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( Quote from an interview with Keanu Reeves )

The story of Buddha’s life and spiritual journey was interestingly played out in his feature film “The Little Buddha” by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. The main role of Prince Siddhartha, who becomes a Buddha, played by Keanu Reeves, known to all from the movie “The Matrix” (the role of Neo). “Little Buddha” was filmed in three countries – in the United States (Seattle), Nepal (Kathmandu and Bhaktapur) and Bhutan (Paro).

An interview with actor Keanu Reeves about how the role affected him.

Keanu Reeves about his role:
I’m just an ordinary citizen of the metropolis. And Buddha was just a chubby, smiling little guy to me. I knew nothing of the man for whom I now have the deepest respect. We shot “Little Buddha” in Kathmandu, Nepal. I sat in the middle of the woods, half-naked, alone with myself, trying to stop the flow of thoughts. I fell into a hypnotic trance, I was possessed by a kind of spiritual power. I felt like I was flying. It was my first religious experience. When I came back from filming, I read a lot of books on Buddhism. Not that I was immediately enlightened, but I really got into the subject.

I’ll never forget the way we shot that movie. I remember walking around in my underwear in front of all these monks, and they were looking at my legs and arms – checking me out. They said they went to the oracle. And he informed them that it was good that I was playing this role.

– Were you very surprised that Bernardo Bertolucci invited you for the lead role?

C.R. – Yes, of course, very much so. He said he noticed me in My Own Idaho. Then we met in New York… Bernardo talked at length about his new project, about the life of the Buddha when he was still Prince Siddhartha. I admired his talent as a storyteller. But then he wanted an Indian actor for the role of the prince. I went to Italy to shoot, just in case I took a copy of the script with me. Then I met Bernardo again in Rome, and when he repeated his offer, I wailed with joy. Of course he did.

Bertolucci said that the main reason for inviting you for the lead role was your personality, if literally – “the innocence that you radiate despite your knowledge of life”?

C.R. – That’s what he told me when I asked him that question. I think innocence is a combination of youth, naivety, and lack of experience. And this innocence is one of the dominant traits of my character. After all, there are people who exude sensuality. There are intellectuals. Everyone has their own aura. As far as I am concerned, most of my characters are stamped with this innocence. Yes, they are exactly innocent and standing at the beginning of their journey of comprehending life. But if for “Little Buddha” I had as a point of departure a bravura innocence, then as I comprehended the character of my hero I realized the gravity of it…

– And what was the essence of your preparation for this role?

C.R. – First of all, I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t listen to music, I read a lot and did a lot of research. (smiling). I got a lot out of yoga classes and meetings with devotees in Bhutan; I had, if I may say so, an intellectual advisor on the set who explained the basic principles of Buddhism to me.

– And have you internalized these principles?

C.R. – You know, before we started filming, we traveled around India for a while. I first saw a cremation in Kathmandu in Nepal… Relatives of the deceased laying wood in the fire; palaces in the setting sun; monks chasing away monkeys, hermits, children and dogs swirling around the fire; young people, old people, curious tourists, happy and sad faces. This creepy circus. At that moment I felt something “of the Buddha,” something I understood about the cycle of existence: birth – death, birth – death… In the West, everything possible has been created to protect you from seeing death and filth… “Sanitary” attitudes are strong – you can’t see shit and death, it’s as if they don’t exist in our countries. And that cremation scene touched me deeply. It is a combination of celebration and suffering… I was like Prince Siddhartha, having passed through the six stages of knowledge.

– Yes, and it’s impossible not to feel it in the film. But there is something strange about an Italian director talking about Buddha to an American actor who embodies the deity of the East on screen.

C.R. – Yes and no. But this surprised many people, and so as not to offend the Buddhist sects of India, we even changed the working title of the film to “The Little Lama. Nevertheless, stones were sometimes thrown at us, although most of the people around us still treated us kindly. As one lama told me, “There is a little Buddha in all of us, he sleeps, you just have to wake him up.

– Did you have to go on a special diet during the filming of Little Buddha?

C.R. – You know how much I love to eat! Food is one of life’s great pleasures. Gosh, that wasn’t easy! But then I deprived myself of this pleasure for two weeks. I ate one orange a day and drank 10 liters of water. I had to go through this stage of knowledge as well in order to understand the truth. One of my favorite scenes in the movie, other than the ones that were cut – no, no, I’m not kidding – is the one when in the Nepalese jungle after years of asceticism, Siddhartha enters the water and sees a glow around him, he has an epiphany – but the priests standing around on the shore tell him – “We can’t go with you anymore…” It’s genius, I love this scene.

Has Buddhism had any other influence on you?

