The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Good-bye, Harold Ramis

by Lydia Anderson
February 24, 2014
Mon, 02/24/2014 - 14:04 -- landerson

Harold Ramis, the director of some of America’s modern comedy classics including Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day, has died today from complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. Ramis became a Zen Buddhist in his adulthood, and cited his practice as influential to his work. The Chicago Tribune has an obituary for Ramis which cites his practice:

As zany as Ramis' early comedies were, they rigorously pursued a theme close to the heart of someone who grew out of the 1960s counterculture: characters rebelling against institutions, be they authoritarian college administrators and pampered rich kids (“Animal House”), a stuffy golf club (“Caddyshack”) or the military (“Stripes”). After the collapse of his first marriage and the flop of his 1986 comedy “Club Paradise” (with greedy developers as the institutional villain), the Jewish-raised Ramis immersed himself in Zen Buddhism.

“It's my shield and my armor in the work I do,” he said. “It's to keep a cheerful, Zen-like detachment from everything.”

Ramis’ later directorial efforts, starting with “Groundhog Day” and including “Stuart Saves His Family” (1995), “Multiplicity” (1996), “Analyze This” and his “Bedazzled” remake (2000), reflect a spiritual striving, exploring individuals' struggles with themselves more than outside forces.

Comparing his later to earlier comedies, Ramis told the Tribune: “The content's different, but it comes from the same place in me, which is to try to point people at some reality or truth.”

For more on Ramis’ spiritual side, be sure to read Shambhala Sun’s 2009 interview with the director:

When I ask Ramis for his take on Buddhism, he recites, from memory, something he had written when he and his wife helped sponsor the Dalai Lama’s visit to Chicago in May, 2008: “The universe is in a constant state of becoming—an ongoing miraculous creation. Every day we awaken to that miracle with gratitude, respect, and compassion for all who share the gift of being.”

“To me,” he says, “that felt like a nice distillation. I thought it was good enough to remember.”

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