A brief Review of the New Kadampa Tradition Chapter in: “Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World”

Former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), as well as spiritual seekers might be in a better position after reading Carol McQuire’s chapter about her experiences within NKT in:

because they can now base their discrimination and judgement on a more informed perspective.

It is the first academically reliable writing published from a former NKT follower’s point of view addressing issues such as the controversial NKT ordination and the commitment required from members. You might be able to read most of the text on Google-Books but to be fair to the publisher, editor and authors, I would like to encourage and recommend buying the book. It’s not very expensive (£17.99).

Academic research about the New Kadampa Tradition (especially that of the Open University by Prof. Robert Bluck and Dr. Helen Waterhouse) has been – for my taste – quite superficial so far. Robert Bluck (PDF) for instance tried to balance the criticism which was described by Dr. David Kay (PDF) by means of interviewing current members of the New Kadampa Tradition, and they – of course – rejected all criticism and toed the party line of the organisation. From McQuire’s insider-report on NKT one gets to know that “We should never talk to the press or to academic researchers. Only senior teachers could do this, by appointment …” (McQuire: 75). Using this insider-information provided by McQuire and putting it into another context, the interviews of NKT followers which Bluck made for his research on NKT, it becomes clear that Bluck only relied on well chosen people from the NKT establishment. Because no new voice of any former member of NKT is quoted by Bluck, Bluck seems to have missed interviewing former NKT members (or NKT critics) to at least balance the official NKT point of view of his interviewees. Subsequently – for instance – with respect to one of the many criticisms (or allegations) summarized in Kay’s research Bluck states (p. 147) :

More controversially, Bunting (1996b: 26; 1996c: 9) claimed that monastics changed out of their robes to sign for state benefits, residents financed NKT centre mortgages with their housing benefit, some members were pressurized into donating money through covenants or loans and the movement had acquired large properties including ‘several stately homes’. Waterhouse (1997: 144) reported properties being bought and renovated as local centres, with set board and lodging fees for residents who were often on state benefits, and she questioned whether those on the Teacher Training Programme were genuinely available for work.

All such accusations of wrongdoing were vigorously denied by interviewees, who explained that using housing benefit to support mortgages is wholly legitimate and that monastics often have part-time work and may wear ordinary clothes if this is more convenient (Namgyal, 2004). While smaller centres may struggle financially, donations were always voluntary. Manjushri’s large community and popular courses make it financially secure, a few people are sponsored because of their NKT work but others are on ‘extended working visits’ or work locally, and some are legitimately on employment benefit (Belither, 2004). However, while individual rule-bending has never been sanctioned, it may sometimes have been knowingly ignored, at least in the past.

However, for those who were deeply involved and committed to NKT it is obvious that Belither presented a skilful distortion of the facts to Bluck. And Bluck himself was obviously content with this statement, not going deeper into the issue. It is a major strategy within NKT to stretch the commitment of members to work full time for the organisation. Based on the pressure and dynamics of the organisation, many monastics had often no choice except to give up their paid work and receive state benefits which is then used to pay their rent to NKT – if they live in a NKT centre – and to pay the NKT study programmes, NKT festivals etc., and this money pays back the mortgages of castles and big, representative buildings. By this means NKT has acquired a considerable amount of expensive assets. Since this strategy is an integral part of NKT expansion one finds also in McQuire’s insider-report –  a “story similar to that of many others” (McQuire: 82) – in-between the lines (and there are many such points which are in-between the lines):

I wanted to live in an NKT residential community in Britain to deepen my practice and find support like that I had received from the Sangha, the NKT Buddhist community, in Mexico, I stopped training as a counselor and from 1998 to 2006 I lived within or very near an NKT centre with my children, depending entirely on British government social security benefits. I joined the Teacher Training Programme (TTP) and then, to  fulfill my intention to promote these teachings for the rest of my life, requested ordination …

As a result of this lack of questioning the official NKT characterisations, Bluck’s and Waterhouse’s research does not penetrate the issues in many ways and remains superficial – at least for my taste. The example given here is just one of many that can be given that can demonstrate that research published before McQuire’s account has often been superficial. The same non-challenging or non-questioning of NKT’s official point of view can be found also in Danial Cozort’s paper on NKT*. To give briefly another example, I would like to use one point I found in Waterhouse’s “Buddhism in Bath”*. There Waterhouse claims that the NKT ordination is a Getsul (skt. sramanerika) ordination. This is first of all not correct but more important, the implications of the change of how the Vinaya (monastic code for monks and nuns) is understood within NKT has grave, far reaching consequences for the spiritual life of NKT ordainees which have not been analysed at all so far by academic research. Again, McQuire goes into details with this too. There one learns for instance (p. 72/73):

Unlike in the Tibetan tradition, there was no ceremony for disrobing, no “clean break”. Those who disrobed had to stay away for a year and could never teach in the NKT again. Leaving was seen as shameful and a person who left would rarely be mentioned. It was said that disrobing would make our “bad karma” ripen as “hellish” experiences. We were told we were following a “special, new” ordination that “nobody has done before” but even though our ordination was different, we looked like Tibetan monks and nuns.

It was told the robes “tend to lend authority to ordained teachers” and soon after my ordination I began teaching. The first time I taught, enthusiastic, I heard voices in my head during the teaching saying ‘Who do you think you are?’ and criticizing me for teaching when I knew nothing! Upset, I stopped teaching even though Geshe-Ia said that teachers who get “discouraged” are “foolish”. A year later, my ‘Heart Jewel’ practice was stronger so I began again. Teaching was considered our main practice for “promoting the tradition”, a “heart commitment” of Shugden practice, along with regarding Shugden as inseparable from our Tantric practice deity and our Guru. We needed to become “qualified spiritual guides” as soon as possible; one NKT teacher would be “more important” to Geshe-Ia than “the hundred [students] who become Buddhas”. Being qualified didn’t mean passing our exams, that wasn’t necessary; it meant “relying on the Guru” through ‘Heart Jewel’ and then teaching others the NKT texts.

The latter passage of this is already picking up another controversial issue, the qualification of NKT teachers … and in this way almost every passage or even sentence or phrase by McQuire sheds some new light from an insider-perspective on the complex internal functioning of a totally closed, self-referential group, where only one voice is accepted as the highest authority, and the impact it has on an individual.

The chapter by McQuire opens up and invites a deeper investigation into the mechanics and life within NKT and it offers insights as to why there is such an increasing number of former members who have started to speak up, reporting the experience of considerable damage from the organisation. (see e.g. New Kadampa Survivor Forum).

INFORM, based at the London School of Economics, and an independent charity that was founded in 1988 by Professor Eileen Barker with the support of the British Home Office and the mainstream Churches, has published this collection of essays under Ashgate publishing. In recent years this research institution – upon whose expertise the UK government and UK journalists, as well as international and national researchers rely – had more inquiries about the New Kadampa Tradition than about The Church of Scientology (see for instance Annual Reports 2010 (PDF), 2011 (PDF) or this summary). I can only assume that INFORM  saw a need to offer this insider report. As the New Kadampa Tradition had successfully stopped different critical academic publications by threatening to sue the author or publisher, this is the first academic publication that passed unnoticed into the public realm offering a critical insider account. I would like to thank Carol McQuire, Prof. Timothy Miller, INFORM, and Ashgate publishing for their effort and courage.

