April 2023 online meeting: strengthening the lineage of responsibility

On the first day of the meeting (28.04.23), members and guests were asked to explore and draw upon their own experience of taking responsibility within Triratna by answering the following three questions:

    i. What conditions enabled you to take responsibility?


    • vertical encouragement, confidence and trust
    • self confidence
    • stepping up because no-one else was willing, able or available
    • vision and inspiration

    more detail

    Vertical encouragement, confidence and trust

    • people in responsibility being willing to take risks, a culture of trying things out
    • mentoring and support. Finding people to support you is critical – Knowing / finding out what needs doing
    • support and encouragement, people being willing to take you on and mentor you, being trusted to do the job
    • sense of kalyana mitras sort of drawing it out of us, asking us to do something and growing through responding to that
    • often a KM who suggested that we take responsibility even though not thought of this ourselves
    • key supportive condition was kalyana mitrata and the giving of blessings


    • personality – being bolshy and ambitious, and thinking we can do things better than everyone else
    • personality – not looking for approval & being confident in your own decisions
    • trust in self to do things
    • everybody talked about the importance of trust and confidence, being encouraged, that was a really key theme amongst all of us
    • ability to accept that taking responsibility sometimes means being unpopular

    Stepping up because no-one else was willing, able or available

    • not being anyone else around, stepping in because we’re the only option
    • people didn’t necessarily want to do it but found themselves in a position where no one else was able or willing
    • situations where there was an obvious need and it could be seen how to meet that need or no one else to do it

    Vision and inspiration

    • being energised/inspired by younger people, esp. when they take responsibility themselves
    • being inspired by the need
    • being connected to a depth of practice in one’s self
    • a sense of practical shared vision
    • being young with ambition, drive, energy and vision

    Other conditions

    • bona fide Triratna centre document – helping to understand legality of centres
    • having the skills to do things
    • the people
    • many of us we free to throw ourselves into contributing to Triratna completely
    • the enjoyment of responsibility is dependent upon supportive conditions
    • helping other people grow helped her to grow and her growing helped other people – a positive feedback cycle
    • the importance of communication and openness and harmony and creating a strong context where that is present…. actually, when this communication harmony trust that’s when it’s really delightful to work together that’s when the energy flows that’s when it’s good
    • sense of gratitude for what we have received in the Order

    ii. What conditions hindered you taking responsibility?


    • lack of time/energy – concerns regarding overwhelm and/or burnout
    • being ‘held back’ by others who are concerned for our wellbeing
    • lack of confidence
    • people holding on to responsibilities and/or not passing them on well
    • lack of clarity regarding authority, agency and decision-making
    • sexism and other cultural conditionings
    • financial insecurity

    more detail

    Lack of time/energy – concerns regarding overwhelm and/or burnout

    • people are now often less free to engage – with family or economically needing to work. Not having enough time/energy to take on large responsibilities
    • there being too much to do around Triratna, we felt limited by how much we can take on
    • sometimes we’re not the best person to do the job so things can be done poorly / overwhelm at being out of one’s depth
    • primary problem with taking responsibility is that you end up having to go to more and more meetings
    • it’s difficult to take responsibility in contexts where responsibility isn’t shared widely
    • sometimes we’re not the best person to do the job so things can be done poorly / overwhelm at being out of one’s depth

    Being ‘held back’ by others who are concerned for our wellbeing

    • people holding you back for your ‘own good’, not giving the option to work things out in the situation. Risk-averse culture in centres/situations
    • people being told to not take on any responsibility for a couple of years after ordination – but it’s actually impossible to generalise

    Lack of confidence

    • worried or not wanting to be visible because of our preferences or past experience. Needing to find the courage to communicate
    • the power of the narrative that Triratna roles ‘burn people out’ – narrative much greater than the reality. People can be too worried about burning out and end up taking on very little – everyone is too careful
    • own lack of self-confidence / not being pushed forward
    • different personalities are differently suited to responsibility in different ways. e.g Introverts can sometimes struggle in meetings
    • lack of self confidence

    People holding on to responsibilities and/or not passing them on well

    • older people not wanting to hand on to younger people / keeping their responsibilities for too long
    • previous holders of responsibility not allowing those succeeding to fully take up the responsibility by being back seat drivers
    • responsibilities not always passed on well
    • when the last person who had that responsibility disappears as soon as they can (question about is this a good thing or not?)

