The FWBO is a UK based religious charity, which also has about thirty centres in the rest of the world. The FWBO offers public classes in meditation, Buddhism, and related disciplines. They also run residential communities, retreat centres, fundraising trusts, and various businesses, and they can be viewed on the Internet at: http://www.fwbo.org/index.html [WARNING: this is the cult's home page]
This page is part of an ex - FWBO site.
The purpose of this site is to inform a wider public about some of the
harmful aspects of new religious movements and mind control cults in general,
and of the FWBO in particular. The site
is spread over a number of pages:
Dennis Lingwood was born in Tooting, London, in 1925. He was posted to India with the British Army during W.W. II, and stayed on there after the war. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk in Sarnath, N. India, in 1950, and given the name Sangharakshita. He then based himself in Kalimpong, near Darjeeling in N.India, where he studied with a number of Tibetan Lamas, including Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He received Bodhisattva ordination from Dhardo Rinpoche, and also founded The Kalimpong Young Men's Buddhist Association.
However, he returned to England in 1964, having been, reportedly, expelled by the Indian authorities. According to this report, considerable concern had built up over rumours about Sangharakshita's sexual behavior with young male students of Buddhism. In particular, there was an Indian family that wished to prosecute Sangharakshita for having seduced their son. A very senior Indian politician, who was sympathetic to Buddhism and also something of an anglophile, intervened personally in order to protect the good name of Buddhism from the risk of being damaged by the publicity surrounding such a case. He persuaded the family to drop the case, on condition Sangharakshita left India. A post as resident monk at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara in London was arranged for Sangharakshita. Christmas Humphreys, a prominent English Buddhist of the time, was closely involved in arranging this move, but he omitted to tell the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara of the full reasons behind the move, and he also took great care to keep the politician's name out of things, lest this politician be accused of colluding in a cover-up.
Because Sangharakshita and others kept the true reasons for his departure from India largely quiet, initially he and his teachings were well received by Buddhists in England, who were impressed by his erudition, knowledge and the length of time he had spent studying in Buddhist monasteries and viharas in India. As The Buddhist Handbook (John Snelling, Century Hutchinson, 1987) put it: 'For a time [Sangharakshita's] impressive learning made him the idol of the British Buddhist scene'.
However, in 1966 Sangharakshita was expelled from the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, for sexual misconduct and for other reasons.(see appendix A1 ) Two of his alleged male sexual partners from this period committed suicide.
In 1967, Sangharakshita joined forces with Rev. Jack Austin, who was then the British representative of the Western Buddhist Order, a small organisation which had been set up in America in 1951 by Ven. Sumangalo (Robert Clifton). Rev. Jack Austin was a member of this order, having been ordained by Ven. Sumangalo in London in 1952. (Appendix A2a)
Sangharakshita and Rev. Jack Austin began activities together under the name of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. However Rev. Jack Austin not long after resigned in protest. He writes: 'Soon after its launch, I broke company with Lingwood over his insistence that a Zen master [a Japanese monk whom Jack had invited] must not be allowed to teach Zen, only Lingwood being qualified to do so!' and: 'Lingwood never did brook any disagreement at any time.' (appendix A2b). Jack Austin's resignation allowed Sangharakshita to take complete control of the FWBO, effectively running it as his personal fief, and as a platform for his own personal views. Sangharakshita subsequently claimed to have founded both the Western Buddhist Order and the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order himself.
Thirty years on, in 1997, the FWBO has a UK membership of around 5,000, with about 600 ordained members. There are 20 or so public centres in this country, each with a separate charity registration, and a similar number in the rest of the world. The core activity of the FWBO is the holding of public classes and retreats, at which they claim to 'teach meditation and Buddhism in an authentic and appropriate way to people in the modern West' (A3a). The FWBO also engages in a variety of related activities, such as establishing businesses and residential communities, teaching Buddhism in schools, prison visiting, teaching yoga, t'ai chi, karate, and so on.
The FWBO is keen to represent itself as an authentic, bona-fide Buddhist organisation, whose members are among the most genuinely committed followers of the dharma in the West. They have an active public relations wing, attending Buddhist conferences and making contact with figures in the Buddhist world. The group publishes books, magazines, and videos, and can be viewed on the web at http://www.fwbo.org/index.html . However, there is another side to the story, which the group is not so keen to have publicised.
In the UK, the FWBO operates through a chain of Registered Charities. The stated goal of this group of Charities is 'the advancement of the Buddhist religion' (rule 2), but the actual goal of the Order which controls these Charities is the dissemination of a specious, non-Buddhist ideology, invented by Sangharakshita, which, inter alia, attacks family values and promotes homosexuality. Essentially, Sangharakshita has conflated traditional Buddhist teachings with his own personal views, to produce an amalgam which could be described as Lingwoodism. He uses this ideology to seduce some of his students. All this takes place covertly and surreptitiously behind the facade of a series of Registered Charities.
