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

Introduction

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.

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    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.

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  • 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.

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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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Historically Orientated Studies

Since the 1970s Buddhism in Latin America has evolved in ways that are parallel to other parts of the Western world. What gives the history of Latin America a distinct identity is the role of Asian, in particular Japanese, immigrants in certain countries of the region, foremost in Brazil, and the legacy of the ethnic community in terms of institutions that have preserved, to a certain extent, the cultural heritage of their ancestor’s Buddhists traditions. Peru, the first Latin American country influenced by Japanese Buddhists, as early as 1903, is discussed in Ota 2003. Nakamaki 2003 deals with the first Japanese Buddhist missionary, who entered Brazil in 1908. Handa 1987, Maeyama 1967, Mori 1992, and Usarski 2017 describe the subsequent evolution of ethnic-based Japanese Buddhism in Brazil. Missão Sul Americana da Ordem Otani do Budismo Shin 2014 reviews the first sixty years of its institutions in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Archanjo 2017 explores the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in theosophical circles, a phenomenon generally overlooked by the research on early Brazilian Buddhism.

  • Archanjo, Marcelo Vidaurre. “O Brasil Teosófico-Budista na década de 1920. Considerações a respeito da Sociedade Dhâranâ de Henrique José de Souza.” In Estudios sobre la historia del esoterismo Occidental en América Latina. Enfoques, aportes, problemas y debates. Edited by Juan Pablo Bubello, José Ricardo Chaves, and Francisco de Mendonça Júnior, 129–166. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial de la Facultad de Filosofia y Letras Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2017.

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    The author extracts from the 1925–1928 issues of the Revista Dhâranâ—a periodical published by the theosophical society Dharana (founded in 1924)—references to what the society’s protagonists thought to be pure “Tibetan Buddhism.” Since the associated Brazilian theosophists considered this “true esoteric wisdom” as constitutive for the very identity of their lodge the latter is in a certain sense a manifestation of the early Buddhism in Brazil.

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  • Handa, Tomoo. O Imigrante japonês: História de sua vida no Brasil. São Paulo, Brazil: T.A. Queiroz/EDUSP, 1987.

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    This publication contains a chapter on the religious life of Japanese immigrants in Brazil. The section draws mainly on Buddhism, its place in day-to-day-life in private homes and the “colonies,” its first isolated institutional manifestations from the 1930s onward, and the significant growth of Buddhist temples after World War II, especially of the two branches of Shin-Buddhism, and their integrative culture-preservative function for Brazilians of Japanese descent.

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  • Maeyama, Takashi: “O imigrante e a religião. Estudo de uma seita religiosa japonesa em São Paulo.” MA thesis, Fundação Escola de Sociologia e Política de São Paulo, 1967.

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    Familiarized with the relevant literature in Japanese as well as with the results of the National Brazilian Censuses, the author describes in the third chapter of his seminal thesis the religious trends of the approximately 240,000 Japanese immigrants who entered the country between 1908 and 1963 as well as the initially scarce and later intensified activities of the different Buddhist branches.

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  • Missão Sul Americana da Ordem Otani do Budismo Shin. 60 anos através das imagens. São Paulo, Brazil: Associação Religiosa Nambei Honganji Brasil Betsuin, 2014.

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    This bilingual publication (Portugues/Japanese) composed of firsthand material was launched by the continental headquarters of the Japanese Jodoshinshu organization Otani-ha, located in the city of São Paulo. The large-sized book (A4) documents the order’s manifold institutional activities in Brazil and neighboring countries from 1952 onward.

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  • Mori, Koichi. “Vida religiosa dos Japoneses e seus descendentes residentes no Brasil e religiões de origem Japonesa.” In Uma Epopeia Moderna. 80 anos da Imigração Japonesa no Brasil. Edited by Comissão de Elaboração da História dos 80 Anos da Imigração Japonesa no Brasil. 559–601. São Paulo, Brazil: Hucitec; Sociedade Brasileira de Cultura Japonesa, 1992.

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    The chapter glances at the evolution of Buddhism among the Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Brazil between the arrival of the first immigrant group in 1908 to the end of the 1980s, covering aspects such as improvised rituals before World War II, the role of anti-Japanese sentiments in the 1930s and 1940s, the consequences of rural-urban migration, and the impact of acculturation of the younger generations on their religious lives.

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  • Nakamaki, Hirochika. Japanese Religions at Home and Abroad: Anthropological Perspectives. New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003.

