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.

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And how has this affected other Buddhists?

This uprising is not the majority of Tibetans, but it’s an indicator of what’s been happening to the Tibetans. And as skilled as they are at transforming pain and suffering into compassion, into love, into patience, there are elements who are lacking the ability in how to do that. It’s gotten that bad.

We know Tibetans that have spent 20 years, 25 years in solitary confinement, tortured almost every day by the Chinese, who have been able to transcend it in some extraordinary way. And they’ve seen the challenge as an incredible vehicle for their own transcendence. It gives them the ability to transcend the last vestiges of ego. But these are extraordinary people who can do that.

The Dalai Lama tells a story about an older monk who escaped Tibet not long ago, and he came to see him in Dharamsala, and he vaguely remembered him from the early ‘50s in one of the large monasteries in Lhasa. And he hadn’t remembered him as being a particularly good monk. An average monk. He started to talk to him about his experiences in Chinese prisons. The monk said, "I was in great danger." And His Holiness was expecting him to tell stories of being tortured. And he asked, "In danger of what? And the monk said, "Danger of becoming angry."

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And at that point, His Holiness knew that it really was an extraordinary monk.

Because in a way that’s the worst thing that a Tibetan monk can do.

When I saw the pictures yesterday of the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa and the group of monks there, you could see the tears and the anxiety in these monks’ faces and in their voices, even--and they were speaking Tibetan and Mandarin. Not even understanding the languages, you certainly could feel this constriction in them, on the edge of hopelessness.

Is there anything that you’re doing differently right now?

I don’t know what any of us would do when we’re being tortured and how we would be able to maintain our vows. The Tibetans have been extraordinary that way. And one of the sad ironies of the situation is that the Tibetans have been very peaceful, and no one, really, has been paying any attention to them. It’s unfortunate that it takes violence to get the kind of news coverage to the situation. It’s truly unfortunate.

But I think for those of us who are capable of still encompassing our vows, the Chinese need our prayers as well. They’re acting out of ignorance and causing tremendous problems for their future and future lives. We have to be mindful of them.

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