Celebrities who are Buddhists
...with an assessment of the degree Buddhism is a part of each of their careers.by Tom Armstrong, posted Mar 8, 2005
Buddhism is often tarred with the charge that it attracts a great many celebrities -- the idea being that Hollywoodland is full of glamour pusses whose attraction is a shallow interest in the latest chichi fad. So, the logic goes, Buddhism is itself wildly weird, a concoction made of packaging peanuts and whipped cream with a topping of sprinkles.
The contrast this past year can seem to prove the charge. The quite serious Catholic, Mel Gibson, makes a bloody serious film -- so serious it is even in Aramaic! -- that shows the TRUE, previously-unrepresented-in-celluloid last days of Chist's life, in all its gory, passionate and antisemitic glory. Meantime, Buddhadom kicks up "I Heart Huckabees," with a goofy icon substituted for the word Heart, Lily Tomlin upsidedown in a dumpster, and a lot of self-indulgent weirdness and with a peevish sense of irony/humor. If you don't laugh heartily enough at Jude Law screwing up his face, or Mark Wahlberg bopping Jason Schwartzman with a red rubber bat on the picnic-table bench, people might guess that you just don't get it -- that you aren't sophisticated enough to see that the Emperor is wearing new clothes, and not no clothes. [Actually, I liked "Huckabees" -- a lot -- but it was still a jokey mess that reflected badly on Buddhism and New Age madness and whatever else got splattered in this slipshod film.]
Let us then look at the Tinseltown moths that flitter around the white light of Buddhism. From a googling of websites that come up on a search of "Buddhist, celebrities," we found lists enabling us to amass the thirteen prime Buddhist celebrities on the chart at right. Some are cited as Buddhist leaders: Richard Gere is often in the company of the Dalai Lama and has a foundation in his name to aid Tibet and other most worthy causes; Tina Turner, if you believe Tricycle writer Jeff Wilson, has helped to bring the dharma to the South; Keanu Reeves is now working with Gere on a project to make a film in India about the Buddha's life.
Using The Science of Google, we have tried to separate out those more-serious Buddhist celebs from the mere lay Bud glitterati. We think the division comes when a Buddhist celebrity has more than 1.25% of the thousands of webpages that mention his/her name also use either the word Buddhism or Buddhist. These more-serious Buddhists have comfortably mixed their spiritual life with the craft that first brought them fame. The others, with a less than 1.25% bud index, separate their spiritual/personal life from their career.
We think our chart measures something meaningful, though admittedly, once having run our numbers, we may be rationalizing the data, somewhat. But the data does seem to make a kind of sense:
To sum up: Some celebrities have gotten so caught up with Buddhism, it vividly colors what they do in their career. Others are open about about their Buddhism, but their career is significantly 'a life apart.'