Some of the differences between Lingwoodism and established Buddhist teaching and practice are minor, whilst others are more substantial. This section concentrates primarily on Sangharakshita's teachings on the family and on human sexuality, which deviate strongly from established Buddhist teaching and practice .
In common, superficially, with mainstream Buddhist traditions, Sangharakshita teaches that human individuals suffer from the effects of 'conditioning', a concept he has derived partly from the traditional Buddhist teaching of Patticca-samuppada (lit. 'dependent origination'), and partly from twentieth century ideas about psychological conditioning. He teaches that the attainment of 'enlightenment' (the goal of traditional Buddhism) depends on seeing through, and liberating oneself from, such conditioning. Sangharakshita, like genuine Buddhist teachers, offers his followers a range of meditation and other practices designed to break the bonds of past conditioning.
Where he diverges from most Buddhists, however, is in the emphasis he places on heterosexual relations and on the (allegedly) inferior nature of women as a primary source of such conditioning. Sangharakshita teaches that family ties are repressive, and that the heterosexually based nuclear family is a material edifice stultifying the spiritual potential of its members, both parents and children. One of the main reasons for this, according to Sangharakshita, is that women are lower on the evolutionary scale, because they have wombs and are therefore more attuned to the biological or animal level, whereas men are less biological and more spiritual, and therefore men are more evolved than women. As FWBO member Subhuti puts it: 'woman's form, her "psycho-spiritual complex", already gives greater expression to interests and concerns that have little affinity with spiritual life. Her consciousness is therefore, from the outset, likely to be more limited.'(A4a) Or in Sangharakshita's words: 'Angels are to men as men are to women - because they are more human and, therefore, more divine.' (A4b).
If men are to develop their full spiritual potential, and avoid being smothered by women's more limited consciousness, they should keep their contacts with women to a minimum, and avoid living in a heterosexual nuclear family. Sangharakshita places considerable emphasis on abolishing the heterosexual family based way of life, because it is 'a really massive source of conditioning' (A5a) and 'all very much on the animal level'. (A5b)
Sangharakshita recommends, for both men and women, that they live instead in one of the FWBO's single sex communities. He comments: 'the single sex community is probably our most powerful means of frontal assault on the existing social set up. Because it changes so many things... it changes the whole rhythm of your day-to-day existence. It changes your psychological attitude, changes your emotional attitude; corrects your emotional dependence on the opposite sex...' (A5a). and: 'The [neurotic heterosexual] "couple" is the enemy of the spiritual community.'(A6a). These ideas are taken up within the FWBO as a whole; the London Buddhist Centre, for example, describes its communities thus: 'Most are single sex, an essential rejection of the emotional coma of the nuclear family and marriage in all its convoluted forms.' (A6b) While single-sex religious orders are an essential part of the Buddhist tradition, Sangharakshita's analysis of the negative effect of heterosexual relations, and of family life, is extreme, and has led a number of Buddhists to express their concern.
While most Buddhists would agree that sexual attraction between men and women, the institution of marriage, and the raising of families, provide strong sources of the conditioning which binds people to a cycle of everyday life (seen as a source of 'suffering'), they also accept that family life is a necessary part of the human condition and of the perpetuation of society. Mainstream Buddhism offers two paths for spiritual development, one as a householder and the other as a celibate monk (male or female) living in a monastic order. The life of a monk is one which is highly valued and greatly respected in Buddhist societies. However, it would not be usual for Buddhist traditions to pressurise their youths into becoming monks by presenting family life as a degraded or worthless state. Monks tend to be recruited as a result of their desire to emulate the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment, or as a result of traditional arrangements, rather than as a result of the monastic orders portraying family life as an unworthy institution.
Where Sangharakshita departs most widely from mainstream Buddhist traditions, however, is in his interpretation of the significance of homosexual feelings. For most Buddhists, it would be absurd to renounce the shackles created by heterosexual attraction by entering a single-sex community, only to replace them with the shackles of homosexual attraction.
However, this is exactly what Sangharakshita encourages. Despite a monk's vow of celibacy, he has been at times, certainly since 1972, a practicing homosexual, and allegations and warnings concerning his sexual behavior, on his return from India, caused considerable concern among English Buddhists, who initially had had great respect for him. A letter written by Maurice Walshe, Chairman of The English Sangha Trust at the time, gives some impression of this concern. (A1)
While the mere fact of Sangharakshita's homosexuality is, of course, well within the law, he goes further than this, and surreptitiously uses the FWBO, a registered charity, to discourage heterosexual or family relationships; to promote homosexuality within his movement; and to procure homosexual partners for himself. He does this by presenting Buddhist concepts in an unusual light.