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    The ninth chapter of this publication deals with Tomojirõ Ibaragi, a representative of the Nichiren branch Honmon Butsuryushu, who came to Brazil as one of the very first Japanese Immigrants (1908) and dedicated himself until his death (1971) to the institutional establishment of his Buddhist school and the spiritual guidance of the Japanese “colony” in the surroundings of Lins (State of São Paulo).

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  • Ota, H. “The First Buddhist Missionaries in Peru – An Unknown Centennial History.” Dharma Eye 12 (August 2003).

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    The article recalls the arrival of the first delegates of Japanese Buddhist denominations in Peru in 1903, which marked the beginning of the activities of the Jodo School and the Soto-Zen school on South American soil. As far as the biographical information about these pioneers and their significance for the immigrants is concerned, the focus lies on Zen master Taian Ueno.

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  • Usarski, Frank. “Japanese ‘Immigrant Buddhism’ in Brazil. Historical Overview and Current Trends.” In Religion, Migration, and Mobility. Edited by Cristina Maria de Castro and Andrew Dawson, 72–99. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.

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    The chapter discriminates four phases in the evolution of immigrant Japanese Buddhism in Brazil and elaborates on the characteristics of each period by calling attention to aspects such as institutional manifestations and the role of traditional ethnic temples both for Buddhists with an immigration background and converts.

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Geographically Orientated Studies

Comprehensive and profound research on Buddhism on the Latin American continent is still in its infancy. Further efforts rely on more solid research on geographically smaller scales including studies on a national level, especially on countries that have been neglected so far. The following account of the status quo of the available publications of transnational, national, and municipal scopes paint a picture of the current developments including resources and future challenges regarding geographically oriented studies on Buddhism in Latin America.

Transnational Scope

Three of the four sources included in this subsection focus on institutionalized Buddhism in different geographical areas. Rocha 2017 synthesizes the author’s research on the available literature on Buddhism, which remains patchy with regard to national contexts. Similar is true for the thematically narrower chapter of Usarski 2011–2012 on South America. The encyclopedia entry Usarski and Shoji 2019 sketches out the the limits of Buddhist studies for Central American countries. The selection is completed by Kushigian 1991 whose author reflects on the Spanish literature of distinguished Latin American writers and calls attention to the “soft” influence of Buddhism.

  • Kushigian, Julia Alexis. Orientalism in the Hispanic Literary Tradition: In Dialogue with Borges, Paz, and Saiduy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991.

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    This book examines the passion for (or at least the intellectual interest in) Buddhism in the works of three Latin American writers: the Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges, the Mexican Octavio Paz, and the Cuban Severo Sarduy.

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  • Rocha, Cristina. “Buddhism in Latin America.” In The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Edited by Michael Jerryson, 299–315. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

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    This essay is meant as “the beginning of a conversation,” rather than as an exhaustive description, of Buddhism in the region, and synthesizes the author’s research on Buddhism in Brazil while summarizing available studies on Buddhism in Argentina, Peru, and Cuba. Readers of the chapter should bear in mind the provisional status of certain details, such as the table of Buddhist Groups by Country copied from the Buddhanet World’s Buddhism Directory.

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  • Usarski, Frank. “Buddhism in South America: An Overview with Reference to the South American Context.” In 2600 Years of Sambuddhatva: Global Journey of Awakening. Edited by Oliver Abenauake and Asanga Tilakaratne, 527–540. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Ministry of Buddhasana and Religious Affairs. Government of Sri Lanka, 2011–2012.

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    The chapter outlines the history and the then-current status of Buddhism in South America. The emphasis is on Brazil but the reader will also find data regarding the distribution of Buddhist institutions across the region and their proportional presence in the respective countries.

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  • Usarski, Frank, and Rafael Shoji. “Buddhism in Central America.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Edited by Henri Gooren, 232–234. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-27078-4_132Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Considering the still underdeveloped research on Buddhism in countries such as Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador. Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, the entry contents itself with presenting estimated numbers of Buddhists in the area. More reliable is the counting of the institutions run by different Buddhist branches active in Central America.

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Argentina and Brazil

The six publications included in this section represent the relatively advanced research on Buddhism in Argentina and even more so in Brazil. Carini 2018 deals with Argentina from the perspective of Buddhism’s history and its status in the country. Usarski 2002 is a collection consisting of eleven chapters and was the very first book on Buddhism in Brazil. One of the authors, Shoji, describes the Chinese Buddhist branch Fo Guang Shan, and later expanded his scope of research in his PhD thesis (Shoji 2004). In many respects the comprehensive and detailed account of Buddhism in Brazil offered by Redyson 2016 draws on the two aforementioned sources. Shoji 2002 discusses the particular profile of Buddhism in Brazil against the backdrop of Buddhism in other parts of the Western world. Shoji 2003 reflects further on Shingon-Buddhism in Brazil.

