Buddhist Community Triratna

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The Triratna Buddhist Community , known as "Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO)" until May 2010, is a Buddhist movement founded in 1967 in Great Britain by Sangharakshita , followed in 1968 by the establishment of the Buddhist Order Triratna (formerly: Western Buddhist Order) . Sangharakshita came to India as a young radio operator in the army in 1944 and stayed there for many years after the demobilization. In 1949 he was ordained a Theravada bhikkhu . He returned to Great Britain in 1964 at the invitation of the English Sangha Trust . He came to the realization that despite the great interest in Buddhist teaching ( Dharma ), Buddhism in Great Britain was too formalistic and sectarian. Out of this knowledge he founded a new type of Buddhist movement that cannot be assigned to any single Asian school, but rather draws inspiration from the entire Buddhist tradition.

The Buddhist Order of the Triratna

Although the Triratna Order was founded with the aim of making Buddhism particularly accessible to people in the West, the Triratna approach also found acceptance in other parts of the world. Now the Triratna can be seen as a worldwide Buddhist movement. This was a major reason for renaming the movement and removing the word "Western". The main criterion for belonging to the Order is taking refuge in the Three Jewels ; these are the Buddha , the Buddhadharma , and the Sangha . As Sangharakshita pointed out, it is the act of taking refuge that makes one a Buddhist, so this is the fundamental principle of the order. In a sense, the Order is primarily a network of friends connected through Dharma practice. These friendships are based on a shared vision of the highest human potential.

The order members are called Dharmacaris (men) or Dharmacarinis (women) and are each ordained to the same rank and they also take the same vows at ordination. There is no higher ordination. In addition, some members of the order take the vow of celibacy, but this is not associated with a higher status. The ordained wear a kesa as an outward sign .

Rejecting traditional Buddhist organizations, both lay and monastic organizations, Sangharakshita established a new type of order in which personal lifestyle is not as important as connection to Buddhist practice. In some eyes this is considered a radical deviation, but Reginald Ray describes in his book Buddhist Saints in India that monasticism in the form we know today was a later development and that the separation between lay people and monks was not so significant in the past. Others, who find their opinion based on the traditions in the Dhammapada and other early scriptures, find the choice of the (traditionally monastic) lifestyle essential to the full realization of the Buddhist teachings. For this reason, only a few traditional order lines are ready to recognize the status of a member of the Buddhist order Triratna as equal.

Order members follow a compilation of ten resolutions. These differ from the monk's vows, but these ten resolutions are already mentioned in the oldest Buddhist scriptures, namely in the Pali canon . Apart from that, the only obligations for the order members are the serious deepening of personal Dharma practice, remaining in good communication with other order members and working for the good of all (in whatever form). Ordination does not confer a special status or a specific obligation, nevertheless many members of the order take on responsibilities for tasks such as teaching meditation and Buddhadharma .

There are now over 1700 order members in more than 20 countries, in Europe , Africa , Australia , America , India , and the rest of Asia .

Characteristic focuses of the Buddhist community Triratna

There are six hallmarks of Triratna that characterize the movement:

  1. The Order's approach is ecumenical . Triratna are not identical to a single strand of Buddhism or a Buddhist school, but draws influences from the entire Buddhist tradition.
  2. A united order . The Triratna Order ordains men and women of equal rank, unlike most traditional Buddhist schools. The order also unites people from different cultures, lifestyles etc.
  3. The centrality of taking refuge . Taking refuge in the Three Gems ( Buddha , Dharma , and Sangha ) is what defines a Buddhist. Therefore, every practitioner at Triratna is encouraged to place the Three Gems at the center of their lives.
  4. Spiritual friendship . Spiritual friendship is a friendship based on the highest values, especially the Three Gems . Spending as much time as possible with friends who share the highest ideals supports the ethical and spiritual way of life.
  5. Team-based right livelihood . Working in teams, in a spirit of generosity with a focus on ethical behavior, is a transformative practice. Triratna was a pioneer in the field of right livelihood and operates various successful companies on this basis.
  6. The Spiritual Meaning of the Fine Arts . Art helps to refine the experience and expand the experience, it increases the imagination, it refines the emotions and aligns them. In the best and highest sense, it is a carrier of spiritual contents that are in principle identical to the contents of the Dharma. This content is able to transform life.


From the very beginning, meditation teaching was emphasized in the city centers. Retreats in the country followed, as well as lectures on aspects of Buddhist teaching and practice. From the retreats, shared apartments developed when people decided that they wanted to live together. Team-based right livelihood projects began to fund the activities. Lastly, permanent retreat centers were established.

