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This weekend Triratna sanghas around the world are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Triratna Buddhist Community’s foundation (as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) in London, UK, on the evening of Friday 7th April 1967.
That evening is well described by Sangharakshita near the end of his volume of memoirs, Moving Against the Stream: the birth of a new Buddhist movement, which also gives an account of the context from which the FWBO emerged.
At 6.10 drove round to Vihara with Terry. Picked up Thien Chau and Jack Ireland. Down at Sakura soon after 6.30. Put finishing touches to Shrine. Function started at 7. Spoke for 15 minutes, then all recited Dedication together, followed by Sevenfold Puja. Finally 20 minutes meditation. Finished 8 oclock. Very good atmosphere. More than two dozen people present, by invitation, including Jack Austin, Graham Petchey, Anne Lobstein, Mrs Phillips, Kim Well. Gave Thien Chau and Vivien a lift back.
Emile’s account of the ceremony, written for the information of our friends and well-wishers, was more expansive. Under the heading ’A Buddhist Dedication Ceremony in London’ he wrote:
‘An event which may turn out to be a landmark in the further development of the Buddha Dharma in Great Britain took place on the evening of the 7th April. This was the dedication ceremony of the new Triratna Meditation and Shrine Room. The ceremony was conducted by the Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita, together with the Venerable Thien Chau from Vietnam, the Rev. Jack Austin and the Rev. Graham Petchey, both representing Soto Zen. The invited guests, numbering about twenty-five, were able to participate in the ceremony, which had been especially devised by the Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita for the occasion. The ceremony started with a short talk by the Sthavira, and then proceeded with readings from Buddhist Scriptures and Puja; those attending also took the Refuges and the Precepts a simple but very moving occasion. The room itself has been designed, decorated, and paid for by voluntary contribution, without any connection with any official organization or society. It is somewhat in the Japanese style, the predominant colours being white, gold, rust and natural wood. There is a lacquered shrine, lit from behind by a paper-covered, Japanese shoji window, and the Teacher has a slightly raised platform, where he can use either a cushion or a chair. There are both cushions and chairs available for the participants. The atmosphere of this room is warm and quiet, most conducive to stilling the mind. An additional advantage is that, being on the premises of Londons Buddhist shop, it is open during the day to individual meditators. Initially, two meditation classes, conducted by the Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita, will be held each week: one for beginners, and one for those who have already practised under his guidance. Further classes projected consist of a Zen Study Class, to be taken alternately by the Venerable Sangharakshita and the Rev. Jack Austin, and a fortnightly discussion meeting. Puja will also take place periodically.’
The establishment of the Triratna Shrine and Meditation Room marked the birth of the Friends of the Western Sangha which was to become, with the founding of the Western Buddhist Order a year later, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. The new Buddhist movement was no longer just an idea, much less still only a dream. It had begun to be a reality.
Follow news of the celebrations around the world on our dedicated 50th birthday page, Triratna@50.