Introduction to ‘Going For Refuge’ BBC (East) by DI Buddhist consultant

This video, ‘Going For Refuge’ was made by BBC (East) and  broadcast in the Eastern region of the UK on 12 November 1992, as part of BBC East’s ‘Matter of Fact’ series. It is about a controversial organisation formerly known as The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO), which was renamed in 2010 as the Triratna Buddhist Community (TBC). Its leader is Dennis Lingwood, known as Sangharakshita. FWBO/TBC was founded in London in 1967, but now has centres in many parts of the world, including The Dublin Buddhist Centre.

In the introductory section of the video, the presenter says: ‘Critics from orthodox schools feel so strongly that Lingwood’s teachings break Buddhist rules on sexual conduct, and undermine family life that, for the first time, they have agreed to speak out.’ One of the teachings discussed (at 17:35) is:

‘ … if you set up communities … you abolish the family at a stroke … the single-sex community is probably our most powerful means of frontal assault on the existing social set-up.’   – Sangharakshita in seminar,

Another teaching discussed (at 20:25) is by senior Order Member Subhuti, originally published in the FWBO magazine Shabda in Sept 1986. See:

‘Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra (novice) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata (spiritual friendship) to develop. Some, of course, are predisposed to this attraction, others have deliberately chosen to change their sexual preferences in order to use sex as a medium of kalyana mitrata – and to stay clear of the dangers of male-female relationships without giving up sex’

Commenting on this teaching, Rev. Daishin Morgan, Abbot of Throssel Hole Priory in Northumberland, UK (, said:

‘To me this is totally contrary to the Buddhist precepts, it’s totally contrary to the Buddhist scriptures, and it’s absolutely contrary to any sort of good practice. It to me is a form of manipulation.’

The BBC programme was the first time that criticism of the FWBO had been broadcast. Five years later, the Guardian newspaper also published a  critical article called ‘The Dark Side of Enlightenment.’ on 27 October 1997  ( and in Summer 1999 the Buddhist magazine Tricycle published an article by Henry Shukman called: ‘Friends of the Western Buddhist Order: Friends, Foes, and Files’ (   but only available to subscribers).

The ‘Files’  referred to above is a detailed 20,000 word document called ‘The FWBO Files’,  written by an anonymous Buddhist scholar, which analyses the history and teachings of the FWBO/TBC, and compares them to orthodox Buddhist teachings. This was originally published privately in 1998, but is now available on the Internet.

None of the above critical publicity has been able to do more than slow the growth of the FWBO/TBC, though it has undoubtedly helped to warn some people of the dangers of becoming involved. In common with other ‘New Religious Movements’ or ‘cults’, the FWBO/TBC benefits from laws guaranteeing freedom of religion, and separation of Church and State. In practice, this means that the FWBO/TBC is largely immune from outside regulation. Neither individuals, nor other more genuine Buddhist organisations, have any power to regulate the FWBO/TBC. And government agencies, which do have the power, prefer to steer clear of what they see as purely religious disputes.

Various ex-members have put up critical websites about the FWBO/TBC, including:

Two British Buddhists from outside the FWBO/TBC have written articles:

John Crook: ‘Dangers in Devotion: Buddhist Cults and the Tasks of a Guru’

Ken Jones: ‘Many Bodies, One Mind: Movements in British Buddhism’.

The Wikipedia article on the FWBO/TBC  seems to be dominated by FWBO/TBC supporters, who edit out most of the critical material.

The FWBO/TBC’s own website is
The FWBO/TBC’s response to the 1997 Guardian article is at:
The FWBO/TBC’s response to The FWBO Files is at:

8 Responses

  1. Clarify what you mean by centering prayer? TM is part of the initiation rites of the School of Philosophy but it is in fact out and out Hinduism masquerading as a secular practice.It has no connection to the Christian meditation á la John main.


  2. Is TM Similar to Centering Prayer which is sweeping Ireland?


  3. Very interesting reading pointing out Britian’s three main cults and the deliberate misinterpretion of Buddhist teachings to gain power over people lives. They are similiar to the Tony Quinn set-up in that they have a leader who puts together a pick-and-mix of misinterpreted ideologies and, in Quinn’s case, a ‘philosophy’ presented as ‘truth’ and ‘the only way’.

