Triratna Controversy FAQ
Triratna Controversy FAQ (Version 1.2)
This web edition will be updated to version 2.0 of the FAQ in the next day or two. You can download various versions of the newly revised document below.
We’ve assembled this FAQ in response to questions people have asked about historical controversy and unskilful behaviour in FWBO/Triratna, and the ways these are sometimes represented online. The main intention is to provide, in good faith, information we believe to be accurate. We wish to represent what are often complex issues in a fair-minded way without over simplifying, aware that other views are possible and are already well represented elsewhere. We’ll keep it updated regularly, adding new questions and answers from time to time as seems helpful.
If you have a question that isn’t covered, feel free to contact us any time and we’ll try to put you in touch with someone who may be able to respond: kula [at] adhisthana.org
Published April 2017 by Candradasa, Dhammarati, Lokeshvara, Mahamati, Munisha, Parami, Ratnadharini.
Download versions (2.0)
Categories of questions
- 1-4. Triratna’s response to the past and to people’s pain and suffering
- 5-7. Questions on Safeguarding in Triratna
- 8-9. Questions arising from recent media coverage
- 10-12. Questions around specific online rumours about Triratna
- 13. Considering Triratna responses and other online writing about us
- 14-16. Questions around Sangharakshita’s Personal statement
- 17-19. Questions around online rumours about Sangharakshita and sex
- 20. Sangharakshita and celibacy
- Do you take seriously accounts of sexual misconduct in the past?
Yes. We take them very seriously indeed. As Buddhists we wish to act ethically and with awareness in all aspects of our lives. We are always open to dialogue about any misconduct in our past and the suffering people experience in relation to it. We hope the independently directed reconciliation process now being developed by senior members of our Order will help with that.
Sangharakshita has always openly acknowledged his sexual activity and relationships. His recent apology for any harm caused represents the latest of his own engagements with criticism of his behaviour. In general, this and many of the other issues arising from the past have been openly discussed in the Order and in our wider community over decades. Indeed, for over 10 years it has been agreed that difficult parts of our history should be actively drawn to the attention of anyone who is seeking to make a significant commitment to Buddhist practice within Triratna.
As you’ll see from other answers below, we recognise that we still need to do better at making sure we have fully integrated awareness of the past into our sense of our community - and that we have done as much as we can to meet the pain some people still feel.
- Is this sexual misconduct still going on?
Although celibacy is not required in our Order or community, we have for many years strongly discouraged sexual relationships between members of the Order and those they teach, based in part on lessons learned from our own early days.
We recognise that people in teaching roles or similar have a particular responsibility in this area, especially to those new to Triratna. We propose that they do not start a sexual relationship while they are the other person’s main connection with Buddhism and Triratna, even when there is clear mutual attraction and a shared wish to enter into a relationship. Rather, we would ask them to wait until the less experienced person has established other effective friendships within our community.
We suggest that any prospective sexual relationship between someone in a teaching role and a less experienced person, even if they are not the person’s main connection, is discussed openly with other Order members to make sure there is sufficient awareness and personal accountability on the part of those concerned.
Sex is clearly a very strong area for craving and attachment to play out - with potential for hurt as well as for pleasure. When people are practising the Buddha’s teachings together it is natural that close relationships should develop between us; and in a context where celibacy is not insisted upon it is also to be expected that some of these may become sexual relationships, with the same potential for joy and sorrow attached. We encourage all members of our community to conduct their sexual relationships ethically, with awareness and kindness. And we recognise fully the need for safeguards to ensure that awareness of this area is very clearly a part of our culture and our institutions.
- Why did it take over 30 years for these things to be sorted out?
This is a question with many answers, only some of which we will even attempt here. Clearly we have not done well enough in the past, and this is why these matters have come back again and again. That said, many people have tried in good faith to address them, both privately and publicly. Our websites have always carried public sections with detailed discussion of the issues (much of it critical). You can read many hours’ worth of material from the public archive of responses past and present here:
We are very definitely addressing them now, as can be seen from the work of the Adhisthana kula, the Ethics kula (see question 7) and our Safeguarding officer - all happening in the context of the new Restorative reconciliation process.
