Jack Leonard was one of the most famous Hollywood A listed stars in the world. He had starred in some truly memorable movies and it was estimated that his fortune was somewhere in the region of $500 million. He was not a particularly handsome man but his rubber face and comedic talents had endeared him to millions of adoring fans.

In every conceivable way, Jack had achieved the American Dream. He possessed lavish mansions in London, Paris and Los Angeles and had even purchased his very own Lear jet. He had his own fitness instructor, masseuse, butler, cook and Buddhist guru. He could do whatever he liked whenever he liked. If he had an itch, there was always an assistant to remove the discomfort. He had been the first Hollywood star to hire an underling whose sole task was to peel and remove pips from his favourite black grapes!

His third wife, Catherine, was one of the world’s most beautiful women and it must be candidly stated that their sex life was absolutely outstanding. And yet Jack was absolutely miserable. He was living the Dream and yet he detested his sated, jaded and pampered mode of existence.

For many years he had tried manfully to convince himself that the Dream had brought him infinite happiness and contentment but one day as he was dining with an old friend the bitter truth of his misery cut into him like a poisoned dagger. The two famous stars had ordered a very expensive bottle of Burgundy ($7500) which they sipped in great expectation. Jack’s buddy was furious that the wine lacked a precise blueberry flavour that he craved! He hurled the bottle on the floor and commanded the Mexican waiter to clear up the mess as he moaned and insulted the fawning lackeys and attendants. Jack felt deeply ashamed to be part of this grotesque and cruel pantomime; he immediately paid the bill in full and left the restaurant vowing never again to speak to his friend.

This incident alerted Jack to the hollow and narcissistic lifestyle of so many of his Hollywood friends. Here were people who lived like kings and queens but all they could do was bitch, gossip, moan and sneer. Something was wrong when caviar wasn’t quite good enough and complaints that fawning, diligent attendants were behaving disgracefully! He consulted his astrologer and his Buddhist guru and they advised him to go to India where he would find enlightenment.

Jack flew by jet (his own) to Dharamshala and took up residence in the city’s most opulent hotel. An entire floor was given over to him and his entourage. Every day the holy men came and poured forth spiritual sustenance and instruction. So much of it was Hollywood flannel tinged with a veneer of eastern promise. These men were merely hawking spiritual treasures like accomplished double glazing salesmen. He ordered them all to leave the hotel and began to search the city for real men of wisdom and holiness.

After many months of sincere seeking he met an old guru in the slum section of the city who alarmed him with his understanding of the Buddhist religion. This holy man had no interest in pecuniary gain and explained the spiritual facts with disarming frankness.

“The truth of the matter is that you must abandon the Hollywood way of life completely. All this luxury and pampering must cease. All desires are illusion and will prevent you from finding nirvana. Hollywood stars, like you, are destined for the most miserable rebirths. You will become rats, toads and demons in your next life. If you truly desire to get off the wheel of rebirth you must become like me and live in this slum and train yourself daily to hate and despise the cravings of the flesh. Eliminate all desires both good and bad and you will become enlightened!”

Jack was startled and perturbed by this brutal statement of Buddhist faith. He began to probe the begrimed mystic. “Do you mean that it’s wrong to long for even good things to happen? Is it wrong to long for the end of poverty, environmental despoliation and the arms race?

“Yes”, croaked the bald-headed monk. “All desires must vanish. Both good ones and bad ones. All attachment is sin. Evil and good do not exist. They are also part of the illusion.”

That very day Jack returned home to his pampered life in California. He had encountered a disturbing dilemma. Should he indulge all his desires (Hollywood style) or abandon them (Buddhist style). Both options were highly unattractive. Still he could always carry on indulging his every whim and set up an impressive Buddhist shrine in a small corner of his mansion.

And that’s what he decided to do!

Mark Roques
Categories: RealityBites

Mark Roques

Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Education at Prior Park College, Bath, for many years. As Director of RealityBites he has developed a rich range of resources for youth workers and teachers. He has spoken at conferences in the UK, Holland, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is a lively storyteller and the author of four books, including The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith. His work is focused on storytelling and how this can help us to communicate the Christian faith. He has written many articles for the Baptist Times, RE Today, Youthscape, Direction magazine and the Christian Teachers Journal.

1 Comment

Hugh · December 20, 2023 at 11:39 am

What a wonderful story! I wanted him to follow the old guru’s advice, and live in the slum with nothing, just to see what Hollywood would do! It seems a total cop out to build a Buddhist shine in the epicentre of Hollywood, and then carry on as before. But do we do that with Christian faith? Do we bung a short prayer time in the corner, a quick visit to church on Sunday, and then carry on as before? It is hard to make Christ our centre, our goal, our chief end. It’s a great parable. Nice one mate!

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