Latina Buddhist

Feature photo by H. Koppdelaney

I became a Buddhist at twelve; the news was devastating to my parents. To top it off I became a vegetarian. Cue the tragic “DIOS MIO!” In my home, and in many Mexican homes, to be Catholic/Christian is not a choice. You’re simply born into the religion and to ask questions about other spiritualities is a personal attack on your family’s decency, pride and culture. Ten years later I’m still a Buddhist and a vegetarian. How many other Buddhist Latinos have I met since then? One. Because of this, I’m frequently met with confused faces when I reveal I’m a Buddhist. Buddha’s that fat smiling guy with all the necklaces, right? So here goes a very brief, and I mean brief, glimpse into Buddhism.

There are many Buddhas. A Buddha is an enlightened being, someone who is awake and in seeing the suffering of the world, actively engages in ending it. In Mahayana Buddhism we’re taught that all conscious beings have Buddha-Nature. Meaning everyone, absolutely everyone has the potential to become a Buddha if they dedicate themselves.

The first thing I learned in Buddhism is that before you can understand the heart of others you must first understand your own. This means sitting down with yourself and taking a good look in the mirror, then digging deeper, through the reflection into the skin and underneath. If you analyze why you’re angry, hurt, or sad and allow yourself to truly feel those emotions then:

1. You’ll be able to understand why someone else is angry. They’re angry because they’re hurt; they’re hurt because I said/did something to hurt them. I said/did something to hurt them because I’m feeling insecure, etc.

2. Once you start to really understand number 1, you’re less likely to piss someone off, hurt their feelings and make them sad, which is the development of compassion and one of the biggest teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.

The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, once said, “See yourself in others, then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do? He who seeks happiness by hurting those who seek happiness will never find happiness. For your brother is like you. He wants to be happy. Never harm him and when you leave this life you too will find happiness.” Apart from this, the Buddha developed the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, which are guidelines to living a happier, more compassionate and fulfilled life:

  1. Suffering exists.
  2. Attachment is suffering.
  3. Through practice we can end suffering.
  4. The Noble Eight Fold Path is the path to end suffering.

What most people struggle with is the idea of releasing attachment. Ok, attachment is suffering, but it’s impossible to release attachment so suffering is never going to end! Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, describes it like this: Imagine you’re holding a quarter in your fist, and your fist is facing the floor. You’re making a fist because if you let go of the quarter, it’ll fall. The fist represents attachment; the quarter is the person/thing we want to hold onto. Attachment breeds possession and insecurity. If you turn your hand over so that your palm is facing the sky you can release the fist without loosing the coin. This is releasing attachment.

Feel a little enlightened on Buddhism? Still confused and want to learn more? Have questions or concerns? Are you a Latino Buddhist, and if so, what does that mean to you? Comment!

16 thoughts on “Latina Buddhist

  1. Thank you for a very interesting article! Choosing a religion not practiced by your parents at age 12 is unusual, and very self-aware. I am curious — how did you get introduced you to Buddhism?

  2. I meditate in my living room but It’s about I linked myself to an temple/master which is terrifying! (commitment issues? maybe.) Great question though, I’m going to be traveling to the many Buddhist temples in Chicago to see which fits best. I might even get an article up with the different services if any one’s interested.

  3. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Botanica’s but they’re these little stores where you can find statues of saint’s, candles, incense, tea, and even Buddha statues. I saw a Buddha statue there and I felt this instant happiness. I asked my brother who he was and from then on it was a lot of research/reading and meditating.

  4. I’m so glad we finally snagged you! Now wrangle up the rest of those crazy eloteros and make them WRITE!

  5. Budhism has always caught my attention on the other side I have been vegetarian and Puerto Rican for the last 5+ years and that was and still is something not understood by my family members and family.

    I would really like to learn more about budhism but being here in Puerto Rico is a bit difficult to find people practicing it.

    Any suggestions on trying to learn more?

  6. Perhaps the universe is trying to send me a message. Just this weekend I have been thinking about learning more about Buddhism and then I just stumbled upon this article. Interesting.

  7. Learning without a teacher is hard but not impossible! Read as much as you can and try to apply what you learn. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is amazing for not only being introduced to Buddhism but also for developing a deeper understanding. There’s also a book called Buddhism Plain and Simple that’s great for introductions. There are great online sources too! Youtube actually has great clips of the Dalai Lama and there’s a good movie called The Buddha found here:

    hope that kind of helps.

  8. Hello I am a Puerto Rican that follows buddhist beliefs. I am into eating healthy, and trying to live a more zen life style. Open to alternative medicine, and holistic treatments. Hope to meet other like minded latinos.

  9. Hi Jenine: I am a latina and a zen buddhist practitioner. What buddhism means to me I am not certain, but I know that it has intensely changed my life. It has made me a bit more friendly and approachable, something I struggled with earlier in my life. In my case, what has helped the most is to have a daily meditation practice and a community of practitioners. Sitting, sitting, sitting in deep meditation, in the body lies the key.

  10. I am a Latina and am also Buddhist although I am still just trying to learn as much as I can. Reading this article made me so happy to see that there are other people who understand how unorthodox this decision looks to any Hispanic family. I became interested in Buddhism when I was 17 but I have always been interested in the institution of religion is general.
    I find it amazing that first you became a Buddhist at such a young and also had the courage to tell you parents. Im 20 years old now but still would not talk about that with my mother. I avoid really talking about religion with most people just because it seems to be a touchy subject and its hard to find people that are respectful of your beliefs even if theirs differs.

  11. Titagoodgirl I am also boricua living near Sanjuan just moved here from NYC and.believe in holistic medicine I would love to.chant together attend temple together let. Me know!

  12. Namaste! NYrican born/raised in a household with many statues/idols and of course that Happy Buddha. But the buddha was always the one to go to. Now as I am retired I have transitioned to BUDDHISM. I have learned so much doing my online research, reading books, and realizing that “this’ is where I should have been! I fully understand my buddha nature and I was being guided to buddhism somehow. (Life experiences!) I am in a good place and I am hoping to meet others by way of this post. Looking forward to retreats, learning more & helping others. Wishing you all METTA.


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