Thurman has a unique privilege because he speaks all these languages.

Robert Thurman (00:27:00):
No, I don’t speak [crosstalk 00:27:02].

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:27:02):
Or he reads Tibetan, he speaks Tibetan-

Robert Thurman (00:27:05):
I read Sanskrit.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:27:05):
… and Sanskrit.

Robert Thurman (00:27:05):
Yeah, but not Hindi.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:27:07):
But you speak Tibetan.

Robert Thurman (00:27:08):

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:27:09):
So, you read the original text, so you don’t have to go through a filter third party, you get to actually directly to the source.

Robert Thurman (00:27:16):
Well, somewhat. It’s all getting so rusty. I’m getting to where I can barely speak English often.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:27:19):
You’re doing okay.

Robert Thurman (00:27:21):
But the point is, the fourth noble truth therefore is a curriculum. It’s a higher education in reality, science, discovery and reality, which is the job of science, wisdom, which is the goal of science, should be, not just a quantifiable data list, but wisdom, ethics; how to behave in a realistic manner, and mind or meditation or how to cultivate your mind and how to manage your mind. So, there’s a higher education is in those three things. And the eight branches fit into these three higher education. But they say training. Why did they say training? I’ll tell you why. Because in our culture, we’re all totally over educated. We’ve been four years here, eight years there, four years there, medical school, totally, and we have these degrees, and we’re still pissed off.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:28:31):
We’re still suffering.

Robert Thurman (00:28:32):
Still suffering and still frustrated. And of course, we think our education is the greatest that ever happened on the planet and in the universe. Maybe we’re the only beings in the universe, we stupidly think, and then also, the talk, and then we think it’s the greatest. So, since we’ve had this huge education, it must suck. So, we want to think that Buddhism is just empty your mind and then you’re fine, don’t have a mind, in other words. That’s just absolutely the wrong thing to do. The greatest thing we have is the human mind. It’s a little bit divine, and we agree with the religions on that, and it’s vulnerable, which is the problem with the gods is they are divine, but they’re just in their 1,000 year jacuzzi and they never do anything. So, the denial about the suffering. But we are not, because we bump into things, we stub our toes.

Robert Thurman (00:29:30):
And so the point is, it’s an education process, but it’s a higher… the adi part means higher. Adishiksha. Intense education, because you’re educating your whole being. Your mind and your body also. And I love that you said, our body… In your book, you say we have to do something with our body. We are responsible for our body. When we save our body, we save the world. That’s just, this. That’s the fourth noble truth. That’s the fourth noble truth. That is the education process. And it’s like really a doctor with a patient. You know this, and you call it functional medicine, but every doctor should do that. They have to educate the patient. The patient has gone wrong in this beautiful environment that is just suited for the human being. It’s a perfect one for us if we didn’t mess it up. The plants, they’re in love with us. “Give me your carbon,” they say. “Oh, I love that you breathe this carbon, noxious carbon, and I’m going to give you that oxygen because I love you.” And it’s a total gang bang with the plants.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:30:52):
There you go.

Robert Thurman (00:30:53):
But not if we screw them up, not if we mess them up.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:30:56):
No. So, Professor, I have a question. We’re recording this podcast and it’s in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are not doing it in person because we’re socially isolating and being responsible.

Robert Thurman (00:31:10):
I know.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:31:10):
And there are so many people suffering right now. There are so many people who’ve lost their jobs, who have lost their purpose, sort of like what John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” And we all had other plans right now, including you and me and everybody, we’re all in this together and there’s just such a massive global suffering of humanity. How do you use Buddhism as a lens to help us think differently about this moment, and what can you offer in terms of some wisdom, from your learnings, about how to navigate this for all of us?

Robert Thurman (00:31:45):
Well, thank you for asking that. That’s good. That’s a great question. And the thing is this, first of all, it is a suffering, but first wisdom of Buddhism is, ancient English Buddhism, count your blessings. If you’re isolated but don’t have the virus, hey, that’s better than being sick. If you have the virus but you don’t have a severe case, that’s better than dying. If you’re dying, at least you’re going to have another good life.

Robert Thurman (00:32:30):
If you notice that you’re dying and you can’t help it, and you then realize you’re not going to be nothing, and also just because you believe in somebody else is going to help you, that necessarily is not good, but if you develop a positive view and relax yourself, and let go into the light, and there’s movies that teach you how to do that, like Jacob’s Ladder, like Ghosts, there are movies even nowadays that help you do that, and you just let go… Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or 2010, you just go into one of those special effects, zoom, you let go of yourself, and you’ll be out of the body.