C.R. – I started to think more about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I observe myself, asking myself why I feel this or that way. It helps. It’s mind training.

Little Buddha is a very beautiful film adaptation of the story of the Buddha’s spiritual path, woven seamlessly into contemporary reality.

To visit the birthplace of the Buddha as well as the filming locations of “Little Buddha” in Nepal and Bhutan, please leave a request. We will contact you, help with choosing a tour, buy tickets, get all the necessary documents, discuss all the details.


You can see reviews of Nepal by our travelers.

Interesting facts about the movie “Little Buddha:

  • Events in Nepal were filmed around the famous stupa in Kathmandu, Boudanath, and in the open-air museum city of Bhaktapur.
  • The roles of some of the lamas in the film are played by well-known figures of modern Buddhism, in particular, Khyentse Norbu. They also acted as the director’s consultants on the aspects of Buddhist life touched upon in the film.
  • The events in Bhutan were filmed directly in Bhutan, in the city of Paro, in the fortress-monastery of Rinpung Dzong.

In our travels in Nepal and Bhutan we will visit the locations where the movie was filmed, as well as the real place where the Buddha was born – the city of Lumbini in Nepal – a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world.

Travel to Nepal

Travel to Bhutan

Journey to the birthplace of the Buddha

The photo shows the town of Bhaktapur, Nepal, where the movie “Little Buddha” was filmed (in the movie, this is where Prince Sidhardha grows up in the palace).
The photo shows the Bowdanath Stupa (Nepal), where the movie “Little Buddha” was filmed.

About the birthplace of the Buddha

The holiest place in Nepal, where pilgrims come from all over the world, is Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. It is now a small tourist town near the border with India, in the recent past it was a remote poor village. According to tradition here, on her way to her father’s house, Maya Devi unexpectedly and absolutely painlessly gave birth to her son Sidhartha Guatama, whom we now know as the Buddha. The Mayadevi temple was built on the birthplace, and Buddhists and tourists from all over the world come to visit it. Around the temple is an archaeological area with the remains of early Buddhist structures and an ancient Bodhi tree. Here you can sit in silence – meditation happens to everyone here. The place is very strong.

Around the Temple is a huge beautiful garden with many Buddhist temples. The government of Nepal has given the opportunity for any country to build its own Buddhist temple in this park. Now there are 42 temples being built here, of which about 20 are now in operation. Here you can see the most beautiful Buddhist temples of different traditions and styles! The beauty is unbelievable! The Lumbini Temple Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A photo from our trip to the birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini, Nepal.
The photo shows the Lotus Stupa in the sacred park of Lumbini, Nepal.

The Story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment

According to legend, an unusual boy named Siddhartha Gautama was born to a couple of Indian kings. After conception, Queen Mahamaya had a prophetic dream which indicated that she was not destined to give birth to an ordinary human being, but to a great person who would go down in history, illuminating the world with the light of knowledge. When the baby was born, the noble parents saw for him a future ruler or Enlightened One.

Siddhartha’s father, King Shuddhodana, protected the boy from worldly imperfections, illness and misfortune throughout his childhood and youth. Until his twenty-ninth birthday, the young Buddha lived in a blossoming palace, far away from the frailty of existence and the hardships of ordinary life. At the age of 29, the young handsome prince married the beautiful Yashodhara. The young couple had a healthy, glorious son, Rahul. They lived happily ever after, but one day the young husband and father went out of the palace gates. There he found people exhausted by illness, suffering, and poverty. He saw death and realized that there is old age, infirmities. He was upset by such discoveries. He realized the futility of being. But despair had no time to overwhelm the prince. He met a detached monk, a samanu. This meeting was an omen! She showed the future Enlightened One that by renouncing worldly passions one could find peace, serenity. The heir to the throne abandoned his family and left his ancestral home. He went in search of the truth.

On his journey, Gautama was subjected to rigorous ascesis. He wandered in search of wise men to listen to their teachings and thoughts. In the end, the Buddha found his perfect way out of suffering. He discovered the “golden mean,” which implied a rejection of rigid ascesis and a rejection of immoderate excess.

At the age of 35, Siddhartha Gautama attained Enlightenment and became a Buddha. From that time on, he joyfully shared his knowledge with people. He returned to his hometown, where he was greatly welcomed by his family. After listening to the Buddha, his wife and son also chose the path of monasticism. The Buddha found liberation and peace at the beginning of his ninth decade. He left a great legacy – the Dharma – the Doctrine of Life.

To visit the birthplace of the Buddha as well as the filming locations of “Little Buddha” in Nepal and Bhutan, please leave a request. We will contact you, help with choosing a tour, buy tickets, get all the necessary documents, discuss all the details.


You can see reviews of Nepal by our travelers.


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