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Is Triratna still a cult?

SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

I was asked this question by a friend today. I said I thought they had cleaned up their act. What do you think?

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    I don't even know who they are.

  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran

    In my limited experience I would say definitely not, there are far worse out there in the UK. I think the name changed from Friends of Western Buddhist Order.

    Tosh
  • CarlitaCarlita United States Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    I was asked this question by a friend today. I said I thought they had cleaned up their act. What do you think?

    What qualifies what to be a cult and what not? I was reading this https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/what-triratna-buddhist-community but dont know if you mean by "authentic"?

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    I too have no idea who they are.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    They used to be Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, it's a mix-and-match approach to Buddhism, an attempt at syncretism.
    http://www.ex-cult.org/fwbo/fwbofiles.htm

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Does that make it a cult? I would have thought a Cult would be more insular, sinister and have hidden motives.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited March 2016

    I think it's more like their are cultish tendencies or signs, some groups tick more boxes than others.
    http://www.cultwatch.com/cultic-warning-signs.html
    The difficulty is that things are not always how they look from the outside.

  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    They used to be Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, it's a mix-and-match approach to Buddhism, an attempt at syncretism.
    http://www.ex-cult.org/fwbo/fwbofiles

    This article is dated 1998, and is one persons point of view, so maybe not relevant today

  • I had to refresh my memory by reading their webpage and the wiki entry. They certainly had a rough start, didn't they? It started off as a cult and even today shows the underlying structure. If you want to be totally one of them, you have to move into single-sex communities and references are made to the group owning businesses to make money. I assume these people work at the businesses for free or very cheap.

    Questions abound. Their leaders don't have to take vows of chastity, but the website says nothing about ethical rules that govern behavior within their Sangha. Is it OK for the Teacher or senior staff to become involved with a new member? Only troubling references to "spiritual bonding" being taught.

    Enough questions that I'd have to advise someone to take a very close look before joining. But I have no first hand knowledge.

    personDaozen
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Tara1978 said: This article is dated 1998, and is one persons point of view, so maybe not relevant today

    On the other hand it might be.

  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran

    The guy I knew, who had completed their mitra learning course, was married to a non-buddhist with 3 kids and was a police officer. He didn't strike me as a person belonging to a cult, but as I said I only have a limited experience of this group.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    "...I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

    (Grouch Marx attributed)

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited March 2016

    @federica said:> "...I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."
    (Grouch Marx attributed)

    Funnily enough I was accepted for ordination into the Western Buddhist Order back in the 1980s but decided not to proceed, due to some serious misgivings about the organisation back then. I've only had sporadic contact in the intervening years, things seem to be better, but it's difficult to judge from relatively superficial contact. I've noticed a tendency to rewrite history and play down past problems, and some argue that the name change from FWBO to Triratna was largely a re-branding exercise.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Cinorjer said:> Enough questions that I'd have to advise someone to take a very close look before joining. But I have no first hand knowledge.

    I think it's worth being aware of the possibilities of cultish tendencies with any group, and Buddhist groups are not immune. The pressures can be quite subtle, including group-think, the tendency to think in a particular way in order to fit in.

    littlestudentWalkerCinorjer
  • @SpinyNorman said:

    @Cinorjer said:> Enough questions that I'd have to advise someone to take a very close look before joining. But I have no first hand knowledge.

    I think it's worth being aware of the possibilities of cultish tendencies with any group, and Buddhist groups are not immune. The pressures can be quite subtle, including group-think, the tendency to think in a particular way in order to fit in.

    And really, sometimes a "cult" is just someone else's viewpoint and not necessarily dangerous. A long time ago I read a study that people who had joined the Moonies back when they were big were tracked down, and almost all of them had spent a few years begging in airports and serving coffee and stale donuts to students and then left for a more normal life, and considered it a learning experience.

    Of course we are afraid of the potential for abuse like the Jim Jones insanity and the guru whose followers poisoned a local town on election day, I forget the name. But those are not that hard to spot.