  • Carini, Catón Eduardo. “Southern Dharma: Outlines of Buddhism in Argentina.” International Journal of Latin American Religions 2.1 (June 2018): 3–21.

    DOI: 10.1007/s41603-018-0039-4Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Following an overview of the history and varying modalities of the appropriation and/or practice of Buddhism in Argentina by intellectuals, Asian immigrants, and “Western” converts, the author approaches the diverse Argentinian Buddhist field in terms of institutionalized traditions, branches, and schools.

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  • Redyson, Deyve. Os Caminhos do Dharma no Brasil. História e desenvolvimento do budismo no Brasil. Curitiba, Brazil: CRV, 2016.

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    This comprehensive overview of the history and current state (2016) of Buddhism in Brazil is organized according to Buddhist schools and their emergence in Brazil and contains interviews with Brazilian representatives of Buddhism, an exhaustive bibliography, as well as photographs.

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  • Shoji, Rafael. “Uma perspectiva analítica para os convertidos ao Budismo japonês no Brasil.” Revista de Estudos da Religião 2.2 (2002): 85–111.

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    Comparing the United States and parts of Europe, conversion to Buddhism in Brazil occurs under distinct cultural, religious, and socioeconomic conditions and is more likely when a spiritual practice promises to resolve “mundane” problems. The article summarizes the results of fieldwork among members of Buddhist groups of Japanese origin associated with Honmon Butsuryushu, Soka Gakkai, Reyukai, and Rissho Kosei-kai.

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  • Shoji, Rafael: “Buddhism in Syncretic Shape: Lessons of Shingon in Brazil.” Journal of Global Buddhism 4 (2003): 70–107.

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    The author makes critical use of the concept of syncretism as a theoretical tool instrumental in the analysis of Buddhism that is contextualized in a Catholic country whose population tends toward an eclectic religiosity. Syncretism cannot be approached in terms of a “Protestant Buddhism” that is suitable for the United States. The article addresses the incorporation and functionality of Catholic and Afro-Brazilian elements into the symbolic, doctrinal, and practical universe of institutionalized Shingon-Buddhism.

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  • Shoji, Rafael. “The Nativization of East Asian Buddhism in Brazil.” PhD diss., University of Hannover, 2004.

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    The author discusses the concept of “nativization” concerning (a) “ethnic” Japanese temples whose vocabularies demonstrate a certain degree of acculturation to the predominant Catholic Brazilian host society; (b) so-called “karmic Buddhism” interested in positive results of Buddhist rituals, analagous to Catholic folk-religious practices; and (c) converts whose sympathy for already Westernized schools is sustained by a “universalistic” interpretation of Buddhism.

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  • Usarski, Frank, ed. Budismo no Brasil. São Paulo, Brazil: Lorosae, 2002.

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    This first book publication on Buddhism in Brazil contains the contributions of ten authors including some researchers whose previous academic work has paved the way for the systematic study of the field. Among others, the reader finds chapters on Zen-, Pure-Land- and sub-branches of Nichiren-Buddhism active in Brazil.

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Other South American Countries

Compared to Brazil and Argentina, the study of Buddhism in other South American countries is rudimentary.Given the paucity of examples, this section presents only one short article for each country: Venezuela (Quintero 2008), Uruguay (Apud, et al. 2015), Peru (McKenzie 2019), Colombia (Usarski and Shoji 2019), and Chile (Usarski and Shoji 2019).

  • Apud, Ismael, Mauro Clara, Paul Ruiz Santos, and Alexander Valdenegro. “Seis grupos budistas en Uruguay del siglo XXI.” In Anuario Antropologia Social y Cultural en Uruguay. Edited by Sonnia Romero Gorski, 135–143. Montevideo, Uruguay: Nordan-Comunidad, 2015.

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    The authors comment on six Buddhist groups (one Theravada-center; two traditional Tibetan-schools, two Japanese Buddhist branches, and the Juniper Foundation) that—with exception of Soka Gakkai, present in the country since the 1960s—have emerged under the conducive political conditions and the favorable sociocultural climate of the post-dictatorship era.

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  • McKenzie, Germán. “Buddhism in Peru.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Edited by Henri Gooren, 247–255. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-27078-4_129Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This encyclopedia entry portrays Buddhism in Peru through the lenses of demographic data obtained by the 2014 National Census, describes the Buddhist institutions established in the country, and reflects on the relations between these groups and the influence of Buddhism on Peruvian society.