At the moment I lack time to write a detailed review of the chapter by McQuire in “Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World”. Also, I would prefer an established researcher to write a peer-review but as yet this has not happened. That’s why, meanwhile, I would like to offer a review by Andrew Durling – who is also a former NKT follower who just recently left NKT – which he posted on Amazon. He kindly agreed that it can be posted here on the blog too:

I must admit to being biased about this book: I have personal experience of INFORM, the independent charity that collects and disseminates accurate, balanced and up-to-date information about minority religious and spiritual movements, and which has organised the bringing together of the collection of essays that constitutes this book. I have had reason to be very grateful for the balanced, sensitive help and advice INFORM gave me when I experienced the trauma of becoming involved in a bitter dispute within the New Kadampa Tradition, one of the movements written about in this book. The subtitle of this book – Out to Save the World – indicates what is common to all the intentional communities that feature in this book, these communities being just a small sample of the many thousands of such communities around the world. These communities originally start off with the best of intentions, in this case the intention to help save the world in some way. But so often these communities, because they involve some radical experimentation or innovation in communal living, or represent a radical break with a spiritual tradition, or cultural norm, have crises and disputes to deal with which threaten their very existence. How these communities deal with these crises determines, amongst other things, whether the original intention of these communities survives or changes significantly, sometimes so much so that it becomes unrecognisable to the community’s original founders or members. These communities, when they function harmoniously, often help their members to experience the height of spiritual inspiration, even ecstasy, in ways not available in the ‘normal’ world, sometimes creating the feeling of having been ‘saved’ and thereby empowered to help save others. But when they go wrong, the fall-out can be toxic to all involved, especially given the deep emotional, financial and social investment members of these communities often have to make in order to gain entry to them, or at least feel like they belong within them. Exit from these communities, voluntary or enforced, is often deeply traumatic and destabilising for both the people leaving and for some of those left behind.

I will only mention one essay in this book, the chapter written by Carol McQuire about her time as a Buddhist nun within the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), which is deeply controversial within the world of Buddhism generally. I, like Carol, was once a devout member of the NKT and I was deeply moved by Carol’s searing honesty about her experiences, and about her complex and evolving feelings towards the teachers, teachings and organisational practices of the NKT both during her time as a nun and after her traumatic exit from the NKT. I could relate to many of her experiences and feelings and recognised how difficult it is to retain one’s idealism and devotion in the midst of turbulent, confusing and often disturbing change within an organisation like the NKT, which tries so hard to preserve what it perceives to be a ‘pure’ Buddhism whilst at the same time trying to put clear blue water between itself and the rest of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that it originally evolved from and which often itself criticises the NKT as being less than a ‘pure’ Buddhist sangha. Carol’s essay was somewhat cathartic for me and helped me with my present journey towards understanding and integrating my past within the NKT. I suspect many of the other essays in the book will serve a similar function for others who have had contact with either the NKT or the other intentional communities explored in this book.

All the essays in this book are meticulously backed up with copious footnotes and references to academic research and documentary material, and the introductory overview by Timothy Miller of the broad history of intentional communities is extremely useful in putting the essays that follow into context. The stories in this book are about powerful, often bizarre, always deeply felt experiences by real life people within the intentional communities they belonged to, and show a side of spiritual life that very rarely makes the headlines, especially as many communities have fraught relationships with the media and society in general, sometimes preferring not to engage openly with them at all, in order to maintain their ‘purity’ or so as to maintain their freedom to operate in the way they wish to, or simply because they despair of ever getting the wider world to understand or accept them. This book is an invaluable contribution to the study of intentional communities and their often fraught histories, complex social relationships and organisational psychologies. It is also very readable and compelling into the bargain. Truth is often stranger than fiction and this book certainly illustrates that.

* For a detailed list of academic research about the New Kadampa Tradition see

  Last edited by tenpel on March 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm

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Comments

  1. I find this very interesting though the article was incomplete – pages omitted. But I will say that I adamantly disagree with 364 vows for nuns. This is 100 more than for the monks. Plus many of the vows are ultimately meaningless. Don’t spit on the Tsok… who would not know this? I understand that you can find that this would fall into moral discipline or another category but really… all this tells me is that there was some incident….. long ago. I believe there is one about lifting the shamtab/skirt – shall they trip over it instead? Perhaps it is time to revamp the vows. I believe there was a general congress sometime in the last year or so where this came up but have not heard any actual results past the talk. Then ,of course, there is the issue of celibacy. Tibetans monks have perhaps failed as badly at the Catholics. Perhaps if we want to continue (me included) bashing the NKT, we might start looking at all of the traditions and their various faults. And I, along with Nyingmas, Shambalas and others do not always feel that HHDL is correct.

    • Hi Beth, thank you for your comment, the numbers are as follows:

      Dharmaguptaka Vinaya lineage (China, Taiwan & other countries): Fully ordained Monks: 250 vows Fully Ordained Nuns: 348 vows
      Mulasarvastavada Vinaya lineage (Tibet, Bhutan & other countries): Fully ordained Monks: 253 vows Fully Ordained Nuns: 364 vows
      Theravada Vinaya lineage (Thailand, Sri Lanka & other countries): Fully ordained Monks: 227 vows Fully Ordained Nuns: ?? (I don’t know at the moment)

      The reason why the nuns have more vows has to do mainly with the time of the Buddha where it was almost impossible for a women to live the life of an ascetic or even to be alone in the forest (just be aware how hard women have it still in India even nowadays). There are many rules more in order to protect the nuns like not walking with a man alone etc.

      “Don’t spit on the Tsok”? What rule is that? (I can not remember any such rule.) The Buddha gave permission to change minor rules but so far the majority of elders were never able to find agreement what are minor vows and what are major vows … so over the centuries no change has been made …

      There were many congresses as far as I know, one was a Bhkikshhuni congress: http://www.congress-on-buddhist-women.org and a summery seems to be this paper by Thea Mohr & Bhikshuni Jampa Tsedroen: http://www.wisdom-books.com/ProductDetail.asp?PID=20282

      I think the key point is to come to terms that the nuns get full ordination, at least this shouldn’t be that difficult, to change the rules is another subject matter and seems to be more complex and difficult …

      Then ,of course, there is the issue of celibacy. Tibetans monks have perhaps failed as badly at the Catholics. Perhaps if we want to continue (me included) bashing the NKT, we might start looking at all of the traditions and their various faults. And I, along with Nyingmas, Shambalas and others do not always feel that HHDL is correct.

      I am not so sure if “Tibetan monks have perhaps failed as badly at the Catholics.” since there are no numbers, statistics or any reliable information – except some reported incidents. However, I know there are extremely pure, serious and honest Tibetan monks. Also, for me, and I think for Carol too, it’s not about bashing the NKT, it’s about informing people before they commit to NKT so that spiritual seekers can make an informed decision.

    • Since Tsok is an aspect of tantra, no such vow exists In the vinaya
      Also, what is a shambala? If you refer to a follower of the late Trungpas newly invented faith, this is. Not Buddhism. The assertion that Nyingmapas do not agree with HH is sensationalist sectarianism. In the making More study required before passing such controversial comments

      • Anon, please if you have objections issue them forth with reasoning, like here “Since Tsok is an aspect of tantra, no such vow exists In the vinaya”, if you make judgements give reasoning e.g. here “If you refer to a follower of the late Trungpas newly invented faith, this is. Not Buddhism.” Why is this not Buddhism in your opinion? If you comment on others, please don’t twist what they said, beth said “And I, along with Nyingmas, Shambalas and others do not always feel that HHDL is correct.” I think it is correct to say that they not ALWAYS agree, this has nothing to do with sectarianism. It would be strange if they were all of the same opinion, and agree in everything. More over, please don’t put down others by statements such as these “In the making More study required before passing such controversial comments”.

        Here on the blog everybody is welcomed (who contributes to the topic and a sane discussion – jokes and humour are welcomed too) and it’s just not kind to reply to commentators which such comments as the one you have just made.

        • Shambala

          • Trungpas, who invented the Shambala philosophy said it was not Buddhism, not me. Again to refer to Trungpas and in reference to how to make Buddhist films, he asked the question of whether one should make films people want to see or that the NEED to see. He concluded the latter was more important. To that end, I see great harm in massaging people’s egotistic fantasies of ‘a better world’ The BEST advice I could give as a Buddhist is don’t waste time on such fantasies-that’s my kindness. Just like devils don’t always have horns and a tail, kindness isn’t always about being nice and agreeing with what people say Currently I am doing a lot more sitting and what I find when I blog is that people use it to escape from having to look at reality, me included And it doesn’t feel like there’s enough time

            • Thank you. Thrungpa said himself that Shambala philosophy is not Buddhism? I’ve never heard this. But Shambala Centres see themselves as Buddhist centres, don’t they?

