Critique of Sangharakshita / Triratna / FWBO (Archived)
Sexual Abuse, Financial Corruption, Fraud and Outright Stupidity in Modern Buddhism.
This page will tell you the story of one of the strangest, most scandalous, and yet most influential chapters in the history of Western Pseduo-Buddhism. And despite the publication of these facts, the scandal is still ongoing.
After discussing the matter with Jürgen Schnake, I decided to archive some of the material from his website here. First and foremost, presented below, is a substantial essay that was referred to as “The FWBO Files”, of anonymous authorship (neither by Jürgen nor by myself). Also included here is the article from The Guardian newspaper (referred to as part of the unfolding story) —you will find it way down at the bottom of this page, after the footnotes and bibliography.
If you’re unfamiliar with the issues being discussed here, you might want to read The Guardian article first (search for its title, “The Dark Side of Enlightenment”, below). You will also need to know that F.W.B.O. was the name formerly used by the organization that is now called Triratna; and Sangharakshita is the nom-de-plume of the man who was the leader of both organizations.
I am only presenting an archive of this work here (due to the impending disappearance of Jürgen’s website). I am not the author of any of the material below. As is clearly indicated, the article quoted from the Guardian was archived by Jürgen with their stated permission.
The FWBO Files [now a.k.a. the Triratna Files?]
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SANGHARAKSHITA’S BUDDHIST TRAINING IN INDIA — A SELF-CREATED HISTORY
• Training in the Theravada tradition
• Training in the Zen tradition
• Training in the Tibetan tradition
• Summary of Sangharakshita’s training
• Dr. Ambedkar and the Untouchables
SANGHARAKSHITA’S EARLY INVOLVEMENT WITH BRITISH BUDDHISM: THE PLOT THICKENS
THE FOUNDING OF THE WBO
THE FINANCIAL SUCCESS OF THE FWBO
THE AMBITIONS OF THE FWBO
THE DOCTRINES OF SANGHARAKSHITA AND THE FWBO
• Higher and Lower Beings
• The Family
• The Proper Foundation for the Spirital Life — the Homosexual Relationship
THE FWBO RESPONSE: SIDESTEPS AND SMOKESCREENS
THE NEXT STAGE — CHILD INDOCTRINATION
FWBO ‘BUDDHISM’ AND CHRISTIANITY — FRIENDS OR FOES?
“THE VENERABLE MAHA STHAVIRA SANGHARAKSHITA” — WHAT’S IN A NAME?
DENNIS LINGWOOD’S HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
FOOTNOTES & REFERENCES
FWBO CENTRES AND BUSINESSES [A list of addresses, etc., omitted from this archive.]
Whenever a religious tradition arrives at a new location it is possible for the unscrupulous to pass off their own distorted and fallacious doctrines as genuine. In Buddhism this has traditionally resulted in scholars and sages down the ages producing texts to refute these falsities and establish what constitutes the actual Word of the Buddha. ‘The FWBO Files’ is such a tract.
Though it would be quite improper for me to lay claim to the status of either scholar or sage, it has become clear that in the absence of a centralized voice in Buddhism in the West, someone must take the lead and question the activities and doctrines of this organization and its founder. This questioning however is not born out of malice. Rather it is hoped that it will serve the three-fold purpose of:
1.Providing the FWBO with a template by which they can judge their own thoughts and actions in the light of true Buddhist doctrine
2.Bringing to an end the obvious suffering followers have endured in the past through their not being able to distinguish between truth and falsity
3.Ensuring that the opportunity for such sufferings to arise again in the future does not occur.
Finally, I would like to dedicate this work to Terence Delamere, Matt Evans, and the nameless young man found dead in the Thames on New Years Day, 1967. Had they encountered the true teaching of Buddha, they might still be alive today. May their tragic and untimely deaths not have been in vain. In memory of Maurice O’Connell Walshe, 1911 — 1998
The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order is one of Britain’s fastest growing religious organizations. With an estimated 20,000 people per year attending their meditation classes in the UK alone and an annual turnover of between £5-10 million per year, much of which is tax-free due to the organization’s charitable status, as well as its control of numerous sub-charities, its trading wing has been on The Independent’s top one hundred fastest growing companies list for four successive years.
With over 70 centres on 4 continents, the FWBO also has a large publishing wing which, after building itself up over the years by producing and distributing its founder Sangharakshita’s writings, has recently become active in the field of education. As such the Order are instrumental in the construction of agreed syllabuses of study for religious education in schools across the country and, through their ‘Clear Vision Trust’, produce a large number of educational resources to support their input into these syllabuses. Despite having existed for only 30 years, their views on the meaning of Buddhism are clearly considered by some to be authoritative.
Alex Kennedy, or ‘Subhuti’, the FWBO second in command, has said that one of the reasons for the success of the organization is that other Buddhist organizations “cater for little more than a mild and amateurish interest and… their organization is often fraught with intrigue.” The FWBO, on the other hand, are “the only authentic vanguard of Western Buddhism”.
However, the more one examines the nature of the teachings propounded by the FWBO and the conduct of those who propound them, the more one realises the FWBO’s own understanding to be “mild and amateurish”, as well as extremely sinister. More importantly, one finds that the idea of Buddhist organizations being “fraught with intrigue” has nowhere reached its zenith more clearly than within the confines of the Western Buddhist Order.
The organization itself is said to have been founded by Dennis Lingwood, ‘Sangharakshita’, (born 1925, London) in 1967. Biographies speak of “The Venerable Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita” building up the roots of “an awesomely encyclopaedic scope of knowledge,” even at an early age. Later he travelled to India with H.M. Forces and, after the war, stayed on to pursue an interest in Buddhism. “Wandering from tree root, even to tree root”, he reputedly immersed himself in the study and practise of several of the major traditions of Buddhism, receiving teachings from respected Indian Buddhists as well as a wealth of Vajrayana or ‘tantric’ initiations from numerous eminent Tibetan teachers . According to one source he also officiated at a mass conversion of 500,000 Untouchables to Buddhism during a period as “friend and close advisor” to Dr. Ambedkar, founder of one of India’s greatest anti-untouchability movements .
In 1964 Sangharakshita returned to England in a blaze of glory, invited by the English Sangha Trust (EST) to become resident teacher at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. He remained there for the next two years and soon became the idol of the British Buddhist scene. The longer he resided at the EST centre however, the more he began to feel that “the existing British Buddhist movement had already strayed from the right path” . So, in 1966, the EST and he parted company. In 1967, feeling “that a new Buddhist movement was badly needed”  in Britain, Sangharakshita founded the FWBO. The rest is history.
All this makes for a fascinating account and would indeed be impressive if any of it were true. Unfortunately though, the more one enquires into the background of Sangharakshita, the more impossible it becomes to find any evidence of there ever having been anything more than a hint of truth to this, what is in fact, self-created history.
SANGHARAKSHITA’S BUDDHIST TRAINING IN INDIA — A SELF-CREATED HISTORY
It is the claim of the FWBO that Sangharakshita studied and practised the major traditions of Buddhism and has, as a consequence, been able to extract the essence of each and combine these into one seamless whole, which also happens to be the absolute core of Buddhism. This is a claim of immense hybris, involving the assertion that one man could have studied three major traditions, Theravada, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism (which itself has four distinct traditions, all of which Sangharakshita claims knowledge of) , whereas the fact is that each of these traditions would require a lifetime of study . Nevertheless, as a result of his ‘training’, Sangharakshita has manifested the unique ability to discern the essential supra-historical essence of Buddhism, something that no other Westerner or Asian has so far managed to do.
What then, is the nature of the training in these traditions which elevated him to such a lofty spiritual viewpoint? After the war, Sangharakshita deserted from the British army shortly before being demobbed and shipped back to Britain. He burned his ID papers and abandoned his link with the past, an act which would have served the purposes of both spiritual men and deserters who hoped to avoid identification; Sangharakshita’s intention, he maintains, was of the former rather than latter  He claims to have then lived the life of a wandering ascetic in India. We are presented with little evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, in one publication he openly admits to never having been alone during this particular period of his life, and to having spent fifteen months in the same place, hardly the life of a wandering ascetic .
Training in the Theravada tradition
In 1950, after a short period of having attempted to live within the confines of the vows of a novice, Sangharakshita decided to ordain as a Buddhist monk or bhikkhu. Contrary to popular Western belief, the taking of a bhikkhu ordination is not the culmination of a long noviciate training. In fact, someone with no knowledge of Buddhism whatsoever could travel to Thailand, for instance, and within less than a week acquire such an ordination. Sangharakshita himself stated that he hardly knew his preceptors, for example. Soon after, we are told, “he studied Abhidhamma, Pali and Logic at Benares (Varanasi) University with Ven. Jagdish Kashyap.” , a Buddhist teacher of the Theravada tradition with whom Sangharakshita claims to have had a deep and meaningful spiritual relationship. Yet, according to Sangharakshita’s writings, his whole relationship with Kashyap lasted a total of seven months, a thoroughly insufficient period of time for any such relationship to develop.
This then, is the extent of his actual training in the practices of the Theravada Buddhist monastic tradition as it is presented to us; a short period as a novice, an ordination from bhikkhus he hardly knew, and a period of what turns out to be a few months, studying three subjects in an academic context at what could have been nothing more than an elementary level, given the length of time. In 1993, Bhikkhu Brahmavamso, Abbot of Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Western Australia, an individual thoroughly versed in Theravada practices, spoke of Sangharakshita’s views on Theravada Buddhism as,
“…the misunderstandings of an outsider, one with little experience of the rich and beneficial lifestyles of both the bhikkhu and the layperson in the traditional Theravada countries.” 
In the late 1960's, the senior incumbent bhikkhu at London’s Thai Buddhist Vihara, a position representative of as well as appointed by the Thai government and clerical establishment, attended a teaching by Sangharakshita on Insight (Vipassana) meditation, the practice of which lies at the very heart of the Theravada tradition. He concluded it was clear that Sangharakshita knew nothing whatsoever about vipassana meditation .
Training in the Zen tradition
Sangharakshita’s understanding of the teachings of the Zen tradition arose, according to him, out of a “deep relationship” with his “friend and teacher”, Yogi Chen , another resident of Kalimpong during the 1950's and 60's. No independent confirmation of the relationship exists. However, even if it did, this would be no proof of authentic knowledge of Zen. Mr. Chen was not an authorized teacher of any of the Japanese or Chinese Buddhist systems. In fact, a large number of his writings were based on the limited knowledge of the Tibetan tradition he had managed to glean from Tibetans who had arrived in Kalimpong in the 1950's. His approach was, to say the least, highly eclectic, and indeed the mere mention of his name brings a wry smile to the face of most knowledgable Buddhists, he being variously described as “a renegade”, “barking mad”, and even “an oriental version of Sangharakshita”. Chen’s writings ranged from public revelations of advanced tantric practices delineated in obscure Tibetan texts (practices which initiates are sworn to secrecy in relation to, since to engage in them without an appropriate foundation can lead to madness and death), to such works as “The Fire Puja of Jesus”. Like Sangharakshita then, Chen was the proverbial “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
Training in the Tibetan tradition
Turning to claims of deep involvement with the Tibetan tradition, it must be said from the outset that there is little evidence in the founder’s work, teaching or the activities of the FWBO that betrays any real connection with Tibetan Buddhism. What knowledge they do have seems to have been gleaned from dated western books on Buddhism such as Govinda’s archaic works and Guenther’s perverse and illegible translations.
During the 50's and early 60's, Sangharakshita reputedly met and studied with, and indeed had ‘deep friendships’ with, several eminent Tibetan lamas. A friendship with the Dalai Lama is frequently spoken of and a photograph of the two together is used by the FWBO as proof of the relationship . The privilege of having his photograph taken with the Dalai lama is however one Sangharakshita shares with literally hundreds of thousands of others, indeed there are numerous photographs of the Dalai Lama with Mao Tse Tung, for example. Should this be considered an indication of a deep and meaningful friendship between the two?
Later, during his time as incumbent at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, the FWBO founder was to tell others that he was reporting back to the Dalai Lama on the nature and progress of the British Buddhist scene. As Maurice Walshe, the then Chairman of the English Sangha Trust, puts it, “He virtually claimed to be the Dalai Lama’s representative in Britain.” The Office of Tibet, on the other hand, had never heard of Sangharakshita when quizzed, and stated that the Dalai Lama had never appointed anyone, Westerner or Tibetan, to act as his representative in this country, either officially or unofficially. Furthermore, for the entire duration of the post-Indian period of Sangharakshita’s life, there is no evidence whatsoever of any substantial communication with the Dalai Lama.
According to his FWBO biographers,
“Many of the Tibetan teachers he met at that time were followers of the Nyingma tradition… and he still feels a very strong spiritual affinity with this school” .
It is noteworthy that when the two most eminent Tibetan lamas of the Nyingma tradition, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche, visited Britain in 1976 and 1978, two lamas who, it is claimed, Sangharakshita had a guru-disciple relationship with, he made no attempt to approach them or invite them to teach in his, by then, burgeoning centres. In a Tibetan context, where normally a disciple would offer his students to his teacher, this behaviour is unthinkable and would be considered an act of supreme spiritual arrogance. Such inaction only serves to demonstrate the lack of connection between Tibetan Buddhism and the FWBO.
In respect of the assertion that Sangharakshita is well versed in the doctrines of tantra, it is unsure even as to whether he actually received any higher tantric initiations. In the mid-sixties, the late Trungpa Rinpoche, an accomplished master of Tibetan tantric Buddhism, stated that Sangharakshita had “definitely received no higher initiations, unless by false pretences” . Nevertheless, both the FWBO’s founder and his second in command, Subhuti, frequently refer to ‘initiations’ and indeed this ‘initiation’ forms an integral part of their ‘ordination’ ceremony. Here students are given a tantric sadhana or visualisation practice, and are ‘authorised’ to practise it. The nature of this authorisation to practise is as follows. First a senior order member recites a short mantra three times and then the disciple repeats it. In the FWBO, this constitutes an empowerment to practise a tantric sadhana. This ‘initiation’ in no way resembles any tantric initiation that experts in the field are aware of. Without authentic initiation, how can these be considered authentic Buddhist practices? Rather such procedures are an imitation of Buddhism, an example of the made up, pik ‘n’ mix approach to Buddhism which is a trademark of much of Sangharakshita’s work.
In the tantric tradition, it is a universally recognized fact that successful practice depends on receipt of an initiation from a qualified and authorised donor. Whether Sangharakshita has the authority or ability to give tantric initiations is therefore an issue of utmost importance. Not only are there strict rules governing the authority to bestow initiations but it is unthinkable that anyone would give them without the express authority of their own teacher. Certainly this is the case with the three Westerners who are now allowed to give such initiations here in the West. One can be sure that, if he had received such authority, Sangharakshita would proclaim the fact. So we can assume that he does not have authority to give initiations.
Furthermore, he himself has confirmed he has no understanding of the Tibetan language . He would therefore be unable, as is clear from the above, to read the initiation text, the act of which is an integral and essential part of the initiation process. Clearly then, the initiatory aspect of FWBO procedure is an invented ceremony which is lacking in any value or consequence from the bona fide tantric practitioner’s viewpoint.
