Over the centuries, as the Buddha’s teaching reached each new country, it adapted to the prevailing culture – and often these countries had no contact with each other. As a result Asian Buddhism is extremely varied. Most of these traditions have now come to the West and present westerners with a bewildering variety of teachings, practices and forms.Rather than adopting one specific form, Sangharakshita, founder of the Triratna Buddhist Community and Order, was keen to clarify what all Buddhist schools held in common: the essential principles and practices that run through the whole tradition. He suggests the key unifying factor is the historical Buddha and his experience of Enlightenment.All Buddhist schools aim to teach a path to freedom from suffering that will help practitioners become more like the Buddha. The differences between them are basically a matter of means, not ends – however different they may look from the outside.Sangharakshita’s approach is based on the perception that the diverse Buddhist tradition has an underlying unity.
This lies in the act of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels, and in basic teachings of the Buddha, such as the Four Noble Truths, Conditioned Co-production, karma and so on. He believes people in the modern world are heirs to the whole of Buddhism. This is why the Triratna Buddhist Community does not restrict itself to one form of Buddhism but draws inspiration from the entire tradition. Sangharakshita’s attitude is not simply eclectic, however. He has a coherent approach to practice, which draws on particular techniques and teachings in a way that supports individual growth.
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The Buddhist Centre: buddhism for today