Review Comment

[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

April 17, 2017

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

This looks like the first review in quite a while... some things are the same, some different. I first wanna say that Indo-Tibetan Buddhism has so far been the greatest class I've taken at Columbia. Thurman totally pulls the rug out from under traditional Western thought while simultaneously showing how entrenched we are in it... this comes up in his book "Inner Revolution" which you read all throughout the semester. It's a unique course for a number of reasons, beginning with how Thurman doesn't treat the subject matter as some bs theoretical thought experiment, but truly believes what he says. That goes further than might be obvious. His personal connection to the material gives it real depth, and if you're engaged in it you may find that it can... dare I say... make your life more meaningful. No class I've taken so far has been more influential to my everyday thinking, and taking it during the election of 2016 was especially profound... i know i wasn't the only one who found those two days a week the most inspiring.

Thurman's a badass, super funny and self-deprecating, very quotable, very famous, definitely prone to tangents (which almost always DO relate and come back to the material), very political, and seriously knowledgeable. Sometimes doesn't give thorough explanations of the Sanskrit terms, but very thorough explanations of esoteric buddhist concepts, many of which he's made iconoclastic interpretations of, if that's your thing. Unlike some of the previous reviews, I only remember a few days when he read through the readings in class and it was super boring. He only missed two classes, and he did read our discussion posts.

The class focuses mostly on the origins of Buddhism in India and the later advent of Mahayana Buddhism, then pivots to Tibet for the last few weeks, ending in current Tibetan religious/cultural affairs.

It may not be for everyone, especially if you want something very technical or you think politics (or film) has no place in class. The technical is in the reading. Discussion section was kind of a bust. But Prof. Thurman's my man

Workload:

Apart from reading, just about none. 200-300 pages a week, but not necessary to read it all. Focus on primary texts and "Inner Revolution". Optional 10-page research paper, very manageable midterm and final, and weekly discussion posts.

December 10, 2009

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

so i was kind of apprehensive about taking this class, after reading some of the below reviews. but i have to disagree with many of the negative remarks. i think he's gotten a bit more organized in his lectures, and there is indeed a structure to the class. yes, he goes on tangents, and yes, sometimes he's a little boring. but i think the positives outweigh the negatives. i learned a LOT about buddhism, which i knew literally almost nothing about before. additionally, i also learned much about thinking about religion, which i appreciated, not being religious myself. i enjoyed taking a class with such an academic celebrity (it's quite something when your professor talks about his personal conversations with the dalai lama; which he's quite pleased with, but irregardless...). thurman can be incredibly funny in class (intentionally or not) and has some funny stories to tell (but because he is self-proclaimed "senile" he often repeats them). i enjoyed his lectures, learned a lot, and would recommend taking this course with him. my only real complaint was that he didn't write some sanskrit terms on the board, and often talked fast about some things without pausing to let us catch up.

and he didn't miss all that many classes, only four i think. it's understandable that he has obligations, and because there were four TAs for the class, it seemed like it was also an opportunity for them to practice lecture. i've had professors who skipped more than that, so some of the reviews about his checking out because he thinks he's above lecturing undergrads, whatever, isn't all that accurate (at least anymore).

Workload:

you can't possibly do ALL of the readings. i mainly read the primary sources, thurman's book inner revolution (if i had time), and the intro book. weekly course postings that you either need to spend time on or not depending on the TA, a midterm that required more time than given (and graded either easy or hard again depending on the TA), and a final research paper on a topic of your own choice. all doable.

January 18, 2007

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class can be a complete waste of time if you want it to be. Maybe there is some truth to the fact that there is something of value to be learned from Thurman's brilliance, but it is obscured by the lack of structure in the class. Unless you are really interested in THOROUGHLY doing ALL of the readings and willing to listen to his random lectures, I wouldn't recommend this class. Easy grading, though.

Workload:

A lot of reading (easily can be not done), a midterm ( really easily graded if you get an TA), final paper. 1 hr a week discussion groups, and class attendance is factored in.