In short, Sangharakshita’s claim to teach Vajrayana (tantric) Buddhism is bogus. It is founded upon a careful and selective re-telling of his history in India and has survived within the confines of the FWBO only through the founder’s determined effort to keep Tibetans away from his followers and vice versa. FWBO centre rules portray an organization which works for “the advancement of the Buddhist religion” and “accepts all aspects of the Buddhist tradition and recognizes the value of each.” It is their stated intention in their constitutions “to work in harmony with all other existing Buddhist groups and organizations.” (Frequently, such rules are prepared for applications to the Charities Commission for charitable status ). However, Sangharakshita has elsewhere proclaimed his “conviction that the less the FWBO is involved with ‘Buddhist groups’ and with individuals affiliated to existing Buddhist traditions, the better.”  The commitments which FWBO Mitras or ‘friends’ take upon entering the organization’s hierarchy for example, include the commitment to maintain close contact with members of the WBO and to not “shop around” for other spiritual groups .
In reality, Sangharakshita would have great difficulty in finding any bona fide, knowledgeable Buddhists who would concur with his interpretations of the meaning of Buddhism. Indeed such Buddhists are conspicuous by their absence from FWBO ranks. One former colleague of his suggests that the reason for this is that, “such Buddhists would… see through him and would… be able to point out ways in which he distorts and falsifies traditional Buddhist teachings.” He therefore “needs to prevent such Buddhists from becoming members of the FWBO” .
Sangharakshita’s claim to have received the Mahayana Bodhisattva ordination, a ceremony common to lay and monastic practitioners, from his “friend and teacher”, Dhardo Rinpoche, may well be true. The manner in which this ordination is portrayed however, is deceptive and, once again, serves only to enhance his reputation. In fact, it is relatively simple to acquire bodhisattva ordination, far more simple than it is to receive monastic ordination, for instance. The vast majority of Mahayana Buddhists have all received such an ordination on numerous occasions. This is not to denigrate its nature in any way nor to devalue it. The fact is though, that almost anyone can receive such an ordination without having to demonstrate anything resembling even a simplistic understanding of Buddhist doctrine. Whilst it is portrayed as a major step forward on the spiritual path in Sangharakshita’s numerous biographies, the average Tibetan would probably feel as excited about the possibility of receiving the Bodhisattva ordination as the average Westerner would feel about the possibility of receiving a new National Insurance number.
Nowadays, there are a large numbers of Westerners practising Tibetan Buddhism as well as a relatively large number of centres. These all belong to one of the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions; Kagyu, Sakya, Nyingma, Gelug. That is the way Tibetan Buddhism is organized and it becomes the basis of how one is trained. Serious training in Tibetan Buddhism means becoming a follower of the tradition of which one’s teacher is a master, and receiving a systematic training in the textual and contemplative curricula of that tradition.
In which of these Tibetan schools then, was Sangharakshita trained and to which does the FWBO belong? The answer to these two related questions is that, whilst he undoubtedly met Tibetan lamas over a ten year period in India (approx.1954-64), the teachings he acquired extended to no more than a few minor initiations bestowed by high lamas, who routinely bestow such initiations on hundreds, indeed thousands of people. He has not studied the textual syllabus of any Tibetan school, such as the 5 Great Works of the Gelug, the 18 Great Works of the Sakya, or the ‘Gyud Lama’ and related Zhentong texts of the Kagyu. To do so would have required long term tutelage by a Tibetan master and knowledge of classical Tibetan that Sangharakshita simply does not possess.
It is for this reason that the study programme in the FWBO is nothing like that found in any of the four Tibetan traditions. When a Tibetan text is actually studied within FWBO groups, typically Gampopa’s ‘Jewel Ornament’, it is Guenther’s unreliable translation which is used (how could it be otherwise, when nobody knows Tibetan?) and the text is used as a topic for seminar discussion, a mode of discourse utterly removed from that in the Tibetan tradition. As for the necessity insisted upon by Tibetans, that to study or teach Dharma texts one must have received the lung (reading transmission), nobody appears to have ever even heard of this. Doubtless in this situation of total ignorance, one can pretend to study the Jewel Ornament.
Similarly, the necessity of studying the very terse root texts of classical Mahayana, such as Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara, with the the aid of a traditional commentary, as insisted upon by all four Tibetan schools is completely unknown. Not only does this situation in respect of studies in the FWBO betray how little they are connected to the Tibetan tradition, it also allows for the passing off of Sangharakshita’s own idiosyncratic view of Buddhism as somehow sanctioned by the actual Buddhist tradition.
Summary of Sangharakshita’s training
When one scrutinizes Sangharakshita’s so called ‘Buddhism’, it becomes clear that it is based largely on knowledge acquired in an autodidactic fashion, principally from the Western literature on Buddhism current in the 1940's and 50's along with English language translations available at the time. Influential authors therefore include a gallery ranging from Edwin Arnold (“The Light of Asia”) to Lama Anagarika Govinda. Sangharakshita’s Buddhism then, is essentially self-taught. Any gurus cited by him as teachers are mentioned largely for cosmetic effect and not because the Buddhism he professes was passed onto him by them. Nowhere is their proof of any deep involvement with teachers of any of the spiritual traditions. Sangharakshita appears, at best, to have ‘rubbed shoulders’ with them. None of his claims to deep involvement are supported by any substantial evidence apart from his own accounts. Indeed, Sonam Kazi, the senior translator for more than one of the Tibetans whom Sangharakshita claims to have known during their time in Kalimpong was unable to confirm any ‘deep relationships’ (in light of Sangharakshita’s complete lack of understanding of the Tibetan language, a translator would have to have been present at any interaction). Furthermore, the manner in which Sangharakshita related towards his supposed Tibetan gurus in the UK and his interpretations of Tibetan Buddhist practices very clearly indicate a distinct lack of any deep involvement with the tradition.
What we are left with after the removal of falsities and exaggerations from Sangharakshita’s biographies, is a list of experiences that numerous Westerners who have pursued the Dharma in the East have had. Here though, what are in situ mundanities are dressed in a rich and colourful robe of poetic exaggeration and hyperbole (although this particular hyperbole is intended to be taken seriously). This gives rise to the image of the FWBO’s founder as some sort of higher being, someone who has been singled out by Buddhist teachers of the various traditions as someone special, someone somehow different from the thousands of other Westerners who have had the same experiences in the East over the years, but who have so far felt it unnecessary to found their own orders or write dozens of books about it.
Dr. Ambedkar and the Untouchables
Turning to Sangharakshita’s links with Dr. Ambedkar’s movement, in particular, and quite apart from the unsubstantiated claim that he was Ambedkar’s “friend and close adviser”, the claim that Sangharakshita officiated at a ceremonial mass conversion of half a million Harijans (Untouchables) to Buddhism, this too has little basis in fact. History tells us that one of the closest ordained advisers to Ambedkar was the eminent Sri Lankan bhikkhu, Dr. H. Saddhatissa, who officiated at the famed mass conversion at Nagpur in October 1956. Dr. Saddhatissa has now passed away, but, when quizzed, Ven. Madagama Vajiragnana, one of his closest contemporaries and colleagues for decades, had no knowledge of Sangharakshita’s early involvement in the movement nor of his having officiated at the conversion ceremony. He further stated that Saddhatissa had made no mention of Sangharakshita in relation to the said event on any occasion. Another friend and confidante of Dr. Saddhatissa for many years, R.W., stated that he had never mentioned the presence of Sangharakshita at Nagpur in all the years he had known him.
The conversion episode itself seems to have fallen victim over the years to the blight of exaggeration. Whereas in 1979 we are told that “…over a longer period he personally officiated at the conversion ceremony of 200,000 people” , by 1987 Sangharakshita is “said to have officiated at a mass conversion of some 500,000 so-called ‘Untouchables’”.  In order to confirm his presence and status, alleged or otherwise, at Nagpur in October 1956, I decided to consult the November 1956 issue of ‘The Maha Bodhi’, the journal of the Maha Bodhi Society, at that time one of India’s most respected Buddhist organizations. Sangharakshita, being fond of writing numerous articles on his understanding of Buddhism for publication, wrote frequently to ‘The Maha Bodhi’; he was therefore not unknown to the Society. Yet, when one examines the report of the famed conversion event, though listing the names of numerous eminent personages present and documenting meticulously the proceedings, no mention of Sangharakshita is made.
An article below that mentioned actually did refer to Sangharakshita and located him in Gangtok, Sikkim, where he was said to have been from the 9th — 12th October. The conversion ceremony at Nagpur took place on the 14th. To travel from Gangtok in Sikkim, which, even today, has no airport, to Nagpur in India, through the Himalayas as the winter of 1956 set in, traversing hundreds of miles of hazardous and barren terrain, and arrive in Nagpur for the ceremony by the 14th would have been physically impossible. Since to travel such a distance was impossible, we can be sure that Sangharakshita was not at Nagpur for the most famous conversion of the ‘Untouchables’ carried out by Dr. Ambedkar and his associates. The eminent Buddhist historian, Trevor Ling has written that, subsequent to this first conversion, such events became numerous and commonplace . In reality then, Sangharaskshita was not a significant figure in an important Indian historic and religious event. Rather, he assisted at some of the innumerable commonplace conversions which followed it.
SANGHARAKSHITA’S EARLY INVOLVEMENT WITH BRITISH BUDDHISM: THE PLOT THICKENS
Sangharakshita was invited to Britain to take up the post of incumbent bhikkhu at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara by the English Sangha Trust (EST) on the basis of recommendations to its Chair from Sangharakshita’s predecessor, Bhikkhu Anandabodhi and Christmas Humphreys, a man whom many consider to be the most eminent of all the British Buddhists of the middle part of this century. Along with Anadabodhi (who subsequently renamed himself Star One and claimed to be in communication with extra terrestrial beings before reverting to his original name of Les Dawson), Humphreys, founder of the Buddhist society and a QC who led for the prosecution on the Ruth Ellis and Craig & Bentley cases (and thus no stranger to withholding evidence when it suited ‘justice’, as we shall see), allowed senior EST figures to believe that Sangharakshita was a monk of good pedigree, perfect material to become resident teacher at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, an extremely prestigious position in British Buddhist circles at that time.
According to F.W., a close friend of Humphreys whom he had confided in just before his death, Humphreys was at the same time colluding with one of India’s seniormost political figures, in a plan to get Sangharakshita out of India before a scandal erupted which would scar the face of both Buddhism and Britain in Indian eyes irretrievably. The senior official, a pro-Buddhist and confirmed Anglophile, had had to intervene personally in the case of a wealthy Indian family whose underage son had been seduced into engaging in homosexual acts by a British Buddhist bhikkhu. The family claimed their son had been coerced into said acts by the monk and that his actions were an abuse of his privileged position. They were determinedly pressing for charges to be brought against the bhikkhu. The bhikkhu in question was Sangharakshita.
Recognising the potential disaster for Anglo-Indian relations, the official contacted Humphreys, and a deal was made to get Sangharakshita out of the country and back into Britain before the story was brought to prominence through the courts. The family agreed not to press charges if he left India immediately. Humphreys kept quiet and allowed the EST to believe that Sangharakshita’s credentials were impeccable, a perfect candidate to fill their vacant post of resident teacher. On the basis of this, Sangharakshita was given the job. Shortly before his death in 1983, Humphreys spoke of his intense guilt and personal dismay over what he had done.
In the 1970's, Chime Rigdzin Rinpoche, an eminent lama of the Tibetan Nyingma tradition told the same story. Furthermore, J.D., another eminent British Buddhist who was resident in Kalimpong during Sangharakshita’s time there, stated that it was common knowledge there at the time of his expulsion that Sangharakshita had gone for the above reasons. Thus, three independent sources have given the above as the reason for the FWBO founders leaving India. No person has so far confirmed Sangharakshita’s account of the reasons for his departure apart from himself.
Although he knew nothing of this situation, even before Sangharakshita arrived at the Vihara, the Chair of the EST began to wonder as to whether or not he had made a good choice. A man of impeccable discipline would have been essential for such a position, but rumours had begun to filter back to British Buddhists about several alleged sexual improprieties committed by the new appointee in India, indeed one person had described him to the Chair as “India’s most notorious homosexual”. Furthermore, Anandabodhi, who had initially recommended Sangharakshita, now withdrew his support on the basis of what he had learned of the “bhikkhu’s” conduct in India.
The Chair, being reasonable, looked upon all this in light of an experience he had only recently had, wherein another colleague, who he knew to be completely bona fide, had been accused of some impropriety. The accusation later turned out to be false. On the basis of this experience, the chairman of the Trust decided to give Sangharakshita the benefit of the doubt.
Although Sangharakshita had written to him from India, swearing “by the power of Truth”, that any accusations against him were false, the Chair was actually swayed by communications from an influential British Buddhist monk, Lawrence Mills or ‘Phra Khantipalo’. Khantipalo stated that he knew Sangharakshita well, (indeed it is probable that he had been asked to write the letter) and that all the rumours could be ignored ; he heartily recommended his colleague for the post.
As resident teacher at the Vihara, Sangharakshita’s fame grew. However, as his fame increased, so did his sexual exploits. Sangharakshita began turning up at the Vihara with, what the Chair of the EST describes as “a string of young men of ill repute.” Sometimes these ‘friends’ would stay the night and sometimes they would disappear off together until the following morning. On occasions Sangharakshita would dress in lay clothes and travel to Covent Garden Opera with his companions. Furthermore, he did not limit his appetite to the willing; he also attempted to seduce heterosexual Buddhist aspirants, on more than one occasion causing them to abandon involvement with Buddhism from then on, an effect he seems to have had on several of those who have known him personally. After the publication of the Guardian article on 27 October 1997 [archived within this web-page, below] which pointed out sexual improprieties on the part of Sangharakshita and senior FWBO members, further allegations that Sangharakshita had attempted to seduce those who had gone to him for spiritual guidance appeared on the Internet.
The final straw came when the Trust received a letter from Bhikkhu Khantipalo, whose recommendation, along with an earlier one from Bhikkhu Anandabodhi, had spurred the EST into ignoring accusations against Sangharakshita in the first place. Anandabodhi, as we know, withdrew his support even before he had arrived. Now Khantipalo, close friend and confidante of Sangharakshita in India, wrote withdrawing his support, clearly, as can be seen from later letters, on the basis of knowledge of his sexual activities in India. Khantipalo withdrew his support, which he decribed as a mistake, thus confirming the truth of the ‘rumours’. He later described Sangharakshita’s behaviour in India as “off the rails for a celibate monk” and stated that he had parted company with him because he “found the homosexual evidence a bit hard to fit in with my idea of being a bhikkhu”, finding “this side of him difficult to reconcile with the rest of him” .
Because of all the above, the EST had no choice but to write to Sangharakshita, requesting his resignation for “grave indiscretion and conduct wholly unbecoming in a bhikkhu.” They even suggested he think up some reason for leaving rather than turning an already unpleasant situation which had been kept quiet into a very public scandal. As the prevailing atmosphere became increasingly hostile and uncomfortable, Sangharakshita capitulated or, as the FWBO put it, decided to return to India for a ‘farewell tour’, accompanied by his friend and companion Terry Delamere. Clearly, he knew already that, rather than his sojourn being a farewell to India, it was in fact, a farewell to Hampstead.