              With respect to the ‘better world fantasies’, I agree, to be frank, to be disillusion-supportive can be kindness, but it’s also important to go with the mentality of others and to go along with their pace.

  2. “although the Shambhala tradition is founded on the sanity and gentleness of the Buddhist tradition, at the same time it has its own independent basis”
    C TRUNGPA 1984

    • Interesting. It is not for me to say but I believe Pema Chodron is ordained within Shambala and considers herself to be a Buddhist bhiksuni nun.

      • Thank you Beth.

        If Pema Chodron is ordained – and I think she is – she is ordained within the Buddhist Sangha of ordained monks and nuns. She cannot be ordained within an organisation. Ordination is always given by the monastic order or representatives of it.

        I assume she received full ordination in the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya lineage and she feels spiritually at home within Shambala. But both are quite different entities.

        • Interesting. Then one wonders why there are so many different sets of robes.

          • I assume – as so many fully ordained nuns in the Tibetan Tradition – that Pema Choedroen sticked with the Tibetan Robes though having received full ordination in the Dharmaguptaka lineage. (To be sure maybe you just ask her.)

            As far as I understand it, there are only three existing Vinaya lineages where one can ordain: Theravada Vinaya lineage, Chinese Vinaya lineage, and Tibetan lineage (Mula-Sarvastavada). All three lineages have their own set of vows (which are all in all quite the same) and go directly back to the Buddha (the Tibetan lineage via his son Rahula). All these lineages have a different style and colour of robes – this is rather a cultural issue and how the traditions developed in a certain region. In the Tibetan Tradition it is said that the color should be so that the person is not perceived as a lay person. This means he/she shouldn’t wear a color that is usually used for clothes of lay person, that’s why: orange, yellow, red, blue etc. are suitable.

  3. Carol McQuire says:

    Interesting that not one single person from the New Kadampa Tradition has seen fit to comment on the chapter. I would venture to say that this is because, in the words of one newly exited NKT ‘survivor’, the chapter says ‘things that need to be said’ about the NKT. The NKT do not wish to publicise ‘things that should be said’ that are critical of their organisation and they, therefore, have nothing to say about this publication. They would prefer it to be ignored completely and thus hide the issues under the carpet yet again…but sooner or later the cleaning will have to be done properly.

    • They see now their faults and shy away … ;-)

      I don’t know, all in all their internet activity seems to be low. The last person who wrote here on the blog was ‘lineage holder’ whom I asked to stop to comment on this blog. Others only gave a brief remark on this blog e.g. in the Kadampa School thread … I heard also in Wikipedia their activities have become low or even have ceased to a degree. I don’t know why.

  4. Thanks Carol for this,it was heartbreaker to read how tough it was for you and your daughter but it’s great this is out there now to warn other’s. If just one person is put off NKT by this or more hear about the abuses in the Tradition it is worth it.Well done.

  5. LifeGoesOn says:

    I can confirm that the Open University Religious Studies department is against finding out truths about NKT. I started the (now discontinued) module “Religion Today” which had a benign chapter about the NKT – which was accompanied by a DVD segment starring Namgyal, who many will recall died of cancer due to KG telling her not to have treatment for it. I know she had a horrible illness and death, because my NKT resident teacher used her as an example of the need for purification practices, knowing that I knew her. When I tried to raise the issue on the course forum, and talk about my experience within NKT, I was first discouraged from doing so, then all posts on the subject were removed by the moderator, who said it was slander. I ended up leaving the course, in large part due to the trauma of the NKT part of the study and the lack of support from the OU when I made this clear. I had been prewarned that Samden was on the DVD, but not Namgyal, and to watch her like that when I was so aware of the circumstances of her death brought back a lot of NKT related trauma.

    Oddly enough I have done a further OU RS module since, where far more controversial discussions were permitted in relation to other religions, and no posts were ever removed or anyone discouraged from posting what they felt or knew. So … why was that OK and not open discussion about NKT? weird, indeed.

    • Thank you. I heard from another source exactly the same. Which is really a shame for a university – especially with the name “Open” in it ;-)

      Maybe they had so many similar questions that they got a bit fearful about it, or NKT threatened to sue them, or they didn’t like the idea to have rather ‘promoted’ something like a ‘cult’ …??!

      Happened this before the text by Carol McQuire was published? In the academic field you could always refer to her text and quote from it without being accused of “slander”.

      For me it is also no slander to tell the story what happened to Namgyal or your own story in such a forum. However, they might have their own internal reasons (be it reasonable or not, their way of dealing with it must be based on some occurrences or internal decision / policy …)

      I am sorry for your experience. Thank you for sharing it.

      • They don’t want to take sides. (That’s academic speak for not wanting to prescribe morals- question, should academia turn a blind eye to immorality; would the same people not report child abuse if they happened to be doing a paper on it?) Also, lots of people who do the religions course are NKT affiliates-so, as always, it’s about money

        • Yes, the academic field have as a standard ethical issue not to take sides. Which is very good!

          But there are also boundaries or would the Open University offer religious courses based and supported by Scientology? It could be there is a lack of clarity between moral values of liberty / religious freedom and the damage NKT has done to people + an lack of appreciation that the NKT is outside of main stream Buddhism. This lack of clarity might be further nourished by the NKT people who work or support the OU, using these contacts to make the persons in charge at the OU a bit immune and reluctant with respect to criticism …

          However, these are all mere speculations from my side. It would be good to have something more reliable. Maybe the best is to ask the OU directly …

          • Would be interesting to read.

            http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/52220/

            • Indeed!
              I will try to get a copy and will add it the next days to the academic publication list

              • Wonder if the ‘boss’ knows about the Dalai Lamas teachings bit?

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                • Anon/The Devils Advocate says:

                  Shameless profiteering-unless even the newbie who wrote the ad doesnt know the truth

          • Eileen barker of inform did a paper on the monies sponsored by………the monies!

            • Moonies!

              • Anon/The Devils Advocate says:

                OTOH
                Pye, commenting on the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo movement, observed:
                ‘…without wishing to offer a normative definition about what authentic Buddhism must be like, the historian of religion can nevertheless provide some discerning differentiation. Just because someone claims to be Buddhist, the claim is not necessarily plausible. On the contrary, it is up to the specialist in the study of religion to point out the implausibility of particular claims when interpretation is strained beyond widely perceived coherence.’
                ‘Aum Shinrikyo. Can religious studies cope?’ in Religion 26 (1996) p 261-270

                and I am in full agreement

        • LifeGoesOn says:

          I agree that academic study of RS shouldn’t take sides, but I saw on the later course some students absolutely slandering and belittling aspects of Christianity,in particular, in far worse ways than I ever posted about NKT, and none of those posts were removed or commented on by the moderator. So why is NKT so sacrosanct? There didn’t appear to be any NKT supporters on the course forum when I posted, though of course I have no idea if anyone was contacting the moderator privately.

          I’ve been shocked by what students of RS have been permitted to post on course forums about various religions, when in the course texts we were told we should consider the religions we studied with a “warm objectivity”, attempting to empathise with those who follow the religions.

          • Yes, I heard even one of their teachers about Buddhism belittled Buddhism!

            I think the best is to clarify this or to complain to the University or to ask Helen Waterhouse directly.
            Maybe the best is to use the structure of the OU to get an answer?

            • The Devils Advocate says:

              Dont hold your breath-my own encounters with Ms Waterhouse have proven to demonstrate she is suffering from the same terminal intellectual arrogance most academics intent on making a name for themselves in their chosen fields suffer from-they invarlably know better than mere mortals
              As for OU structures, these will adhere to the same principals as most establishment institutions: repel all boarders and reject all criticism, regardless of truth
              Far better and more rewarding to rest the mind and cultivate the good heart-at least youre guaranteed positive outcomes

              • The Devils Advocate says:

                “ACADEMIC ARROGANCE”
                =TAUTOLOGY

              • TDA, sorry but I don’t like your remote diagnoses of other person which tend always to put others down – describing them in a worst scenario mode.

