Life, Liberty, and
the Pursuit of Real
by Robert Thurman
Penguin Putnam USA
This book stopped me when I read it – it stopped me because the author, who was the first Western Tibetan Buddhist monk, instilled in me a sudden awe for the
freedom and opportunity we have in America. He opened my eyes to what “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” really means. He makes an elegant and
compelling case for why America is the best place in the world for personal evolution.
Thurman takes the reader on a well-researched,
thoughtful tour of where we are in our personal evolution today. He begins by asking us to think of the concept “modern” in two contexts. For those of us in the west,
the word “modern” immediately elicits thoughts of state-of-the-art technology, current, up-to-date products, the latest goods and services. This he calls
“outer modernity.” He demonstrates in highly readable scholarship how in the west this view of “modern” has limited itself to the secular side of life and excluded the
sacred side of life. He documents what the loss of the sacred has cost the west in wars, materialism and destruction of the planet.
He proposes that another way to understand “modern” is
from the perspective of the sacred. This view, which he calls “inner modernity” is living life with the intent of evolving spiritually and attaining enlightenment. The east,
particularly Tibet, has cultivated inner modernity using Buddhist practices with the same zeal that the west has cultivated outer modernity. This choice to emphasize the
sacred at the expense of the secular also has costs. Tibet has been occupied by the Chinese since 1950. They do not have “modern” conveniences like good roads, communication systems or creature comforts.
The challenge, writes Thurman, is to unite the secular and
the sacred. And there is no better place for this to happen than in America, he says. America, with its emphasis on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
America with its emphasis on individuality. It takes individuals ridding themselves of greed, hatred and delusion for the society to become a place of generosity, tolerance and compassion.
What really is our role as coaches? Do we hold the
aspiration of enlightenment for ourselves? Could we be part of what Thurman calls the “cool revolution” (spiritual awakening) instead of the “hot revolutions” (social
movement expressed through war)? Could we make hatred the enemy rather than others who may be different in some way? Could we commit ourselves to the
alleviation of all suffering? These are grand callings. Those of us who claim the label of “coach,” or who coach ourselves, can begin the transformation Thurman
advocates by pursuing our own enlightenment, and acting in alignment with the values of generosity, tolerance, and compassion. Could we do any greater service to our society than that?
Read this book and see if you aren’t inspired into a greater vision for what your life can be.