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  • Quintero, María del Pilar. “Presencia del budismo de Níchiren Daishonin en Venezuela.” Humania del Sur 3.5 (July–December 2008): 87–103.

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    The article outlines the sociohistorical context of the emergence of Soka Gakkai in Venezuela in the 1970s and the further development of this Nichiren branch covering symbolic data such as its official founding, its registering as a religious organization, the participation of its representatives at international conferences, and the publication of the organization’s periodicals and books of the movement’s leader, Daisaku Ikeda.

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  • Usarski, Frank, and Rafael Shoji. “Buddhism in Chile.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Edited by Henri Gooren, 234–236. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-27078-4_127Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    At present, this short overview of groups currently active at the national level in Chile is the only source of this kind.

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  • Usarski, Frank, and Rafael Shoji. “Buddhism in Colombia.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions. Edited by Henri Gooren, 236–238. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019.

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    This source presents in a succinct encyclopedia entry, a survey of the institutional manifestations of Buddhism in Colombia.

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Mexico

After Brazil and Argentina, Mexico is the third Latin American country that has witnessed a more systematic study of Buddhism. One Mexican author frequently mentioned is Ezer May, who provides a comprehensive article (May 2019) on Buddhism in different Mexican regions. Masayuki 1991 contributes to our knowledge of Mexican Buddhism on the national level with a specific focus on Soka Gakkai. The following three references draw on the personal views and experiences of Mexican Buddhists. While Hernández Madrid 2012 is interested in the “therapeutic” effects of practitioners of Buddhist meditation, the articles Fujiwara 1998 and Martin 2018 deal with the positions and subjective perspectives of Mexican Zen Buddhists. Fonseca Rubio and Mercado 1999 adds to our knowledge about Buddhism in Mexico concerning converts to Vajrayana.

  • Fonseca Rubio, Jaime, and Rafael Torres Mercado. “Budismo en México. Una minoría voluntaria.” In Las iglesias y la agenda de la prensa escrita en México. Edited by Sergio Inestrosa, 61–75. Mexico City: UIA, 1999.

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    Taking Mexican converts to Buddhism associated with the Casa Tíbet México as an example, the authors approach Buddhism in Mexico as an expression of globalizing and modernizing tendencies characteristic for Mexican society at the end of the 20th century.

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  • Fujiwara, Eiko. El Zen y su desarrollo em México. Mexico City: CEAPAC, 1998.

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    The core of this publication consists of the author’s interviews with eighteen Mexican men and women who had started to practice Zen between 1968 and 1994, which make this book not only a source for readers interested in the dynamics of conversion but also as a reference for the reconstruction of the history of Zen in Mexico.

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  • Hernández Madrid, Miguel J. “Aprendiendo a deconstruir el sufrimiento: los meditadores budistas en México.” In El nuevo malestar en la cultura. Edited by Hugo José Suárez, Verónica Zubillaga, and Guy Bajoit, 217–239. Mexico City: UNAM, 2012.

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    The chapter highlights the importance of meditative experiences as a source for understanding Buddhist core teachings such as the axiom of suffering both for older people affected by health problems and younger converts unsatisfied with Catholicism and its alignment with the dominant Mexican culture.

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  • Martin, Ken. “Mexico City, Koans, and the Zen Buddhist Master: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ejo Takata and the Fundamental Lesson of the Death of the Intellect.” Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World 8.3 (Fall 2018): 114–126.

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    Drawing on the autobiographical narrative “El maestro y las magas,” published in 2006, the article brings out the relationship between the Chilean multi-artist Alejandro Jodorowsky, known for his passion for Eastern philosophies, and his Zen master Ejo Takata under whom Jodorowsky studied in Mexico City during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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  • Masayuki, Okubo. “The Acceptance of Nichiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai in Mexico.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 18.2–3 (1991): 189–211.

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    This contribution to the research on Soka Gakkai in Mexico reconstructs four historical phases of the development of the group from the mid-1960s onward, resumes the author’s findings of a social-psychological survey of Soka Gakkai members, and reflects on what we can call “reverse acculturation,” that is, the impact of the Mexican way of understanding and practicing Nichiren Buddhism on the repertoire, standards, and activities of the organization.

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  • May, Ezer R. M. “Budistas en México. Una aproximación desde las estadísticas censales.” Debates do NER 19.35 (January–July 2019): 237–270.

