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Triratna Buddhist Community

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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The Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO)) is an international fellowship of Buddhists, and others who aspire to its path of mindfulness, under the leadership of the Triratna Buddhist Order (formerly the Western Buddhist Order).

It was founded by Sangharakshita in the UK in 1967, and describes itself as "an international network dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in ways appropriate to the modern world".

In keeping with Buddhist traditions, it also pays attention to contemporary ideas, particularly drawn from Western philosophy, psychotherapy, and art.

Worldwide, more than 100 groups are affiliated with the community, including in North America, Australasia and Europe.

In the UK, it is one of the largest Buddhist movements, with some 30 urban centres and retreat centres.

Its largest following, however, is in India, where it is known as Triratna Bauddha Mahāsaṅgha (TBM) (formerly the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayak Gana).

The community has been described as "perhaps the most successful attempt to create an ecumenical international Buddhist organization," and "an important contributor to Buddhism on the world stage."

It has also been criticised, most notably for lacking "spiritual lineage" and over claims of sexual exploitation and misogyny during the 1970s and 1980s."

Practices and activities

Meditation is the common thread through activities. Order members teach two practices:

(a) "The mindfulness of breathing" (anapanasati), in which practitioners focus on the rise and fall of the breath; and (b) "The metta bhavana", which approximately translates from the original Pali as "the cultivation of lovingkindness".

These practices are felt to be complementary in promoting equanimity and friendliness towards others.

Some friends of the Order may have little, if any, other involvement in its activities; but friendship, Sangha, and community are encouraged at all levels as essential contexts for meditation.

The founder, Sangharakshita, described meditation as having four phases.

The first two according to his system ('integration' and 'positive emotion', can be correlated to the traditional category of "calming" "samatha" practices, and the last two (spiritual death and spiritual rebirth) can be correlated to "insight" or "vipassana" practices.

For those not ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order, the practices associated with the first two are emphasised, though the spirit of the last two is also taught.

These phases are:

1.Integration. The main practice at this stage is the mindfulness of breathing, which is intended to have the effect ::of "integrating the psyche" – improving mindfulness and concentration, and reducing psychological conflict.
2.Positive emotion. The second aspect of samatha is developing positivity – an other-regarding, life-affirming ::attitude. The Brahmavihara meditations, especially the 'metta bhavana' or cultivation of loving kindness meditations, are ::the key practices intended to foster the development of positive emotion.
3.Spiritual death. The next stage is to develop insight into what is seen to be the emptiness of the self and reality. ::Meditations at this stage include considering the elements of which self and world are thought to be composed; contemplating ::impermance (particularly of the body); contemplating suffering; and contemplating sunyata.
.4Spiritual rebirth. The WBO teaches that, with the development of insight and the death of the limited ego-self, a ::person is spiritually reborn. Practices which involve the visualization of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are among the main ::practices in this phase. At ordination, each dharmachari(ni) is given an advanced visualisation meditation on a particular ::figure.

Centres also teach scripture, yoga and other methods of self-improvement, some of which are felt by some commentators to come from outside the Buddhist tradition.

Recently, community activities have begun to include outdoor festivals, online meditation courses, arts festivals, poetry and writing workshops, tai chi, karate, and pilgrimages to Buddhist holy sites in India. For many years, the community charity Karuna Trust (UK) has raised money for aid projects in India.

As among Buddhists generally, Puja is a ritual practice at some events, intended to awaken the desire to liberate all beings from suffering.

The most common ritual consists of a puja, derived and adapted from the Bodhicaryavatara of Shantideva.

Retreats provide a chance to focus on meditational practice more intensely, in a residential context outside of a retreatant's everyday life.

community retreats can be broadly categorised into meditation retreats, study retreats, and solitary retreats. Retreat lengths vary from short weekends to one or two weeks.

Businesses, said to operate to the principle of "right livelihood", generate funds for the movement, as well seeking to provide environments for spiritual growth through employment.

Emphasis is placed on teamwork, and on contributing to the welfare of others: for example by funding social projects and by considering ethical matters such as fair trade.

The largest community business is Windhorse:Evolution, a gift wholesaling business and a chain of gift shops.

Many cities with a Triratna centre also have a residential community.

The first of these was formed after a retreat where some participants wanted to continue retreat-style living.

Since it was felt that the most stable communities tended to be single sex, this has become the paradigm for communities. Support from fellow practitioners in a community is seen to be effective in helping members make spiritual progress.

The largest TBC centre in the UK is the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green, East London, which offers drop-in lunchtime meditation sessions each weekday, open to beginners, as well as courses and classes through the week.

The centre's courses for depression, based on the mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy methodology of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, featured in the Financial Time