And we end with a few brief notes about the lives of the Buddhists surveyed. The vast majority of Buddhists (72%) consider themselves quite or very happy, compared to 24% who say they are only somewhat happy and 4% who consider themselves unhappy. And the vast majority (81%) enjoy good levels of health, although nearly 20% are not in good health.
|Current Happiness Level
|Not very happy
|Not happy at all
On a scale of 1 to 10 (from least to most), the average happiness is 7.54, the average life satisfaction is 7.94, and the average enjoyment of life is 7.78. It is, in global terms, a population that considers itself happy, satisfied, and enjoys good health and life.
There are no major differences between the three main traditions. The only minor differences that can be mentioned are that the followers of the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions have slightly above average levels of happiness, satisfaction, and enjoyment compared to the Theravāda who are slightly below. Women have the highest levels in those three indicators of well-being, and Latin American Buddhists have a somewhat higher level of happiness than Spaniards but a little lower in satisfaction and enjoyment of life.
This sociological exploration offers a first picture of Buddhists in Spanish-speaking countries. And we have seen their characteristics, their vision and relationship with Buddhism, as well as their values, practices and actions shaping their Buddhist path. And to conclude I would like to highlight some interesting aspects of the exploration:
It’s a very homogeneous population. With a high level of similarity between practitioners of the various traditions, and between genders, and between practitioners from Latin America and Spain. In this sense, the existence of an important group of practitioners close and/or sympathizers of more than one tradition, center, and teacher stands out. This shows the permeability of jurisdictional barriers and the reduction of distances between traditions.
The views and practices of the followers of Buddhism in these countries reflect the form it has been taking in the West and as a minority practice. Conversion in countries where they are a minority, at a late age and in full maturity, translates into a high commitment to the practice, a willingness to achieve their goals, and a high identification with Buddhism. The adaptation of old wisdoms to new territories results in the dominant definition of Buddhism among respondents as a spiritual path and philosophy, and in a minority as a religion. In fact, almost all practitioners see themselves as spiritual and largely non-religious people.
The vision of Buddhism is complex: as a combination of knowledge and practices shaping the spiritual path. The practices and activities are very focused on personal empowerment for the spiritual path. In this framework, Buddhism becomes a vital project, with new goals and paths to achieve them. It has led to major changes in their ways of seeing and living life, and the vast majority have found (a lot or quite a lot) what they were looking for in Buddhism.
At the social level, the great potential of social relations between practitioners of different traditions and centers is remarkable, weaving the Buddhist social space and articulating a broad community. And at the same time, it is important to highlight their social role, in collaboration with social organizations and in actions related to UN’s SDG projects, contributing to better future societies.
And in global terms, it’s a population that considers itself and feels happy, and enjoys life (Table 1).
With my hope that this first image of Buddhist populations in Spanish-speaking countries will help their visibility and identity as a broad and complex community and their social role contributing to better future societies.
For the benefit of all beings!