Safeguarding in the context of Triratna’s formation & development
Safeguarding* is a relatively new idea. Britain’s Independent Safeguarding Authority (now the Disclosure and Barring Service) came into existence in 2004. Some Triratna centres and retreat centres already had their own Safeguarding policies and centralised Safeguarding work began in 2012.
To be clear, unlike the major Christian churches who have instituted safeguarding measures, in Triratna there has been no history of large-scale, long-term sex abuse scandals.
Another point of difference is that Triratna may now be a relatively large Buddhist organisation but is still much smaller and more decentralised than worldwide churches. In fact, each Triratna centre is legally, financially, and organisationally autonomous. This presents challenges to having a centralised approach to anything: a lot of co-operation is required to create and maintain a shared culture and shared structures that support an adequate overview of our community worldwide.
Nowadays, meeting those challenges in ever more effective ways is one of the ongoing projects widely recognised throughout Triratna, with the Triratna International Council taking a lead and, in doing so, standing very clearly behind all our Safeguarding initiatives.
Triratna also has rather informal origins in a community of radical young people in in the 1970s. Things we would now consider normal, such as proper health and safety measures, seem to have been considered boring and unspiritual for quite a long time. It’s a matter of cultural change and growing awareness: today every Triratna centre in Britain has a Safeguarding officer and 30 of them attended a training day with an external trainer in November 2016 (arranged in January 2016.)
On the recent resurgence of controversy in relation to the past
With reference to the September 2016 BBC report and subsequent discussions around whether Triratna has done enough to face its past, it’s not always been easy to answer such questions definitively. Clearly, as we say above, it would seem we have not done well enough in the past, and this is why these matters have come back again. At the same time, while recognising the definite pain being expressed, some people felt that a number of the allegations in the BBC programme were simply unfair. (This has been true of previous periods of controversy around the same issues.)
In particular, though his suffering was evident and affecting, people who knew the main complainant in the BBC report say they remember him and his relationship with Sangharakshita (which lasted at least two years, including living together some of the time) and they simply do not recognise the picture he creates. Sangharakshita himself also disputes central aspects of that picture.
This has meant anyone coming into relationship with what seem to be complex and very painful matters (whether for the first time or not) often has to hold in awareness seemingly opposed views of them. There are, too, very personal aspects, and there are aspects more to do with issues of principle (for example, the relationship between teachers and those they teach in a non-celibate Order). It’s often been a hard set of considerations to hold all at once.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, knowledge of particular issues has been less clear than one might imagine or hope it would have been. In this, it should be borne in mind that the Order has doubled in size since 2003. Then, there were 999 Order members worldwide. In 2017 there are over 2000. This means that around half the Order has been ordained since the last big discussion of these controversial matters. Many of us were not sufficiently aware that there were issues needing further attention. This involved assumptions which are now being properly questioned, and we hope the Restorative reconciliation process will allow due attention to be given to people’s suffering and any issues that are still live within our community.
None of these perspectives on the past is raised as any kind of “excuse” for why these issues are coming up so strongly again after 30 years. In a way, they each occasion a sense of humility, and of determination to do better and repair any remaining faults, in the spirit of Buddhist confession and practice. Yet they do add some sense of context and we hope the work of the Adhisthana kula, the Ethics kula, and the Safeguarding officer - in conjunction with a Restorative reconciliation process - will come to define the next stage of this history. And, most importantly, bring meaningful resolution to anyone still suffering on account of their past in relation to Triratna.
- Triratna’s response to people’s pain and suffering seems to be lacking in compassion. You often refer to “allegations”, as if you don’t believe people when they tell you about what’s happened to them. Why is this?
Triratna’s statement in response to the BBC report of September 2016, starts with a paragraph including the words: “…we naturally feel sadness and concern on witnessing the pain of those who took part in interviews for the programme.”
In their letter endorsing Sangharakshita’s Statement, Triratna’s College of Public Preceptors wrote “…we have been very concerned by what we have heard and the evident pain and suffering in some accounts…”
Describing their vision, the Adhisthana kula have said “We are… concerned that there are people whose painful experience as a result of these issues has not been sufficiently heard or responded to…” See: Adhisthana kula - Our Vision
Regarding the word “allegation(s)”, there have been many, varied things written about both Sangharakshita and FWBO/Triratna online over the years. Some of these might best be called “accounts”; some are clearly people’s personal “stories” or “testimonies”; some are more like “witnessings” of pain or suffering in others, either simple or complex.
