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About the Triratna Buddhist Community

Both Sunada and Bodhipaksa, and most of the guest teachers we have on Wildmind, are members of the Triratna Buddhist Order, the organization of committed Buddhist practitioners that is at the heart of the Triratna Buddhist Community. Triratna is a traditional Buddhist word meaning “Three Jewels,” and it signifies the Buddha (the ideal of Enlightenment), the Dharma (the path and practices making Enlightenment attainable, and the Sangha (the community of those pursuing the path, and especially those who have had an experience of Enlightenment).

The Triratna Buddhist Community is a Buddhist movement founded in London in 1967. It seeks to create all of the conditions needed for the effective practice of Buddhism in modern society, and has grown into a varied and energetic tradition of practice.

The Triratna Buddhist Community was founded by Urgyen Sangharakshita, an Englishman who had returned to the West from Asia with twenty years experience as a Buddhist monk and scholar. While in Asia he studied under teachers of the Theravada, Chinese Ch’an, and Tibetan Vajrayana traditions. His understanding of the teachings of Buddhism and his solid grounding in Western culture have enabled him to present a body of teachings that are particularly suited to Western practitioners.

At the heart of the Triratna Buddhist Community is the Triratna Buddhist Order (WBO), an association of more than 1500 men and women who have formally committed themselves to wholeheartedly pursuing their own spiritual development and facilitating that of others. Order members, Mitras (people who are deepening their contact with Buddhism and the Order), and Friends (those who participate in Triratna activities but have made no formal commitment to practicing the Dharma within the context of the Triratna Buddhist Community) often live, work, and practice together – some of them running public centers, some working in team-based right livelihood businesses, and many living in Buddhist residential communities.

The Triratna Buddhist Community is a remarkably diverse organization, including people of many nationalities, from all walks of life, and living a wide range of lifestyles, both lay and monastic. Practice within Triratna does not require a monastic lifestyle, and many Order members, Mitras, and Friends are married or have children. The essence of membership of the Order is simply a commitment to put Buddhist principles into action in one’s life.

Those involved with the Triratna Buddhist Community are encouraged to study widely in the Buddhist tradition, and Theravadin, Mahayana, and Vajrayana texts are regularly studied. The Triratna Buddhist Community draws inspiration from all but does not identify itself exclusively with any one of these traditions. We tend to regard ourselves simply as "Buddhists."

The Triratna Buddhist Community’s main site.
Triratna Buddhist Community News

Comments

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Comment from Vienna
Time: April 3, 2010, 7:49 pm

Bodipaksa, Hello from Anaconda, Montana!

I have been exploring the FWBO on the net, and I discovered the Rocky Mountain Buddhist Center in Missoula. Unfortunately, I also found sites that call the Order a cult and allege that members (including the founding member) have financially and even sexually exploited other members. My father and husband are active Freemasons and we are Order of the Eastern Star members so I am well used to silly and unfounded gossip. Since I have the highest respect for you and your work (especially in prisons and guided meditations), I’d like to know your thoughts on the FWBO before I commit further to them. Many thanks!

Metta,
Vienna

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 3, 2010, 8:15 pm

Hi Vienna,

Thanks for asking! It’s so refreshing to see someone checking out information rather than just believing things they’ve read on the web. The FWBO is probably one of the least cult-like organizations around. Each center is financially and administratively autonomous, with all decision-making being made at a local level. There’s no big “head office” running things and pocketing the money. You’ll get occasional examples of group-think as you will in any other gathering of human beings, but generally people in the FWBO do a good job of thinking for themselves.

I know just about everyone who’s involved in the running of the Missoula center, and they’re very good, kind people, who freely and generously give their time to teach. I think you’d really, really like them. Varashuri in particular is a lovely woman and a good friend of mine.

It is true that Sangharakshita had sexual relations with a number of Order members. I’ve never seen any evidence that these were anything but consensual, but I think he was not sufficiently aware that the other people involved might have mixed motives in getting involved, including a fear-based desire to please someone they saw as an authority figure. I think these relationships were a very unwise move on Sagharakshita’s part. Some people did end up getting hurt.

I’m not aware of any financial exploitation of anyone. I’ve been involved in the FWBO for almost 30 years now, and I’ve found the ethical climate to be generally very wholesome.

There was one FWBO center — Croydon, near London — which in the 1980′s was run by a very charismatic order member who turned out to be rather manipulative, emotionally and sexually. He developed a style of leadership that worked alternately inspiring and bullying people. And he manipulated some people into bed with him. The center was basically given an ultimatum by Sangharakshita to change its ways or cease being a part of the FWBO. The chairman left, resigned from the order, and since then safeguards have been put into place to prevent that kind of thing from happening again. I think that now everyone’s aware that that kind of thing can happen, it’s much less likely to.

Anyway, I’d suggest you check out the Missoula centre. They really are good people.

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Comment from Vienna
Time: April 4, 2010, 6:47 pm

Thanks so much for your reply, Bodhipaska! I knew it would be an honest one.