Robert Thurman (00:33:17):
So, in other words, no matter what, there’s no worst case analysis that is the ultimate horror. No. Buddhism teaches you to look for the silver lining and focus on that. On the other hand, it doesn’t teach you passively to accept the bad stuff, and therefore you can demand that the government pay your unemployment insurance, you can demand that they stop the bank from foreclosing on your mortgage, you can demand that they take the hundreds of billions that they give to the corrupt corporations and they give it to you to grow your garden and they start subsidizing regenerative agriculture. And they move 20 billion… we give 20 billion dollars of direct subsidy to the oil industry, which they use to lobby the government to buy the congressman like the Moscow Mitch, and other also corrupt democratic congressmen. And the president they buy. Presidents are cheap. You give him a million dollars for his campaign and you get billions of dollars of subsidy. That’s like hiring somebody on the street.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:34:36):
So, it’s interesting. A lot of Buddhists are political activists, right?

Robert Thurman (00:34:40):
Yeah, well, some not, when they understand Buddhism as meaning shut yourself up, in your shut down mind, and just sit there and take the pain of sitting down uncomfortably.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:34:53):
But the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn, these are guys who were real political activists.

Robert Thurman (00:34:58):
Well, of course, they are. Not only activists, but they are activists… Any kind of activist has to be an educational activist. You don’t hate the bad guys, you want to educate them. Sometimes people are harming you, and you have to… Even with demons, the Buddhists usually try not to kill the demons. They try not to. Now and then you have to, in self defense, by accident, a bomb goes off, but they try to capture them, sit them down and get into the classroom with them. They have these legends of interminable multi live lectures going on with a demon. Then the demons shape up. Once they realize that it’s not going to make them happy to harm people and harm other beings, that never makes you happy, because that increases your isolation. If you are harmful to someone, that means you don’t identify with them, and that means you’re different from them, so you’ve divided up the world and you have stuck yourself in isolation.

Robert Thurman (00:36:03):
So, the fact that we’re all in isolation now under a sensible government, and with helping us to do that, to stop the plague because our human life is so valuable because it can give us the opportunity to understand the world, that is only showing us actually that we normally live in isolation. People are lonely. They, today, are shut down. They go on Facebook instead of having a friend who is their neighbor. They don’t build their community. They’re purposely isolated by industrialization because that makes them potential, brain washable consumers. As you said, 4,000 ads shown to children about some disgusting poisonous sugary color thing, they get brainwashed by the media. So, they don’t want them to hang with their parents, and the parents who have good doctors tell them, “Don’t eat that stuff. Don’t drink that nasty diabesity drink.”

Robert Thurman (00:37:14):
So, in other words, the isolation is imposed on us, actually, by industrial culture. You know Jerry Mander’s work? I’m sure you know that book, Four Reasons Why you Throw Out the Television. Well, I don’t agree with him, his ultimate bottom line, I don’t agree, but his awareness of that these things can be so badly misused, which are actually good things.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:37:35):
But people are fearful now, right? So, people are having fear. And how do we change our relationship with fear? Instead of it shutting us down, how do we change relational fears? Is there a tool to improve our lives?

Robert Thurman (00:37:48):
A great Bothisattva, who was once our president, told us how. The only thing to fear is fear itself. FDR. One great Bothisattva.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:38:02):
So, what is a Bothisattva, for those listening who don’t know?

Robert Thurman (00:38:05):
A Bothisattva or a noble person is someone who genuinely cares about other people. And in the Buddhist education, the technical barrier of it is beyond having a theory about, I should care for other people, you open up your natural human empathy to feel what they feel, which we all have. Everyone feels that about a newborn baby, their newborn baby.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:38:34):
That’s compassion.

Robert Thurman (00:38:36):
Yeah, empathy, and compassion is empathy actually, but it’s not only empathy. Beyond empathy, it then is the sharing of happiness, is what it is, because the only way to get rid of suffering is to feel happy. So, compassion wants to spread happiness. That’s what it does.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:38:53):
My understanding was the Bodhisattva is someone who’s reached the gates of enlightenment, but rather than get there himself, turns back to help relieve the suffering of all sentient beings.

Robert Thurman (00:39:04):
That’s right. That’s right. But it isn’t just because this person is automatically nicer than someone else, it’s because that person has investigated reality enough to realize that no matter how cushy they feel, if there’s 10 people around them in agony, the vibe is going to destroy their sense of feeling happy. So, we feel each other’s feelings. We have this wonderful expression from the 60s, good vibrations and bad vibration. They have those kinds of expressions in more enlightened languages than ours, about how you do actually feel each other’s feelings. You do do that. And of course, we cultivate that.

Robert Thurman (00:39:51):
Like military people, they cultivate, but sort of riding on anger and hatred for the enemy, they cultivate a sense of expanding the kinship empathy to your platoon members, to your nation, to your patriotism, and only that far, and then they do it only as an opposite of the hatred for the enemy. But it shows that you can shift the way the mind of a person is. But it’s very hard for the military and it creates great suffering for the soldier because it means they have to do two opposite things at once. They have to cultivate their empathy for their fellow soldier and citizen, supposedly, but meanwhile, hatred for someone else, which means no empathy for them. So, that puts them in an internal conflict right away, 100%, and then they come back with their PTSD, and then pretty soon they don’t have empathy for anybody, like Rambo. They’re impossible. They’re going to get the sheriff. They’re going to shoot the sheriff.

