Despite his success, actor Benedict Cumberbatch has always remained grounded. According to the actor, many of the life lessons he’s carried with him are from the Buddhist monks who took him in when he was 19.
Benedict said he was always grateful to the Darjeeling monks who took him in. The actor spent five months teaching in a monastery in Darjeeling and says that it was an enriching experience for him, despite the fact that he was not paid.
Speaking to Thom Yorke for Interview magazine, Benedict said:
“It was in an exiled Tibetan community, just outside of Darjeeling, on the border. It was a little hill station town. I was one of five teachers who had done a training course. It was extraordinary, but it was quite an isolated experience. I spent half a year working odd jobs to build up funds for the airfare and to pay for the course. You’re not paid for the teaching; you’re paid in experience. You’re surrounded by the monks and their lives.
It was a small monastery, and the top floor was the temple. I was living on the bottom floor, which was pretty damp and had huge spiders. I think it was just near the end of the rainy season; I can’t remember, but it was cold. And because it was so high up, you would open your window, and the clouds were like dry ice rolling across your desk. Nature was ever present; that was gobsmackingly beautiful, as was the spirit and nature and philosophy and way of life of these monks.”
His experience wasn’t easy, however — he got very little sleep every night and ate mainly porridge and “a little stew”.
“That part of the retreat was intense. We were with the monks – my God, what discipline they had. It was revelatory. There are these stories and parables and tools with which to channel your focus and meditation and practice, and begin the path to enlightenment.
(But) it was massive. I really cannot get over the generosity of our teacher. He said, ‘Don’t punish yourself. You’re going to be a student at a university in the north of England. You need to have your experiences and have your fun, and not judge yourself. Don’t live in guilt and regret’.”
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