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Richard Gere on Tibet’s Reward of Love


Actor and activist Richard Gere talks about his instructor the Dalai Lama, the nice and cozy coronary heart of the Tibetan folks, and the way humanity can profit from the values of Tibetan tradition.

Photograph by Sonam Zoksang.

Melvin McLeod: How did you first make your connection to the Dalai Lama and the folks of Tibet?

Richard Gere: Properly, it’s a protracted story, as most of those are lengthy tales, however I’ll make it as transient as I can. In my early twenties, I used to be looking out to make sense of myself on this planet. Zen was what captured my creativeness. I used to be a scholar of Zen for a few years and had an everyday observe that got here from that.

After I was in my late twenties, I went to Asia for the primary time. My first movie was on the Cannes Movie Competition, and I took the chance after Cannes to go to India and Nepal. That was the primary time I met Tibetans, in a refugee camp outdoors of Pokhara in Nepal.

I used to be struck by the utter normalcy of His Holiness, and the way rapidly he was in a position to get previous my defenses and my romanticism.

I used to be sort of floored by the expertise. I felt it was otherworldly, however actually it’s not otherworldly. It’s the world. We’re those who’re otherworldly. We reside in a hallucinated view of the world, whereas I noticed that these folks appear to be fully centered on this planet that they inhabit. It was a special feeling than round my Japanese Zen lecturers and fellow college students, as extremely profound to me as Zen was. One thing else was happening there.

Just a few years later, I had a powerful impulse to fulfill His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I didn’t know something in regards to the political scenario—I assumed you could possibly simply go to Tibet and in the event you had been actually fortunate, you bought to fulfill the Dalai Lama. However my buddy John Avedon, who had simply completed his e book In Exile from the Land of Snows, mentioned, look, if you wish to meet the Dalai Lama, he’s not in Tibet anymore. He’s in India.

So I went to Dharamsala. This was within the early eighties. I had met the nice Nyingma instructor Dudjom Rinpoche in New York earlier than that, and was profoundly moved by him. I had some letters of introduction, and finally, after a few weeks throughout the monsoon in Dharamsala, I acquired to see His Holiness.

I noticed him for perhaps half an hour, forty-five minutes, but it surely felt concurrently prefer it was one minute and ten hours, as a result of it was so, so dense. I used to be struck by the utter normalcy of His Holiness, and the way rapidly he was in a position to get previous my defenses and my romanticism. I just about modified my life at that time. I left Dharamsala and went proper on a protracted trek by way of Ladakh and Zanskar. And I’ve been sort of on a trek ever since.

What’s it like having the Dalai Lama of Tibet, the world’s finest recognized Buddhist, one of many nice non secular figures of our time, as your private instructor?

You mentioned you had been going to ask me this, and I began desirous about it and the way I’ve needed to navigate many various relationships with His Holiness. Clearly my favourite relationship is as a scholar of his, a really humble scholar. However I’m additionally an organizer for him. I do political work, I do cultural work with him, we arrange teachings, we do a variety of various things. It’s been sort of a problem to navigate all these several types of relationships with His Holiness and know him from these totally different angles, and I nonetheless stumble as soon as in awhile.

But when anybody goes to a educating by His Holiness, they’ll additionally encounter all these totally different potentialities of tips on how to have interaction his thoughts and his coronary heart. He’s undoubtedly concerned on this planet—he desires the world to be real and peaceable and egalitarian and truthful. He’s concerned with human rights and civil rights and the way we behave towards one another.

However equally—I’d say much more so—as a Buddhist instructor he’s primarily concered with liberation. That’s the objective. And there are two sides of that. You have got relative bodhichitta, compassion, and absolute bodhichitta, knowledge, which you’re engaged on consistently. I’ve by no means seen anybody on this planet, on this time, who is ready to do each so fully because the Dalai Lama—to be concerned on this planet in a rational, sane manner, and likewise be fully transcendent.

The fantastic irony of the scenario is that what we do for others to make them blissful is what is going to make us blissful.

Beginning along with your first expertise of the Tibetan folks within the refugee camp outdoors Pokara, after which by way of your a few years understanding the Dalai Lama, what have you ever seen as crucial worth or lesson the remainder of the world can be taught from His Holiness and Tibetan tradition?