    Quinn’s claim to being the first to introduce yoga to Ireland is false as we have evidence of yoga practice in Ireland before he started classes. He took advantage of what was already set up rather than starting one himself. It would be true to say, though, that he introduced belief systems that originated in Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity and presented them as self realised ‘learning from the core self’ teachings. Rather than ‘sharing’ his plargarised teachings it would be closer to the truth that he ‘conditioned’ his devotees into accepting them as proof of his ‘enlightenment’.

    Ignorance, in these circumstances, is not bliss as followers are led into mind-controlling cults rather than being encouraged to find their own path in life.

    I don’t consider the above cults as having religious freedom and, as such, would not be representative of the type protected by law. This distinction needs to be clarified.


  4. Not really comment but inquiry.. Please give me Bhikshu Sangharakshita’s contact number, address. I am his long lost friend Tara from Kalimpong.

    Much obliged really!


    K-3 Oriental Colony, Kuleshwor,Kathmandu, Nepal



    Re: The Western Buddhist Order is now Triratna Buddhist Order
    Post by jayanatha » Tue Feb 07, 2012

    The question of the name change wasn’t simply about a different name. The ‘Western’ Buddhist Order was established as an attempt to translate dharma into a non traditional Western context. The shift in emphasis that accompanies the name change is more significant than a set of words.

    In the Book ‘The Triratna Story’ the author tells us that the name was changed after consultation with the Order. Jayarava is right, this is a misleading statement. A consultation process started, but Sangharakshita intervened and the name was changed without a consensus within the Order. It may well have reached a consensus, given time, but the point is that it this didn’t seem important to some members of the Order. The use of accurate speech to convey meanings that are misleading is, in my opinion, a breach of speech precepts and the book should be amended.

    The Order in India was built on a significantly different foundation to the rest of the Order and that cannot be changed simply by changing the name. In India, it was widely believed that Sangharakshita was a celibate monk. Sangharakshita wore robes in India after becoming sexually active with vulnerable, young male disciples, often during retreats, so their misunderstanding of his status was understandable. Information about Sangharakshita’s sexual activity was deliberately concealed from the Order and community in India until the Guardian article prompted similar news in India.

    The Order in India is based on the teachings of Dr Ambedka and Sangharakshita, this isn’t true of the rest of the international Order. In my opinion, that isn’t a problem if we simply accept cultural differences on the basis of respect. Having the same, or at least similar names, doesn’t change anything in those terms.

    As to being bored with criticism of the Order, part of the problem for us is the continued refusal to take those criticism and concerns seriously. What happened was extremely serious and continued attempts to keep discussion about these matters private, as Subhuti and others want us to, is not a good foundation for the spread of the dharma. I am writing openly on here because I am unwilling to have the collective I am committed to, misrepresented by a small number of people who are close to Sangharakshita and won’t allow us to make a public statement reassuring the general public that we do not condone sex between teachers and those they teach, particularly in retreat centres.

    I happen to think that the TBC has a great deal to offer. The vast majority of Order members wouldn’t dream of doing what Sangharakshita did over an 18 year period. Of course people are going to fall in love and there are bound to be situations where adults who were teacher and student become lovers. That isn’t what happened with Sangharakshita. The book Greek Love was widely given to young men to read, copies were placed in men’s communities and those young men were lead to believe that sex between teacher and disciples, within Kalyana Mitrata, was in some way a good idea. That must never happen again.

    Those OMs who believe that we should conceal what we know to be true are acting out of a personal love and affection for Sangharakshita. I believe that we have a duty to be honest with our founder and to open up to public debate. We are not a private, exclusive Order, we run classes for members of the public and during recent discussion a majority of OMs present expressed a desire for a statement to be made. Some even felt that this should take the form of a precept. The ‘Conversation.’ which Sangharakshita posted on his site makes this even more imperative because he leaves out the entire question of sex within the teacher disciple relationship. Anyone reading this could be forgiven for thinking that what they are reading is the whole truth. That, unfortunately, is not the case.

    Some form of truthful communication about our history would also serves to allow a sense of completion for many of those young men who suffered for years, feeling that they were used. We have heard and read enough first hand accounts to make this apparent. As things stand, those who criticise are encouraged to resign, and they are seen as traitors. I am not a traitor.

    I want the dharma to flourish for the welfare and happiness of the many.


  6. Just click on either the “Entries RSS” or “Comments RSS” hyperlinks under the banner at the top of the page and click on “subscribe to this feed” on the subsequent page. You will then have the comments or blog entry sections added as live RSS bookmarks on your browser.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: