What do you think about Triratna?

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Stephen18
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What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Stephen18 »

What do you think about Triratna (former Friends of the Western Buddhist Order)?
U. Sujato
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by U. Sujato »

I personally prefer the theravada-sangha, and I think the Buddha intended there to be a bhikkhu-sangha for as long as possible.

As far as I know they incorporate things from the mahayana, which I don't think is a good thing.

In my opinion the pali-canon has everything we need to practice.

All the best
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SDC
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by SDC »

Cult.
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Kim OHara
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Kim OHara »

SDC wrote: Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:30 pmCult.
This doesn't match my (limited) knowledge of them.
Sources?
Reasons?

:popcorn:
Kim
SarathW
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by SarathW »

Stephen18 wrote: Fri Oct 04, 2019 6:04 pm What do you think about Triratna (former Friends of the Western Buddhist Order)?
Considering the fact you have been there and done that, what is your opinion?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
Justsit
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Justsit »

FWBO is mentioned along with founder Sangharakshita (died 2018) on ViewonBuddhism's website list of controversial "Buddhist" teachers and groups. Apparently there were allegations of sexual misconduct. http://viewonbuddhism.org/controversy-c ... nable.html

Also some concerns of unorthodox teachings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triratna_ ... _Community
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SDC
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by SDC »

Kim OHara wrote: Sat Oct 05, 2019 1:33 am
SDC wrote: Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:30 pmCult.
This doesn't match my (limited) knowledge of them.
Sources?
Reasons?

:popcorn:
Kim
"The New Buddhism" by William Coleman James gave a particularly unflattering account of the group (though I believe he fell short of calling it a cult).

What I surmised from James and many articles I've read over the years, is that the founder, Sangharakshita, was the unfortunate result of that perverse sense of superiority of many early Western converts. He claimed that he wasn't a guru but the entire thing was organized around his teachings, which although "unaffiliated" with any particular school or tradition, he believed unified all the schools. Especially in the early years, he set a terrible tone that trickled down into the entire organization and led to the mistreatment of many members. It all revolved around a power structure, which was far more significant than the teachings they were promoting.

Apparently the organization has made many changes since the Guardian published a damning report in 1997 that claimed all sorts of misconduct, but you know what? It is based a one man's view, and although he showed tremendous respect for the Buddhist traditions from which he emerged, he believed he knew better, and he built an entire organization around himself. And even though he is now dead, within his organization, the buck still stops with him.

Maybe cult was a stretch, but when I see a group inclined towards a single leader, who has done nothing but sugar coat the work of other great people, brand it his own, and got people to follow him, it's just as damaging as a cult. He essentially used the Dhamma to entice people into a situation where he then made sure that he eclipsed the Buddha in terms of importance. I have no respect for what he did and have no respect for the successors who continue to perpetuate it. They hold dominion over a fantasy which is the absolute antithesis of the Dhamma.

Do you have another view of the group? Am I being my usual melodramatic self here?
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Kim OHara
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Kim OHara »

SDC wrote: Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:54 am ... Do you have another view of the group? Am I being my usual melodramatic self here?
Yes and yes, :smile: but I think the main difference is that I am less willing than you to condemn the group on the basis of outdated secondhand information.

I acknowledge that a lot of bad things happened in the past - the founder had most of the characteristics of a typical cult leader - but I understand that the group addressed the problems by sidelining him (quite a while before he died) and rebuilding it from within.
My personal knowledge of the group is, as I said, limited. I have visited their (very pleasant) centre in Melbourne and spoken to some members there, and I am on friendly terms with one of their members who sometimes visits my part of the country for work. Melbourne is thousands of miles from my home, however, so he and I mostly keep in touch online. But I've seen more than a few cults and - from what I see - Triratna now does not deserve that label.

:namaste:
Kim
Last edited by Kim OHara on Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Kim OHara
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Kim OHara »

Justsit wrote: Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:30 am FWBO is mentioned along with founder Sangharakshita (died 2018) on ViewonBuddhism's website list of controversial "Buddhist" teachers and groups. Apparently there were allegations of sexual misconduct. http://viewonbuddhism.org/controversy-c ... nable.html
The main source here is a pseudonymous page on an anonymous witch-hunting site, http://www.ex-cult.org
It may be (mostly) correct but I wouldn't normally trust any such site myself, no matter what its subject was.
:thinking:
Also some concerns of unorthodox teachings https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triratna_ ... _Community
:thumbsup:
Better.

:coffee:
Kim

Edit: :embarassed: fixed typo
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Keith
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Keith »

I've generally positive experiences with them.

My nearest Theravada centre (and every other I've ever visited) is frequented almost exclusively by Asian folk. Posters and leaflets are in a script I cannot read. Dhamma taught talks are either in a language I do not know, or are in English with such a thick accent I cannot understand (bear in mind that I am fairly good at listening to and understanding accents, having spent 11 years in the Manchester cultural mixing pot, but still it's a struggle). Bottom line for me is that the cultural accoutrements/baggage is so ingrained in the nearest Theravada centres to me, that I find them a bit too inaccessible. It doesn't feel welcoming to be stared at as the only white person walking through the door; like I'm trespassing a family barbecue.

Triratna, on the other hand, is embarrassingly white, to the point that it almost looks like they are committing cultural appropriation. As uncomfortable as the subtle and indirect racism feels, I feel I can understand the Dhamma talks better and I do not get stared at. I can read and make sense of the posters and leaflets. I have always found the folk warm and welcoming, in contrast to the folk at Theravada centres I've been to, where I feel like I'm out of place and don't belong. Perhaps this says more about issues in my own subconscious than it does about the groups themselves.