                It would be better to base judgements on facts. As far as I know it seems Helen Waterhouse is not willing to acknowledge the controversies of NKT but it is not sure for what reasons. Maybe she is very liberal and believes indeed that criticism against is coming only from few “disgruntled ex-members” and she refused to look deeper into it or she is occupied with other fields of research … However, I don’t know, you don’t know. Let’s have respect while we wonder “why?”.

                So lets cultivate – as you say – a good heart to her as well, no matter if she might make some faults with respect to NKT research.

                • The Devils Advocate says:

                  I have had direct experience of and communication with \Ms Waterhouse, my diagnosis is far from remote and left me in no doubt as to her reasons.

                  • Instead of moral judgements I would prefer for the sake of the readers, the discussion and myself if you share facts. What exactly is her view point on NKT, what did she say with respect to the controversies of NKT, why does she refuse or neglect to have a closer look onto the criticism NKT is facing?

              • LifeGoesOn says:

                TDA, actually I’d rather keep my mind active with academic study despite the OU is far from perfect – just like any other institution I have ever come across. Their angle on the NKT is annoying, but no reason not to continue with my education and get my degree, which will also have the result that being qualified in RS my input within the field will have more credibility than those who just “rest their minds”.

                • The Devils Advocate says:

                  I did not suggest for a moment that education was wrong, only that , in my experience of academia in general and Ms Waterhouse in particular, intellectual arrogance prevails.
                  As to gaining credibility with those in your field, good luck. I’ll sick with resting the mind so as to gain credibility with the Lord of Death, this life being only one
                  As to moral judgements I offer the benefit of my experience so others dont waste their time chasing reasonable responses from those who will not give them-everyone is free to waste their time doing so, as are they to chase reasonable responses from the OU-my advice? Dont waste your time, youll get nowhere- have a cup of tea

                  • LifeGoesOn says:

                    TDA, I’m sorry you feel the need to be condemning and arrogant to those of us – ex-NKT – who have suffered enough, and are finding ways to get on with our lives, and do not need to meet your approval or anyone else’s, as long as we’re taking care of ourselves and not hurting anyone. I see no point in continuing to dialogue with you as your responses are generally unhelpful and condemnatory, especially for one claiming to be working on their own mind :-( But it seems to often be the case, sadly enough. Western Buddhism and Western Buddhists have a long way to go, and maybe one day most will have a genuine humility, as a very few, like Tenzin, have now.

                    I hope you will not make a provocative answer to this, as it certainly isn’t helping my peace of mind!

                    • The Devils Advocate says:

                      ????????I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about-do as you please!EKC???

                    • What ever one says – especially former NKT members – my observation is, that you tend to put it down.
                      I think you think this would help people to save time or to focus on practice but such an approach doesn’t take into account the individual process where one is.

                      It is great to do a religious study and to broaden one’s perspectives and experiences. You have done it yourself (!), and I know a devoted nun – an extremely virtuous and kind person – who after 10 years and more of Buddhist study and meditation wishes to study at the Vienna University Buddhism. Instead of seeing the benefit for the individual and other Buddhists in such approaches you inspire to see such doings as wasted time and hopeless by writing:

                      As to gaining credibility with those in your field, good luck. I’ll sick with resting the mind so as to gain credibility with the Lord of Death, this life being only one

                      And this comes across as putting others’ approaches down while seeing your approach as somewhat superior. Others feel denigrated through such statements. Especially NKT people have experienced this already more than enough and a healthy EX-NKT will refuse and reject such attempts.

                      What I can see is that you rarely express any good wishes if some one else is doing something which seems not to be worth for you but could be worth for the other person and his or her spiritual progress and Buddhism or society in general. For instance Carol was able to help people with her chapter about NKT in INFORM’s new book because she has academic creditability* and why should LGO not follow a similar approach?

                      I think it is something like this LGO is referring too. And I can understand her while at the same time I can understand you too.

                      * and at the same time the writing of the chapter is also an important part of the spiritual transition, healing process and making space to look forward …

                    • The Devils Advocate says:

                      So many times \ I have people telling me I do not exhibit Buddhist behavior-Doesnt anyone ever stop to think that what they mean is I dont conform to their stereotypes?
                      Do all Buddhist exhibit humility and refrain from making judgments about others? Arent these just stereotypes? My teachers have never shown a pretence of humility and frequently put me down-Are they therefore not ‘Buddhist’?

                    • I think it is not about this.

                      I think it is about putting yourself in the shoes of others and trying to understand them, where they are, what their situation/backgorund is and seeing the good things too.
                      It is ok to put a person down who has too much pride (Serkong Rinpoche has done this too, also our teachers in Italy with certain people) but it is not helpful to put persons down who were de-humanized or whose self-esteem and self-respect has been thoroughly undermined by the NKT system, society or their parents etc. Some people need to be put down, some need encouragement. It is the aspect of discriminating awareness which sees the individuality of people and finds the right actions to communicate with them. There is not one approach in communication for all …

                    • LifeGoesOn says:

                      TDA, your teachers know you and know you seek certain kinds of advice. You do not know me, and you fail to see, even when told, that I am not seeking certain kinds of advice. I am not particularly Buddhist these days, though I do believe correctly taught and applied Buddhism will “get you there” and improve your quality of life and that of those around you on the way. I am developing my own spirituality, not that it’s anyone’s business!, and when I seek advice it is from those I choose and have reason to trust, not strangers on the internet.

                      If this worries you, recall that the Dalai Lama has said other religions have validity as much as Buddhism, and also to check out a teacher for 10 years before trusting them :-) In the NKT lots of unqualified people offer advice, and perhaps one of the best things we can learn from that is to be very careful whose advice we seek and take.

                      I hope this will be my last word on the subject in dialogue with you, as I am not finding this discussion helpful, though I hold out some hope that for someone somewhere maybe it will clarify something, who knows? :-)

    • Hi LGO,
      I tried to get some background information and talked to other people with experience of this course. My understanding is that this happened because of a combination of insecurity at the lower power levels (forum moderator) and ignorance or reluctance to open up for this topic on the higher levels of the OU (course design team). One of my contacts commented (and I post with permission):

      There are ‘strict rules’ for ‘personal’ talk directed towards other individuals on OU forums. The problem was that the rules were applied without very much attention to the greater context of the former-member’s concerns or enough sensitivity to her personal, traumatic experience. It might have been possible for the forum moderator to help student express some of her concerns about the NKT in ways that would have been more appropriate in the forum discussion, i.e. encouraging some sharing of the personal experience the student had of the movement without potentially libellous details about ‘third party’ NKT representatives found in the course materials, and providing more neutral information links such as to Tenzin’s and other former-member websites and/or Carol’s chapter (which of course was not published at that time). It is a shame an opportunity for more discussion of these issues was lost.

      • “It is a shame an opportunity for more discussion of these issues was lost”
        This sounds suspiciously like someone claiming its no longer possible to do anything about this=something still needs to be done!

      • LifeGoesOn says:

        It seems very much up to each moderator abut how strictly these strict rules are applied. On another level three RS module there was a lot of discussion of personal views, and some outright fights even, but the moderator rarely intervened and never, that I know of, removed a post.

        And I’m aware the Dorje Shugden issue was raised on an OU course forum during an AA100 Arts Past and Present course, when the Dalai Lama section was being studied, and there was no intervention from the moderator.

        Part of the trouble for me was that giving my personal experience of NKT was called libellous by the moderator, which is hard to understand. A historian would call it primary source evidence!

        TDA, I’m not sure what anyone could do about it now, as that course no longer exists. I suppose if the moderator still works for the OU they could be briefed about being more supportive.

        • When I understood it correctly from some one, the moderator was a fine man and died recently. He was interested to listen outside the public forum …

          • LifeGoesOn says:

            Do you know if that was the moderator of A217 Introducing Religions? I think his name was Dominic, and he was lovely, and also very knowledgeable. I can’t remember the names of any of the other OU forum moderators I’ve had, but none was as suited to the job as he was.

            • It was Dominic Kennedy. He died at the end of June. He asked off site for evidence.

              • That’s sad. Thank you for the information. He was well clued up on NKT and Shugden.

                • LifeGoesOn says:

                  Sorry Tenzin, I hit return by accident and my comment was posted before I’d completed my name. Should say LifeGoesOn of course, not just Life.

