Tina Turner on how Buddhism changed her life


To say that Tina Turner had to endure more than the average singer on her way to superstardom is an understatement. The legendary rock and roller reached massive highs thanks to her starring role in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, one of the 1960s and 1970s most famous soul-rock acts. But the abusive hand of her husband Ike forced Turner to escape his clutches with little more than pocket change in 1976.

While being forced to hide out, Turner’s struggles were only just beginning. Her divorce from Ike wasn’t official until 1978, and she remained in debt thanks to cancelled gigs. She was forced to find any jobs she could, including appearances on game shows and small club concerts. It would take almost another decade after her split from Ike that Turner finally found success on her own.

“I used to be baffled about why I had to endure so much abuse because I hadn’t done anything to deserve it,” Turner told the Harvard Business Review in 2021. “After I began practising Buddhism, I realised that my hardships could give me a mission—a purpose.”

“I saw that by overcoming my obstacles, I could build indestructible happiness and inspire others to do the same,” she added. “Then I could see everything that came my way, both the highs and the lows, as an opportunity for self-improvement and for sparking hope in others.”

Turner began practising Buddhism as early as 1973. Daily chants became an escape from her torment, and as she was going through both personal and professional trials, her religious beliefs kept her in a positive state of mind. She became an inspiration to a whole new generation, but to Turner, it all came back to her beliefs.

“Of everything I’ve done to succeed as an artist, spirituality has had the greatest influence,” Turner claimed. “The Buddhist teachings of compassion and kindness, which have much in common with the principles of ‘Love thy neighbour’ and ‘Do unto others’ that I learned from the Baptist influences in my childhood, have always been guiding forces for me.”

“After I began studying Buddhism and chanting Nam-myōhō-renge-kyō, I felt as if a different person emerged. My true self came out, and I became cheerful, confident, and resilient,” she said. “My approach to life and work became calmer and more thoughtful, and my reactions were more tempered. I used to get angry first and ask questions later. But after I embraced Buddhism, it flipped. I could easily stay calm and figure out the details instead of jumping to conclusions. I came to understand that any achievement stems from inner change.”

“The more I studied Buddhist principles, the deeper I dug within myself and cleaned up whatever attitudes or habits were standing in my way,” Turner concluded. “And the more I chanted and aligned my goals with an authentic desire to inspire happiness in others, the more my life began to improve. I credit my spiritual practice with all the positive transformations—from the smallest to the largest—I’ve had in my career and personal life.”

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