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Celebrity Buddhists


The article on celebrity Buddhists written by the prior Buddhism editor has consistently been one of the most popular articles on the BellaOnline Buddhism site, so I decided it was time for me to write my own updated list. Many individuals explore Buddhism, so what I tried to do in this article is focus on individuals that have publicly stated they are Buddhist or engage in Buddhist practice regularly.

First, in the sports world: Golf phenomenon Tiger Woods was introduced to Thai Buddhism by his mother, and has often said that Buddhist meditation and practice help him to deal with his stubbornness and impatience. While he admits his practice is irregular, and that he doesn't agree with all Buddhist philosophies, he still considers it his primary religious and philosophical reference.

Phil Jackson, pro-basketball coach with 9 NBA titles to his name, has often stated that Zen Buddhism has profoundly shaped his worldview and coaching style, and that he engages in Zen meditation. However, he also studies other spiritual systems, such as Shamanism.

Shifting to the entertainment world, Richard Gere is perhaps the most famous celebrity Buddhist, and one of the most vocal. He has a friendship with the Dalai Lama, and has been an outspoken advocate for human rights in Tibet.

Tina Turner is another well-known longstanding Buddhist. She turned to Nichiren Buddhism during her abusive marriage to Ike Turner, and credits it with helping her gain the personal strength to leave him and rebuild her life and career.

Another practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism is Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom. He credits his practice with helping him stay balanced while living in the public spotlight.

Singer k.d. lang is Buddhist, and studies with a teacher within the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The lyrics on her recent album Watershed reflect some of the changes she has undergone since intensifying her practice. She discusses them in this interview with the Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun.

Steven Seagal, the action movie actor, director, and martial artist, also practices Tibetan Buddhism, and in fact was recognized as a reincarnated lama, or tulku, by Lama Pena Rinpoche. Like Richard Gere, he is a friend of the Dalai Lama and advocates for Tibetan rights issues.

Also Buddhist is Hollywood director Oliver Stone, who dealt with many Buddhist themes in his movie Heaven and Earth, part of his trilogy on the Vietnam war, along with Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.

Another famous director often rumored to be Buddhist is Quentin Tarantino, because of his exploration of some Zen Buddhist themes in his Kill Bill films. But he has never identified himself as Buddhist. He is good friends with the star of those films, Uma Thurman who was raised Buddhist by her father Robert Thurman, a well-known Buddhist scholar and one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Uma has said she does not consider herself Buddhist, although she admires many Buddhist views and practices.

Keanu Reeves is another actor often rumored to be Buddhist, partly because of his role as the Buddha in the film The Little Buddha. But although he has professed an interest in Buddhism, he has never said whether or not he considers himself Buddhist.

Other celebrities that have discussed exploring Buddhism but who do not necessarily consider themselves Buddhist (or at least not exclusively so) are Goldie Hawn, Naomi Watts, Sharon Stone, Angelina Jolie, Courtney Love, and Alanis Morissette.

One non-Hollywood celebrity, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has long studied Zen Buddhism, and a Zen Buddhist priest officiated at his wedding.

And last but not least, Lisa Simpson, middle child in the animated TV series The Simpsons, is Buddhist.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Lisa Erickson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Erickson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lisa Erickson for details.

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