The Special Teacher Training Programme in Kadampa Buddhism (STTP) – Student Agreement

Here is a document the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) asked their students to sign after they had enrolled for the “Special Teacher Training Programme in Kadampa Buddhism (STTP)” at the Kadampa Meditation Centre London. The students of the STTP were confronted with this legal agreement, that has far reaching consequences, after they had studied for 18 months – halfway through the programme – in November 2015.

The SSTP was initially designed for six months, offered at NKT’s main centre, Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre, and was set up in 2013.

The term STTP is nowadays exclusively applied to a 3 year study program under Kadam Neil Elliot at Kadampa Meditation Centre London. The first three year STTP at KMC London started in May 2014.

(For details & documents see: Special Teacher Training Programme (STTP))

For any person interested in the STTP it would be only fair to be informed of this legal agreement before subscribing to the STTP so that anybody interested in the STTP can make an informed decision. For your information, here is the legal agreement:

Special Teacher Training Programme
Student Agreement

Dear (name and address removed for privacy reasons)

NKT Proprietary Rights

As you will be aware, we, New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT), publicly promote and support the development of Kadampa Buddhism and Kadampa Buddhist centres throughout the world. Protection of the purity and integrity of the lineage and spiritual tradition of the NKT is essential for the benefit of all future generations. Therefore NKT permits you to attend its Special Teacher Training Programme (STTP) and access the STTP-related training materials, including all spiritual works, teaching programme, audio recordings, documents, discs, information data and any other material whether in oral, electronic or written form and howsoever recorded (the Training Materials), subject to the terms of this letter agreement.

NKT Intellectual Property Rights

  1. You hereby acknowledge that all intellectual property rights of whatsoever nature (including without limitation copyrights, design rights, trade marks and know-how) in the Training Materials belong and shall belong to NKT absolutely. You shall have no rights in or to the Training Materials other than the right to use them for your own personal, non-commercial use (the Permitted Purpose).
  1. You undertake not to offer for sale, sell, distribute over any medium, or in any way commercially exploit any part of the Training Materials.
  1. You undertake not to obscure, remove or amend any copyright or other proprietary notice of NKT included on or in the Training Materials.
  1. You acknowledge that you have no right (and shall not permit any third party) to copy, reproduce, publish, modify, adapt or make error corrections to the Training Materials, in whole or in part in any form.


  1. Information contained in the Training Materials is confidential to NKT. You agree to keep all the Training Materials confidential and not to use the Training Materials for any purpose other than the Permitted Purpose.
  1. You shall treat and safeguard all the Training Materials as strictly private and confidential and take all steps and precautions necessary to preserve such confidentiality.
  1. You shall not at any time without the prior written consent of the NKT disclose any of the Training Materials to any third party.
  1. You shall immediately notify NKT in the event that you become aware that any Training Materials (or part of them) have been disclosed or are in the possession of any person otherwise than as permitted by the terms of this letter agreement.


  1. You acknowledge that the Training Materials have not been prepared to meet your individual requirements and NKT does not guarantee that the Training Materials alone will be adequate for your needs. To the extent permitted by law, NKT shall have no liability whatsoever for your interpretation or use of any information contained in the Training Material.
  1. You acknowledge that the intellectual property rights and information contained in the Training Materials are valuable and that:

a. NKT may take legal proceedings against you or third parties if there is any actual threatened or suspected breach of any intellectual property rights or of this letter agreement; and

b. damages may not be an adequate remedy for any breach and NKT may seek an injunction or any other remedy equitable or otherwise.

  1. You agree that because the STTP is a teacher training programme in Kadampa Buddhism, if at any time you wish to teach the material received on the programme you must receive the prior written permission of the Education Council of the NKT (which may be given or withheld in its absolute discretion).
  1. If you offer for sale, sell, distribute, commercially exploit, reproduce, copy, publish, modify, adapt or disclose any part of the Training Materials in contravention of the terms of this letter agreement, your right to use the Training Materials will end immediately and you shall immediately destroy and permanently erase the Training Materials (and all copies thereof).
  1. If you do not comply with these terms and we do not take action immediately, this does not mean that we are giving up any rights that we may have (such as taking action in the future).
  1. Should any provision (in whole or in part) of this letter agreement be void or voidable, such provision (or part of it) shall not prejudice the remaining terms of this letter agreement.
  1. This letter agreement and any non-contractual obligations arising out of or in relation to this letter agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and the parties hereby submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts in relation to all matters arising out of or in connection with this letter agreement.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

I have read,  understood and fully agree to the above.

Signature: ………………………………………………………………………………………. Printed

Full Name: ………………………………………………………………..

Date: ………………………………………………………………………………………………..

