Buddhism Buddhism in Latin America
Frank Usarski
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 March 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 March 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0267


The study of Buddhism in Latin America, which had been lacking in other Western countries, has improved considerably in the last two decades. The main reason for the initial lack of attention is the numerically modest presence of Buddhists in the region. Buddhists are greatly outnumbered by members of the Catholic church and evangelical denominations, and there is a disproportionate focus by Latin American scholars who privilege topics related to Catholicism and Pentecostalism and tend to dismiss “marginal” religions including Buddhism. Furthermore, European and North American scholars of religion are often less interested in issues related to Latin America. The present bibliography reflects this lack of attention. Due to the relatively small circle of researchers interested in the field, some authors appear more than once in the listed references. Since the topic of Buddhism in Latin America is not very popular, publishing companies are not very keen to bring such scholarship to the market. To compensate for this omission, the reader of this bibliography will find, in addition to monographs, collected works, chapters, and journal articles. a number of relevant academic theses. This variety of publication formats should not distract from the central fact that not all aspects of the issue are equaly represented by the existing literature. Some Latin American countries, as well as specific Buddhist traditions and schools, are overrepresented. While there are many publications regarding Buddhism in Brazil and—to a lesser extent—in Argentina and Mexico, available material regarding other countries is scarce. The same is true for transnational and regional studies. Among the Buddhist schools, Soka Gakkai has received the greatest attention. Zen and Tibetan Buddhism have also been studied in some detail, more so than other branches. Under these conditions, this bibliography is organized according to the main thematical focuses of the selected publications. Besides overviews of the research on Buddhism in Latin America mentioned in the the opening section, Research on Buddhism in Latin America, the sources are categorized under the primary headings Historically Orientated Studies, Geographically Orientated Studies, and Systematically Orientated Studies. In several cases, the association of a publication to one of these categorizations may be ambiguous. To add an essay about Soka Gakkai in Argentina in the first decades after its appearance under Systematically Orientated Studies, for example, is arbitrary and demands from a reader, particularly one who is interested in one specific category, to be alert for complementary suggestions in other parts of the bibliography.

Research on Buddhism in Latin America

The limited number of studies about Buddhism in Latin America is is especially true of general overviews on the subject. Such publications are limited to two countries. Redyson 2016 offers a comprehensive survey of the research on Buddhism in Brazil. The relevant parts of Pereira 2002 on the study of Japanese religions in Brazil, including Buddhism, are more specific. The same is true for the methodological reflections of Usarski 2006, again restricted to the study of Buddhism in Brazil. The succinctness of the essay May 2020 is an expression of the lack of comprehensive research on Buddhism in Mexico.

  • May, Ezer R. M. “Cómo se han estudiado las prácticas budistas en México?.” Buddhistdoor en Español.

    The article contains an annotated list of articles, chapters, and theses on issues related to Soka Gakkai, Zen, Jodo Shinshu, and Tibetan Buddhism in Mexico.

  • Pereira, Ronan Alves. “Religiões Japonesas no Brasil: seu estudo e situação atual.” Estudios sobre religión: Newsletter de la Asociación de Cientistas Sociales de la Religión en el Mercosur 14 (2002): 3–13.

    The first part of the essay reviews studies on Japanese religions, including Buddhism, in Brazil from the 1940s onward. The author argues that the leading questions of the relevant publications reflect both the changes of Japanese Buddhism over time as well as the dominant intellectual tendencies among researchers of Brazil’s religious field in general.

  • Redyson, Deyve. “Repertório Bibliográfico sobre Budismo no Brasil: A História de um Desenvolvimento.” Religare 13 (2016): 545–580.

    This essay lists and comments on articles, chapters, and books of Brazilian researchers of Buddhism from the 1950s to 2015. The comprehensive list is organized by decade of publication and contains—together with reflections on historical, hermeneutical, and philosophical aspects of Buddhism in general—contributions to the study of Buddhism in Brazil.

  • Usarski, Frank. “O momento da pesquisa sobre o Budismo no Brasil: tendências e questões abertas.” Debates do NER 7 (2006): 129–141.

    The article reviews the principal publications on Buddhism in Brazil that were published until 2006, critizizes the lacking distinction between emic and etic arguments, and recalls the ideal of normative indifference as a prerequisite for further research projects.

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