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    This article extracts data from six national censuses divided into two blocks (1895, 1900, 1910, and 1940 versus 2000 and 2010) a series of relevant information regarding the evolution of the statistical universe over time, the geographical dispersion of Buddhists by regions and federal states, the proportions of male and female Buddhists as well as their distribution over age groups and marital statuses.

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Cuba

Although followers of Buddhism represent a tiny minority in Cuba, some researchers have shown an interest in their existence not least because of the special political conditions under which certain Buddhist institutions and leading figures have become active on the island. Rodriguez Plasencia 2019 offers an overview of this limited community. The latter is dominated by Soka Gakkai, which is discussed in Rodriguez Plasencia 2015. Interestingly, Cuba is one of the few Latin American nations in which Theravada Buddhism, the least developed Buddhist tradition in Latin America, is represented by a native Sri Lankan monk whose trajectory on the island and impressions regarding Cuban converts and sympathizers is the subject of an interview (Usarski 2020).

  • Rodriguez Plasencia, Girardo. “Joining Soka Gakkai in Cuba: Affiliation Patterns and Factors Influencing Conversion Careers.” Social Compass 62.2 (2015): 159–171.

    DOI: 10.1177/0037768615571687Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on interviews with fifteen Cuban members of Soka Gakkai and conceptionally inspired by the paradigm of “active” conversion, the essay answers the question of the individual motives for joining the movement, how organizational characteristics of Soka Gakkai correspond to personal spiritual quests, and in what sense the overall conditions of Cuban society have contributed to the religious choice of Buddhist practitioners.

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  • Rodriguez Plasencia, Girardo. “Buddhism in Cuba.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religion. Edited by H. P. P. Gooren, 238–239. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019.

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    This short encyclopedia entry approaches the few Buddhist convert groups and meditation circles that have been established in Cuba since the 1990s, disconnected from the privately practiced Buddhism brought to the island by Asian immigrants in the 19th century.

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  • Usarski, Frank. “Buddhism in Cuba: An Interview with Ven. Bhikkhu Mihita.” International Journal of Latin American Religions (2020).

    DOI: 10.1007/s41603-020-00105-3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This reference is an interview with the academically trained and ordained Theravada monk Bhikkhu Mihita who went to Cuba twice (2007 and 2017), where he attracted potential converts through public lectures and meditation retreats.

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Selected Latin American Cities

The five sources selected for this section all focus on Buddhism in certain Latin American cities. May 2015 explores the past and the present of Buddhism in Yucatán, Mexico. Matsue 2014 investigates the process of cultural adjustment of a local Shin temple in Brazil’s capital Brasília. Gancedo 2012 focuses on the positions of members of Soka Gakkai in Buenos Aires. Besides tendencies of commercialization of Buddhist elements in Santiago de Chile, Soka Gakkai is also an issue for Monaghan 2013. Salazar 2019 sheds a light on Tibetan Buddhist and Zen-centers in Bogota.

Systematically Orientated Studies

This section consists of a selection of publications on culturally predefined traditions, certain branches, and specific schools. In countries that have witnessed considerable influxes of Asian immigrants, ethnically rooted Buddhism has repeatedly captured the attention of academics involved in the study of Buddhism in Latin America. The same is true for Zen, Soka Gakkai, and certain Vajrayana-schools, that is, branches that are particularly popular among Latin Americans without an Asian family background.

Immigrant Buddhism

The first three references included in this subsection deal with Buddhism associated with Japanese immigration to Brazil. Matsuoka and Pereira 2007, as well as Usarski 2008, discuss the dynamics generated by the desire of traditional Japanese Buddhist temples to preserve their cultural heritage, on the one hand, and the necessity for greater openness toward the general public as a means for survival in a predominantly Catholic country, on the other hand. The documentation for a Buddhist symposium held in Brazil (Federação das seitas budistas do Brasil 1995) offers an insight into this problem from an insider perspective. Shoji and Córdova Quero 2019a and Shoji and Córdova Quero 2019b deal with Chinese and Korean Buddhism and the immigration background of both lineages.

  • Federação das seitas budistas do Brasil. Simpósio e conferência Brasil-Japão de Budismo. A contribuição do Budismo para a Ordem e o Progresso do Brasil. São Paulo, Brazil: Federação das seitas budistas do Brasil, 1995.

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    This bilingual (Portuguese/Japanese) publication resulted from a conference organized by the Federation of Buddhist Sects in Brazil on the actual and possible contributions of Buddhism to the welfare of the Brazilian state and people. The book reveals a series of details about the groups’ histories and current challenges through the transcription of both speeches of representatives of the Shin, Zen, and Nichiren branches and of the reported discussion among the symposium’s participants.