    Lack of clarity regarding authority, agency and decision-making

    • one of the reasons why it can be difficult to take leadership roles is because of a sense of sensitivity around the complexities of leadership and the complexities of power
    • we need the autonomy initiative to serve the way that we think it’s the best to do but we also need to consult and that’s the challenge – and that comes down to a key need for clarity
    • lack of clarity about the extent to which the individual has agency in relation to decision-making
    • the cultural norm of consensus decision-making can turn into tyranny of the minority

    Sexism and other cultural conditionings

    • being a woman, especially in the early days – far fewer women, and obstructive views about women taking responsibility. Still an issue in some countries’ cultures, such as latin countries, when men feel the need to tell women what to do
    • individuals who don’t have a background or cultural conditioning of taking responsibility find it difficult to pick it up in the Order – for example women of a certain age who were never encouraged to take responsibilit
    • Indian conditioning: needing a ‘higher authority’ to instruct you to do something

    Financial insecurity

    • money – young people have to give up aspirations like owning property / having a family if going to live on support forever. On money: is it actually ‘take what you need’?
    • difficult to take on responsibilities in poorer countries (lacking social support systems) where there are high financial stakes working for the movement

    Other conditions

    • a culture of criticism of people taking responsibility, expectation of being attacked if you take responsibility
    • outside the UK it can be very hard to get ordained / go deeper / be comfortable taking responsibility, because of less access to teachers and mentors
    • not asking for help / knowing how to ask for help
    • no clear strategy for growth of Triratna generally

    iii. How has taking responsibility impacted on your spiritual life?


    • deepening and greater integration of Dharma life
    • increased confidence and competence

    more detail

    Deepening and greater integration of Dharma life

    • deep integration on a faith level, whole life being service
    • an opportunity to deepen through difficulties experienced -> reaching ‘breakpoint’ i.e Avalokitesvara
    • allows one to inhabit one’s Dharma name more fully
    • a chance to live out the bodhisattva ideal / cultivate the bodhicitta in an active way in the world
    • we just finished with a sense of the joy that it is to serve something bigger than ourselves
    • needed to work with sense of self / ego more directly
    • have received more criticism than praise in taking responsibility but has also been a good opportunity to learn to handle unfair criticism, and other worldly winds – including praise
    • taking responsibility is integral to the way many of us think of spiritual practice and individual practices such as meditation are conceived of as supports to the taking of responsibility

    Increased confidence and competence

    • responsibility as a way of developing confidence to do things didn’t know you could do
    • could not have started a very successful business without the training in Triratna – communication, being witnessed etc
    • confidence – people started with not much confidence but gained it through taking responsibility

    Other impacts

    • Bhantes’ death as an impetus to try to be a generous as he was
    • idealism and immaturity in situations has burnt people out – people can act out of an ideal rather than where we are really at. It can have a disproportionate effect when people see things go wrong
    • hard to put work down, keep it out of meditation etc when it’s so linked
    • difficult to have to let go of other valuable things. (e.g Mitra study) when taking more responsibility takes all of our time

    On the second day of the meeting (29.04.23), members and guests were asked to explore and agree responses to the following three questions:

    1. What are the obstacles to people taking responsibility or leading projects/situations?


    • failures or blocks to handing on responsibilities
    • money & desire for financial security
    • taking responsibility regarded as too demanding, onerous and wearing
    • lack of skills and/or confidence
    • personal responsibilities/circumstances
    • responsibility not seen as an opportunity
    • lack of training & opportunities to learn

    more detail

    Failures or blocks to handing on responsibilities

    • over-carefulness when handing over responsibility, elders are reluctant to let people make mistakes
    • generational effect not handing down
    • sometimes – especially in India – people become dependent upon their position of responsibility for livelihood and therefore find it difficult to let it go
    • lack of opportunities – people who have responsibilities sitting in those responsibilities and not giving space for others
    • transitions to new generations – need to give new people responsibilties
    • difficult to know how to hand on responsibility

