A Unified Perspective
The triratna community’s approach to the spiritual life might best be described as ‘holistic’. It is founded on the conviction that Buddhism has something of great value to offer people in the modern world and that this has implications for all aspects of life. That is why the triratna community can be looked at from five perspectives. It is an approach to Buddhism, a spiritual community, an engagement with society, a path of practice, and a worldwide Buddhist movement. Looking at it from only one of these perspectives will give only a partial understanding.
The picture that emerges is of a substantial and thriving Buddhist movement, which is attempting something difficult with a surprising degree of success. Looked at from one point of view the triratna community’s approach to practicing Buddhism in the modern world is radical – questioning old ways of living a Buddhist life and developing new forms for people in the modern world. Looked at in another way it is very traditional, emphasizing the key teachings that go back to the Buddha himself, and insisting on the spirit of devoted practice that alone gives them meaning. The triratna community is slowly finding a middle way that combines flexibility with fidelity to Buddhism’s core values.
The arrival of Buddhism in the West is an extraordinary encounter in which the triratna community has a distinctive role. If cuts through much of the baffling diversity of the Buddhist tradition, and the cultural forms in which it has been embodied, to express the spirit that is at the heart of the tradition. As a spiritual community it offers a helpful emotional and social context for a spiritual life of devoted practice. The triratna community’s social forms offer the opportunity for those who want them and can make use of them to live as full-time Buddhist practitioners in the heart of modern society. Its path of practice offers a systematic approach to training and transforming the mind in accordance with the Dharma. And as a worldwide Buddhist movement it is making the Buddha’s teachings available to many people across the globe.
Of course, the triratna community is not without flaws. It is a community of individuals, each with his or her limitations, but its emphasis on Sangha gives people the chance to learn from each other and act together from their shared strengths, making a real difference in the world. It has much to offer the spiritual life of individuals, and a distinctive contribution to make to the Buddhist world.
The test of its approach is whether it offers a viable and effective way to follow the Buddhist path in the twenty-first century.