                • Yes this is sad.
                  What do you mean with “He was well clued up on NKT and Shugden”?

                  • LifeGoesOn says:

                    Tenpel wrote: “What do you mean with “He was well clued up on NKT and Shugden”?”

                    Is it the slang you don’t understand? It means he knew a lot about it. He was also very compassionate to ex-NKT, and he was known to acquire protection cords blessed by a lama for anyone who had done Shugden practices who wanted them. I have mine somewhere still, I think.

                    • Yes, it is the slang I don’t understand. It is very nice to hear that he was compassionate to ex-NKT which is rather rare.
                      Thank you.

                    • Yes, these jendu were from Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, of whom he gradually became a devotee after first meeting him in 1993. Nevertheless, he did not officially renounce his FWBO ordination (yes another false system of ordination) until 2003. Clearly, he matured with time, as do we all
                      Interestingly, his obituary on the SOAS website makes no mention of his FWBO phase, despite deep, long term involvement-I wonder if it something of which he gradually became ashamed-Anyway, it looks like he died after having discovered his nature so all ended well

                    • Clearly, he matured with time, as do we all

                      I am not so sure about this. There seem to be a lot who didn’t mature, that’s why I praise every person who seems to have made a positive change.
                      Denying one’s past doesn’t sound as much of an integration of one’s life experience. However, this was his life and decision, and no body is perfect ;-)

                    • sorry 2009

              • Interesting. Before leaving the planet as a follower of Namkhai Norbu, Kennedy was a long term, senior member of the FWBO know as Kuladeva-he was mentioned in the FWBO Files as the source of confirmation that Sangharakshitas relationship with a devotee who later killed himself as a rsult of the relationship was ‘more than platonic’.
                Eventually, Kennedy left the FWBO ( he resigned in 2009) in search of genuine Dharma Anyway……….the point is that,this period of his remaining an FWBO senior coincided with same period when the NKT were working on rebuilding their image after the long term damage from the first Guardian article. Their official PR advisors at the time were,yes, you guessed it, the FWBO, It therefore seems quite obvious what was going on and why Dominic failed to act-the NKT and the FWBO were bedfellows for years. mutually supporting one another during the period when they were both first being exposed as cults- this allowed both groups to maintain their prominent positions on government and educational advisory bodies and buddhist umbrella organizations, each covering for the other when asked

                • “He was interested to listen outside the public forum …” Yeah ‘outside the public forum’

                  • This also explains why“He was well clued up on NKT and Shugden” He was ‘clued up’ because the NKT had explained everything to the FWBO about the situation-It is noteworty too that, in the same period, the FWBO magazine Dharma Life carried articles critical of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan ‘ethnic’ Buddhism

                    • To his credit, he gradually woke up to the games being played and joined the Dzogchen community, who no doubt helped balance out his knowledge of the Shugden issue-he died a Dzogchen practitioner and will be missed by many

                    • So he is a good example of questioning own beliefs and views and coming to a balanced understanding of things; yet being compassionate and not hard headed. This is praise worthy.

                    • Zopa Dechen says:

                      I had several conversations with Dominic ‘outside’ of the OU arena, both online and live, about the NKT. Until he was seriously ill we had an ongoing correspondence about the NKT and he was extremely interested in my publication. He seemed, this was 2009 onwards, very clear that the NKT wasn’t an ethical group but he wanted more specific detail. I am astonished that the NKT used FWBO advice – many times I have had a ‘feeling’ that they are similar groups and having heard a top FWBO teacher give a ‘talk’ (which was more like a teaching and hit my ex-NKT ‘buttons’ – I literally winced!) at an Inform seminar I felt there was a very similar dynamic. It turned out that that speaker has publicly reiterated Sangharakshita’s views on homosexuality as a quick path to enlightenment – and he’s teaching Mindfulness in the NHS!!!! What a mess….

                    • yes Inform were asked by at least 2 people i know of about this before they ran the event and stood their ground-i believe they lost a great deal of credibility that day

                    • Dominic developed great devotion to Chogyal Namkhai Norbu gradually from 1993, but did not see fit to renounce his ordination in the FWBO until 2009-he showed great courage in standing back from the long term involvement he had with Sanghrakshita-he certainly deserves our respect.
                      As for Maitreyabandhu,AFAIK he still peddles his doctrine of gay sex as a path ( as a means of procuring partners) at the London Buddhist centre for Inform to give him a stage (with cheap rates for school srudents!-really!) absolutely sucks!

                    • At that day at INFORM there was also a speaker from Scientology. It was a mixture of NRM adherents and reputable researchers. Those NRM adherents speaking at INFORM could easily use it to strengthen their groups creditability. On the other hand the format at INFORM seems to be just this and one might to have get used to it.

                    • Yes it is their chosen format and when I expressed my concerns I was actually invited to go and present my perspective during questions (Or ‘argue’)
                      However, I do not find the idea of participating in organized, intellectual cock fights for the sake of academic titillation inviting or inspiring.nor can I see of what value it might be in the long term. An eloquent speaker can always defeat a clumsy one, no matter whether he is right or wrong So why argue with someone well versed in lies, deception and manipulation, especially when they have practiced it for years-it is just a waste of time; they will appear to ‘win’, especially when academics are easily duped by sophisticated and eloquent argument, regardless of veracity
                      Informs job is to provide neutral, balanced and dispassionate information about NRMs. Giving abusers a stage from which to propound their perverse and distorted views to the public does not, IMO, fall within such a remit Its a very good way of going about losing funding

                    • I can understand you. I felt a bit uncomfortable reading the bio of an enthusiastic Scientology adherent in a INFORM broshure were reputable researchers and their work are introduced as well. It comes across as “mixing up” information, giving destructive NRMs a stage to present themselves under a reputable umbrella in the nicest words and with the best sounding claims – without any objection.

                      However, its the format they have chosen. (I wonder if NRM figures incorporate their speeches they gave at INFORM seminars into their personal or group’s bio/cv, increasing their creditability?)

                • Was the devotee who committed suicide, Matthew, depicted in Bunting’s Guardian article here:
                  http://www.fwbo-files.com/guardian_article_v2.htm ?

                  I heard also that former NKT members or members of NKT who needed support and asked the NBO for help were directed to the NKT members of the NBO which is like handing the victims over to the perpetrator to receive help. There was a discussion about this in the NKS forum, and a trial by NBO to correct this …

                  • No, Matthew was number 2 victim, The one spoken of Was Terry Delamare see

                    http://www.fwbo-files.com/Tylden20Aug98.pdf

                    – NBO ‘trials’ were and are show trials, performed for a specific audience to protect reputation-in the end, they got burned, threatened and frightened by the NKT, who are no longer members

                    • Uhh. Thank you. Very very sad!

                      True, at the end when NBO tried to adjust their unjust system to deal with people damaged by NKT NKT threatened NBO to sue them.

