Richard Gere Is 'Always Watching the Mind'

The Buddhist actor talks to Beliefnet about Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and how his life is infused with mindfulness.

Richard Gere At this point, the iconic actor is probably as well known for his Buddhist activism as for his award-winning film roles. That's a huge boon to Tibetans and their compassionate practice exemplified by the Dalai Lama. His advocacy for a Tibet with freedom of religion has led Gere to become chairman of the board of directors for the International Campaign for Tibet, founder of the Gere Foundation, and a co-creator of the Tibet House.

Now he opens up to Beliefnet about his meditation practice, what we should do about the Olympics in China and his heartbreak at seeing the "compassionate, forgiving, patient" monks of Tibet "lose their center" and resort to violence in recent protests.

What’s your overall impression of what’s going on right now in Tibet?

What makes me the saddest about this is to see Tibetans so pushed up against the wall that violence is the only recourse. It’s very rare. This is not a place that they very easily go to, so one can assume that it’s that bad for them that they’ve started to lose their center as compassionate, forgiving, patient people. And it’s certainly not everyone there, but, clearly it looks like some people lost it.

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How does that jell with the basic tenets of Buddhism?

Well, you’ve got to understand that the difference between Tibetans inside of Tibet who’ve been living under this very oppressive system, [is that] they’ve been totally marginalized for now almost 60 years. They’re very different emotionally. Their nervous systems are different than the ones who’ve grown up in exile. They’re very different people than you see in Dharamsala.

In what way?

Well, they’re depressed, they’re angry, they’re afraid, they’re hopeless in many ways. They seem to have lost a basic equanimity that is part of what we know of as Tibetans and we come in contact with outside of Tibet. The kind of mental illnesses and violence that’s emerging in Tibetans in Tibet is really unheard of. This is one of the saddest things.

And I would think even for the Chinese to see that Tibetans are left with this only avenue to express themselves, it's got to tell them that they have done something wrong. Their policies have been wholly destructive to the Tibetan mind and heart.

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