As soon as he was out of the country, an extraordinary meeting of the EST trustees was called. They had been charged with the task of ensuring that the Buddha’s teaching was implanted in the West in a pure and unadulterated form. In light of Sangharakshita’s behaviour it became clear that he was not the man to fulfil such a brief. A motion was passed that he was to be removed from that moment on from his position of responsibility with the EST at the Vihara. This completely contradicts Sangharakshita’s own account of the situation wherein he states that he left the EST because they had strayed from the true Buddhist path.
That night, a young man Sangharakshita had been counselling through a drug problem and with whom he had struck up a ‘friendship’ disappeared from the Vihara. Residents became worried but eventually retired for the night. The next day, only a few hours after the young man had learned of the expulsion, he was found floating face down in the Thames. It was January 1st, 1967.
Sangharakshita travelled to India, and subsequently Greece, with his companion and student Terry Delamere. He had first noticed Delamere at a gathering at the Hampstead Vihara and had expressed a keen interest in him to the Chairman’s wife, Ruth Meisel, even going so far as to request that she introduce them. Having forgotten to make the introduction, she later apologised to Sangharakshita for not having done so. He told her that she need not worry as the introduction had been made. In a manner which struck her as somewhat strange at the time, he added excitedly that Delamere had just broken of his engagement to be married.
The relationship between the two men was not platonic. Order member Dominic Kennedy, ‘Kuladeva’, told me Sangharakshita had “more than just a friendship” with Delamere, although he was not sure whether they had “consummated their relationship”. Several others were, and are, in less doubt. However, having returned to England, the liaison between the two gradually soured and ended. On the 14th April 1969, tired and depressed, and clearly deeply mentally disturbed, Delamere threw himself into the path of an oncoming tube train at Archway station. He died almost instantly of multiple injuries.
Sangharakshita later told colleagues that Delamere had jumped to his death because he felt guilty about the fact that his father had been a butcher. S.W., one of the founder members of the FWBO, who soon became disillusioned with Sangharakshita and broke away, and who knew both men well, states that the actual reason Delamere killed himself was because he realised that, due to his own spiritual naivety, he had been duped into what was in reality simply a homosexual relationship. In retrospect, he now realised that he had deeply loved his fiancee and sincerely wanted to marry her. Delamere tried desperately to rekindle the relationship with the woman he had left behind. She unfortunately would have none of it. Grieving for the loss of what he now felt to be his true love, filled with self-contempt for his own gullibility and desperately unhappy, Delamere chose to take his own life. It is left to the reader to decide which of the above reasons for his suicide sounds most feasible.
With Delamere dead, Sangharakshita took over the flat in Highgate which had previously been occupied by his companion. The flat was to become the physical nucleus of what we now recognize as Britain’s largest and fastest growing ‘Buddhist’ group, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.
THE FOUNDING OF THE WBO
According to FWBO history , in response to his growing dissatisfaction with the British Buddhist scene, Sangharakshita founded the Western Buddhist Order on the 7th of April 1968, just over a year after having returned from his ‘farewell’ tour of India. He claims to have subsequently founded the FWBO. The WBO was supposedly born from a ‘ceremony’ at Centre House in London, when 12 founder members took religious precepts and vows of allegiance (of those 12, only one maintains contact with Sangharakshita). This invented ceremony however did not constitute the founding of the WBO, despite Sangharakshita’s claims. The WBO was actually founded in America in 1951 by Ven. Sumangalo, (Robert Clifton, 1903-63) . In 1952, Sumangalo travelled to London where he ordained the Rev. Jack Austin and Richard Robinson. Austin (1917-94) was a pioneer of Shin Buddhism in the UK and was highly respected by Occidental Buddhists of all traditions. It was actually he who had launched the Western Buddhist Order in London in 1953. Soon after Sangharakshita’s expulsion by the EST in 1966 (of which Austin clearly had no knowledge) Sangharakshita and he joined forces. Together they decided to call themselves the Friends of the Western Buddhists Order.
Soon after the FWBO launch however, Austin broke off relations. He had invited a Japanese Zen master to teach, but when Sangharakshita heard of this he objected, insisting that the master should not be allowed to teach Zen as only he was qualified to do so. By this stage in their short alliance Austin knew that it was pointless to argue since:
“Lingwood (Sangharakshita) never did brook any disagreement at any time. He assumed an air of superiority if anyone suggested that he might be anything but right in everything, and one was left with the feeling that it was his own fault if he could not see things in the light of the ‘bhante’”(an honorific form of address in the Theravada tradition). 
Realising he was fighting a losing battle and overwhelmed by a sea of other commitments, Austin broke off relations. It was he who had the authority to use the term WBO from the organization’s founder, and it was he who, as the representative of the WBO, withdrew his support for and abandoned his involvement with Sangharakshita. Sangharakshita however claims to be sole founder of the WBO and the FWBO. Later, Austin was to marvel at peoples susceptibility “to the charms of a man who can lead… so very far astray from the Dharma, whilst appearing to be concerned for the good of it.” 
It is impossible to understand why Sangharakshita would state that he was the founder of the WBO & FWBO, a statement which flies so flagrantly in the face of history. It is a claim which can only be described as outrageously false, a complete fiction. Clearly, there was no agreement over this between he and Austin as Austin would never have given Sangharakshita permission to claim to represent, let alone found, the WBO (or FWBO for that matter), so who gave him the right to use the name? What were his motives in maintaining that he had founded this previously reputable organization of authentic Buddhist pedigree? Finally, why does he not mention the content of his experiences with Austin or the existence of the real WBO and its founder Robert Clifton, something he must have discussed with Austin?
THE FINANCIAL SUCCESS OF THE FWBO
In 1968 the FWBO had 12 members, very little money and no permanent centre. In 1997 the Order’s meditation classes are attended by an estimated 20,000 people per year in the UK alone, they run over 70 centres on 4 continents, and have an estimated annual turnover of £5-10 million per year.
According to their own publicity , this rapid financial growth has occurred for three main reasons; donations made to their innumerable sub-charities, charges for classes and retreats, and finally their ‘Right Livelihood’ businesses. These include wholefood shops, vegetarian restaurants, gardening and landscaping, publishing, book selling and building businesses. As well as these, capital is also accumulated through ‘Bodywise’, in-centre classes in yoga, Tai Chi, the Alexander Technique and so on, as well as individual consultations by acupuncturists, osteopaths and Shiatsu practitioners. Their biggest business enterprise is Windhorse Trading, which markets gifts, furniture, and the like through fourteen retail outlets under the name ‘Evolution’, as well as through independent shops. In 1996, Windhorse alone claimed an annual turnover of £4,500,000.
The FWBO then, appear to be extremely astute in the realm of so-called ‘ethical business’ projects. If however, one examines the content of the FWBO inner circle magazine, Shabda, it is clear that the colateral used to establish these ‘ethical’ businesses was accumulated in an extremely unethical manner.
In the February 1986 edition, a senior Order member stated that many of those responsible for the running of the FWBO (in his own words an “underestimated figure of 63 persons”) were in receipt of a combined total of £73,710 per annum, in what was then known as Supplementary Allowance. Again this figure actually underestimated the size of the government subsidy, it being based on the minimum benefit payment at the time of £22.50 per week. Shabda tells us it was “certainly higher in reality”. All of those in receipt of benefit were at the same time, “working more or less full time for the Movement.” During the same period, the Movement itself supported only 15 people on a full time basis.
When a person signs on as unemployed, he or she signs a declaration that, over the period for which they are claiming benefit, they were able and willing to do any suitable work but were unable to find any. Shabda tells us that the vast majority, “if not all” of those mentioned above, were not looking for work and would have avoided it if offered any. It adds that there were numerous vacancies in the FWBO’s Windhorse Trading at the time, as well as other Right Livelihood co-ops. Seemingly, many of those above felt this work not to be ‘suitable’ and they therefore continued to claim benefits while at the same time working full time for the organization. The FWBO were informed of this situation in July 1984, but felt it unnecessary to act to rectify the situation. Indeed, it would seem that the unofficial policy in WBO centres was that, “Order members working full time for the FWBO were… expected by their respective centres to sign on.” (Shabda, Nov. ‘86)
Furthermore, the above figure did not include housing benefit, which was also being paid to members who were working but being paid sufficiently low wages so as to still qualify them for it. The organization also avoided paying National Insurance contributions by maintaining worker’s wages at an artificially low level. Income tax payments were therefore also minimized. The housing benefit figure was again underestimated at £15 per person per week, a remarkably low rent by 1986 standards. The total (under) estimated amount of housing benefit that the organization received at this time came to £111,500 p.a. On the basis of their own estimates, this comes to a grand total of £185,210 p.a. that the Order and its members were in receipt of, through either bending or breaking benefit rules. The real figure, by their own admission, was in fact much higher.
Although some within the organization felt the above to be unethical behaviour, others clearly did not. The September ‘86 edition of Shabda carried a letter from Order member Bodhiraja which proclaimed, “I don’t care anymore… if the UK wing is half living off the State. I’ve seen the world of wealth, power and influence, and frankly I don’t want anything to do with it.” It is clear from their unwillingness to act to rectify the above situation that the majority of those directing the Movement at the time shared Bodhiraja’s sentiments.
The FWBO’s abuse of society’s good will did not stop there, however. In 1980, Phoenix Housing, a co-op set up by the FWBO and Hackney Borough Council, was created as a non-profit making housing body to provide accommodation for Hackney’s needy. On the basis of this aim and in order to fulfil it, Phoenix received large amounts of public money. According to an article in Shabda [Dec ‘86], the aim of Phoenix was “to provide permanent houses for communities in the London Buddhist Centre mandala”. Phoenix then, was officially set up and received substantial public funding in order to provide housing for local people in general, and not for the profit of the FWBO nor solely for members of the FWBO community. By 1986 however, Phoenix had managed to provide 35 houses around the London Buddhist Centre for a total of 92 Order members. At least one of these houses was bought for the FWBO wholly out of money provided by Hackney Borough Council, a substantial profit for the FWBO in this supposedly non-profit making enterprise. Despite the fact that the terms of reference on which Phoenix was created and the basis on which public funds were granted were completely inconsistent with the superimposition of an FWBO structure and Order control, such a structure clearly was imposed. When Order member Devapriya, who was running Phoenix at the time, pointed out to his fellows that all of this was both unethical and illegal, he was threatened with physical violence and found it necessary to resign. All of his criticisms were dismissed and no rational discussion was entered into. The running of the organization then, according to Devapriya, was “effectively taken over by the FWBO.” This notwithstanding the fact that, to all intents and purposes, Phoenix had already been run by the FWBO for several years.
FWBO businesses may claim that their operations are based on principles of ‘Right Livelihood’. However, the above facts certainly beg the question as to whether the Buddha would have considered lying, stealing, threatening others with physical violence, defrauding the State out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and as we shall see later, paying employees less than 50p an hour, to be ethically sound means of accumulating a financial foundation for the ‘Right Livelihood’ businesses.
THE AMBITIONS OF THE FWBO
The principal ambition of the FWBO vis a vis Buddhism is to become the only form of Buddhism in the West. To this end they represent themselves as ‘Western Buddhists’. Whilst claiming strong links with Asian Buddhism they carry out, in their literature and classes, systematic attacks on Asian forms of Buddhism which, it is argued, are “merely ethnic”, as they manifest in both Asia and the West. In Sangharakshita’s Wisdom Beyond Words: Sense and Non-Sense in the Buddhist Prajnaparamita Tradition for instance, he informs us that “Zen and Tibetan practitioners are just as likely to be narrow minded, bigoted, dogmatic and literalistic as any Theravadin.” [p.35]
Most agressively, the organization name their centres as the definitive regional Buddhist centre, such as “The Birmingham Buddhist Centre” or “The London Buddhist Centre”, despite the existence of numerous other Buddhist centres and groups in those locations, each of which reflects its own tradition in its name without claiming to be the Buddhist centre. Unfortunately, many Westerners do not understand this and assume that this is in some way denotes the official and/or only Buddhist centre in their area. (Cf. Christianity in this country where the mainstream churches in a city identify themselves as C. of E., Roman Catholic, Methodist etc. and where a church calling itself ‘The Christian Centre’ would be immediately recognized as a cult).
This selective anonymity carries over into FWBO publicity. By referring solely to Buddhism and the “Edinburgh Buddhist Centre” for example, not identifying themselves as the FWBO, the organization avoid the potential pitfall of identifying themselves with any sect or tradition. This is “pure” Buddhism, a Buddhism freed from the taints of such narrow sectarian limitations. In truth, a large number of orthodox Buddhists identify the FWBO’s Buddhism not as Buddhism at all but as the cult of Sangharakshita. Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre recently spoke of the CIC’s “growing concern over the increasingly disturbing goings-on within the FWBO.”
Thus we have ‘pure’ Buddhism being taught at the ‘official’ Edinburgh Buddhist Centre, for example. In such a situation, benefactor’s contributions appear to be contributions to the future of Buddhism rather than that of the FWBO, of course. However, quite apart from the fact that, despite their names, their centres are in no way recognized as having any ‘official’ representative nature, either by any orthodox Buddhist tradition or local city council, the truth of the matter is that the ‘Buddhism’ propounded by the FWBO is of an extremely sectarian nature and is in fact, at its heart not Buddhism at all. Rather, it is Sangharakshita’s opinion of what Buddhism is, his own reworking of it combined with a number of totally alien doctrines, sold as Buddhism; what several Buddhists have referred to as “the gospel according to Sangharakshita”. Thus, contrary to appearance, the centres of the FWBO are neither official nor indeed Buddhist. What is actually taught in FWBO centres, behind the facade of a series of registered charities, is a specious non-Buddhist ideology, which, as we shall see, inter alia, blatantly contradicts the teachings of the Buddha.
Furthermore, totally contradicting the normal Buddhist etiquette of teaching solely in response to invitation, the FWBO aggressively send out teams to missionize areas, ironically, in a fashion very similar to Christian Evangelicals. Part of the brief of such teams is to attempt to subvert and then incorporate local groups and University Buddhist societies, an area in which the Order have already demonstrated a considerable degree of success.
For the last dozen or so years they have been joining and attempting to infiltrate and dominate national and international Buddhist organizations and conferences (e.g. The UK Network of Buddhists, the European Union of Buddhism, the Network of Western Buddhist Teachers). Maurice Walshe, the EST Chair, said he felt that it had been Sangharakshita’s intention to take over the Buddhist Society, and in early 1992 Jack Austin wrote that Sangharakshita had wider ambitions to take over the Buddhist Union of Europe . That year the FWBO became treasurers of the organization. Another senior British Buddhist who asked not to be named for fear of recrimination has also stated that he feels it is the clear intention of the FWBO to carry out such an agenda of national and international domination, a dominance to be achieved by undermining and defaming all of the genuine Buddhist traditions at present manifest in the West. (See Sangharakshita’s vitriolic attacks on the Japanese, Thai and Tibetan traditions in his somewhat inappropriately titled “Extending the Hand of Fellowship”  for example).
