The Thought of Sangharakshita: A Critical Assessment

A balanced investigation of one of Buddhism's most controversial thinkers

Published by Equinox (2020)

Sangharakshita (1925-2018) was a Buddhist writer and teacher, founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community (previously FWBO). He died very recently (30th Oct 2018). Apart from his practical achievements, Sangharakshita was an original thinker on the adaptation of Buddhism to modern conditions, an autodidact whose intellectual creativity was stimulated by both cross-cultural experience and practical contingency. His thinking is little known or appreciated outside the movement he founded, but over-dominant within it. This means that there is a shortage of balanced critical discussion of his work that finds any middle way between hagiography and dismissal. Sangharakshita has also been an object of controversy in recent years, but his more controversial views and actions need to be seen in proportion to the whole of his thinking. This book surveys Sangharakshita’s most important and original ideas with an eye that combines appreciation and critical awareness in equal measure. It celebrates Sangharakshita’s pioneering syntheses of Buddhist and Western ideas, but warns against the inconsistencies and dogmas that are also found in Sangharakshita’s work – dogmas whose negative practical effects can also be traced.


Book launch video



1. Introduction

a. Meeting Sangharakshita
b. A Sketch of Sangharakshita’s Life and Work
c. The Practical Standpoint for Assessment

2. Making Buddhism universal

a. The Universal Dharma
b. Mind Reactive and Creative
c. Provisionality
d. Integration
e. Individuality
f. The Middle Way

3. Practice

a. The Eightfold Path
b. A System of Meditation
c. The Ten Precepts
d. Friendship
e. Institutions and Power
f. The Arts
g. Ritual

4. Interpreting Buddhist tradition

a. Enlightenment and ‘Reality’
b. Conditionality
c. Karma and rebirth
d. The Buddha
e. The Unity of Buddhism
f. Faith and Going for Refuge

5. Controversies

a. Sangharakshita’s Personal Authority
b. ‘The Bearer of the Archetype’
c. Women, Men and Angels
d. The Single Sex Idea
e. Sex and Scandal
f. Marriage and Family Life

6. Conclusion

a. Review of the Argument
b. Responses to the Argument
c. Sangharakshita’s Legacy

List of Sangharakshita’s Lectures and Seminars


Read a sample extract from the book