Buddhism has been around for over 2,600 years… one of the oldest religions in the world… However, it is only in the past 20 years that Buddhism has really taken off into mainstream traditionally non-Buddhist countries and is embraced by many people all over the world from all walks of life…
In Asian countries, where Buddhism is much more prevalent, and has existed peacefully for thousands of years is now finally spreading. But it is kept alive by the monastic educated, who spread their influence by teaching and example. Similarly, in America, with the difference that the equivalent ‘celebrity’ class there comprises of movie stars, celebrities, personalities and rock musicians, who promote the message of Buddhism in their movies, music and lifestyles.
These days, we can find Dharma centers, temples and monasteries coming up across the globe. We can even find a Dharma center in your neighbourhood at this day and age. What is really surprising these days, is that you will probably not find as many monks, but lay people in these centers. It is really encouraging to see that many people are realizing that there is more to life than parties, shopping, fun, movies, holidays, etc.
All thanks to the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and great masters like Gaden Tripas, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, Geshe Wangyal, Kensur Lobsang Tharchin, Geshe Rabten, etc etc etc… more and more people are becoming more aware of Buddhism and finding it a suitable way of life and religion. In this way, more and more people will benefit from Buddhist teachings.
Some of the more famous Hollywood Buddhists are as follows:-
In 1993, Reeves played Siddhartha in “Little Buddha”, it is rumoured that this role may have turned the actor onto Buddhism. Being one quarter Chinese in ancestry, it also connects back to his heritage of Buddhism also.
In a video series called, “Discovering Buddhism”, Reeves said: “There is a profound power that is awakened in us by contemplating impermanence and death. We are inspired to practice the dharma in everything we do and not to waste another moment of our precious lives.”
President Bill Clinton
Former American president Bill Clinton has taken his exercise regime to spiritual heights – by learning the art of Buddhist meditation to help him relax.
The politician, 65, has recently taken up a healthier life-style including becoming vegan after a string of heart problems over the years.
And in his latest bid to improve his well-being, the Democrat has hired his own personal Buddhist monk to help him learn how to meditate properly.
Radaronline quoted a source as saying: ‘Ever since his heart scare, Bill has looked for ways to help him relax.
‘He has a hectic life, he travels a lot on business as an ambassador for the U.S. and needs something to keep him sane.’
Meditation offers him that, he has a *mantra that he likes to chant and after every session he feels transformed and full of positive energy.
‘It’s definitely doing him the world of good – he feels fitter and stronger than ever.’
In February 2004, Clinton was rushed to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City after complaining of chest pains.
He needed to have two coronary stents implanted in his heart and a few months later in September underwent quadruple bypass surgery.
In 2010 he then had a clogged artery reopened – his second heart op in just five years – and announced he was giving up his diet of American fast food such as burgers, fries and deep-fried chicken to go vegan.
His strict diet consists of lots of fresh vegetables and fruit but he admits he still occasionally eats fish.
Note: Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States.
*Mantras are sacred words as spoken by the Buddha which has vast benefits for the mind and body when chanted consistently. See here: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=28029
Nearly a decade ago, k.d. lang began studying the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism, but the 48-year-old singer says she has been drawn to the practice since childhood. “From a very early age I have considered myself to be a Buddhist. I don’t even know where that came from, it was just an innate feeling,” she said in an interview with the Shambala Sun. “Then the older I got and the more I learned about Buddhism, the more I felt at home with its principles and philosophy.”
Among the most famous Buddhists in Hollywood, Richard Gere has been a very vocal supporter of human rights in Tibet and is often seen in the company of the Dalai Lama. Their first meeting even included a vital acting lesson for Gere: “‘So when you do this acting and you’re angry, are you really angry?’” Gere recalled His Holiness asking. “ ‘When you’re acting sad, are you really sad? When you cry, are you really crying?’ I gave him some kind of actor answer, like it was more effective if you really believed in the emotion that you were portraying. He looked very deeply into my eyes and just started laughing. Hysterically. He was laughing at the idea that I would believe emotions are real, that I would work very hard to believe in anger and hatred and sadness and pain and suffering.”
Richard Gere makes his admiration for the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, well known. Gere periodically retreats to Tibet to brush up on his Buddhism. While there, the actor enjoys a very different existence than he does in Hollywood. According to Gere, he has a simple room and has to share a bathroom. There is a limited supply of water and no television, air conditioning or newspapers. As Gere, explains it, this is his time to relax, to meditate, to release.
