Our community was founded as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in 1967 by Sangharakshita, an Englishman, who was ordained as a Buddhist monk in India in 1950, at the age of 25. He lived for many years in Kalimpong, north-eastern India, where he studied with teachers from several of the major Buddhist traditions, including leading Tibetan lamas. During this period, Sangharakshita became well known for a non-sectarian approach that drew on the whole Buddhist tradition, especially through his book A Survey of Buddhism, and as editor of the Mahabodhi Journal.
Invited by members of Britain’s small Buddhist community, Sangharakshita returned to the UK in the mid-1960s. Now that he was addressing Westerners, he saw the need for forms of the teaching and practice that would most effectively communicate the teaching of the Buddha to the people he was meeting. That also meant he 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, ours is an ecumenical movement, aligned to no one traditional school, but drawing on the whole stream of Buddhist inspiration.
The essence of Buddhism is timeless and universal, but the form it takes always adapts according to context. Now that Buddhism is spreading around the globe, the task is to create new traditions relevant to the 21st century. Triratna was started in response to these issues and during the past 50 years or so has become a large and vibrant Buddhist movement, with activities in many cities and rural retreat centres around the world. The Triratna Buddhist Order (formerly the Western Buddhist Order - we changed our name in response to requests from the growing Sangha in India) is an international network of committed Buddhists dedicated to communicating the Buddha’s teaching as presented by Sangharakshita.