In some cases these involve details that are largely agreed upon, yet in others they involve details that are contested, sometimes strongly, by one or more of the people involved.
Where we use the word “allegation(s)”, it is referring only to it being an article of law in Britain and many other countries that where details of painful history are disputed, a person is innocent until it is proven “beyond reasonable doubt” that they are guilty. It is not intended to signify belief or disbelief. The word “allegation” simply indicates that in some instances a version of events has not yet been proven, or that because it is a matter of one person’s word against another’s it may be no one will ever be able to determine whether either is telling the truth. It is also not meant to refer to every case involving criticism of Sangharakshita and/or FWBO/Triratna as, clearly, not all the details of every case are disputed.
This said, we can also see that where trust has broken down, the use of the word “allegation” can tend to inflame feelings. Where possible we can, and often do, use terms such as “account” or “story” instead, as in “We have heard X’s account or story of what happened” rather than “We have heard X’s allegations.”
The challenging process of moving towards resolution and reconciliation includes the process of finding words that convey genuinely imaginative and compassionate concern, while distinguishing between descriptions of fact and personal or professional opinions. Whatever the cause may be, we can clearly see where a person is suffering and extend compassionate concern and a desire to do whatever we can to alleviate their pain.
- It is claimed online that Triratna’s Safeguarding policies were put in place only after Triratna learned the BBC were investigating them.
Formal Safeguarding* work in Triratna began in 2013, though some Centres already had their own policies. The first model policies were published in 2015, updated 2016 and adopted at the meetings of Triratna’s International Council (IC) and European Chairs’ Assembly (ECA) in July and September respectively (as recorded in their minutes and internal online posts).
In addition the ECA and IC adopted more general Ethical guidelines for those running Triratna Centres. Work also began on a draft protocol for dealing with serious breaches of the law and/or precepts on the part of Order members. All these policies will be regularly reviewed and updated.
The Safeguarding officer had only just returned home from the ECA meeting the day before she received an email from the BBC, so had not yet had time to post the newly adopted 2016 documents online. She did this immediately and it therefore appeared to some that the documents were produced after the BBC got in touch. However, given that it takes months to draft such documents and get them approved and adopted, this would have been impossible.
- Why are your Safeguarding policies only models? I’ve read online people saying this means you aren’t really serious about Safeguarding.
They are models in two senses:
1) they have been created for the use of all Triratna Centres and enterprises, which means they have blank spaces where any centre can insert its own name, saving its leaders the work of creating their own policies from scratch. The fact that we have created these models for all Centres to use shows how serious we are about Safeguarding.
2) They can be adapted to the varying needs of Centres in different countries; for example, the rules for reporting an alleged offence vary from country to country. They can also be translated into other languages.
- So how do you manage Safeguarding in Triratna?
Ensuring the safety from emotional, physical, sexual and psychological harm of anyone involved in the activities of Triratna Buddhist Centres and other enterprises is an expression of the First Precept: the principle of non-harming, or love.
Though half the Order worldwide lives in Britain, Triratna is an international Buddhist movement, operating in many varied cultures and legislative contexts. What is understood in Britain as “Safeguarding” refers to the duty of all British institutions to protect children and “adults at risk” (also known as “vulnerable adults”) from sexual, physical, emotional and psychological harm according to nationally agreed criteria. Though it has parallels in some other countries it is as yet unknown in many others.
Despite this, we are gradually encouraging Triratna institutions worldwide abroad to adopt the same or similar policies. Triratna’s European Chairs’ Assembly employs an overall Safeguarding officer and she has a new Assistant Safeguarding officer who took up her post in April 2017.
They work with an Ethics kula composed of the Chairs of the College of Public Preceptors and International Council, the two Order convenors and one or two other Order members with specialist safeguarding knowledge from their professional jobs.
They are advised by outside organisations including the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, which provides external guidance and checks for all faith groups in Britain.
- I read the Observer article and was worried by the title’s reference to “the scale” of the issues.
The journalist did not ask the interviewee, Munisha, if she had any fears over the possible scale of sexual misconduct in Triratna, and she did not express any such fear. We do not know why this reference was inserted into the headline.
