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.

Comments

I can see no kindness within this website. And if no compassion or wisdom exits within it what is the point....very sad indeed. ..

I see the kindness. Perhaps you didn't look enough.

There is currently a battle over the emergence of the alt-right in the order. In the context of rising awareness of racism in our societies in general, the libertarian right are expounding racist views as free speech, Some have left or are leaving the order or withdrawing completely.

There is an alt-right cell of racists, particularly men who believe voicing opinion is an inalienable right not matter the consequences. Some have left Triratna because of this and some have withdrawn from communal activity.

Perhaps you lack empathy.

Is it with regard to senior order members denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement on this thread that you are referring to when you point to the prominence of alt-right voices in Triratana, Ian? https://thebuddhistcentre.com/features/reflecting-racism-james-baldwin?

I offer compassion to anyone demanding a need of their presumptions be fulfilled and simultaneously  describe their attachment to sitting in judgement.

If you want sugary so called  kindness you might be able to 'see', I can suggest were it flows and gets many addicted.  It is a very effective tool.

I am here for the first time.  As offered IMO 'the point is both openness and choice.

In kindness...  until you 'seek', go where your expectations  are met.

I find Openness  requires letting go of judgement, and especially expectations

In the interests of transparency, and to keep this excellent website fresh, I must confess to being uncertain now about where the article, "Leaving mother and initiation into manhood" was first made available to the public.

In my introduction to this tract, "Triratna: Inside the Cuckoo's Nest" on Tenzin Peljor's website, I stated that after its initial appearance in the internal circular Shabda, it was reproduced in the old FWBO newsletter.

The main reason I remembered it this way, was because I knew that the impetus for its public presentation came from Nagabodhi. He was the editor of the newsletter, circa September 1977. I do not recall him being the editor of Mitrata at the time--in fact it was Padmaraja.

So, if this controversial article actually made its public debut in Mitrata, not the original Newsletter, my error is perhaps understandable.

In fact, these two organs of the FWBO were parallel periodicals. Although Mitrata was primarily intended as material for study groups, it usually found its way into book-selling outlets at FWBO centres: so it was available to the public--just as the original FWBO newsletter was.

Consequently, the question of which gazette hosted the "Leaving mother... etc" article is a bit of a technicality!

Another discourse of great historical importance - more likely to have been published in Mitrata than the Newsletter - was, "Fierce Friendship".

I am told that this piece was written by Abhaya (whom I didn't know) in the early 1980's, and initiated the wave of bullying-nagging I personally experienced and witnessed during the middle portion of this decade. Because I was out of contact with the FWBO at the time of this tract's appearance... I have never read it. However, I was told about it, and believe its inclusion on this website to be in the interests of the concerned public.

It precipitated Gaslighting abuse. Gaslighting is a sustained attack on the faculties we all depend on to guide our lives: our perception, memory and intuition; also the thought processes that link these separate functions. The effects of this form of emotional abuse can be devastating: breakdowns, self-harm and worse are not uncommon.

So-called "Fierce Friendship" or "Feedback" was, especially during the 1980's, simply Gaslighting perpetrated within a collective context.

The senior Order Members who promoted, practised or simply tolerated this pernicious abuse are, in many cases, still active in the Triratna movement: so this is NOT just an historical problem; it is very much an "unexploded bomb in the basement" scenario!

All it needs is for someone to press the right button and these, apparently unrepentant, seniors might... feel a yearning for the old days? Can we be certain they will not?

Might I suggest that if you have a copy of this tract, "Fierce Friendship" - published either in Mitrata or elsewhere - that you scan it, save it as a Word document, and then send it (by "cutting and pasting" it) to this website via the "Submit new content" app--if you possibly can?

Public libraries often have scanners, and should assist you with this fairly quick procedure upon request.

I believe the inclusion of this article to be in the interests of the public, and an important historical resource. I would be willing to write an introduction--if necessary.

UPDATE A MONTH LATER...
After some amateur detective work, I can suggest that somewhere between Mitrata no 17 and no 39 would be a good search area for "Fierce Friendship", covering the period from June 79 until December 82. This timeframe encompasses Nagabodhi's editorship of Mitrata.

Sangharakshita said of this period: "Now, under Nagabodhi's editorship the scope of Mitrata was considerably widened. The benefits of Mitrata were extended to a wider audience. It was made in a way more popular. And this led to the production of some very interesting, some very inspiring and useful material mainly written or written up by Order Members."

I know that the "Fierce Friendship" article was not published before May 1979; and in 1983 the magazine was relaunched with more conventional material, such as, "the Noble Eightfold Path"-- for the subsequent 15 issues.

This takes us to 1984: I am certain the offending article was not issued during this year or subsequently.

