Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Uma Thurman got off lightly. Her brothers are called Ganden, Dechen and Mipam'

 

Share
Related Topics

Who knew that Uma Thurman's father was the first Westerner ever to become a Buddhist monk? He popularised the faith in the US long before Richard Gere leapt aboard the saffron bandwagon.

In 1961, aged 20 and already married to an art-collecting oil heiress, Robert Thurman lost an eye while changing a tyre. Seeing this as a fork in the road of life, he decided not to waste another moment "drinking champagne and staring at Rouaults". He dropped out of Harvard, left his first wife and daughter ("I was very sad about that, but what's the point, even as a father, in not being enlightened?"), and took himself with "an empty socket, long hair and a scraggly beard" for a five-year journey of self-discovery.

In India he met and studied under Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, who ordained Thurman a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. On returning to America in 1967 with a shaved head, the vow of celibacy proved too much. Robert binned his maroon robe, bought a glass eye, and married the ex-wife of Timothy Leary, the guru of psychedelic druggery. It doesn't get any more Sixties than that.

As a tall, gangly adolescent suffering body dysmorphia in suburban Massachusetts, Uma was teased about her name (that of a Hindu goddess of light), though in truth she got off lightly. Her three younger brothers are Ganden, Dechen and Mipam.

Although she is not devout herself, the Buddhist upbringing and regular visits from the Dalai Lama to the family home in India clearly rubbed off on her. Thurman has always studiously avoided roles in movies which glamorise violence, such as Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill.

These days, Robert is the Je Tsongkhapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. He also runs the charity, Tibet House, which he set up with Gere at the Dalai's bidding to protect the country's culture and heritage, and hosts pro-Tibet events at which he thanks performers such as Michael Stipe and Emmylou Harris for "putting a shield of poetry around the heart of a suffering people".

Uma, meanwhile, has never forgotten the pain of being taunted for her unusual names (the middle one is Karuna). Her eight-month-old daughter, by her partner, Arpad Busson, is Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all