See also

Updated: Nov 28, 2015

500,000 views and 186,638 visitors

This blog has reached now the mark of five hundred thousand views since it was founded in 2008 as a means to counter the NKT Anti-Dalai Lama propaganda and the NKT activities on Wikipedia, the internet, media, newsoutlets etc. As far as I can see, for a long time it was the only blog which stood up against this propaganda in a rather systematic manner, covering many points being thrown into the political game by the NKT and their front groups. However, it was not the only blog which raised a voice!

Happily now there are far more activities of people who also strive to correct and to refute the NKT Agit Prop like Facebook groups and people at Wikipedia who challenge NKT activities and edits. A lot of testimonies by former NKT teachers and NKT students were posted. People wrote testimonies under their real names to challenge and to correct the NKT even at the risk of being harassed, slandered and ridiculed by the NKT internet activists. A new call to the NKT has just been posted by London Nay, the Tibetan community in London, featuring Amanda Zinski once affiliated together with her family to NKT’s Bodhisattva Centre in Brighton:

At the same time of course the NKT in turn increased their activities and are still top with respect to the amount of outcome – including paying ads on google – but they are not top in quality, truthfulness, accuracy and proper Buddhist conduct.

I was thinking to share the real statistics with you that WordPress provides. The WordPress stats plugin discriminates between views and visitors and gives the number of 500,000 views and 186,638 visitors. What is the difference between views and visitors? WordPress explains:

The two main units of traffic measurement are views and unique visitors. A view is counted when a visitor loads or reloads a page. A visitor is counted when we see a user or browser for the first time in a given period (day, week, month).

The weekly unique visitors figure can sometimes be less than the sum of daily visitors for the same week. This occurs when the same visitor appears multiple times during the week. (The same goes for unique weekly visitors being less than your monthly visitors number, and so on.)

You may also notice that your visitor count lags behind your views count. This is due to the way we process the numbers. Typically a view is reported within five minutes, while it can take up to two hours for new visitors to show up in your stats.


The following are not reflected in your stats:

  • Visits to uploaded documents and files
  • Visits from browsers that do not execute javascript or load images
  • GoogleBot and other search engine spiders
  • Visits you make to your own publicly available blog (when logged in to your account)
  • Visits by users that are logged in, and listed as members of the blog

Here is the overview from June 18, 2008 – Nov 9th, 2015:

Here you can see more detailed stats for 2013–2015:

And here are the countries of the visitors and the top posts for 2015:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-11-09 um 06.13.17

The detailed country stats for 2015 read:
“United States”,45290
“United Kingdom”,31150
“European Union”,1091
“New Zealand”,809
“Hong Kong SAR China”,721
“South Africa”,648
“Czech Republic”,398
“South Korea”,146
“United Arab Emirates”,117
“Sri Lanka”,84
“Costa Rica”,65
“Puerto Rico”,58
“Myanmar (Burma)”,56
“Saudi Arabia”,37
“New Caledonia”,22
“El Salvador”,17
“Dominican Republic”,14
“Macau SAR China”,12
“French Polynesia”,12
“Bosnia & Herzegovina”,12
“Trinidad & Tobago”,9
“Isle of Man”,3
“Palestinian Territories”,2
“Northern Mariana Islands”,2
“British Virgin Islands”,1
“St. Kitts & Nevis”,1
“Cayman Islands”,1
“Caribbean Netherlands”,1
“St. Lucia”,1
“Papua New Guinea”,1
“Cape Verde”,1
“Solomon Islands”,1

Other stats you might find interesting are:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-11-09 um 06.33.20
Bildschirmfoto 2015-11-09 um 06.36.25

The blog has 10,001 approved comments.

Different times I had in mind to close or also to delete the blog because of its time consuming nature and the tiresome discussion with NKT followers and also it was not always good for my own mind – not to speak about the mind of others. But the great interest of the visitors and the many comments seems to approve that there was maybe some benefit in running the blog and that it may have served a good purpose. I was happy to see that it was linked in May 2015 by the Huffington Post.

I am in no way proud of it at all. Rather I feel ashamed to run it but on the other hand how can I be silent if people are led astray and I know about it and went through the details of the controversies been covered here on this blog? I decided to raise my voice and to risk to do something that I usually wouldn’t recommend as a monk’s activity. To speak in Christian terms, I would have been happy if the Father had let this cup pass from me.

Then I wish to thank all of my friends in Dharma, kind supporters, Ex-NKT friends, and especially my teachers and kind benefactors. I don’t mention any of them specifically not because I am too lazy but rather to not to fuel the heat of NKT propagandists who might abuse this openness to attack my friends and to sustain their conspiracy theories or propaganda.

I hope one day this blog can close for ever.
Thank you.

Updated: November 13, 2015

The fallacies of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) ordination rite

Here you can listen to an explanation by Geshe Tashi Tsering from the Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London who explains what went wrong with the NKT Buddhist ordination system and how Kelsang Gyatso misinterpreted the teachings of Tsongkhapa and Atisha regarding ordination.