THE DOCTRINES OF SANGHARAKSHITA AND THE FWBO
Whereas some of what Sangharakshita and the FWBO teach is Buddhism, albeit somewhat distorted, a number of the doctrines they propound are not Buddhist at all. Indeed both rely heavily on numerous non-Buddhist sources to explain what they feel to be the real essence of Buddhism.
Higher and Lower Beings
FWBO publicity tells us, for instance, that “the real aim of meditation, is to transform consciousness — to make you a higher type of being than you were before you began practising it” . In fact this totally contradicts the true aim of Buddhist meditation, which is not to transform consciousness but to transcend it, taking off all masks rather than exchanging one for another.
In reality, the theory of the individual’s potential to achieve a ‘higher evolution’, a theory which Sangharakshita frequently refers to in his works, has its origins in the works of Nietzsche, one of the FWBO ‘founder’s’ preferred authors. The view that someone who practises Buddhist meditation becomes a ‘higher being’ IS linked to Buddhism; in fact, the Tibetan rendering of a Sanskrit term for a realised being, ‘Arya Pudgala’ (Tib. ‘Phags pa’i Gang zag) directly translates into English as such. However, without a proper understanding of Buddhist doctrine, this terminology can easily be misinterpreted (cf. the Italian fascist Julius Evola’s work ‘The Doctrine of Awakening’, which, while purportedly Buddhist, actually falls into the same misinterpretive trap as do the FWBO). It is only when one examines the qualities of such a being , that one gains a proper and correct understanding of the term.
When, through developing a deep insight into the Four Noble Truths and Dependent Arising, a person becomes an Arya Pudgala, he or she abandons three spiritual fetters. The first of these fetters is the ‘view on the existing group’ which causes the belief in a substantial self, an actual independent being existent somewhere within the body-mind continuum. This means that at the point of insight into the actual nature of self, there is no transformation of any individual being from a lower to a higher state. Rather, there is a recognition of the non-existence of any such being, lower or higher. Nietzsche’s theory, on the other hand, has as its basis the concept of the evolution of an actual being from a lower to a higher state, ‘from man to superman’. If the aim of meditation in the FWBO is “to become a higher type of being than you were before you began practising it”, then their philosophy is more reminiscent of the heroic and romantic superhumanism of Nietzsche and Nazi Aryanism, than any Buddhist ideology.
Nietzsche’s influence is recurrent in FWBO literature. The title of Subhuti’s work, “Women, Men and Angels”, written to clarify Sangharakshita’s views on women and the relationship between the sexes, is inspired by a quote from Sangharakshita: “Angels are to men as men are to women”. Compare this to Nietzsche’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, wherein he states “As man is to ape, so superman is to man”. Whether or not one accepts that the similarity in terminology here indicates a commonality of philosophical view, Sangharakshita’s theory of the evolution of the higher individual is unarguably Nietszchean (See his Man & Superman). Recently, Windhorse Press published Order member Sagaramati’s work “Nietzsche and Buddhism”, a further attempt by the FWBO to establish a commonality of view between the two philosophies. In fact, no such commonality exists, Nietzsche’s heroic and romantic superhumanism having nothing whatsoever to do with the idea of ego transcendence, which forms the core of true Buddhist teachings.
Sangharakshita’s evolutionary theory of human development, expressed within “Women, Men & Angels” is further based on the idea of “The Hierarchy of Being”, a thesis unheard of in orthodox Buddhist circles. It in fact emerged during the Renaissance as the idea of ‘The Great Chain of Being’, a pseudo Neo-Platonic theory. Despite the non-Buddhist nature of the views expressed in Subhuti’s above mentioned work, such views continue to be sold to FWBO followers as Buddhism. What then is the nature of these purportedly Buddhist views?
- Women are anchored in a “lower evolution” than men
Women have less “spiritual aptitude” than men
Men are better able to actualize their potential for enlightenment than women
Men are more likely to take up the spiritual life in a fuller sense than women
Men surpass women in their commitment to spiritual life
The domination of men by women is not historical fact but myth:
“The feminist reading of history as the story of woman’s oppression and exploitation by man, belongs not to history but to mythology.”
“Men have, of course, sometimes suppressed women (and women, men) just as Jews have sometimes enslaved Gentiles (and Gentiles, Jews).” 
These arguments are supported by reference to physiology, biology, psychology and social role theory but not by quotations from the Buddha, who never condemned women per se but rather condemned obsession with sex. On the occasions when Buddha did talk about the nature of female existence, he described it as “less advantageous”. Male meditators in the wilderness for example, are less likely to be subjected to the ordeal of rape than their female counterparts. Subhuti however, translates “less advantageous” as “less aptitude”, a discrepancy which goes unnoticed, even by himself.
In fact, to criticise or look down on women in any way is a major breach of moral discipline in the Buddhist tantric tradition (in which Sangharakshita is supposedly so well versed), wherein it states that all women should be related to as Buddhas. Such breaches of morality are more serious than, for example, a bhikkhu breaking his vow of celibacy, a point to which we shall return later.
The FWBO have cited the existence of a strong women’s wing within the Order as evidence of their being no misogyny within the organization . However, the existence of a separate women’s wing, in what is a non-monastic environment, actually indicates the existence of both apartheid and sexism in Order hierarchies. The fact that the FWBO has a strong women’s wing is no more evidence of a lack of misogyny within it than the existence of strong women’s movements in India is evidence of a lack of misogyny and sexism within Indian society. Furthermore, the relative ease with which one can find female ex-Order members who have left because of the above reasons is a clear indicator of what actually goes on behind the egalitarian facade of the FWBO.
In a self-referential system such as that which exists within the FWBO, the founder’s writings are considered sacrosanct. In response to accusations of sexism and misogyny in the Guardian (27/10/97), FWBO communications officer Vishvapani argued that, though the views expressed in “Women, Men & Angels” are Sangharakshita’s, these views are purely his and not to be taken as official FWBO doctrine. No such disclaimer is evident within the book however, and indeed there is a distinct lack of such in any of the works wherein Sangharakshita puts forth his own very personal interpretations of the meaning of the Buddha’s teaching. In such a situation, how could anyone assume anything other than that the views expressed within the work were the views of both the founder, the FWBO and, quite mistakenly, the Buddha himself.
In the Maha Mangala Sutra, a well known scripture of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, the Buddha declares:
- “To support one’s father and mother,
To care for one’s wife and children,
…This is the highest blessing.”
In the Suhrllekha of Nagarjuna, one of the great Buddhist masters of the 1st century C.E., he says,
- “The race of one who worships father and mother is in company of that of Brahma and that of preceptors. Through revering them one will win fame and later will attain the higher realms.”
Thus, although Buddhism is a religion of renunciation and disentanglement from worldly concerns, family life forms a foundation for the development of virtuous character traits. In the Mahayana tradition for example, appreciation of the mother-child relationship is the very foundation of the development of reciprocal compassion, which ultimately becomes the cause for the achievement of Buddhahood.
Flying in the face of this, the FWBO encourage the undermining and abolition of heterosexual, nuclear family relationships, since these trap men in what the FWBO founder describes as a situation which is “all very much on the animal level” and “a really massive source of conditioning” .( The fact that Dudjom Rinpoche, one of the Tibetan lamas whom he claims as one of his teachers, had a family, has seemingly escaped Sangharakshita’s memory). He believes that heterosexual couples engaged in the creation and caring for such a family are “the enemy of the spiritual community” , indeed in one publication they are described as “the enemy to be destroyed” . The Order have claimed that these views were grossly misinterpreted by the press recently and are in fact simply a dispassionate analysis of the present status quo. In their own terms, “a critique of an institution need not be accompanied by feelings of hostility” . References to the “enemy to be destroyed” however, do not have the ring of dispassionate analysis about them.
Families, according to Sangharakshita, are breeding grounds for child sexual abuse, which, he claims, is “a feature of the nuclear family” . He therefore recommends that FWBO followers create a ‘new society’ by setting up single sex communities as a direct antidote to the canker of the nuclear family since, “the single sex community is probably our most powerful means of assault on the existing social set up”  for, “If you set up such communities, you abolish the family at a stroke” . Thus, whereas traditional Buddhist societies have always been inclusive of the family lifestyle, the goal of FWBO Buddhism would appear to be the destruction of society as we know it.
If a person is not capable of abandoning his ties to the existing social set up, then, so as to prevent it ‘conditioning’ them too much, Sangharakshita advises that they should “be very careful not to spend too much time with the person you are having a sexual relationship with, and preferably not live with them” . Subhuti has even gone so far as to recommend casual sex with a number of partners as an antidote to attachment.  Unfortunately such advice has no scriptural origin. Apparently then, apart from the sexual content, heterosexual relationships are of no spiritual value whatsoever. Sangharakshita has clearly either not read the above scriptures, well known as they are in the Buddhist traditions in which he was supposedly so well educated, or alternatively, he chooses to ignore them, perhaps feeling he knows more about heterosexual, nuclear family relationships than the Buddha. Yet, whereas the Buddha cherished his mother, was married previous to his adoption of the homeless life and had numerous concubines, there is no record of Sangharakshita ever having had a heterosexual relationship. His contempt for his own family is evident from his complete lack of reference to them as well as his thoroughly hostile anti-family philosophy which is propitiated throughout the FWBO world as the teaching of Buddha.
The Proper Foundation for the Spiritual Life — the Homosexual Relationship
Having alienated followers from their families, women and heterosexual relationships, Order members are encouraged to engage in homosexual relationships since, within the FWBO, such relationships are considered to be part of the path to enlightenment. Persons involved at a more superficial level might find it genuinely difficult to accept what goes on within the inner circle of the organization, but the fact is that once a person becomes an Order member (and in certain cases, even before), efforts may be made to convert the said person from heterosexuality to homosexuality.
Why? FWBO ‘Buddhist’ theory runs in accord with the following argument:
- 1) One is separated from the experience of enlightenment by conditioning.
2) Heterosexuality is conditioning.
3) If heterosexuals engage in homosexual acts they will break down their conditioning.
4) Homosexuality is therefore a means to achieving enlightenment since it causes one to abandon conditioning.
Sangharakshita has claimed publicly that his view is that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are the result of ‘conditioning’ and that “We don’t say that you should be homosexual…. or you should have a wife or should not” . (See the above section re FWBO views on the family and heterosexual relationships to determine whether or not Order members are advised as to whether they should or should not have a wife). However, those who have known Sangharakshita personally speak of a person whose views totally contradict the above statement and furthermore, of someone whose own homosexual desires have actually carried over into the philosophy and teachings of the FWBO.
One such person was Mark Dunlop who met Sangharakshita in April 1972 when he was 22 years old and the FWBO leader was 47. By June of that year, Mark had been invited to dine with Sangharakshita, and by July he had suggested that Mark move in with him. Thinking this was a gesture of friendship rather than the first stages of seduction, Mark accepted. However, as their friendship progressed, Sangharakshita repeatedly returned to the topic of homosexuality and Mark began to feel that he was ‘after him’ sexually.
A few weeks after he had moved in, Sangharakshita explained the ‘Buddhist’ concept of ‘daka’ to Mark. A daka, according to Sangharakshita, was an inspirational muse, someone who was ‘more than just an ordinary friend’. He told Mark that, in the tantric tradition, there were three levels of dakas. Firstly, there were those who inspired energy through a glance of the eyes. Secondly there were those who inspired through the sound of their voice and finally, there was the third kind, who inspired through physical contact. The purpose of this inspiration was to give a teacher more energy so that he, in turn, could pass that energy on to his students by giving them spiritually more powerful teachings and initiations. Sangharakshita suggested to Mark that he was a daka. When Mark told him that he’d much rather be the first kind, Sangharakshita told him “Actually, I think you’re the third kind.”
This explanation of the concept of daka is actually a perversion of teachings explaining the four levels of tantra. Within these four levels the manner of relating between the visualized image of a deity and the meditator progresses from glancing to physical contact through holding hands and so on . The concept of daka appears only at the fourth and highest level of tantra, albeit infrequently, mainly to indicate that there is a male counterpart to the female “dakini”, the real focus of the higher tantras. Sangharakshita mixed these genuine doctrines together with his own explanation of ‘Buddhism’ in such a way as to legitimise his own sexual desires and convince others, in this case Mark Dunlop, that engagement in homosexual activity with him was an extremely powerful and orthodox Buddhist practice.
As well as using the ‘daka’ argument, Sangharakshita also employed the concept of ‘conditioning’, a central concept which frequently manifests in his works, which supposedly translates the original Pali term ‘Paticca Samutpadda’, which actually means ‘Dependant Origination’. Sangharakshita chooses to use ‘conditioning’ in this context, despite the fact that it does not convey the full meaning of this fundamental Buddhist concept, as well as its having other, more negative connotations in the Western psychoanalytic context. In reality the idea of conditioning is Pavlovian, and here, is more akin to the Scientologist’s doctrine of ‘Engrams’, unconscious conditionings from previous lives which block one’s energy and prevent one from realising ones full potential. The decision to use the term actually indicates an ignorance of the full significance of the original concept. Clearly, either Sangharakshita knows that the term is an incorrect translation and continues to use it regardless or, alternatively, he does not know that the term is incorrect; either alternative poses several questions.
Sangharakshita employs further terms and techniques relied upon by L. Ron Hubbard’s organization, The Church of Scientology. The categories of reactive and creative being (Sangharakshita, Mind: Reactive & Creative, Windhorse, 1977) were an essential part of Hubbard’s vocabulary, as indeed they are Sangharakshita’s. ‘Communication exercises’, a favourite technique of the Scientologists, are employed by The FWBO in their classes. Again, neither the terminology nor the practice are locatable within any recognized Buddhist tradition. In 1987 Sangharakshita wrote:
“Unfortunately, those seeking to understand Buddhism only too often turn, or are directed, not to the canonical literature of Buddhism but to works which have little connection with that literature, if indeed they have any connection with it at all.” 
Apart from recommending Nietzsche, Sangharakshita advises students to read such well known Buddhist classics (?) as Eagleton’s “Greek Love” (a favourite of the founder), Porphypry’s “Life of Plotinus” and Alan Bloom’s “Closing of the American Mind”, a critique of pseudo liberalism in the US . What connection any of these have with canonical Buddhist literature is not yet clear.
The FWBO founder told Mark Dunlop that his resistance to homosexuality was the result of ‘conditioning’. Quoting Kinsey, he claimed that research had shown that a large number of men were actually bisexual but were unaware of it due to social and parental conditioning. Mark was told that his aversion to homosexuality actually showed how deeply conditioned he was and that the only way to progress spiritually and emotionally was to overcome his revulsion and accept that he was, in fact, bisexual. And so, in awe of his spiritual teacher and convinced by arguments supported by the wisdom of an ancient spiritual tradition and modern scientific research, Mark Dunlop, albeit reluctantly, succumbed.
The sexual relationship mainly consisted of Sangharakshita lying on top of Mark and masturbating himself against him to the point of orgasm. Mark would then remove the semen with a towel he kept under his bed for the purpose. Usually all this occurred on a twice weekly basis. As he became more wary of his intentions and began to realise that he had been duped, Mark would sometimes object to the advances. Sangharakshita would get his way by talking about the importance of trust and ‘spiritual friendship.’ On two occasions he clutched at his chest, saying “Oh, my heart” (clearly overwhelmed by the pain of rejection).
