Wisdom Dharma Chats | Jessica Pimentel

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken interviews American actress and musician Jessica Pimentel, best known for her role as Maria Ruiz on the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black. She is also the lead singer of the death metal band Alekhine’s Gun and backing vocalist in the band Brujeria. Jessica is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism in the Gelugpa tradition and studied under the former abbot of Sera Mey Monastery, H.E. Sermey Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin.

Jessica begins the conversation with a mandala offering and then recounts the story of her spiritual background. Throughout her youth, Jessica grew up in a Christian household but also held a deep interest in learning about other traditions as a means to expand her spirituality. She describes the moment when she learned about the twelve links of dependent origination, a concept which immediately clicked with her and motivated her search for a Buddhist teacher. As a teenager in New York in the 1990s, she was able to explore many different traditions before feeling a profound and instantaneous connection with Khen Rinpoche and the Tibetan tradition.

You’ll also hear Jessica discuss the integration of her creative pursuits, acting and music, with her Buddhist practice and how she is able to use her platform to spread the dharma. She notes that stepping into the roles of characters that she plays requires a similar type of concentration and imagination that some Buddhist practices do, especially with regards to exchanging self and other. Music is also a spiritual practice for Jessica, and she includes both Buddhist lyrics in her songs and a particular kind of wrathful energy in her performance to break down notions of what a “typical Buddhist” is and should be. In the final portion of the conversation, she fields questions from the audience on topics ranging from her own practices and getting into acting to the student-teacher relationship and advice for those wishing to learn about Buddhism for the first time.

For more from Jessica, find her on Instagram and Twitter.


Photo credit: Deborah Lopez

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