Richard Gere plans to build a spa to encourage others to follow Buddhism.

The 53-year-old CHICAGO star - a close friend of the Dalai Lama - believes his proposed SPA TIBET complex could boost awareness of the religion and its spiritual home. The holiday retreat - based in Tibet, a country annexed by China - will hold monasteries, hot baths and rooms for meditation.

Gere says there would be "an influx of Westerners and Chinese to the new spiritual tourist destination, filling Communist coffers, thereby alleviating the economic drain that China perceives Tibet."