August 16, 2006

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If a professor polarizes students into two camps, they he is leaving a significant portion of the student body disaffected and alienated -not exactly the hallmark of a good instructor. Similarly, a "tangential" approach to "esoteric" material is hardly encouraging. Poorly construed thoughts aside, Thurman is, I think, a pathetic windbag who uses his academic position to expound on a number of themes pertaining to politics and mass culture, using eastern religion as a vehicle. He did not seem to me truly interested in explaining Buddhist philosophy in any comprehensible way. The class is large, the lectures bad, and the TAs mildly useful. Oh, and Big Bob will likely be absent a lot because of other commitments. Don't believe for a second that your tuition obligates him to be present for your education.

If you want a quick three credits, take this course. You won't learn a great deal, but it will be only mildly irritating. I pulled an 'A' and didn't break a sweat.

Workload:

Listening to a lot of verbal diarhea, outside readings you can skip, mid-term, final, and a short essay that will be read by the great American buddhist himself.

December 17, 2005

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If an instructor can polarize students into 2 diametrically opposed camps, he must be doing something right. I personally feel that the class was awesome. This being said, I can fully understand the frustration of others with whom I talk about this class. Thurman does not think a linear fashion. The thought process of the class itself is tangential to say the least. If you can get past that, the result is rewarding as you glean very real insight into a culture that you may not know so much about.

Thurman is truly a character. Regardless of your politics (and he is very left of center) the discussions are humorous when they pertian to the modern state of affairs. He has attained expertise in the field and it shows in every lecture. He literally "wrote the book" so to speak.

The subject matter is exceedingly esoteric. Western thought does not encompass all that is taught in the class. Quite a bit of mental gymnastics are required to understand the concepts particularly in the latter half of the semester.

The second half of the semester is largely for naught.
There is no final per se but only a final paper.

If you do all the reading (no easy task) and are attentive in lecture, the midterm is no problem. Time management is crucial during it but the end result is generally positive if one focuses on what was learned.

The final paper, much like all other aspects of the class, is poorly defined. This is part of its charm though and you are able to write on anything you desire so as it pertains to Buddhism and Buddhist culture.

Anybody interested in the study of religion would enjoy this class. So too would those interested in Eastern philosophy. If you are taking this class for reasons of conversion rethink it. The class is sterile and academic and is not intended to be an impetus for conversion. The class is 100+ students, even at the end of the semester, effectively precluding the ability to meet people. Good class all around.

Workload:

Very heavy reading (200-400 pp. a week... I managed to do it all... not true of all); attend class, you might not think so but it helps during the midterm; final paper of considerable length... all are manageable

January 18, 2005

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

this class is a waste of time. i know that a lot of people found thurman to be a wonderful and engaging human being, but his is a worthless lecturer, at least at the intro level. i know nothing more about buddhism than i did when i enrolled in the class, and it is entirely unnecessary to do the readings or even to attend class, unless you like to hear him ramble. He is certainly an interesting man and has lots of well informed, educated views on a wide variety of subjects, but only once in a blue moon did they have anything to do with buddhism, and apparently there were no blue moons last semester.
Good class to take if you need a filler with no work and don't plan to attend, or I guess you could just throw a lump of tuition money away directly and save yourself the hassle.

January 17, 2005

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Disregard all the negative reviews of Professor Thurman. He is a gem and I am really grateful to have been able to study under him. His teaching style is Buddhist in itself: each of us is reponsible for our own education and intellectual and spiritual growth, and exams don't do you any good. Each student benefits from just being around someone as extraordinary as Prof. Thurman. His open-minded and often radical opinions of our contemporary society and of western history really make you re-think many aspects of your life. He is spontaneous, funny and funny. Take this class, you'll love him.

Workload:

Very easy midterm, final paper graded very leniently (if at all). You do as much reading as you desire.

January 09, 2005

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Thurman is a hilarious guy. No doubts. Anyone who loves I heart Huckabees has got to at least drop in on a class with him. If you'd like to take a class where you sit in on a ramble-session on buddhism with a funny professor who has no end of buddha-lessons and bush-wacking, go for it. If you are interested in getting any historical, cultural or ideological perspective on the indo-tibetan tradition, skip it, because you won't get what you're searching for. I took Introduction to Asian Religions first semester of my freshman year, and I gained little to nothing tangible to add to my knowledge of Buddhism from Thurman's class. I wanted to get some kind of a history of the religion, or at least an interesting exploration of its syncretism with other traditions, but all I got was some funny quotes in my notebook.

Workload:

In-class midterm exam (short answers), one final paper (7-9 pages), and weekly postings in response to the readings (this last is total bs but extremely annoying).