Centers were set up in other countries, such as New Zealand and Australia . Triratna is currently actively teaching Buddhism and meditation in France , Germany , Poland , Estonia , Sweden , Finland , South Africa , Mexico , USA , Venezuela , New Zealand, India , Malaysia and elsewhere.

Recently, the Triratna's activities have expanded to include outdoor festivals, online meditation courses, art events, poetry and writing workshops, yoga, karate, and pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist sites in India.

For many years, the Triratna Karuna Trust has been collecting money for aid projects in India, which also supports a small school for Tibetan refugees (founded by Dhardo Rimpoche ) and a range of projects that support the community of the former untouchables .


Due to influences from the entirety of the Buddhist tradition, there is a wide range of practices in use within the Triratna.


Many different meditation methods are common practices at Triratna. Sangharakshita describes the types of meditations he teaches as having four phases, and the practices can all roughly be broken down into these four phases. Generally speaking, the first two phases are resting or samatha practices and the last two are insight or vipassana meditations.

  • Integration - The main practice at this stage is mindfulness in breathing, which has the effect of "integrating the psyche" (developing mindfulness and concentration).
  • Positive Emotion - The second aspect of calm is the development of positivity. The Brahmavihara meditations, especially the 'Metta Bhavana' or meditation for cultivating loving-kindness, are the main practices for developing positive emotions.
  • Spiritual Death - The beginning of insight is to examine and recognize the aspects of reality: All things are impermanent, are without a self of their own and ultimately unsatisfactory. One of the main Buddhist techniques for gaining this insight is to break things down into their component parts. In the Six Elements Practice everyone looks at their psychophysical organism in terms of earth, water, air, fire, space and consciousness. Other techniques include contemplating impermanence, especially impermanence of the body, contemplating suffering, and contemplating shunyata (emptiness). This leads to a spiritual death through insight into the nature of things and the notion of self as a separate, isolated thing dissolves. It is considered important to practice these meditations only from a stable basis of integration and positivity.
  • Spiritual Rebirth - With the development of insight and the death of the limited ego self, a person is spiritually reborn. In the ultimate sense, this is bodhi or enlightenment . Practices that develop the visualization of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are the main practices practiced at this stage in Triratna.

Other common practices are:

  • "Just sit" , a formless meditation without focus, where you just sit, nothing more. "Just sitting" can be a helpful practice to assimilate experiences from other meditation practices.
  • A similar practice that has become very popular recently is "Pure Awareness" . The focus of this meditation is on whatever is happening in the mind at any given moment - allowing sensations and thoughts to arise, observing them, and then letting them go.
  • Walking meditation is often practiced at retreats. In this meditation, mindfulness is focused on the physical movement of the body, or on the soles of the feet. This is considered an integrative practice.


In worship, or " puja ", verses are recited and physical movements are performed, such as mudras and prostrations. Imaginary images are used to create special experiences. These experiences include compassion for all living beings and the desire to free them from suffering. The Triratna Buddhist Community uses a scale of pujas, but the most common one was compiled from verses of the Bodhicaryavatara by Shantideva . It consists of seven phases: worship, greeting, taking refuge, admitting mistakes, praising the good, asking for instruction and lingering, as well as giving the merits and giving oneself.

These verses can be understood as evoking an image of the Buddha resembling a mountain far away. The first glance shows the mountain peak, which protrudes through some clouds, then the clouds clear and you have the magnificent vision of the mountain. At that moment you know that you have to go to the mountain, but you realize that you still carry a lot of unnecessary burdens with you; if you have thrown it off, you replenish your energy. Then one asks for instruction, and at the end one expresses gratitude and dedicates all earned merits to the good of all beings.


Retreats provide an opportunity for practitioners to focus on their practice without being too disturbed. Beginner retreats typically last two to three days, while a common program of two-week retreats is available for more experienced and familiar people. A typical retreat program includes various meditation sessions, some Dharma study, and puja or an evening worship ritual. Afternoons are usually free to rest or meet each other. Intensive retreats involve less study, but more meditation.

Admission of mistakes

Buddhism assumes that actions have consequences and that regret after the action only makes sense if it avoids repeating the act. Hence, a true admission of mistakes can only be made when accompanied by repentance and a determination not to repeat the act. The admission of mistakes is seen as an act of purification.

Right livelihood

Early on in the history of Triratna it became clear that sources of income were needed for various projects. This became particularly evident when it was decided to acquire and renovate the former fire station in Bethnal Green. At that time, a few smaller businesses were started, including a health food store. These are run by a collective of people who usually quickly discover that working together in a team is a spiritual practice in its own right. Right livelihood is one of the links in the Noble Eightfold Path and is essential in applying Buddhist ethics to work. Right livelihood businesses not only make a substantial contribution to the funding of the Order, but are also a very positive environment for spiritual growth.