    Money & desire for financial security

    • support = financial, situations to deepen practice (affordable)
    • financial Support
    • in India, parents encouraging their children to have a full time career – being discourage
    • people fearing that if they work for the movement they will become de-skilled and would not be able to get a worldly job afterwards

    Taking responsibility regarded as too demanding, onerous and wearing

    • negative experiences of taking responsibility being shared
    • sometimes too much expected of people in positions of responsibility and it seems onerous
    • recognising that some responsibilities can wear you down and feeling insufficiently trained in conflict resolution
    • the world has become more complex and taking on responsibility has become more demanding
    • people are not ‘leaping forward’ to take responsible roles. They know someone has to do it, but not them
    • fear of criticism – esp online
    • lack of forgiveness for those who make mistakes

    Lack of skills and/or confidence

    • lack of confidence
    • lack of appropriate skills
    • people don’t know how to take responsibility
    • lack of skills leading to lack of conditioning
    • more expectations when we take responsibility – we don’t have a process for learning more skills
    • lack of skills around team-work, communications and consensus
    • lack of confidence in self or the bigger project
    • motivation, support and confidence
    • difficult to find a right match for people’s capacities and the level of responsibilies

    Personal responsibilities/circumstances

    • in NZ mainly older OM’s who have families & external jobs and so not much time. They often have other priorities.
    • people have a lot of family commitments which make taking responsibility difficult
    • busyness

    Responsibility not seen as an opportunity

    • lack of recognition of responsibility as an opportunity
    • lack of a strong culture of valuing the taking of responsibility
    • there may be a lack of positive models of taking responsibility

    Lack of training & opportunities to learn

    • training to be order members, study leaders
    • more expectations when we take responsibility – we need a culture of learning

    Other obstacles

    • in India, men don’t have confidence in women which leads to women not being given responsibility
    • being dissuaded by others, e.g. Chapter, Preceptor, Friends
    • ambivalence
    • are the right people taking responsibility?
    • failure to differentiate between people who are good at things and those who are not – often a sense that every OM can be as good at everything as every other one
    • not stifling people’s initiative
    • most Young OM’s (sub-40) are working in the Movement, 37 are, 3 outside. Most YOM’s are in UK
    • around LBC there is a vibrant feel. People are encouraged
    • NZ – Wellngton Centre – Bhante’s sex-life is a difficulty for YB’s becoming Mitras – (recent online survey: GFR+OM have a more +ve attitude than Friends + Mitras. So having more info about Bhante, knowing him more helps)
    • asking or appointing people to take responsibilities rather than expecting them to step forward. e.g choosing a Chair of College using a Sociocracy model
    • job/role interviews – formal mundane or corporate way of appointing people found odd?
    • lack of money to fund responsible roles
    • tension between professional values and Dharma values – people can come from either end of that tension – trying to find a way of being in the best of both

    2. What conditions can be put in place to encourage the taking of responsibility or leading projects/situations?


    • training
    • kalyana mitrata – expressing confidence and actively encouraging/inviting individuals to take responsibility
    • promoting responsibility as a spiritual path
    • money, pensions and transferable skills development
    • peer support
    • clarity and realism about the role – accepting that things will go wrong

    more detail


    • training people better, giving them more professional skills, including for leaders to do more vision
    • training – models of leadership
    • apprenticeships and mentoring – working alongside people who are already taking responsibility
    • sharing expertise – where mentoring and training is developed in one situation sharing it in others
    • through our taking of responsibility – a sense of ongoing training – explicit hard skills so people are not just growing within the role but they also have marketable skills if they want to work in the world

