Do you ever reach a point in your life or your Buddhist practice where nothing seems to make sense any more? When you feel you’ve made all the right causes to change a situation, but the benefit still doesn’t appear? Or when your faith, practice and study have seemed so strong and complete, and yet a cherished dream lies in tatters at your feet? Or when, out of the blue, you are floored by a serious problem with your health, work, finances or a close relationship? You may even find yourself remonstrating with the Gohonzon, saying, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?!”
Too weird to be true?
If this is you at the moment (sometimes it is me…), give yourself a big pat on the back and say: “Congratulations to me! I did it! I kept my promise!” And then remind yourself that, as taught in The Lotus Sutra, you made a vow as a Bodhisattva of the Earth to ‘voluntarily assume the appropriate karma’ in order to teach others about Buddhism. But why on earth would you make such a vow? Why would you choose to be born in difficult circumstances, why would you go looking for such deep suffering? It just seems too weird and extraordinary! After all, there are no mentions of masochism in Nichiren Buddhism :-)! Of course, Nichiren actually taught that we made this vow so that we could, through our struggles, develop the wisdom, courage and compassion to move other people’s hearts. So that they too will feel inspired to discover and reveal the joy and dignity in the depths of their own lives.
Actor and SGI Buddhist James DuMont now has over 100 film & TV credits to his name. They include Ugly Betty, Dallas Buyers Club, House, The West Wing, Oceans 13, War of the Worlds, Seabiscuit and Catch Me If You Can. He has played opposite the likes of Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Tom Hanks, Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates. His next movie – Jurassic World – opens today, Friday 12 June.
What I love about James’s résumé is that he has slowly, surely and steadily built a successful Hollywood career through his repeated efforts. In fact to land those 100 parts, he has had to do more than 3,000 auditions! And this reminds him of a famous Buddhist quote: “From the indigo, an even deeper blue.” This means that, if one dyes something repeatedly in indigo, it becomes even bluer than the indigo leaf itself. In this interview, James shared with me how his strong Buddhist practice sustains him through the ups and downs of life.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome through the practice?
My father and his father made huge, detrimental mistakes that destroyed their families and the damage took years and generations to heal and in some cases those issues have been the greatest obstacles I have faced as father and husband. Issues of infidelity, financial mistakes and more importantly issues of being present and available to set an example. This has also been my biggest benefit. I am present for my son and daughter, as best I can. I am working to be a better man, father, husband and son than the men in my family before me. In essence I am redefining the truest meaning of fatherhood in my family and all the responsibility that comes with that. This is not an easy task or mission, but it is mine.
What’s your favourite Buddhist quote and why?
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda says: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation, and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.” And another favourite quote (author unknown): “Two things define you, your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything”. I have never forgotten where I have come from and this practice allows me to have gratitude and to treat others as I would want to be treated.
Your new movie is Jurassic World, are there any Nichiren Buddhist themes in it?
The most obvious one is “the person & the environment are one!” If our hearts and minds are pure, then so is the environment. There is also the theme of ‘those who do not stop evil are supporting and encouraging it.’ Also part of the inherent nature of dinosaurs was to kill, but unlike the dinosaurs, we have the Gohonzon, which gives us a tool to access our Buddhahood and transform ourselves and our inherent nature.
Why do you think Nichiren Buddhism attracts so many actors and artists?
This practice gives you the strength, power and hope to fundamentally transform your own human journey while on this earth. As an actor/artist I can have a deep and profound effect on the planet, if I just dig deep into my own humanity and then bring that to light by unearthing human behaviour in all its beauty, pain, joy and sorrow. That is my mission while I am here. I audition more than 300 times a year, and in a good year I will only succeed with ten of those 300 attempts to share myself and skills. I can’t imagine having to deal with that without this practice. It gives me a sword to wield through all these setbacks and come away from them feeling happiness, joy and hope. I hope my life and human revolution will encourage people to stand up and fight even harder!
Tell us more about how you handle rejection as an actor?