Robert Thurman (00:40:59):
But my point is that we trained them to do that so we shouldn’t blame them that much. So, now, in our fear, we shouldn’t be afraid. First way of not being afraid is, well, some people you can’t cure their ideological confusion right away, so even if they believe they’re going to be nothing, once you’re nothing, that’s the equivalent of anesthesia. So, that’s not bad. You’re just nothing, no problem, no fear of hell.

Robert Thurman (00:41:32):
And some people think as long as they mumble Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, or Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, or Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, then they will save them and those guys will do their best. Jesus, Buddha, God, they are doing the best. They’re all there. Buddha didn’t disbelieve in God, he just said that he’s just not quite what he’s cracked up to be by the monotheists. He does his best. He’s a nice guy. Buddha talked to him all the time. He’s constantly in conversation with Brahma, who the other Indians, at that time, thought was the creator. So, nobody’s against God. God gets grumpy because people don’t listen to him.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:42:14):
Let’s go back a little bit because I’m curious about your story. It’s a very unique story.

Robert Thurman (00:42:18):
Oh, yeah, back to my story.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:42:22):
A lot of people in the 70s went to India on these pilgrimages, but back in the early 60s, when you went, it was kind of a novel thing.

Robert Thurman (00:42:31):
I know, but listen. When you were 15, a lot of people went with their sister to some talk and they said, “Oh, get me out of here. [crosstalk 00:42:39].”

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:42:39):
Well, that’s true. There’s something in you.

Robert Thurman (00:42:42):
We have an affinity that we bring from previous life, of course.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:42:45):
Yes. So, what was that like going to India, and meeting the Dalai Lama, and becoming a monk? What propelled you?

Robert Thurman (00:42:54):
The first one was really kind of great. It was just big suffering going there. One thing I have to say, I did lose my eye, but then after I lost my eye, what it was, I became open to deciding I wanted to seek enlightenment, which to me meant, I want to learn to manage my mind and my emotions so that they don’t manage me, they don’t push me around, which was sort of what I felt, that was an ability there that I had.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:43:24):
Wait, wait, I want to just pause there because what you said is so profound. You wanted to learn how to manage your emotions so they don’t push you around. And I think most of us are at the effect of our minds and our emotions and not at the cause of it, which is what drives the suffering. And you recognized that when you were a young man and said, “I don’t want any of this stuff anymore. I’m going to try to find a way out.”

Robert Thurman (00:43:46):
Right. I had been reading that, you see, already in Jung, Erik Erikson, psychologists, I read a lot of Freud, Wittgenstein, Kant, Hegel, Plato, I read on philosophers. I went to good schools. I was brainwashed in the [crosstalk 00:44:01].

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:44:01):
All the pop stars of the day, right? Hegel.

Robert Thurman (00:44:06):
Right, right. Well, a few extra Hermann Hesse and some people like that, Gandhi, and I had idea [crosstalk 00:44:14].

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:44:14):
For those listening, if you want to start really simply, Siddartha is a great novel about Buddha by Hermann Hesse, and it’s very short. While you’re sequestered away, it’s something you can read and it will be an inspiring story to understand the history and the nature of Buddhism.

Robert Thurman (00:44:29):
Absolutely. That’s true. That’s a great book. You can do that. And Herrmann Hesse, he was a hippie dropout. He moved to Switzerland to get away from World War I. Although he did a great thing. In Switzerland, he worked in hospitals as an orderly, people who were wounded in the war, but he refused to fight because he knew it was stupid. He was German, of course, but he naturalized in Switzerland, and then he spent his whole life there in Lugano.

Robert Thurman (00:44:58):
But this is what I wanted to say. I want to confess something, and that is that after I lost my eye, one thing that I also was reading and with someone called, Henri [Michaux 00:45:09], a French writer, and another one was Aldous Huxley, about opening the doors of perception, and then some guys, and not Tim Leary, and not Ram Dass, Richard Alpert, but a fellow student showed up with a dose of mescaline, and that really helped. It’s very dishonest. Almost every teacher in the either Hindu or Buddhists or Kabbalah, whatever it is, they had an experience when they were young like that. Not just a lecture, but they also smoked something or they did something.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:45:45):
Yes. Same thing happened to me.

Robert Thurman (00:45:47):
And then because it was illegal, then it was all hidden, and we went in. The smart ones didn’t just keep doing it, but they got into the system and they did something useful for people. But that was really helpful. It’s a kind of special magic medicine. Psychiatrists were using it at Austen Riggs and different psychiatric hospitals, Bellevue and everywhere, and they were having great work with autistic people and people with real mental serious psychotic problems.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:46:15):
And that was coming back in psychiatry through the maps work.