                    • So, lets get this clear . the reason the OU rejected complaints was because the person who took that decision was in the NKTs pocket,.”but none was as suited to the job as he was” ! Damned right! He was perfect alright………depending on your point of view

                    • OU rejected complaints was because the person who took that decision was in the NKTs pocket

                      There is no pervasion. It could be just unwillingness due to whatever reason …

  6. The Devils Advocate says:

    Do as you please! (Thats an order)

    • The Devils Advocate says:

      LGO Despite appearances i can assure you i am not thinking or being who you imagine and i would be the first to stand up when other people start lecturing on how to be-sorry to offend-i was brought up in a lift-it makes me doubly sad that your nkt experience has turned you off dharma and i sincerely wish you well . i hope you find your way and good luck with the education-its very useful and changed my life-may it do the same for you-keep on truckin

  7. Carol McQuire says:

    Dear LifeGoesOn,

    I also studied Religious Studies with the OU and had unfortunate experiences. I wasn’t as sensible as you were – I dropped out at that time – but the OU/NKT ‘issue’ of not being able to talk openly was one of the reasons. I feel that there are some academics who will prioritise their own views but the majority when faced with ‘evidence’ to the contrary are open to discussion. I would very much like to be able to return to the OU with my own paper and say, “look, this is verifiable academically with the information in the archives in Inform, don’t you think you could include this as a basis for discussion? …” But the OU was geared to getting you through the exams, creating an ‘argument’ for each side of the issues – perhaps that would be a good way of clarifying my own judgement of the NKT now – to write a for and against essay!!
    I was studying RS level 2 with the OU so we didn’t have the NKT material directly but the NKT came up several times on our OU forum as there were some ‘new’ NKT members there and I thought it appropriate to warn them – I also found NKT members (one a nun living at Manjushri at the time who asked me to keep her academic career a secret!) on the MA in Buddhist Studies once run through Sunderland University. Having only one teacher was a trigger for not trusting that course – there being so many ex and current NKT members on the course was another. I wasn’t ready. I was still so confused about my experience with the NKT that I couldn’t approach serious study at that time. I think my article cleared a lot of these issues for me precisely because of the academic way I had to write for Inform – everything had to be capable of standing up in court and a lot of this was in relation to original documents and shared experiences with other survivors who had shared their stories with Inform too. in this way I think the academic criteria can be a support. Congratulations on studying LGO – I’ve gone into the Fine Art area now & am preparing another exhibition related to Dharma and my NKT ordination. It’s a marvellous way to process the emotional aspects of my NKT ‘world’ that I couldn’t reach with the written word. All the best

  8. LifeGoesOn says:

    Carol, I’ve just (literally 10 minutes ago!) read your chapter, and thank you so much for putting yourself out there by telling your story publicly. I tend to think that when we discuss our NKT experience it comes across as largely innocuous, being a collection of “little” incidents and niggling doubts, but when that is going on much of the time for years it’s seriously undermining of our mental and emotional health, trust in others, self-confidence and such like. I particularly identify with your experiences upon leaving, on pages 79 – 80, including how it felt to discover the lack of validity of NKT ordination in the first place, and that it is not transferrable to other traditions within Buddhism. For me it was going to Samye Ling Kagyu monastery, still ordained with NKT but no longer living in a centre, and talking informally over a meal with two experienced nuns there – one asked my (ordained) name, and when I answered they both agreed that this was no ordained name they had ever heard of. It was on this point, I think, that I finally gave up on my NKT ordination, though it was a few weeks before I wrote to KG to return my vows. Like you, I considered re-ordaining in another tradition, but my obstacle to that was I’d have to go abroad to do so.

    I couldn’t say whether your account will show those who haven’t been involved with NKT at that level how destructive it is, but I am sure that for others who have been through deep involvement with them it will be a source of affirmation and support.

    • Zopa Dechen says:

      Dear LIfe GoesOn,

      Thank you very much for your supportive, kind and compassionate comments. My chapter is only the beginning. This having gone to print in a serious academic context, supported by the LSE, means that the road is now open for far more to be published. Over the next few years I am sure that more analysis, clear, accurate and specific, will show what the problems with the NKT really are, to help the people within it as well as those who may get involved. There is such a need for good and serious discussion of many issues – Shugden, the invented ordination, the expansion, the repetition of the sexual misconduct of the top monks showing an organisation which not only exploits others but lays itself open to exploitation by charismatic individuals – I do think that having abandoned the Vinaya, Gyatso has left himself/the NKT vulnerable! ;)

      I was also thinking today that Gyatso, by not having a disrobing ceremony, is therefore forcing his ‘ex’ ordained to create the negative karma of breaking vows!!!! – though if you take the original ordination of Buddha Shakyamuni to be the ‘proper’ one then you can make your own ceremony and have no negativity… What a mess, eh? I’ve found it helpful, since writing that chapter, to look at the strengths of the NKT, (what it offers that other groups don’t) and appreciating the efforts I made to study Dharma whilst on TTP. I have found that effort to be minimised or even ignored elsewhere…and this felt like yet another diminishment of my self esteem. Takes a while to surface, doesn’t it?

      Thanks again.

      • Dear zopa, you make a good point, when discussing my issues with those still in the NKT I could almost tell them what they were going to say, nothing that they had thought just KG’ s words. I was talking to a friend the other day who had left the NKT but still sees KG as her Guru, he is often the last and hardest thing for people to let go of as I believe the brainwashing means we see him as pure and only others as faulty this fits perfectly with our desire as humans to believe in perfection look at Christians view of God. My friend did make a few good points though as now she has been out for a while she is thinking for herself and sees many of the faults in the NKT. She said she appreciates the study programmes that have her such a comprehensive knowledge, I’m not in a place to appreciate anything yet but it made me question my own views. She also high lighted the Dorje issue, she said it was not right to criticise the practise and on this point I agree, although it is obvious he is used as a sectarian figure to me criticising his worship is also being sectarian. I believe he is a worldly God, they believe he is a Buddha I’m not sure it matters. I understand the Dalai Lama’ s position as he is trying to unite many traditions that is his job, but surely the violence done in his name cannot be right but aside from this I believe the issue doesn’t help or cause in respect to informing others about the NKT, they will either not understand our may see it as an internal issue and have no interest. I don’t see what worship of this deity had to do with anyone now it is an old Tibetan argument and nothing to do with us. I don’t believe Dorje is protecting them I think he helps anyone who prays to him,I believe he helped me escape the NKT, and helped me find my family. Why don’t we all just stick to the real issue, how the NKT abuse people.

        • Just a brief note on the Dorje issue. In the Tibetan community this had become a bigger and bigger problem and also the other traditions – who saw dangers in this practice – rather felt that the Dalai Lama acted far too late. A professor said recently to me, that he and another known professor discussed this topic with the Dalai Lama in the early time of Tibetans’ settlement in India. They discussed the problems deriving from this practice + the dynamics involved in that context within the Tibetan community. All three of them agreed that to forbid this practice is no option.
          However, the events within the Tibetan community with respect to it had their own dynamic so at the end the Dalai Lama just had no choice than to address it. It might be good to try to understand and to study the unfolding of historical events as well as the situation, mentality of the Tibetans in exile and their way of life, organising themselves in clans etc.
          Kagyue and Nyingma utterly feared that practice.
          The empowerments included a vow not even to touch a Nyingma text “to keep Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition pure”. According to Thubten Gonpo also when Kyabje Zong Rinpoche gave the DS empowerment at Manjushri Institute he demanded this commitment not to even touch Nyingma texts …

          People who were in NKT were not only “brainwashed” (which means for me, one-sided informed, manipulated, wrongly informed) with respect to seeing KG and NKT as “pure” but they are also utterly brainwashed with respect to the DS issue and to see DS as “pure”, inseparable from Je Tsongkhapa and the Spiritual Guide. That’s why also this topic needs a “deprogramming” (which means to read many accounts or ask many people to balance one’s own view.)

          To just give you a tiny bit how DS is working on the mind level as it is seen by critics from the Sakya tradition. A person who was the translator of a very high lama in the Sakya Tradition said, many people understand DS’ working in the following way:
          First he brings to maturation a lot of good karma when you start to practice him. From this people make a lot of good experience with their Dharma practice and live. But then they get attached to those experiences and those good experiences bind them. Later this Karma is exhausted and people cannot make the same good experiences as in the beginning but due to their attachment to their good initial experiences they are bound to those experiences, they long to get them again or to get more like this, and it that way their mind gets disturbed and unclear caught up in longing, desire and attachment, similar to a drug addict who made good experiences with the drugs initially.

          Clinging to positive experiences is a big and dangerous issue on the path. I was present when people who had extraordinary experiences spoke with high lamas. But all of the lamas said to them: let go those experiences its just mind if you don’t let it go you go crazy.

