Hertford Buddhist Group is part of the Triratna Buddhist Community. This is an international Buddhist movement with centres all over the world. It is dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in a way that is appropriate to the modern world. All are welcome in our movement, whether or not they consider themselves to be Buddhist.
A Brief History of Triratna
Originally known as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO), our movement was founded in London in 1968 by the Englishman, Sangharakshita, who spent twenty years in India as a monk practising under a variety of teachers and traditions. Returning to England, he looked at the core principles underlying all forms of Buddhism and worked out how best to apply them in this new Western context. So Triratna is not aligned to any one traditional school, but draws on the whole stream of Buddhist inspiration, unifying it into one effective practice.
Neither Monastic nor Lay
Our Buddhist Order is neither monastic nor lay, so our Order members live with their families, partners, alone, or in communities of various kinds. Over the last fifty years the Triratna Buddhist Community has grown to be one of the largest Buddhist movements in the West, with centres, groups and activities in many cities around the world, plus a thriving presence in India.
Some Distinctive Features of Triratna
According to Sangharakshita, Triratna has various features, which constitute a particular individuality developed as a result of practising the Dharma under the conditions of modern, industrialised, urbanised, secularised, living. In principle, we accept the whole Buddhist tradition as it has developed over the centuries in the East, rather than the narrower teachings of any one particular school.
Triratna is open to all regardless of nationality, race, colour, education, class or caste, cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, or age: it seeks to welcome and value all as individuals. We place great emphasis on friendliness and friendship and mutual care and support.
The movement nowadays is unique in that it has no figurehead. Sangharakshita handed responsibility for our Community and Order around the turn of the Millennium. We are, at root, a community of Order friends who facilitate the activities of independent but affiliated centres and groups – of which York is one – all over the world. Our thriving movement has over 200 centres and groups and more than 2300 Order members. You can recognise Order members by the ‘kesa’ which they wear around their neck, and by their Buddhist names.
Our teacher Urgyen Sangharakshita and his Teaching
Our founder and teacher, the late Sangharakshita, put together a presentation of Buddhism that is very accessible to us here in the West. With great foresight he merged the three great traditions of Buddhism – Early Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism – into one unified and comprehensive approach which reflects the precious elements of 2,500 years of practice. So, in Triratna we have elements of Theravada, Zen, Pure Land and Tibetan practice among others. This means that though we follow a commonality of practice, each individual practitioner is able to deepen their own practice with particular approaches that provide personal inspiration.
Sangharakshita also presents a paradox for some of us in Triratna: a gifted teacher, he was also a complex human, not a romanticised, perfect being. The 1970s were a time of sexual liberation and experimentation and we believe that Sangharakshita, who up to then had been celibate for 20 years as a monk in India, had sexual relations with up to 25 adult young Buddhist men over a period of 18 years. A few of them later said they had found this problematic and hurtful. In 2016 Sangharakshita apologised publicly for any harm he had caused.
Nowadays we are quite clear that sexual relationships between teachers and students are ill-advised and our Order has introduced a number of measures, including Safeguarding policies to protect those who use our centres and groups.
More information can be found below:
Safeguarding for adults
Safeguarding for children
Link to a f.a.q. about the controversy around Sangharakshita
PDF version of the book “The Triratna Story” by Vajragupta
Video by Vishvapani “Triratna in the Bardo”
Triratna is entering a new phase of growth and consolidation, learning from and building upon its history, and developing into a broad-based, mature and experienced spiritual community. It is playing a significant role in bringing Buddhism to the West and in re-introducing it in India – the land of its birth.