Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Buddhist author Professor Robert Thurman during a visit to New York on July 21. Professor Thurman is well known as the first endowed president of Buddhist studies in the West and co-founder of Tibet House US, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture and traditions.
The pair discussed the close connection between Buddhism and India, as well as ways in which Buddhist principles can provide guidance to help resolve international issues. After their talk, Prof Thurman said that India promotes peace through Buddhism. Modi described his meeting with Professor Thurman as a social media post:
The interaction with @BobThurman was outstanding. I admire his passion for research and scholarship on aspects related to Buddhism. I highlighted India's Buddhist heritage and how Buddhism can help overcome many challenges facing our world.
Professor Thurman began his academic studies of Buddhism at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Harvard University, where he studied a variety of Dharma-related topics including Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism and the Asian languages. He also practiced and studied with several Buddhist teachers, the most famous of whom is His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Modi also met with other thought leaders, such as writer and university professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who marked the occasion by giving the prime minister his book skin in game as a gift.
Modi described his conversation with Taleb in a social media post:
Professor Taleb has interesting views on many issues and I had the opportunity to hear them on some of these topics. He was very interested in the development progress of India. I emphasized how we encourage entrepreneurship and risk taking among our young people.
Modi also met with US politicians during his visit. He received a solemn welcome at the White House, where President Joe Biden hosted a dinner in his honor. During his visit to Washington, Modi held talks with several members of Congress.
Modi has served as Prime Minister of India since 2014. At the age of 72, he is the first Prime Minister of India to be born after India's independence from British rule. Before becoming Prime Minister, Modi served as Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2014 to 2019.
His tenure was marked by a number of political victories. His party, the Bharatiya Janata, won outright majorities in the 2014 and 2019 elections. Modi's main goal has been to create a government free from corruption and focused on development.
Under his leadership, India set up Ayushman Bharat, a national health program, which covers the poor and neo-middle classes. Modi is also deeply focused on the threat of climate change and spearheaded the formation of a climate change department when he was chief minister of Gujarat. The ministry was solely focused on finding ways to end climate change.
Modi has also spearheaded initiatives to fight climate justice. To this end, he invited government leaders from around the world to India in 2018 to celebrate the birth of the International Solar Alliance, an initiative to use solar energy in creating a better world. The United Nations recognized Modi's efforts to care for the environment by awarding him the United Nations Champions of the Earth award.