Vimalakirti and Bakul's expulsion from order

Letter from Subhuti, emailed to all FWBO order members, Fri 20 Aug 1999.
[Parts relevant to expulsions have been highlighted in bold below, for ease of reference.]

Poona, India
20 August, 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Many of you will have heard that I had to leave the Order Convention for India after giving my talk on the first evening of the Dhammacharis' part of the event. Lokamitra and Sudarshan left the previous day and Adityabodhi and Ratnakar followed me. We returned to India with such haste because a very serious crisis had developed that required strong and decisive action. The immediate consequences of our return are that Vimalakirti and Bakul are no longer members of the Order and Bodhidharma is suspended from the Order. It may be that two or three more will follow.

Bhante [Sangharakshita] wrote a letter to Vimalakirti, dated 6th August, a copy of which is appended, telling him that he no longer recognises him as a member of the Order. He wrote another letter, appended hereto, handing on to me his remaining responsibilities for the Order in India, especially for deciding whether or not someone was still a member of the Order. I wrote to Bakul on 14th August, telling him I no longer recognised him as an Order member and to Bodhidharma on 13th, telling him that, unless I heard from him shortly saying he did want to continue as an Order member, he would be considered to have excluded himself. He did [not] contact me, so he is suspended from participation in all order activities until we are able to resolve various issues.

The immediate cause of Vimalakirti's ceasing to be an Order member is a paper he wrote in which he argued for a separation of the Order in India from the Order as a whole. He made various other statements and allegations which amount to a resignation from the Order. The final paragraph reads thus:

‘Sangharakshita's movement is a deceptive grafting on Dr Ambedkar's Dhamma revolution mango tree. Sangharakshita's disciples will definitely take care of its existence and growth so that it will bear fruit. There is no doubt about this. By using Dr Ambedkar's name they will cut off all the branches of the original tree and what will remain will be the grafted branch and it will be that that grows and bears fruit. But Dr Ambedkar's followers should bear in mind that if the trunk of the tree is of Dr Ambedkar's movement, the fruits will be of the graft. So Dr Ambedkar's movement would have been destroyed completely. The Brahmins destroyed the Buddha by accepting him as one of the avatars [of Vishnu]. In the same way, by taking Dr Ambedkar's name, Sangharakshita's new tradition will destroy the whole movement for the welfare and progress of Untouchables. Whom are you going to chose? Dr Ambedkar's Dhamma revolution movement, which releases people from the hell of untouchability and which seeks to turn all India Buddhist and to help all people, or Sangharakshita's degenerate international movement which has nothing to do with the Dhamma revolution?’

After the publication of the paper, Vimalakirti, Bakul, and Bodhidharma held a seminar at the Mahavihara in Pune in which many of these views were rehearsed and public attacks were made on Bhante and other order members. Bakul has for some months been involved in a number of acts which put him outside the Order, such as using a majority to enforce his view on the Council of the Ahmedabad centre and publicly denouncing another Order member. In the cases of Vimalakirti and Bakul, they have excluded themselves from the Order, in Bhante's words, by their wrong views and unskilful actions.

In Bodhidharma's case there seems at least some grounds for hope. The Order clearly still means a lot to him and he has very positive feelings for Bhante. He has however done and said things that are unacceptable from an Order member. I shall be working with him over the next weeks to try to resolve things.

Vimalakirti has already started to fight back and there are signs that the situation could become quite dangerous - although he is clearly not getting the support he had expected. One reason why I am writing to you all in some haste with this brief account is that there are also signs that the events are likely to be internationalised through the Internet. It is almost inevitable that Vimalakirti and his allies have access to those who have been attacking us on the Internet and some of them are bound to pick up this particular stick and to start beating us with it. I am therefore writing initially to warn you of what may be coming. I will try to write a much fuller account of the history of the situation so that you have a better idea of what is going on. However, as you can well imagine, there is a lot going on here and I need to make that my priority.

If you do hear any rumours or see any news of what is happening in our movement in India, please contact Lokamitra or myself, via this email address, with a copy to Vishvapani.

I will conclude by saying that all other order members (save perhaps four or five) are very loyal. There is strong sense of solidarity - and of relief that all the tensions of the last years surrounding Vimalakirti are now ended. Even if hostility is being stirred up around us, it is so much easier to face it when it is not within the Order.

I do appreciate that some of you may wish to ask for more information. However, you will realise that under the circumstances we don't have time to give it. We will try and keep everyone informed of significant new developments.

19th August 1999


6th August 1999.

Dear Vimalakirti,

It is with much regret that I must inform you that I no longer consider you to be a member of the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha and that I will be communicating this to all order members world-wide. I am taking this step after hearing the various views you have recently expressed, especially in your paper 'Trailoka Bauddha Mahasangha and Dr Ambedkar's Dhamma Revolution' of 22nd July 1999, which show you to have excluded yourself from its membership.

