Meeting Painful Triratna HistoryOn Sat, 23 September, 2017 - 17:57
The FWBO/Triratna was formed to alleviate the suffering of the world through practising and sharing the Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha, and that remains at our heart. Over 50 years we have created an Order and Movement that have touched and transformed the lives of thousands of people around the world. The journey has been inspiring and challenging, and not without difficulties. We deeply regret where anyone’s involvement with our Order and Movement has led to suffering and confusion rather than greater happiness and freedom. We are fully committed to recognising and acknowledging past mistakes, putting things to right as far as possible, learning the lessons of the past, and doing all we can to ensure those mistakes are not repeated. Along with this we want to consistently build on and strengthen all that is good in Triratna.
In March 2017, Saddhaloka wrote a Letter to all Order members ending with a list of nine undertakings. We are using this list as a basis from which to update you on the work of the Kula.
1. We will encourage and assist the establishment of the facts about our past, including about our founder Sangharakshita, openly acknowledging what has happened and putting it on record.
We recognise that some of the sexual activity of our teacher was inappropriate and unskilful and we feel sadness and regret at the hurt this caused.
In his confessional statement of 31st December 2016 Sangharakshita said “My personality is a complex one and in certain respects I did not act in accordance with what my position in the Movement demanded or even as a true Buddhist.”
He has since made it clear that his Statement includes some of his sexual activity, but also that it is not limited to that. It is a public recognition by him that some of his actions, particularly in the last 50 years since the founding of Triratna, have “hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists”. He is acknowledging and regretting this, and asking for forgiveness from anyone affected, including those who are not Buddhist.
He has also made it clear that none of his more recent pieces of personal writing were intended in any way to weaken the strength of his confession.
We have published a list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions on our blog, and we will publish an update to this ongoing resource this autumn.
We’ve set up an online forum where Order members can share their personal and unedited experiences of the past with each other, and we will also find ways to share more widely the work being done within Triratna to address our past difficulties. To this end we will be working with the team at The Buddhist Centre Online and other Triratna institutions to ensure that our telling of our own history reflects in an adequate way both the difficulties and the great collective Dharma work undertaken in Triratna over our first 50 years.
During the current debate we have sought to be very open about Triratna’s past, seeking the views and advice of many people, including external professionals and those in other Buddhist traditions. Please see the final section of this document for details of how this area of our work is proceeding.
2. We will actively seek to resolve any harm that has been done, using the principles of the Dharma, with outside experienced guidance where appropriate.
We have been grateful to come across ‘Restorative Process’, which we believe could be effective in working both with individuals who feel harmed and those they consider have harmed them. A group has been set up to co-ordinate this Restorative work. This consists of Jnanasiddhi (convenor), Shantiprabha, Shantigarbha and Ratnadharini. The group has begun by asking Janine Carroll, Director of Restorative Now, to work directly with any individuals who feel harmed as a result of their past sexual involvement with Sangharakshita. This work is under way but, it being by nature extremely personal, sensitive and confidential to those involved, we can comment on it only in general terms.
There are already several Order members experienced in Restorative work, and some Kula members and other Order members with senior leadership roles have begun training in Restorative process. They will be able to work with groups of people within Triratna where there has been serious pain and suffering as a result of past disharmony, or resulting from teachings and practices we now recognise as unhelpful or even harmful.
We have a European Safeguarding Officer, Munisha, who has been developing Triratna’s Safeguarding awareness and practice since 2013. Model Safeguarding policies for the use of Centres were published in 2015, updated in 2016. Child protection training was provided for Centre Safeguarding officers in Britain in 2016; October this year will see them training in Safeguarding Adults at Risk. Where matters of concern are reported to us, it is Munisha’s responsibility to make an assessment and act according to Safeguarding requirements nationally agreed in England and Wales, in consultation with external Safeguarding experts such as the CCPAS and with the other member of the Safeguarding team, an Order member who is very senior in Safeguarding in the British criminal justice system.
Anyone who feels they have been sexually harmed in their contact with Triratna/FWBO is welcome to contact Triratna’s Safeguarding team at:
safeguarding [at] triratnadevelopment.org
They can advise on sources of counselling and support.
An Ethics Kula has been formed, which includes members of the College and the Safeguarding team. This Kula is envisaged as overseeing the development of ethical and Safeguarding awareness and practice at all levels of Triratna, as well as building our capacity for conflict resolution.
A draft document on conflict resolution has been prepared and will be taken to the next meeting of the International Council in February 2018 for consultation throughout Triratna. There is also a draft Protocol for dealing with Order members accused of serious breaches of the law and/or ethics.
