Our community was founded as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in 1967 by Sangharakshita, an Englishman, who was ordained as a Buddhist monk in India in 1950, at the age of 25. He lived for many years in Kalimpong, north-eastern India, where he studied with teachers from several of the major Buddhist traditions, including leading Tibetan lamas. During this period, Sangharakshita became well known for a non-sectarian approach that drew on the whole Buddhist tradition, especially through his book A Survey of Buddhism, and as editor of the Mahabodhi Journal.
Invited by members of Britain’s small Buddhist community, Sangharakshita returned to the UK in the mid-1960s. Now that he was addressing Westerners, he saw the need for forms of the teaching and practice that would most effectively communicate the teaching of the Buddha to the people he was meeting. That also meant he needed to go back to basics — to look at the principles underlying all forms of Buddhism and work out how best to apply them in this new context. So, ours is an ecumenical movement, aligned to no one traditional school, but drawing on the whole stream of Buddhist inspiration. In 1968 Sangharakshita performed the first ordinations within the Western Buddhist
Order (WBO) which was to be at the heart of his new Buddhist movement. Since then the community and the Order itself have evolved new structures that allow people to live out the Buddha’s teachings as an authentic Buddhist way of life in the 21st century. We now have Buddhist Centres running activities in 27 countries around the world. No longer just a Western movement, the FWBO changed its name in 2010 to the Triratna Buddhist Community.
Triratna means The Three Jewels, and Sangharakshita emphasises that the Buddhist tradition is united by the defining act of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This is the central principle or orientation of the Triratna Buddhist Community, and all our activities are understood in relation to it. At our Buddhist Centres we teach meditation, study the Buddha’s teaching together, engage with the Arts, support each other through life, and engage in our local communities. We also promote projects in which Buddhists can live and work together, and explore how to turn our work into a spiritual practice.
In the Buddha’s time there was no mass media to compete with — no internet or television. And the Buddha never had to be concerned about globalisation or global warming. So we believe it is vital to explore and establish how his teaching of human potential is still crucially important, how Buddhists can be socially engaged and contribute to a better world. In the last 40 years the Triratna Buddhist Community has changed a great deal. Sangharakshita has now handed-on responsibility for community’s spiritual vitality to his followers and we are entering a new phase of growth and consolidation: learning from, and building upon our history, and developing into a broad-based, mature and experienced spiritual community playing a significant role in bringing Buddhism to the West.
For details on Triratna Buddhist Centre locations worldwide and other activities, see our find us section.
The Buddhist Center: building community online