In the next video you can listen to an explanation by Geshe Tashi Tsering where he explains the Buddhist ordination rite for the general public particularly for the people in NKT under Kelsang Gyatso. The video aims to educate people to judge for themselves whether they have received actual Buddhist ordination according to the Vinaya by the Buddha or not. The Australian Sangha Association (ASA) and the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO) released also statements regarding the NKT ordination.

I very much appreciate the effort and compassion of Venerable Geshe Tashi Tsering to explore this topic for the general public. However, Geshe Tashi errs here when he says that he thinks that there are two intact ordination lineages. There are at least three ordination lineages which are still intact: 1) Theravada, 2) Dharmagupta and 3) Mulasarvastavadin.

This blog has covered the topic of NKT ordination right from the start in 2008:

“Name only”: The dangerous attitude of Nihilism being taught in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

Just as a chariot is verbalized
In dependence on collections of parts.

So conventionally a sentient being
Is set up depending on the mental and physical aggregates.
— The Buddha

As a former NKT teacher and student of the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT , self-promoted as “Kadampa Buddhism” or “Modern Buddhism”), Kelsang Gyatso, I am quite convinced that within the NKT there is a profound misunderstanding of reality. A misunderstanding which can be pointed out as Nihilism – the rejection that conventional phenomena exist. This rejection is going along with the belief that it depends only on you what phenomena are and how they function – dependent on the name you give to phenomena. According to this thinking NKT teachers teach, “if you see Geshe la [Kelsang Gyatso] as a Buddha he will function for you as a Buddha” or “if you see Shugden [Dolgyal] as a Buddha he will function for you as a Buddha”. Likewise, NKT teachers teach, “if we understand emptiness we can impute things in a way that they are most beneficial to us.”

These explanations reflect a nihilistic attitude. This nihilistic attitude is wide spread within NKT and permeates the minds and arguments of the majority of NKT followers, including NKT teachers.

A sidetrack reflection about pure and impure minds and labelling

Funnily, NKT leadership and their followers are inconsequential in applying their own teachings – and thus would have to be regarded according to their own logic as being “hypocritical”. Seeing “Geshe la” and Shugden as Buddhas or NKT as pure is a valid approach and true (if you see them as Buddhas you get the blessings of the Buddhas but if you see them as ordinary beings you get nothing – so they say). The NKT leadership encourages to project perfection and purity onto those things that form the basis of the NKT and onto the NKT leadership itself. But when it comes to the Dalai Lama or Tibetan Buddhism in general, labels such as “worst 21st Buddhist century dictator”, “hypocrite”, “evil and cruel”, or “quite degenerated” etc. are regarded as valid labels and are believed to reflect reality.

Now, according to NKT’s own arguments, why labelling the worst things onto the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism? Weren’t it better to see them in a more positive light, or in a more beneficial way, “if we understand emptiness we can impute things in a way that they are most beneficial to us.”? What’s so beneficial to see the most negative things in the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism? Why can’t NKT followers see the Dalai lama also as a Buddha and Tibetan Buddhism as pure? Does the NKT leadership has a need to create outer enemies as a power tool and as a part to form a nationalist NKT identity?

What does this labelling of negative attributes to outer NKT forces tell about the NKT leadership and their devoted followers? Gen-la Kelsang Kunsang, the Deputy Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa Tradition and the National Spiritual Director of Mexico, teaches about “The Purity of Mind” as follows:

Following Gen la Kunsang’s teachings, it follows, how impure must be the minds of the NKT leadership and many of the NKT followers who slander and harass the Dalai Lama or Samdhong Rinpoche as “cruel and evil or “corrupt and evil”? How does this reflect NKT followers’ minds according to the NKT teachings?


In the center NKT nun Gen Kelsang Norden.

Back to topic – The nihilistic attitude within NKT

The nihilistic attitude, which is so present in the NKT, is dangerous and is also used for what I call sometimes “brainwashing” or “indoctrination” within the NKT.

It forms an important part to bring reality in line with the NKT ideology of a pure NKT world that is threatened by a “very degenerated” outer world. This attitude serves as an important basis to bend reality until it fits the NKT party line. Such a way of seeing things won’t bring you closer to reality – as the Buddhist path should do – but it brings you far away from enlightenment and undermines your conviction in the law of cause and effect (Karma) and subsequently it undermines ethics and good ethical conduct – which makes a nihilistic attitude really dangerous. That’s why Buddhist commentaries – including those by Je Tsongkhapa – state that Eternalism is less dangerous than Nihilism because the latter is going to undermine your faith in the law of karma and then your behaviour will degenerate and the result, when the misdeeds ripen, will be suffering. Eternalism doesn’t have these detrimental effects and can coexist with faith in the law of Karma.

I think, the misunderstandings of conventional reality and the nihilistic view within NKT are based on a lack of substantial and open debate, a lack of substantial knowledge of the works of Gelug masters such as Je Tsongkhapa, Khedrup Je or Gyaltsab Je, and the narrow, sectarian and stupid attitude promoted by the NKT that if you read only the books of its founder, Kelsang Gyatso, this would be good enough to reach enlightenment – “its all in his books” as NKT teachers use to claim.