Robert Thurman (00:46:18):
And then it became a mass medicine, you could say, with a lot of side effects. And then it became illegal by the fascists, Nixon, the militarists. They didn’t like people not going to shoot more people, more Indians in Vietnam. They were continuing their cowboys and Indians world in Vietnam, these sort of nasty people, and they didn’t want people saying, “No way. We’re not going to go shoot some nice person who makes nice food.” Somehow they came over here later as refugees and they have nice Vietnamese restaurants. But we didn’t know that that time. Even Indians are not the Indians. They were also nice people. They lived indigenously. French trappers started the scalping, not the Indians, because they scalped animals for their fur. So, point is, that opened the door for me. And it’s important to do that, because it’s coming back in the hands of responsible doctors, psychiatrists, for serious problems, and I think it will come back within education, eventually, for all of our serious problems, which is the rigidity of our conceptual system.

Robert Thurman (00:47:27):
What it does is it temporarily shatters the rigidity of our thinking that everything fits with what we already know, so then it opens us to look afresh at things.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:47:42):
Can I interrupt you for a sec?

Robert Thurman (00:47:43):
Yeah, sure.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:47:43):
Because I think it’s important to underscore this point. What you’re saying id you had an experience with mescaline when you were very young. It gave a different perception of reality, The Doors of Perception, according to Aldous Huxley, but what we’re learning now is that… And there’s a book called altered traits by our friend Dan Goleman and Richard Davidson that talks about the biology of what happens with meditation, which is the quieting of this part of your brain called the default mode network, that is where the ego is active, the sense of separateness, the sense of sort of unique identity that keeps us disconnected from others and from reality. And when you take mescaline, or LSD, or psilocybin, it also does the same thing. It’s a shortcut.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:48:34):
Now, what they found was in these Olympic meditators, these guys who have been in Tibetan caves for 20 years, 40,000 hours, the same thing is going on in their brain. They literally have shut down this part of their brain in a way that’s sustainable. And so that gives you a very different sense of reality, and I think that’s what you’re talking about. People are so attached to their sense of self with a small S, instead of the self that big S, that keeps them suffering. And that’s what’s so beautiful about the methodology, because it’s not a religion, it’s not about praying to the Buddha, it’s about a phenomenology of the mind that allows you to understand why we suffer and what’s going on. And this shortcut that we’ve sort of used through these drugs give us a little window, but it’s not the full answer, then we have to sort of do the hard work. So, I just wanted to sort of frame it for people so they understand what’s actually happening.

Robert Thurman (00:49:31):
That’s right. But then the other thing there, however, there is one point, and that is those 10,000 Olympic meditators are always not going to be the vast majority of people. And so the thing is, these psychotropic entheogenics or psychedelics, as they used to be called, they have a use, in all indigenous societies, they were used, and they have a very important use of just giving people a hint that the world is more than they thought it was. And if it’s properly managed, then they don’t just go keep doing that, because then that’s just too much and they get too disorganized and chaotic, and they can’t learn anything. But just like people who wrongly taught about meditating, that it just means shutting off your mind, they become kind of duh, and they can’t learn either. No, there’s a side effect of-

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:50:27):
It’s not about just sitting looking at your navel, is what you’re talking about.

Robert Thurman (00:50:32):
Exactly, exactly. My Tibetan doctor friend, the one who does lucid dreaming teachings and other things, he’s so great a physician because he says, medication has side effects, yes, if used irresponsibly, and meditation can have side effects if used irresponsibly also. So, the point is either one has to fit into a thing, but in our current time on this planet, we do need a large scale opening of minds. And therefore, the fact that these discoveries of Albert Hoffman, and these people, are now being properly studied and implemented therapeutically and available… Like, there’s some generals in the army, who say they want their PTSD soldiers to have access to psilocybin. They’re telling their Congress people, “Cut this crap about putting it in there with soporific like heroin or amphetamine, like stimulating drugs.” They are not drugs like that. They are mind opening substances that can help people cure this.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:51:41):
Well, you used a word I think I want to just come back to, which is an entheogen. And what that means is to be with God.

Robert Thurman (00:51:48):
That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:51:50):
So, there are drugs that allow you to open your mind to get a glimpse of a different reality that may bring you closer to whatever God is, the truth, the nature of things, the way things are, whatever way you describe it.

Robert Thurman (00:52:04):
Right. I was against Tim Leary’s constant, everything just turned on. I don’t agree with that. I never agreed with it. Although I knew him and I liked him as a person, but I never agreed with that, and the way he did that, because he himself was a materialist, actually. He was a scientist, he thought he was going to nothing, which he’s had a rude shock some time ago. He’s around somewhere, and probably landed in another Irish womb, no doubt. But industrialization has enabled us to expand the three poisons of our ignorance, our lust and our hatred and our anger in the form of a mass false ideology, that’s ignorance, mass consumerism, and mass militarism.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:53:06):
Sounds like you’re describing the world we live in today.

