Boring Books by Je Tsongkhapa vs. Good Feeling Books by Geshe Kelsang

The following is an excerpt of a transcript of a speech given by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

Talk on Je Tsongkhapa Day 25th October 1996, edited November 27th 1996

At Lama Chopa puja at Manjushri Mahayana Buddhist Centre

p.5

At least we should understand that we have a very special opportunity to learn the Stages of the Path, Lamrim, through scriptures or books such as Joyful Path of Good Fortune. In reality this book is Lama Tsongkhapa’s present that comes from his kindness and wisdom. Without Lama Tsongkhapa’s blessings it would have been impossible to produce this book. It is from his wisdom that we now have such a wonderful holy Dharma book that can fulfil our wishes and directly protect us from suffering and problems right now. However, we are not using this book practically to change our mind and gain deep experience, but we just read and study it, and try to understand some of its meaning which we immediately forget.

[…]

p.7

We have already found a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction. For us, there is no confusion, and everything is very comfortable. Nowadays there are many followers of Tibetan Buddhism who are confused because of the many differing views taught by Tibetan Lamas and because of their different ways of teaching and behaving. But for Kadampa Buddhists now in the West everything is very comfortable and clear. We have a clear direction free from confusion. This is because of the strength of our faith and the purity of our view. Sometimes, of course, we have a slight problem over our motivation. We must be careful and try to improve our motivation. For this we need to practice Joyful Path of Good Fortune. Other than this, we have many good qualities. Our wisdom, for instance, increases month by month and year by year.

I am not praising this tradition because it is our tradition. For instance, I can say that you will never find another book as good as Joyful Path of Good Fortune from any other source. I am not proud but I am telling you the truth. You can read other books and check. When I read I also find it amazing. I do not feel that it is my teaching. I understand that in reality my body was like a tape recorder, and that perhaps the Dharmapala put the teachings inside my heart and they came out of my mouth. For instance I have read Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path and Joyful Path of Good Fortune and I feel that for you Joyful Path of Good Fortune is better because Je Tsongkhapa’s text is very technical and scholarly with many quotations. Without possessing deep wisdom it would be difficult to understand and you would probably get bored with it. I find it OK because I have already learned it, but you would be bored with it because of it being very technical. In Joyful Path of Good Fortune, however, everything is set out in a very practical way. It can immediately give us a good feeling.

Comment by Tenpel

The text offers some insights into the thinking and views of Geshe Kelsang and what he wants his followers to believe in:

  • in the first paragraph, Kelsang Gyatso is saying that his books actual embody Je Tsongkhapa’s wisdom. So he is equalizing the quality of his books with the quality or wisdom of Je Tsongkhapa’s texts (or books). The claim is, there would be no difference. They are of the same quality. (Later he will point out some differences, that Tsongkhapa’s books could be “boring” while his own books are more “practical”. Which actual says, that his books are better for his students than the books of Je Tsongkhapa.)

The next two paragraphs are mainly saying:

  • who follows NKT has “already found a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction” whereas others, who don’t follow NKT, are confused:
  • “there are many followers of Tibetan Buddhism who are confused” (this means: you can be happy to be within NKT and outside of NKT there is confusion. Since you don’t want confusion, its better to stick to NKT because “you have already found a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction”)
  • if you follow NKT “everything is very comfortable”, yes, “for Kadampa Buddhists now in the West everything is very comfortable and clear.” (Are you so stupid not to follow this clear and comfortable path?)
  • NKT is distinct different and better than those Tibetan Buddhists because “for Kadampa Buddhists now in the West everything is very comfortable and clear.”
  • There is something very special in the NKT you are following “This is because of the strength of our faith and the purity of our view. Sometimes, of course, we have a slight problem over our motivation.” This means: if you as a NKT follower have “pure view” (don’t see problems in NKT and me, your Guru) then everything will be nice, if there is any problem at all its not coming from the NKT or me (Geshe Kelsang) but through “a slight problem over our motivation”
  • To overcome these slight problems, please stick to my NKT and my literature, only there you can find salvation (or solutions) “For this we need to practice Joyful Path of Good Fortune.” (my perfect Lamrim Text)
  • you know, we are good because “we have many good qualities. Our wisdom, for instance, increases month by month and year by year.” (these are all mere claims, where is there any evidence for this? but doesn’t this sound nice, doesn’t feel this comfortable? why is our wisdom increasing day by day? because you follow me! :-) )
  • You might feel resistance to what I am saying? Maybe a bit too much elation? But I (Geshe-la) am not “praising this (my) tradition because it is our tradition” but I have evidence for this … the evidence is his, Geshe-la’s, own experience, and this experience is nothing subjective but “the truth”: “you will never find another book as good as Joyful Path of Good Fortune from any other source” (means: my book is better for you than Je Tsongkhapa’s Great Lamrim text, its the best you can have in the whole world! so be happy with what my NKT offers, be happy with my excellent books, there is nothing better than what my NKT has to offer, I am telling this from my own experiences, and this should be valid for you too.
  • “You can read other books and check. When I read I also find it amazing.” (so there is freedom, you can check but you can only come to the same conclusion as your Guru, Geshe-la, has drawn it.) Why?  Geshe-la is not just anybody (what do you think who you are?) Geshe-la says “in reality my body was like a tape recorder, and that perhaps the Dharmapala put the teachings inside my heart and they came out of my mouth.” (So you should believe what Geshe-la, your guru, is  telling you). What is he saying?
  • Don’t read Je Tsongkhapa, stick to my books. Why, because to understand those “very technical and scholarly” texts by Tsongkhapa you need “deep wisdom” (which you don’t have) and hence “it would be difficult to understand” it, but he, Geshe-la, has this wisdom because “I find it OK because I have already learned it”.
  • What is all of this saying to a NKT follower at the Je Tsongkhapa Day? You don’t need to read Je Tsongkhapa’s Great Lam Rim text books, if you do, you are going to get bored with it, just stick to my, Geshe-la’s, books then you will feel good. If you follow (my) NKT then you have a clear path, outside of NKT there is the danger of confusion and the boring books by Tsongkhapa. You can be so happy to have met the New Kadampa Tradition, I have brought to you.

Is there any contradiction to celebrate the “Je Tsongkhapa Day” and the message of the day is: you don’t need Je Tsongkhapa’s text books but you need NKT and Geshe-la’s books, which are better than Je Tsongkhapa’s text books? No, there isn’t, because the NKT and Geshe-la’s books are not different from Je Tsongkhapa’s wisdom, they are even better, “more practical not boring, you know?”. There is nothing wrong, ha ha …

You know, another thing Geshe-la wants you to believe in is, that it were beneficial to see him as (the Third) Buddha:

Now you might get an idea how views are developed in NKT:

  • Geshe-la is a Buddha (there is spiritual benefit from it, and it shows students have “pure view”)
  • his books are the wisdom of Je Tsongkhapa, and even somewhat more practical
  • outside of NKT there is confusion
  • in NKT there is “a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction” and
  • “everything is very comfortable”

With respect to the Third Buddha claim (which came into existence by Neil Elliot / Gen Thubten) according to the New Kadampa Tradition’s “Truth Site” it were a “Smear” that “Geshe Kelsang Gyatso calls himself ‘the Third Buddha’ and seeks veneration from his students”:

Geshe Kelsang has never used this term in relation to himself, in fact he is very humble and self-deprecating, attributing all the success of the NKT to Je Tsongkhapa.

Personally, I am not convinced that equalizing the own works with that of Je Tsongkhapa and claiming the own works would be more “practical” while those of Je Tsongkhapa were rather “boring” and “you will never find another book as good as Joyful Path of Good Fortune from any other source” is “humble and self-deprecating”.

And how humble is it to claim “Geshe Kelsang is the only Tibetan Lama to have provided a complete re-presentation of the Buddhist path in accordance with the needs and inclinations of the modern world.”? [1], and where did NKT students get this idea from?

[1] derived from http://kadampa.org/en/buddhism/modern-kadampa-buddhism, April 9, 2012 at 10:51 pm

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Comments

  1. Beneath the feigned humility, the hubris and consummate self-deception of this flashy and greedy guru is shocking and dangerous. NKT is a simply an errant cult.

  2. Well, clearly one book by the NKT isnt quite as exciting as they hoped. The aptly entitled ‘Great Deception’ is now available for free download on the WSS website. It would seem that all those costly adverts in the Press and across the web didnt quite inspire the whirlwind of interest John McBretney et al predicted. So now they are reduced to giving it away. Wonder how much that failed political/business venture cost? Will they never understand-NOBODY BELIEVES PROVEN LIARS! Still, it isnt about the money-or is it?