    Kalyana mitrata – expressing confidence and actively encouraging/inviting individuals to take responsibility

    • looking at how we fill posts. Such as asking someone is a positive thing, They may not have the confidence to put themselves forward
    • bestowing confidence and trust and celebrating
    • when others have confidence in you it encourages self confidence – grow into their belief
    • kalyana mitrata – the network of friendship enables people to come forward and take responsibilities
    • guidance from older generations
    • kalyana mitrata – ensuring that when people are encouraged into positions of responsibility that there is very clear feedback and encouragement about why we feel they are able to do it
    • talent spotting

    Promoting responsibility as a spiritual path

    • those taking responsibility not being shy about extolling the benefits of taking responsibility. We need to ‘blow our own trumpets’
    • telling positive stories about taking responsibility
    • reviving the myth of taking responsibility as a spiritual path
    • emphasising ‘for the benefit of all beings’ and talking about the elements of duty that comes with deeper commitment
    • using mythic language to describe taking on responsibilities
    • an embedded culture that really encourages taking responsibility as expressive of the Dharma life and recognises that people are doing so explicitly

    Money and transferable skills development

    • money: pension contributions comparable to those in ordinary jobs. A ‘job’ for life within Triratna or skill people, qualifications etc that can be used outside of Triratna, when their role ends
    • money, particularly recognising places where there is no social safety net – recognising that it is a big risk and there’s a need for financial support

    Peer support

    • support – a kula to support certain responsibilities
    • meetings with peers who have similar responsibilities – and not seen as an additional responsibility

    Clarity and realism about the role – accepting that things will go wrong

    • make it clear what it means to take on responsibility
    • people need to see mistakes as opportunities to learn – things will inevitably go wrong – don’t be too serious about mistakes
    • being realistic about what is achievable

    Other conditions

    • attitude of experimentation – willingness to try new thingsClarity about vision and direction – having a strategy
    • supporting people to take responsible roles, e.g. support those on the IC
    • how to recruit the right people into your team, creating team culture
    • more ambition, striving for excellence
    • when handing on responsibility sharing the good bits as well as the boring bits
    • allowing people the freedom to say no without fear of disappointing
    • guarding and nourishing sources of inspiration – and encouraging others to do so
    • rotation of responsibilities
    • clarity
    • really wanting to come from a place of spiritual inspiration – guarding that source of inspiration and coming from the archetypal myth of the altruistic life – feeling conviction that the Dharma life can transform self and world
    • wanting to create a culture of participation from the very start of people’s engagement with Triratna – giving responsibility early – so very much part of our culture

    3. Right now – what would make a positive difference to you and others in similar roles?

    • more teaching/appreciation of the path of responsibility as Dharma practice and a path of development, ordination not just self-referential, giving yourself to service of the order.
    • need a new translation of the ‘new society’ – what are we doing, and how does it respond to current world crises and climate?
    • clearer understanding of how decisions are made – a framework for who takes responsibility, who gets a say, who doesn’t. Making it clear that only those who take responsibility get to have a say
    • removing obstacles to people participating in dialogue/discussions
    • exploring and applying holocratic models – see ‘reinventing organisations’ by Fredrick Laloux

    On the third and final day of the meeting (30.04.23), members and guests were asked to draw on their reflection of the previous two days to identify ‘radically do-able’ ideas – with suggestions about how they could be implemented – that would achieve the following three aims:

    1. create a culture where taking responsibility and leading projects or situations is regarded as an attractive and desirable opportunity

    1.1 Embed an expectation of service & taking responsibility within Ordination training

    • ask the College to discuss if enough is being done to communicate vision of the path of responsibility – and even the inner workings of the Order – to GFR mitras
    • include lineage of responsibility in Training for Ordination
    • Mitra module
    • rethink what a new Order member does after ordination – check-in with preceptors and KMs
    • refresh our vision of Order and movement as transforming the world, altruistic aspiration
    • support from kulas, companions, preceptors, KMs