I am very sorry that you have taken this step. I know how hard many Dhammacharis have worked over the years to remain in spiritual harmony with you and to consider very carefully all your views. Indeed, I myself have always valued your thinking. During this past year especially, under Dhammachari Anagarika Subhuti's guidance, senior Dhammacharis in India have had a series of meetings with you, of some three weeks duration in total, listening patiently to all your views. At the end of these meetings it appeared that there were no outstanding differences, yet you have written in the way you have, setting yourself outside the Order.

Over the last twenty or so years you have contributed a great deal to the work of the order and movement in India and it is with much sadness that we now find you separating from us. Please be sure of our appreciation and gratitude for what you have done and of our desire for continuing friendship with you.

I was surprised by many of the views you expressed in your document, with which I am not at all in agreement. Let me take up a few of the main points.

1. You do not believe that TBM is doing Dr Ambedkar's work. Whilst I very much appreciate and share your concern for the furthering of Dr Ambedkar's Dhamma revolution, I think you are seriously mistaken if you do not see our work as contributing to it in a very important way. Dr Ambedkar converted to Buddhism because he believed it gave the best possible basis for upliftment of the individual and of society. We have concentrated on this fundamental aspect of his vision by teaching the Dhamma to as many people as we can and offering an opportunity for deeper commitment to the Dhamma life, as well of course as doing social work. Dr Ambedkar realised that the whole of India must become Buddhist if the Dhamma revolution is finally to succeed and that too is our aim. We have made no small contribution to this vital aspect of Dr Ambedkar's vision, and indeed you have yourself played a significant part in our work. We intend to work yet more vigorously and effectively in the future to fulfil this project, which was so dear to Dr Ambedkar's heart, as I know from my personal communication with him.

2. You claim that the Order was started in India in my presence as a separate body from that which I started in the West. You argue that there are two Orders and two movements, one set Indian and the other Western. This is quite untrue. When I performed the first ordinations in India I made it completely clear that those being ordained were joining the one order that I had founded in the UK in 1968. on many occasions I spoke of this and am on record as doing so in 'Buddhayan' and 'Dhammamegha' - and indeed you and others took great pride in belonging to that united international Order and movement.

3. You do not consider the contribution of European Order members to have been beneficial to the development of Dr Ambedkar's work in India. Dr Ambedkar himself made it clear that the Dhamma revolution was going to require much help from the Buddhist world outside India. New Buddhists of the West have made a very great contribution in this way. I know that several members of the Order from the West have worked tirelessly and selflessly, both in the UK and in India, to help their Indian brothers and sisters. Many people in India have expressed great appreciation of what they have done, and that surely is the appropriate response.

4. You assert that Western Order members want to keep the movement in India under their control. Indeed, you argue that they consider the Order in India to be a branch of the Order in the West. This is simply not true. One could just as well argue that the Order in the West is a branch of the Order in India. Our Order is an international spiritual community, which attempts to transcend the boundaries of nationality and culture, and succeeds in doing so to a remarkable degree. Naturally there are many problems in creating a spiritual community that covers such widely divergent cultures as the modern West and India. However we do not seek to export Western culture to India nor to subordinate Indian Order members to Western ones. More and more Indians are taking leading responsibilities for the movement in India and indeed world-wide, and I expect that process to continue and intensify.

I am very sorry that you do not see things as I do and that we have come to this parting of the ways. I hope that we can part with good will and that we can maintain friendly relations in the future. I know that you will continue in your own way to work for the Dhamma revolution and I wish you all success. I hope that in time you will come to see that that is what we are doing too. You will always find us ready to readmit you to our spiritual fellowship.

Yours in the Dhamma,
(signed) Sangharakshita



As you all know, the Order and movement in India are very dear to my heart and each order member there means a great deal to me. I have been following closely the recent very difficult events in India with great concern. However, I have not felt it necessary to intervene personally because I can now trust fully my senior disciples, both Western and Indian, to deal skilfully with whatever occurs. In the absence of my direct intervention, I therefore want to make it clear to you that I am handing to Dhammachari Anagarika Subhuti all my remaining responsibilities for the Order in India. In the present circumstances this means in particular that he will be responsible for deciding whether or not any Dhammachari or Dhammacharini by virtue of their actions or wrong views has ceased to be a member of the Order.

I am sure that all Order members will co-operate fully with Subhuti in the performance of what may be difficult and painful tasks and I ask you to accept his decisions as if I had made them myself.

You may be sure that I am fully aware of the complete loyalty of the overwhelming majority of Order members in India and of your great dedication to the Three Jewels and to Dr Ambedkar's Dhamma revolution. My thoughts are very much with you at this most difficult time.

Yours in the Dhamma,
(signed) Sangharakshita