It seemed that this list would be a trivial, shallow and unimportant distraction from the news about all the scandalous political scandals. But as we dug deeper into internet, we discovered that some people are inspired by the stories of famous Buddhists who have faced trials. Wildmind’s Top Ten List of Buddhist Celebrity hopes that you will find inspiration and entertainment.
Our criteria were very simple. A nominee must be alive, a celebrity pink jeans and — wait for the irony — a Buddhist. Our voting process was simple. We counted all hits for each name on Google. This is not too scientific.
We should be commended for our research and hard work, but it is not always easy to determine if a Buddhist Celebrity really is a Buddhist. Many websites will claim that JLo or Keanu are Buddhists. But the truth is much more difficult to find. If we couldn’t find them, we wouldn’t have accepted that a Buddhist Celebrity was a Buddhist. We discovered that some well-known “Buddhist celebrity impressions” have stated explicitly that they aren’t Buddhist practitioners (e.g. Uma Thurman: “When I am asked if my Buddhist beliefs are true, I will answer, ” and Keanu Reeves, “I don’t believe so.”
Joining Keanu and Jenny on the not-really-a-Buddhist list were martial arts actor Jackie Chan, and rocker/poet Patti Smith. Although they are serious practitioners, they didn’t make the top ten due to a lack of hits from Google. They were Laurie Anderson, jazzman Wayne Shorter (1,000,000 hits), and Michael Stipe, frontman of REM (with just 813,000 hits). Guys, better luck next time.
We know you want to know who’s in, so let’s get started.
We begin with Aung San Suu Kyi, a nonviolent pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi Buddhist Celebrity
Suu Kyi was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence philosophy. She campaigned for democracy in Burma. In 1989, she was placed under house arrest. For her non-violent and peaceful struggle against a military captain celebrity dictatorship, Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Since then, she has been under house arrest in various places. She was able to survive her lengthy confinement without being allowed to see her husband who is dying, thanks to her vipassana meditation practice. She commented on her prolonged isolation and said, “Isolation doesn’t seem difficult to me.” Perhaps it’s my Buddhist Celebrity upbringing.