About Us

Gathered here is a collection of short articles composed by current and former members of the Triratna Buddhist Order (formerly The Western Buddhist Order), as well as links to works by other authors regarding New Religious Movements (NRMs) and "high demand" or cult-like organisations. These articles are from independent voices with decades of experience, offering insiders' views of the organisation and perspectives on its founder, current leadership and teachings that go beyond the usual hagiography found in official sources.

As current or former members of the wider Triratna community who have become concerned at the direction the organisation is taking, we hope that the information offered here is helpful in deciding if and to what degree you wish to participate in Triratna's activities and take on its worldview and practices. 

Among other resources, we offer some hopefully thought-provoking questions that we suggest you seek answers to before making any major lifestyle changes or commitments in order to follow the "Triratna Dharma Life".

Comments

[name redacted] I'm so sorry you feel you need to make this . It must be very painful for you to be so caught up in such ill will and aversion. I hope you get over it x

One of the site's main goals is to alert the pubic about the sexually abusive behaviour of Triratna's founder and the inadequate institutional response -- see for example Mark Dunlop's response to Sangharakshita's memoir about their "relationship" -- where Mark notes that

In his memoir, Sangharakshita offers no hint of apology or remorse for his behaviour towards me . . . it has been quite a shock to me to realise how cold hearted, devious and manipulative some people can be, even when they are people claiming to practise an ethical and spiritual way of life.

In exposing this double standard within Triratna it isn't at all surprising that the site admins should now themselves be accused of malice. Indeed this is a defense mechanism straight out of the cult handbook as you can read here in an article about what happens to whistleblowers in "high demand" organisations like Triratna

 

Yes, I am concerned that such condescension is seen as true of the whole order. I sincerely hope that our governance can respond skilfully to the objective content of your articles and critique. That way everyone can benefit.

You don't need a degree in psychology to recognise that disparagement framed in terms of "well wishing" is, in fact, a passive-aggressive attack.

Islamophobia is rife within Triratna. One order member is in Britain First and spouts lies and hatred. Many support the right to spread hatred and lies. Support goes to the top. 

When the Order refuses to act in the face of seriously unethical conduct for fear of upsetting mouthy people, what else can we do, Jnanaruchi?

And don't we all know how cutting can be the responses to seriously well intended concerns raised with those who don't want to hear.

This [comment by Jnanaruci] is a highly condescending, invalidating comment typical of cult members, blaming the victim for their reaction to abuse

Michelle Haslam,

I wanted to thank you for your bravery in speaking out about your experiences in Triratna.  It served as a wake-up call for me as I already had a number of concerns about the behaviour of some Buddhist order members in my Sangha.  I am a fifty-plus woman who was a Mitra for a few years.  I didn't observe any sexual abuse but I did notice subtle bullying behaviour to get people to do the bidding of order members.  There is a lot of "group think,"  and non Buddhist behaviour such as greediness, marginalising of others with different opinions and a significant amount of untruthfulness and spin which surprised me. The unquenched thirst for money shocked me.  Despite what they said at the mitra ceremony, they really do want your cheque book!  Virtually all of the fundraising is in aid of the centre, sustaining the every growing number of people on the payroll (pre-Covid) and funding the various associated retreat centres.  There is very little actual generosity shown to the ordinary local people from outside Triratna, whatever the marketing says.  It's a sophisticated money making operation and it does not deserve charitable status.  The safeguarding systems are feeble.  On a going deeper course I was advised, "don't have blind faith, trust in your own experience."  I am glad I followed that advice but I needed a voice of reason from outside (you) to give me strength and clarity to do this.  I decided to leave quietly because I didn't want to experience the confrontation that you and others have had to and I am not an activist by nature.  I am not as brave as you (hence my anonymous post) but my sincerity and thanks to you are heartfelt, you have saved me from heartbreak down the line.  I am still trying to follow the Buddha's teachings as best I can, but not Sangharakshita's version.  To be fair, there were some wonderful people in the sangha but, with a few exceptions, they were not usually the ordained members. 

Spiritual bypassing classic 

I have found the order to be a wonderful place. That is not to say that people act the way we would like them to, all the time - that is indeed the essence of Buddhist teaching - the world doesn't work this way.

  However, the depth and breadth of Buddhist teaching offered within Triratna is profound and life-changing.

