The Cumberbatch tapes, #2: My life with Buddhist monks

9 May

Image

Benedict Cumberbatch is loved, I’m sure, for both his body and his mind. In this extract, he explains how he developed both, from being car-jacked in South Africa to teaching – and learning from – Tibetan Buddhist Monks.

This is part 2 of my in-depth interview; click here to read part one on the birth of Sherlock. The following is an unedited transcript, all in Benedict’s own eloquent words:

“I love the outdoors, throwing myself out of planes, that sort of thing. In South Africa I went a bit nuts, went to the ends of the earth in Namibia and went on an adrenaline junkie thing in Swapismund where they filmed the new series of The Prisoner.

“That was after I got car-jacked, and I think was partly why I went on this adrenaline kick. Because when you’ve been forced to look into the idea that you die on your own you kind of go, ‘Oh, okay, well if I’ve got my own company at the beginning and the end of this life I might as well do a few crazy things with it under my own steam.’

“It was I suppose the polar opposite reaction to becoming agoraphobic and internalised and haunted… there’s enough of that in my work! I didn’t want that small incident in a big country to put me off the beauty of Africa, so I wanted to be part of the people again and not fear them.

“I’d always done slightly crazy things like getting lost on treks in the Himalayas when I was 19. In my gap year I was teaching English to Tibetan Buddhist monks in a Nepali home near Darjeeling.

“They were amazingly warm, intelligent, humorous people. Hard to teach English to. I built a blackboard, which no other previous teachers seem to have done. With 12 monks in a room with an age-range of about 8 to 40, that’s quite important – and the reward-punishment thing of sweets or no sweets, or game or no game, worked quite well. But they taught me a lot more than I could possibly ever teach them.

“They taught me about the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it, and the ridiculous sense of humour you need to live a full spiritual life. There was a time when these two rabid dogs were all over each other, screwing in the back yard, and all of this laughter, ‘Sir, sir, quick, come, sir, sir, quick!’ and these two dogs were just stuck together, having sex, pulling like this, like a Pushmi-pullyu [the two-headed animal in Dr Dolittle], and the monks were just on the floor laughing at these sentient beings’ pain and ridiculousness, two of them a conjoined couple. And it was so funny, they threw water all over them, but before they did, they were like, ‘Kodak moment, sir, Kodak moment!’ Brilliant!

“Then we watched Braveheart, which is a f***ing violent film for Tibetan Buddhist monks to watch, and they were all going ‘wahey!!!’ They saw Scotland as being the oppressed Tibetans and the English as the Chinese.”

PART THREE NOW ONLINE: Benedict Cumberbatch on spirituality… and how the experience feeds into his acting career: click here. PART FOUR NOW ONLINE: on Spielberg vs Madonna, click here. Star Trek Into Darkness review here: “Benedict Cumberbatch is unquestionably Britain’s next A-list star”. 

Advertisements

10 Responses to “The Cumberbatch tapes, #2: My life with Buddhist monks”

  1. Yael May 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Very interesting. I loved the stories about the Tibetan Buddhist. Would have loved to see him back them teaching them, lol.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Cumberbatch tapes, #1: the birth of Sherlock | Sane As I Am - May 10, 2013

    […] You can read part 2 of this engrossing glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch's thought from 3 years ago here. Why not visit the original post and tell the interviewer what you think? This entry was posted […]

  2. • Cumberbatched Italy • Il primo fansite italiano su Benedict Cumberbatch » [Articolo] The Cumberbatch Tapes - May 13, 2013

    […] The Cumberbatch Tapes: #2 La mia vita con i monaci buddisti […]

  3. Benedict Cumberbatch starring in Hamlet: 8 things you might not know about the Sherlock star topic | Metroless - August 11, 2014

    […] During a gap year when he was 19 he taught Tibetan Buddhist monks English. Apparently though it was an amazing experience they were apparently quite hard to teach. […]

  4. Benedict Cumberbatch starring in Hamlet: 8 things you might not know about the Sherlock star | News Today - August 11, 2014

    […] During a opening year when he was 19 he taught Tibetan Buddhist monks English. Apparently yet it was an extraordinary knowledge they were apparently utterly tough to teach. […]

  5. Benedict Cumberbatch starring in Hamlet: 8 things you might not know about the Sherlock star | Fresh News Today - August 11, 2014

    […] During a gap year when he was 19 he taught Tibetan Buddhist monks English. Apparently though it was an amazing experience they were apparently quite hard to teach. […]

  6. Teaches English in Tibet | Newslines - News Search Engine - February 26, 2015

    […] teaches English to Tibetan Buddhist monks at a monastery in a Nepali home near […]

  7. Celebrity Gap Years - UnCollege - March 2, 2015

    […] separate from what would become his career, his gap year taught him plenty, especially about “the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it”. That spirituality eventually helped him in his acting career, gaining valuable personal […]

  8. What a piece of work is (this) man: Benedict Cumberbatch opens in Hamlet | London, Hollywood - August 5, 2015

    […] Doyle’s classic detective series to the modern world; but he also talked entertainingly about his time spent with Tibetan monks, and how being car-jacked and nearly killed in South Africa had made him want to live life to the […]

  9. Benedict Cumberbatch is Strange, but not strange enough | London, Hollywood - November 2, 2016

    […] in real life the roles were reversed. As I wrote in my interview with Cumberbatch both on my blog and for  Canadian Buddhist magazine Lion’s Roar, he was once a teacher to Tibetan monks]; […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: