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Six degrees

Mark Peters

 

Buddha, whose birthday will be celebrated in Hong Kong on Friday, was born into a royal Hindu family as Siddhartha Gautama. At the age of 35, he took a seat under the Bodhi tree, vowing not to rise until he had discovered the truth of life. After 49 days of meditating, it is said he attained enlightenment and the wisdom he passed on became the basis of Buddhism. Many modern-day celebrities have dabbled with Buddhism - some jumping off the Kabbalah coach onto its passing bandwagon - but others have been more long-term adherents, including the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch …

 

Known as MCA, the "mature" member of the hip hop trio passed away last May, aged 47, after losing a three-year battle with cancer. Yauch, who retroactively apologised for early homophobic lyrics, stipulated in his will that "in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes". In 1996, he organised the Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco in support of independence for Tibet. One of the guest speakers at the event was Chinese democracy activist Shen Tong …

 

As one of the student leaders in the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing, Shen was on Changan Avenue when soldiers opened fire. Holding a Chinese passport that enabled him to study biology in the United States, he was able to board a plane six days after the crackdown. Later that year he was named among the People of the Year by Newsweek magazine. In the mid-1990s, Shen and other Chinese dissidents founded a literary magazine, with support from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eliezer Wiesel …

 

The Romanian-born Jewish American professor and Auschwitz survivor is seen as one of the most important writers of Holocaust literature. He was once approached by director Orson Welles about producing a movie version of Night, the shortened English-language translation of Wiesel's 900-page Holocaust memoir, but he refused, stating that it would lose its meaning without the silences in between his words. In 2006, he appeared before the UN Security Council to highlight atrocities in Darfur, accompanied by actor George Clooney …

 

The charismatic silver fox, one of Hollywood's highest paid stars, is also a bit of a prankster. Proving it's not just the Italian villas and beautiful women that keep him grinning, Clooney's "kitty litter trick" was a long-running practical joke that ended with the Academy Award winner pooping in a friend's cat litter box. Clooney was executive producer on the 2006 sci-fi thriller A Scanner Darkly, a movie adaptation of a Philip K. Dick book starring an animated Keanu Reeves …

 

Well known for his philanthropy and generosity, Reeves transferred his profit- share points - reported as being equivalent to US$75 million - from the two sequels to The Matrix to the movies' costume and special-effects crew. "Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries," he said. Reeves appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1993 movie Little Buddha as Siddhartha, the young prince who would become Buddha.

 

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