The Triratna Buddhist Community considers itself a genuine Buddhist movement, which accepts the Buddhist tradition as a whole as its primary source of guidance, inspiration and instruction. In harmony with other Buddhists, Triratna practitioners simply aim to practise and make available the Buddha’s teaching in ways that are relevant and accessible today. Triratna is an active member of Buddhist networks such as the European Buddhist Union, the Network of Buddhist Organisations UK, and Buddhist umbrella organisations in a number of other countries. All are welcome to practise in our community on an equal basis, regardless of gender, sexuality, or race. We actively seek to improve in this area, learning from our own experience and from that of other communities.
Consciously reconsidering how Buddhist practice is lived, fully, in the modern world is an inevitably contentious undertaking. The story of how our community has tried is one of sheer audacity – a Buddhist teacher starting from scratch, working with a group of young people who had only the vaguest ideas about the Dharma. He told them they were going to bring Buddhism to the West – in a way that had never been attempted before. They were finding out what it was they were trying to do as they went along. It’s the story of how a community evolves: a tale of idealism and naivety, growth and growing pains, hard work and burnout, friendship and fallout.
A huge amount was achieved in a very short time. Mistakes were made, especially in the early days, and lessons learned later. In this respect, our community has attracted its fair share of criticism, much of it valid and useful and, with hindsight, not surprising. The issues involved have been widely debated within the Order, with a range of responses. We do not consider ourselves above criticism.
The development of a new community is never without difficulties, and our members have sometimes behaved unskillfully. Sometimes this has been quite serious, as happened at the Croydon Centre in the late 1980s. There has also been controversy surrounding the sexual activity of our founder, Urgyen Sangharakshita, and others. Complex matters like this are never easy to judge, especially when the events concerned happened some time ago. You can find out more about difficulties experienced in the past by visiting the old FWBO Discussion articles site. We would also recommend Growing Pains: An Inside View Of Change In The FWBO, by Vishvapani. For an alternative perspective, see The FWBO – A Community In Transition, by Nagabodhi. To get an overview of historical controversies, it’s worth reading The Triratna Story. (Lesen Sie dieses Buch auf Deutsch)
In late 2016, some of the historical controversy around Sangharakshita, sex, and the early days of the FWBO was the subject of renewed discussion after the broadcast of a BBC programme looking again at this area. You can read the public response from Triratna. Sangharakshita himself later made a statement about his own past and the College of Public Preceptors then offered a further response. We treat reports of abuse extremely seriously and will investigate in accordance with the law and our model policies for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, which follow best practice in the UK. If you have any safeguarding questions or concerns please safeguarding [at] triratnadevelopment.org (get in touch).
You can also find a list of critical writing about the FWBO in the FWBO Academic Bibliography. Here is an archive of many of FWBO/Triratna’s past formal public responses to criticisms.
For a look at how the FWBO saw itself in relation to the rest of the Buddhist world, see How the FWBO Presents Itself by Vishvapani. In another article, Vishvapani considers Perceptions of the FWBO in British Buddhism. His short, poignant exchange of letters with Zoketsu Norman Fischer around sex and the inherent pain of expectation between teachers and disciples is also very much worth reading.
The Buddhist Centre: buddhism for today