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, Dayanandi and Arthaketu, 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 six festival days throughout the year 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
- Padmasambhava Day in September
- Ambedkar Day in October
- Sangha Day in November
At festivals we celebrate an aspect of Buddhist practice or significant figures in the Triratna Community. Festival days include devotional practice and rituals such as Puja.
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. This tradition continues in the Buddhist world today, with festivals usually celebrated on or near the full moon day. At our Centre, between festivals, we usually hold Full Moon Pujas every month at Triratna Night, our weekly Sangha gathering.
Festivals and Rituals coming up
Find out more about Puja
- There are Puja texts and translations in the Triratna Community’s Puja Book, 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
Getting together in small groups
Informal groups often grow up around the Centre, where Sangha members develop shared interests along with their practice and friendships. These are sometimes known as Kulas, meaning family or clan, and they often organise wider events and activities. People living in the same area sometimes get together too, in local Sanghas.
These are mostly quite small groups, not always meeting regularly enough to appear in What’s on. If their meetings don’t show up there, please contact the group directly.
Meets every third Friday evening of the month. Suitable for anyone between 18 and 35 who has learned the mindfulness of breathing and Metta Bhavana meditations, and is interested in practising Buddhism with other younger people. You can just turn up, no need to book. There are also other activities for younger Sangha members throughout Triratna.
Seedling Sangha - Buddhism for Families
A group of parents and their children, meeting on occasional Saturday afternoons, either at the Centre or out and about. Activities include learning more about Buddhism for children using play and arts activities. See What’s On for next events.
Dharma Dykes - Lesbian and Bisexual Women
A group of lesbians and bisexual women who have completed Buddhism Level 1, meeting monthly on Saturday afternoons for meditation, talks, ritual and spiritual friendship.
Engaged Buddhist Kula - Compassion in the World
Our Engaged Buddhist Kula aims to respond to suffering in the world through direct acts of kindness and compassion. They have organised food and clothes collections for homeless people, flashmob meditations in the city centre, days on veganism, and they usually organise local events for Buddhist Action Month in June, often along with other Buddhist and non-Buddhist groups.
- Contact or through Facebook
A small group who like to read and write poetry, and get together to share our work. Unfortunately we cannot take new members at the moment as we can’t all get in the room, but do contact Debbie Sumner through reception, if you’re interested in the group. Check the calendar for other poetry events at the Centre, like the monthly poetry discussions.
Glossop: We live in the High Peak area and come to the Manchester Centre, but also get together locally for meditation and discussion, every other Sunday morning.
- Contact Mary on 01457 852157 /
Levenshulme: Several Sangha members live in the area and meet up occasionally
Chorlton and South Manchester: Several Sangha members live in and around the Chorlton area and meet occasionally
North Manchester: Monthly meetings in the Prestwich area
Hebden Bridge: Watch this space – something’s starting to happen . . .
Contact these local groups
Our Arts Kula is a group of practising artists and writers, and others with a keen interest in the arts. They have been involved in organising arts groups, trips to galleries and the theatre, and our annual Arts and Imagination Festival and exhibition.
- Contact: or through Facebook
A group of experienced meditators within Triratna, practising together monthly for a day or a morning, and open to similar practitioners – see calendar for dates. Despite our name, there is no need to actually join anything – we’re open to anyone with at least six months practice of the two meditations we teach here.
Who’s Who at the Centre?
Here are some of the people at the heart of Manchester Buddhist Centre’s community. They include our Trustees, the people who run the Centre, our teachers and volunteers. These people have committed to the Buddhist path in some way either by joining the Triratna Buddhist Order (when they are given a Sanskrit or Pali name that signifies their qualities) or by becoming a Mitra. Order Members wear a white sash called a Kesa, which shows the commitment they have made.