Robert Thurman (00:53:09):
Exactly. So, we’ve imposed, but industrialization has industrialized our suffering actually. So, the entheogenics so the psychedelics are the industrialization antidote, they’re also industrial products.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:53:25):
So it creates a crack in that edifice.

Robert Thurman (00:53:28):
Yes. And that, we have to own up to and face honestly. And therefore that has to be managed by a sane government, with a sane medical system to be used for PTSD and for things basically, something like this, and ultimately by a sane education system, and in an open way. And I think that is actually happening because, in a way, we’re desperate. The poor Chinese for example, they’ve unleashed this thing with their insane behavior.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:54:04):
Eating bats.

Robert Thurman (00:54:05):
Yeah, eating bats, or messing with the bad thing in the neighborhood bio geological warfare company facility that was three blocks away, and it leaked out of there somehow maybe-

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:54:21):
Who knows?

Robert Thurman (00:54:21):
… or maybe the bat directly donated. But what that is, is that is we are extinguishing zillions of animals at the same time. We’re destroying. We’re having the sixth great extinction. We are doing our industrial thing led by the oil monarchs and the big Ag and big food people that you’ve put the finger on, for which I bow to you. So, my point is that we are in a desperate situation. Subconsciously, everybody knows that. It’s not the virus has made us desperate, we already are, everyone is. Therefore, they’re frantically trying to go back to white tribalism, white nationalism, or fanatic fundamentalism of Islam, or Christianity, or Buddhism, or whatever it is. All of them are susceptible to being turned into some crazy thing.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:55:21):
So, how in this crazy world with all this craziness, how do we figure out who we are, what matters, and what we call our Dharma?

Robert Thurman (00:55:28):
Well, what I love is a great Buddhist teaching that some lady on Facebook wrote, I don’t know if she’s a Buddhist or not, but she said, “Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we have done.”

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:55:44):
Oh my goodness. That is a very good meme. There are many good memes out there, but that’s a good one.

Robert Thurman (00:55:48):
Isn’t that awesome? That’s true. And when Buddha was enlightened, do you know what he did?

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:55:55):
Mm-mm (negative).

Robert Thurman (00:55:55):
He put his hand on the earth. He touched the earth with his right hand over his knee. If you look at any statue, you’ll see the enlightened Buddha moment. He’s touching the earth, and Mother Earth, witness that a human being can attain enlightenment and can overcome delusion, ignorance, lust, and greed, and hatred, and violence, and they can, and we are gentle beings actually. Our fingernails will break when we try to scratch somebody. Our tooth… Only vampires in Hollywood have fangs. We have pathetic little teeth. We intertwine to reproduce and we need someone else’s help, etc. We are the gentleman social animal, there’s no question. And so we’re going to just refine that.

Robert Thurman (00:56:52):
And in a way, being away from all the distraction temporarily gives us a chance to reconnect in a new way, and to realize, for example, people in Los Angeles who are living in Bel Air, all those huge thousands of homeless people there and immigrants are definitely not going to go to be tested, and they definitely can’t afford to be in a hospital, and they’re definitely going to cultivate this virus more, and it’s going to leak up from them through the police, and through the bus drivers, and to whatever, right back up into Bel Air. So, it’s interconnecting us actually in this really powerful way.

Robert Thurman (00:57:32):
So, all these silver linings… and I don’t mean people should study Buddhism either. They should study Jesus’ teaching if they’re Christian, they should study the other great rabbis. Jesus was a rabbi, by the way, we should always remember. They should study the other great rabbis like Rabbi Hillel, like Moses, like all of them. All the great rabbis, wonderful compassion teachings which Jesus was using. They should study Hinduism, if they want Krishna’s is compassion teaching. Even the Dalai Lama is always showing the biological proof that the human animal is social, they hold their little babies. Every one of us as a baby was helpless. Actually, I know some wasps on their country club, beach club down in Florida, some serious wasps, and you-

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:58:26):
But you don’t mean the insects.

Robert Thurman (00:58:28):
No, no, and you can sign your parent’s name for your corn on the cob and your burger until you’re 55. So, we’re helpless. We are helpless creatures who depend on each other. This is teaching us that, this COVID virus. But it doesn’t have any intention to teach us, do something nice for us, but we can use it that way, we can learn from this experience.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:59:00):
Robert, you have so many books out there, you’ve written so many books, Inner Revolution, Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within.

Robert Thurman (00:59:07):
Yes, that’s the one. Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:59:13):
So, what should people read?

Robert Thurman (00:59:15):
I would recommend that from my books.

Dr. Mark Hyman (00:59:17):
Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within. Any other things that people should turn to that might help them?

