Robert Thurman, father of renowned actor Uma Thurman, was a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Thurman studied Buddhism with the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. In 1965, Robert Thurman was ordained to become the first Tibetan Buddhist monk of American origin by the Dalai Lama.

After his ordination he returned to the USA to hold the first esteemed chair in the field of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies as the Je Tsongkhapa Professor at Columbia University, United States.

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