Richard Gere: Giving back through Zen

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By Harlton Fitzherbert–

[dropcaps]W[/dropcaps]hen one imagines a Buddhist lifestyle, they might think of a mountainous temple filled with rows of silent monks in deep prayer. But what does it look like when a Buddhist happens to be a famous Hollywood star that has a luxurious house in the Hamptons?

To find out, one only has to take a look at the dynamic life of Richard Gere, who has recently been reunited with the Dalai Lama amidst his busy career and activism. To understand the purpose behind such effort in his life, one must take into account Gere’s religious perspective.

Richard Gere began acting in 1971 in Seattle in a Hamlet spinoff called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. From there, he took a more major role in the London adaption of Grease. During this time, his interest in Buddhism began and he began to study under a Japanese Rinzai Zen teacher in Los Angeles. After the 1977 release of his Hollywood role in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, he decided it was time to visit Nepal in his journey to explore Buddhism.

With his initial visit to Nepal in 1978 he first met with the Dalai Lama, and Gere’s interest in achieving humanitarian goals truly began. While his curiosity in Buddhism rose, so did his reputation in acting. He gained increasingly prominent roles until making it to Hollywood and starring in well-known movies such as An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, Chicago, Arbitrage, and Days of Heaven. Not all of his films were successful, but he did well in the long run.

Apart from his career in acting, Richard Gere is known for his philanthropic organization that has provided numerous grants for recipients in distress. Despite his stardom, Gere stays true to his Buddhist roots and remains actively involved in the political movement to free Tibet, and utilizes The Gere Foundation to help the political refugees, children, and student of Tibet. The Gere Foundation states:

“As a small grant giving organization, the Gere Foundation awards grants to groups that are dedicated to the cultural preservation of Tibet and the Tibetan people; dedicated to providing HIV/AIDS care, research and treatment and to those organizations addressing human rights violations throughout the world. The Gere Foundation contributes directly to The Tibet Fund, supporting His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community-in-exile.”

Even to this day, Richard Gere frequently reaches out and helps the Dalai Lama in his efforts, most recently meeting him in the Sydney airport to give support for the “Ocean of Wisdom” tour that happened from June 4th to June 15th of this year.

Even if one has never heard of Buddhism, explaining all this involvement is as simple as visiting Richard Gere’s website where he quotes Shantideva, (a Buddhist monk from India in the 8th century) “All the suffering in the world arises out of wanting happiness for self. All happiness in the world arises out of wanting happiness for others.” The primary purpose of Buddhism is the cessation of suffering though peace.

Despite all the privileges that come along with the dazzling life of a Hollywood star, Richard Gere still sees “desiring happiness for others” as the way to peace within himself. Richard Gere’s life as an actor, although ultimately successful, never deterred him from focusing on his faith.

No matter the career path people choose, the desire to help others is something that we all can act upon.


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