Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well by Robert Thurman.


By Phil Catalfo  |  

Riverhead.
Renowned buddhist scholar and much-published author Robert Thurman has crafted what is surely his most accessible book to date. It is also his most pertinent, as it examines key Buddhist teachings in the context of the challenges faced by anyone trying to attain true happiness in contemporary society.

Noting that the Buddha “invited us to join a lifelong blissful vacation from our domineering selves,” Thurman sets out to explore the nature of reality as understood by various established worldviews—among them enlightened theism, secular humanism, nihilistic materialism, and spiritualistic absolutism—before asking readers to transform their concept of reality. “I am calling on you to deepen your natural insight,” he writes. “I am empowering your plain common sense.”

Thurman proceeds to devote a chapter to each of the seven key virtues—wisdom, generosity, justice, patience, creativity, contemplation, and “the art of infinite living”—that derive from this confluence of natural insight and common sense. He visits thorny concepts such as selflessness and leads the reader past preconceptions about notions such as “boundless giving” to an authentic, vivid understanding of how we might live according to these virtues. These chapters also include passages that provide a contemplative practice to support the virtue being discussed.

The varied material Thurman brings to his task—traditional Buddhist teaching tales, movie characters, personal anecdotes, news stories—roots the reader’s unfolding understanding both in the ancient lineage of the Buddha and the modern world, subtly showing how the former applies exquisitely to the latter. Infinite Life is a welcome addition to the modern literature of enlightened living by one of its foremost proponents.