Buddhist Audio Books

Triratna Buddhist Order

The Triratna Buddhist Order is a spiritual community of men and women who have pledged themselves to following the Buddhist path to Enlightenment.

Order members have made that commitment - traditionally known as going for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha - the central point of their lives. In particular, they have chosen to make the Triratna Buddhist Order the context in which they are trying to live ever more deeply imbued by Wisdom and Compassion.

The Triratna Buddhist Order is a radical alternative to the model found in many forms of Buddhism in Asia, where practitioners are either monastic or lay. The Order is open to any man or woman who is sincerely and effectively committed to the Buddhist path, not just to those seeking a monastic lifestyle. Although Order members try to lead a wholehearted Buddhist life, they are not monks or nuns. What matters is not the lifestyle that Order members adopt but the spiritual commitment they have made: commitment is primary, lifestyle is secondary. Some Order members are full-time meditators, living a monastic-type life in a rural retreat centre; others live with friends, or with their families, or alone. Most Order members have ordinary jobs, expressing their values in a range of professions and vocations. A minority work full-time in Buddhist Right Livelihood businesses, or are supported to work at their local Triratna Buddhist Community centre.

The Triratna Buddhist Order aims to be a free association of individuals working towards a common goal. It is founded on the principle that spiritual community can be created only by free will and mutual aspiration, never by coercion. Therefore there are no rules in the Order, and all decisions made by bodies within the Order are made by consensus.

Every Order member undertakes to practise a traditional set of 10 ethical precepts. These point to basic principles applied to all actions of body, speech and mind. Men and women Order members take the same precepts, and practise on an equal basis.

What Happens in the Triratna Buddhist Order?

Order members take seriously the task of deepening spiritual fellowship, so there are many opportunities for them to spend time together and form supportive friendships. Order members get together each week in small local groupings called chapters. These are 'spiritual workshops' where people share their insights and difficulties and try to help one another in their Dharma practice. On the first weekend of every month the Order members in each region meet up for a weekend of collective Dharma practice. And every two years there is a two-week convention of Order members from around the world. Some Order members live together, others may work together. In whatever ways they try to share their spiritual lives, and to co-operate in the various means through which the Order takes what it has to offer into the world. All of its structures aim to facilitate communication, and create a basis of kindness and clarity on which the Order can meet and work.

Becoming an Order member

Ordination is a lifelong commitment, and a very serious step, so it usually takes a number of years to become ready for ordination. Anyone can ask for ordination, and can then participate in the structures and retreats that make up the ordination training course. A range of retreats are held around the world by Order members experienced in ordination training.

As the senior Order members responsible for ordinations, and Order members around their local Buddhist centre, get to know the person who has asked, they will discuss their readiness for ordination. Nobody is ever refused ordination, but people take varying amounts of time to prepare themselves. Ordination is a commitment that requires a degree of self-knowledge as well as experience of the Buddhist path, of the Triratna Buddhist Community, and of effective friendships with Order members.

Ordinations are performed by a senior Order member known as a Preceptor, usually in the context of a special ordination retreat.

Triratna Buddhist Community

The Triratna Buddhist Community was founded in London in 1968 by Sangharakshita. Having originally taken ordination as a Theravadin Bhikkhu in India, during his twenty years practicing Buddhism on the Indo-Tibetan border he went on to take initiations from a number of the Lamas escaping the Chinese occupation of Tibet. When he returned to England, he experienced first-hand the limited context in which Westerners had to practice the Dharma and his response was to found a new Buddhist movement.

Bringing Buddhism into an entirely new culture implied to Sangharakshita that we needed to go back to basics to look at the principles underlying all forms of Buddhism and work out how best to apply them in this new context. So, the Triratna Buddhist Community is an ecumenical movement, aligned to no one traditional school, but drawing on the whole stream of Buddhist inspiration.

The Triratna Buddhist Community has evolved new structures that allow people to live out Buddhist teachings as an authentic Buddhist way of life in the 21st century. For example, the Triratna Buddhist Community has many public centres where meditation is taught, and promotes 'Right Livelihood' projects in which Buddhists can work together and turn their work into a spiritual practice.

In the Buddha's time there was no mass media to compete with, no televison or Internet. The Buddha never had to be concerned about globalisation or global warming. But the Triratna Buddhist Community is exploring how the Buddha's teaching of human potential is still crucially important, how Buddhists can be socially engaged and contribute to a better world.

In the last 40 years the Triratna Buddhist Community has grown into a movement with dozens of centres all over the world. Not only in the West, the Triratna Buddhist Community has a substantial presence in India, as well as Dharma activities in other developing countries.

Sangharakshita has now handed-on responsibility for the Triratna Buddhist Community's spiritual vitality to his followers. The Triratna Buddhist Community 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.

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