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When Gere met Dalai Lama

Richard Gere on Friday recounted his first meeting with the Dalai Lama that drew him to Tibetan Buddhism.

The actor was speaking to a 1,000-strong crowd at Manan Kendra in Gangtok — the talk was titled Buddhism in the West and My Personal Experience.

Gere said he first met the Tibetan spiritual leader in Dharamshala. “I was told by the people at his (the Dalai Lama’s) office that I can spend a week’s time visiting the Tibetan camps and monasteries at Dharamshala before meeting the Dalai Lama. A week later, I got an opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Gere was introduced to the Dalai Lama as “an acclaimed Hollywood actor”, to which the monk remarked: “Oh, so you’re an actor?”

The actor, who has been a heartthrob world-wide for his lead role in Pretty Woman, recounted: “He thought about that a second, and then he said: ‘So when you do this acting and you’re angry, are you really angry? When you’re acting sad, are you really sad? When you cry, are you really crying?’”

Gere said: “I gave him some kind of an actor answer, like it was more effective if you really believed in the emotion that you were portraying. He looked very deeply into my eyes and just started laughing. Hysterically. He was laughing at the idea that I would believe emotions are real, that I would work very hard to believe in anger and hatred and sadness and pain and suffering.”

The actor said he was touched by the incident.

On stage on Friday, Gere thanked the Buddhist masters for creating the possibility of dharma in the West.

“The beauty and the Buddhist culture in Sikkim have fascinated me and I would love to come back again with my wife and two kids,” Gere said.

Picture by Prabin Khaling, text by Nirmal Mangar