In 1964, Uma Thurman’s father, Robert Thurman, became the first Westerner to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Though she is named after “dbuma chenpo” (“the great middle way”) she considers herself to be agnostic and regrets that her father didn’t give her a more formal religious upbringing: “My father didn’t impose his religion on us as children,” the actress has said. “To the point that maybe it would have been nice to have a little more—something to rebel against.”
After trying on Kabbalah with Madonna, Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez was reportedly ‘flirting’ with Buddhism when he was dating Kate Hudson. Though Hudson was raised Jewish—the faith of her mother, Goldie Hawn—the family also practiced Buddhism. Hudson would even bring Buddhist prayer beads to Yankee games, and perhaps it worked: The team won the World Series in 2009.
In a commencement speech to the UC-Berkeley class of 1994, filmmaker Oliver Stone spoke of the importance of his faith in the world. “Buddhism in this country is not really understood; it’s regarded as sort of quaint, it seems to be an old-fashioned religion,” the then 63-year old Stone said. “But it isn’t, really. It’s a very active one and has a place in the modern world.”
Kate Bostworth was introduced to Nicherin Buddhism when she began dating actor Orlando Bloom in 2002. While the couple has since broken up, the 27-year-old Bosworth has described the faith as “just a really incredible state of mind…It’s basically about constantly growing and making yourself a better person and focusing on what you want for yourself and the world and really putting it out there.”
Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has practiced Buddhism since the 1970’s, but it was only after he finished touring for his 1992 album, “The Future”, that he decided to devote himself completely into the faith. The man who wrote “Hallelujah” lived for five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Los Angeles.
Steven Seagal has been studying Buddhism since he was a boy, and in 1997, the action star was declared to be a reincarnated lama, or tulku (a sacred vessel of Tibetan Buddhism). Seagal also served as the American protector of the daughter of the tenth Panchen Lama while she was in college. Seagal had heard she was in danger, so he contacted people in Tibet. “I spoke with my friends there, and they said I was one of the few people who could protect and take care of her…be her father figure, her guardian,” Seagal said. “Try to guide her so that she kept her heritage in the dharma…You’re born naked, you die naked…In between, you should find a spiritual guide.”
Jazz legend Herbie Hancock has been practicing Buddhism, since the early 1970s. He discovered it one night on stage when his bassist started playing something innovative, even ‘magical’. “People were freaking out,” Hancock said of his satori, “it was so incredible what he was playing.” The bass player said he’d been chanting. Hancock was intrigued, and discovered the Buddhist faith lined up with what he’d already believed. “I said, this sounds like what I always believed in anyway. I thought I was the only one.”
Composer Philip Glass was first drawn to Buddhism in the late 1960s. when he travelled to India. In 1972, he met the Dalai Lama and eventually scored the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s film about His Holiness, “Kundun”. Scorsese said of Glass, “His Buddhist faith and deep understanding of Tibetan culture combine with the subtlety of his composition to play an essential role in our movie on the life of the Dalai Lama.”
In 1974, as soon as Steve Jobs earned enough money working for videogame-maker Atari, he travelled to India where a Buddhist monk shaved his head and he began practicing the faith. A few years later, Jobs began studying Zen Buddhism under Kobin Chino who would later officiate at his wedding. While being a billionaire may seem to go against Jobs’ faith, his Zen-like business attitude has certainly paid off when it comes to the religion Jobs founded in 1976: Apple.
All the money in the world, being a powerful CEO, and creating Apple will do nothing to help him at his death now. He is well known and a celebrity will not help him one bit now. Whatever good karma he has will help him take a good rebirth.Many ppl get into the trap like him… experiencing money and challenges for a while, then it’s over. If he had seriously practices dharma even become a zen monk, it would have been more beneficial for him. Om Mani Peme Hung
George Lucas was born and raised in a strongly Methodist family. After inserting religious themes into Star Wars, he eventually come to identify strongly with the Eastern religious philosophies that he studied and incorporated into his movies, which were the major inspiration for the “Force”. Lucas often states that his religion is “Buddhist Methodist”.
Tina Turner often said that Buddhism gave her the strength to leave her abusive husband. She said, “I tested it and it worked.”
