Introducing the Adhisthana KulaOn Tue, 28 February, 2017 - 23:02
The Triratna Buddhist Order now numbers over 2,000 members in around 30 countries, and the associated Community is many times bigger. This presents quite a challenge when a situation arises requiring the sharing of complex information and wide-ranging discussion among all involved – as has recently happened following the broadcast of a BBC local TV programme in the UK.
‘Inside Out’, on 26th September 2016, included a 12-minute report referring to accounts of sexual misconduct in the early days of Triratna (or FWBO as it was then known), on the part of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Community and Order. At the end of December, Sangharakshita (who has always openly acknowledged that he was sexually involved with some of his adult male disciples thirty years ago or more) wrote a statement where he expressed deep regret for all the occasions on which he had caused ‘hurt, harm or upset’. This was then followed by a statement from the College of Public Preceptors, welcoming his message and thereby acknowledging his admission of unskillfulness in some of his sexual activity.
During this period there was much discussion, here at Adhisthana and around the Triratna world. In early February 2017 a group of six Order members began meeting daily at Adhisthana to follow up and engage further with the discussion of issues that have been raised; we are calling ourselves the ‘Adhisthana Kula’ (‘kula’ means something like ‘clan’). Between us we hold responsibilities in the major Triratna institutions and are able to be in communication with Sangharakshita.
We will be consulting widely, and are following the debate already taking place online, but are keen to see more voices included in face-to-face communication throughout the Order and Community. We want to acknowledge the problematic aspects of our past, while not wanting to dismiss so much that is positive in what Sangharakshita and so many of us have managed to bring into being over the first 50 years of our community.
Our work and approach
The Triratna community has developed over 50 years and much has been done to acknowledge and learn from past mistakes, and to guard against them happening again. We’d like to mention four points here.
Firstly, since 2013 we have been developing Safeguarding policies and Ethical guidelines, with settled policies in place since 2015:
Our Safeguarding officer works with an Ethics kula including College members to ensure compliance with ethical and legal duties.
Secondly, we want to see what more can be done to enable reconciliation wherever possible, although this will necessarily take time and sensitivity. The Restorative Approach has been recommended to us as a method available from outside Triratna which may be useful to us; we are exploring this.
Thirdly, we recognize that the opportunity to experience ‘single-sex’ environments, and to look at our sexual lives as an aspect of practice, is a valuable feature of many spiritual traditions and also forms a part of Triratna culture. However, we would like to take this opportunity to make it clear that the following ideas form no part of Triratna teaching today:
- that sex is an aid to kalyana mitrata (spiritual friendship)
- that men are spiritually superior to women
- that any sexual orientation is spiritually superior to another
- that single people are spiritually superior to those in relationships or with families
Fourthly, to ensure our past was visible to all, in 2010 we published the book, The Triratna Story (free download), with detailed chapters on sexual misconduct and problems arising in relation to power and gender issues at FWBO Centres. Our main web platform has always carried material on our past, including links to criticisms of us; the latest is here:
We are sure there is much creative discussion that can continue to be had around the areas mentioned above, and we will be posting material on this space that may be useful as a starting point.
One live question at the moment is how can we best keep this public account updated and relevant, while still allowing safe online spaces for people to tell their stories and be heard. We hope this blog will contribute to that effort.
Triratna is the manifestation of the vision of Sangharakshita, brought into being by all of us in our Order and Community; may we continue to transform our imperfections and grow as a force for good in the world.
Dhammarati, Lokeshvara, Mahamati, Parami, Ratnadharini, Saddhaloka
(with support from Munisha as Safeguarding Officer and Candradasa as Director of The Buddhist Centre Online)
Contact us anytime: kula [at] adhisthana.org
Listen to our podcast conversation