    Authoritarian.
    Tends to separate couples and discourage contact with family.
    Tends to use the group for generating income and other cheap labor.
    Punishes misbehavior by "shunning" within the group.
    Criticisms and complaints are considered misbehavior and to be punished.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 2016

    Is Triratna still a cult?

    As opposed to an ancient reincarnation ending cult started by an aristocrat and a bunch of drop outs? :p

    In the spirit of the question ... I used to attend FWBO meetings in Clapham and Covent Garden and was familiar with their shops in Croydon. At the time a health food store next to a book store (I think it was) which they also ran. They started out with a shop in the Whitgift centre. I did not attend classes in Croydon and I am not interested in segregated retreats.
    http://www.wiseattention.org/blog/2014/07/25/learning-the-harsh-way-at-the-croydon-buddhist-centre/

    I was well aware of some of the controversy from material available. For example some of the 'secret' practices of Sangharakshita were sexually predatory twaddle. Shameful rubbish teachings.
    http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/lib/wcf////dangers-in-devotion-buddhist-cults-and-the-tasks-of-a-guru/

    FWBO/Triratna taught and practiced two meditations at public meetings these cost £5 a time, one based around breath awareness, the other metta bhavna. Both perfectly valid and useful. Still perfectly valid and useful. Much like some of the ancient teachings attributed to child and responsibility abandoner Shakyamuni ... a man so controversial that at least two attempts were made on his life. Here is one dramatic fairy tale ...
    http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/disciples15.htm

    ... and now back to washing our dirty linen ...
    white wash version https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triratna_Buddhist_Community
    dirty linen version http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/23026/questionable-teachers-in-buddhism

    I feel that Triratna provides an excellent introduction to Buddhism. Most importantly we are given the opportunity for discernment ...

    Cinorjer
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @lobster said: I feel that Triratna provides an excellent introduction to Buddhism. Most importantly we are given the opportunity for discernment ...

    I think Triratna is good at instructing beginners, beyond that is less clear. I didn't get your point about discernment though.

    Cinorjer
  • TravellerTraveller East Midlands UK Veteran
    edited March 2016

    I find the way Triratna teaches meditation a bit convoluted. If its a cult if my local Triratna center is anything to go buy its a cult of middle aged, middle class women. judging by the teachers.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Lonely_Traveller said: ....middle aged, middle class women....

    Careful, those are the worst! ;)

    lobster
  • @SpinyNorman said:

    I didn't get your point about discernment though.

    Well you can find material like this on the web and use your discernment as to how to proceed
    https://medium.com/@eiselmazard/critique-of-sangharakshita-triratna-fwbo-archived-e76008fc03e1#.9dpe1az8o

  • cazcaz Veteran

    Triratna kind of remind me of the Quakers, never been to one of their centre's but they have a very mix and match approach to Buddhism with several different lineages and teachings so I hear.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited March 2016

    An interesting article here about the history of establishing monasticism in the UK. There is quite a lot of discussion about the role of the FWBO.
    https://vajratool.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/establishing-monastic-buddhism-in-the-uk-an-uphill-struggle/

    lobsterTara1978
  • DaozenDaozen Veteran

    So ... probably maybe not a cult, but serious indiscretions have occurred and serious restructuring (beyond a convenient re-brand/name-change) and atonement for such indiscretions has not been forthcoming.

    On balance, I say they have work to do.

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer
    edited March 21

    Hello.... I am opening up this thread again as I go to this centre as it's the main one in my city (compared to another buddhist centre which is way too religious/seems more culty to me).

    The people I have met here seem to all be very nice and keeping with ethical conduct - I have been going for a few months now.

    In addition, I recently received an email inviting all members to a discussion group about how we can deal with the recent allegations and issues within the group.

    Here is how the email reads:

    "As some of you will be aware, the Triratna Buddhist Community has attracted a fair share of criticism over the past 50 years, a lot of which we have learned from.

    Some of the issues have been quite serious such as the events at the Croydon Centre in the late 1980s, and concern around the past sexual activity of our founder Sangharakshita and others.