As mentioned above, in Triratna there has been no history of large-scale, long-term sex abuse scandals of the kind often discussed in connection with some larger Christian churches.
You can see Munisha’s full article about the interview (and a link to the interview itself) here:
- I understand a video on the Clear Vision website recommending sex between teachers and students was only taken down after the BBC contacted Triratna.
This is not accurate. A video was indeed taken down from the Clear vision archive after the BBC drew our attention to it. They broadcast an extract of it, asking whether Triratna had learned from past controversy. However the video did not mention anything at all about sex between teachers and students.
Please see Munisha’s explanation of the contents of the video here, and also point 13 in our statement to the BBC for details of why we decided to remove it (simply to avoid potential confusion between Triratna archival material and Buddhist teaching materials for Religious Education in schools).
- I have heard that men have been persuaded to have vasectomies. Is this true?
Allegations were made on Facebook in early 2017 that Mitras in Triratna’s Mexico sangha had been persuaded to have vasectomies. As the Public Preceptor for Mexico, Moksananda investigated these allegations immediately but found no basis for them. However, he has raised local awareness and put in place measures to make it easy for people to report any concerns in future should they arise.
It was also alleged that Windhorse Trading (a Triratna business in Cambridge UK, now closed down) paid for and encouraged young men to have vasectomies. This was looked into. While it was found the business had responded to individual requests for extra financial support from a few individual Order members to have this operation, it was clear that there was no policy to encourage or promote vasectomies among men working in the business.
- I’ve read online that Triratna advises the UK’s NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). Can you give more details?
This is not true. Triratna’s sole link with the NSPCC is that the NSPCC asked to film at the after-school club run by Triratna’s London Buddhist Centre (LBC), for an NSPCC-run web space on how faith groups can safeguard children. The video explains the LBC’s commitment to child protection.
- I’ve been reading online about a court case in 2016 involving a former member of the Order charged with sexual offences. They’re saying that he was part of a paedophile ring and that the court case failed because Triratna obstructed the course of justice in some way.
There was indeed a Crown Court hearing in March 2016 involving an ex-Order member charged with offences in the 1970s and 1990-91 against two men who had then been under 16.
In the lead-up to the hearing, Triratna’s Order convenors Parami and Lokeshvara wrote to the whole Order assuring everyone that members of the Order would assist the police with enquiries where asked to do so. However, as far as we know, nobody in Triratna was ever approached by the police and there was no obstruction or collusion of any kind.
Neither of the complainants came to court to press his case. After 45 minutes and without the appointment of a jury the judge declared the defendant not guilty on all counts. This was partly at the recommendation of the prosecuting counsel: the defence counsel had shown him letters from one of the complainants to the defendant which strongly indicated that they had had a consenting adult relationship and that they were on very friendly terms with one another.
The defendant was one of a list of men who were alleged to have been a paedophile ring responsible collectively for the abuse of many more children. All the others pleaded guilty; he pleaded not guilty. The last to appear in court, he found himself sitting next to one of the other men, who looked at him, mystified, and asked “Who are you?”
The ex-Order member’s only link with the other men was that one of the men who’d made allegations against some of the others had also named him. Telephoned from the court, this complainant said he had no wish to pursue the case. The defence counsel said it was a mystery as to why he had named him.
- I’m worried and confused. How can there be such a huge difference between your answers and what I am reading in various places online?
We recognise it can be both confusing and worrying to read some of what appears on Facebook and on the web about Triratna now and in the past. That’s partly why we wrote this FAQ. What’s online is a complex mixture of painful truths we need to face and are facing; reasonable differences of view between Buddhists and Buddhist traditions; rumour, misunderstanding and confusion; and, finally, simple lies.
Much of what is online has been posted anonymously. Some of those voicing criticism have honorable intentions in bringing to light things which need addressing. Some are people who disagree so strongly with Triratna’s general approach to Buddhism they wish to discredit it by any means possible. Some seem to be “internet trolls”: people who may not even know much about Triratna but deliberately use the anonymity of the internet to create disharmony and fear.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that anonymity has allowed some people the freedom to express - over many years - an implacable and strong dislike of Sangharakshita, and an attendant desire to undermine Triratna as a valid Buddhist community, rather than to help us face our history more fully and move towards lasting reconciliation.
