(CBS) When the Dalai Lama's latest book, "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World," hit stores this week, many Americans recognized the voice narrating the audiobook, although they knew him best as President Josiah Bartlet.
Actor Martin Sheen, who played Bartlett for years on the on the hit TV drama "The West Wing," told Reuters he thought of the work as "a very special opportunity" and found that the book's message of compassion and universal ethics resonated with his own beliefs.
A devout Catholic and social activist, Sheen, 71, said, "It doesn't say drop your religion; you can't go this path and remain a Catholic or a Protestant or a Muslim or a Jew. On the contrary, it's about your humanity. That's where we're all united. "
Sheen, who played Bartlett on TV from 1999 to 2006, is an Emmy winner and multiple Golden Globe nominee. He has appeared in more than 65 films including a star turn as Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 movie "Apocalypse Now," which brought Sheen international recognition. Born Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez in Ohio, Sheen is the father of four, including actor Charlie Sheen and actor/director Emilio Estevez.
The Dalai Lama, who bills himself in the book as a "stateless refugee" and "India's longest-staying guest," is the author of more than 100 books but he says this is the first non-fiction focused on his secular teachings.
Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the publisher."Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World" read by Martin Sheen is available for free download through December 20 at audible.com. www.audible.com/beyondreligion