Thubten J. Norbu, the eldest brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was not only a retired Indiana University professor but was an ambassador for Tibet and human rights around the world.We lost a great role model for such a kind, compassionate person, said Jigme Norbu, Norbus son. He was someone that stood up for human rights and stood up for his own country.Norbu, 87, died of natural causes at 3 p.m. Friday at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington.Jigme Norbu said monasteries around the world are praying after his fathers passing. Norbu, also known as Tagster Rinpoche, was an abbot of the Kumbum Monastery in Tibet before he came to the United States in 1959.On Saturday, the Tibetan government in exile shut down its offices as a sign of mourning, said Elliot Sperling, a professor of Central Eurasian Studies and a former student of Norbus. The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center began 49 Days of Prayer on Friday.It was very sad, but at the same time we have a lot of warm remembrances of him, Sperling said. He had a basic love of life which was very Tibetan, which communicated very well.
Norbu was born in Tibet in the Amdo province in 1922. He came to the U.S. in 1959 before Chinas invasion of Tibet to ask the United Statesfor help. In 1965, IU invited him to teach in the Department of Eurolic and Altaic Studies which is now known as the Department of Central Eurasian Studies.
The Department of Central Eurasian Studies is currently a graduate program, but next year it will offer an undergraduate minor. Sperling said Norbu was a popular professor in the program.Undergrads would take his class just because he was a great teacher, Sperling said. The courses that he offered were part of the building blocks of the program.Norbu founded the cultural center, formerly known as the Tibetan Cultural Center.Jigme Norbu said his father developed the center and also had a strong relationship with former Chancellor Herman B. Wells, which helped bring His Holiness the Dalai Lama to IU five times.Jigme said his father was known all across the world because he spent half of his life advocating for Tibets rights.He was always part of independence movements going on all over the world, Jigme Norbu said. He was a big inspiration to the Tibetan people and also to the world. He stood up for peace and was a peace activist.Jigme Norbu also said Norbu stood up for human rights up until the day he died. For example, he always said China violated human rights, a recent issue in the spotlight because of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.Norbu was one of the first people to stand up for Tibets rights and he was an ambassador for Tibet, Jigme Norbu said.He inspired me to continue to advocate Tibets independence, Jigme Norbu said. Its a struggle were not going to give up.A visitation will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jigme Norbu and Sperling said. In lieu of flowers, Norbus family is requesting donations for Gomang/Taktser Fund at the cultural center.