    1.2 Re-add a 4th point to what becoming a Mitra means so includes the altruistic principle

    Something along the lines of ‘I want to help build the Sangha / support the project of growing the Triratna Buddhist Community to save all beings’

    1.3 Build a network of Centre champions – to promote and encourage the path of responsibility at Centres

    Call out to find people who’re inspired, connect them up. (Varadhi is interested in being part of it)

    1.4 Centres create a volunteer task list

    Highlight opportunities that centres can ask volunteers to do

    1.5 Create a series of videos on the benefits and challenges of taking responsibility

    A series of videos from people around the world talking about the benefits, challenges etc of taking responsibility with easy access for everyone.

    1.6 Publicly value those holding responsibility

    Really needed as a counter to the criticism and as part of celebrating institutions. Should include smaller projects. Communication is an important part of this. The Triratna Communication Officer could be a part of this, to help to showcase the best parts of Triratna around the world.

    2. encourage, develop and support individuals to take responsibility and lead projects or situations in Triratna

    2.1 Mentorship, buddying & training – recognising the need for specific skills for people in responsibility, especially dealing with people – eg. dealing with conflict, having difficult conversations, management, leadership, general communications skills. Similar material to Adhisthana leadership course? Noting also the need to keep up-skilling people (CPD) so that positions of responsibility are attractive, and that people are well resourced to go back out into the job market after their tenure.

    • collate list of people with specific skills (eg. including ex Windhorse Trading people involved in training). Maybe also outside resources.
    • see if they’re willing to record training resources or put on online learnings
    • look for best mentorship practice within the Movement (eg. LBC?) and communicate it. So people aren’t just generally supported by KM, but by people with specific experience in the role being undertaken. Order buddy system for GFR mitras?
    • creating/ providing training for people taking responsibility. Training on how to be an effective Trustees or council members. More structured mentoring/peer coaching/peer supervision amongst people taking similar levels of responsibility e.g. ‘action learning sets’ – presenting situations you want help with, clarity questions, open questions, the steps or action points. Could also include mentoring/support by the experienced for the less experienced, to support them taking up more responsibility. Sometimes it is hard to know who to talk to about what, so these networks of connections and mentors can be very valuable. We could do this much more and could recommend and encourage different models of this around Triratna
    • develop mentoring and cross-cultural understanding project

    2.2 Chairs course

    Clear description of what a Chair does, what are the roles of a Chair, what agency does a Chair have, what is the relationship between the Chair and the Council (spiritual element, use of consensus etc.).

    Jnanadhara is already working on this. A format where people could get really good training on what to do if you’re a new chair or how to up your game if you’re an existing chair.

    2.3 Chairs Handbook documenting who is taking responsibility around the world

    Movement wide document including mitra convenors and other key roles

    2.4 Women’s leadership programme in India

    An initiative by Aryajaya. A monthly online meeting, with a translator, where attendees get to meet women from around Triratna who are taking responsibility. Low cost, easy to establish.

    2.5 Something like the (British) Civil Service Fast Stream scheme

    3-4 years spending around 6 months in high positions of responsibilities e.g Sitting on council/Trustee meetings, etc. This would be supported with mentorship and training retreats. Should also include being paid financial support. Leadership training.
    mitra level, OM level.

    2.6 Networks for people working in the same jobs in the movement

    (Suryanaga already runs one of these for Digital Creatives / comms people – a fortnightly show & tell / skills share meeting)

    2.7 General materials to support people taking up responsibility

    Encourage the development of general resources/handbooks about taking responsibility, what are the qualities needed and how to take up responsibility well – including how to hand over well and choosing a successor. Could also be examples developed for specific roles/strands e.g. chairs, order convenors etc.