The Buddhist tradition of Kalyana Mitrata ('spiritual friendship', as
it is often translated), for example, is a relationship between an experienced
monk and a novice. It is a relationship of trust. Within the FWBO this
relationship is between an experienced order member (the kalyana mitra)
and an aspiring order member (the mitra). This relationship may well involve
a homosexual component. In most Buddhist orders, such a development would
be discouraged as yet another source of conditioning; in the FWBO, it is
accepted and even encouraged. The point is illustrated, for example, by
an article by Subhuti (a senior order member) appearing in the FWBO's publication,
Shabda (appendix A7), from which the following quote is taken:
However, most order members appear to accept and condone homosexual activity as an aspect of spiritual friendship, and sometimes describe this as 'Greek love'. A letter from Rev. Daishin Morgan (who is not an FWBO member) reports one example of this (A9)
What makes the FWBO's promotion of homoerotic feelings particularly worrying is the pseudo-spiritual context within which it is placed. Briefly stated, this context is as follows:
2. Male homosexuality, on the other hand, can be a positive feature of the relationship between an ordained priest and a novice, and can actually be a source of spiritual growth for the latter (as in the quote from Subhuti above).
3. In our society, men are conditioned by social and family pressures to reject homosexuality; feeling repelled by the idea of having sexual relations with someone of one's own sex is a symptom of this conditioning, and is therefore something which needs to be overcome. Men in British society tend to avoid touching each other; men need to show more physical affection to one another, in order to break down this conditioning. e.g. '[Western men] must break down their fear of homosexuality, by facing it, and by not being afraid of sexual contact with other men' (A10).
4. In certain cases (see Section 3), a teacher may be able to enhance the strength of his teachings by having homosexual relations with a disciple.
In common with a number of religious movements, the newcomer gets the friendly and socially acceptable public face of the movement. Turning up for the first time at an FWBO centre, they will get Buddhist chanting, some instruction on meditation, talks on spiritual development, tea and biscuits, and a warm, supportive and welcoming atmosphere. It is only after some time that the mysogyny, homo-eroticism and other aspects of the hidden agenda may become evident, and indeed some order members may never achieve enough distance from the isolated lives they eventually come to lead in the order to see how substantially their personalities and even sexual preferences have been changed. In short, the FWBO appears to operate as a cult, using mind control or brainwashing techniques to manipulate its members. (see appendix A11, page 2, where a consultant psychiatrist gives the reasons why she considers the FWBO to be a cult; and also Section 2, 'What is a Cult?').
There is a fairly rapid turnover among those attending public classes. The turnover rate decreases steadily with each progressive level of involvement; only one or two people each year leave the most involved group, the order members. The movement continues to expand at the present time.
One factor that has allowed Sangharakshita to get away with this for so long is his close control control over the membership of the FWBO. No one can be a legal member of any of the individual FWBO Charities unless they are first a member of the Western Buddhist Order (WBO). Sangharakshita, as the head of this Order, decides whether or not someone is ready to be ordained into his Order. To the best of my knowledge, there are no FWBO/WBO members who have not been personally approved by Sangharakshita. Latterly he has begun to devolve a degree of responsibility onto 'The College of Preceptors', a small group of selected senior order members whom he 'has worked with and knows well'. Sangharakshita has, apparently deliberately and methodically, succeeded in establishing a power structure (the Western Buddhist Order and in particular the College of Preceptors) which is under his exclusive control but which has no legal status. This Order operates through a series of supposedly independent Registered Charities (the FWBOs), which effectively rubber stamp Sangharakshita's decisions, while carrying all legal liabilities which may follow from his control over the Order. They rubber stamp Sangharakshita's decisions because to do otherwise is to risk expulsion from the Order by Sangharakshita, as has happened in a number of cases. Sangharakshita does not want his authority as a teacher of 'Buddhism' challenged from within the FWBO. Those who, for example, question the ethics of seducing students, are liable to expulsion without appeal.
Knowledgeable Buddhists from outside the FWBO might be able to see through Sangharakshita, and would certainly be able to point out ways in which he distorts and falsifies traditional Buddhist teachings, and so he needs to prevent such Buddhists from becoming members of his order. He has a record of not allowing other Buddhists, from outside the FWBO, to teach under the auspices of the FWBO, as in the case of Rev. Jack Austin above, and there are other documented examples. Sangharakshita has stated his 'conviction that the less the FWBO is involved with "Buddhist groups" and with individuals affiliated to existing Buddhist traditions the better'. (A3b) This conviction is inconsistent with the rules of the FWBO, a Registered Charity, which state that: 'The [FWBO] Centre accepts all aspects of the Buddhist Tradition and recognises the value of each and intends to work in harmony with all other existing Buddhist groups and organisations.' (Rule 4).
Sangharakshita would have great difficulty in finding any bona-fide and knowledgeable Buddhists from outside the FWBO who would go along with his own peculiar interpretations of Buddhist teachings, and in fact such Buddhists are conspicuous by their absence.
Cult Information Centre UK based site, with links to other sites.
Freedom of Mind Resource Center US based site from Steven Hassan, the author of 'Combatting Cult Mind Control'
Spiritual Responsibility: Avoiding Abuses and Pitfalls Along the Path A page from Steven Hassan's site, which has an overview of cults from Lama Surya Das, an American trained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This page also contains the classic 'Eight Criteria of Mind Control' by Robert J. Lifton.
[Back to] ex-cult archive at www.ex-cult.org