January 04, 2005

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Thurman is amazing! He is brilliant, and there is no other way to describe him. The class was extremely interesting and eye-opening. True, he gets easily distracted by his own point of view, but that's the best part of the class! He's wickedly funny, especially if you enjoy liberal rants. But because he's so brilliant, his opinion actually makes sense. Plus he's a genius in the field and can explain things with knowledge that no one else has. Who else can tell you what the Dalai Lama says in private?! As long as you do some of the readings, you can follow what he's teaching in class, although you don't actually learn much information from him. Although i highly recommend reading Inner Revolution, which he wrote. That book is genius. Professor Yarnell was more helpful with the nitty-gritty and when you had questions about details. But the lectures are the best part of the class, despite their frequent lack of content, because they are just so entertaining!

Workload:

Weekly postings on courseworks. Don't have to read that much to post or understand the lecture. Midterm. Final paper, 6-9 pages, on any topic.

December 31, 2004

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

ok, so the man is very very cool. go to lecture.. that's what youre in school for.

Workload:

books are expensive... Thurman's inner Revolution is interesting and relatable.. read the preface

December 20, 2004

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Well, it's true: he is unorganized, the books are expensive, and it is confusing. But I still loved it. I liked the subject, I liked his lectures and I had fun. Everyone was a little worried about the lack of organization. But when you finally relax, the class can be really interesting.

Workload:

Midterm, final paper, weekly postings.
Nobody should stress out too much about the postings. The Midterm is a little nerve-racking because you have to understand alot of philosophical concepts. Be prepared to have a really interesting final paper because he'll be reading a lot of them. (It could be about anything you've learned)

November 08, 2004

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

While I am a huge fan of Professor Thurman, and find his lectures entertaining, and occasionally inspiring, if I could do it over again I would not have taken the class. I know a lot of people love the class, I just want to give an opposing view. If you're the type of person that finds yourself asking "okay. so what?" in classes, who wants to learn useful material, this probably isn't the class for you. I was hoping for more of Buddhist theory that might be applied to everyday life and how Buddhism functions today rather than a painstaking account of every detail of Buddhist history which I found extremely boring. Silly me. If you're charmed by Professor Thurman's irreverance and humor, don't be fooled. The required reading list is also absurd. I must have spent over $350 for this one class.

Workload:

Weekly postings on the 100-350 pages of sort-of required readings, one mid-term, one final paper 9-12 pages.

May 10, 2002

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If you want a solid introduction to Indian Religions, take Professor McDermott. Then, if you want more, you can take Thurman, who will elaborate on certain aspects of Buddhism. By taking McDermott first, Thurman's lack of context and structure will be mitigated, and you'll be able to appreciate what he does say when he actually decides to teach.

February 13, 2002

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

The previous reviewer nailed it - this class is overrated. Obviously Thurman knows his stuff and is very articulate, whenever he happens to get around to discussing the topic. Nearly half of the class time is spent answering students questions (yawn) and a great chunk is devoted to Thurman's political/social/spiritual/anti-capitalistic diatribes du jour. Sure he has cool friends and is very entertaining and *enlightening* (if you've had your head under a rock for the past decade) but learning about Buddhism??! you're on your own kid.

Workload:

Midterm, final paper, weekly bulletin board submissions. Lots and lots of books to buy which you rarely discuss thoroughly or even at all. Buy used, borrow, steal, or share.

January 23, 2002

Thurman, Robert
[V2607] Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Let's cut all the hype right now. If you don't have a previous background in Buddhism, Thurman's lectures provide you with no context and are often filled with absolute anti-West drivel and an auto-erotic homage to his ego. Thurman, an incredibly smart thinker, wastes away much of class time on I don't know what, but at the end of the class, I had hardly learned anything. Don't need to do the reading after the midterm.

Workload:

Midterm, final paper on topic of your choice (8-10 pp). Relatively light workload. Midterm is very easy.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
RELI / RELI RELI RELI V2005: Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan Robert Thurman 2012 Fall TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
RELI / RELI RELI RELI V2005: Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan Robert Thurman 2010 Fall TR / 4:10- 5:25 PM 1
RELI / RELI RELI RELI V2005: Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan Robert Thurman 2009 Fall TR / 4:10- 5:20 PM 1
RELI / RELI RELI RELI V2005: Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan Thomas Yarnall 2008 Fall TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1