Richard Gere was raised by Methodist parents. His interest in Buddhism began in his twenties. Gere studied Zen Buddhism for five or six years before traveling to Nepal in 1978 with the Brazilian painter, Sylvia Martins where he met many Tibetan monks and lamas. He then met the 14th Dalai Lama in India and became a practicing Buddhist of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism and an active supporter of the Dalai Lama.
Gere is also a persistent advocate for human rights in Tibet; he is a co-founder of the Tibet House, creator of The Gere Foundation, and he is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the International Campaign for Tibet. Because he strongly supports the Tibetan Independence Movement, he is permanently banned from entering the People's Republic of China.