Here is one example for this Nihilism from the former, closely moderated, official NKT internet chat forum, a comment NKT lay teacher and NKT advocate Kadam Ryan gave:

There are three main things to think about when thinking about the ‘Dorje Shugden issue’. The first is that Buddhas do not exist from their own side, but depend upon the minds of the living beings who view them. If you view Dorje Shugden as a Buddha, then for you he will function as a Buddha. If you view him as big blob of orange Jell- O, then for you he will be a big blob of orange Jell-O.

When I remember correctly, this explanation was not only accepted but also praised by NKT forum members as “profound” or “wise” etc. For sure nobody challenged it or doubted that explanation in any way. Expressions and discussions of such views occur not only in NKT teachings by NKT teachers but they were expressed also on this blog and Wikipedia talk pages.

The view of the NKT leadership and what Tsongkhapa actual states about conventional reality

Now lets focus on what NKT leadership teaches. Kelsang Gyatso, NKT’s final and only authority, states:

I am not saying all phenomena do not exist. All phenomena do exist. The way they exist is as mere name. Anything other than mere name does not exist. But all the phenomena that we normally see or perceive do not exist even as mere name because they are all mistaken appearance. – The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra

Gen Kelsang Dekyong, the Spiritual Director of the NKT and the Resident Teacher at Manjushri KMC, the Mother Center of “Kadampa Buddhism“, explains emptiness this way:

If you carefully analyse what Kelsang Gyatso and Kelsang Dekyong say, you can detect that there is a lack of clarity that gives space to the interpretation or misunderstanding that things are name only – a type of Idealism. And from this it makes perfectly sense (if you don’t question it or dig deeper into the topic using authentic Buddhist scriptures), when NKT teachers teach “if we understand emptiness we can impute things in a way that they are most beneficial to us.” The reason for this heavy misunderstanding and wrong view I think is, that the NKT leadership does not properly and in-depth explain what “mere name” really means. As a result of this, there is too much space for interpretation, a space that invites to fill the gaps of knowledge with fantasy. I think, there is an ambiguity and a lack of clarity or scrutiny within NKT what conventional phenomena are – at least according to how Tsongkhapa explained it.

The insight chapter of Je Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo (folio 313b Tibetan, p. 178 of English) states:

How does one determine whether something exists conventionally? We hold that something exists conventionally:

  1. if it is known to a conventional consciousness;
  2. if no other conventional valid cognition contradicts its being as it is thus known
  3. if reason that accurately analyses reality – that is, analyses whether something intrinsically exists – does not contradict it.

We hold that what fails to meet those criteria does not exist.

The meaning of “mere name” or “name only”

Now, what does “mere name” or “name only” actually mean within the context of the Gelug school which the NKT claims to be the “pure” heir of?

In Buddhism the term self has two meanings that must be differentiated in order to avoid confusion. One meaning of self is “person,” or “living being.” This is the being who loves and hates, who performs actions and accumulates good and bad karma, who experiences the fruits of those actions, who is reborn in cyclic existence, who cultivates spiritual paths, and so on.

The other meaning of self occurs in the term selflessness, where it refers to a falsely imagined, overconcretized status of existence called “inherent existence”. The ignorance that adheres to such an exaggeration is indeed the source of ruination, the mother of all wrong attitudes — perhaps we could even say devilish. In observing the “I” that depends upon mental and physical attributes, this mind exaggerates it into being inherently existent, despite the fact that the mental and physical elements being observed do not contain any such exaggerated being.

What is the actual Status of a sentient being? Just as a car exists in dependence upon its parts, such as wheels, axles, and so forth, so a sentient being is conventionally set up in dependence upon mind and body. There is no person to be found either separate from mind and body or within mind and body.


This is the reason why the “I” and all other phenomena are described in Buddhism as “name-only.” The meaning of this is not that the “I” and all other phenomena are just words, since the words for these phenomena do indeed refer to actual objects. Rather, these phenomena do not exist in and of themselves; the term name-only eliminates the possibility that they are established from the object’s own side. We need this reminder because the “I” and other phenomena do not appear to be merely set up by name and thought. Quite the contrary.

For instance, we say that the Dalai Lama is a monk, a human, and a Tibetan. Does it not seem that you are saying this not with respect to his body or his mind but about something separate? Without stopping to think about it, it seems that there is a Dalai Lama that is separate from his body, and independent even of his mind. Or consider yourself. If your name is Jane, for instance, we say, “Jane’s body, Jane’s mind,” so it seems to you that there is a Jane who owns her mind and body, and a mind and body that Jane owns.

