What is Sangha?
Sangha, the Heart of the Buddhist Centre
Sangha is a Sanskrit word for community. Traditionally it refers to all the enlightened men and women who have come before us, and in the East it usually means the community of monks and nuns. In our Triratna Buddhist Community, Sangha is our community of practitioners – the people we share our spiritual lives with.
The guidance of more experienced friends, and the support and friendship of others on the path are very important because Buddhism is an approach to life, not an abstract philosophy. The Buddha once said that spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life, and we see friendship as the whole of the Triratna Buddhist Community.
Ananda: Lord, I think that half of the Holy Life is spiritual friendship…
The Buddha: That’s not so; say not so, Ananda. It is not half of the Holy Life, it is the whole of the Holy LifeUpaddha Sutta
A Network of Friends
Our Centre isn’t just a place for teaching meditation, or learning about Buddhism. Everything we do together here supports a network of spiritual friendships, whether it’s meditation, study, ritual, going on retreat or looking after the building. When we share our efforts to become more than we currently are, trust can build up as we all at least try to be ethical, to be aware of ourselves and others, to express metta, or loving-kindness.
Of course, our Sangha isn’t perfect. It is only when all individuals have achieved a profound level of wisdom and freedom from ego that the Sangha finds its ultimate potential. But even so, this side of Enlightenment it’s pretty good!
Starting to feel Part of Things
The Manchester Buddhist Centre Sangha includes anyone who practises with us and comes to the Centre regularly. It is made up of Friends, Mitras and Order Members.
Many other people just come to the Centre for yoga classes, to eat at the café or attend occasional events, because they like it!
We consider someone a Friend when they have been to some introductory classes, and now come to the Centre to join in other activities, sometimes volunteering here. There is no pressure to take their involvement further, and some people remain Friends for many years, making a valuable contribution to our community.
Mitra is a Sanskrit word for friend. Here, it means deepening your friendship with the Triratna Buddhist Community, and making a formal commitment to practising Buddhism within the context of the Manchester Buddhist Centre in a simple, public ceremony.
Some Mitras go on to ask for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order. They prepare for this through around five years of training, including retreats, peer support groups, study, and deepening friendships with local Order members. They are sometimes known as GFR Mitras – as they are trying to deepen their Going For Refuge to Buddhism’s Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
Two Mitra convenors, Acharashraddha and Vishangka, co-ordinate and support Mitra activities at the Centre. Speak to them or any other Order member if you are wondering about taking this step.
About Order Members
At the heart of the Triratna Buddhist Community is the Triratna Buddhist Order. Order members commit to following the Buddhist path to Enlightenment, as the central point of their lives. Their understanding of the Dharma is based on the teachings of our founder, Sangharakshita.
They undertake to practise a traditional set of ten ethical precepts and have all been in a long period of training before joining the Order. At ordination they are given a new name in Pali or Sanskrit, often relating to qualities they have or aspire to.
The Order is neither lay nor monastic – some Order members have families, some are celibate practitioners, or anagarikas. Some live and work in Triratna’s residential communities and team-based working situations, others work in non-Buddhist settings. Order members’ spiritual commitment is the crucial thing, not their lifestyle. Above all they try to share their spiritual lives, and co-operate in practising and spreading the Dharma. The Order is open to any man or woman, regardless of age, race, class, gender, sexuality, caste or any other criterion, who is sincerely and effectively committed to practising the Dharma.
Sharing in the work of running the Centre is a great way of feeling part of things – read more about joining in and giving your time.
If we learn to relate to our friends with metta, we will gradually learn to respond to the whole world with metta, with unselfishness. It is in this way that spiritual friendship is indeed the whole of the spiritual lifeSangharakshita
Festivals and Ritual
Engaging Heart and Mind
Our festival days are important times for Sangha members to come together:
- Parinirvana Day in February
- Buddha Day in May, sometimes known as Wesak
- Dharma Day in July
- Sangha Day in November
At festivals we celebrate an aspect of Buddhist practice with devotional practice and rituals such as Puja. We also celebrate significant figures in the Triratna Community, including Padmasambhava in September and Dr Ambedkar in October.
What is Puja?
A Puja is a set of verses invoking gratitude to the Buddha and aspects of his teaching. We usually chant them in call and response here, with the words and translations available, and with no pressure to join in. The Buddhist path isn’t just about intellectual understanding – Puja can help us engage with our emotions and imagination too.
In the Buddha’s time, the full moon gave the Sangha a regular opportunity to gather for teachings, Puja and meditation, and this tradition continues in the Buddhist world today. We usually celebrate on the weekend, or sometimes the Monday evening, nearest to the full moon day.
Festivals and Rituals coming up
Pujas are beautiful – I feel I’m connecting to Buddhism with both heart and mind
Going on Retreat
On retreat, you can deepen your meditation, cultivate mindfulness, and learn more about Buddhism.
When Manchester Buddhist Centre has organised the retreat, there’s also a chance to develop friendships with other people who come to the Centre. Our retreats are usually held at outdoor centres in beautiful Derbyshire countryside.
We also sometimes hold urban retreats, providing many retreat-like conditions while being non-residential and taking place alongside ordinary life.
Retreat FundSangha members who cannot afford a retreat may be able to get help from our retreat bursary fund. Or if you can, please join in and give to the fund so everyone gets the chance to go on retreat.
There was just a sense of space that was fantastic and I felt like I could be me
Who’s Who at the Centre?
These are some of the people at the heart of the Centre – our Chair, President,Trustees and the small team managing the day to day running. There’s no room to add all the others who give their time freely here as teachers, receptionists and so much more. Everyone involved in running the Centre and our classes has committed to the Buddhist path, either by joining the Triratna Buddhist Order (when they are given a Buddhist name evoking their qualities and aspirations) or by becoming a Mitra. Order members wear a white sash called a kesa, which shows the commitment they have made.
Trustee, teacher, women's Mitra convenor
(Ach-a-ra-shrad-haa) “Immovable faith”
(Dhar-ma-ka-roon-ya) “She whose compassion comes from the Dharma”
(Maya-tri-nandi) “Delighting in friendliness”
(See-la-bo-dee) “Enlightenment through virtue”
(Art-er-pree-er) “Lover of the meaning/good”
Trustee, teacher, public preceptor
(Die-a-nan-dee) “Bliss of kindness”
Centre team (finance)
(Moksha-va-di-ni) “Speaks of liberation”
Centre team (maintenance, health & safety)
(Tar-ruh-van-dun-na) “She who salutes Tara”
Chair, trustee, teacher
(Art-er-var-din) “He who speaks the good/meaningful”
Centre team (bookshop), teacher
(Pra-sar-doo) “An offering”
Centre Team (IT, admin), teacher
(St’hira-joti) “Steady light or radiance”
Trustee, teacher, men's Mitra convenor, safeguarding officer
Trustee, Centre manager, teacher
(Ma-ha-shrad-ha) “Great faith”
Centre team (Dana project)
Centre Team (programme), teacher
Centre team (publicity), teacher
(Videea-pala) “Protector of wisdom”