Sangharakshita, who founded the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now called the Triratna Buddhist Community) in 1967, is one of the founders of Western Buddhism. He was born Dennis Lingwood in South London in 1925. He had a Church of England upbringing, but he developed an interest in the cultures and philosophies of the East early on.

He realized he was a Buddhist at the age of sixteen, after reading the Diamond Sutra. He became involved in London&’s germinal Buddhist world in wartime Britain, and started to explore Buddhism through study and practice. Conscription in the Second World War took him to Sri Lanka, and after the war he stayed on in India. For a while he lived as a wandering mendicant, and later he was ordained as the Theravadin Buddhist monk Sangharakshita (meaning ‘protected by the spiritual community’).

Sangharakshita lived for many years in Kalimpong, where he encountered many leading teachers from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, so he had the opportunity to study for some years under leading teachers from the major Buddhist traditions. He went on to teach and write extensively, and he is now the author of over forty books. Most of these are expositions of the Buddhist tradition, but he has also published a large amount of poetry and several volumes of memoirs, as well as works on aspects of western culture and the arts from a Buddhist perspective.

Sangharakshita played a key part in the revival of Buddhism in India, particularly through his work among the ex-Untouchables, and he has also been concerned throughout his life with issues of social reform. After twenty years in India, he returned to England to establish the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in 1967 (called Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayak Gana, or TBMSG, in India) and the Western Buddhist Order in 1968. In 2010 the Western Buddhist Order  and Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayak Gana were renamed as the Triratna Buddhist Order, and the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order was renamed the Triratna Buddhist Community. <i>Triratna<i/> means “three jewels,” in reference to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

A translator between East and West, between the traditional world and the modern, between principles and practices, Sangharakshita has a depth of experience and clear thinking that have been appreciated throughout the world. He has always particularly emphasized the decisive significance of commitment in the spiritual life, the paramount value of spiritual friendship and community, the link between religion and art, and the need for a “new society” supportive of spiritual aspirations and ideals.

Now that the FWBO is an international Buddhist movement, Sangharakshita has handed over most of his responsibilities to his senior disciples in the Order. From his base in Birmingham, he is now focusing on personal contact with people, and on his writing.