The three jewels
Triratna is sanskrit for the Three Jewels. These jewels, or treasures, are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. One is a Buddhist when these become the central principles in one's life and one is said to be Going For Refuge to the Three Jewels.
The Buddha jewel represents the Buddha as the ultimate teacher, who through his own efforts became Enlightened, and also the personal aspiration to become Enlightened for the sake of all beings.
The word Dharma has many meanings, in the context of the Dharma jewel it refers to the teachings of the Buddha and the practices which cultivate mindfulness and kindness.
The Sangha jewel represents the spiritual community who guide us and with whom we develop supportive friendships. In it's broadest meaning the Sangha is all the Buddhists across the world and across time past and future.
a buddhist movement
Triratna was founded in 1967 by Sangharakshita, an Englishman born as Dennis Lingwood in Tooting in South London in 1925. At the age of 16 Sangharakshita read the Diamond Sutra and realised that he was a Buddhist and furthermore, that he always had been.
Sangharakshita was ordained in 1949 during his 20 years in India. This time was spent studying, teaching and writing extensively under the guidance of several Buddhist teachers from Theravada, Chinese, Cha'an and Tibetan Vajrayana traditions. Returning to England in 1964, Sangharakshita began teaching and in 1967 it became clear to him that a new Buddhist movement was required and the Western Buddhist Order was created (the name was changed to Triratna in 2007). Sangharakshita handed organisational responsibility for Triratna to The College of Public Preceptors in 2000, but continued writing and meeting with with thousands of visitors until his death on October 30th 2018, aged 93.
Triratna draws on teachings from several Buddhist traditions but does not identify with any one more than another, preferring instead to consider its approach as simply Buddhist.
being a buddhist
Those who choose to practice in the context of the Triratna Buddhist Order and community have committed to the spiritual path of Enlightenment. This path is also known as Going For Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha or Three Jewels, and is of central importance. A monastic lifestyle is therefore not a requirement to practice within Triratna; many Order members and those practicing in Triratna as friends or Mitras; people who have made a deeper commitment to practicing as a Buddhist, are married or live in families. In addition there are those who choose to live in Buddhist communities.
One aspect of Going For Refuge is deepening ethical awareness through practicing the Five Precepts or the Ten Precepts for those who are ordained.
Through practicing the precepts and engaging in other practices such as meditation and devotion, developing spiritual friendships, going on retreat and study, it's possible to notice positive changes and development of spiritual faculties and can provide greater understanding or meaning of life.
An ever widening circle
The Buddha taught that friendship is the whole of the spiritual life so the Triratna Buddhist community places particular emphasis on spiritual friendship. In sanskrit this is kalyanamitrata, where kalyana means beautiful and mitrata means friendship.
An ever widening circle, the Sangha grows.