Forty-three Years Ago
'What I reject is the identification of the spiritual life with the monastic life and the monastic life itself with pseudo-monastic formalism, an identification that has the effect of displacing the Act of Going for Refuge from its central and definitive place in the Buddhist life, creating a division between the Monastic Order and the laity, and relegating the latter to the position of second class Buddhists, besides seriously undermining the whole structure of Buddhism, both theoretical and practical.'
In 1968 Sangharakshita founded the Western Buddhist Order: an Order without bhikkhus and bhikkhunis ('monks' and 'nuns') yet without 'lay people' either. It was something quite new: an Order at whose heart lay, not the traditional monastic ordination, but the act of Going for Refuge, of wholehearted commitment to the ideals and practices of Buddhism. Today that Order is still growing and spreading, and has become an important element in the Buddhist world.
Here we are given a frank chronicle of the events and reflections which led Sangharakshita to question his own bhikkhu ordination and to reassess the effect of formal, monastic ordination on the Buddhist experience. Vividly documented and clearly argued, this book deserves to be read by all who are concerned with the future of Buddhism - whether in the East or in the West.