We are committed to facing anything problematic in our past with humility; to learning lessons and carrying those with us as we continue to grow and develop as a community; and to responding well to people who still experience pain in relation to their involvement with our community.
We also know that Triratna’s work over 50 years has had real, deep value for many people - and we don’t see a contradiction in holding that as important while also recognising our shortcomings as a community and as individual human beings. That is, after all, what spiritual practice and a spiritual life usually entails! We are not perfect, but we are genuinely inspired by and working for the good and the welfare of all. We welcome any genuine input to ongoing discussions about our community from anyone who shares our wish to see the Dharma flourish in the modern world.
Read the Letter from Triratna’s College of Public Preceptors laying out ways forward in the wake of the recent renewal of interest in these issues.
Questions about Sangharakshita
- Why did Sangharakshita wait until he thought he might be dying to make his confessional statement?
Sangharakshita hasn’t said as much over the years as some people would have liked about controversy around his sexual activity. In a 2009 interview with Subhuti and Mahamati, published as ‘Conversations with Bhante’, he does talk about his sexual relations, including indicating some regret in some cases. Again, some people felt this did not go far enough.
With the more recent discussions of his sexual past (November 2016), Sangharakshita was initially too unwell to be told about the BBC programme. By the beginning of December 2016 however he had recovered sufficiently to be told about what had been said in the programme and in the ensuing discussion; including details of the questions being raised and of the upset within the Order and wider community.
He decided that he needed to say something new in response and was already actively thinking about what this might be. Whilst ill in hospital it became clear to him exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it.
- In his statement Sangharakshita says “my 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.” What exactly was he referring to?
He has since made it clear that his Statement includes some of his sexual activity, but also that it is not limited to that. It is a public recognition by him that some of his actions, particularly in the last 50 years since the founding of Triratna, have “hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists”. He is acknowledging and regretting this, and asking for forgiveness from anyone affected, including those who are not Buddhist.
- Does Sangharakshita want to engage in a process of reconciliation with those who have been unhappy about their sexual relations with him?
The Adhisthana kula is taking a lead on engaging with a Restorative reconciliation process and will be employing a qualified person from outside Triratna to help with this. Given his age and poor state of health, the Kula think that any Restorative process involving Sangharakshita needs at least to start with others acting on his behalf. They are actively looking at how they might offer an opportunity to take part in this process to anyone with whom Sangharakshita had sexual relations and who wants to engage with it. This will be determined with the help of the independent person directing the Restorative process itself.
If anyone’s process gets to a stage where there could be a productive meeting with Sangharakshita then this is always a possibility, although the degree to which he can participate in person may depend on his health at any given time.
- I’m concerned to read on the internet that Sangharakshita may have had sex with hundreds of men.
As far as we know, Sangharakshita had sex with 24 or 25 men in Triratna/FWBO, over an 18-year period from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. The youngest of these men was 18; most if not all of the rest were in their 20s. Some were quite happy with their sexual relations with him and are still in Triratna today; some were less happy, either at the time or later on, and are still with Triratna; as far as we know at least 5 were very unhappy - at least in retrospect - and 4 of these subsequently resigned from the Order. In the cases of several of the 24 or 25 men, sex was a part of a longer-term companionship or relationship, but in the others there was a sexual encounter just once or twice.
- I’ve heard there are allegations of sex with 16 year-olds. Was this Sangharakshita or others?
None of the men Sangharakshita had sexual relations with was under 18. See question 17 above.
One man has given an account of sex with an ex-Order member at Croydon Buddhist Centre between approximately 1986 and 1988, when he was approximately 16-19 years old. In regard to this, both Croydon’s Safeguarding officer and Triratna’s overall Safeguarding officer have followed Safeguarding procedures, with his agreement.
You can read a personal account of what happened in Croydon here.
See also related specific chapters of The Triratna Story in the public archive.
Two other men have given accounts of sex with a different ex-Order member: one was aged 17 at the time, the other 16 or 17. Our Safeguarding officer has implemented Safeguarding procedures as appropriate in each case, by agreement with each of them.
