The Triratna Buddhist Order is a spiritual community of men and women who have pledged themselves to follow the Buddhist path to Enlightenment. Order members have made that commitment — traditionally known as going for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha — the central point of their lives. In particular, they have chosen to make the Triratna Buddhist Order the context in which they are trying to live ever more deeply imbued by Wisdom and Compassion.
The Triratna Buddhist Order aims to be a free association of individuals working towards a common goal. It is founded on the principle that spiritual community can be created only by free will and mutual aspiration, never by coercion. Therefore there are no rules in the Order, and all decisions made by bodies within the Order are made by consensus.
Every Order member undertakes to practice a traditional set of 10 ethical precepts. These point to basic principles applied to all actions of body, speech and mind. Men and women Order members take the same precepts, and practice on an equal basis.
The Triratna Buddhist Order is an alternative to most forms of Buddhism in Asia, where practitioners are either monastic or lay. The Order is open to any woman or man who is sincerely and effectively committed to the Buddhist path. Order members try to lead a wholehearted Buddhist life bringing this perspective to all aspects of their life. They are not monks or nuns. What matters is not the lifestyle that Order members adopt but the spiritual commitment they have made: commitment is primary, lifestyle is secondary.
What Happens in the Triratna Buddhist Order?
Order members take seriously the task of deepening spiritual fellowship, and there are many opportunities for them to spend time together and form supportive friendships. Order members get together each week in small local groupings called chapters. These are spiritual workshops, where people share their insights and difficulties and try to help one another in their Dharma practice. Once a month the Order members come together for a day of collective Dharma practice. Every other year a weeklong Convention is held for all Order members living in the USA, Canada and Mexico. And every two years there is a Convention of all Order members from around the world, either in the UK or India.
Some Order members live together, others may work together. Most Order members have ordinary jobs, expressing their values in a range of professions and vocations. A minority work full-time in Buddhist Right Livelihood businesses, or are supported to work at their local Triratna Buddhist Center. The aim of the Order is to facilitate communication and create a basis of kindness and clarity through which they can meet and work.
The Triratna Buddhist Order has around 1,600 members in 24 countries worldwide.
Joining the Order
Ordination is a lifelong commitment. It usually takes years of preparation to be ready for ordination. Anyone can ask for ordination, and can then participate in the training for ordination. A range of retreats are held around the world by Order members experienced in ordination training.
As the senior Order members responsible for ordinations and other Order members at their local Triratna Buddhist Center get to know a person in training for ordination they will discuss their progress. Ordination is a commitment that requires self-knowledge. It requires experience on the Buddhist path, experience with the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community, and the experience of friendships with Order members. Ordinations are performed by a senior Order member known as a Preceptor, usually in the context of a special ordination retreat.
Further reading: Ordination by Moksananda. More books on Buddhism and Buddhist practice available from Windhorse Publications.