I do, however, struggle with the Mahayana (or worse, Tantric) elements in what the Triratna order does. I've recently been reading a little bit more about Vajrayana and it just seems to be so far removed from what I understand Buddhism to be, I cannot fathom why an organisation would deliberately choose to cherry-pick from esoteric teachings. Surely the point of Vajrayana is that it only works if you've a single guru with whom you are working, so the lack of spiritual lineage with Triratna makes me uncomfortable, as does the 'more advanced' practices they do. That is where the appropriation comes in, for me. It is as though they saw some ancient Tibetan practice and adopted it without the firm grounding in the theory of that practice, so it is all a bit superficial. Not sure, for example, why they chant various chants that include Tibetan deities. Rather than sticking with one deity and using it as a meditation object, they flit from one to another. Vajras and bells, tools that are used with no apparent grounding in Vajrayana theory. That makes me feel uncomfortable. I also do not see why they need to include those sorts of superficial elements from different traditions. The Pali Canon has everything one needs, I believe.

I find their 'structure' has good points and bad. The emphasis on spiritual friendship I think is good, it is something that I found lacking in Theravada centres. I think companionship in the spiritual life is a good thing; it encourages practice and study. They try to do good socially too. However, the 'Mitra and order member' system seems odd to me. In order to become a 'mitra', one must dedicate oneself to Triratna alone as a unique tradition, and to become an 'order member' is an even deeper commitment to the order. To become a Mitra one must spend at least six months participating in activities at a centre. To become an order member involves further involvement. I feel having ranks like this encourages folk to desire progression for the wrong reasons, and the more involved with Triratna one becomes - the more money and time one invests - the more chained to the organisation one becomes. To me, that feels cult-like, perhaps.

That being said, I cannot emphasise enough the positive atmosphere I found at their centres or how much better it feels to meditate and perform puja alongside other like-minded individuals. That, alone, encourages me to participate more with them, but I wouldn't be dropping my Theravada identification any time soon, for the reasons mentioned above.

TL;DR: They're alright, but not perfect. If only there was a Theravada centre near me that used English as its main language and did not carry with it as much cultural baggage from the East.
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Sam Vara
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Sam Vara »

I practised with them back in the early 1990s when they were still the FWBO. I didn't find them particularly congenial, and as others have pointed out they have changed quite a lot. I thought them quite an odd bunch; preoccupied with sex, status, reverence for the then-living great leader, and strenuously engaged in what came across as a dull Anglican-inflected proselytising. A particular Westernised view of the Dhamma was dished out in a repetitive and lumpen manner.

I never met Sangharakshita, but from his recorded talks, books, and the anecdotes about him, Dennis was clearly a "type"; the savagely-repressed middle class gay Englishman who features in so much of my native land's comedy. I was particularly struck by how strong his animosity was towards Christianity. A lot of his personality seemed to have filtered down into the organisation.

So yes, I incline towards SDC's view here; but I acknowledge that a lot could have changed over the last quarter century and as the organisation moves into other countries.
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SDC
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by SDC »

Kim OHara wrote: Sat Oct 05, 2019 4:54 am I acknowledge that a lot of bad things happened in the past - the founder had most of the characteristics of a typical cult leader - but I understand that the group addressed the problems by sidelining him (quite a while before he died) and rebuilding it from within.
I am very glad to hear that things have changed since the "scandal", however it is still ripe for corruption. In the same way Karen Zerby claims all is well in The Family International, after the early years of child rape and incest. My mind always goes to the same idea - why do you need groups like this in the first place? Yes, many people want a sense of community and belonging, but the counterpart to that will always be grounds for intelligent, unwholesome people to exercise control over others. The Dhamma absolutely cannot be at the pinnacle of such an organization, because if it were, they would just disband it an be directly affiliated with one of the many living traditions, which uphold the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha above all else (or at least try their best to do so). Sangharakshita went rogue (beyond, according to himself) for a reason and members will always sympathize with that aspect because if they didn't, they would have no reason to be there.

I seriously wish them all the best, but I cannot see a reason to give them an endorsement.
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Spiny Norman »

I was heavily involved in FWBO/ Triratna in the 1980s, and very nearly joined the Western Buddhist order. I decided not to, because of all the dodgy stuff that was happening (see "FWBO Files").

I recently attended a Triratna open day, and it made my skin crawl. Enough said.
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
Stephen18 wrote: Fri Oct 04, 2019 6:04 pm What do you think about Triratna (former Friends of the Western Buddhist Order)?
A bit fluffly, a bit woolly, a bit eclectic.

Mostly harmless.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Kim OHara
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Re: What do you think about Triratna?

Post by Kim OHara »

SDC wrote: Sat Oct 05, 2019 5:28 pm ...Sangharakshita went rogue (beyond, according to himself) for a reason ...
Perhaps this reason:
Sam Vara wrote: Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:42 am ... from his recorded talks, books, and the anecdotes about him, Dennis was clearly a "type"; the savagely-repressed middle class gay Englishman who features in so much of my native land's comedy. I was particularly struck by how strong his animosity was towards Christianity. ...
If so, there's no great likelihood that his warped views would continue to be central to the organisation.
:juggling:

I find myself defending the group here, not from any strong conviction but because nearly all the negativity people have expressed (Justsit, SDC, Dinsdale, Sam Vara) is rooted in the fairly distant past and/or secondhand information, and may therefore be unfair to the present membership.
Meanwhile, the only opinion from a current or recent member (Keith) is generally positive.

:namaste:
Kim
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