Read below about the history and current situation with regards to gender at the Bristol Buddhist Centre and Triratna more widely.
Gender – History & Origination of Triratna’s Approach
Initially classes and gatherings in Triratna were not single-sex. The movement started out as a small gathering of people in London and grew from there to what it is today. In The Triratna Story Vajragupta shares where the initial men’s and women’s ‘wings’ originated from in the 1970s and 1980s. A “more-or-less by chance” arising of men sharing space together and finding it beneficial and this has led to the single-sex structure of Triratna today. Many men and women find this to be beneficial in their spiritual lives and practice. However it is not universally favoured.
Gender and the Triratna Buddhist Order and Movement
Broadly, there are two ‘wings’ of Triratna – mens and womens. Newcomers’ classes and community events tend to be ungendered, such as introductory courses, beginners meditation, ‘Sangha (community) Night’, most meditation classes and festival days.
When becoming a Mitra (deepening commitment to practise) it is standard that people move into either mens or womens mitra groups (Dharma discussion) and many people go to retreat centres, most of which are gendered (please note there are retreats available newcomers too, as well as ungendered retreat centres). There are retreats for gender diverse Buddhists. By the point of becoming a Mitra, people have a relationship with a Mitra convenor and/or Order Members, who will help share information and support them on where to go for retreats and which classes to attend.
If people choose to train for ordination the retreat centres are currently gendered into men’s and women’s. The retreat centres, as well as Triratna more widely, have ways of supporting people who do not identify within the binary gender system, and this is being discussed and actions taken to help improve inclusivity and access.
There is a Gender Diversity Working Group within Triratna.
Gender and the Bristol Buddhist Centre
At present, to be in-keeping and in relation to the wider structure of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Movement, we mainly run men’s/women’s groups from Mitra level and onwards. We now have a Gender Working Group to discuss gender structures within the centre and are taking action to increase inclusivity. Our ‘mens’ and ‘womens’ events and retreats will as standard be open to gender diverse people and named as such. We are also running a women and gender diverse people’s study group (pre-Mitra). We intend to keep discussing and reviewing the progress of these changes.
Our gendered spaces have evolved over many years. So if you are a non-binary or gender diverse person who would like to be a Mitra or train for ordination we warmly invite you into a mens or womens -centred space. This is what is available at present. We are open to having specific gender diverse groups as and when that is possible based on numbers and demand.
Society is now approaching gender in a different way and we want to reflect that within our Centre, whilst staying in relationship to the wider Triratna Buddhist Movement and Order. Things are gradually changing and we expect they will not stay as they are but continue to develop and evolve over time.
If you change your gender identification and would like us to know so we can send you information about the right events for your gender then please update us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Triratna Gender Diverse Buddhists on Facebook
Gender Diversity in Triratna – video interview