          Many people also miss to question the meaning of demon and how demons work. “A demon” is a dependent arising and it serves as a condition to block the spiritual path or to harm one’s inner development towards enlightenment. “good demons” (that are effective) won’t come in a wrathful aspect because people would be frighten away, good demons come in the form of pleasant aspects which includes to appear as Buddhas, to give people good experiences. It feels like uplifted and only experienced practitioners can realize the working of the demons because they activate a subtle distortion of ego-pride which feels good but is a delusion. There is a lot to be learned in this context too. (There is a nice text by Patrul Rinpoche about this. It exists in German and Tibetan but not in English. There are also stories in the Pali canon that spirits or demons appeared in the form of the Buddha. This is an interesting topic and it is important as well because it deals with subtle distortions and delusion which can become hindrances on the path and can even totally corrupt one’s path. Good demons bring success, good feelings, extra ordinary experiences that increase in a subtle manner pride and the ego. The practitioner feels to be special, advanced having achieved something but will be bound to the ego or even become in the long run the servant of the demon.)

          You can remember your own drawing into the NKT. The NKT didn’t appear in a wrathful aspect but with sweet voices, nice and charming smiles etc. You get attracted to it, later you are bound and serve this “demon” that eats up your spiritual life, live energy, time, possessions, friends, families, and even your intelligence or discriminating faculties.

          • Examination of Bad Conduct

          Deceivers, well-mannered and smooth talking;
          Should not be trusted until scrutinized.
          Peacocks have lovely forms and pleasing calls,
          But their food is extremely poisonous.

          • Commentary: The beautiful, well-groomed appearance of those who deceive others is pleasing simply to behold. One is enchanted upon hearing their suave words.

          But they are not to be trusted until they have been thoroughly investigated; they must be identified as cunning, bad-natured people, always sizing up others.

          The peacock possesses a beautiful rainbow-hued body and a very sweet voice, but its food is a powerful poison found in dangerous, precipitous places.

          Sakya Pandita

          That the Dalai Lama points out such rather “demonic” practices that are deceptive and harmful in the long run is just his very duty if he has any compassion or any wisdom at all. To say this is sectarian is not tenable if one has a good background knowledge of this practice, history, meditational experiences and the meaning of sectarian.

          However, I have no problem if some one considers the approach of HH as wrong. I don’t see it that way but rather subscribe to the point of view as expressed by Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo who wrote in his »Dom gsum rab dbye«:

          I have love for all beings
          and I do not speak ill of anyone.

          If, perchance, I have lost my composure
          and disparaged another, I renounce and confess that misdeed.

          Whether the Noble Doctrine
          has been misunderstood or correctly understood
          is a theme that affects our long-term future destinations,
          so if someone calls the positive and negative assessment of these
          ›hostility‹, he is himself at fault.

          Does one label as ›hostily‹
          all the refutations of all false doctrines –
          held by non-Buddhists and Buddhists alike –
          that were made by all the wise men such Nagarjuna,
          Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharmakirti?

          Were all the Fully Enlightened Ones
          merely jealous when they refuted
          demons and non-Buddhist sectarians?

          The wise are guides for blind fools,
          and if you call it ›hostily‹ to lead them
          well in matters of correct or mistaken teachings,
          how, then, is Buddhism to be henceforth preserved?

          A guide holds back the blind
          from stepping over precipices
          and leads them along a safe path.
          Is that jealousy? If so, then how else
          are the blind to be led?

          If you say that it is due to a physician’s hostility
          or jealousy that he urges,
          ‘Stop eating the foods that hurt your body
          and eat only those that help’
          then how else are the ill to be healed?

          If to distinguish between true
          and false teachings is to be called
          ›hostility‹ and ›jealousy‹, then just how else are beings to be rescued
          from the ocean of Samsara?

          —-

          Some last thoughts:
          Any violence done by anyone at both sides of the DS conflict I do consider as wrong.

          After more than six years of one-sided NKT / Shugden practitioner information, after having met and received teachings from many of their representatives in the West and East up to the highest lamas who propound it (e.g. Dagom Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche, Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche or fake Rinpoches like Kundeling Rinpoche), and after having “deprogrammed” myself from the one-sided propaganda I received in this context by reading academic accounts, HHDL’s accounts, Kagyue, Nyingma, and Sakya statements etc, after having discussed with two professors and other experts I see a clear need to warn of the demerits of this practice and I appreciate very much that HHDL spoke up and that he put restrictions to it. It is similar to the case that there are some who appreciate that there are some few individuals who had the bravery to speak up about the demerits of NKT. IMO, the harm Shugden is doing is by far more subtle than NKT. As there are people who say that those who warn of the demerits of NKT are sectarian there are those who say to warn of the demerits of Shugden would be sectarian. I think this needs some more analysis to get clarity. Such an analysis can start from a sober definition or understanding what sectarian means. For Keslang Gyatso it means the “mixing of different traditions”* which IMO is a case of a self-created and not well thought out view – a wrong view. I think the great Sakya master Deshung Rinpoche gives the correct explanation: http://quietmountain.org/links/teachings/nonsect.htm

          *”It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism” Kelsang Gyatso, Understanding the Mind, 1993, p 167

          • Firstly at no point did I say I disagreed with the Dalai Lamas ban on the practise,I started I understood his reasons. My husband always had a bad feeling about Dorje so I was suspicious then and dropped the practise a long time ago. I am confused as I feel D.S led me away from the NKT not from a spiritual life so it is hard to see his harmful side. But also admit some of the side effects of practise I have read about have been seen in myself and other practitioners. I got very sick as did others but I felt over work more to blame. I understand the meaning of sectarian and ITs definition is ridiculous I don’t hold to it. If he is as harmful as you say I’d like more info on the harm he can do because since leaving and finding my family I feel he has done me a favour,I believe he is used for bad purposes more than anything else. I thing he serves himself more than any tradition and as I stated before it is clear to see he is a sectarian figure.

          • LifeGoesOn says:

            It’s funny – I never got on with Shugden while I was in NKT. Tsongkhapa, yes, I felt he was more my guru than KG, but that Shugden was meant to be an emanation of Tsongkhapa never resonated with me. Not to say I’m anyone special, as I was clearly sucked in by other NKT soft-soaping techniques and seeming quick results.

            I was shocked after leaving when I discovered the Shugden controversy and the extent of things in Tibet, I hadn’t realised it was that bad.

            I’ve tended to think if you use any deity practice with good intentions then all will be well and good, after all it’s all imputation, though Shugden is going to be divisive because of the history now. I personally stopped doing the practice because I realised it’s distressing to other Buddhists, rather than because it must be per se wrong, even though I never connected with the deity while others around me in NKT very much did.

            I realise there will be differing views on this. I feel NKT’s approach to the practice makes it what you say, very feel good at first with worse results later, and maybe all groups that teach the practice do it in ways that lead to this?

          • I am trying to inform myself about the dorje issue but it is hard because I felt so close to him. But my husband always had doubts. I also started talking to an old friend from NKT via email but after opening my heart to her all I got was a polite genetic answer that showed she had made no effort to understand me. When I told her this she said it’d only be happy I’d she agreed with me,I let her know I didn’t expect that I just wanted to know how she felt but the conversion ended there. As I see more and more replies from long term NKT people I realised they didn’t know how they felt they really have lost their identity. It hurts me because I’ve seen so many lovely people lose their spirit like their life has been sucked out of them. Do you believe this is due toDS practise?

            • Do you believe this is due toDS practise?

              This topic is just too complex to blame DS for everything.

              I think this DS practice has mainly a splitting, schism creating energy, for instance:
              – it split away Manjushri Institute from FPMT,
              – it split away Kelsang Gyatso (KG) from his monastery and other monks,
              – it split away KG from high lamas, he does not even meet his own lama any more (Geshe Lhundup Sopa)
              – it split away NKT from main steam Buddhism
              – it split away NKT from the Gelug school
              – even all the Shugden groups are separated entities who are mainly split from each other: Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche escaped from his own followers to America, Gonsar Rinpoche has his own monastery without any affiliation to NKT in Switzerland and Trijang Rinpoche left Gonsar Rinpoche, my own former NKT resident teacher, Gen Dechen, who was expelled and portrayed as “selfish” etc etc by Kelsang Gyatso and who according to him ‘stole my students and my centres’ is praised by the Dorje Shugden Society in Delhi as a “qualified Gelugpa master” being bestowed the “Je Tsongkhapa Award“., Kundeling Lama who was called “a good friend” by KG laughed about this and compared KG with Hitler …

              So how much reliable is this field where this being is predominantly stressed?

