Overview of Issues
Triratna has been at the centre of a good deal of controversy in the past, and its spokespersons have claimed in their press releases to have now put their house in order.
So are we just raking over the past?
While some of the ethical issues may appear to have been resolved with the introduction of safeguarding protocols, there is a core of dysfunction that has not been addressed.
One way to summarise the outstanding issues is this:
- Triratna's Dharma teaching is still burdened with distortions introduced by Sangharakshita's "particular presentation"
- Trirata remains in many ways a personality cult, in which Sangharakshita's Dharma teaching is beyond criticism
- The Triratna ecclesiastical hierarchy is self-selecting and unaccountable, and its decision-making processes are opaque
These issues all play into each other.
For decades, it has been official policy that the only people who could be promoted to positions of institutional authority were those who had "no issues" with Sangharakshita's behaviour or teaching. Recently it has been permissible to express reservations about Sangharakshita's sexual behaviour while simultaneously upholding his status as a consummate Dharma teacher. This is referred to as "holding the contradiction". However, if you suggest Sangharakshita's questionable ethics bring elements of his teaching into doubt, it becomes impossible to rise through the ranks or even be admitted to the Order.
What is demanded instead is unquestioned faith in Sangharakshita's "particular presentation" of the Buddha's teaching.
The group of loyalists at the core cannot entertain doubts about the efficacy of his teaching because to do so would undermine their central value and purpose - loyalty to and perpetuation of Sangharakshita's unique perspective on the Dharma. Acknowledging shortcomings in Sangharakshita's understanding of the Dharma would undermine the illusion that Triratna offers a path in accord with the actual teachings of the Buddha. In short, it would show how untenable Triratna is as a Buddhist organisation. Self-critique and meaningful change is impossible in an organisation where the ecclesiastical hierarchy self-selects its own members and whose control extends to the ordination process itself.
If one day we see that people in positions of authority have been able to act to fully acknowledge ethical shortcomings, rectify the distorted teachings, and introduce normal standards of institutional transparency and accountability, then perhaps Triratna will be on the way to becoming what it has always claimed to be - a true Sangha as envisaged by the Buddha.