Goldie Hawn calls herself Jew-Bu – meaning she was born a Jew, but is practicing Buddhist.
Alanis Morrisette is said to be extremely into Buddhism and has visited India twice.
Miranda Kerr said that Buddhism is “very grounding and really centering”. She was introduced to Buddhism by boyfriend, Orlando Bloom.
Born to a Thai-Chinese-Dutch mother and African-American-Asian father, Tiger Woods has been raised a Buddhist. His family would go to the temple once a year and meditate regularly.
“People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood…” he says.
Woods has long been connected to Buddhism through his Thai mother and has said that his recent actions are extremely regretted, “I felt entitled, which I had never felt before. Consequently, I hurt so many people by my own reckless attitude and behavior. I quit doing all the things that my mum and dad had taught me. And as I said earlier in my statement, I felt entitled, and that is not how I was raised”.
“Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught”.
Many people will recognize him as ‘Sulu’ from the television series Star Trek. George was born in Los Angeles, California to Japanese American parents. He is one of the first regular roles of Asian Americans on American TV. As a young child, he was a member of Boy Scout Troop 379 of the Koyasan Buddhist Temple. George is both a practicing Buddhist and a proponent of gay rights. In 2008, George married his long-time partner in a Buddhist ceremony in Los Angeles.
Boy George says Buddhism has helped him stay sober.
The ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ hitmaker has struggled with drug addiction throughout his life but he claims his recent commitment to the Eastern religion – which aims to end followers’ suffering through the elimination of ignorance and desire – has stopped him from relapsing.
”I went back to Buddhism last year. I messed around with it in the 80s – it was cosmetic then – but I’m really into it now. Chanting is all about polishing your mirror. What do you want to be? I feel like I’m out of chances; people have forgiven me so much, I can’t let them down again.”
“I’m a Buddhist and I am always working everyday bringing forth the best part of myself” – Naima Mora
Naima Mora is a multi-talented performing artist; Musician Vocalist, Author, Model and Public Speaker. Born into a family with strong spiritual values, Naima have been a Buddhist and chanted mantras her whole life.
Naima Mora shared how winning the hit TV show America’s Next Top Model brought on a dark period in her life and how she used her Buddhist practice to recognize the beauty within her life and overcome this difficult period.
The dashing star of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean turned to Buddhist practice because “The philosophies behind it are very current today and are a way of finding some sort of peace,” but also because it helped keep him from the self-destructive path he was always in danger of carving out for himself.
Bloom stresses that his Nichiren practice is very practical: “The philosophy that I’ve embraced isn’t about sitting under a tree and studying my navel, it’s about studying what is going on in my daily life and using that as fuel to go and live a bigger life.”
We wish Orlando well as he swashbuckles his way to Full and Perfect Enlightenment.
H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama
His Holiness is a Buddhist first and celebrity second. He may not croon into a mike or emote on a sound-set, but the Dalai Lama can certainly pack (and wow) an auditorium, and stars like Richard Gere and Keanu Reeves are eager to share the stage with the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism, leader of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
And top marks for length of practice: His Holiness is currently in his 14th documented incarnation as a lama, easily beating our other celebs who have at best only one lifetime of practice each — although admittedly in His Holiness’s sixth incarnation he refused to become a monk and spent much of his time chasing the ladies (ah, those youthful indiscretions!). The Dalai Lama also gets top marks for modesty: His Holiness describes himself as being “a simple Buddhist monk.”
His Holiness says, “Many of our problems stem from attitudes like putting ourselves first at all costs. I know from my own experience that it is possible to change these attitudes and improve the human mind.”
Aung San Suu Kyi
With impeccably non-frivolous credentials we start with nonviolent pro-democracy activist, leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and noted prisoner of conscience, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, Suu Kyi campaigned for the democratization of Burma, which was (and is) under a military dictatorship, and in 1989 she was placed under house arrest. In 1991 Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship. She has been in and out of house arrest since then and has been sustained in her long confinement, during which she was not allowed to meet her dying husband, by her vipassana meditation practice. Commenting on her long isolation, she said “Isolation is not difficult for me. Maybe it’s because of my Buddhist upbringing.”
