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{COLD} WAR & PEACE - Robert Thurman And David Urubshurow

Event Details

Robert Thurman and David Urubshurow 
Talk & Discussion 
Tibet House US gallery 
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 At 07:00 PM  
General:$25 / Members:$22.5 
Wednesday, December 5; 7-8:30PM 

About the Event


To commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Tibetan Buddhism’s establishment in America, Tibet House, US, will host a talk by Robert Thurman and David Urubshurow titled:


In November of 1952, eleven months after emigrating to the United States, a tiny band of Mongols from Russia (the Kalmyks) consecrated a temple/worship center and became the first congregation of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners in America. They had overcome racial barriers to immigration and settled in central New Jersey thanks to the creative efforts of Alexandra Tolstoy, youngest daughter of the author, Leo Tolstoy. Optimistically they named their modest temple and surrounding compound “Rashi Gempil Ling,” and prayed that it would indeed be a “Sanctuary for the Increase of Auspiciousness and Virtue.” Kalmyks had been on the lam from their dreaded Soviet nemesis for nearly seven years after World War II when fortune intervened and gave them an opportunity for refuge in America. They had no idea that the grounds upon which they celebrated the consecratory rite 60 years ago, and the sangha the congregants nurtured in their midst, would be the seedbed from which remarkable fruit would soon issue.

The Kalmyks of Freewood Acres, NJ, owed their presence in the bucolic hamlet to an earlier arrival of several dozen Russian Cossack families. Both groups had been recent internees in Displaced Persons (DP) Camps of Austria and Bavaria. Each group was brought to America through the efforts of Alexandra Tolstoy. Both the Mongols and the Cossacks shared a checkered history in their now-abandoned homeland. Each micro-community harbored individual and communal secrets stemming from past anti-Communist activities. Most importantly, they shared a common Russian language. It was a good fit despite each group’s preternaturally martial instincts. This improbable pairing created the most demographically unusual community in the country at the time. It also hastened the arrival, in February 1955, of Geshe Ngawang Wangyal.

Tonight’s talk by David Urubshurow, one of the members of that original Kalmyk enclave and the first of Geshe Wangyal’s many disciples in America, will discuss how the Kalmyks came to America and recall what it was like growing up in Freewood Acres both before and after Geshe-la’s arrival.  David will also explain how that arrival impacted the subsequent growth in the academic study of Buddhism in America and contributed to the successful escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959; a pivotal moment in Tibetan Buddhism’s global development and acceptance.  Using personal recollections, newspaper accounts, published books and film documentaries, Urubshurow will detail how the Mongol invasion of New Jersey in 1952 brought the Dalai Lama to America in 1979. 

Wednesday, December 5; 7-8:30PM
General:$25 / Members:$22.5    click here to register



Robert ThurmanRobert A.F. Thurman, Ph.D. is a professor on Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, resident of Tibet House US, the translator of many philosophical treatises and sutras, and author of numerous books. Visit www.bobthurman.com 












David Urubshurow

davidThree weeks after Geshe Wangyal’s arrival to Freewood Acres, NJ in February 1955, seven-year-old David Urubshurow became his first disciple in America. Despite David’s derailing from the “clerical” track relatively early in their relationship, Geshe Wangyal was kind enough to continue as David’s lama (Mong. baksha) until his death in 1983. From that long association and even longer membership in the first congregation of Tibetan Buddhists to settle in America in the winter of 1951-52, David has had a unique vantage point from which to view the subsequent acceptance of Tibetan Buddhist intellectual and cultural traditions by a broad spectrum of America, and the world.

In 1967, Geshe-la appointed Urubshurow a Trustee of his Lamaist Buddhist Monastery of America (LBMA) and David continues to serve in that capacity for its successor, the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center (TBLC) in Washington, NJ.  David graduated from Monmouth College (now, University), West Long Branch, NJ, in 1971 and Antioch School of Law, Washington, DC, in 1980.  Urubshurow served on the founding Boards of the International Campaign for Tibet and the Institute for Asian Democracy. He is a co-founder of the US-Mongolia Business Council (now, North America-Mongolia Business Council) and served as a Special Advisor to the Mongolian Government from 1990 to 1993.  He is currently working on a book, {Cold} War & Peace: How the Mongol Invasion of New Jersey Brought the Dalai Lama to America, from which parts of his talk tonight originate.

David is married to Victoria Kennick Urubshurow, author and Collegiate Professor of Humanities, University of Maryland University College. Their daughter, Delghi, is a 2010 graduate of Columbia University and their son, Donzen, attends Montgomery College near their home in the suburbs of Washington, DC.


About the Presenter

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