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Sunday, November 29, 2015

BUDDHISM IN PORTUGAL

Recent vacation was an entirely Christian Catholic experience. It's almost a traveller's cliché to pass every day inside yet another church, chapel, monastery or convent . From previous travel experience Europe these Portuguese churches seemed like minor variations on church architecture seen elsewhere, everywhere. The artwork and  statuary would always be beautiful but not really unique .

Then without warning we would find we would find ourselves in places like Remedios where there lies a small but celebrated church at the top of the hill overlooking the town. For some reason the interior of this particular church struck me as especially moving. It may have been the presence of one or two older women on their knees but I think it was rather the simplicity of the interior. This church had no specialty corners or alleys or aisles. It was no cathedral. It was simply one room with a magnificent statue at the front depicting a mother and child.

There was nothing about Portugal that suggested a Buddhist presence, no posters or advertisements that I could see. I did check online for active groups, and there are less than 10 groups in the whole country according to a major European Buddhist directory. These groups seemed equally divided between the usual Tibetan, they Pasanda, end then communities. And is in communities is in Zen . The search I did of population data shows that the percentage of Portuguese population who would self-described as Buddhist is roughly the same as in Canada, that is about .5% or about 50,000 people. Given the tremendous difference in population this represents a small number of actual practitioners. With the serious drainage of population through emigration, these numbers will only decline.

There are very few Buddhist texts in Portuguese. Most of them are created by the Buddhist centres in Brazil (which has a significant Japanese presence). Unfortunately these are in Brazilian Portuguese a version of the language with major differences from Portugal. There is some effort to translate a few books, but in general they have very little access to the majority of any sect literature.

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