Buddhafield and the Triratna Buddhist Community
Shrine at a Triratna Buddhist Order gathering | Image © 2011
Triratna is a worldwide Buddhist movement, founded by Urgyen Sangharakshita in 1967. In April 2010 Triratna changed it’s name from Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO): watch Padmavjara give a talk on Changing our name to Triratna Buddhist Community on Vimeo.
Sangharakshita and Triratna
After twenty years practising and living a monastic life in the foothills of the Himalayas, Sangharakshita came back to London as short-term, resident monk at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. Unhappy with how he found British Buddhism at that time, he decided to settle permanently back in the UK. On his farewell tour of India, however, he received a letter from the Vihara withdrawing their support. In consultation with his teachers, Sangharakshita decided to return to the West regardless and start a new Buddhist movement, which eventually became the Triratna Buddhist Community.
Image courtesy and © Akuppa
Sangharakshita has talked about Triratna having six distinctive emphases. First of all, the TBC is an “ecumenical” Buddhist movement: it does not identify itself exclusively with any one eastern Buddhist tradition. Secondly, it recognises the centrality of going for Refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as the principle that unites all Buddhists. Thirdly, the Triratna Buddhist Order is a unified Buddhist Order: it is open, on completely equal terms, to both men and women. It accepts people from whatever cultural, racial or social background. Next, although all forms of Buddhism recognise the idea of “right” livelihood (it is a step on the Noble Eightfold Path), it is the fourth distinctive emphasis of the TBC. Fifthly, there is an emphasis on the value of the arts. Sixthly and finally, there is an emphasis on friendship, especially spritual friendship.
Activities in India started in the late 1970s, where the FWBO was known as the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasanga Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG). Since this meant that the movement effectively had two names, and since “Western” had long since seemed imappropriate, in January 2010 Sangharakshita proposed that the movement and Order change their names and became the Triratna Buddhist Community and Triratna Buddhist Order respectively.
Genesis of a Buddhafield
What was to become Buddhafield began in the early Nineties. Activities began simply as Buddhism and meditation classes in the Healing Field at Glastonbury Festival, organized by people from the Croydon FWBO Buddhist Centre. The team quickly realized that their allocation of tckets was insufficient and that they would need to fund themselves to purchase more. To this end, The Green Buddha Café was started in parallel with the teaching tent. The Café itself became both successful and a focus for a team of it’s own — in subsequent summers went to other festivals and fairs.
Exactly who suggested the name “Buddhafield” is disputed (the late Fraser Clark was one claimant), but the now quite vibrant group began running their own programme of camping retreats over the summer. In the winter everyone involved was compelled to find winter work. The Green Buddha Café ceased to be ... and the Buddhafield Café flourished. The Buddhafield Summer Open Retreat — held in a field outside Shepton Mallet — started to segue neatly into a modest sized Buddhafield Festival (there were only about 150 people at the first one in 1997) ... that accelerated in size annually. The Fetsival moved to a bigger site near Wellington in 2002, and at about this time Buddhafield acquired its first plot of land over at Broadhembury.
You can read the Triratna News blog to keep up with Triratna activities around the world, including India. We also recommend VideoSangha. If you are interested in finding your nearest urban Triratna Centre, please see the addresses section of the main Triratna website.
Many people involved with the Triratna Buddhist Community have personal websites, which are listed on TBC People. Free Buddhist Audio