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Customer Review

1 October 2016
This is a fascinating book for many reasons and should be considered seriously as it has been recently described by Triratna as, ‘our detailed, official history.’ I personally find it fascinating, primarily for its emphases and omissions.
Take chapter 6: Trouble with Angels for example. Vajragupta starts by setting a broad basis for the events and developments that he is about to describe by sketching out the cultural and political milieu in which they took place. In his sketch he includes an apparent appreciation of ‘gay and lesbian liberation’ and ‘attitudes to sex and gender’. He then goes on to describe the emergence of the single-sex idea within the FWBO as it was then. The narrative that ensues covers a range of motivations that informed the spiritual logic and perceived benefits behind the setting up of single-sex communities, businesses and retreats. This range of motivations includes the possibility that, ‘the men were more easily attracted to Sangharakshita, and he could relate more easily to them’ on p73 to women’s ‘lack of skill and … unfamiliarity with hard physical labour’ on p74.
One facet that appears to be agreed upon is that single-sex communities, businesses and retreats avoided ‘complex and potentially messy dynamics around sexual attraction and projection’ (p77). Also that they, ‘reduced anxiety around the whole area of sex, needing to impress women, and compete with other men’ (p72). Having cast his net so wide and considered such a wide range of gender types and sexual persuasions, how did Vajragupta – and in fact the FWBO itself – come to focus so exclusively on the provision of conducive and non-distractive contexts for the spiritual practice of heterosexual men and women only? Why are the spiritual needs of gay men and women apparently not being considered and catered for? Surrounded by the same sex at home, at work and while on retreat, what are gay men and women to do with their sexual tension? Amid all the sophisticated and deeply considered contexts for spiritual development, how come no comparably conducive situations were set up for gay men and women? How did this apparently hetero-centric world develop, especially considering that the man on top, Sangharakshita, is a gay man himself? How strange that they should place such an emphasis upon heterosexuals? What a confusing omission to not cater for the spiritual needs of gay men and women.
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3.3 out of 5 stars