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Extending the Hand of Fellowship: the relation of the Western Buddhist Order to the rest of the Buddhist world
In its traditional Eastern homelands, Buddhism has entered an era of unprecedented decline. In the West, however, it is in the ascendant, and followers of its many and varied branches are meeting - at conferences, festivals, and even on the Internet - as they have never done before. At such a significant moment in history, it seems important to consider how Buddhists of different traditions should understand and relate to one another.
In this paper Sangharakshita discusses the basis upon which members of the Western Buddhist Order, which he founded in 1968, might associate with the rest of the buddhist world. To this end he outlines three principles: ecumenicity - the appreciation of a shared tradition; personal contact - to be meaningful, inter-buddhist relations can take place only between individuals; and orthodoxy - the recognition of the primacy of commitment to the Three Jewels over formal details of life-style.
Believing that relations between Buddhists must be informed by a warm appreciation of the rich heritage to which they are hears, Sangharakshita offers a glimpse of some major schools and the texts fromwhich they draw their inspiration. Ultimately this is a plea for honest friendship between all of the Buddha's followers, relevant to Buddhists everywhere.