One last question: I’ve run across info that says the WBO has been renamed the Triratna Buddhist Order as of 2010. Doesn’t the word mean “three jewels?”

Metta,
Vienna

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 4, 2010, 6:55 pm

Hi Vienna,

Sangharakshita suggested we change the name, which does mean “Three Jewels,” so that we could have the same name throughout the world, including India. We’ve been discussing it, and most people seem very happy with the proposed name change. To be honest, being rather decentralized in our decision-making we don’t have official channels for changing our name! This is making us realize that we need to set up mechanisms for discussion and decision-making.

I understand that we (that is the WBO) will be officially changing our name in a few days time, on the anniversary of the founding of the order, and that the FWBO will become the Triratna Buddhist Community during Wesak, in May.

Metta,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Saketa
Time: July 14, 2010, 8:37 am

There does seem to be quite a lot of stuff online claiming sexual abuse in the past by Sangharakshita. Have you established a code of ethics like the insight meditation society (IMS) which prohibits sexual relationships between teacher and student? Or is it still possible that a FWBO teacher will proposition a student for sex on a retreat? And do all those on retreat have private bedroom arrangements? I read that in the past, some men found themselves allocated a bed with Sangharakshita.

I assume that the FWBO have clearly put all this behind them and made it clear that such behaviour would not be tolerated now.

metta

S.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 14, 2010, 8:02 pm

Hi Saketa,

Every FWBO (now Triratna) center or activity is a separate legal and organizational entity and controlled locally (we have no “central command” structure or head office), so I can only speak for my own center, which is Aryaloka in New Hampshire. We have a code of conduct for teachers that makes it clear that teachers may not get involved in relationships with people who come along to classes. I’d be shocked if any teacher propositioned a student for sex on retreat. That’s totally inappropriate behavior. I don’t know exactly what would happen if someone tried that, but I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t be allowed to be involved on a retreat again, or at least for a good long time. To the best of my knowledge that situation hasn’t arisen here.

On Triratna retreats, the accommodations are generally in shared rooms (sometimes four or more people) because of the nature of the facilities, which were usually not purpose-built. The situation you describe, where people would end up sharing Sangharakshita’s room, was not on beginners’ retreats but on Order retreats, and it was Order members that he had sexual relations with, again to the best of my knowledge. (Apart from the fact that Sangharakshita no longer leads retreat and has been celibate for many years, I can’t imagine anyone being allocated to share a room with him now). At the time this happened, or at least started, there was a widespread expectation, not just in the FWBO but in the wider Buddhist world and beyond, that western sexual “hangups” would be set to one side and that a more liberated sexual culture would emerge — for example that “non-attached” promiscuity would free us from psychological dependency on exclusive sexual partners. Of course we know now that that didn’t end well. And by no means everyone participated in that kind of experimentation. Most Order members I know are married or are in long-term relationships.

Incidentally, I think Sangharakshita was very unwise to get involved in relationships with other Order members, who were often much younger than he was. He seemed to be blithely unaware that other might be intimidated by him, and might give false consent out of awe, a sense of being flattered, or a desire to please. People got hurt.

Anyway, that’s about the best I can answer for now. If you have any questions, fire away!

Metta,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Saketa
Time: July 15, 2010, 8:41 am

Thanks for the explanation Bodhipaksa. It must be a nuisance getting all these questions!
metta
s

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 15, 2010, 10:48 am

It’s no problem at all :)

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Comment from Mike
Time: February 25, 2014, 9:59 am

Where would one find more information about the path to becoming a Buddhist Monk in the Triratna Buddhist Community/Triratna Buddhist Order (WBO)?
Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 25, 2014, 2:41 pm

Hi, Mike.

Thanks for writing. Actually, our ordinations aren’t monastic and many Order members are married or have children. There’s a book by Windhorse Publications on what our ordination is and, I assume (I haven’t read it!), on how people get ordained. That’s here: http://windhorsepublications.com/ordination

Usually people move toward ordination in a very organic way, having made contact with one of our centers, attending events there, then becoming a mitra if they feel they want to “come out” as a Buddhist and make a statement that they feel a particular connection with our sangha, and then (sometimes years later) they’ll ask for ordination as they feel more of an urge to take their practice and engagement with our spiritual community deeper. The personal-contact aspect of the path to ordination is crucial.

If you’d like any more specific information, please do feel free to write to me directly. Emails sent to bodhi at wildmind.org will always get to me.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Matt
Time: May 29, 2014, 11:11 am

I am interested in becoming more involved in Triratna as tradition/community of practice, but I don’t have a center near by (I’m in Colorado). What are the options for “at-large” folks? By the way, your writings and this site are a big part of my interest in Triratna. Thanks!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 29, 2014, 12:11 pm

Hi, Matt.

I’m glad to hear of your interest in Triratna. I’m told there are moves afoot to help support outlying people, but the progress seems to be slow. thebuddhistcentre.com does have periodic Urban Retreats and also meditation hangouts on Google+. I’ll pass your email address on to my friend Candradasa and he can let you know about anything else that’s available.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Matt
Time: May 29, 2014, 3:12 pm

Thanks!

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