- I’ve heard that there have been suicides among those who had sex with Sangharakshita or the former Chair of Croydon Buddhist Centre. Is this true?
It is not true that anyone sexually involved with Sangharakshita committed suicide.
Terry Delamare, a close friend of Sangharakshita in the mid-1960s, did commit suicide. At that time homosexuality was seen as scandalous in Britain. (It was only in 1967 that sexual relations between men became legal in Britain.) It has long been rumoured - initially by people very probably wishing to discredit Sangharakshita - that he and Terry were sexual partners, but there is no evidence of this. Terry never said this and Sangharakshita has always denied it. He has written extensively about Terry and about their friendship, including the circumstances surrounding Terry’s suicide, in his volume of memoirs Moving Against the Stream. Terry’s suicide was as a result of the depression which he was being treated for, as explained in the memoirs.
A young man who spent three years at the Croydon Centre in the mid-1980s when aged 16-19 (during the years associated with sexual unskilfulness and abuse of power at that Centre) sadly committed suicide seven years later. His family and friends later made a connection between diary accounts and letters about his unhappiness during his time in Croydon and his eventual death. This painful story was used as the basis for a critical newspaper article about the FWBO (the former name for Triratna) in 1997, and has been regularly re-posted by Triratna critics online.
You can read a personal account of what happened in Croydon here.
See also related specific chapters of The Triratna Story in the public archive.
- Triratna statements since the BBC programme in September 2016 make out that any unskillfulness was long ago, and that Sangharakshita has been celibate since the late 1980s. I read otherwise online! Is this true?
One person alleged sex with Sangharakshita in the 29 years from 1988 to 2017: a former Mitra who knew Sangharakshita in 2002-3. It is a complex story – and one that we are very reluctant to tell, out of consideration for the man making the allegation as much as for Sangharakshita. However, the man requested public acknowledgment of his claims and, given how much confusion, doubt and dismay the matter has caused, we feel bound to address it here, by way of clarification.
The man posted a lengthy account publicly on Facebook shortly after the September 2016 BBC report. He had given other, different accounts in personal emails, letters and on Facebook many times previously, and had been in dialogue with Sangharakshita and his secretary, Mahamati, since 2012. Sangharakshita has always insisted that he has maintained his celibacy and has denied ever having had sexual relations with the man.
In 2002-3, Sangharakshita was 77/78 years old and going through a period of extreme vulnerability, suffering in various ways including chronic insomnia and the recent onset of macular degeneration causing ever-increasing blindness. At the time, a number of Order members and other friends took turns caring for him, and in that context the man involved in this matter (who was 27/28 years old) sometimes spent time with Sangharakshita as a companion, occasionally sleeping over at his flat in Birmingham, in separate beds.
The man writes himself that on one or more occasions – uninvited and on his own initiative – he got into Sangharakshita’s bed and masturbated. We understand that at the time he then expressed to his friends his disappointment that he received no response from Sangharakshita, but later said in online accounts that Sangharakshita did respond sexually.
One of the man’s concerns in writing about this over the years was that Sangharakshita did not acknowledge that they had a sexual relationship during this time and that Sangharakshita was lying in maintaining he has been celibate since the late 1980s.
Sangharakshita, as mentioned, denies ever having had sexual relations with him and is clear that he has therefore maintained his celibacy.
According to the man’s own accounts, in letters, emails and on Facebook, he always took the initiative sexually and does not regard himself as abused. He did not allege that Sangharakshita had done anything illegal.
N.B. The document linked to above is an account by Mahamati from his perspective as Sangharakshita’s secretary, having also been in dialogue with the man over some years. It does reflect the position of Sangharakshita regarding this matter and has recently been shared publicly online with the man’s knowledge.
See the note here on changes made to this section.
You can get much more, regularly updated information here:
Appendix: a note from the authors of this document
One of the ongoing challenges in responding to controversy in any community is that, on the one hand, it’s clear that no one can speak for everyone who feels involved; and on the other it is sometimes necessary nonetheless to respond on behalf of the community, at least in terms of its institutions. Such responses become necessary both on specific occasions (e.g. in responding to a media story), and also in more general terms when a basic need for information becomes apparent over time.