              People can have good experiences with this practice too but this isn’t any proof for any thing. People reported to have made negative experiences with this practice. So what is true?

              I think it is naive to think because I made good experiences it must be good. A lot of people made really good experiences also with Shoko Ashahara – the Tokio gift gas murder guru – and believed him to be enlightened. Many people make good experiences with drugs, nicotine and alcohol. Therefore, I think, it is better to watch the results of Shugden practice right where it is applied: how did DS protect NKT from sexual abuse from the very top, the almost Buddhas, Gen Thunbten and Gen Samden? How did DS protect NKT from splitting away from main stream Buddhism and following less educated Western Buddhist ‘teachers’ etc? How did DS protect NKT – the “pure tradition” – to become a dangerous cult and superficial Dharma not even teaching a single text book by Je Tsongkhapa? And in India: how did DS protect Gelug school from the mind poisons of sectarianism? Why does DS punish people who touch Dharma books from other traditions? Is there something wrong with the Dharma? Why did DS or Pabhonkga change the Gelug tradition claiming Je Tsongkhapa’s protectors have no power any more and cannot function therefore people should rely on DS? This could be also a type of splitting away people from what Je Tsongkhpa established himself. There are a lot of contradictions here, if you think more deeply.

              I think I would rather look from a broader perspective on this. Why are Nyingmas and Kagyupas fearing DS? If DS were a Buddha, why should high lamas of those schools fear DS, a Buddha? I think at the end there are more prooofs for DS as something controversial to be abandoned than proofs that establish him as any reliable source one can place one’s trust in … Just check it for yourself … and also read some reliable academic sources about his controversial background.

              they have really lost their identity

              NKT is strong and skilled in branding. People’s identity is made bound and mingled to NKT. We discussed these mechanisms at another place on this blog already – when I remember correctly. Many people derive often their self-esteem and worth from identifying with NKT: they are pure, if I follow them I am also more pure etc … . Once people started to mingle their self with NKT it follows you will loose your identity when you leave NKT. These are rather psychological processes that can be explained with psychology and how to form brands people identify with.

              • LifeGoesOn says:

                Tenpel, thank you so much for the questions you pose in your post above. It makes the whole thing make much more sense, showing DS is not helping NKT in any visible way.

              • dharmaanarchist says:

                But the problem with mingling one’s mind with some external entity is not something that is exclusively happening in cult environments.

                It’s part of the psychological makeup of humans to want to do that. A lot of people go through exactly the same thing in their relationships for example.
                People start to base their identity on something external that they find highly desirable to enhance their own self. That can be your favourite football club, a partner, your looks or fitness, the brands you wear, a job, a genuine spiritual path or a spiritual cult.

                And in all cases when it’s taken away from the “owner” it results in withdrawl symptoms and loss of a feeling of identity because something external, impermanent, samsaric was used to base one’s feeling of identity on.
                That’s the reason why cult members defend their belief system to such an extent.

                And from what I observe that process happens even in completely healthy, non cultish buddhist environments, it happens to most, if not all people getting involved in religion, because simply it’s what the 8 worldly dharmas do when fueled with a fundamental feeling of anxiety. They grasp for something external that gives identity and self-esteem.

                So a cult just abuses a fundamental tendency that is already there. So I guess it’s important to teach people to aviod turning religion into some sort of psychological crutch for their neurotic expectations and shortcomings. Because it’s meant to end the neurosis of looking for salvation somewhere outside and in false self images, not support it.

                Otherwise, even if there is no cult present, they tend to self-cultisize themselves over all kinds of things.

                • _()_

                  I couldn’t agree more. Thank you! Well said, well said.

                • There is also a BIG connection with the contemporary ‘celebrity culture’ mindset going on in current , western Buddhist circles,.
                  Devotees attribute all sorts of qualities to their idols without

              • Zopa Dechen says:

                What an interesting conversation! Thank you. I am thinking that this issue of ‘separatism’ has to do with the warped view of ‘faith’ that we developed in the NKT, not assessing the reality of the situation before defining what is ‘good’ and ‘not good’. This lack of realism enables the pure/impure dichotomy to develop and on this basis the separatism evolves as you can no longer distinguish reality from your own projections of superiority in oneself and others as ‘impure’ and inferior. This ‘pushing away’ then even starts to undermine bodhichitta…Like you say, this process picks up on human frailties and exaggerates them – schisms happen anyway, where DS is involved they appear to increase. Could we see the DS process as a kind of karmic reflection of loss? And because there is such urgency to ‘fill’ that loss there is an intense obsession with finding ‘purity’ so that the loss won’t happen? In other words a continual cycle of schism/loss/hope that goes through life after life? While in the NKT and on retreat (before I lived in a centre) I had a horrible experience of a ‘memory’ that something dreadful happened to me in relation to a spiritual guide – that was years before I was ‘removed’ from NKT my centre!!! The karma of loss/attachment/loss….

                • I am not so sure if I understood you fully.

                  NKT increase – as someone correctly said – hope and fear (“NKT add hope and fear to the Dharma”), and hope and fear go along with the increase of attachment and aversion. The more attachment the more there is fear to loose or to be separated. The more attachment the more aversion/aggression against that what opposes one’s object of attachment …

                  Personally I rather see NKT as identity building. People learn to identify themselves with something “pure”, “special” etc. and this serves as a (pseudo-)means to escape feelings of low self-esteem but leads at the end only to pride and clinging. The Shugden practice plays with feelings of insecurity, elite thinking, and the desire for gain and it rather suggests an utter need for a strong protective outer source. IMO it distracts from the fact that the real protection is to live in line with the law of karma and the teachings.

              • Zopa Dechen says:

                Also something I read today is interesting in this light:

                ‘The all-embracing attitude of Kongtrul and his colleagues clearly was not intended to merge into a single system the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions, but it did have the effect of overcoming sectarianism, the sense of belonging to a school, the belief that only one tradition is valid. It is easy for a small intellect that knows only a single philosophical presentation, only one secret oral instruction, or only one system of practice, to fall prey to the idea that that is the only correct way. Being open to various traditions can free the mind from bias and partiality, bestowing the insight that perceives the interconnectedness of the various teachings and traditions, their scope, and their particular qualities: this benefit alone outweighs the danger of becoming confused when confronted by different and sometimes apparently divergent Buddhist teachings and traditions. In different discourses, even the Buddha gave contradictory explanations. The context of the explanation and the audience for whom it was intended must be considered if one is to understand the explanation fully.’

                p.29 Translator’s Introduction to Myriad Worlds, Buddhist Cosmology in Abhidharma, Kalachakra and Dzogchen by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, Snow Lion, 1995.

                Methinks that DS is a jealous master…jealousy is eased with pride, pride closes the mind. Gyatso would have had to work much harder in training his students if he had needed to give them a full and comprehensive Buddhist education….Imagine!!!!

                • Excellent quote, thank you!

                  Methinks that DS is a jealous master…jealousy is eased with pride, pride closes the mind.

                  I think it might be so, as you say. For sure it is about pride, elite thinking and sectarianism.
                  One single person like Kelsang Gyatso is not able to uphold the complex tradition of Je Tsongkhapa.

        • How “demons” work. A traditional Tibetan understanding in the context of the China-Tibet conflict: being tricked by sweet talk, money (and positions / status) people will be attracted but are collected in the great bag of the demon who gets thereby power and control over them.

          How one is being tricked by a demon …

          The image is from this paper. p. 196:
          http://www.iu.edu/~srifias/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/9-Engelhardt-3.pdf which is from this publication: http://www.iu.edu/~srifias/studies-on-the-history-and-literature-of-tibet-and-the-himalaya/

          (Those who don’t know the background, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) didn’t apply violence in Central Tibet in the beginning but only in the border regions where they were extremely cruel. In Central Tibet and the non-border regions they tried to win the Tibetans’ hearts by sweet talk, money etc.)

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  1. […] is a great amount of testimonies by former members that cause concern, and just in January 2013 the first insider account about this group has been published in an academic publication, which I highly recommend to read before you commit yourself to NKT or any of their meditation […]

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