I cannot stress enough the resilience this practice gives you and how necessary this is for my life and career. Also sometimes you may ‘step in some dog shit’ in life and it takes a while to get rid of the smell from your shoes or even from your mind. You smell it, others do or even if they don’t, you think they do. You have to shed that mindset and make greater causes in order to counter the temporary nature of ‘having shit on your shoes’. I share that analogy a great deal to encourage actors going through serious dry spells of work.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Trust yourself more, be better to yourself and do this chanting thing that’s been put right in front of you!
this is just to let you know that six years after starting to write my book on Buddhism and personal development, I have signed a deal with Rider Books, the ‘mind body spirit’ arm of Penguin Random House. I want to thank all of you, my big-hearted readers, for your support, encouragement, comments and questions. To thank you for your generous spirit in reaching out to create a dialogue with me. As I am a completely unknown author (compared to Penguin Random House’s other writers such as The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Russell Brand…) the only way to get a big publisher’s attention was to create a successful blog and Facebook page with thousands of engaged readers.
So I couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you so much!It has been my lifelong dream to become an author and I also landed my absolute first choice of publisher because Rider’s other Buddhist writers include Eddy Canfor-Dumas (The Buddha, Geoff and Me) and Richard Causton (The Buddha in Daily Life). So, it’s safe to say that Rider ‘get’ Nichiren Buddhism! The title of my book will be The Buddha in Me, the Buddha in You – handbook for a human revolutionand it will be out in the UK in Spring 2016, with other countries to follow.
A couple of weeks ago I decided it might be lovely to write a post about the constant battle we face with our Fundamental Darkness (FD) – the illusions and self-slander that stop us seeing our own and others’ Buddhahood (wisdom, courage, compassion and joy) and stop us achieving our goals. As a result my own negativity went into overdrive and the last thing I wanted to do was write this blog.
I then came across some super-strict (and compassionate…) guidance from Daisaku Ikeda (you may have seen it on my Facebook page…). So, are you ready for some advice that removes all your excuses for unhappiness and helps you take responsibility for your whole life? Yes? Good, here goes then:
I have just read a mesmerising novel called In Between Jobs. Written by Buddhist actor Duncan Pow. It is about a man called Harry Caldwell. The cover blurb says: ‘Harry is 26 years old. He is an actor. He is a son. He is a brother. He is a nephew. He is a drug addict. He is a sexual deviant. He is a lover. He is a fighter. He is good. He is bad. He is a Buddhist.’
The journey from first to final page is captivating. It is raw and enlightening. It is often explicit, sometimes disturbing; in places it is laugh out loud. Most of all it is lyrical and entrancing and hypnotic. The most hypnotic stream of consciousness I have experienced in a very long time. Think Trainspotting meets Ulysses meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Five years ago, I decided to chant about the fact that I’ve always tended to wake up in a grumpy, grouchy mood. It was a fairly casual decision born of curiosity and no little guilt that my ‘low life-state’ often had a negative impact on people around me.
… which, says the author encourages: “us to stop hoping for easy lives and instead to focus on finding the inner strength we need to enjoy the difficult lives we all have.” Wise counsel, don’t you think? If you read nothing else from this book, read the 10 brilliant chapter titles listed below, even without the other 277 pages, the Contents page is very powerful…
The book’s author is my fellow SGI Nichiren Buddhist Alex Lickerman, MD. He is an assistant Vice President at Chicago University with student counselling a major part of his role. ‘The Undefeated Mind’ is a book about resilience and about cultivating joy no matter what is happening in our lives.
This is a post about gratitude and determination, two massive themes in Nichiren Buddhism. I am currently trying to lose weight (or ‘gain slimness’ as we say in life coaching 🙂 ) and recently went out cycling around a lake in the Leicestershire countryside near my home. After 20 minutes I found myself on a really steep hill huffing and puffing against a cold strong headwind and wishing it was easier and that my legs would stop hurting. 🙁
Then I saw a man walking towards me (someone I had never seen before) and he just smiled warmly and said: “Keep going mate!” Usually the people I come across on this bike route only say ‘hello’ (if they say anything at all…) so this was a lovely surprise and made me reflect on the kindness of strangers who encourage us but expect nothing in return.Continue reading “Only the headwinds make you stronger….”→