Robert Thurman (00:59:23):
Yeah. Well, it can be any book of the Dalai Lamas, more recently published ones with better translators that is. They can read any book of Thich Nhat Hanh, so beautiful pieces, Every Step. Wonderful Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple books. Peace is Every Step. That’s really simple. Infinite Life, I love it. It has different subtitles, different editions of that Infinite Life. My favorite subtitle, the publisher would never use, it was, Breaking Free from the Terminal Lifestyle. And they said, “Oh, we can’t do that terminal. That sounds like a disease.” I said, “Well, that is a disease, to think that you only live this one time. All you are is your physical body, so you got to get everything and stuff everything in then you can.” And that’s just going to make you more sick, it’s not going to help, and it’s not true anyway. You are a much bigger being than just the body of this life. But you really love the body of this life. It’s a very precious form that you have and you shouldn’t waste it. Anyway. So, I really get into that Infinite Life.

Robert Thurman (01:00:34):
And then any book by Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh, I would also recommend. And if they’re interested in Buddhism in particular, I would recommend Inner Revolution, about the history of it, and about how it’s the thing… And then there’s a book I have that is about to be published, which is called, Buddhas Have More Fun.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:00:59):
Oh, that sounds good.

Robert Thurman (01:00:59):
And that’s the one, but that’s somehow stuck somewhere in the publishing process, but it will come out, and I like that. And there’s a great comic book I have now I’d royally want people to read. It’s called Man of Peace, the illustrated life story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. And it’s a comic book. It’s a book like comic book, the life of the Dalai Lama, and that’s very inspiring. Even Bishop Tutu loved it. He said, “Everyone should read this, it will help them.” So, that one, I need to move out of a warehouse. So, please, order it from Amazon, everybody. That’s it.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:01:36):
So, I think this is a moment for us where we have more time to reflect, where we are sent by Mother Nature to our rooms to reflect on what we’ve done and how we’re living, that it might be a good time to sort of go inward a little bit. And all of us are doing that unintentionally, but maybe being intentional about it.

Robert Thurman (01:01:56):
Read Dan Goleman and Richie Davidson’s, Altered Traits, and read
Dr. Mark Hyman‘s Food Fix. I love it. You say this, “You can save the planet with your fork.”

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:02:10):
Yes, you can, and actually that’s true.

Robert Thurman (01:02:15):
That’s a meme, that’s a great meme. I love that.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:02:17):
So, make sure you take this time, check out Infinite Life: Awakening-

Robert Thurman (01:02:20):
And you’re not a fanatic vegan. Don’t be scared people. You’re not a fanatic vegetarian. More plant food.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:02:27):
It’s hard to be a fanatic. When you understand the complexity and nuance of life, it’s hard to be fanatic.

Robert Thurman (01:02:30):
Exactly. That is so great. There’s another book I want to recommend that’s for people in the environmental movement, besides this Writings of Greta Thunberg, read that. There’s a little booklet of her saying, I would read that, but there’s another one which you called A Bright Future by Goldstein and Hammer or something, I forget the second author, but it’s about green nukes. Green ones, not bad ones. We need that while we’re switching from the oil to the renewables. It’s how Sweden is already carbon neutral. Sweden, already.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:03:12):
You mean using nuclear power?

Robert Thurman (01:03:14):
Yes, but not the old fashioned huge thing with a lot of polluting uranium coming out of it. It’s a special kind made in South Korea for only two billion bucks, that you then drop the whole thing two miles down when you finish it, it’s after 50 years, but it gives you that steady power when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, and then good geothermal and all that. But it’s not forever, and it doesn’t produce a huge pollution. Nothing compared to coal mines, what come out of the coal mines. The after effect, the ash of the coal mine, and the mercury in the air, and the particles, it’s deadly. Nothing. But we’re brainwashed probably by the oil industry propagandists that all nuke are bad, no faith in technology. And so therefore, Greenpeace will probably have a shot for saying this.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:04:15):
I remember in 1980, I went to the Rocky Flats plutonium plant, and there were just so many monks there protesting, and Allen Ginsberg, and Peter [Lossky 01:04:28], and they’re all meditating and sitting on the train tracks to prevent the plutonium from going out to create nuclear weapons.

Robert Thurman (01:04:36):
In those days, it was connected with the weapon business, in those days, and also was very, very polluting and very iffy, the way they managed it, and we’ve had Fukushima, and Chernobyl, and this and that since then. For example, in Germany, they abandoned it and what happened was huge lignite coal power plants produce 150,000 tons of ash in a month, and besides what they put into the air, it’s just unbearable, and China is building them like mad, and India also. Even though in India it’s cheaper to get a renewable, but they won’t make the switch fast enough, do you follow me?

Robert Thurman (01:05:18):
And South Korea, Swedes and French a little bit, are moving from the older, these are like thorium reactors, they are breeder things that use up the plutonium and you end up with a little bag of it, but then it’s in-tuned within its own original structure, so you never take it out. And then you drop that down. They have two mile deep storage places way below fracking water, way below the fracking level. And that we need for maybe a decade or two.

Robert Thurman (01:05:52):
The other great thing we’ve done, here’s the silver lining, we have decreased carbon emission by 10% in the last month or two in China and here and everywhere, and everyone says, “Oh, the air’s clean in Los Angeles and Beijing. Oh, but there’s economic disaster,” because of course, we’re going to pump back the factories and utilities and the whole thing and start polluting it again, because we were increasing last year, we were increasing 20%. So, my point is, we can notice that it’s possible to just turn it off, and then we move the subsidy right away to the renewables, starting November 4th, or 5th, or 10th, or whatever, and going into next year. And whoever it is going to do Congress, we’re going to do it. We’re all going to think of how we vote.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:06:49):
I mean, this is an interesting moment because it’s definitely changing the whole way we’re going to be living afterwards as well.

Robert Thurman (01:06:55):
According to the scientists, we have to decrease 10% per year for 10 years to put this bad stranger thing genie back in the bottle so that, not by 2050, not by 2040, by 2030, we’re back on a track to absorb already what has happened.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:07:15):
What I love about you, Professor Thurman, is you retired from Columbia, but you’re still a professor emeritus, and yet you’re on a whole new path, a whole new career. Not just looking at how we can reach awakening ourselves, but how we can heal the world.

Robert Thurman (01:07:33):
We have to.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:07:35):
And you’ve actually gone and got training in a whole new approach called the Climate Reality Project Training.

Robert Thurman (01:07:43):
Yes, of Al Gore.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:07:45):
Yes. Which is sort of inspiring you now to sort of become an activist in a way.

Robert Thurman (01:07:52):
Absolutely. I always was, but I didn’t have time because of this education thing. But the thing is this-

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:08:00):
Being professor.

Robert Thurman (01:08:01):
… have you ever joined with your food fixing, the Climate Reality Project trainings?

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:08:08):
No, but I’m aware of it.

Robert Thurman (01:08:11):
He also does regenerative agriculture as part of it, but he doesn’t hit it as hard as you do, and he needs your collaboration for sure.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:08:21):
Yes. I actually talked to him about it, and I think he’s starting to get more aware and alert to this. And I think we are in a unique situation where everything’s interconnected, and the suffering that we’re seeing from COVID-19 is just a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the suffering that we’re going to see-

Robert Thurman (01:08:44):
That’s just the beginning.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:08:45):
… unless we address these bigger global issues of our food system, and the consequences on our health, and consequences on economies, the consequences on our environment. So, all these things have to get dealt with. And I’m just so amazed that you’re actually coming to that in the second career you’re creating now.

Robert Thurman (01:09:02):
Who knows. It’s not a second, it’s just that I’m able to do more what I always wanted to do. But listen, the thing is, because the universities are controlled, the high priests of the universities are the natural scientists who are these confused materialists who think they’re all going to be nothing, so that’s what they don’t really stress themselves out and go get locked on the doors of the White House or locked up or whatever. That’s why they don’t do that. They do say the truth and they’re great, I love them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re imprisoned in this false ideology that they’re going to be nothing.

Robert Thurman (01:09:35):
So anyway, this is the short circuit that stops everybody, is the idea that… it’s like a fuse breaker. The stress of like, “Am I going to restrain my wish for that soft drink? Am I going to restrain my wish for that cookie? Am I going to restrain my, whatever it is, my vote? Am I going to restrain my greed?” And then click, oh, finally it all doesn’t matter. Finally, it’s all nothing. It’s already nothing. I don’t have a soul or a mind right now, it’s just my brain makes me think I have one, so then everything doesn’t matter. And that’s our national mantra that we have to not repeat. It also doesn’t matter.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:10:18):

Robert Thurman (01:10:20):
We always say, “What the hell,” which is just sweeping under the rug the fact that it could be worse, as Garrison Keillor used to famously say the Lutherans always say in Minnesota in Wobegon, when they’re really happy, all they can say is, “Well, it could be worse.” Because you know it always could be worse, then you hold the impulse, you manage the emotion, you hold the negative thing that wants to push you into something you know is not going to be good but you do it. You follow me? That’s the motivational trigger, that Climate Reality Project needs it, Food Fix needs it, and the new organization of Doctors Against Food Corruption that is going to grow from it. No, seriously.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:11:14):
That’s my goal. We’ve got to wake people up, and I think that’s what you spent your whole life doing, is waking people up. And you’re you’re such an extraordinary man and such a gift, and I’m just so blessed to know you. This is such a special interview for me because literally, your hammer that you hit me on the head with when I was 15 literally woke me up to a way of being and thinking and exploring. It’s literally determined my entire path, it’s really true.

