Richard Gere on finding his way to Buddhism.

Most of the people who would recognize Richard Gere’s face due to his many memorable movie roles probably don’t know that the actor is a practicing Buddhist.

Gere was always interested in philosophy in school, when he was introduced to the Western philosopher, Bishop Berkeley and his subjective idealism. He also was taken by the existentialists, carrying around a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, reports Lion’s Roar.

Being and Nothingness -Philosophical Library 1956

Being and Nothingness -Philosophical Library 1956

The Buddhist dharma came to his attention in his twenties, a time when he was unhappy and searching, asking questions like, “Why anything?” He discovered Walter Evans-Wentz’s Tibetan Buddhism work in late-night bookshops. He couldn’t get enough.

The biggest takeaway for Gere was that he didn’t have to escape to find happiness, that he could “live here and be free at the same time.” It wasn’t the idea of nothingness that he was after, but the more positive notion of emptiness.

He was definitely on the path to Tibetan Buddhism at this point, but first learned the tradition of Zen from Sasaki Roshi. Gere learned that Zen is not some magical, romantic adventure, but instead it is hard work. This was a very important realization for him.

Even though Gere was eager to learn internally, he was “cocky and insecure” on the surface, which made it difficult for him to work and practice. But he improved, and after five or six years of Zen practice, he met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India. The Dalai Lama asked him about acting, and laughed hysterically when Gere told him that it was best when he truly felt the emotions he was trying to portray. His Holiness was “laughing at the idea that [Gere] would believe emotions are real.”

It was after this lesson that Gere realized he was supposed to work and learn in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Since, Gere has learned from both the Gelugpa school and Dzogchen school of Tibetan Buddhism, learning from many teachers, including the Dalai Lama, about the Great Perfection, the non-conceptual, and other keys teachings.

Gere suggests Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind to anybody interested in pursuing Zen and Buddhism. He also refers many people to Kindness, Clarity and Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In addition to his practice, he has also been active in the “Save Tibet” cause.

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