It was not until 1976 that Mark Dunlop managed to break away from Sangharakshita. Retrospectively he views the period as one wherein he was repeatedly raped by someone who had used spiritual and psychological violence, rather than plain old physical force, to subdue him. As a consequence of his experiences, Mark has, for the last 20 years, had to endure a succession of bouts of severe depression and, despite having received the help and advice of psychiatric health professionals, he remains severely emotionally damaged and unable to reintegrate into society. The consultant psychiatrist who treated Mark recognized the FWBO as a cult and declared his symptoms to be identical to those she had treated in numerous other ex-cult members .
Had Sangharakshita restricted his attentions solely to Dunlop, it might be claimed that he had fallen victim to a momentary lapse of reason, albeit one that lasted for four years. Unfortunately however he did not. Maurice Cooke or ‘Yuveraj’, Sangharakshita’s subsequent ‘close disciple’, spoke of undergoing similar experiences at his hands and indeed has subsequently endured a prolonged period of mental difficulties as a consequence of his experiences. Furthermore, as mentioned above, more accusations of attempted seduction by the FWBO founder have appeared on the Internet since publication of the Guardian article.
When the Guardian offered Sangharakshita the opportunity to reply to the allegations and clear his name before they went to press, he refused to be interviewed or make comment of any kind. Indeed he continues to refuse to discuss the matter with anyone at all, even the group of young men with whom he presently lives. This, according to an FWBO reply to the Guardian article, is because to do so “would involve Sangharakshita in an exercise of disloyalty towards a former friend.”  Unlike Sangharakshita, a number of the men he seduced or attempted to seduce during the 1970's and 80's consider truth to be of more importance than loyalty. One wonders how many of his victims will have to come forward before Sangharakshita deigns to answer their accusations.
Incredibly, in an attempt to defend Sangharakshita, the same document quoted above tells us:
- “In his early years in Britain, Sangharakshita…. explored a number of different…routes to deeper human experience, even perhaps, spiritual experience, such as sex and psychedelic drugs, while of course continuing to meditate, study, and practise within the Buddhist tradition.[!] These explorations were always of a personal kind. He considered them to be taking place within the context of friendships and did not advocate their use by his disciples.” 
Which ‘Buddhist tradition’ advocates that ‘monks’ engage in a mixture of sexual misconduct, LSD ‘trips’, and meditation, as the path to enlightenment remains a mystery. More importantly, the above represents a direct admission on the part of the FWBO that, whilst manifestly lying by posing as a Buddhist monk, their ‘founder’ was having sex and taking drugs. The sheer hypocrisy of Sangharakshita is made further apparent by the claim that all of these things took place within the context of ‘friendships’ rather than being encouraged amongst disciples. Quite apart from the fact that most of Sangharakshita’s friends were his disciples at this point, the sanctiminious attitude of “don’t do as I do, do as I say” is an inexcusable one in any of the genuine Buddhist traditions since all of these require that a true teacher maintains pure moral discipline as a prerequisite qualification.
Sangharakshita’s personal philosophy of homosexuality as the path to enlightenment is not one that he employs solely at a microcosmic level for the satisfaction of his own personal desires. His methods have been propagated macrocosmically throughout the FWBO and it is clear that the practice is common to other Order members.
The first stage in the process of conversion to homosexuality is, as in Mark Dunlops case, convincing people that they are nothing other than a mass of conditioning. Sangharakshita writes:
- “…we are just a mass of conditioning: a class conditioning, plus an economic conditioning, plus a religious conditioning, plus a national conditioning, plus a linguistic conditioning. There is very little in fact… that is really, in a word, us.” 
Elsewhere he states:
- “Bodhi (Enlightenment)… consists in taking a very deep, clear and profound look into oneself, and seeing how, on all the different levels of one’s being one is conditioned, governed by the reactive mind, reacting mechanically, automatically, on account of past psychological conditionings of which, only too often, one is largely unconscious.” 
The next step is to convince people that their heterosexuality is the result of conditioning, apparently the main reason for our unenlightened state, as indeed equally, is the fear of homosexuality. Sangharakshita writes, “…men find it quite difficult to experience physical contact with other men because of their fear of homosexuality” (i.e. ‘conditioning’). In order to counter this, “They must break down their fear of homosexuality by facing it and by not being afraid of sexual contact with other men.” Men, “have to realise that physical and even sexual contact between men is just physical or sexual contact between men. It is a quite ordinary thing and men’s fear of that should not be allowed to get in the way of one’s friendships.” Why? Because fears of physical contact with other men, “…very often limit the possibilities of friendships with other men. And so because they don’t develop friendships with other men, they don’t develop spiritual friendships with other men. And because they don’t develop spiritual friendships with other men, they’re not able to develop what the Buddha declared to be the most important element in spiritual life.” 
Having convinced one’s audience that their heterosexuality and fear of homosexuality is simply the result of conditioning and that this is preventing them from progressing spiritually, the next step is to convince them that it is possible to transcend the mundanity of normal ‘conditioned’ relationships by engaging in a ‘spiritual’ homosexual relationship.
In a speech given to an FWBO conference on the ordination of men in July 1986, a speech subsequently reprinted in Shabda, an FWBO magazine of limited distribution intended for Order members, Alex Kennedy (Subhuti), Sangharakshita’s spokesman and second in command, stated:
- “… within the context of the spiritual community…sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra (‘friend’) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitratata (‘spiritual friendship’) to develop. Some, of course, (i.e. homosexual members) are predisposed to this attraction. Others have deliberately chosen to change their sexual preferences in order to use sex as a medium of kalyana mitrata and to stay clear of the dangers of male-female relationships without giving up sex.” 
- “Many people do not feel able to do this, whether as a result of taboo or reluctance to give up a conditioned predisposition.”
Thus, for heterosexuals, the key to spiritual friendship, “the most important element in spiritual life” and the foundation of the path to Enlightenment, is to transcend “taboos”, give up one’s “conditioned predispositions”, change ones sexual preferences to homosexual ones, and use the homosexual act as “a medium of spiritual friendship.” Order members from all over Britain attended this meeting and this ‘doctrine’, which, due to Kennedy’s status as second in command, would certainly have been recognized as the ‘official party line’, and it continued to be disseminated in FWBO centres at local, national and international levels amongst those considered ready.
In response to the Guardian printing the above, Kennedy argues he did not intend that he be understood as advocating the choice of lifestyle outlined and the FWBO have claimed that his words do not represent a suggestion that people should become homosexual. It is true that the idea of homosexual activity is not overtly advocated within the context of Kennedy’s speech. In fact what is actually under discussion are those factors existent within the Order which motivate the Order members to spend time with new converts. Kennedy identifies these as love and compassion (‘genuine sympathy’), ‘personal interest’, and ‘duty’. Having dispensed with love, compassion and a sense of duty in a few sentences, Kennedy concentrates on ‘personal interest’ as the FWBO’s most powerful means of enhancing the bonds between teacher and student. His quotations above then outline what that ‘personal interest’ entails.
That Kennedy was referring to the FWBO and not actual Buddhist traditions is certain. The topic of the speech was the men’s ordination process within the FWBO, his experience of genuine Buddhist traditions is minimal, and finally, the concept of a spiritual teacher having a sexual relationship with a student as a medium of spiritual growth is not a feature of any true Buddhist tradition. His speech then, may not represent an overt advocation of homosexuality. However, it does represent a clear admission on Kennedy’s part that the relationship between many of the FWBO’s senior members and their male disciples is of a sexual nature and that such practices are considered acceptable within the Order. He concludes by again reiterating the view that heterosexual relationships are of benefit neither to the individual nor the Order. Thus, though avocation of homosexuality as the path to enlightenment is not overt, it is clearly implicit.
That such practices have nothing to do with Buddhism was confirmed by the Dalai Lama recently when he pointed out that, “From the Buddhist point of view, men to men (sex) and women to women is… considered sexual misconduct” and “a sexual act is proper when the couple use the organs created for sexual intercourse and nothing else.”  This outraged numerous gay Buddhists who demanded that the Dalai Lama re-think his views on the subject. These, however, are not solely the Dalai Lama’s views but the teachings of the historical Buddha and, as the Dalai Lama pointed out, he does not have the authority to re-interpret Buddhist scripture. Sangharakshita on the other hand clearly does feel he possesses such authority.
Confirmation of the Buddhist stance on sexual acts other than straight heterosexual intercourse is easily obtainable through examining any authoritative Buddhist text concerning the practice of moral discipline, and yet the FWBO portray the Dalai Lama’s above pronouncements as “… the Dalai Lama’s attitude to homosexuality”  and “traditional Tibetan views on homosexuality.”  Furthermore, in an attempt to distance the Dalai Lama’s views from those of ‘real’ Buddhists in the same publication, we are told that “Heinrich Harrer who became the Dalai Lama’s tutor…. recently admitted he was a member of Hitler’s S.S. before he escaped to Tibet.”  The intended inference is clear: the Dalai Lama’s views on homosexuality are not Buddhist ones but a mixture of Tibetan ‘homophobia’ and those of someone educated and influenced by the Nazi party. This seems somewhat rich, coming as it does from an organization that relies so heavily on the philosophy of Nietzsche, one of the most important progenitors of Nazism.
Not surprisingly, I have yet to find an FWBO publication that delineates clearly what constitutes sexual misconduct in Buddhism. Certainly nowhere is their any reference to acts other than intercourse being considered a breach of morality, despite this being so throughout orthodox Buddhist writings. The FWBO however, now claim that the Dalai Lama “appears to acknowledge(?), there is nothing in the basic principles of Buddhist ethics to indicate that homosexuality is better or worse than heterosexuality.”  True, the Buddha’s teaching does not refer to homosexual activity per se. (How could it when the term ‘homosexual’ was only coined in the late 19th century?) But it certainly does point out that all potential sexual acts committed between members of the same sex, as well as all acts other than straight sexual intercourse between heterosexuals are, from the Buddhist viewpoint, considered to be sexual misconduct.
In an obvious attempt to undermine the position of the Dalai Lama in the eyes of new Buddhists, the FWBO advise, “…western Buddhists need to be guided by basic principles of Dharma, rather than looking to the Dalai Lama as a source of ultimate authority.”  Should their members decide to take their advice, the ‘Buddhists’ of the FWBO would find that the true Buddha Dharma very clearly considers all acts which employ orifices other than those designed for sexual intercourse to be sexual misconduct and the cause of the creation of negative rather than positive karmic seeds. Such doctrines are completely contradicted by the ‘Buddhism’ of the FWBO. Sangharakshita clearly feels more able to comment on what does and does not constitute negative karma than the Dalai Lama and even the Buddha himself.
Some might argue that the incorporation of a doctrine of homosexuality as the path to enlightenment is necessary in a society which has changed so much since the time of the Buddha but, quite apart from the fact that such methods totally contradict any known Buddhist doctrine, evidence indicates that the consequences of the inclusion of such can be extremely damaging, indeed even fatal. In March 1990, Matt Evans, an ex-member of the FWBO, died after throwing himself from the Clifton suspension bridge. Matt had lived at their Croydon Buddhist centre from 1984 to 1987. According to his mother, before entering the Order he had been a bright and outgoing young man with a positive attitude towards life; on emerging she described him as “withdrawn and bleak”. The senior psychologist who treated Matt for the depression he experienced after leaving the Order assessed his problems “as to a large part resulting from the traumatic effects of his experiences whilst he had been a member of the FWBO”. This trauma arose, according to the psychologist’s report, because Matthew had felt himself unable to “accept the fundamental principles and practices of the group.” Matt felt that senior Order members had attempted to deliberately break down his personality and, after alienating him from his family and women, attempted to coerce him into indulging in homosexual acts, “both by using inducements and by using threats.” When Matt found he could not ‘overcome’ his heterosexual conditioning, he began to see himself as a spiritual failure. The longer he spent within the FWBO, the more deeply entrenched this delusion became. Matt’s psychologist concluded that the severe depression that ultimately overwhelmed him before his suicide “stemmed from the years of psychological abuse he had experienced”  whilst he was an FWBO member. A postcard from Sangharakshita to Matt, who was clearly experiencing conflict over certain FWBO practices reads, “Briefly, you have to make up your mind if you have really asked for ordination or not. If you have, then you must have faith and allow the pre-ordination process to take its course.” One shudders to think what such a process might have entailed.
The main perpetrator of Matt’s psychological abuse was Stephen Barnham or ‘Padmaraja’, a protege of Sangharakshita’s who was appointed as Chair at the Croydon Buddhist centre in 1978. Another of Barnham’s victims was ‘Tim’. He had been invited to join the community of 27 men who lived on the upper two storeys of a relatively small house in Croydon. They lived two or three to a room, sleeping in shifts, and worked on the ground floor in one of the FWBO’s so-called ‘Right Livelihood’ businesses. Tim was allowed to live out of a box on the ground floor where he worked an average of 45 hours for £22.25 per week. He was told to have no contact with family or friends and to keep well away from women and relationships. It was not long before Tim started to feel he was going mad. Barnham told Tim that he felt like this because he was actually gay but was repressing it. As Tim put it, “I began to feel that the meaning of life was bound up with my homosexuality and its repression.” Barnham then began telling Tim that his homosexual feelings were actually towards him and claimed that he could solve the problem for him, stating “I’ll open up new vistas in you that you don’t know about”. He then set about solving Tim’s problem by anally raping him . (The parallels between the kind of relations the head of the Croydon centre had with his students and those Sangharakshita had with his own students are obvious).
Eventually, Barnham’s behaviour became so outrageous that the Order had no choice but to ask for his resignation. His reign had lasted 10 years. Despite knowing that the abuses had been occurring for some time, the FWBO justified not acting earlier by claiming that, if they had, they may have lost control of the centre . Clearly, the organisation’s leader considered power and wealth to be more important than the happiness and well being of his followers. Had Sanghrakshita and the FWBO placed the latter above the former, Matt Evans might still be alive today. When the truth about Croydon emerged in the Guardian the FWBO admitted that at least 30 people had been left severely mentally damaged by their experiences there. In their defence, the Order claimed to have made efforts to contact abuse victims and initiate a process of discussion and reconciliation.  In Tim’s case this amounted to a phone call from an Order member telling him they were sorry about what had happened. Tim received the call three weeks before the Guardian published, when the FWBO were fully aware that he intended to speak to the newspaper and that they were definitely going to publish.
Of course, in the final analysis, it is not of overriding importance that Sangharakshita or a number of those around him are homosexual and it would be wrong to view all of the above as some kind of homophobic witch-hunt. Notwithstanding their view of homosexual acts as non-virtuous, Buddhist societies have traditionally been inclusive and tolerant and homosexuals are not precluded in any manner from Buddhist practice. Rather, what is at issue here is the deceit, manipulation and distortion of Buddhist teachings systematically practised in this regard by Sangharakshita and his retinue in order to legitimize and satisfy their own selfish desires.
