The Three Great Phases of the FWBO
Oct15

The Three Great Phases of the FWBO

The Three Great Phases of the FWBO / Triratna Buddhist Community Or, ‘Around the Wheel’ with Reginald Ray. In this article I explore how Reginald Ray’s Threefold Model applies to the FWBO / Triratna Buddhist Community.  One way of showing how it does apply is to demonstrate how the movement has gone through three great phases in its history: a phase of establishing principles; a phase of Sangha building; and a phase of lay expansion, which correspond respectively to Ray’s three categories of Buddhist practitioner: namely the ‘forest renunciant,’ the ‘settled monastic,’ and the ‘lay practitioner.’  And the fact that collectively Triratna has ‘circled’ through these three phases is I propose due to that fact that prior to stream entry individuals tend to cluster into groups, and generally speaking we are not stream entrants. First, I outline my impression of the history of the Threefold model in the Triratna Buddhist Community.  I then explore stream entry in terms of the ‘Five Paths’ in particular how it results from a person addressing their weaknesses as well as their strengths.  After that I explore the three great phases in the movement, which I have named ‘Establishing Principles,’ ‘Sangha Building’ and ‘Lay Expansion.’  I then offer some predictions and conclude. The Threefold Model According to Vajragupta in ‘The Triratna Story,’ Sangharakshita recommended Reginald Ray’s Buddhist Saints in India back in 1994. I first came across Ray’s ideas as presented by Subhuti in a talk called ‘How to become an Order Member’ as presented on the ‘What is the Order?‘ retreat in 1995.  Subhuti outlined Ray’s categories as a way of talking about the breadth of Order lifestyles and he explained the category of the forest renunciant as corresponding not just to the lone meditator in their cave but also to the dedicated artist or scholar who worked intensively in isolation, but who fed ideas, inspiration and insight back into the wider community. Being temperamentally this kind of practitioner, I was attracted to Ray’s model mainly because it gave me a meaningful place in the Sangha. According to Subhuti the settled monastic corresponded to people in Triratna who ran Buddhist Centres, lived in communities and worked in Team-based Right Livelihood businesses. And the lay practitioner worked out in the world. In the years since Subhuti’s talk I have been aware of little mention of Ray’s model in the Order, except for a faint ‘it doesn’t apply to us,’ with no explanation why.  But I have always believed that it does apply and I argued in favour of it a few years ago in the ‘Threads’ section of the Order journal Shabda.  This year Vajragupta gave a...

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