That one of the best ways to navigate the world we reside in, samsara, is thru a way of common accountability. That there’s nobody outdoors of our concern. There’s no factor outdoors of our concern. To the extent that we’re in a position to develop ourselves, we’re liable for the entire universe. As soon as, I used to be actually drained from doing a variety of work in Washington and around the globe, and I mentioned to His Holiness, “Can I cease now?” He replied: “Sure. After I cease.”

After all, he’s a bodhisattva, so he’s not going to cease till each being is liberated, and that feeling has fully saturated Tibetan tradition. You recognize, they didn’t have roads in Tibet as a result of they had been so cautious in regards to the bugs within the floor. Digging for the roads took without end as a result of each spoonful of filth needed to be examined to ensure there have been no bugs who had been going to be damage or killed within the course of.

I imply, that’s deep concern. That’s not faux. You recognize, we’re mainly good folks. We name ourselves good folks. And we care about one another. But it surely’s a reasonably floor accountability we now have. This deep sense that we’re all deeply related and deeply liable for one another is one thing that over the centuries, definitely for the reason that introduction of Buddhism within the seventh century, has saturated Tibetan tradition and life. It’s palpable. You are feeling it.

And based on Buddhist lecturers just like the Dalai Lama, this common concern for the well-being of others isn’t solely the important thing to a cheerful and sustainable society, it’s truly the key to our personal happiness. Which isn’t normally the best way we expect.

Each infrequently I am going again to to reread and rethink the fundamentals of Buddhism. I used to be studying a e book not too long ago by certainly one of my lecturers, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, on the essential issues that we get improper. One mistake is that what we take to be happiness is admittedly simply pleasure. It’s the sugar rush of sensual pleasure, or an imagined sense that if we now have extra money we’re happier or safer, no matter these issues could also be. However these are very floor, short-lived issues we’re all caught up in. The fantastic irony of the scenario is that what we do for others to make them blissful is what is going to make us blissful. Within the fullness manner past time, that’s what is going to make us blissful.

A man stands at a microphone with a sign in the background that reads "National day of action for Tibet."

Photograph by Richard Ellis / Alamy Inventory Photograph

To what extent do you suppose that the values His Holiness teaches and embodies, that you just’ve seen within the Tibetan folks, are a direct reflection of Tibet as a Buddhist tradition, or are there different influences or cultural components at play? Is Tibet an instance to the world of what the values of a Buddhist society can be?

I believe for certain. You see slight variations in method, however all Buddhist cultures have this stuff in frequent. I believe what is exclusive, or significantly particular, is the equal steadiness of knowledge and compassion that’s taught in Tibetan Buddhism. I’ve felt the unimaginable, heat, expansive coronary heart of the Tibetan expertise in nearly all of the Tibetan lecturers that I’ve met. And naturally His Holiness is the top of that.

In Mahayana Buddhism, there are three primary elements of enlightenment, that are personified by three primordial bodhisattvas. Avalokiteshvara is the bodhisattva of compassion, love, and altruism, the infinite craving to take away the struggling of all beings. Manjushri represents the knowledge of all of the buddhas who actually get it—what actuality is, what the character of the self is, what this universe is. That’s Manjushri. And the third one is Vajrapani, who’s the power and energy and talent of all of the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

His Holiness has all of those elements, all of them in spades. I imply, it’s extraordinary. And also you see that in different Tibetan lecturers, and also you see it in Tibetan tradition. The calamity of Tibet, the Tibetan diaspora, has been in our luck as a result of all of those teachings and nice lecturers have been shifting around the globe since 1959. All of my lecturers are in exile. We wouldn’t even have recognized about them if this calamity hadn’t befallen the Tibetan folks. It’s their nice generosity of spirit, even of their calamity, that they’re going to deliver this reality, this excellence, this transcendent knowledge and compassion, to the remainder of the world.

Final happiness is liberation.

They’ve introduced the world the reward of the dharma, significantly the facility of the dharma as taught in Tibet, which hundreds of thousands of individuals around the globe have drawn on in their very own non secular observe. However I believe folks could also be much less conscious of the teachings we will be taught from Tibetan society’s deep dedication to values like peace, nonviolence, and environmental sustainability, issues on which our future relies upon.