How can you understand that this perspective is mistaken? Focus on the fact that there is nothing within the mind and body that can be “I.” Mind and body are empty of a tangible “I.” Rather, just as a car is set up in dependence upon its parts and is not even the sum of its parts, so the I depends upon mind and body. An “I” without depending on mind and body does not exist, whereas an “I” that is understood to be dependent upon mind and body exists in accordance with the conventions of the world. Understanding this type of “I” that is not at all to be found within mind and body, and is not even the sum of mind and body but exists only through the power of its name and our thoughts, is helpful as we strive to seeourselves as we really are.

– “Realizing That You Do Not Exist in and of Yourself”, pp. 126–29 – HH the 14th Dalai Lama

You can’t label things arbitrarily as you like – A clarification by Pabongkha Rinpoche

Ok, NKT followers won’t except what His Holiness teaches nor won’t they sincerely check what Je Tsongkhapa taught or challenge easily the view of their leadership. However, maybe they accept Pabongkha Rinpoche as a valid source of information within the context of their own school of thought. Pabongkha Rinpoche states in his commentary to Je Tsongkhapa’s Three Principles of the Path – published by Mahayana Sutra and Trantra Press and Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, whose root gurus were Pabongkha Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche:

If we look for the very root that keeps you and I going round in this circle of life, we come down to ignorance, to our grasping for a “self”. To cut this root, we must develop wisdom which perceives that no such “self” exists. If we were to discuss what no-self is in any detailled way, it would be best to apply a number of sections from the works on the Steps to the path [Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo]; one example would be the “fourfold analysis.”Here though we will give only a brief presentation of the most vital points concerning correct view, and we will use the classical reasoning based on interdependence.

Now every existent object is a product of something to be given a name and something else to give it a name. There is not a single atom of anything in the universe which does not rely on this process—there is nothing which exists from its own side. I too then am a product: someone has taken two things together, my body and my I mind, and called it “me.” I am nothing more than that. There is no “me” which exists from its own side; there is no “me” which does not rely on someone taking my body and mind together and granting it the name. Neither in fact do my body or my mind themselves exist from their own sides.

We can express all this in the classical form of a logical statement:

Consider all objects, those of the cycle and those beyond it.
They have none of the true and solid existence that I hold them to have; they cannot exist on their own.
Because they are interdependent.

What we mean here by “interdependence” is that all objects are interrelated with others on which they depend; that is, they occur through dependence on other objects. This is why there is absolutely no way they can exist on their own.

We can take for example the way we appoint the chanting master of a monastery, or the governor of some district, or any similar figure. First there must be a reasonable basis to be called “chanting master”: there must be a person who is worthy of being the chanting master.

Then there must be someone like the abbot of the monastery who says, “He is now the chanting master.” Until the abbot does so, until the abbot applies the name and the concept to this person, he cannot be the chanting master—even though he may have all the qualities you need to be named “chanting master.”

If this were not the case, and if the person were somehow the chanting master from the beginning, all on his own without anyone putting the name or idea on him, then he would have to have been the chanting master all along—from the time he lay in his mother’s womb. And when he was bom, the moment he came out of her womb, people then should have said, “Here comes the chanting master!”

But people didn’t say it, because getting to be the chanting master depends on many other factors. We don’t call someone “chanting master” until there is a basis to give the name—a monk who is fit to be chanting master, and until a person qualified to give him the name hangs it on him, and says “This is the chanting master.” Neither until this time does the person himself think “I am the chanting master.” But once the concept has been applied to him, “You are the chanting master,” then people start to talk about him as “chanting master,” and he too begins to think “I am the chanting master.”

The case is the same with something like a horse. We take the body and the mind of the horse, and we put them together— we take all the proper causes and conditions together—and label them with the name “horse.” A building is the same too: nothing but a name put on a certain collection of parts that act as the basis to receive the name.

And the same goes for every existing entity: they arc nothing but a name and a concept, “This we call this, and that we call that,” applied to the collection of parts that acts as the basis of the particular entity’s name. There does not exist the single tiniest bit of anything thatis some kind of object on its own, divorced of the parts we give its name.

“Well then,” you might think to yourself, “if every object is nothing more that what we label it, then I can go out and call gold ‘brass,’ or call a pillar a ‘pitcher,’ and that’s just what they will be.” But it’s not; we do say that things are just labelled what they are, but for the label to be applied, the basis that gets it must be a reasonable one for the particular label.

When we apply a label, three conditions must be present. The three are as follows: (1) the object must be known to a conventional perception; (2) no other conventional perception can contradict its existence; and (3) no ultimate analysis can contradict its existence either. All three must be there.

Now here is what we mean when we say that one conventional perception has been contradicted by another. We can be standing looking at a scarecrow way off in the distance, and someone next to us says ‘That’s a man over there,” and we believe him. Then someone comes up who’s seen for himself that the thing is a scarecrow and tells us “It’s just a scarecrow.” Our initial perception of the thing as a man then vanishes. This is an indication that the basis was not a reasonable one for the given name.