3. We will acknowledge any ideas that have been promulgated within the Triratna/FWBO that are in any way unhelpful and make clear that they are not to be promoted.
4. We will seek to clarify the basis for ideas or practices that have sometimes been used badly, so that helpful and integral practices such as single-sex activities are maintained in the healthy way that seems common today.
We acknowledge that some attitudes and practices expounded in the early days of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now Triratna) have proved to be unhelpful, open to misuse or even harmful. Although these have been dropped over the years we have made it explicit 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;
- or that single people are spiritually superior to those in relationships or with families.
We acknowledge that there is for some people in Triratna a backlog of pain and mistrust associated with these attitudes and practices, which needs to be expressed and heard in order that we can all move on. We are committed to supporting this process and we believe that Restorative work could be one very helpful way to facilitate it.
Please + Follow the Adhisthana Kula’s blog on The Buddhist Centre Online to follow the progress of this work.
5. We will continue to affirm Sangharakshita’s indispensable role in our Order and Movement in terms of his having shared with us his understanding of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels, on which our ordinations and Order are based, while accepting that his actions have sometimes proved harmful.
6. We will carry out our own responsibilities as Public Preceptors in the College in accordance with the principles and practice that Sangharakshita has taught us, whilst working closely with all Order members and especially with those holding other key responsibilities.
Whilst fully recognising past difficulties and mistakes, we also want to honour the experience of those many thousands for whom Sangharakshita’s teachings have been a real doorway into the mystery and wonder of the Dharma. He has guided us in creating the Order and Movement, a context which has for so many been an effective working ground for moving beyond self-clinging and entering into a wiser and more compassionate relationship with all life. The teachings and practices coming from the Buddhist tradition through Sangharakshita remain the foundation of our Order and Movement.
7. We will continue to uphold the system of teaching and practice that we derive from Sangharakshita’s particular presentation of the Dharma, while allowing for its systematic and orderly evaluation and development, so that it is more and more effective everywhere and at all levels.
One major new development in this regard is the Sikkha Project, initiated last year by Triratna’s International Council, which will involve many Order members in a significant review of our teachings and practices, so that we can see what works well at every level and what requires a more effective expression or even amendment. We see the ‘commonality processes’ agreed by the International Council as an essential framework for this harmonious, thorough evolution of our system.
8. We will work with others to review our institutional structures so they help us to remain united in Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels more and more deeply, by uniting the principle of kalyana mitrata with that of individual responsibility.
Our work has included a review of the organisation and working of the College, and we will be presenting a proposal to the College meeting in November that takes into account the growing size of the College, succession planning, international representation, the need for wide consultation and a capacity to respond promptly and effectively to changing circumstances and events.
9. We will seek to resolve where possible any differences of view about the nature of the Order, its practices and teachings, and Sangharakshita’s place within it, so that we can go forward into the next half century united and more Dharmically effective than ever.
We have tried to consult with as many people as possible and have always found face to face communication most effective. As well as inviting people to meetings of the Adhisthana Kula we have made the most of visits to Centres around the world. We have encouraged discussion throughout Triratna and we know that many Centres have held sangha gatherings specifically for this purpose.
A number of people have expressed a wish for an external independent inquiry into difficulties in Triratna’s past. We have considered this and other options carefully, consulting with safeguarding professionals, other Buddhist teachers as well as researching recent inquiries from other organisations. We intend to write about this in the near future.
The Adhisthana Kula and the Safeguarding officer, Munisha, have been checking their work with Order members working professionally in the field of Safeguarding and criminal justice, as well as with external Safeguarding bodies. Their general sense is that we are taking the right approach and that what is most important now is learning from the past and having the right Safeguarding measures and ethical guidelines in place.
We recognise that there is still more work to be done. The Adhisthana Kula was set up to respond swiftly to the new demands of the past year, and we are committed to seeing that the task we undertook in February 2017 is continued effectively. We are reviewing what is needed to guarantee this, and will make sure that the necessary resources and structures are all put in place.
The Kula was convened in February 2017. The members of the Kula are Saddhaloka and Ratnadharini (Chair and one of the Deputy Chairs of the College of Public Preceptors), Lokeshvara and Parami (International Order Convenors), Dhammarati (Convenor of the International Council), and Mahamati (Public Preceptor in very regular contact with Sangharakshita, the founder and teacher of Triratna). We work closely with Munisha (our European Safeguarding Officer) and Candradasa (Director of The Buddhist Centre Online).
We welcome anyone to contact us at: kula [at] adhisthana.org