So, summarising all this musing: the essay "Fierce Friendship" was highly likely to have been published in Mitrata, sometime between June 1979 and December 1982; in all probability towards the end of this period.

Incidentally, it is unlikely the, "Leaving mother and initiation into manhood" article was hosted by Mitrata, because... to quote Sangharakshita again: "Now during Padmaraja's and Vessantara' s regime [before June 1979 and thus including 1977], Mitrata stuck strictly to its original program. And the issues edited by them dealt with Sila, that is to say Morality, with Samadhi or Concentration and Meditation and Prajna, Wisdom. The Three Great Stages of the Buddha*s Path. The Three Great Stages of the Path to Enlightenment or Nirvana... " (sic).

So, it seems I may have been correct in blaming the old FWBO newsletter for inflicting this tract on the public.

In both cases, Nagabodhi was instrumental in pushing for the presentation of these dark and ugly pieces on the public.

thank you for the suggestion and I am someone suffering others causing me to suffer, should I have that items among the mountain of printed out items back before the web was purged when the old guard at last got the reins.  Now shiny and clean redesigned and repacked it is like totally reinvented purged compared to my downloading and printing about 5-7 years ago. My 22 year spouse was getting addicted, and word salad flowing became directed at me as his hindrance.  The bait of unconditional acceptance and love bombing likely to thrive with the comeing need for mental health resources for those to live through this pandemic.  Sangha Family  replaced a difficult time for someone with a long history of personality disorder and addictions.

What I do have and think dark thoughts about making public, are photos of the Buddha Field event in 2018.  Public photo (and I have read various on their disclaimers about legality etc) on the www marketing this not to be missed for the faithful to travel and participate.  A piece of owned ground near Tauton for official sanctioned  and rented out events, overseen and managed for profit of the order member getting that slice of the pie.  I judgementally assume part of the rearrangement of the independence of finances setting groups off at least to manage finances in new ways.  Assuming spread around to the old guard, both idealistic then and needing income now, till eventually rising to the top.

My perception from see the pics anyone may have to do with as you wish, of the current state of the intended 'New World Religion'

Exploited my very willing husband late in life depressed, simultaneously while he was exploitation them, refuged never with surrender and 7 years of ignoring his responsibilities our complete financial destruction just before his retirement.  Suffering wins! that much was correct!

I see the current organisation reduced to much like the Masons a fraternal organisation or where I come from the Mormons (The Latter Day Saints-LDS) who interestingly enough are as secrete cult society one way only too.   Spiritual disaster for straying held in check with monitoring each other a mainstay of the Mormons.  The original Latter Day Saint mad man, scryed sp? with a 'peek stone' and looked into a hat for his 'channelled' messages for good measure cloned many of the Masonic Rituals still strictly confirmed to in 'The Church'  today.  The many wives thing still famous with the unreconstructed branches.  But business and money goes between only members, all grow fat and have total social and other male dominated insurance for all issues. They are literally a country inside a country.

the local Trirtna scheme couple from London delicious location living and the back garden shrine room two order member couples Needed bums on seats.  My depressed husband a professional, well educated and  completely beguiling in skill of preforming sincerity with all obsessive precision, he had to be genuine?  Wrong he needed freedom from himself badly.  The activities seem to revolve around the two relocated London Order members I suggest are part of the hived-off  rearrangement of the previous wealth that flowed to the top, now in property and independent self financial mechanism released to each group. I am making big assumptions leaking out from under my resentment.

This decade old satellite in Wiltshire and near enough to the Tauton land called Buddha Field is getting going in a very fertile liberal area, handful of older order members and on and off again others including my addicted obsessive spouse, until Covid cut off his weekly rituals and love bombed to fill his neediness.

I would suggest the 'Buddha Field' connection, opportunity for the Lon couple is an example of where the money went while cutting a deal for the old guard members.  Decades of producing wealth, from the days of many exploited in the Wind Horse Press. An excellent business, inception opportunist ?? someone experience as a military clerk.  Right time right place UK governmental contracts to prints instruction ie ? religious diversity ?? for school systems. etc etc 

Same area has attracted another of the old guard from seems B-ham who I recognised as had helped produce the 'Replies to the Files'.  At that time a mature Student getting or holding a degree in Buddhism, is now local political liberal something?? all three of those doc I do have and take a lot to read.  I well remember trying to mine them for much the same pain as my now own and or thin defence of the Cult characteristics.

Long ago someone in here warned me the passing people around between members businesses,  presumably to help mitras overcome their intuition  so they would surrender??  the whole thing these days seems a business machine funding the old guard bereft of much of anything but the starry eyes and need to support themselves.  The Buddha field FB pic I down loaded seem a wild anything goes festival of extreme ego exhibitionism competitiveness blew my mind!  Endorphin highs cranked up as high as group energy can be encouraged to do.  Dopamine flowing energy frenzies, instead of the drugs of the 60s but looked almost identical otherwise.