That’s not all—we can go around giving out all sorts of names, we can say “Rabbits have horns,” but that’s not going to make the horns exist; there’s no reasonable basis to get the label. Therefore we must have a reasonable, conventional state of mind that is applying a name to a reasonable collection of parts which acts as the basis we want to give the name—and which actually exists.

Thus too when we go to name somebody governor of a district we have to have a person who is suitable to be given the name—we must have a reasonable basis for our label. We don’t take some deaf-mute bastard kid and appoint him governor.

A Final thought

What the NKT teachings often ignore is that for a correct process of labelling a name to a basis, the basis must have the respective qualities and must be able to perform the function the label is referring to. If I label rope to a vicious snake and use that “rope” as a belt to fix my trousers, the vicious snake won’t accept that usage, to serve as my belt, and highly likely this vicious snake, that is not a rope, is going to bite me – no matter how much or how deep I believe or convince myself that this vicious snake is a rope and suitable to be used as a belt.
Similarly, the rope won’t serve as a basis from which poison for medical purposes can be extracted. No matter how much you “squeeze” the rope and no matter how much you pray or how deeply you believe the rope to be a poisonous snake, no poison can be extracted from the rope.

Last edited by tenpel on October 31, 2015 at 11:50 pm

A Must Watch: Video About the Historic Conference of Western Buddhist Teachers with H.H. the Dalai Lama

Many, many years ago, when I had the chance to escape my Buddhist “cults” – the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and Ganden Tashi Choeling (GTC) – I had the good luck to see a video about a conference where Western Buddhist teachers met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and three other Tibetan lamas, Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, Panchen Otrul Rinpoche and Amchok Rinpoche. They discussed problematic issues in bringing Buddhism to the West.

The teachers were from the various Tibetan, Zen and Theravadin traditions, among them Ven. Thubten Chodron, Jetsun Tenzin Palmo, Ven. Ajahn Amaro, Jack Kornfield, Junpo Sensei, and Prof. Dr. Robert Thurman.  I’ve always missed that this documentary is not available in the internet. By now, only a written summary of this historic meeting was available. However, the situation has changed now because The Meridan Trust made the documentary available:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-10-18 um 19.47.46I remember vividly how His Holiness was somewhat perplex after Ven. Tenzin Palmo told about the lack of structures for ordained – especially for nuns (!) – in the West, and how His Holiness started first to laugh and then to weep. I was amazed to see this response and subsequent compassion. (The NKT had convinced me after years of “brainwashing” that His Holiness has no compassion, is an ordinary and even bad politician – who aims to “destroy the pure Buddhadharma”, a spiritual beguiler par excellence – in short the worst person on this planet. But here, in this video, I could see the opposite. I’ve never seen Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the NKT, who chose H.H. the Dalai Lama as his main enemy, being moved or even starting to cry when being faced with the suffering of others. This video and especially this episode was a mile stone in my re-evaluating who the Dalai Lama is and if or if he hasn’t spiritual qualities.)

A Victory for Shugden protesters? The Dalai Lama’s US visit has been cancelled due to medical reasons

Guest Post

The announcement that His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 2015 tour of the US had been cancelled due to medical reasons was viewed by many as a tragic event. For some however, it will be considered a victory.

Kelsang Norden / Rachel Jeffrey

Ever since early 2014, when the New Kadampa Tradition ‘nun’ Kelsang Norden (Rachel Jeffrey) mindlessly chanting her mantra, “Stop lying Dalai Lama”, deliberately cyber-baited His Holiness in a San Francisco hotel lobby, only for the video to be then paraded on Youtube as if it were evidence of a moral ‘victory’, it has become increasingly clear that the ISC’s campaigning is not merely political protest. Rather, their protests are designed to bully and intimidate His Holiness personally, to confront him face to face and push him without respite, until finally he loses his resolve and succumbs to the Shugden Community’s demands. Like spoiled children who, when all else fails, stamp their feet and scream until they get what they want, the ISC have realised their twenty year campaign has failed to achieve anything and in response have decided, as a matter of deliberate policy, to physically and verbally bully the Dalai Lama personally, with their stated intent being to “vilify, belittle, humiliate and denigrate” His Holiness at every given opportunity.

Since then, Shugden supporters, no doubt desperate to win the admiration of their cult contemporaries for acts they no doubt conceive of as some perverse kind of martyrdom,  have made, and filmed, similar efforts to bait His Holiness with varying degrees of ‘success’, applying the same tactics in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the US. On two occasions in Copenhagen, a small cohort of Shugden supporters managed to get within just a few metres of his hotel room, only to be prevented from reaching their goal by an alert Tibetan security guard. Three months earlier in Holland, three ISC members attempted the same by booking into his hotel; forewarned this might happen by security services, management refused them admission and the attempt was thwarted. In each instance, it was clear that the Shugden followers’ intent had gone well beyond mere political protest and had ventured quite deliberately into the realms of direct, personal confrontation.

