Benedict Cumberbatch remains ''grateful'' to the Buddhist monks who took him in when he was just 19.

The 'Doctor Strange' actor spent five months as one of five trainee teachers in an exiled Tibetan community on the border of Darjeeling at the end of his teenage years, and the ''extraordinary'' and ''isolated'' experience will live with him forever.

Speaking to Radiohead's Thom Yorke for Interview magazine, he said: ''It was in an exiled Tibetan community, just outside of Darjeeling, on the border. It was a little hill station town. I was one of five teachers who had done a training course. It was extraordinary, but it was quite an isolated experience. I spent half a year working odd jobs to build up funds for the airfare and to pay for the course. You're not paid for the teaching; you're paid in experience. You're surrounded by the monks and their lives.

''It was a small monastery, and the top floor was the temple. I was living on the bottom floor, which was pretty damp and had huge spiders. I think it was just near the end of the rainy season; I can't remember, but it was cold. And because it was so high up, you would open your window, and the clouds were like dry ice rolling across your desk. Nature was ever present; that was gobsmackingly beautiful, as was the spirit and nature and philosophy and way of life of these monks ... It was revelatory. There are these stories and parables and tools with which to channel your focus and meditation and practice, and begin the path to enlightenment. It was a bit cult-y; there were a few nervous, out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye looks between us Westerners. The person who was overseeing us saw that we were really committed, and he also saw that it was just too much. Our busy minds had to be really suppressed. But it was the chance to begin something. I'm so grateful that I had that experience.''

Benedict, now 41, also spent a fortnight on a retreat with another of the teacher's after the five months on the unpaid course, and added that he learned a lot from the ''beautiful'' and influential experience.

He admitted: ''It was massive. I really cannot get over the generosity of our teacher. He said, 'Don't punish yourself. You're going to be a student at a university in the north of England. You need to have your experiences and have your fun, and not judge yourself. Don't live in guilt and regret.' ''

'Sherlock' star Benedict has sons Christopher, two, and Hal, eight months, with wife Sophie Hunter, and explained how he finds the balance between his personal and professional lives.

He said: ''When I walk through that door, it's about home. If I didn't do that, I'd become consumed by one thing only and damage the people who love me. And it would damage the work.''