Ancient in the east and flourishing in the west, Buddhism is an increasingly popular philosophical outlook. Without defining too closely a doctrine that doesn’t keep up with science or social progress, it allows people access to spirituality on a less constricting level than many leading religions.
LGBT and nerd icon George Takei was born into a Buddhist family, found comfort in Buddhism’s lack of statement on LGBT people and even had a Buddhist wedding to his partner, Brad. He sees Buddhism as a force for good, as something that brings people together: “We are all part of it, we belong to this vast oneness, and that made a lot of sense for me – that I am really one with everybody, with the whole, and that we can play a part in making that whole healthier and more understanding.”
Tina Turner attributes the strength it took her to leave her abusive husband to her Buddhism. Having practised it for many decades, it has had a huge and positive impact on her life: “I feel at peace with myself. I feel happier than I have ever been, and it is not from material things. Material things make me happy, but I am already happy before I acquire these things. I have a nature within myself now that’s happy.”
Though he doesn’t conform to any particular doctrine, Keanu Reeves considers him a spiritual person with an inclination towards Buddhism. He speaks of its teachings highly: “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.”
In his early adult years, Steve Jobs travelled India, and there he found Buddhism. He returned to America as Zen Buddhism was beginning to flourish there. He continued his meditation practice, encouraged by his country’s willingness to embrace the eastern tradition and it helped him hone the mind that drove Apple. Of his mental process, he said, “If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
Through Buddhism, Orlando Bloom found a practical approach to healthy and positive living, in touch with reality. Having practice since 2004, he says “it’s about studying what is going on in my daily life and using that as fuel to go and live a bigger life.”
For Joanna Lumley, Buddhism is meaningful because of the lessons it primarily teaches. A famously caring and charitable human being, the importance of giving and compassion is what makes the philosophy, for her, so valuable: “I think the Dalai Lama is a hero simply because he emphasises the most essential teaching of Buddhism, which is to be kind, and that is rather an unfashionable subject for world leaders or other religious figures to talk about these days.”
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