Tibet supporters and Tibetans stage protest in front of the NKT Tibet supporters and Tibetans stage protest in front of the NKT. (c) The Tibet Post

His Holiness’ nine day visit to the UK presented an unparalleled opportunity for zealots on the lunatic fringe of this already ‘extremist sect’ to once again play out their puerile ‘war game’ at the expense of His Holiness’ well being. With the UK Government clearly terrified of offending potential Chinese paymasters and thus refusing His Holiness the offer of any semblance of protection [one of only two countries in the world to do so], and with the UK premier and his chancellor trade touring China, unashamedly ignoring issues of human rights while contorting themselves into a seemingly infinite variety of impossible yogic positions to facilitate the simultaneous licking of as many boots as possible, the stage was set for an ISC free for all. With the fort held bravely by only a tiny group of dedicated Tibetan and Western security guards, in the face of screaming mobs of hate-filled Kelsang Gyatso devotees, eyes glazed over in blind obeisance, this was the proverbial accident waiting to happen.

Thus it was that throughout the visit, NKT Shugden devotees repeatedly rode roughshod over Buddhist moral principles, applying their ‘end justifies the means’ cult philosophy whenever the opportunity presented itself, doing their utmost, “out of compassion for him”,  to confront, intimidate and insult His Holiness whenever the opportunity arose. The debacle reached its climax on the final day in a virtual car chase through London, as the Dalai Lama made his way to the airport, with NKT/ISC fanatics jumping red lights to keep up, ranting and verbally haranguing His Holiness when his motorcade was forced to stop. And this, all in the name of the ‘compassionate Buddha, Dorje Shugden’.

Kelsang Tsangpa / Ian Povey, who also hurled abuse at His Holiness and was identified as the driver who tailed his vehicle to the airport.

Kelsang Tsangpa / Ian Povey, who also hurled abuse at His Holiness and was identified as the driver who tailed his vehicle to the airport.

While His Holiness recuperated at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic from the ordeals he had endured, one was tempted to ask whether the NKT/ISC’s incessant intimidation had contributed in any way to the latest concerns over his health. This is not to suggest for a moment that His Holiness is anything other than a fully enlightened Buddha, whose infinite wisdom and compassion render him immovable in the face of these zealots’ infantile antics. However, he is not Superman; if it rains, he needs an umbrella, just like the rest of us. And if someone threatens him at every opportunity given, bullying and harassing, day after day screaming and shouting insults without respite or reason, doesn’t the question arise as to whether these despicable acts might in some way be connected to current concerns about His Holiness’ health?

According to the ISC’s latest list of four demands, the aim of their protests is to “bring to an end all discrimination against Shugden practitioners” and restore “harmonious relationships with Shugden practitioners”; as one placard put it, to “let all Buddhists become brothers and sisters again”. Bearing in mind that throughout his last two UK visits, the NKT/ISC have repeatedly threatened and harassed His Holiness, screaming and shouting their insults and slogans without respite, one has to wonder what on earth it is that these people think their antics will achieve? One has to ask in what way will their confronting and threatening His Holiness ever restore “harmonious relations”? How will their attempts to intimidate him, bullying and haranguing the Dalai Lama until they are blue in the face, cause any Buddhists anywhere to want  to live together ‘in harmony’ with them, as “brothers and sisters”, ever again?

During his visit to Cambridge, the Dalai Lama was asked whether there was any segregation of Shugden devotees in the exile community. His response, “Yes; They themselves created that.” was immediately seized upon by the ISC as more ‘evidence’ of his hypocrisy. Sadly, as ever, their willingness to interpret his every action as disingenuous rendered  them unable to hear the real message His Holiness was sending them: “Yes, there is some discrimination and it is the demonstrations and personal hate campaign of the NKT/ISC  that are causing it.”

Recent reports from Tibetan settlements in India suggest a direct correlation between NKT/ISC demonstrations in the West and manifestations of discrimination in the East; visitors to Tibetan encampments reported that the principal indicators of the Shugden problem, the signs in shop windows asking devotees to go elsewhere, had all but disappeared once the NKT/ISC demonstrations stopped, and that things had begun to return to a semblance of normality as the dust from the previous wave of demonstrations settled and monastics and laypersons from the different factions began to live alongside one another in harmony. However, as soon as the NKT/ISC demonstrations began again, the old situation reared its ugly head; signs in shops increased and feelings of resentment once again began to run high.

When will the NKT/ISC realise that, like the ancient ouroboros symbol, the legendary serpent that consumes its own tail, their demonstrations are self perpetuating, a self fulfilling prophecy? Designed to bring discrimination to an end, they in fact perpetuate it, just as the serpents’ attempts at consuming itself only cause it to grow ever larger.

When will the NKT/ISC realise that if they continue with their tactics of direct intimidation and personal confrontation of His Holiness and some ill should actually befall him, their aim will never be achieved, and they will instead render themselves the pariahs of the Tibetan Buddhist world for hundreds, indeed thousands of years to come?

This post was slightly edited by the author.

