The Triratna Buddhist Community was founded in 1967 as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) and was renamed the Triratna Buddhist Community in 2010. It is one of the principal Buddhist movements in the UK, India, and Australasia, as well as being increasingly well-established in Western Europe and the USA. There are around eighty Triratna urban centres and retreat centres, and activities in over twenty countries.
One of Buddhism's strengths is its ability to adapt to each new culture it encounters. Throughout its history, it has evolved and taken on many new forms, while at the same time retaining its essential truths. The Triratna Buddhist Community bases its approach on the perception that the varied and divided Buddhist tradition has an underlying unity. It seeks to return to these underlying principles and to find ways of living them out in the context of the modern world.
The Triratna Buddhist Community began in London in 1967, when it was founded by Sangharakshita, an extraordinary Englishman who spent twenty years practising Buddhism in India, for much of the time living as a scholar and a monk. There he studied and practised with teachers from all the main schools of Buddhism, developing a broad and deep perspective of Buddhism as a whole. When he returned to the UK in 1966, this perspective enabled him to develop a new approach to Buddhism drawing on both the diversity and the unity of the different schools and teachings.
The Triratna Buddhist Community shares a lot of common ground with the rest of the Buddhist world - both past and present. It shares the basic teachings like the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Conditioned Co-production, and the Six Paramitas. The Triratna Buddhist Community, like the other main schools of Buddhism, teaches the Threefold Path of Ethics, Meditation and Wisdom. Each Buddhist organisation has its own distinctive features that makes it unique. The Triratna Buddhist Community has several features which it emphasises as a modern Buddhist tradition:
- The Triratna Buddhist Community is Ecumenical. The Community does not identify itself exclusively with any single Eastern Buddhist Tradition, for instance, with Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan, or Zen. Instead the Community describes itself simply as 'Buddhist'. The Triratna Buddhist Community draws upon the vast wealth of the entire Buddhist tradition, using ideas, principles and practices from whichever tradition will best help people to develop in a way that is relevant in the context of Western cultural and social life.
- The Triratna Buddhist Community places great importance on “Going for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha” and sees this act as being of central value for Buddhists. Reverence for The Three Jewels is what all Buddhists have in common. All Buddhists recognise the Buddha as an Enlightened human being, that it's possible for anyone to achieve what he attained, that the teachings of the Buddha, known as “the Dharma”, can lead one to Enlightenment or Buddhahood, and that there are others who have achieved this complete illumination and release from suffering. The Triratna Buddhist Community teaches that “Going for Refuge is primary/central. And lifestyle is secondary.” This perspective has led to a variety of lifestyles within the Community, from members practising within a context of marriage and family life, to those who practice through a life of celibacy and renunciation.
- The Triratna Buddhist Community is a Unified Buddhist organisation. This means that the Community is open on completely equal terms to both men and women. There are some Buddhist Orders which are not open to men and women in this way. The Triratna Buddhist Community is also unified in that it is made up of people from all walks of life regardless of background, race or sexual orientation.
- The Triratna Buddhist Community emphasises Right-Livelihood. This is the Buddhist principle whereby one earns a living in a way that is in keeping with the basic precepts of Buddhism. The Triratna Buddhist Community also emphasises 'Team-Based Right Livelihood'. This is where a group of Buddhists work together in the form a business or organisation. 'TBRL's' provide financial support for individual Buddhists in an ethical way. They also provide a context where people in the Triratna Buddhist Community can engage in work as spiritual practice. Any profit made goes back into the organisation for the purpose of sharing the teachings of Buddhism or is donated to charitable causes in local communities with which the business has made connections through trade.
- The Triratna Buddhist Community promotes the spiritual value of the Arts. There is a particular appreciation within the Community, that approached in a creative way, the Arts can lead to heightened awareness, and to an expansion of consciousness. Many Triratna Buddhist Community centres and retreat centres offer workshops and retreats that explore the 'spiritual' in the Arts. In the Triratna Buddhist Community there are many artists, writers, musicians, actors and performers.
- The Triratna Buddhist Community emphasises Spiritual Friendship. The Buddha himself tells us that Spiritual Friendship “is the entire spiritual life”. The Triratna Buddhist Community teaches that developing our friendships encourages us to cultivate an altruistic outlook that takes us beyond ourselves. This altruistic perspective is the basis of the empathy and compassion for which all Buddhists strive.
Triratna Centres offer the opportunity to learn about meditation and Buddhism, and to deepen practice, through classes and courses. Teaching in the Triratna Buddhist Community is led by ordained members of the Community (members of the Triratna Buddhist Order) who are themselves experienced in the practice and study of meditation and Buddhism.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to come along to a Triratna Centre, or to agree with Buddhist teachings. Classes are an opportunity to learn and test out Buddhist practices in the light of your own experience, and in an atmosphere of friendly, open communication, just as the Buddha encouraged in his own time.
Links to further information about the Triratna Buddhist Community