THE FWBO RESPONSE: SIDESTEPS AND SMOKESCREENS
Within days of the Guardian article [archived below, within this web-page] the FWBO issued a press release to all Buddhist centres throughout the UK which stated, “The article makes much of the very painful events which occurred at the FWBO’s Croydon centre nine years ago.” Subsequent propaganda declared, “The crucial allegations in the article concern one FWBO centre” and argued that, “The article’s presentation of events at Croydon does not make clear that this was an isolated case and that there has never been any recurrence of this sort of situation.” 
In fact the “allegations” contained in the article were of a manifold nature, only one of which concerned the scandal at the Croydon centre. As is clear from the above, its real focus was the assertion that the ‘founder’ of the Order had manipulated Buddhist teachings and used his position to coerce a young disciple into engaging in homosexual acts with him, that this behaviour had been replicated by his close disciples, and that the methods of coercion employed by the leader and his disciples have become an integral part of FWBO doctrine. The Guardian further focussed on Sangharakshita and the Orders contempt for women, heterosexuality, and the nuclear family. Though the FWBO attempted to address some of these issues in their subsequent propaganda their responses amounted, as we have seen, to little more than empty rhetoric. Nevertheless, let us examine the assertion that the sexual and psychological abuse exposed by the Guardian occurred:
- a. Solely in one place (The Croydon Buddhist centre);
b. At the hands of only one person (Stephen Barnham);
c. There has never been any recurrence of this sort of situation.
1) Sangharakshita’s own history of sexually abusing others clearly involved a succession of young men and stretched back for many years to India, long before the founding of the Croydon centre or the advent of Stephen Barnham.
2) Subhuti’s speech in 1986 told us “many” of the FWBO’s “most sucessful Kalyana Mitras have an erotic interest in their students.” Clearly not all of these “successful Kalyana Mitras” lived at Croydon, nor were they all called Stephen Barnham.
3) ‘Martin’, who became associated with the FWBO when he was 18 years old, told me he had been repeatedly and forcefully coerced into engaging in sexual acts with Order member Kulananda, another of Sangharakshita’s ‘close’ disciples and a senior figure within the FWBO hierarchy. Kulananda used exactly the same argument concerning ‘conditioning’ to facilitate the fulfilment of his desires. Martin left the FWBO in 1987.  He confirmed that allegations that Kulananda was involved in similar abusive relationships with a large number of other male disciples were true.
4) The goings on at Padmaloka, an FWBO community near Norwich where Sangharakshita was resident for much of the 1980s, were more reminiscent of a San Francisco gay bath-house than a ‘Buddhist retreat’. ‘David’ , who lived at the centre until 1989, spoke of a general ethos at Padmaloka which clearly facilitated the fulfilment of established Order members personal sexual desires. “There was a general feeling around at the time that you were ‘blocked’ if you had an aversion to gay sex,” he said. He himself had been seduced there by Order member Vajrananda when he was only 19 years old. According to David, Vajrananda had a “prolific sexual appetite and engaged in numerous sexual relationships with other young recruits”. He added that at least half of the 20 residents of the centre were involved in similar activities. What is of interest here is the nature of the sexual acts perpetrated by Vajrananda, insofar as they exactly replicated Sangharakshita’s in relation to Mark Dunlop, in the same way that Stephen Barnham’s coercive ‘Buddhist’ philosophy, as it was applied to both Tim and Matt Evans, and Kulananda’s employment of the ‘conditioning’ argument in relation to Martin, exactly replicated the behaviour of the ‘founder’. Quite obviously, these are instances of ‘learned behaviour’.
5) In 1990, Kulananda confirmed to Reverend Daishin Morgan, seniormost figure within the British Zen community, that such practices as those mentioned above, “took place between older teachers (plural) and younger students as had happened in Ancient Greece” .Reverend Daishin told Kulananda that such behaviour was a serious error in training and “totally contradicted the Buddhas teaching.” 
6) On October 30th 1997, three days after the Guardian article was published, a letter in the same paper described a situation in 1994 wherein FWBO members had told a young man that “spiritual enlightenment could only be achieved by leading a single-sex existence and relinquishing his relationship” with his female partner. This alienation technique was used on both Matt Evans and Tim but, whereas in Matt’s case it led to suicide and in Tim’s case to him being anally raped, here it led to the young man experiencing severe emotional torment before eventually returning to his partner and relinquishing all interest in Buddhism. This is somewhat sad since nowhere in the Buddha’s teaching does it state that the only way to achieve enlightenment is to relinquish relationships and live a single sex existence.
7) In late 1997, Sanghapala, another long-standing disciple of Sangharakshita’s who had also been extremely sexually active at Padmaloka and who had subsequently been appointed Chair of the FWBO’s Dublin group, went ‘into retreat’ after being accused of repeatedly using his position to coerce members of his congregation into having sex with him. Having emerged from retreat, Sanghapala was immediately reinstated as Chair of the group, indeed, even while he was ‘in retreat’, I was assured that he would be returning to his position.
It is quite obvious from all this that the abuse which the FWBO have been accused of did not just occur at the hands of one person in one place for a short period in the 1980's. Various FWBO teachers and senior figures have repeatedly engaged in sexual and psychological abuse since the early 1960's and this abuse continues right down to the present day. The Order claimed in the Guardian article that “structural reforms” had been set in place to ensure that there could be no recurrence of the Croydon scandal. Sanghapala’s activities for example, prove that these reforms are not working. How the Order can declare then that “the basic ethical principles of the FWBO can clearly not be used to legitimise sexual and emotional abuse”  is a mystery that even the great sages of the past would have found it difficult to fathom.
THE NEXT STAGE — CHILD INDOCTRINATION
The October 1988 edition of Shabda, the FWBO inner circle magazine, stated, “One should not hesitate to indoctrinate children… One must take a positive and affirmative attitude in shaping a child’s character and beliefs.” To this end the FWBO, who are now a significant force in the construction of locally agreed R.E. syllabuses for schools across the UK, have incorporated aspects of their own distorted version of Buddhism into said syllabuses.
Let us examine a particular instance of this. In 1996, FWBO members who assisted in the formulation of one City Council’s agreed syllabus for religious education inserted the following, supposedly Buddhist, idea into the Buddhism section for study at Key Stage 4 (i.e. 14-18 yr. olds). The syllabus reads “Buddhism…(Sub-heading) Principles… Avoiding over-identifying with one’s sexuality.” As both a Buddhist and a Buddhist academic, I was somewhat surprised to find this, an idea I had never encountered in any Buddhist work. In fact, “avoiding over identification with one’s sexuality” is very clearly the first stage in overcoming one’s “conditioned fear” of homosexuality. The FWBO then, are now covertly encouraging teenagers to experiment with homosexuality, even before they reach the age of consent.
When a complaint was lodged with the Order in reference to the above, their response was to state:
“It seems that the word ‘sexuality’ has, in this context, been taken to mean ‘sexual orientation’. This was certainly not our intention! However, we would be happy to reword this sentence in order to avoid misunderstanding.” 
Why the FWBO should express surprise that the word ‘sexuality’ had been interpreted as meaning sexual orientation is a mystery, since the vast majority of people asked for a definition of the term generally reply by using the very words ‘sexual orientation’. Furthermore, that the FWBO were surprised by people’s “interpretation” of the term itself came as an even greater surprise when, upon enquiry, I discovered they had already been told by other members of the formulatory committee who had constructed the syllabus that the whole concept of “not over identifying with one’s sexuality” was both ambiguous and not Buddhist. The FWBO committee members completely ignored this and unbeknown to other committee members, submitted their, supposedly jointly agreed, contribution to the syllabus to the Local Education Authority for publication. Since the FWBO were fully aware of the controversy over the above their expression of surprise seems completely inappropriate.
In light of the publication of the Guardian’s article, and “in order to avoid misunderstanding” (read “awkward repercussions”), the FWBO agreed to reword the sentence and claimed to have “already arranged a meeting with the R.E. adviser to clarify these points with her.”  However, when contacted, the relevant ‘Inspection and Advisory Service’ (IAS) R.E. advisor was completely unaware of any such meeting. Furthermore, when I pointed out the implications of the inclusion of such ideas, she became extremely abrasive and stated that the above would definitely not be extracted from the syllabus as all parties had agreed on its inclusion. I later discovered FWBO members had cultivated a close friendship with the RE advisor concerned and indeed she now advertises on Council notepaper on behalf of the FWBO when communicating with teachers in her capacity as IAS associate advisory teacher for religious education. The FWBO then, appear to have the official sanction of certain city councils. 
The policy of ingratiating themselves with IAS R.E. advisors is widespread and has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it validates the FWBO’s distorted version of Buddhism, granting it an air of authenticity in the minds of R.E. teachers uneducated in actual Buddhism. Secondly, it enhances the profits of the ‘Clear Vision Trust’, another FWBO ‘non-profit making charity’ which produces resources to support their input into locally agreed R.E. syllabuses. Clear Vision’s catalogue for 97-98 contains the following endorsement by Bill Gent, R.E. adviser for the London Borough of Redbridge’s IAS:
“I recommend the resources of the Clear Vision Trust, which is gaining a justified reputation for the quality of material on Buddhism which it is producing for schools.”
Whether Mr Gent will continue to support the activities of the FWBO after reading the present document is not clear.
FWBO ‘BUDDHISM’ AND CHRISTIANITY — FRIENDS OR FOES?
In July 1977 the editor of Gay News, Denis Lemon, received a nine months suspended sentence and a £500 fine for blasphemous libel. Gay News Ltd. were fined £1000. The paper had printed “The Love That Dares to Speak its Name”, a poem by James Kirkup wherein a homosexual act is performed upon Christ as he hangs on the cross. According to Sangharakshita, the conviction “shocked the British public”, and so, in 1978, championing the egalitarian views of the ordinary man in the street (?) and in support of Lemon’s actions, he and the FWBO published a booklet, “Buddhism and Blasphemy” .
Within the work Sangharakshita describes the Christian God as “despotic”, a “cosmic Louis XIV or Ivan the Terrible”. He describes Christianity as “oppressive”, “stultifying” and “coercive”, and declares that “Christianity — including the Church, especially the Roman Catholic Church — has done a great deal of harm in the world”. He further condemns the Roman Catholic doctrine that outlaws sex outside of monogamous relationships, despite the fact that the Buddha himself propounded the same code of morality.
In order to right these wrongs he advises that “the Church of England should be dis-established” and that:
“Blasphemy should be recognized as healthy, and as necessary to the moral and spiritual development of the individual, especially when he has been subject to the oppressive and coercive influence of Christianity.”
As far as God is concerned, “One must publicly insult him”. “Far from being prosecuted”, Sangharakshita tells us, blasphemy “should be encouraged”, for,
“If these suggestions are acted upon, some of the harm done by Christianity will be undone, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike will be benefited, and society at large will be happier and healthier.”
All of this is stated in the name of Buddhism, as the title of the work, ‘Buddhism and Blasphemy’, clearly suggests. “It is well known” according to Sangharakshita, that “throughout its history Buddhism has … rejected the notion (of a personal God) as detrimental to the moral and spiritual development of mankind”. Sangharaskshita even quotes from the ‘Brahmajala Sutra’ to justify his views (despite the fact that the quote he employs is actually the Buddha’s advice on how Buddhists should be tolerant of those who criticise him or his teaching. Clearly he was unable to find any justificatory quote from Buddhist sutras, otherwise he would surely have employed it).
Since the Buddha was born around 4 centuries before Christ, he himself never commented on the Christian faith. However, it is certain that nowhere did he encourage others to blaspheme against the gods of the religious traditions prevalent at the time, nor did he declare that belief in such gods was harmful and detrimental to moral and spiritual growth. In reality, according to the Buddha’s teaching, whether one believes in God, Buddha or Allah, the practise of moral discipline which accompanies these beliefs ultimately leads to the positive consequence of a fortunate rebirth, the first goal of any Buddhist. Sangharakshita’s claim then, that according to Buddhism, the notion of a personal God is detrimental to moral and spiritual development is simply not true.
He further condemns critical accusations made against “informed Eastern Buddhists” who point out the “shortcomings of Christianity, or defects in the moral character of Christ” and attacks those Buddhists who claim such attitudes are intolerant, claiming they are actually “Christians at heart” who are “afraid of incurring the wrath of the Almighty.”
Probably the most informed of all living “informed Eastern Buddhists” is the present Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama’s attitude of religious tolerance and his positive relationship with, and respect for Christianity are common knowledge in the real Buddhist world. His recent commentary on the Gospels has become an international best-seller and was the subject of great critical acclaim from both religious communities. Furthermore, the warmth of his relationship with the Pope is well known. Are we to believe that the Dalai Lama’s writings and his positive attitude towards Christianity are actually motivated, as Sangharakshita suggests, by a fear of God or a covert adherence to the religion?
Sangharakshita’s views actually have nothing whatsoever to do with the Buddhist attitude towards Christianity. Indeed they appear to be little more than thinly disguised homo-erotic resentment of the above, despite the title of his work. Here, once again, he is passing off his own idiosyncratic interpretation of the Buddhist religion, his own personal, aggressive and ill-natured opinion as the word of the Buddha. That these views are manifest across the board in FWBO writings is obvious from much of their propaganda-the summer 97 issue of their magazine ‘Dharma Life’ for instance, contained 10 pages devoted to vitriolic attacks on Christianity and God.
“THE VENERABLE MAHA STHAVIRA SANGHARAKSHITA” –WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The FWBO’s literature frequently refers to their ‘founder’ as “The Venerable Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita”. What is the etymology of such a name?
The title ‘Venerable’ is reserved in the Buddhist tradition for those who have received and maintain a monastic ordination in accord with Buddhist disciplinary codes or “Vinaya”. In 1993, Windhorse published “43 Years Ago — Reflections on My Bhikkhu Ordination”. Herein Sangharakshita recounts how, six years after his ordination in 1950, he discovered a technical irregularity which rendered his ordination invalid. This ‘irregularity’ occurred because one of the six monks who officiated at his ordination had actually transgressed his monastic vows and this, according to Sangharakshita’s view, therefore meant that his own ordination was invalid.
In reality, according to the Vinaya, an ordination only fails for lack of a quorum when there are less than five real bhikkhus (ten in N.E. India) among the assembly that approve the ordination. From this point of view then, Sangharakshita’s ordination clearly was initially valid.
Nevertheless, he secretly believed his ordination to be invalid It comes of something of a surprise then that, in November 1987, Shabda having received a letter from Order member Punyaraja questioning Sangharakshita’s ordination status, he felt it necessary to expel Punyaraja from the Order. Clearly the myth of his ordained status had served him well and was one that he wished to perpetuate. It was only 37 years later, 37 years in which Sangharakshita’s supposed ordination had formed an integral part of FWBO propaganda and which had profited both he and the FWBO greatly, that he decided to come clean about the matter, an action which the foreword of ‘43 years Ago’ described as an indication of “Sangharakshita’s intellectual and spiritual honesty”(??).
Punyaraja had been a thorn in Sangharakshita’s side for some time, contributing a number of critical cartoons to Shabda, at least one of which was indecent and made reference to the founder’s sexuality. The last cartoon of his to be published in Shabda was in July 1987 and featured Sangharakshita in the robes of a bishop with a flock of smiling sheep at his feet. The accompanying caption read:
“From one single deed of power the whole power structure evolves. Having lied once you will have to lie more… If there is no morality there cannot be any meditation or wisdom, however cleverly you might know the theory of it.”
