The Triratna Buddhist Community was founded as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in by Sangharakshita, an Englishman, who was ordained as a Buddhist monk in India in , at the age of He lived for many years in Kalimpong, north-eastern India, where he studied with teachers from several of the major Buddhist traditions, including leading Tibetan lamas. During this period, Sangharakshita became known for a non-sectarian approach that drew on the whole Buddhist tradition, especially through his book A Survey of Buddhism, and as editor of the Mahabodhi Journal.
Now that he was addressing Westerners, he saw the need for forms of the teaching and practice that would most effectively communicate the teaching of the Buddha to the people he was meeting. Sangharakshita established the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, and in performed the first ordinations within the Western Buddhist Order WBO which was to be at the heart of the new movement. Since then the movement has grown to have centres all over the world, with activities in 28 countries, including many centres in India.
Going for Refuge to these Three Jewels is the central principle or orientation of the Triratna Buddhist Community, and all its activities are understood in relation to it. The whole Buddhist tradition derives from the Buddha and all Buddhist traditions regard him as their ultimate founder, guide and inspiration.
It also means committing oneself to achieving Buddhahood — Enlightenment for the sake of all beings — which is the goal of the Buddhist spiritual life. The Dharma means the teaching of the Buddha, and also the truth the Buddha himself realized. Regarding the Dharma as a refuge means seeing these teachings as the best guide to reality, and committing oneself to practising them.
Triratna emphasizes the central teachings that are common to all the main schools. These teachings emphasize the development of mindfulness and kindness, examining our actions in the light of our ethical values, and seeing how our thoughts condition our lives. Sincere engagement with basic Buddhist practices offers a context for understanding and engaging with the deeper teachings of Buddhism. Any element of that tradition can be an inspiration to the extent that it is an expression of the Dharma.
Today people can be said to be heirs to the whole Buddhist tradition — an incomparable store of spiritual experience and guidance.
All of us need other people to learn from. If we are to practise the Dharma, we need the example and teaching of others, who have done so before us, especially those who have gained insight into reality themselves. We need the guidance of personal teachers who are further along the path than we are, and the support and friendship of other practitioners.
The Buddha once said that kalyana mitrata — spiritual friendship or friendship with what is beautiful — is the whole of the spiritual life. Triratna takes these words to heart. Kalyana mitrata, one might say, is the whole of the Triratna Buddhist Community. Triratna centres are not simply places for teaching the techniques of meditation, or imparting information about Buddhism. When a person first attends a Triratna centre, they are considered a Friend.
They may take part in all the public activities of the centre, including meditation classes, the study and practice of Buddhism, arts events and so on. There is no obligation or pressure to take their involvement further, and some people remain as Friends for many years. For those who want it, however, there is the opportunity to get to know other practitioners and strengthen those connections.
The Order is neither lay nor monastic; some Order members have families, while at the other end of the spectrum some are celibate monastics known as anagarikas. The crucial thing is the spiritual commitment Order members have made, not the lifestyle they follow.
Triratna Buddhist Community
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Triratna Buddhist Community News: New FWBO Dharma Training Course for Mitras launched
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Dharma Training Course Year Two by Triratna Buddhist Community (Paperback, 2016)
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