Profiles of Hayward [CA] Buddhist Converts

Source: The Oakland Tribune

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On May 13, 2003 The Oakland Tribune reported that “As a kid, [David Garcia] didn’t wonder much about God or the universe. Every Sunday, his mother sent him and his brothers to church with a quarter. Religion was simply one of many chores, he said. Not until he entered drug rehabilitation at 23 did Garcia begin pondering the possibility of a spiritual power. ‘I was searching for something that made sense,’ Garcia recalled of his restless 20s. Years later, the former Catholic would find refuge in the Pentecostal Church. The spirited revivals suited his personality, he said. ‘Being Puerto Rican, I like to party and dance and mambo and carry on,’ he said. But after 11 years, Garcia grew weary of the ‘theatrics and church politics.’ He was also tired of waiting to be saved… In many ways, Garcia exhibits some of the trademarks of the new American Buddhist converts. He describes himself as ‘spiritual, not religious’… But like many of the Hayward [CA] area’s new Buddhists, Garcia deviates from the demographic profile of the typical American Buddhist convert. Nationally, American Buddhists are overwhelmingly white and middle class. Their income exceeds the national average, and American Buddhists could very well be the most highly educated group in the West, according to Buddhist scholar and author James Williams Coleman… But in Hayward, an ethnically diverse and largely working-class city with two Buddhist temples, many new Buddhists don’t fit that white, affluent profile… They reflect Hayward demographics. They are working-class people: truckers, salesmen and construction workers. They are also minorities: Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Irish Catholics and African Americans.”