What is Sangha?
Sangha, the Heart of the Buddhist Centre
Sangha is a Sanskrit word for community. Traditionally it refers to all the enlightened men and women who have come before us, and in the East it usually means the community of monks and nuns. In our Triratna Buddhist Community, Sangha is our community of practitioners – the people we share our spiritual lives with.
The guidance of more experienced friends, and the support and friendship of others on the path are very important because Buddhism is an approach to life, not an abstract philosophy. The Buddha once said that spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life, and we see friendship as the whole of the Triratna Buddhist Community.
A network of friends
Our Centre isn’t just a place for teaching meditation, or learning about Buddhism. Everything we do together here supports a network of spiritual friendships, whether it’s meditation, study, ritual, going on retreat or looking after the building. When we share our efforts to become more than we currently are, trust can build up as we all at least try to be ethical, to be aware of ourselves and others, to express metta, or loving-kindness.
Of course, our Sangha isn’t perfect. It is only when all individuals have achieved a profound level of wisdom and freedom from ego that the Sangha finds its ultimate potential. But even so, this side of Enlightenment it’s pretty good!
Ananda: Lord, I think that half of the Holy Life is spiritual friendship…
The Buddha: That’s not so; say not so, Ananda. It is not half of the Holy Life, it is the whole of the Holy LifeUpaddha Sutta
Made in 2016, during our twentieth anniversary celebrations, this video shows some of our Buddhist Community who speak about what the Sangha and the Centre mean to them
Starting to feel part of things
The Manchester Buddhist Centre Sangha includes anyone who practises with us and comes to the Centre regularly. It is made up of:
- Friends who have not made any formal commitment but have completed some courses here and feel involved with the Centre’s activities and values
- Mitras who have made a formal and ritual declaration that they are Buddhists practising within the Triratna community
- Order Members who have joined the Triratna Buddhist Order after a long period of training
Many other people just continue to come to the Centre for yoga classes, to eat at the café or attend occasional events, because they like it!
Volunteering here is a great way of getting involved – read more about volunteering
We consider someone a Friend when they have been to some introductory classes, and now come to the Centre to join in other activities, sometimes volunteering here. There is no pressure to take their involvement further, and some people remain Friends for many years. Friends make a valuable contribution to our community.
Mitra is a Sanskrit word for friend. Here, it means deepening your friendship with the Triratna Buddhist Community, and making a formal commitment to practising Buddhism within the context of the Manchester Buddhist Centre in a simple, public ceremony.
Some Mitras go on to ask for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order. They prepare for this through around five years of training, including retreats, peer support groups, study, and deepening friendships with local Order members. They are sometimes known as GFR Mitras – as they are trying to deepen their Going For Refuge to Buddhism’s Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
Two Mitra convenors, Acharashraddha and Vishangka, co-ordinate and support Mitra activities at the Centre. Speak to them or any other Order member if you are wondering about taking this step.
About Order Members
At the heart of the Triratna Buddhist Community is the Triratna Buddhist Order. Order members commit to following the Buddhist path to Enlightenment, as the central point of their lives. Their understanding of the Dharma is based on the teachings of our founder, Sangharakshita.
They undertake to practise a traditional set of ten ethical precepts and have all been in a long period of training before joining the Order. At ordination they are given a new name in Pali or Sanskrit, often relating to qualities they have or aspire to.
The Order is neither lay nor monastic – some Order members have families, while at the other end of the spectrum some are celibate practitioners known as anagarikas. Some live and work in Triratna’s residential communities and team-based working situations, others work in non-Buddhist contexts. The crucial thing is Order members’ spiritual commitment, not their lifestyle. Above all they try to share their spiritual lives, and co-operate in practising and spreading the Dharma. The Order is open to any man or woman, regardless of age, race, class, gender, sexuality, caste or any other criterion, who is sincerely and effectively committed to practising the Dharma.
If we learn to relate to our friends with metta, we will gradually learn to respond to the whole world with metta, with unselfishness. It is in this way that spiritual friendship is indeed the whole of the spiritual lifeSangharakshita
Festivals and Ritual
Engaging Heart and Mind
Our festival days are important times for Sangha members to come together:
- Parinirvana Day in February
- Buddha Day in May, sometimes known as Wesak
- Dharma Day in July
- Sangha Day in November
At festivals we celebrate an aspect of Buddhist practice with devotional practice and rituals such as Puja. We also celebrate significant figures in the Triratna Community, including Padmasambhava in September and Dr Ambedkar in October.
What is Puja?
A Puja is a set of verses invoking gratitude to the Buddha and aspects of his teaching. At our Centre we usually chant them in call and response with the words and translations available, and with no pressure to join in. The Buddhist path isn’t just about intellectual understanding – Puja can help us engage with our emotions and imagination too.
In the Buddha’s time, the full moon gave the Sangha a regular opportunity to gather for teachings, Puja and meditation, and this tradition continues in the Buddhist world today. At our Centre, we usually celebrate on the weekend nearest to the full moon day, or sometimes at Triratna Night, our weekly Sangha gathering, when we also usually hold Full Moon Pujas between festivals.
Festivals and Rituals coming up
Find out more about Puja
- There are Puja texts and translations in Puja: The Triratna Book of Buddhist Devotional Texts, which also gives a helpful introduction to Buddhist ritual
- Sangharakshita’s Ritual and Devotion in Buddhism offers a more in-depth view
- Both are available in our shop and reference library
Pujas are beautiful – I feel I’m connecting to Buddhism with both heart and mindSangha Member
Going on Retreat
On retreat, you can deepen your meditation, cultivate mindfulness, and learn more about Buddhism.
When Manchester Buddhist Centre has organised the retreat, there’s also a chance to develop friendships with other people who come to the Centre. Our retreats are usually held at outdoor centres in beautiful Derbyshire countryside.
We also sometimes hold urban retreats, providing many retreat-like conditions while being non-residential and taking place alongside ordinary life.
Retreat FundSangha members who cannot afford a retreat may be able to get help from our retreat bursary fund
There was just a sense of space that was fantastic and I felt like I could be mePast Retreatant
Retreats coming up
Retreat Centres across the UK
Who’s Who at the Centre?
These are some of the people at the heart of Manchester Buddhist Centre’s community. Most of our Trustees and the people who run the Centre are here, along with some of our teachers and a few of our volunteers. These people have committed to the Buddhist path in some way, either by joining the Triratna Buddhist Order (when they are given a Buddhist name that evokes their qualities and aspirations) or by becoming a Mitra. Order members wear a white sash called a kesa, which shows the commitment they have made.
Women's mitra convenor, teacher and trustee
(Ach-a-ra-shrad-haa) “Immovable faith”
Centre team temp, reception
Volunteer at the Centre
(Bride-ee) “Mythological Celtic goddess of fire and poetry?”
(Jai-a-dave-ee) “Goddess of victory”
(Ma-ha-shrad-ha) “Great faith”
Teacher, study leader, trustee, yoga teacher
(Pad-muh-dar-shin-ee) “She who sees the lotus”
Teacher, study leader
(Rat-na-sarg-a-ruh) “Ocean of jewels”
(See-la-bo-dee) “Enlightenment through virtue”
(Sum-na-deeper) “She who possesses a lamp of benevolence and grace”
(Vara-sack-ee) “Noble Friend or Companion”
Teacher, helps with this website
Our beloved president
(Art-er-pree-er) “Lover of the meaning/good”
Teacher and works for the Centre Team
Teacher, trustee and study leader
(Dhar-ma-ka-roon-ya) “She whose compassion comes from the Dharma”
Volunteers on reception at Centre
(Joo-dith) “Woman of Judea!”
(My-cull) “He who is like God”!
Centre team (publicity), teacher
(Porl) “Small or humble”
Treasurer in Centre Team
(Steer-ra-joe-tee) “Steady light”
Centre Team, IT
(Sun-deep!) “Goodness and obedience!?”
(Vill-as-uh-vaj-ruh) “Playful thunderbolt”
Lives in women's community and helps with women mitras
(Am-o-ga-lee-la) “Playfully invincible”
The centre's Chair, trustee and teacher
(Art-er-var-din) “He who speaks the good/meaningful”
(Die-a-mar-ler) “Rosary of kindness”
Teacher and runs school visits
(Gah-ra-va-chit-ta) “Mind of humility / reverence”
Volunteer at Centre
(Mock-sha-joe-tee) “Light of liberation”
(Pra-sar-doo) “An offering”
(Sar-uh-sue-van-uh) “She whose innermost nature is like gold”
Centre Team, maintenance, health & safety
(Steeve) “He who encompasses!”
(Tar-ruh-van-dun-na) “She who salutes Tara”
Men's mitra convenor, trustee
Volunteer on reception
(Ann-knee!) “Favour, or grace!”
Teacher, now left Manchester
(Art-ha-kay-too) “Comet of meaning/the good”
Public preceptor, teacher, trustee
(Die-a-nan-dee) “Bliss of kindness”
(Grey-um) “Gravelly homestead”!
(Ma-ha-bow-dee) “Great Enlightenment”
(Rat-na-goon-a) “Precious qualities”
(Sat-ya-moon-ee) “Sage of truth”
Centre manager, safeguarding officer, trustee and teacher
(Soo-re-ah-kuh) “She who is sunny”
(Oo-peck-sha-pree-uh) “Lover of equanimity”
Opening Times & more
Opening times:Mon - Thurs: 10am - 7pm
Fri: 10am - 5.30pm
Sat: 10am - 5pm
Bank hols - see calendar
Charity reg no: 514937