  Buddhist meditation is an activity which is life-changing. We can, through it, come to know reality on a completely new level. If it weren't for Triratna, I wouldn't have learned a large number of teachings and meditations which have thoroughly changed my life! Understanding, for examle, how thought relates to feeling and how through these, emotions (volitions) are formed is life-changing. We can come, to 'know ourselves'. What is it to be human? Triratna has helped me through real and authentic transmission of Buddhist teachings to come to know this in ways which have been hugely beneficial.

  Sangharakshita's teachings are amazing and sublime. They are highly intelligent and such intelligence reflects the real nature of reality which is profound and ... beyond words.

  The Metta Bhavana alone is a life-changing practice. It shows us that rather than build up anger or hate towards a person or situation we can transform that into love, joy, peace, kindness, equanimity.  We don't 'have' to do this but we can! It is we who will benefit greatly from it. Such is the Tantra - we learn to transform negative emotions into ones of joy, love, harmony, truth.

  I am unspeakably grateful to Triratna and to Sangharakshita especially for facilitating this huge shift in the inner life.

  Triratna is, in my view, a hugely valuable organisation in what is, especially currently, a world dominated by media and materialism.

Hi Michelle,

  Heartfelt wishes regarding your experiences.

  I must be honest and comment that I have never experienced teachings as sublime, intelligent and which represent a thorough explication of the Buddhist path as Sangharakshita's. They made the Dharma understandable. I think this is really important to people. Were it not for his teachings, I would not have experienced the total transformation of the inner life! I think, the Buddhist path is unspeakably valuable to us as humans. I value, certainly all other attempts and versions of these paths as well whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or any other. Perhaps it is the case that whether we practice within an organisation or not we may well nonetheless be unbelievably thankful for their existence. Perfect or not, there are, thus, many people offering a great deal of time and effort to pass in teachings which are so valuable to people that it is not possible to overestimate its value.

  I really recommend you listen to the lectures on freebuddhistaudio.com, especially from the 1960's. Also, we are all different, aren't we? It may be that some respond more to meditation, some to Dharma teachings or Buddhist psychology. I really recommend the Bhagavad Gita and The Upanishads on this level. These represent some of the core teachings of Vedanta, a related tradition which Buddhism has so many similarities with. Vedanta suggests often that there are four main ways we can come to know joy and Truth and Ultimate reality - one is the path of Selfless Service (Kamma Yoga), another is the path of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga), another is the Path of Knowledge (Jnana yoga) and the last is the Path of discipline of 'austerities'. Buddhism, probably falls mostly in the third category of Jnana Yoga (Gnosis). It is, as we know, full of what some might call esoteric knowledge. I find this invaluable but it may well be others find the Path of Devotion (Bhakti yoga) a way more suited to 'going beyond the ego' and experiencing true Joy. Bhakti yoga was demonstrated by A.C. Prabhupada, for example, of whom George Harrison was a disciple.

  Luckily for us, there are so many paths but I certainly highly recommend these two books to you in your spiritual journey.

  Much love, Much kindness,   Adrian

Adrian, much of what you say, about Buddhist meditation being an activity which is potentially life-changing, and about  the Buddhist path being unspeakably valuable to us as humans, may be true.  The Dharma appears attractive and sublime.

However, that very attractiveness can also mean that meditation and (purported) Dharma can be used as a very effective bait.  A group like Triratna can dangle (initially more-or-less) genuine Dharma in front of newcomers, and when they swallow the bait, and become somewhat committed to the group and its teaching, they can potentially be manipulated and taken advantage of.  

As William Blake put it:

A truth that's told with bad intent.
Beats all the lies you can invent

Not everyone who becomes involved with Triratna will end up being manipulated and taken advantage of, but some will.  The influence process within Triratna can be quite insidious, and there are some quite skilled and subtle manipulators within Triratna.

If you want to avoid being manipulated and taken advantage of, then sites like this one are available to help you see that the public image that Triratna presents, may not be the whole story.

https://triratna-perspectives.com/

'This website has been created as a resource for those involved, or thinking of getting involved in Triratna in order to help inform them about the shadow side of the organisation. We also pose some basic but important questions about the problematic ethics and non-Dharmic teachings of Sangharakshita, the organisation's founder, that substantially influence what happens today in Triratna. These are questions which the organisation's hierarchy has yet to satisfactorily address in official statements or actions, and which they seem to deliberately obfuscate and avoid.'

 

Hi Mark,

As a new attendee at meditation groups and retreats run by Triratna, when I read about Sangharakshita's conduct I swiftly withdrew from being part of their community last year.
I feel that S's history should be acknowledged far more immediately when the OMs refer to him (which happens regularly still).

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