Shared flats

Another practice that dates back to the early days of the Triratna is the spiritual living community. The first residential community was established after a retreat when some participants decided to try to continue a lifestyle similar to the retreat. Most stable shared apartments are single sex, and so most current Triratna shared apartments are also single sex. A very intense situation arises where people live and work together as a spiritual practice. Constant reminders of ethical behavior and support from like-minded practitioners are particularly effective in helping people with their practice.


In an international movement, diversity is a special feature. While England has remained the main center of the order, the order is growing very rapidly in India. Most of the Indian members come from the lowest stratum of Indian society, from a caste whose members were formerly known as the "untouchables" (untouchability was declared illegal by the first independent Indian government).

The Order encompasses a wide range of people, from academics to working class people, as well as artists, accountants and doctors. About one sixth of the members of the Order are celibate and another sixth are married and live in a traditional family. Many live in single-sex shared flats and work in businesses with the right to livelihood, a lifestyle that could be described as "semi-monastic".

A recent development came from a group of people who are active in the English music festival scene: Buddhafield attends events such as the Glastonbury Festival , but also organizes its own outdoor events, which are then attended by several hundred people.

The Post-Sangharakshita Triratna Fellowship

In the 1990s, Sangharakshita began to hand over the spiritual and administrative responsibility for the Triratna Fellowship and the Order to a group of Order members consisting of men and women. This handover was completed in 2000. Since then, Sangharakshita's health has deteriorated, but the Order continues to thrive.

The leadership was given to the College of Public Preceptors, a group of men and women everywhere who are responsible for ordaining new members. With more than 1,000 members and a commitment to an ongoing, shared decision-making process, the Order must find new ways to communicate on issues that affect everyone. One of these themes that characterizes the need for change is the name of the order. It now seems inappropriate since the order is no longer only found in the West. Reaching an agreement of more than 1,000 members is difficult, however, and the process of making change is slow.

When the Preceptors decided in 2003 to focus more on their primary task of ordaining new members, they followed feedback from the Order and the Movement, but also followed their own inclinations and the need of their limited resources. So they broke away from their previous formal and administrative relationship with the Order. Many of the Preceptors want to focus on teaching and Dharma practice. At the same time, the number of preceptors was expanded in favor of greater flexibility.

The Order and the Movement are exploring new ways to organize themselves and develop their work in a more decentralized manner. The debates about ensuring connectedness and flexibility as well as the spiritual depth in the Order and the Movement continue.

Allegations of sexual abuse, emotional manipulation and bullying

In October 1997 the British daily The Guardian published a report in which grave allegations were made by former members of the Order: The Order, and Sangharakshita in particular, had been charged with sexual abuse, psychological manipulation and bullying. In addition, statements by Sangharakshita on the role of women and the family were critically examined.

The Order commented on the allegations in a detailed statement. In it he admitted "complex and deeply regrettable" incidents, but protested against a "simplification" and "sensationalization" of the events. The Order also commented extensively on an anonymous document circulating on the Internet called The FWBO Files , which elaborated on these and other allegations in more detail, but rejected the allegations contained therein as part of "a concerted and anonymous campaign". The FWBO Files, in turn, responded to these counter-allegations and described them as "evasive tactics" and "fogging". There are some publicly available testimonials from victims who criticize a group culture in which they see a basis for systematic sexual abuse.

In September 2016, the BBC reported on some of these and more recent allegations. The Observer reported emerging fears about how widespread the abuse is in the organization in February 2017. Sangharakshita posted a personal statement on his website in December 2016 expressing "deep regrets over all the occasions on which I have hurt, harmed, or disturbed Buddhist companions," and asked for forgiveness, without referring to those To make allegations yourself.

In January 2017, the Triratna Preceptor College responded to the controversy in an open letter. It was acknowledged that there were some “more complex and problematic aspects” in the history of the order and the biography of Sangharakshita, the processing of which is not easy for the order. The preceptors expressed themselves "very concerned about the obvious pain and suffering that we have experienced from some reports" and promised a thorough examination of the controversy. At the same time, the organization referred to a number of moral guidelines that were developed in 2013 and a. expressly discourage sexual relations between preceptors and ordained members. However, until the BBC report in September 2016, Triratna hosted a video with Sangharakshita on its education website "Clear Vision" (also freely accessible to children and young people), which spread his views in which he said that he did not think much of " Limits "that his sexual activities were" experiments ", that it was ok to have sex with students ...; He also described the assaults as "the richest and most creative experiences in my entire life". Critics of Triratna also point out that these guidelines are only on paper, have never been implemented (there was some effort only after the BBC report) and that the person responsible for these guidelines in Triratna, Katherine Hopper (Munisha ), who is also the head of communications for the organization, i.e. is exposed to a potential conflict of interest, as she represents Triratna as PR chief to the media and authorities.