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  • Matsuoka, Hideaki, and Ronan A. Pereira. “Japanese Religions in Brazil: Their Development in and out of the Diaspora Society.” In Japanese Religions in and beyond the Japanese Diaspora. Edited by Ronan A. Pereira and Hideaki Matsuoka, 123–145. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California-Berkeley, 2007.

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    The relevant sections of the book allow an insight into the emergence of traditional Buddhist schools and neo-Buddhist movements in Brazil and their subsequent institutional expansion that in many cases has transcended the ethnic Japanese boundaries characteristic of the initial phase of the organizations in question.

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  • Shoji, Rafael, and Hugo Córdova Quero. “Chinese Buddhism.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religion. Edited by H. P. P. Gooren, 303–307. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019a.

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    The article unfolds the implications of the polysemic expression “Chinese Buddhism in Latin America” by describing the evolution of this particular segment of the field from a religion brought to the region by Chinese immigrants to more recent manifestations partly adapted to the specific conditions of the different Latin American countries.

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  • Shoji, Rafael, and Hugo Cordóva Quero. “Korean Buddhism.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American Religion. Edited by H. P. P. Gooren, 815–816. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2019b.

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    First, this short encyclopedia entry relates the arrival of Korean Buddhism, initially associated exclusively with Korean immigration. Second, it describes the current presence of Korean Buddhist schools and their activities in different Latin American countries.

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  • Usarski, Frank. “The Last Missionary to Leave the Temple Should Turn Off the Light. Sociological Remarks on the Decline of Japanese ‘Immigrant’ Buddhism in Brazil.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 35.1 (2008): 39–59.

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    Taking up a steady decline of Buddhists of Asian descent indicated by Brazil’s National Census of 1991 and 2000, the article elaborates upon and analyzes the reasons for this decline both from the perspective of the families with an immigrant background and the politics of traditional Japanese temples.

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Zen Buddhism

Zen institutions in Latin American countries exceed that of Shin Buddhism. Zen is also far more popular for Latin American converts than Shin Buddhism. The emic interest in Zazen resonates in a considerable number of academic publications on related issues. McKenzie 2016 approaches Soto Zen in Peru. The Brazilian anthropologist Cristina Rocha is certainly the most qualified researcher on Zen in that country and the inclusion of her comprehensive and profound book (Rocha 2006) and two articles (Rocha 2005; Rocha 2010) in this section underlines this reputation. Albuquerque 2008 looks back to the end of the 1960s when a small group of Brazilian intellectuals began to share their enthusiasm for Zazen, which was already proliferating in North American countercultural circles. The interest in Zen as an alternative spiritual option marked the beginning of the long-lasting and illustrious religious career of the Brazilian Claudia Souza de Murayama (also known as Monja Coen) whose initiative of public walking meditations in São Paulo is the subject of Usarski 2012. Two essays from Catón Eduardo Carini, the foremost expert of Buddhism in Argentina, complete the section. Carini 2006 deals with the question of traditional authority within a group of converts. Carini 2014 explores the personal reasons that brought Zazen practitioners to Buddhism.

  • Albuquerque, Eduardo Basto de. “Intellectuals and Japanese Buddhism in Brazil.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 35.1 (2008): 61–79.

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    Referring to Brazilian poets, authors of travel reports, and later academics (psychologists, historians, etc.), the article reconstructs the modalities and ways through which Buddhism became attractive for Brazilian intellectuals from the second half of the 19th century onward.

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  • Carini, Catón Eduardo. “Estrategias del poder sagrado: la construcción de la jerarquía y la autoridad en el budismo zen argentino.” Ciencias Sociales y Religión/Ciências Sociais e Religião, Porto Alegre 8 ano 8 (October 2006): 155–172.

    DOI: 10.22456/1982-2650.2297Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article is the product of a field study conducted between 2001 and 2004 among Argentinean followers of the French Zen master Stephan Kosen Thibaut, who in the mid-1990s expanded his religious activity to Latin America. The research aimed to discover whether religious authority that is traditionally attributed to the Zen master is confirmed or modified by disciples under the conditions of a modern society often skeptical of religious hierarchy.

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  • Carini, Catón Eduardo. “Conversión e identidad en el budismo zen argentino: un enfoque etnográfico.” Cultura y Religión 8.2 (2014): 247–264.

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    Following recent theoretical trends in the field of conversion studies, the author refers to his interviews with members of a local Zen center and comments on the dynamics that have inspired Argentinian converts to start and to continue practicing Zazen.

