Ruben Lambert was educated in Catholic schools and grew up as a faithful Roman Catholic. Now he follows the practices of Zen Buddhism and has assumed the name Venerable Mooh-Sang Sunim.
As he grew older, the first generation Cuban-American decided to adopt a religion more rooted in meditation and enlightment.
With fellow monks of the So Shim Sa Zen Center in New Jersey.
Unknowingly, he began his spiritual journey at age 7, when his father first enrolled him in Taekwondo. For both father and son, this involvement meant absorbing long-standing eastern philosophies that would help develop the mind and body.
Lambert’s conversion to Buddhism came as a shock to his friends and family. His family expected him to follow their spiritual footsteps.
“At first, it was like anything new and my family was reluctant to except it,” he says, “The idea of a Buddhist monk is not an idea my parents expected me to become. So, taking those factors to account, there was a natural resistance.”
“I was raised to believe that we have to see it in order to believe it,” he says. “I was reluctant at first but eventually gave it a try. Personally, my interest peeked in the midst of meditation when I experienced how the mind can go from external distractions to inner peace.”
Umar Abdul Kayyam Garcia, 31, who is Puerto Rican, grew up nonsecular but now follows the doctrines found in the Qur’an at the Islamic Educational Center of North Hudson in New Jersey.
Though he was Muslim as a child, when he was young he moved to Puerto Rico, where he stopped practicing the religion.
A small but growing number of Latinos are converting to non-traditional religions.