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Lions Roar : May 2016
Having spent more than an hour in Cumberbatch’s company, and marveled at the speed and articulacy at which the thoughts tumble out of him, it’s clear there is a reason he is so frequently cast as super-smart men—Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Sherlock Holmes. Intelligence is a quality that is very hard to fake, if an actor does not possess it already. But watching his performance as Hamlet, you realize that Cumberbatch, in common with Shakespeare’s sweet prince— and with Sherlock—must feel that the speed of his whirling brain is as much a curse as a blessing. “I love the outdoors, throwing myself out of planes, that sort of thing,” he says at one point during our interview. That’s one way to, as it were, get out of your mind. Buddhism, and the quieting of thoughts, and the stillness that comes through med- itation, is perhaps the more constructive route. “Sometimes as an actor you’re looking for the infinite,” he says. “If you can hold that, if you can remember that in the chaos, it will anchor you and give you grace and ease.” CUMBERBATCH WAS AN UNKNOWN young English teacher when he made his connection to Buddhism at a Tibetan mon- astery in Darjeeling. He returned to the Himalayas as one of the world’s biggest movie stars. It was his role as Doctor Strange in the upcoming film that Benedict Cumberbatch continued from page 57 brought him to Nepal, which was standing in for the mythical Tibet where the comic-book hero learned his “mystical arts.” Cumberbatch told the Wall Street Journal that he was very excited about the “spiritual dimension” of the film, which he said was “a huge dimension of my life, obviously. I meditate a lot.” He filmed scenes in some of the famed sites of the Kathmandu Valley, such as the Swayambhunath stupa and the sacred Hindu temples and cremation grounds of Pashupatinath. It was only natural to take some time off from filming and reconnect with the monastic tradition that had inspired his interest in Buddhism. In the Tibetan enclave of Boudhanath, the cobblestone streets around the famed stupa are home to some of the most important monasteries of the Tibetan diaspora. The largest, Shechen Monastery, was founded by the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of the most influential Tibetan teachers of the twentieth century. There, Cumberbatch, joined by costar Chiwetel Ejiofor and close friend Adam Ackland, had a private audience with the young Buddhist teacher recognized as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s reincarnation. They had what was described as a lengthy and fascinating conversation about Buddhist philos- ophy and practice. Afterward, a beaming Cumberbatch was photographed with Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, wearing the traditional white scarf called a kata that signifies an hon- ored guest in Tibetan society. His broad smile said that his connection to Buddhism remains alive and joyful. ♦ TRUE EXPRESSION VILLAGE ZENDO Zen Training in the heart of downtown Manhattan. We offer Zazen meditation three times a day, teacher meetings, workshops, study groups, arts events, summer and winter residential retreats and a vibrant community of Zen practitioners at all experience levels. Please join us! villagezendo.org LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 76