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  • McKenzie, German. “Exploring Soto Zen in Peru.” REVER - Revista de Estudos da Religião 16.3 (2016): 174–196.

    DOI: 10.21724/rever.v16i3.31186Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article approaches the institutional development of Soto Zen in Peru from 2005 onward and its current status, which is characterized by the ambiguity between the preservation of the lineage’s traditional spiritual and symbolic heritage, on the one hand, and the need for acculturation as a prerequisite for attracting Peruvian converts, on the other hand.

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  • Rocha, Cristina. “Being a Zen Buddhist Brazilian: Juggling Multiple Religious Identities in the Land of Catholicism.” In Buddhist Missionaries in the Era of Globalization. Edited by Linda Learman, 140–161. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    Based on personal interviews with Zen practitioners and guided by the concept of creolization, which is understood as a creative and innovative appropriation and combination of religious elements of different cultural origins, the author sheds a light on the modalities and ways Brazilian converts became acquainted with Zen Buddhism in a highly pluralistic religious field including manifestations associated with the New Age sector.

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  • Rocha, Cristina. Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity. Honolulu: Universityi of Hawai‘i Press, 2006.

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    This publication is a reflection on the adoption of Zen as a means of modernization in the context of a traditionally Catholic society. Based on a detailed reconstruction of the historical development of Zen in Brazil, the author analyzes the conversion of Brazilians to this Japanese tradition through the conceptual perspective of “creolization,” which underlines the creative element of the process and its innovative outcome.

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  • Rocha, Cristina. “Creolizing Zen in Brazil.” In Issei Buddhism in the Americas. Edited by Duncan Ryûken Williams and Tomoe Moriya, 5–26. Urbana and Chicago University of Illinois Press, 2010.

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    Focusing on a relatively small, but conceptually functional, number of Brazilians with a Japanese family background who had rediscovered Zen Buddhism as an individual religious option within a Catholic national context, the essay exemplifies how Zazen and its original cultural connotations are integrated into the dominant religious horizon both from viewpoints of those reconverting and the perspective of the related Buddhist institutions.

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  • Usarski, Frank. “Kinhin in a Megacity—Implicit Meanings of the ‘Walking-in-the-Park’-Movement in São Paulo.” In The Sacred in the City. Edited by Liliana Gómez and Walter van Herck, 96–107. London and New York: Continuum, 2012.

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    The chapter describes a particular and much-noticed initiative inaugurated in 2001 by the national Brazilian Zen-icon Claudia Souza de Murayama, who gathered members of her local Buddhist center to practice walking meditation in certain parks of the city of São Paulo.

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Soka Gakkai

The omnipresence of Soka Gakkai in virtually every Latin American country has made national manifestations of this global movement the most explored and commented branch in the field of Latin American Buddhist studies. The five essays selected here complete the various references to research on Soka Gakkai that appeared in previous sections of this bibliography. Fernández 2012 identifies the Lotus Sutra as a crucial philosophical basis of peace-oriented sociopolitical activities of Soka Gakkai in Latin America. Gancedo 2015 contributes to our knowledge of the movement’s evolution in Argentina. Inoue 2006 presents the results of a study on the dynamics of joining the Mexican branch of Soka Gakkai. Clarke 2005 points to changes in the movement’s religious repertoire to suit the demands of its Brazilian followers. Also focusing on Brazil, Bornholdt 2010 draws parallels between Pentecostalism and Soka Gakkai in terms of the conviction that a correctly understood piety fosters prosperity.

  • Bornholdt, Suzana R. C. “Chanting for Benefits: Soka Gakkai and Prosperity in Brazil.” (Con)textos. Revista d’antropologia i investigació social 4 (2010): 64–79.

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    The author highlights the topic of prosperity as a crucial element of the successful propagation of the Brazilian branch of Soga Gakkai. Although Soka Gakkai has its style of propagating the benefits of its version of Nichiren-Buddhism, the “prosperity” message is similar to that of the booming Pentecostal churches that exist in the country and reveals the popularity of the promise of resolving one’s financial problems through religion.

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  • Clarke, Peter B. “Globalization and the Pursuit of a Shared Understanding of the Absolute: The Case of Soka Gakkai in Brazil.” In Buddhist Missionaries in the Era of Globalization. Edited by Linda Learman, 123–139. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005.

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    The chapter argues that the once radically exclusive attitude of Soka Gakkai toward other religions and Buddhist branches underwent certain changes in Brazil in favor of a greater inclusivism due to the dominant position of Catholicism in the country and the manner in which Brazilians practice their religions.