    • how to be an effective trustee/council member
    • being clear about what their roles and role and responsibilities
    • what is expected of you personally/organizationally/spiritually?
    • personal qualities which could be benefit
    • showing the lineage of past role holders, and their top tips – what does a good ‘role holder’ need

    Development of a directory of roles in Triratna, with a little description of their responsibilities – and who does them, so everyone can see what responsibilities are held already. Could be held on the IC website or Buddhist centre online

    2.8 Developing guidelines for healthy succession

    IC (or IC working group) producing a set of guidelines about what healthy succession looks like including things like:

    • not holding onto roles for too long
    • good handover, and tying up loose ends
    • not being too risk averse in succession planning
    • trying to look towards a successor who is younger than you, or part of a younger generation where possible

    2.9 Lineage of responsibility website

    A website bringing together in one place everything in the movement related to the Lineage of Responsibility

    2.10 Develop a Decision-Making Framework

    Clarify the principles upon which decisions are made in Triratna, to help those holding responsibility. Currently lots of grey areas:

    • who makes decisions and who gets a say?
    • how are people consulted, and how widely
    • how much delegated authority to people have, and when do they need to consult?
    • should the whole order ever be consulted?
    • clarity about the costs of long processes and wide consultations

    We think this should be an IC discussion at a future meeting, with view to creating a framework for better decision making in Triratna across all of our strands.

    2.11 Money / support. A big area! Take care of people who take responsibility, noting especially some parts of the world where there is less financial security. Take a long-term view of peoples’ working life. Eg. Building up skills useful in the job market; building in sabbaticals and generous supported period at the end of tenure. Noting that different support models are arising in the movement, some more generous than others.

    • look at different support models around the movement, and the principles that they’re based on
    • come up with a best practice recommendation – based on principles, that can be used as a model in different parts of the world
    • encourage institutions to give more in terms of retreat allowance to people who give to the situation
    • ask Retreat Centres to add a specific (reduced) price for people working in the movement / on support. (This may require increasing the top rate for fully waged people).

    2.12 Communal co-parenting

    Sharing parenting responsibilities to allow for more institutional responsibilities. How can we support or encourage this?

    3. ensure that the path of responsibility is undertaken and experienced as a genuinely spiritual path

    3.1 Project to communicate how the Path of responsibility is a deeply transformative part of practice – could be multifaceted

    • commission a short course like Nature of Mind
    • Mitra study module
    • short interviews
    • ask Sikkha project to produce something
    • ask Windhorse Publications to commission a book, maybe with an editor and number of contributors
    • ask people to contribute ideas & experiences to Shabda
      Order weekend on the theme

    3.2 A year of celebrating responsibility – ‘the 21st century Bodhisattva’. Helping people understand the lineage of responsibility as a spiritual path

    Something to cohere different activities. College, Order and Movement all contributing, through teaching, talks and retreats, expressing the Path of responsibility as a spiritual path and revisioning the new society, for this time and circumstance. Could be taken forward by developing a working group, with some delegates from the IC, who then coop people from around the 3 strands.

    3.4 Revision the myth of the New Society. Noting how it’s fallen somewhat into disrepair and might need to change to catch up with new reality post the dominance of the 3Cs. Noting how the old language of ‘a nucleus of a new society’ may not be attractive in these days of ‘silo mentality’, ‘echo chambers’. And noting the overlap with the 9th strategic priority: Dharmic engagement with social/ecological issues. How can we have a Dharmic impact on the world? Noting that there are different visions of this, and we will be less effective until there is more convergence.

    • discuss the topic at the next IC meeting, seeding the conversation with contributions with clear thinkers who have some vision for the area.
    • take the theme into a convention or conventions around the world, get a range of people to conjure a vision, get the Order discussing it

    3.5 Seed Order/Movement-wide conversation around taking responsibility

    IC sponsor worldwide weekend to refresh our Order and movement as transforming self and world/altruistic aspiration. Involve Kshantikara in this.

    The Esoteric Refuges Retreat (July 23) – Share resources to seed wider conversations in the Order and Movement around taking responsibility. Revisit and revive our discourse how transforming self and world – you do one by doing the other. Possibly have an IC meeting around this and helping to perpetuate this across the Order/Movement.