    • The sad point for me is rather that from their point of view it is “the truth” what they say in “A Great Deception” and they really think they have to ‘reveal it to the world’. From their pov these are no lies but the world fails to see the things as they see it. In this self-deceptive mode they are thinking they are honest and the rest of the world is deceived …

      What is sad for me is, that these people started with a search for a spiritual path, for something better, and were finally caught in something not really good. And the basis of the process of having been led astray by wrong views are the twisted NKT teachings, the belief in (inherent existent) “purity”, and “A Great Deception”, that are the thoughts of Kelsang Gyatso, that it were up to HIM to uphold the “pure tradition” of Je Tsong Khapa, and that Tibetan Buddhism were degenerated …

      During the later period of his thought, Geshe Kelsang’s perception of himself and his centres vis-à-vis the contemporary Gelug sect changed dramatically, and he came to believe that he could only uphold the tradition of Tsong Khapa purely by separating from the degenerate world of Tibetan, and specifically Gelug, Buddhism. This shift was reflected in a number of revisions he made to the later editions of his texts following his creation of the NKT, such as the omission of the above references to modern Gelug authority figures. (Kay, 2004, p. 59)

      Over the years the only reliable person for Kelsang Gyatso became he himself. He didn’t even mention his main teacher the great Geshe Lhundup Sopa to his followers or in any text I have seen so far. Geshe Lhundup Sopa still lives in the USA. Kelsang Gyatso used to serve Geshe Lhundup Sopa at the beginning of his invitation to the West …

      Since, according to Kelsang Gyatso’s thoughts, Tibetan Buddhists were degenerated and Kelsang Gyatso might have seen himself as THE “pure being” upholding THE “pure tradition”, only he himself, his books and his leadership was acceptable to him. No peers teachers, no higher teachers, he alone is the master. It is a sad end for a person who has been well educated and who is said to have started extremely well … Now his followers follow Kelsang Gyatso’s own deception, and issue books like “A Great Deception”, what a mess!

      May Kelsang Gyatso and his followers, of past, present and future attain complete enlightenment.

  3. During my brief (six month) sojourn at an NKT centre I was surprised to be discouraged from reading Tsongkhapa’s works and Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path’ especially considering they are spoken of so glowingly in GKG’s books.
    I bought them anyway and was pleasantly surprised to find that both Lam Rim Chen Mo and Lamp for the Path are not boring, turgid or hard to comprehend but beautiful and inspiring works of spiritual literature.
    Insistence on purity of any kind (religious, musical, genetic, dietary) inevitably involves being at war with outside forces. Wise discrimination is one thing, total exclusion of everything besides one’s narrow fixation quite another.

    • Thank you Andy for sharing your experiences and thoughts on this. I feel those works by Tongkhapa and Atisha also highly inspiring and there are important parts, like the qualities of a properly qualified student, and other topics which are highly missed in GKG’s books. Robert Jay Lifton, expert in destructive systems, says, that at the core of every type of totalitarianism (or fundamentalism) lies the concept of “purity”.

  4. Atisha’s “Lamp Illuminating the Path” (Bodhipathapradipa) was the seminal work, and Je Tsongkhapa’s “Great Exposition” (Lam rim chen mo), its extensive commentary. Without Tsongkhapa, we might not understand Atisha, or may be Atisha’s seminal work was enriched by Tsongkhapa. Either the way, the two were complementary, in the light that Atisha’s own commentary covers only the portion he feels important. Then Panchen Lobsang Choegyen wrote what we have as “Joyful Path on Stages of Path” (Lam rim dbe lam).

    I’ve read all the above, GKG’s Joyful Path and many books by great teachers including the Dalai Lama and Phabongka. But none can honestly beat the clarity and originality of Atisha and Tsongkhapa’s work. It is always good to drink your water from the source of the spring and not where it ends.

    GKG studied them all, stripped their complexity, and presented a colloquial version of Panchen’s work. He then presents this “Joyful Path” as his creation. Look at the audacity of this Buddhist teacher. When his own knowledge of the Dharma is limited, he should not cap a limit to the intellectual progress and development that some of his bright student can make. After all, when self-acclaimed pseudo monk-scholars can’t withstand the intellectual pressure in a monastery, the only option is to hold created abbatial position in the West and resort to blatant plagiarism.

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