by Staff Writer – DalaiLamaFilm.com
What people dream of achieving the success that actor Richard Gere attained, which includes fame, fortune, the love of millions.
But, Gere says that although “movies probably are a mirror in some way so we can see ourselves in them… There is nothing real about film. Nothing. Even the light particles that project the film can’t be proven to exist. Nothing is there.”
And in his twenties, he felt very unhappy, which led him to search for personal happiness:
“My first encounter with Buddhist dharma would be in my early twenties. I think like most young men I was not particularly happy. I don’t know if I was suicidal, but I was pretty unhappy, and I had questions like, “Why anything?” Realizing I was probably pushing the edges of my own sanity, I was exploring late-night bookshops reading everything I could, in many different directions. Evans-Wentz’s books on Tibetan Buddhism had an enormous impact on me. I just devoured them.”
His exploration of Tibetan Buddhism eventually led him to seek teachings from exiled Tibetan Buddhist Leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who became his friend and root teacher.
Meditating for at least one hour per day (as well as studying spiritual teachings) brought Gere some clarity about happiness and how to achieve it.
“I meditate. Daily practice is essential to my life,” he says. “Meditation is such a more substantial reality than what we normally take to be reality.”
I think the choice that we all have to make is whether to be satisfied with small happiness, which is like the chocolate cookie which makes us feel good right now.
We usually are not encouraged to look for the big happiness, the true happiness, the all-expansive, the expanding happiness of mind and heart that is possible.
During an interview for “Project Happiness,” Gere shared his insights on happiness:
“In Buddhism there’s a truism which is fundamental whether you are a Buddhist or not, is that we all have two basic things in common, whether we’re insects or people or whatever we may be. It’s that we all move towards happiness and away from suffering, all of us. And… however we define happiness, that’s what we’re always moving towards. And however we define suffering, we’re always moving away from it. And we can understand everyone, our enemies, our friends, everyone, by looking at their actions from that point of view. What are they moving away from? What’s the suffering that’s making them behave in this way? What are they moving so passionately towards that they see as happiness? You can see very clearly into the minds and hearts of people of how they define these very things.”
“From my point of view,” says Gere, “happiness is the more open system, always. Anything that’s expanding the mind and heart is happiness. But it’s not a goal. It’s not like there’s a fixed point that is happiness or there’s a space where you walk into a room. It’s, oh, this is the happiness room, Or a time. It’s hard for me to conceive. Certainly, I’m not at the end of my spiritual voyage, but it’s even hard to conceive that there ever is a point where you achieve happiness with a big H. I think the choice that we all have to make is whether to be satisfied with small happiness, which is like the chocolate cookie which makes us feel good right now. We usually are not encouraged to look for the big happiness, the true happiness, the all-expansive, the expanding happiness of mind and heart that is possible. We usually think that like the cookie, there’s the chocolate. Boy, this makes me feel really good. I’m hungry. I love chocolate. I’m gonna eat that cookie, and it makes me feel really good. And maybe the second cookie still feels pretty good. By the tenth cookie, you’re kind of going I don’t really want anymore of this happiness. Because it’s a false happiness. The happiness is not in the cookie. It was in your idea of what the cookie was. Otherwise, that cookie would always bring happiness no matter how many you ate, what time of day or night you ate it. So again, our lives will tell us if we really explore it, that happiness is very much a subjective experience.”
Here is a personal exercise that Gere shares that has helped him practice and develop happiness and compassion:
“There is a powerful exercise, quite simple , which I began to use many, many years ago. Who would I have met on the way, be it a person or an insect, the first thought that I assume with respect to this point: ‘I wish you happiness!’ But most importantly, that this idea was indeed the very first, ‘I wish you happiness.’ It completely changes on what is going on between you and that person. I say this from personal experience. Sometimes it’s very difficult when you meet the enemy when you find yourself face to face with an unexpected tough situation. And at this point you get an opportunity to create more space around you. You see how it pops up this negative emotion, and before it will take ‘up’ over you , you have time to convert it. You see everything as it is: that’s evident ignorance; anger – not that other, as ignorance from my side, from their side. Convert him, let go, turn into love. ‘I wish you happiness.’ Try it and see how much everything will change in your life.”
Gere adds: “….But the reality is, we can change. We can change ourselves. We can change our minds. We can change our hearts. And therefore the universe changes.”
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