Robert Thurman (01:11:46):
Last December in South India in a Tibetan monastery there, the Dalai Lama pulled me out of the crowd to everyone’s shock and horror, including mine, because that just creates jealousy, and dragged me up there with Abbots who were offering him this special thing, and this special thing and all this, all that special, special stuff they do in those rituals, and everybody was shocked. And I was saying, “No, no, no.” And then he actually sent a bodyguard over, who’s a friend of mine, he grabbed me literally by the scruff of the neck and he dragged me up in front of him.

Robert Thurman (01:12:25):
And I only had a dirty little scarf in my thing because I wasn’t making more of the formal thing, but he took that, gave me a huge one, and then he made his guy come up and give me a red thing, special one, special, special, and then he whacked me on the forehead. Wham. Like that. And I’ve been really happy ever since.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:12:49):
There you go. Well, I have to tell you one story, one closing story, you just reminded me of that.

Robert Thurman (01:12:53):
All right, please, please.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:12:57):
I was guided to medicine through Buddhism and through the Medicine Buddha, but when I was in medical school I had a lot of doubts. “Is this the path I want? Do I really want to do this? Do I want to be more on a spiritual path doing something else?” And I went to Nepal on a medical expedition in 1986, and we were in Kathmandu in this little, actually side town called Boudhanath, which is where a lot of Tibetan refugees had gone, and this woman said to me, “Come, I want to take you to meet this monk. He’s receiving people and you can get a blessing.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And we went to this tiny little sort of cinder block building, this very indiscrete building, and I walked in and there was this little ante room and there was a little nun there, and she gave me this white scarf, and then there was this little room, and I went in and there was this giant Tibetan man there with a white bun on his head of hair, a very big belly, and it was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Robert Thurman (01:14:12):
Oh, wow.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:14:14):
And he’s sort of like the other Dalai Lama in a sense or a different lineage.

Robert Thurman (01:14:19):
He’s great.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:14:19):
And there was a translator there, that was Matthieu Ricard, who was his translator. Was a French guy who has been called the happiest man in the world. And I said him, “Look, I’m confused. I don’t know if I should continue on this path of medical school or I should take a different path.” And he said to me, “Look, this is your path. This is your service.” And it was that moment, and he gave me that little string around the neck that you just mentioned, and the blessing, and that was what sort of has carried me through.

Robert Thurman (01:14:57):
That’s so great. Dilgo Khyentse, I know him.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:15:01):
Yeah, it was quite a story.

Robert Thurman (01:15:05):
I love that.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:15:06):
Yeah. You never know, and even though this seems very disruptive right now for all of us, and this virus has taken over our lives, there’s always a moment to stop and think about how do we want to be? How do we want to live? How do we want to create meaning in our life? How do we want to let go of the things that aren’t working and include things that are?

Robert Thurman (01:15:26):
Absolutely. I wanted to say one thing about your question, just let me just say it quickly. And also, a little fear is good. Fear keep your mask on, keep you washing your hands, not touching your face.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:15:39):
Yeah, that’s okay. That’s common sense.

Robert Thurman (01:15:40):
That’s good fear. Bad fear is what we already live with, and now you can get to the bottom of that and get rid of it and be less paranoid and be more happy.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:15:50):
Yes, for sure. So, make sure you take this time. I would really encourage you to get Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within, Inner Revolution. Search out the works that Dr. Thurman has created and follow that trail. It will lead you to a refreshment-

Robert Thurman (01:16:07):
Matthieu Ricard has nice books on happiness. Big [inaudible 01:16:11] like that on happiness.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:16:12):
Yeah. In this age of being inundated with doom news about Coronavirus, find a little light, take a little break and do yourself a favor. And Professor Thurman, thank you so much for joining us on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Robert Thurman (01:16:29):
Thank you, Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:16:30):
You’re such a gift to humanity. I love you.

Robert Thurman (01:16:33):
You too. I love you too, really. We have to do some trainings online with the Climate Reality people in food and the motivation to Dharma, we have to do that. I’m going to get Al Gore.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:16:46):
And if you’re listening this podcast, please check out Dr. Thurman’s podcast, which I’m going to be on. What’s your podcast called?

Robert Thurman (01:16:52):
It’s called Bob Thurman, I think, Bob Thurman Podcast. I’ll get a better name, but at the moment, it’s just the Bob Thurman Podcast.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:16:59):
And it’s on iTunes and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Robert Thurman (01:17:01):
Yeah,, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:17:03):
Okay. So,, check it out, and we’ll be talking about all these other issues-

Robert Thurman (01:17:08):
We will.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:17:10):
… and I’m just so happy to have this conversation.

Robert Thurman (01:17:10):
Me too.

Dr. Mark Hyman (01:17:11):
You’ve been listening to The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you loved this conversation, please share with your friends and family, leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Robert Thurman (01:17:25):

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