Describing himself as a Buddhist “philosophically,” Hollywood star Cumberbatch, 39, says Buddhism has been a major influence in his life since his days as a student.
One of the highest-profile actors on the planet, Benedict Cumberbatch has played a host of landmark roles over the course of his colorful career, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved Victorian-era detective Sherlock Holmes, the pioneering British mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing, and most recently, the titular superhero in the forthcoming comic book adaption Doctor Strange.
Describing himself as a Buddhist “philosophically,” Cumberbatch, 39, says Buddhism has been a major influence in his life since his days as a student and has made him a better actor. “Sometimes as an actor you’re looking for the infinite. If you can hold that, if you can remember that in the chaos, it will anchor you and give you grace and ease.” (Lion’s Roar)
“I meditate a lot. That’s a huge tool in trying to calm myself, get away from the crazy circus of it all, have a focused mind as well as be a kinder, considerate person in the world,” Cumberbatch told The Wall Street Journal, recalling his experiences as a student when he spent part of a gap year teaching English in northeastern India. “I took a lot of stuff away from my experience in Darjeeling, West Bengal, right at the Nepali border. It was Tibetan Buddhist monks in a converted Nepali house in India, with a view of Bhutan. It was a profoundly formative experience at a very young age. It’s something I’ve tried to keep in my life.”
While in India, Cumberbatch had the opportunity to attend a multi-day meditation retreat. “It was incredible,” he recalled. “When you’ve been that still and contemplative, your sensory awareness is heightened and more sharply focused. Stillness is an essential part of acting.” (Lion’s Roar)
“It was a very unfair exchange,” Cumberbatch said of his experience. “Basically, they taught me reams, fathoms, more than I could possibly begin [to teach them]. I became interested in the meeting point between Western logic and Eastern mysticism.” (Design & Trend)
“The Zen spirit in particular intrigues me. One can’t always achieve it—it’s a goal, that becoming one with what you’re trying to achieve . . . as in that wonderful book about Zen and the art of archery, where the archer momentarily becomes the bow and the arrow. In special moments, that can happen in acting as well.”