    In the last few months Sangharakshita and the early days of Triratna (then known as FWBO) were the subjects of renewed criticism in a BBC 'Inside Out' (East) programme and a recent article in The Observer. Some of you may have read or heard about these issues on Facebook groups and thebuddhistcentre.com. Others will know very little. You can find more in depth information here.

    The MBC Trustees have met to talk about our response to these current discussions. We appreciate all we have been given by our teacher and at the same time want to acknowledge what happened in the past to see where harm has been done and how we can respond. We want to support our sangha and those who have a connection with our Centre who may be affected by these issues.

    This meeting is primarily for Mitras and Friends at the MBC. Order members will be taking part in their own forum to discuss these issues, but are welcome to support this meeting if they wish to do so.

    It is intended as an open space where we can bring any concerns, and find a genuine open-hearted response that takes in everyone affected. Please come to help create a space where we can ask questions, really listen to one another and collectively explore our responses to the current challenges."

    This doesn't seem culty....

    I think it is single sex in retreats and stuff with the aim of protecting people... no one ever pressurises me to become a member, we just discuss how we can apply Buddhist principles in our lives/become better people - it's relaxed and chilled out but they provoke thoughtful discussion about how we think about our lives and live them. People seem happy and chilled out but also like they are their own people - they all have their own jobs and interests and no one rejects you for a certain lifestyle, or opinion. I can only judge by the people I have met and the people I have met seem to be good people living by Buddhist principles.

    I'd like to see what they say and how they are going to deal with the sexual abuse issue of the founder because that's what I care about and if they don't deal with it correctly, then I will change opinion. But I don't think it's culty in the slightest, at least not this centre. In addition, they do ask for money, but they run on donations and the people that work there don't really get paid much so the money really goes on running the centre....

    Bunks
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 21

    I used to regularly visit the shops (two at the time) in Croydon run by Triratna. They were OK but behind the scenes who knows or cares? Well some who were perverted no doubt.

    I use the word perverted deliberately. :p The founder was a conflicted and perverse practitioner (partly - he is also a kind and able instigator) who thought some very bizarre homosexual practices were required for heterosexual seniors. He also has nonsense attitudes to women. Drivel!

    This is just as counter productive as Christians trying to 'normalise' quite obviously gay people. Disgraceful, perverse behavour!

    I would advise @Kaydeekay that you are perfectly safe. The main practices of insight and metta, which I have done with Triratna is perfectly OK dharma.

    Hope that is helpful. B)

    BunksKaydeekay
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay UK Explorer
    edited March 21

    Thanks Lobster lol I don't get any creepy culty vibes :) ;)

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I must say I get weird vibes about any organisation which claims to know about the afterlife or has some kind of plan mapped out for multiple incarnations. This kind of thinking is fertile ground for psychosis, and very difficult to come by for a genuine mystic. Perhaps a kind of general reincarnation is as far as I'm willing to allow.

    Although I did find Michael Newton's Journey of Souls a very interesting read. That uses hypnotic regression techniques to delve into past lives and times between lives. Not sure how credible it is, but very interesting and much more organised.

    Until there is a real and deep investigation into NDEs and shared NDEs, I guess we won't know. Even after that who knows what we might learn.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    And Triratna versus Friends of the Western Buddhist Order? I find FWBO slightly more intrigueing sounding I have to say, "random eastern sounding name" does-not-equal credibility.

  • leilaleila UK New

    Regarding the question of Triratna still being a cult: there are some current blogs with revitalised critical external dialogue that include a lot of information.

    https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2016/09/27/fwbo-triratna-sangharakshita-cases-of-sexual-abuse/

    This one has posted two additional articles with subsequent treads:

    https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2017/02/19/whitewash-dishonesty-culture-of-abuse-in-the-triratna-buddhist-order-tbo/

    https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2017/02/27/the-nspcc-the-triratna-buddhist-community-and-the-safeguarding-of-children/

    And this one is from another blog owner:

    https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=24907&hilit=triratna&start=20

    It seems pretty intens stuff.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    And Triratna versus Friends of the Western Buddhist Order? I find FWBO slightly more intrigueing sounding I have to say, "random eastern sounding name" does-not-equal credibility.