Actually, these final words are an expression of the classic Buddhist concept of the indispensibility of pure moral conduct as a foundation to valid meditational experience. There can be little doubt that Punyaraja knew something more about Sangharakshita’s sexual activities and his perversion of Buddhist ethics than the majority of Order members did at that time, and it is obvious why Sangharakshita would want such a person removed from the ranks of his organization. It was another six years before Sangharakshita finally decided to come clean about his non-ordained status, albeit for reasons other than the fact that he had never attempted to keep his vow of celibacy.
Whether or not Sangharakshita’s vows were initially valid he certainly had no intention of keeping them. Soon after receiving the vows he wrote to his friend Christmas Humphreys declaring that he would not allow his new ordained status “to clip my wings” . Khantipalo’s comments about Sangharakshita’s “off the rails” homosexual activities during their time in India together make it clear what he meant by this.
If the activities Sangharakshita engaged in included either oral or anal sex then he had committed a ‘Parajika’, an offence entailing immediate and automatic return to lay status. If he engaged solely in solitary or mutual masturbation, this would be classed as a ‘Sanghadisesa’, an offence which involves immediate suspension, and one which can only be purged by the consent of a committee of twenty ‘pure’ monks. The suspension for such an offence lasts for as long as such an offence has been concealed. Sangharakshita may have received the consent of such a committee during his period in India, if he were able to locate such a gathering. However, it is certain that he could not have made such a confession in the post India period because such a large number of Theravada Sangha, the tradition into which he initially ordained and who have since become his favourite bete noire, were not present to gather for such a purpose.
In “Was the Buddha a Bhikkhu?” , an aggressive attack on the Theravada Buddhist establishment (in particular on Bhikkhu Brahmavamso who, on the basis of his extensive knowledge of Vinaya, proved that Sangharakshita actually had received a valid ordination, albeit for a short period of time), Sangharakshita attempts to establish that Lord Buddha himself did not receive an ordination and was therefore of the same non-ordained status as himself. Notwithstanding the fact that the Buddha lived a celibate lifestyle, whereas Sangharakshita clearly did not, despite his claims to the contrary, Sangharakshita attempts to circumnavigate this massive discrepancy by referring to bhikkhu ordination, “in the technical Vinaya sense”, indeed this seems to have become something of a catchphrase in his writings (see also for example “43 Years Ago” ). The use of this terminology implies that it is possible to be a bhikkhu in some other way than the “technical Vinaya sense”. This is akin to claiming that it is possible to be a nun, for instance, without wearing nun’s robes, keeping nun’s vows or living in a nunnery. As is obvious, any woman who does not keep such vows, wear such robes, or live in such an establishment is what the overwhelming majority of sane human beings would recognize as a layperson. Similarly, any form of bhikkhu who does not uphold the Vinaya, is simply not a bhikkhu, since living within the confines of the Vinaya and the title ‘bhikkhu’ are actually synonymous. Perhaps now Sangharakshita will begin to speak of young women becoming pregnant other than “in the technical sense” or elephants other than those in the “large grey quadrupeds with tusks, trunks and large floppy ears sense.”
In conclusion, it is obvious that, despite the copious references to him as ‘Venerable’ that have appeared in FWBO literature over the past 30 years, a period in which for the majority of the time Sangharakshita knowingly and repeatedly lied about his status, he was not actually worthy of the title. Nor indeed, it would seem from all of the above, was he worthy of veneration.
The title ‘Sthavira’, meaning spiritual ‘Elder’, is reserved for bhikkhus who have maintained pure moral discipline for a period of ten years without interruption. A bhikkhu who fulfils the same criteria for a period of twenty years receives the title “Maha Sthavira” or “Great Elder.” In light of Sangharakshita’s prolific sexual activity throughout the vast majority of the period during which he pretended to be a Buddhist monk, the title “Maha Sthavira” is clearly inapplicable, and he is no more worthy of it than he is of the title “Venerable”.
“Sangharakshita” is a Sanskrit rendering of the Pali ‘Sangharakkhita’, the actual name he received at his ordination. The name means ‘Protected by the Sangha’ as anyone with a basic knowledge of either Sanskrit or Pali would know. Sangharakshita however, chooses to translate this as ‘Protector of the Sangha’ . This could be an indication that his understanding of Sanskrit is much poorer than his students are lead to believe or, as some suggest, he deliberately chooses to mistranslate it. Certainly “protector of the Sangha” sounds far more glorious than “protected by the Sangha” and makes one feel as if those who ordained Sangharakshita had some divine foresight as to the nature of his future role in establishing Buddhism in the West. Someone who is protected by the Sangha, on the other hand, sounds more like a victim than a victor.
In conclusion then, the ‘Venerable Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita’, ‘Protector of the Sangha’, is none of these things at all. In reality he is plain old Dennis Lingwood from Tooting Broadway in London. Comparing the two names, the latter does not possess quite the same romantic ring as the former. One wonders if, had Lingwood told the truth from the beginning about his status and activities instead of lying for almost four decades, he would ever have accumulated as large an entourage as those who now, in their ignorance, follow him.
DENNIS LINGWOOD’S HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
In 1992 Lingwood told the BBC:
- “I would like to see in Britain, in the West generally, and even in the world more people practising the Dharma. I would like to see so many people practising Dharma that society is forced to change and I certainly hope that the FWBO will be in the forefront of that development. I’m not a prophet and I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict but that is my hope… I might even say my confidence.” 
If Lingwood and the FWBO’s wishes come true and society is transformed by their perverted doctrines, what sort of world will it be?
From all of the above it is apparent that the resulting society will be one where constant lying is considered acceptable; theft, fraud and misrepresentation will also be considered reasonable behaviour. Women and members of heterosexual, nuclear families will be looked upon as second class citizens`, this if Lingwood’s wish to destroy the nuclear family has not been realized.
Young men and boys will be encouraged (if necessary, by force) to engage in homosexual acts, which will be seen as the key to spiritual happiness. They will further be discouraged from partaking of heterosexual sex as this will ‘ensnare them in a lower evolution`. Should any of these young men commit suicide as a result of their inability to come to terms with the psychological trauma their heterosexual conditioning causes, their suicides will be ignored or blamed on some other ‘unrelated` reasons.
Christians will be treated with contempt due to their inferior beliefs and will be expected to blaspheme, both for their own well being as well as that of society as a whole. The teachings of the historical Buddha Gautama will be replaced by the teachings of Dennis Lingwood, and the doctrines of Nietzsche, with which Hitler hoped to rule the world, will finally have their day.
The process of change is already underway on the streets of cities all over the world. These doctrines are being propounded and practised in FWBO centres around the globe as well as in schools in some areas of the UK. One wonders whether the resultant society will in any way resemble the Buddhist vision of a perfect world. For this author at least, Lingwood’s world sounds more like an excerpt from the works of William Burroughs.
© Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell Press, 1998.
FOOTNOTES & REFERENCES
1-Buddhism for Today (1983), Subhuti. Salisbury: Element Books. p 25
2-Peace is a Fire: a selection from the writings and sayings of the Venerable Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita (1979), Windhorse Publications. p 9-13
3-The Buddhist Handbook (1992), Snelling, John. Rider, p 266
4-The History of my Going for Refuge (1988), Sangharakshita. Windhorse Publications p 76
5-Above cit. p 83
6-Taped interview with Sangharakshita, 21/4/93
7-Above cit., . p 27
8-Above cit., . p 266
9-Review in the Journal of the Buddhist Publications Society by Bhikkhu Brahmavamso in 1993
10-Conversation between Dhiravamsa and Maurice Walshe
11-A Guide to the Buddhist Path (1990), Sangharakshita.
Windhorse Publications p 162
12-See for example, Above cit., 
13-Above cit.,  p 12
14-Letter from Maurice Walshe to author, 6/6/97
15-See the section on Sangharakshita in S.Batchelor’s “Awakening of the West” (1994) p 331. Sangharakshita read the section concerning himself before publication.
16-Rules governing the centre of the FWBO — Vajradhatu (Norwich) Reg. Charity No.272024, Rule no.4.1/8/76
17-’Travel Letters’ (1985) Sangharakshita.Windhorse Publications p 173
18-Mitrata 70, February 1988 p.57
19-See M. Dunlop’s excellent but, as yet, unpublished: “What is a cult: the mind control process in the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order”, Appendix D, p 4.
20-Above cit. , p 12
21-Above cit. , p 266
22-A History of Religion East and West, (1968) Trevor Ling, Macmillan p 410
23-All of these quotes come from two hand-written letters from Khantipalo. Mark Dunlop holds the originals.
24-Above cit. , p 83. The same claim appears in numerous other works.
25-Above cit. , p 347 under ref ‘Sumangalo’.
26-letter from Jack Austin dated 20th of March 1992;Mark Dunlop holds original.
28-The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order-an introduction, (1996) Vessantara, Windhorse Publications p 33.
29-Above cit. , p 3
30-Publicity leaflet for the Manchester Buddhist Centre, 1997.
31-Women, Men & Angels: an Inquiry Concerning the Relative Spiritual Aptitudes of Men and Women, (1995) Subhuti, Windhorse Publications p 11
32-FWBO response document to Guardian article (October 27, 1997); response issued early November 1997.
33-Tiratana Vandana seminar, (1978) Sangharakshita, FWBO Ola Leaves
34-Alternative Traditions (1986) Sangharakshita, Windhorse Publications p. 179 ff
35-Buddhism for Today (1983) Subhuti, Element.
36-Above cit.  p 4
37-Television Programmme: ‘Going for Refuge’ (12/11/92) BBC (East).
38-Above cit. 
41-Guardian:G2 (27/10/97) Subhuti p4
42-Above cit. 
43-See George, Allen & Unwins ‘Tantra in Tibet’ series for a fuller explanation.
44-The Eternal Legacy: An Introduction to the Canonical Literature of Buddhism (1985), Sangharakshita, Tharpa.
(Tharpa is the publishing wing of the New Kadampa Tradition, the pariahs of the Tibetan Buddhist world, with whom the FWBO set up an alliance following the Guardian article).
45-Shabda, October 88, p 91
46-Consultants report on Mark Dunlop; Dunlop holds the original.
47-Above cit. , p 3
49-Mitrata 10: Breaking Through Into Buddhahood (1976) Sangharakshita, Windhorse Publications p 7
50-Mitrata Omnibus (1980) Sangharakshita, Windhorse Publications p 38
51-Buddhism, Sex and Spiritual Life, Golden Drum, Aug -Oct 87 p 4- 15
52-Shabda, Sept 86, p 125-126: extract from Subhuti’s paper to ‘The Conference on the Ordination Process for Men’, 9 — 10th July 1986
53-’Gays rail at straight talk by Dalai Lama’ Sunday Times 15/6/97 p23
54-Dharma Life no. 5, FWBO quarterly: Summer 1997 p 7
55-Above cit. p 2
57-Above cit. p 7
59-Clinical psychologist Dr. B Jerrom, Head of clinical psychology, Weston Area Health Trusts report on M. Evans, released by kind permission of Matt’s mother.
60-Handwritten original now held by Mark Dunlop.
61-For the purposes of anonymity, the Guardian did not use Tim’s real name. The FWBO acknowledge that all of Tim’s claims are true.
62-Interview with Tim, September 97: tape in author’s possession.
63-Above cit.  p 2
66-’Martin’ asked that his real name not be used in the present work .He did however, state that he would be willing to confirm the nature of his experiences if the matter should come to court.
67-’David’ made the same commitment as Martin on the understanding that his real name would not be used.
68-Letter from Ven. Daishin Morgan 28/1/92. Original in possession of M. Dunlop.
69-Above cit. 
70-Above cit.  p 2
71-Internal communication to Vishvapani at FWBO Communications office. Copy in author’s possession.
73-Inspection and Advisory Service circular dated 7/10/96.
74-All extracts in this section come from Sangharakshita’s ‘Buddhism and Blasphemy’ (1978) Windhorse Publications. Reprinted in June 89 at the time of the Salman Rushdie affair.
75- p 5
76-Letter dated 14th February 1951 from Sangharakshita to Christmas Humphreys. Originally from the archives of the Buddhist society-copy in authors posession.
77-Windhorse Publications, 1995.
78-Forty-Three Years Ago:Reflections on my Bhikkhu Ordination (1993) Sangharakshita, Windhorse Publications
p 38.The same self justificatory phrase occurs in various permutations throughout much of Sanghrakshita’s later work.
79-Above cit.  p 11 and elsewhere.
80-Above cit. 
The Dark Side of Enlightenment
Originally published in the British publication “The Guardian” on October 27, 1997.
Author of the following article is Madeleine Bunting.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 1997.
[Update March 2006: ‘Someone’ turned the Guardian’s attention to www.fwbo-files.com, probably in an attempt to bring at least this article offline.
‘Someone’ just doesn’t want you to see it. ‘Someone’ failed — the Guardian gave the permission to reprint here the complete text. ]
This is Matthew, a talented Oxford graduate who rejected careerism in the mid-1980s and joined a controversial Buddhist movement. Seven years ago he killed himself. Now the British-based cult is engulfed in allegations that it manipulated vulnerable young men into becoming homosexual.
Exclusive investigation by Madeleine Bunting.
In a small network of streets around the old fire station in Bethnal Green, East London, can be found Britain’s last revolutionaries. But these are no socialist workers — they are the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, one of Britain’s biggest and fastest growing Buddhist organisations. They believe they are evolving the Higher Individual and the New Society according to the 2,500-year-old principles of the Buddha, as adapted for the late 20th century by their revered leader, Sangharakshita — formerly known as Dennis Lingwood. They might be called the last remnants of sixties’ hippie idealism.
Some — and they include many senior Buddhists — watch their success with alarm, and privately accuse them of peddling a quixotic ideology which owes as much to Nietszche and 20th century psycho-therapy as to a highly eclectic pot-pourri of eastern Buddhist traditions.
Even more disturbing, the cases of three vulnerable young men have emerged which detail sexual manipulation and oppressive authoritarian cult behaviour which, in the case of one man, has been cited as a significant factor leading to his suicide
The nerve centre of this now international religious organisation — with bases in Spain, Germany, the US and Australia, as well as in 30 UK locations — is an enormous Victorian house on a leafy street in Moseley, Birmingham. There, Subhuti (formerly Alex Kennedy), widely regarded as Sangharakshita’s righthand man, admits with exemplary honesty that he has been waiting for a journalist to stumble on this murky past. “Thank God it’s not the News of the World,” he comments with characteristic mildness.
Nine years ago, one of the flagship FWBO centres spectacularly imploded in a welter of allegations of homosexual abuse, personality destruction and manipulation. It bore all the characteristics of a cult as Subhuti admits, and it left at least 30 people badly damaged psychologically. “People got caught in a collective delusion, a group psychosis which was very interesting but distressing,” Subhuti says. Even now, he adds, he is still learning the full extent of what went on within that tightly-controlled, secretive community.