Born to a Jewish, stockbroker father and a french catholic mother and raised episcopalian, Stone converted to Buddhism in his adulthood. He considers himself a student of Tibetan Buddhism. His conversion began when he volunteered to fight in the Vietnam war and was moved by the practices of the people.
A devoted Tibetan buddhist, Jet Li has written many essays on Buddhism and religion. His website houses these essays and he even answers questions from fans about religion and many spiritual issues. The martial artist was on the verge of quitting acting to become a buddhist monk but was advised to continue with his acting career by his spiritual advisor.
Arguably, the greatest coach of all time, Phil Jackson is a practicing buddhist and uses the teachings in his coaching system. Jackson’s coaching system contains a mixture of American Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism. His style and approach keeps disparate elements of a team working in harmony. He has taught his players the power of calming the chaotic mind to make better decisions.
Sarah Jessica Parker
The obvious reason why people, especially celebs are drawn to Buddhism is for its simple philosophy and focus on spirituality – and Jewish-raised Sarah Jessica Parker has apparently also gone the spiritual way. She had made many headlines for being a Jew-Bu – a term used for people who combine Buddhist philosophy with Hebrew teachings.
Jonathan Peter “Jonny” Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson is an English rugby player. Acknowledged as one of the world’s best rugby union player, he has several career highlights in the rugby sport. Until today, Wilkinson holds the Rugby World Cup points record at 277 points.
Due to the nature of his career, Wilkinson has suffered various injuries throughout his career as a professional Rugby player. With a deep fear of failure and death, Wilkinson began to find solace in Buddhism after relating it to his readings on quantum physics.
“Failing at something is one thing, but Buddhism tells us that it is up to us how we interpret that failure… [Buddhism] a philosophy and way of life that resonates with me… I identify with it. I agree with so much of the sentiment behind it. I enjoy the liberating effect it’s had on me to get back into the game… Buddhism, with its concepts of karma and rebirth, have freed me from the twin fears of death and life without rugby, like life, will also come to an end.” – Jonny Wilkinson
Jim Carrey is a Canadian American actor, comedian and producer, he have been described as one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. Despite being well known as ‘the funny man’ on-screen, Jim Carrey has had many personal struggles including battling his bouts of depression. On the quest to heal himself, Jim Carrey decided to stop his anti-depression medication and searched for the ultimate meaning of life. His search for spirituality is largely inspired by Eckhart Tolle, who’s teachings helped the actor to understand how his suffering came from fixating on thoughts.
In 2009, Jim Carrey shared the spiritual spot light with Eckhart Tolle at the first Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE) meeting in Los Angeles, where he shared his moment of enlightenment. Now a spiritual man, Jim Carrey shares his spiritual breakthrough with as many people as he can, with the motivation “I want to take as many people with me as I can”.
Jim Carrey (left) met with H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama recently in 2014
Other famous Buddhists are:-
- Naomi Watts – British-Australian actress and film producer
- Sting – English singer-songwriter, lead vocalist of The Police
- Harrison Ford
- Steve Wynn – CEO of Wynn Resorts Limited, Las Vegas
- Sharon Stone – Actress
- Hermann Hesse – Noble Prize winning author
- Dennis Weaver – Actor
- Alice Walker – Author (Color Purple and others)
- Adam Yauch – Lead Singer of Beastie Boys
- Joanna Lumley
- Kylie Kwong
- William Ford, Jr. – Chairman of Ford Motor Company
- Belinda Carlisle – Pop Singer
- Cher – Singer
- Faye Wong – Chinese singer
- Patrick Duffy – Actor
- Courtney Love – American singer-songwriter
- Angelina Jolie – American actress, humanist activist, Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency
- Brad Pitt – Actor
- Jennifer Lopez – Singer, Actress
- Jackie Chan – Hong Kong actor, action choreographer, comedian, director, producer, martial artist, screenwriter, entrepreneur, singer, and stunt performer.
- Jeff Bridges – American actor
- Leonard Cohen – Canadian singer/songwriter/poet
- Allen Ginsberg – Poet
- Ron Reagan – Talk show host, son of former US president (Ronald Reagan)
- Russell Simmons – Entertainment and fashion mogul
- Chow Yun-fat – Chinese actor
- Penelope Cruz – Spanish actress and model
- Annie Lennox – Singer
- Michelle Yeoh – Malaysian Actress
Please support us so that we can continue to bring you more Dharma:
If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team