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  • Fernández, Paula Tizzano. “La traducción religiosa y su impronta filosófica en el nivel de la praxis: El budismo en América Latina.” Mutatis Mutandis 5.1 (2012): 17–39.

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    The article, written from a perspective sympathetic to Buddhism, elaborates on the philosophical implications of the Lotus Sutra (today accessible in Western languages, including Spanish) for peacebuilding initiatives of the Nichiren Buddhist movement Soka Gakkai in Latin America.

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  • Gancedo, Mariano. “Rostros de Una Diáspora. Comunidad Japonesa y Religiosidad En La Soka Gakkai Internacional (Argentina).” Horizontes Antropológicos 21.43 (2015): 183–210.

    DOI: 10.1590/S0104-71832015000100008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The essay sketches the evolution of Soka Gakkai in Argentina, which began as a small ethnic-centered group in the 1950s and is today the most successful movement within the country’s Buddhist spectrum. One reason is Soka Gakkai’s capacity to embrace the cultural and religious conditions of the Argentinian audience while maintaining traditional Japanese elements such as the master-disciple relationship as well as mutual support and encouraging attitudes among the group members.

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  • Inoue, Daisuke. “Un nuevo movimiento religioso japonês en México: la Soka Gakkai.” Alteridades 16.32 (2006): 43–56.

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    Based on 320 interviews conducted in March 1999 with frequenters of a local Soka Gakkai institution, the essay provides a detailed analysis of the different stages of conversion by those interviewed. The author takes into account aspects such as the benefits experienced by practitioners in different moments of their lives as Buddhists and the growing identification with the group’s worldview and goals.

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Tibetan Buddhism

As with Zen and Soka Gakkai, Tibetan Buddhism is attractive for Latin Americans interested in Buddhism. This attraction has stimulated several academic studies on institutional expressions of related schools and the motives and conditions under which converts have committed themselves to a certain lineage within the spectrum of Vajrayana Buddhism. Zibechi 2011 lays out a panorama of testimonies of Latin American adherents. Further insights into the subjective dimension of Tibetan Buddhist practices are given in Cardoso 2016 and Elias Roca Rey, et al. 2017, as well as in the paper Carini 2013. Relevant parts of Lopes 2014 deal with representations of Tibetan Buddhist traditions in Brazil.

  • Cardoso, Bruno Campos. “O chão onde se senta, o lugar onde se Pisa: etnografia das técnicas do corpo em eventos do Budismo Tibetano Curitiba.” MA thesis, Universidade Federal do Paraná, 2016.

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    This master thesis explores how Brazilian converts to Tibetan Buddhism gain a deeper understanding of their religious choices through the exercise of corporal techniques collectively practiced in a Vajrayana-Center in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.

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  • Carini, Caton Eduardo. “Los grupos budistas tibetanos de la Argentina: diversidad, prácticas rituales y cosmovisión.” Actas de las Jornadas de Jóvenes Investigadores en Ciencias Sociales - IDAES/UNSAM, 2013.

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    The paper approaches the history, sociocultural profiles, teachings, and rituals of Tibetan Buddhist institutions in Argentina.

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  • Elias Roca Rey, Andrea, Flores Aguirre, and Carlos Javier. “Bienestar Psicológico y Budismo: Experiencias y significados en practicantes de Budismo en el Perú.” Summa Psicológica UST 14.1 (2017): 72–81.

    DOI: 10.18774/448x.2017.14.323Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article, reflecting experimental psychology, informs about the arrangement, theoretical references, methodology, and results of interviews with ten members of a Soka Gakkai group in Lima, Peru. Based on a predefined six-fold empirical scale the authors conclude that Nichiren Buddhism and belonging to an organization that emphasizes the mutual support of its followers contributes to the well-being of its practitioners.

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  • Lopes, Ana Cristina O. Tibetan Buddhism in Diaspora: Cultural Resignification in Practice and Institutions. London: Routledge, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315738147Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book is the result of multinational fieldwork on the religious and organizational impact of the process of global dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism. The third and fifth chapter deal with some manifestations of Tibetan Buddhism in Brazil, such as the movement of the Gelugpa master, Lama Gangchen.

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  • Zibechi, A. S. Os latino-americanos e o Tibete. Harmonia na diversidade. São Paulo, Brazil: Palas Atena, 2011.

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    The book contains the transcription of thirty-four interviews conducted by the Uruguayan author with Latin American activists for the Tibetan cause who discuss the impact both of their political engagement and Buddhist practice on their personal life.

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