The Guardian’s Article on the FWBO
The FWBO and the Buddhist Tradition
More diffuse, less sensational and yet no less damaging, are the suggestions in the article that the FWBO is in some way not a legitimate form of Buddhism, even that it is, as one commentator puts it,
deviant. This is very weakly argued and relies on the opinions of three “senior” British Buddhists (one of whom is unnamed, while the other two are unlikely to consider themselves impartial commentators on such matters). Madeleine Bunting quotes both Stephen Batchelor’s and Ken Jones’ criticisms of the FWBO, but she fails to do justice to these individuals full appraisal of the FWBO. Both of these commentators make criticisms of some aspects of the FWBO, but neither seek to discredit the FWBO in its entirety and are openly supportive of much it has achieved.
There is a proper debate to be had concerning what makes something “real” Buddhism, but in the article there is neither substantiation, nor an opportunity for a reply from the FWBO. Neither Madelaine Bunting nor any of the individuals she quotes make clear their basis for evaluation. A fair discussion of these issues would suggest considering the various views within the Buddhist tradition about legitimacy and orthodoxy, and Sangharakshita’s own contribution to this discussion. He emphasises
the centrality of going for Refuge, i.e., the need to stay true to the spirit and goals of Buddhism rather than depending on formalistic supports.
Buddhism is new to the West, and the forms it has developed in the East cannot simply be transplanted to a very different cultural context. The FWBO attempts to translate the core teachings and practices of Buddhism while remaining true to the principles of the Dharma. Most Buddhists and Buddhist academics are sensitive to the complexities of this process and the issues it raises. Unfortunately The Guardian fails to address these issues in any more than a superficial and unbalanced way.