Blame it on the high-stress levels associated with the TV industry or simply matters of faith, but an increasing number of telly stars are now finding solace in Buddhism. Indeed, Buddhism has made an indelible mark on popular Western culture. In recent times it has been blessed by celebrity endorsement from the likes of Orlando Bloom, Richard Gere and the retiring rugby union star Jonny Wilkinson, to name just a few.
Actress Shivani Gossain (from Love U Zindagi) who was introduced to the faith by Shweta Tiwari (Indian film and television actress), however, feels that turning to Buddhism has more to do with self, than handling professional stress. “Buddhism is a way of life. Instead of blaming karma or situations or other people, it has taught me to take the responsibility of my own actions and create positivity in my own life. It’s all about seeking happiness within,” she says. In fact, it is because of the fact that it is practical rather than being preachy, that it has helped her immensely, she explains. “It definitely helps me tackle the stress and the high pressure industry better,” adds Shivani.
Here are the 10 of Hollywood celebrities who have been interested in Buddhism.
Tiger Woods, the famous golfer states that the Buddhist principles played a pivotal role in his recovery. Woods says that Buddhism teaches craving for things outside us causes unhappiness and pointless search for security. It instructs us to stop following every impulse and learn to restrain. Woods claims that he practiced his faith from childhood but drifted away from it in recent years.
His role of Siddhartha in Little Buddha (1993) may have led the actor to embrace Buddhism. Reeves has cited tremendous interest in the teachings of the religion. In a video series called, “Discovering Buddhism”, the actor states, “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.”
The famous “Kill Bill” actress, Uma Thurman’s dad, Robert Thurman, brought her up as a Buddhist. Her father was the first westerner to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Uma calls herself an agnostic and regrets that her father did not give her a formal religious upbringing. Her name finds its origin from the Tibetan name, “Dbuma Chenpo” which means the great middle way. Uma quotes, “it’s more my religion than any other because I was brought up with it in an intellectual and spiritual environment. My father didn’t impose his religion on us as children. To the point that maybe it would have been nice to have a little more—something to rebel against.”
Richard Gere has actively supported the human rights in Tibet. He is often seen with the Dalai Lama. Gere first studied Zen Buddhism under Kyozan Joshu Sasaki. The actor’s interest in Buddhism grew when he traveled to Nepal when he was 29 and later met the Dalai Lama in India. He often visits Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India.
The famous Basic Instinct actress Sharon Stone converted to Tibetan Buddhism. She believes in God and is an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church. She was a member of the Church of Scientology in the 1990s until Richard Gere introduced her to the Dalai Lama.
The former ‘Friends’ star has been inspired to embrace spirituality by her friend Demi Moore and as well as learning more about Buddhism she is also exploring Kabbalah.
A source told the latest issue of America’s OK! magazine: ”As Jen gets older, she feels she’s benefit from guidance. She’s been talking to friends and has been interested in learning more about several religions, including Buddhism.”
The famous actress was raised Jewish. However, the family also practiced Buddhism. The Buddhist influence in her life was her mother, Goldie Hawn. The Reluctant Fundamentalist star then embraced Buddhism by following the various teachings of the religion. Hudson was dating Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriquez who was reportedly “flirting” with Buddhism. Hudson would carry her Buddhist prayer beads to Yankee games, and the team won the World Series in 2009.
The acclaimed star of The Lord of the Rings and the Pirates of the Caribbean embraced Buddhism in 2004. He became a full member of the Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist association affiliated with the teachings of Nichiren. When he was dating actress Kate Bosworth, also a Buddhist, they built a Buddhist altar at their London home. In fact, they were planning to construct a retreat in Malibu, California.
According to Bloom, “The philosophies behind Buddhism are very current today and are a way of finding some peace.” He stresses that Nichiren practice is practical in approach. Bloom says that “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.”
Angelina Jolie’s views on Buddhism are more centered around her son Maddox. Maddox Chivan is a Cambodian orphan who found a new family in the Brangelina household. Jolie regards Buddhism as an essential part of Maddox’s heritage.
Soon, after Maddox was adopted, Angelina got a tattoo of a Buddhist prayer in Khmer script on her body. The actress does not necessarily believe in God, but Buddhism is certainly an important part of her home.
Brad Pitt along with Angelina Jolie has been seen frequenting Buddhist temples for their adopted Cambodian child Maddox. Jolie and Pitt ensure that Maddox gets his Buddhist lessons regularly.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Jewish-raised Sarah Jessica Parker had made many headlines for being a Jew-Bu (a term used for a combination of Buddhist philosophy with Hebrew teachings).
The acclaimed Under Siege star has been studying Buddhism since he was a boy. In 1997, Tibetan lama Penor Rinpoche declared the actor to be a reincarnated lama or tulku (the sacred vessel of Tibetan Buddhism) which aroused controversy in the American Buddhist community. Following this, Seagal bought his Buddhahood by donations to Penor’s Buddhist center. Seagal quotes, “I was born very different, clairvoyant and a healer.”
Buddhism has influenced not only the celebrities of West but also some of the renowned Bollywood actors.
Many women undergo baby blues and severe postpartum depression. However, there are very few who manage to overcome this phase of life. Famous telly actress Shweta Kawatra is one such person who found solace in Buddhism while going through this phase of her life. Shweta says, “Practicing Buddhism helped me a lot; I would chant whenever I felt I needed strength. I was able to elevate my living conditions and balance everything at one time and be happy.”
Actress Shivani Gossain of the Love U Zindagi fame was introduced to Buddhism by fellow actress Shweta Kawatra. Buddhism helped Shivani in coping with professional stress. According to Shivani, “Buddhism is a way of life. Instead of blaming karma or situations or other people, it has taught me to take the responsibility for my actions and create positivity in my own life. It’s all about seeking happiness within.”
Barkha Madan, a famous TV personality and Bollywood actress has given up her acting career and is leading the life of a Buddhist monk. Despite tremendous success in her career, Barkha felt a constant restlessness and niggling questions about the purpose of her life.
The former Miss India 1994 finalist asked Lama Zopa Rinpoche if she could turn into a nun. Initially, Lama Zopa Rinpoche refused and told her that joining the monastic order isn’t about escapism. Later in 2012, she went to a monastery in Kathmandu, again asking to accede to the Buddhist monastic order. Today, she owns just two sets of robes, some woolens to ward off the chill and a pair of flip-flops. She claims to be first Indian nun from the non-Himalayan region.
After Vedic, Christianity, Hinduism, Kabbalah and Scientology, Tibetan Buddhism is one of the most popular religions among the celebs.