Music icon Tina Turner released her new memoir on 1 December.* In the book, titled Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good, the singer describes how Buddhism has helped her to overcome despair and to cultivate indestructible happiness—a lesson she hopes will inspire readers amid the doom and gloom of the global pandemic.
In a series of interviews accompanying the release of Happiness Becomes You, Turner, 81, illuminated the difficulties she has overcome in her life, finding Buddhism, and the lessons it offers her and others. One of those lessons, she said last week, was “to step out of my comfort zone, to improve my life, and to be of service to others.” (Billboard)
Despite finding worldwide success in the 1960s, Turner is no stranger to hardship. Having survived an unhappy childhood, an abusive marriage, institutional racism and ageism, a suicide attempt, devastating personal loss, a myriad of health issues, and financial ruin, she is living proof that life’s hardest challenges can serve as stepping stones to cultivating boundless inner joy. Now in her 80s and happily married, Turner credits her spiritual path for providing her with the strength to carry on.
“After I attempted suicide, a few people suggested I try chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo and learn about Buddhist principles,” Turner said earlier this month. “At first, I ignored them. But I continued to hear about Buddhism, so finally I decided to look into it. The more I read, the more I found it made perfect sense to me. Soon after I began chanting, I came to see that everything I needed to change my life for the better was already inside of me. I became more confident and hopeful, and the transformations I achieved through my spiritual practice helped me to become joyful and successful.” (Vanity Fair)
Turner has been practicing in the Soka Gakkai tradition of Nichiren Buddhism for some 50 years and she revels in the principle that everyone has the potential to attain enlightenment. Almost every day she chants nam-myoho-renge-kyo, a mantra that pays homage to the Lotus Sutra and enables her to cultivate openness, compassion, and clarity. The practice is performed with eyes open in vigorous rhythmic repetition and it suits her artistic tendencies to perfection.
Famous for hit songs such as “River Deep – Mountain High” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Turner left her illustrious career behind to promote peace and interfaith harmony with the Beyond the Music Project, a not-for-profit initiative she began with other female artists from various spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, and Hinduism. In a 2014 interview with Buddhistdoor Global, the self-proclaimed “Baptist-Buddhist” shared her excitement at being able to transition from mainstream music to singing spiritual songs again.**
The timing of Turner’s memoir is no coincidence. For a long time, she has wanted to share with the world what Buddhism has taught her, and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to do just that. “Here’s what I’d like to say to everyone: I know, from my own life, that as we go through adversity it can feel as if we’re stuck in an endless winter and that spring may never come. But I also know that when we choose hope over despair, we can find peace, no matter what’s going on around us.” (Variety)
Speaking directly about the pandemic and to those affected by COVID-19, she also said: “Just as spring is inevitable, I believe that so is the end of this pandemic. I also believe this crisis can be a reminder to appreciate the treasure of everyday life. I’m praying for the good health of my family, friends, fans, and all humankind, and I look forward to seeing everyone again when we come out of this ordeal.” (Variety)
* Music Icon Tina Turner Turns to Buddhist Principles in New Book (Buddhistdoor Global)
** Beyond All Differences: Interview with Tina Turner and the Beyond Music Quartet (Buddhistdoor Global)
Tina Turner Says Buddhism ‘Literally Saved My Life’ After Suicide Attempt (Billboard)
Tina Turner Has the Secret for Happiness, and She’s Sharing It (Vanity Fair)
Tina Turner Talks Retirement, Overcoming Negativity and Why She Wanted to Write a Memoir (Variety)