Book Talk: Sheen "nourished" by narrating Dalai Lama's book

Thu Dec 8, 2011 7:53pm EST
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By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For more than 40 years actor Martin Sheen has inhabited complex characters from the troubled Capt. Willard in the Vietnam film "Apocalypse Now" to U.S. President Josiah Bartlet on the hit TV drama "The West Wing."

But for one of his latest projects, Sheen, 71, did not have to reach far. The devout Catholic narrated the audiobook of "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World," a new book by the Dalai Lama.

Sheen, a longtime social activist, spoke to Reuters about how the book's message of compassion and universal ethics resonates with his own beliefs.

Q: How did you get into this project?

A: "I have a very good agent. My agent is aware that I am a social activist and this is the kind of project I'd support because I'm a big supporter of the Dalai Lama and particularly his non-violent stance on political and social justice issues. So it was a no-brainer. To be his voice for his book was a very special opportunity."

Q: As a devout Catholic, how did you feel about narrating a book that calls for thinking about spirituality and ethics in a way that is "beyond religion" altogether?

A: "You can't separate any honest effort that is truthful. As my wife is always telling me, the truth is universal and omnipresent. You can't question where it comes from. The Dalai Lama lives a very honest and truthful life. He's a reflection of the Gospels, whether he would call it such or not. What he is striving to do with this book is to find a common ground in the secular world because his whole point is that the vast majority of the world is not religious or religiously inclined."

Q: Aren't there already a lot of ethical, non-religious people?   Continued...

<p>U.S. actor Martin Sheen poses for a portrait to promote the film "The Way" during the 35th Toronto International Film Festival September 10, 2010. REUTERS/Adrien Veczan</p>