1925 Dennis Lingwood is born
1943 Dennis Lingwood was drafted into the military
1944 Dennis Lingwood takes refuge and resolutions with U Thittila to officially become a Buddhist

Dennis Lingwood, after India added and then to Ceylon laid

1949 May 12: Dennis Lingwood is ordained by U Chandramani and given the name Sangharakshita.
1957 A Survey of Buddhism is published
1964 Sangharakshita returns to England after 20 years
1967 Foundation of Triratna (then under the name "Friends of the Western Buddhist Sangha")

Aspects of Buddhist Psychology Lecture Series

1968 Establishment of the "Western Buddhist Order", on April 7th 12 men and women are ordained. The further movement is renamed "Friends of the Western Buddhist Order"

Noble Eightfold Path Lecture Series (later published as Vision & Transformation )

1969 Aspects of the Bodhisattva Ideal Lecture Series
1971 Sangharakshita is retiring for a year
1972 First single sex retreat
1975 First ordinations in New Zealand.

The Sukhavati Project begins - a dilapidated fire station has been converted into the London Buddhist Center and shared apartments. The first team-based company for right livelihoods emerged from this project.

1976 The Padmaloka Retreat Center is bought and Sangharakshita makes it his base
1978 The Indian wing of Triratna is founded. He is called Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG)
1980 Aid to India formation, now known as the Karuna Trust, to fund projects in India, particularly in support of the "former untouchable" Buddhists.
1988 The Buddhist Center in Essen is the first German center to be founded, with more to follow in the next few years.
1990 Death of Dhardo Rimpoche, one of Sangharakshita's most important teachers
1992 Sangharakshita is giving a lecture at the European Buddhist Union .
1997 The Guardian publishes a critical article on the Triratna; the response from the Triratna community is mostly ignored, although it is evident that the reporter misunderstood Triratna.
2000 Sangharakshita hands over the leadership of the order to the College of Public Preceptors.
2002 The order now has 1000 members. Major changes happen in the "Mitra system"
2003 A critical letter from a member of the Order about past events is published. The result is a broad debate about the history of the Triratna and the questioning of attitudes, institutions and practices. Sangharakshita is seriously ill and his role in the movement is now minimal.
2004 The Triratna community continues to undergo major changes. The Council of the College of Public Preceptors (the actual leadership of the Triratna) is employed to help the leadership of the Triratna to dissolve itself. There are plans to significantly expand the number of public Preceptors in order to free them from their administrative function and to make them protectors of the order, whose primary function is the ordination of new members. The administrative function is organized on a decentralized basis in order to reflect more clearly the ethics and topicality of the order. The individual centers get more autonomy.
2009 On the occasion of a meeting with members of the order, Sangharakshita clarifies many questions concerning the order, the answer of which he regards as his will.
2010 Worldwide renaming to "Triratna Buddhist Community" or in the German-speaking countries "Buddhist Community Triratna" and "Triratna Buddhist Order", German: "Buddhistischer Orden Triratna".

Web links

Buddhist Community Triratna

Triratna in Scientific Research



English press:

supporting documents

  1. The Dark Side of Enlightenment . The Guardian, October 27, 1997; available at the Ex-Cult Resource Center.
  2. ^ The Guardian's Article on the FWBO . FWBO.org.
  3. ^ The FWBO Files . available at the Ex-Cult Resource Center.
  4. ^ The FWBO Files: A Response FWBO.org.
  5. ^ The FWBO Files: A Response FWBO.org.
  6. ^ The FWBO Files .
  7. z. B. Mark , Prasanapadi , Yashomitra ; or BBC's "Inside Out East" , Vimeo , 26/09/2016
  8. Apology sought over 'abuse' at Buddhist retreat . BBC News, September 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Fears mount over scale of Buddhist sect sexual abuse . The Observer, February 19, 2017.
  10. A personal statement by Urgyen Sangharakshita . Sangharakshita.org, December 30, 2016.
  11. ^ A letter from Triratna's College of Preceptors . The Buddhist Center, January 19, 2017.
  12. BBC's "Inside Out East" , Vimeo , 26.09.2016.
  13. ^ Whitewash, Dishonesty & Culture of Abuse in the Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO) , 02/19/2017.