APOLOGY AND REGRET
Recognising the need for an unequivocal statement of our position on the issues we were investigating, we issued our own Message of Apology and Regret.
The fundamental ethical principle that we follow as Buddhists is the importance of taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions. We recognise that collective apologies are problematic because one person cannot be responsible for another person’s actions, and that no one, including the Adhisthana Kula, can speak on behalf of all Order members.
Nonetheless, we wanted to express our deeply-felt sadness and regret at what had happened and we recognised the need for a clear statement representing Triratna’s current position about these issues. The seniority of the members of the Adhisthana Kula meant that we understood that our own statement would carry weight and was perhaps as close as we could get to the kind of statement that some people would have liked to see.
IN DECEMBER 2016 SANGHARAKSHITA PUBLISHED A STATEMENT REFLECTING ON ASPECTS OF HIS LIFE AND HIS RELATIONSHIP TO TRIRATNA THAT INCLUDED THE FOLLOWING CONFESSIONAL REMARKS:
I being its founder, Triratna sometimes bears the mark not of the Dharma but of my own particular personality. That 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. I am thinking in particular of the times when I have hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists, whether within Triratna or out of it.
These thoughts have borne all the more upon me in the course of the last week, when I was in hospital with pneumonia. As I was well aware pneumonia can be fatal to a man of my age and I knew that I could die, even though I did not feel that I was dying, despite being very ill.
I would therefore like to express my deep regret for all the occasions on which I have hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists, and ask for their forgiveness.
He later confirmed that this statement should be understood to include his sexual behaviour.
The Adhisthana Kula endorsed Sangharakshita’s statement shortly after it was issued, and in August 2019 made a further statement of its own.
At the end of 2016 Sangharakshita published a statement of his regret and apology for occasions when, as he put it, ‘I have hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists, whether within Triratna or out of it.’ He confirmed that he intended his apology to include anyone who was hurt, harmed or upset by his sexual activity in the period between the late ‘60s and the ‘80s when he was not celibate.
It has been a slow and difficult process for our community, individually and collectively, to come to terms with our founding teacher’s imperfections. Soon after Sangharakshita made his statement the Adhisthana Kula was set up to look into the issues it raised, and we have now begun a review of our work over the past two-and-a-half years.
We want to begin by endorsing Sangharakshita’s apology more clearly than has been done before with our own expression of profound sadness and regret for any suffering or harm that anyone has experienced as a result of the behaviour he refers to. We are deeply sorry for any hurt that has been caused as a result.
Over the years we have learned as a community that sexual relations between people in the positions of ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ or ‘disciple’ contain a power imbalance that can lead to suffering. Consequently, we have developed ethical guidelines for preceptors (those conducting ordinations in our community) and for those in teaching positions.
We want to ensure that anyone with negative experiences of Triratna or concerns about our community is heard sympathetically, and that their concerns are addressed effectively and promptly. We will be putting in place further arrangements to give people the option of reporting any negative experience to an external organisation.*
We remain committed to ensuring that we have the necessary procedures and training in place to guard against unethical behaviour in the future, particularly through Safeguarding. Anyone wishing to report harmful behaviour is requested to contact Triratna’s Safeguarding Team.
We have been more specific about the regrettable elements of behaviour in the section on Sangharakshita’s Sexual Activity.
* Read about why our reporting service is internal