    It's been suggested that the name change was an attempt at re-branding, given all the bad press about "FWBO".

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    I spent a lot of time at Padmaloka in the 1980s, but never heard about this!

    http://www.ex-cult.org/fwbo/BunkerAp.htm

  • rocalarocala Explorer

    I have been visiting the London Buddhist Centre (Triratna) since 2011. I have also done a weekend and a two week retreat with them. Never once have I felt there was anything remotely cult like about them.

    A (now deceased) very close friend was one of the early FWBO members. He lived in their communal house in Hazlemere, Surrey. Again not a word of complaint from this very independently minded man.

    lobster
  • leilaleila UK New

    Your positive experience do not make their issues less real though. Neither do their issues and other peoples negative experiences with them invalidate your positive ones.
    Groups are a bit like people i feel, they have a (sometimes complex...) persona, a way in which they present themselves to the world; some people have more hidden stuff than others. You might or you might not run into this depending on a variaty of factors. When you get deeper involved you usually do. I have seen a fair bit of people looking away from issues in groups to sustain their positive connection. A danger within all groups i think.

    KeromeFosdick
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    It is certainly true that groups have a persona. I spent some time in the Osho communes and it's amazing how quickly your standard greeting goes from a handshake to a hug, when everyone does the same.

    But honesty in groups is a really interesting subject. I recently came across a American Indian tradition called the 'talking circle' which was fascinating as a way of resolving conflicts and getting people to air the things they care about. Worth reading up on.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_circle

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    It is certainly true that groups have a persona. I spent some time in the Osho communes and it's amazing how quickly your standard greeting goes from a handshake to a hug, when everyone does the same.

    But honesty in groups is a really interesting subject. I recently came across a American Indian tradition called the 'talking circle' which was fascinating as a way of resolving conflicts and getting people to air the things they care about. Worth reading up on.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_circle

    TNH groups do "mindful listening", where only one person is allowed to talk at a time, and nobody interrupts until they indicate they have said all they want to. Unfortunately in the group I attended there was one very garrulous individual who would hold the floor and rabbit on self-indulgently for absolutely ages...people would start looking at their watches and shuffle around a lot. :p

    The TNH group also had obligatory hugging...yuk!

    KeromeHozan
  • leilaleila UK New

    @SpinyNorman said:

    ''Interesting stuff. This seems to reflect a wider pattern of people reporting historical abuse.''

    It seems so yes. It sadly reflects also the tendency of the movement to keep spinning it out to the benefit of selfpreservation.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 4

    @leila said:
    @SpinyNorman said:

    ''Interesting stuff. This seems to reflect a wider pattern of people reporting historical abuse.''

    It seems so yes. It sadly reflects also the tendency of the movement to keep spinning it out to the benefit of selfpreservation.

    They appear to have cleaned up their act, what still concerns me is the level of denial, and a tendency to rewrite history. It wasn't just isolated incidents, abuse and manipulation was endemic in the early FWBO.

  • leilaleila UK New

    @SpineyNorman said:

    ''They appear to have cleaned up their act, what still concerns me is the level of denial, and a tendency to rewrite history. It wasn't just isolated incidents, abuse and manipulation was endemic in the early FWBO.''

    The contradiction of that speaks for itselves in my opinion...

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    I was asked this question by a friend today. I said I thought they had cleaned up their act. What do you think?

    I'll answer it after I've completed my meditation classes with them in August

  • ShakShak Veteran
    edited June 8

    @dhammachick said:

    @SpinyNorman said:
    I was asked this question by a friend today. I said I thought they had cleaned up their act. What do you think?

    I'll answer it after I've completed my meditation classes with them in August

    I'd like to hear about your experience with their teachings. There's a Triratna center not far from me and their sitting/teaching times are somewhat compatable with my work and family schedule. I've been hesitant because of their reputation from the FWB days.

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