Who are the FWBO/TBMSG?
The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order are men and women from all walks of life and from around the globe. When the movement was formed in the 1960's it was a clear attempt to break away from two main problems: the stuffiness of British Buddhism at the time, and the formalism so evident in much of traditional world. These factors were at the forefront in the 1960's but since that time the scene has changed considerably. The FWBO led the Buddhist world in ordaining men and women on an equal footing, in creating residential communities of Buddhists, and in right-livelihood businesses. An interesting development has been the camping/festival oriented Buddhafield project.
Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana, as the Indian wing of our movement is called, mainly draws from the Dalit (lit. oppressed) communities. These people have long suffered the abuses of the caste system of India. In 1956 their great leader Dr Ambedkar having come to the conclusion that no advancement was possible for his people as Hindus lead them in converting to Buddhism. At that time Sangharakshita was in contact with many of the Dalit groups and met Dr Ambekar shortly before his untimely death just 7 weeks afer the conversion ceremony. These links were maintained over the years and when Sangharakshita returned to India in the 1970's he was greeted with such enthusiasm that he asked several of his disciples to stay on and establish Buddhist activities there.
The founder of the Western Buddhist Order and it's 'Friends' is the Englishman Sangharakshita. Sangharakshita is an enigmatic figure. Now in his 80's he has already handed over all of his administrative and spiritual responsibilities so that the movement is now run by his first and second generation disciples. Sangharakshita describes himself as a transitionary figure. Although ordained a Theravadin Bhikkhu, he found more life in the Tibetan Buddhism that he met in the Himalayan foothills. Returning to the west he set about deconstructing traditional sectarian forms of Buddhism, and creating a spiritual movement which draws from all traditions, seeking what is essential and leaving what is simply cultural. This drawing is systematic and purposeful rather than being simply syncretic. Much of Sangharakshita's voluminous ouvre has been dedicated to giving a strong philosophical and spiritual underpinning to his new movement. The central plank of this philosophy, which informs every aspect of the FWBO is that Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels (representing Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) is the primary Buddhist act. Going for Refuge is what makes one a Buddhist, and is the factor that unifies all Buddhist practices and teachings.
The emblem of the Western Buddhist Order is the Three Jewels set on a red lotus, and surrounded by a halo of flames. Representing the potential inherent in every being, and the fires of transformation leading to the Deathless.