The FWBO and the Preceptors College


For many years, all ordinations into the Western Buddhist Order — the spiritual community at the heart of the FWBO, were conducted by Sangharakshita. By the mid-1980s the number of Order members was in the hundreds and the FWBO had grown into a worldwide movement, with a thriving wing in India. It was no longer possible for Sangharakshita to get to know all of the people who were asking for ordination, and as he was getting over he started to implement a way to pass on this crucial responsibility for the FWBO’s future.

Sangharakshita asked some senior members of the Order to share with him responsibility for conducting ordinations, and this process moved forward considerably in 1989 when Subhuti took on leading the mens’ ordination process in the West. He formed an ‘ordination team’ of senior Order members, some of whom were ‘Public Preceptors’ — empowered to make final decisions about whether someone is ready for ordination.

In 1993 Sangharakshita gathered together the Public Preceptors — then three men and two women — and asked them to form a ‘College’, that is, a collective body that would hold responsibility for ordinations. By extension, Sangharakshita suggested, their responsibilities also included concern for the conditions in the FWBO that would help people prepare for ordination; and the conditions in the Western Buddhist Order that would follow it. Along with the five College members, Sangharakshita also asked eight other senior members of the Order, who were all Presidents of FWBO centres, to form the Preceptors College Council (PCC). In 1994 a house in Birmingham was purchased to offer a base for the male members of the PCC, and another house was bought not long after to house the women members. The men’s house was named ‘Madhyamaloka’, the middle place.

Over the next few years others joined both the College and the PCC, who operated from Madhyamaloka and associated buildings — although not all members lived in Birmingham. In line with Sangharakshita’s vision of their role, they offered a collective leadership for the Order and the FWBO, as well as being involved in the ordination processes — which had now multiplied the world to places in which the FWBO was active.

In August 2000, at the time of his 75th birthday, Sangharakshita announced that he was handing on the Headship of the Order to the College of Public Preceptors — which now numbered nine members. This was the last responsibility that he held alone, and he spoke of withdrawing entirely from active involvement in the running of the FWBO. Subhuti was appointed the first Chair of the College, serving a five-year term, at which point he was to be re-elected.

The next development came in 2003, when the College reconsidered its role in the light of their experience, reflections on the difference between their position and that of Sangharakshita, and developments in the FWBO. They declared that they no longer considered it meaningful to speak of Headship of so diverse a body as the Order. Instead, they would focus on ordinations and considerably expand their numbers. The PCC also decided that it was no longer meaningful to think in terms of leadership of the FWBO, and this body dissolved — with most of its members becoming Public Preceptors.

At the time of writing (Spring 2005) the College of Public Preceptors numbers 26 with other proposed members, and they are evolving new systems for sharing responsibility for deciding upon readiness for ordination. The Order and the FWBO are also considering what structures they may need for decision-making and leadership. Madhyamaloka in Birmingham is developing a new aspect to its work in being the base for a Dharma teaching and study centre, Dharmapala College.

Sangharakshita continues to live at Madhyamaloka, his 80th birthday having fallen in August 2005. He and the members of the College continue to have concern for and involvement in many aspects of the development of the FWBO as a whole, but this is no longer their particular role or responsibility.

Contacting the FWBO

FWBO Public teaching Centres worldwide can be located in the contacts section of the main FWBO website. Our UK retreat centres maintain a portal site with a list of the retreats on their current programmes.

More about the FWBO

The Main FWBO website offers a concise introduction to the distinctive approach our movement takes to practising Buddhism in the modern world.

FWBO & TBMSG News is regularly updated to include the latest stories about the FWBO and TBSMG (as the FWBO is known in India).

FWBO People contains links to personal websites.

FWBO Discussion contains articles and links to writing about the history and development of the FWBO.

Dharma Online

Wildmind Buddhist meditation offer courses in Buddhist meditation online.

FreeBuddhistAudio offer hundreds of recorded Dharma talks, transcriptions of Sangharakshita's talks and seminars, essays and articles by memmbers of the FWBO for free download.

FWBO Buddhist Articles contains a directory of articles by FWBO authors (complementary to FreeBuddhistAudio) and new writing.

The Clear Vision Trust promote Buddhism throught the audio-visual media, including films, documentaries, a phot archive and study resources for school teachers and students.

FWBO Publishers

Windhorse Publications.

Windhorse Books (Australia).

Do Evolution (German Language).

Libros Budistas (Spanish Language).