Such stories are hard to match up with the sincere idealism of many of the 4,000 regular adherents of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO). Hard to match up with their benign public image to the 20,000 people who come to their 30 centres around Britain every year to learn the calming and enlightening benefits of meditation. And hard to match up with their rightly recognised work with Buddhist Untouchables in India.
It belies the respectability of the FWBO. Articulate and energetic, its members have established themselves beyond the Buddhist community as an authoritative voice of Buddhism. Some sit on local authority standing advisory committees drawing up religious syllabuses for schools and they offer teachers training in the principles of Buddhism. Some broadcast on the BBC World Service. They have won considerable admiration for their co-operative ethical businesses, which now employ 300 people with a turnover of £7.5 million.
Subhuti insists that the scandal was unique and due to the head of the centre, a follower of Sangharakshita but a manipulative and charismatic individual who subsequently left the movement. It can never be repeated, he emphatically asserts. But there are others who disagree and who argue that Sangharakshita’s teachings — which are intensively studied by members — can be used to legitimise sexual and emotional manipulation.
What makes these revelations potentially so damaging to the FWBO is that they implicate its very founder. The 700 Order members and 1,400 mitras (novices) perceive Sangharakshita as a man of great spiritual insight and compassion. But Mark Dunlop tells another story. In 1972, as a 22-year-old curious about Buddhism, he started a FWBO meditation class. Singled out by Sangharakshita, he became his virtually constant companion for years.
“I was very in awe of Sangharakshita,” he says. “He represented Buddhist ideals. But he was petulant and controlling. He doesn’t boss people about but suggests something isn’t spiritually appropriate. I thought he was an important spiritual teacher and I ought to do whatever I could to help him.”
Sangarakshita persuaded Mark that in order to develop spiritually he had to get over his anti-homosexual conditioning, which was blocking him from devoting his energies to the spiritual life. He offered to help Mark.
“He would want to have sexual contact about twice a week on average. He usually said something like, ‘Let me just lie beside you for a while’. I dreaded hearing this but felt mean and selfish if I thought of refusing. It was distressing, but some of the other Buddhist practices I had recently learned were themselves strange, such as meditation, but there were apparent benefits.
“He would get into my bed and perhaps stroke my chest for a while. Then he would get on top of me and rub himself against my stomach until he had an orgasm. I found the whole business repellent but at least it didn’t take very long — only about four or five minutes usually. I was completely passive throughout, just waiting for him to finish.
“I felt on balance I had to take his ideas on anti-homosexual conditioning seriously. If I protested he would admonish me that I should not give into conditioning and allow it to inhibit the development of our ‘spiritual friendship’. Giving up the homosexual relationship would be like giving-up Buddhism and the spiritual journey. I kept thinking I would have a breakthrough and would get aroused. I was very embarrassed by the sexual relationship and I saw this as my not being able to accept myself as I was — bisexual. I felt it was my duty to Buddhism and Sangharakshita as the person who was bringing Buddhism to the West.
Eventually, Mark summoned the courage to bring an end to the sexual relationship, and his friendship with Sangharakshita — for whom he had bought a house with an inheritance — then petered out. But Mark remained in the FWBO until 1985, struggling to hold on to Buddhism. When he finally left he felt a great sense of failure and guilt about being heterosexual. He blamed himself and became severely depressed.
Sangharakshita, who officially retired last year, although he continues to be the FWBO’s guiding influence, refuses to comment on Dunlop’s allegations, which were first made a decade ago. But he has admitted several times that, after his return from India to England in 1967, he broke his monastic vow of celibacy and “experimented with sex” — “I was just exploring certain things for my own benefit, for the satisfaction of my own curiosity.”
Subhuti, who knew Dunlop during his “close friendship” with Sangharakshita, insists that Dunlop’s account bears no relation to his recollections of a strong-willed, independent young man.
Mark is still, 20 years later, an angry man, but what makes his story particularly disturbing is that it appears to bear characteristics which were echoed over a decade later at another centre with a different FWBO teacher.
By the early eighties, one of Sangharakshita’s followers was heading a centre which was strikingly successful in attracting new recruits. One of these was Tim (he does not wish to give his surname), who was trying to throw off drug addiction. Meditation classes became a full-time commitment and, aged 19, he moved into the single-sex community of 27 men. He worked an average of 45 hours a week in the co-operative business for £22 a week.
“I gave up drugs overnight. I was torturing myself — ashamed of having been in drugs. It was like my detox. In the midst of that process of getting well and growing up, I was exposed to the spiritual orientation of the place. The head of the community was a very powerful, intrusive personality and incredibly manipulative. He would intuitively become aware of people’s vulnerabilities. The one thing you are when you are withdrawing from drugs is very vulnerable. I must have had that printed all over me.
“He would massage my ego. Suddenly I was no longer a normal kid coming off drugs, I was on the point of enlightenment. He put me on a pedestal. I fell for it. At the time I had no contact with family, friends — I was told not to, because they would drag me back into samsara (“the wheel of suffering”). They said to me to keep away from women and relationships because they are totally neurotic. He abused my family in public. ‘Your mum’s castrated your father emotionally, and she’ll do the same to you’, he’d say. The first time it happened I was shocked, but I was intent on getting away from my addictions and I thought ‘I just have to go through with this’ and I gritted my teeth.
“After six months, I said to a friend in the community that I felt I was losing my marbles. This got back to him. He suggested that the reason was because I was gay and was repressing it. It was all to do with my mother and that was why I had ended up taking drugs. I thought, ‘Well, I like my male friends and I’m close to them but I’m not attracted to them’. But I was so confused that I began to doubt everything about myself, including my sexuality. I had put all my eggs in one basket and I’d invested so much in it all — this was the meaning of life and death.
“Then he used to say, ‘Can’t you feel what’s going on between us?’ I just didn’t know- yes, no, I don’t know. I was so done in and the meaning of life had become bound up with my homosexuality and its repression. Gradually he became more and more clear about my homosexuality being directed towards him. He could solve this for me, he used to say. In the end he took me to bed. It happened twice. It couldn’t have been much fun for him, it so obviously wasn’t where I was at.”
Like Mark, Tim blamed himself and remained in the FWBO unhappy and confused. He only finally left six months ago. He emphasises that there are other FWBO members who have always treated him with respect. But he has become bitter about their failure to protect him at a vulnerable stage in his life. In the last couple of months, a senior Order member has apologised to him.
The tightly controlled manipulative environment at this centre which Tim describes also played a major role in the suicide of Matthew (his family does not wish the surname to be used) in 1990. Like Mark and Tim, Matthew started FWBO meditation classes at a vulnerable point in his life. Highly intelligent, he had won a scholarship to Oxford to read law but after coming down had grown increasingly disenchanted with careerism and materialism. He suffered from depression and was attracted to meditation to cope with his emotional problems. He moved into the FWBO centre where he lived from 1984 to 1987, working in the co-operative business as a builder/decorator. While he was there, he cut virtually all his contacts with friends and family.
When he emerged, he was “withdrawn and bleak”, according to his mother, Denise. He was unable to hold down a job or start a relationship and was referred to a psychiatrist to be treated for depression. Three years later, he committed suicide.
Some of his diary entries while he was with the FWBO capture his confusion and anguish:
January 1985: I feel more trapped here. Trapped by the … routine, trapped by the ominous determination of “spiritual friends” to keep me here. I’m losing my will. Panic! I seem to have stumbled in desperate need of shelter into the Tiger’s Cave.
February: I feel sometimes that openness to the Order means giving up one’s mind, thus becoming merely an adjunct of the Order. Still could be great!
After Matthew’s death, his mother found two letters he had written to FWBO members after he left but which he had never sent. In one he wrote: “I have felt manipulated all the way by people who have allowed themselves to be manipulated. I am now out of reach of all that ghastly sales talk … [it was] a petty totalitarian state, an Orwellian Albania with its own Big Brother.” In another, he said: “I could never return to that ghastly concentration camp atmosphere with its force-fed dogma and drip-feed friendships … where reason and individual experience are crushed by people who expect total submission before any real friendship or recognition is gained.”
Matthew was seen for two years by a clinical psychologist, who was in no doubt of the detrimental impact the FWBO had on him. He concluded in his report: “Matthew’s problems as to a large part resulted from the traumatic effects of his experiences whilst he had been a member of the FWBO … talked about them with great bitterness. He told me he had decided shortly after entering the FWBO community that he was unsuited to stay there; however he felt trapped and unable to leave as he had fallen under the influence of his tutor, a man he later came to see as being an exceptionally skilful manipulator of other people.
“Matthew felt that the senior members of the community attempted to deliberately break up his identity, in order to get him to accept the fundamental principles and practices of the community. He tried to resist this process and therefore entered into a prolonged period of psychological conflict with them. He feels the community attempted to alienate him from his family and from women, and that direct attempts were made to encourage him to practise homosexuality. He stated that he did not indulge in homosexual practices, although attempts were made for him to do so both by using inducements and by using threats.
“In my opinion Matthew’s three-year residence in the FWBO had extremely harmful psychological effects upon him … I have no doubt that this inability to cope with rejection [of losing the job shortly before his suicide] from others directly stemmed from the years of psychological abuse and rejection he had experienced whilst he was a member of the Buddhist community.”
Senior Buddhists have been worried about the FWBO for many years. While unaware of the scandal in the eighties until now — remarkably, no hint of it appears to have gone beyond the FWBO — they had feared just this eventuality, and believe that Sangharakshita’s interpretation of Buddhism can be used to licence sexual and psychological abuse. It is an allegation the FWBO fiercely rejects.
Sangharakshita’s and Subhuti’s published writings reveal an extraordinary agenda on sex, family and women. A misogynistic biological determinism consigns women to a “Lower Evolution”, where their hormonal rhythms and desire for children render them spiritually inferior to men. The biological drive apparently makes women manipulative as they seek to “ensnare” men into providing for them and their offspring. Women as mothers and partners suffocate the development of men’s true identity. The heterosexual couple is scorned as “mutually addictive and neurotic” and the family is the “enemy of the spiritual community”. Rearing children is dismissed by Sangharakshita in a memorable analogy as being as spiritually significant as a rainy day.
Sangharakshita sees the FWBO as developing a blueprint for a radically new society. Members are encouraged to move into single-sex communities and in their businesses work-teams are also singe-sex; this is regarded as more conducive to the spiritual life. Even husband and wives are encouraged to live separately. It is primarily within same-sex relationships — whether or not they involve sex — that members are expected to discover the full benefits of spiritual friendship. There is no imposition of a vow of celibacy; members are simply advised not to invest too much emotion in their sexual relationships. Subhuti even advocates casual sex as a way of achieving this.
The FWBO emphasises that these teachings are not all put in practice. Most FWBO members are heterosexuals and a large number have families. It says there is considerable debate on some teachings and, given the importance placed on individual judgement, there is plenty of room for people to disagree. It also argues that the movement is evolving and has become much more open to families and heterosexual relationships. It points to a strong, self-confident women’s wing — a third of ordained Order members are women — as evidence that there is no structural misogyny.
There are other parts of FWBO teaching which gained currency in the seventies and eighties from which it is now anxious to distance itself. Subhuti argued in an FWBO internal magazine in 1986 that it could be beneficial to change sexual orientation as a way of recognising — and liberating yourself from — your conditioning; and that a teacher/mentor could use sex as a way of opening up communication with their pupil. Homosexual sex was promoted as more conducive to the spiritual life than heterosexual sex. Some members tried to raise the alarm, warning that novices were being damaged by sexually predatory teachers and demanding an end to the “glorification of homoerotic feelings”. But it was not until 1988 that the FWBO discovered how such ideas had been implemented at the centre attended by Tim and Matthew.
It is not hard to see how one FWBO centre became a cult. Like any new religious movement, there is a strong tendency to denigrate the outside world in order to strengthen its adherents’ commitment to the movement — Sangharakshita reserves his most contemptuous scorn for a host of evils which include “pseudo-liberalism”, feminism and Christianity. There is always a danger that this leads to a self-referential introversion in which an unscrupulous, charismatic and sexually manipulative personality can run amok.
This was exactly the outcome Stephen Batchelor, a prominent Buddhist commentator and author of Buddhism without Beliefs had always feared in the FWBO as a “potentially totalitarian system”. He says: “They operate as a self-enclosed system and their writings have the predictability of those who believe they have all the answers. They are structured in a rigid hierarchy and do not seem to question the teachings of their leader. As with many new religious movements, their enthusiasm and unconventional convictions have the potential to lead to problems associated with ‘cults’ and one centre in the eighties does appear to have tipped over into full-blown cultish behaviour, which, to the FWBO’s credit, they closed down.”
While he describes Sangharakshita as a “very sensitive man”, Batchelor finds his views on heterosexual relationships “bizarre” and his views on women “distasteful”.
Ken Jones, lecturer and author of several books on Buddhism, believes that the FWBO is now changing but it still has a long way to go before losing its “locker-room” culture of aggressive male bonding akin to public school or the army: “There’s a culture of angry young men struggling against women, the family and the state. All of that has nothing to do with Buddhism and a lot to do with Sangharakshita’s psychology. In that kind of culture, you can get cult like behaviour and victimisation. It’s a deviant form of Buddhism.”
A leading Buddhist teacher who did not wish to be named is particularly concerned by the FWBO’s belittling of the family and child rearing, which he argues has traditionally been perceived as a enormous valuable “spiritual training ground” within Buddhist tradition. “Amongst other Buddhists, attitudes towards the FWBO range from caution to suspicion,” he says, adding that the FWBO is a “Westernised semi-intellectual pot-pourri of Buddhism” conflated with 20th century psychotherapy and Nietszche.
“In the West perhaps people could distinguish between Catholicism and the Moonies but they can’t distinguish between types of Buddhism. Not many know very much about Buddhism. Even the well-educated who are attracted to Buddhism are completely credulous when it comes to spiritual things.”
While the FWBO’s Buddhism may be awry, and some of the fruits of that have been disastrous, there are many sincere Buddhists within the Order who will be profoundly disturbed by this article. The FWBO argues in effect that the day to day activities and friendships within it have little to do with some of the ideas of Sangharakshita and Subhuti. It seems that where the FWBO becomes dangerous is when people begin to apply such teaching literally. Some have done so in the past — with devastating consequences. Could they again?
Sex and the sect.
The heterosexual couple is … ‘neurotically dependent on each other and [the] relationship, therefore, is one of mutual exploitation and mutual addiction’ — Sangharakshita.
…’a fragile and unwholesome unit. It offers little real stability and happiness and, by virtue of the clinging and delusion that it embodies, is antithetical to spiritual life’ — Subhuti.
‘‘Some people might decide to keep clear of unhealthy attachment by happily enjoying a number of different sexual relationships’ — Subhuti
‘‘If you set up a community, you abolish the family at a stroke…the single-sex community is probably one of our most powerful means of assault on the existing social set-up’ — Sangharakshita
‘Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra (novice) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata (spiritual friendship) to develop.
‘Some, of course, are predisposed to this attraction, others have deliberately chosen to change their sexual preferences in order to use sex as a medium of kalyana mitrata — and to stay clear of the dangers of male-female relationships without giving up sex’ — Subhuti (in 1986)
© The Guardian 1997