INTRODUCING THE REPORT
A COVERING LETTER FROM THE KULA:
addressing ethical issues in Triratna
As members of the Adhisthana Kula, we have worked together over the course of nearly four years to review historical difficulties in our community and find ways to address their lasting consequences. This report shares what we’ve found and what we’ve done in response.
All of us have devoted many years to developing Triratna as a Buddhist community based on open communication and ethical behaviour. It has been sobering and sometimes upsetting to look squarely at the negative impact of involvement with Triratna on some people. Despite our principles, some people have suffered.
We profoundly regret that it took us so long as a community to fully recognise that some of Sangharakshita’s sexual behaviour caused confusion and pain and to make a concerted attempt to deal effectively with its negative effects. For anyone who suffered these painful consequences: we are truly sorry.
We recognise that when someone is a founder or leader of a spiritual community, the consequences of their actions – both positive and negative – are magnified, and they have a greater responsibility to act carefully in relation to those they teach.
The relationship between a spiritual teacher (or mentor), and a disciple (or student) is emotionally and psychologically powerful and, as is nowadays widely understood, it contains a status or power imbalance. Introducing sex, and all the feelings that go with it, into this relationship brings a heightened risk of confusion and suffering for the disciple. Sangharakshita and our community more widely failed to recognise these dangers. We also acknowledge the difficulty for some of those affected of having any satisfactory dialogue with Sangharakshita about their experiences with him.
A further danger is that others copy the teacher’s behaviour. This happened in our community in the arena of sex, bringing other painful experiences, especially for some younger men.
The report explores some of the ideas and attitudes that have existed in our community that proved to be unhelpful, unkind or just untrue, especially attitudes that were dismissive of women or people who practiced Buddhism as parents. These attitudes have changed, but it took a long time for the problem to be fully recognised, and the effects live on.
It also details some of the work that has been done to address the continuing impact of these events: listening to those who suffered because of their involvement in our community; facilitating long overdue conversations; creating safeguarding practices; and training people to employ them.
As we have worked on these issues, we have reflected at length on Sangharakshita himself: he cooperated with our work, and halfway through the process he died. One aspect is the profound impact on us of Sangharakshita’s Dharma teaching and his personal kindness and encouragement; another is the behaviour we have been considering and its painful consequences. We wish to recognise and honour both of these perspectives.
Finally, we hope this report will be an important step in our community’s engagement with these issues, but recognise that the work is not finished. As the Adhisthana Kula disbands, we make recommendations for how it can be taken forward.
Ratnadharini, Saddhaloka, Dhammarati, Parami, Mahamati, Lokeshvara + Aryajaya