Claiming attendees expected, photographed as about 30-50% like minded Mecca.

Taster session events with lots of free experiential classes and workshops.....FB postings fishing for new clients afterward offering more therapy etc etc.  The machine still needs money. I believe likely the old guard reinvent what there was and cut deals for themselves. I am harmed now almost 7 long brutal years, a shadow side strengthened where it was easy to become someone else.

I down loaded the pictures of what seemed so very far from the ideal Buddha concept at least for me.  Anyone who would like the 8-12 of just what the organisation sponsors these days let me know.  I am deep in an ugly divorce worn out, I wish Covid was my worry.  I believe the pictures of mostly seekers, startling for ecstatic dancing nudity, extrovert anything goes trying to out ego exhibitionism each other.....could modify the public looking for the mediation classes to heal from covid so as to think twice about this New World Religion.  I showed one of the better ones to the fellow that wrote the guardian article who wished hed had the material when he wrote that piece just shorty before the event.

Maybe someday can use them to have a story to tell about the oh so human side of inclusive and exclusive closed groups become tainted.  Still driven by neediness and human greed to get attention.  Not much in the way of renouncing.... seeking calm and harmony, but more a cheap wk end with a wrist band, a pkg holiday for left over want a b hippys,  leading a few seekers experiencing energy raising and release.  I am sure much else and good intent, but still a machine.

I am happy to provide th pics if asked for them.  No mistake for their authentic coverage including the uncovered face painted desiring grasping deeply spiritual New World Religion.

cheers

sorry no editing mentally devastated even Dx with CPSTD in Jan.  

I'm glad this website is up. Triratna is a cult steeped in white supremacy, misogyny  and abuse- I don't really believe it can be fixed, but I'm glad people are exposing what happened there anyway. The spiritual bypassing and lack of empathy from the organisation regarding the abuse is shocking and unsettling. 

G, are able to provide examples? I think you're on to something. 

Triratna may qualify as a cult or NRM, but I haven't noticed anything in the way of white supremacy. That's way off beam. Yes, a few voluble members of the Order are kind of right wing in certain specific ways, with bees in their bonnet about the culture wars. However, they are not racists and the culture within Triratna, in so far it is political, is overwhelmingly leftish.

So far as I am aware,  there isn't any 'conventional' (so to speak) white supremacy in Triratna, but there may occasionally be some more subtle attitudes about white cultural supremacy. For example, Triratna sometimes claims that Sangharakshita's teaching embodies the essence of Buddhism, free from the sectarian divisions which characterise Buddhism in the East.  Arguably, in that sort of claim, there may be a subtle subtext of white Western cultural supremacy.

On another website, there has been some discussion (and disagreement) about "Expressions of Whiteness in Buddhism":

https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2020/07/24/expressions-of-whitenes...

'... My own dharma network extends from communities in Canada, to the UK, to the United States. In every case white-bodied practitioners dominate these spaces.

'... The first example of whiteness in the dharma is the phrase "When Buddhism came to the West." You have probably heard some variation of this countless times. The stories are almost always about the founding of some community—how a teacher came to America or the UK from Chinese occupied Tibet or Japan, or some white college-aged student travelled to India or Bhutan to study with a guru and 'brought back the teachings' to their community.  [That seems to fit with Sangharakshita's history.]

'... Racism is not about skin colour, but about power and control and an attachment to "white" being the default and everything else being deviant and therefore inferior.'    

 

Yes, Triratna was overwhelmingly leftish in my time, but I haven't been directly involved for 30 years or more, and perhaps some things have changed since then.

According to this article, there has been a growth in right-wing sentiments, and a backlash against diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, within American convert Buddhism, and perhaps some of this has spilled over into Triratna?

https://www.globalbuddhism.org/jgb/index.php/jgb/article/view/357

Abstract

'While often associated with a liberal demographic, the increasing online visibility of rhetoric such as "snowflakes," "politically correct," "postmodern identity politics," and "cultural Marxism" demonstrates the presence of right-wing sentiments and populations in American convert Buddhism. This article situates these sentiments largely as a reaction to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in these communities. We chart this backlash across a broad right-wing spectrum that spans from "reactionary centrism" to the alt-right. We illuminate the ways in which participants both de-legitimate DEI as political rather than Buddhist and naturalize their own position as Buddhist rather than political. Next, we show how American convert Buddhist lineages have become a site of the "culture wars," longstanding clashes between religious conservatives and progressives, that are playing out in multiple contexts across the US. Finally, we locate these reactionary right-wing forms of American Buddhism in relationship to modern and postmodern forms of global Buddhism.'

 

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