Let’s take a look at it by way of the filter of happiness. My buddy Dan Goleman, the psychologist and creator, makes use of the phrase “success” as a result of it really works higher within the Western world. So he talks about success, however in the end what he’s speaking about is happiness, huge H happiness.

Final happiness is liberation. It’s liberation from self-cherishing and the poisons which are a part of self-cherishing. That’s the factor that retains us as people and as societies locked into the violence, the conflicts, and the dearth we really feel in our personal lives and the societies we reside in.

Tibet wasn’t excellent, for certain. They’d unhealthy guys. A Western buddy of mine went to check in a Tibetan monastery, and I requested him what it was like. He began laughing and mentioned, “It’s the identical as in all places. We’ve acquired a bully right here. Each time he passes me within the hallway he sticks his shoulder and elbow in my face.”

So you already know, we’re predominantly, predictably the identical in all places. However the programs that advanced in Tibet weren’t primarily to become profitable. They had been to make bodhisattvas. That’s an enormous distinction. They didn’t have universities the place folks discovered tips on how to become profitable. It was about tips on how to turn out to be a bodhisattva, tips on how to tame the ego, tips on how to broaden the thoughts, tips on how to use these unimaginable methods, that are manner past our psychiatric methods, to go deeper and deeper, ever deeper into thoughts, to take away the entire poisons.

We have now to create the establishments that may enable the values and instance of Tibet’s folks and tradition to proceed.

You might be one of many best-known supporters of the Tibetan folks. You’re employed very exhausting to guard their tradition, help their trigger, and ease their struggling. What are methods the remainder of us can assist if we really acknowledge what the Tibetan folks have suffered, each in exile and inside Tibet, and the nice worth of Tibetan tradition to the world? 

Properly, as His Holiness would say, engaged on your self is in the end one of the best ways you’ll be able to assist the universe. Work by yourself knowledge and your individual compassion. Reduce your individual anger, for certain.

I believe we’re in a singular scenario now through which folks in China are extraordinarily skeptical of the Communist occasion. They’ve fairly a mercantile tradition that’s evolving there proper now. Folks haven’t made as a lot cash as they thought they’d, which had allowed them to selectively not see the human rights abuses and civil rights abuses which were a part of the construction of the Communist occasion management of China. China clearly has an unlimited and unimaginable historical past, together with a Buddhist historical past that’s nonetheless a part of their tradition. However the Communist occasion has actually been systematically destroying all the pieces of worth that has to do with spirit and thoughts.

We on the Worldwide Marketing campaign for Tibet have been very profitable over the past thirty years within the U.S. Congress. I’ve been speaking to folks on either side of the aisle, within the Senate and the Home. We had been not too long ago in a position to get enacted into regulation an important addendum to the Tibet Coverage and Assist Act of 2002 that addresses the succession of the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese language authorities is clearly ready for the present Dalai Lama to die, and so they have varied puppets able to go to fill that vacuum when he does. It’s essential that the worldwide group comes proper out in entrance and says, no, it’s less than the Communist occasion to call the following Dalai Lama. It’s as much as the Tibetan folks to determine who the following Dalai Lama can be, if in actual fact they need one.

That is now official American coverage due to the work we’ve been doing, and hopefully different nations around the globe will take this place. It must be universally acknowledged that it is a decisive level in whether or not Tibetan tradition will survive or not.

With out the Dalai Lama proper now, it’s exhausting to think about that Tibetan tradition as a unity, as a dwelling, respiratory being, would survive. He’s such an outsized, extraordinary determine. It’s actually solely as soon as in lots of centuries that somebody like this comes alongside. We will’t make certain that somebody like this may come once more quickly.

So we now have to create the establishments that may enable the values and instance of Tibet’s folks and tradition to proceed. This unimaginable coronary heart. This unimaginable sense of not solely forgiveness, however a imaginative and prescient of what we is perhaps as people and as societies. This capability to the touch the deepest a part of love and compassion and being. Nonetheless this dream of actuality evolves, we should work to make sure that these concepts and values are central on all ranges of society and are by no means misplaced or forgotten.

Richard Gere, thanks very a lot for becoming a member of us. I need to thanks in your heartfelt help for the Tibetan folks, and for the great dharma you have got supplied us. 

Thanks, Melvin. I’ve had good lecturers. Take care.

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