So far during the current round of controversy, those of us with formal, institutional roles in Triratna have mainly focussed on supporting (and sometimes creating) spaces for private and public personal responses. We have only made public institutional responses on a few specific occasions, as described in questions 1-3 above. The public Letter from the Chair of the College to the Order in April 2017 was the first major exception to that pattern in that it was not occasioned by one specific situation but rather the whole area of controversy around Triratna’s past. This collection of questions and answers is the second.
We’ve noticed in the course of our work for Triratna that a lot of the discourse online around issues arising from our community’s history inevitably features a degree of speculation. We see several contributing factors here: one is the sheer distance in time from many of the events concerned; another is their intrinsically personal and subjective nature. Also, quite naturally, feelings run high. (We are certainly not immune to this!). We’ve also noticed that, although the personal views and bits of information exchanged on Facebook and other social network spaces can be useful in helping process complex matters in a conversation, the fast pace of back-and-forward debate presents a challenge when trying to assess and reflect on what is now an awful lot of information about Triratna’s past. In this context, it can feel increasingly difficult to separate out what is personal opinion, rumour or evidence-based fact (to the extent the latter can be ascertained).
We recognise then that it assumes a basic level of your trust in our good faith for us to present what we, with our formal roles in Triratna, think we know as we attempt to give answers to the important questions raised in this document. We also know that our position inevitably brings its own biases and that we can only assure readers that we have tried to be aware of these, in order to ensure they are reflected as little as possible in the way we present the information contained here.
Finally, we are also strongly aware that the most important issues causing upset in Triratna and beyond are mainly the province of the Restorative reconciliation process now being taken forward by the Adhisthana kula.
So in this document we’ve focused primarily on providing what we believe to be accurate information, which we’ve clarified (to the extent we can) over many years in the course of our own work. Our efforts to establish clarity have been undertaken faithfully as a way of fulfilling our formal responsibilities within the community. These have involved discussion and active inquiry, not only amongst ourselves but also with many others in Triratna, past and present, whenever the issues raised have touched our different spheres of activity. We’ve individually and collectively tried to find out as much as we can about the facts of any given matter. We have explored other important aspects too; for example, how people feel about things, and whether what happened is even clearly discernible with any objectivity.
Knowing how sensitive the matters discussed here are for many people, we would claim no further qualification for offering this information than our body of shared experience. At the same time, we think our collective experience, knowledge and goodwill is sufficient to stand behind the answers given; and that these answers represent a useful reference for anyone who is prepared to engage with them, trusting our intention to be fair and truthful in what we say. Our answers are all born of personal engagement with the very people who have asked such important questions; questions that are about what matters most to them in assessing the past. We hope we have honoured them too in our responses.
There have been similar attempts to do this kind of work in the past, to which we are indebted. We think the time for a new attempt has come. We hope what you read here is useful in some measure and supports you in forming your own sense of the issues. We’d like to thank those Mitras and Order members behind the scenes who have given helpful critical feedback and greatly improved this document as a result. The Adhisthana kula would be happy to hear from anyone who has other questions or further details they wish to suggest for inclusion in future revisions: kula [at] adhisthana.org
Dhammarati (Convenor of Triratna’s International Council)
Lokeshvara and Parami (International Convenors to the Triratna Buddhist Order)
Mahamati and Ratnadharini (Triratna’s College of Public Preceptors)
Munisha (Triratna’s Safeguarding officer)
Candradasa (Director of The Buddhist Centre Online)
Version 1.0, published April 14th 2017
Version 1.1, published April 17th 2017. Changes:
- Clarified information added to this question, regarding Windhorse Trading.
- A biographical detail about Terry Delamare and depression added here.
- Two broken web links fixed.
Version 1.2, published July 1st 2017
In the question around allegations that Sangharakshita’s celibacy was compromised since he adopted the practice in 1988, we’ve removed all identifying references to the other man involved from the text of this document. The man offered no objection to being named (he has been public about his allegations and asked for public response to them) but we think it is better nonetheless to be cautious about naming people in such sensitive matters, especially where long-term online search records are concerned. We are aware that the linked letters (in PDF format) detailing his case do name him – our primary concern here is for this standard web searchable document not to associate his name with this controversy even as it gives the details of his case. We have also marked the PDF letters linked to as “non-searchable” for web search engines indexing our site content.