Learning From The Whole
The triratna community’s approach to the Buddhist tradition is radical in the sense that it gets back to the animating spirit and foundational teachings. This means that it does not have to accept some parts and reject others. Any element of that tradition can be a source of inspiration to the extent that it is an expression of the Dharma. Indeed, people in the modern world may be said to be heirs to the whole of Buddhism – that incomparable store of spiritual experience and guidance.
The sources of inspiration are many, and different things can be learned from the scriptures, teachers, and example of the different Buddhist schools. So the triratna community draws from many schools in the service of its re-expression of Buddhism for today. And yet, if we are to avoid confusion, our practice of the Dharma needs to be clear and systematic, so the triratna community has a coherent and well worked-out approach to practice, drawing systematically on particular techniques, texts, and teachings.
The Sevenfold Puja, the community’s basic devotional liturgy, is an example of this combination of flexibility and rigour. This puja is centred on verses from a Mahayana text, the Bodhicaryavatara, but it also contains Pali verses, the Refuges and Precepts, that come from the Theravada, and mantras that come from the Vajrayana. The puja as a whole is a coherent and harmonious ritual that enacts an engagement with the principle issues of the spiritual life.
In drawing on the tradition in this way the triratna community follows the example of Buddhists throughout history who have been flexible and pragmatic in communicating Buddhist teachings, yet have remained true to its core teachings and values.
The triratna community’s emphasis on the essential spiritual orientation of Buddhism, its core teachings, and its openness to the whole Buddhist tradition, enables it to take a flexible and exploratory approach to understanding what Buddhism should look like in the modern world.