Response to the refutation of Tenzin Wangdak by an anonymous Shugden supporter

These days in exile unity among the Tibetans is more important than ever. The last thing they want is some puritanical protector terrifying those who wander between spiritual traditions. Harmony between the main religious traditions is essential. Shugden hardly fits the role of a mediator or peace-bringer, does he? – Gavin Kilty

The article that this is a response to is found at:

I would like to reply to the above. I don’t do this with anger or resentment, or because I am partisan to Tenzin Wangdak, or that I belong to one side in this dispute. Anger, indignation, partiality and resentment will only entrench a position, and prevent any understanding or consideration of the other side. Anger, in particular, fogs the mind and obscures any rational and middle-way thinking.

In that spirit, I do hope you publish this reply. If you are sure of your views, there is nothing to fear in publishing those views that disagree with yours. For a discussion to proceed both positions must be aired. If for some reason you do not publish this reply, I will publish it elsewhere, together with your article for all to see.

In your very first sentence you prefix the title Dalai Lama with the derogatory “false.” You do this throughout the article, and indeed in most articles posted online and elsewhere you cannot refer to him without using this prefix. If you think that by bombarding the public and your followers with this appellation it will gradually come to be accepted as true, you woefully underestimate the intelligence of your target audience. You might think that if you say it enough it will be accepted as fact, but most intelligent readers will just become tired of it. Moreover, they will compare your assertion with what they know of the Dalai Lama from their own personal experience and observation of him, and rely upon that for their assessment of him, because mere name-calling is childish and baseless.

You might refute this by saying you have published a book “proving” that the Dalai Lama is a false incarnation. But it seems to me that this book is mere retaliation for the Dalai Lama labeling Shugden as a malevolent spirit or a ghost. You regard Shugden as a manifestation of Mañjuśrī, and so any denigration of him is not going to be taken kindly. (I know that Trijang Rinpoche and Phabongkha Rinpoche both proclaimed him thus but we can deal with that later). Just as the Dalai Lama addresses him as a worldly spirit or as Dölgyal, so you seek to retaliate by addressing the Dalai Lama as “false” in all mention of him. This is a childish way of dealing with criticism.

Your book, The False Dalai Lama, comes across as a predetermined conclusion seeking justification. You have already decided that he is false and so you set about finding “proof” to back up that claim. If that is not the case, and I am making baseless allegations, then why several years after the Dalai Lama stated his doubts about Shugden do you suddenly produce this book? Would you have produced it if the Dalai Lama had not said the things he did?

Moreover, the Dalai Lama has set out clearly reasons for his stance that Shugden is not an exclusive protector of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings or the Geluk tradition, not an emanation of Mañjuśrī, and that he is a spirit who does more harm than good. Therefore, your book seeks to mirror that process by setting out reasons why the Dalai Lama is not a genuine Tülku entrusted with the welfare of the Tibetan people, and not an emanation of Avalokiteśvara, and just a politician and dictator who harms the Tibetan people. Again, this just seems like childish tit for tat. Unable to deal with the criticism of your protector, you respond by lashing out instead of employing careful thought and consideration of the issues.

12029810_1621626281438205_4281468213525069386_oMoreover, look at the motivations for the Dalai Lama’s position on Shugden and your position on the Dalai Lama. He did not denigrate Shugden from some perceived slight, or out of resentment for what someone had said, or from any innate dislike of Shugden. He too was a believer in Shugden for many years. The doubts surfaced in the 70’s from circumstances that have been well documented elsewhere, and he felt it was his responsibility to act upon what he had discovered. He explained everything to Trijang Rinpoche before taking any action, because he felt his conscience would not allow him to do otherwise. Your motivations for deriding him as false, however, seem far removed from those. They appear to come from an open hostility to the Dalai Lama, and his public pronouncements on Shugden.

If you think for a minute that your book provides reliable proof of the Dalai Lama being false, and that it is a shining example of non-partisan, academic scholarship, then think again. This is not the place to go through the book chapter by chapter, but some of the reasoning is laughable. He is a Marxist? He is a Muslim? He lost his temper when he was a child? These are proofs? He is not a Marxist ideologue to the exclusion of everything else. He is first and foremost a Buddhist, and spends every morning from 3.30am onwards engaged in Buddhist practice, the most fundamental of which is going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He is a Buddhist monk and keeps his vows purely (despite your slanderous accusation of lying, which is a root downfall for a monk). Just because he expresses sympathy for Marxist economics does not disqualify him from being a Buddhist!

The book states that he lost his temper when he was a child, thereby casting doubt on his suitability as an emanation of Avalokiteśvara. Well, emanations of enlightened beings act in worldly ways, something that you would attest to when pronouncing Dorjé Shugden to be a manifestation of Mañjuśrī. However, if that is a reason for proclaiming the Dalai Lama to be false, then how false must Shugden be when engaging in killing and bring sickness to many lamas who “strayed” to Nyingma teachings? It is no good dismissing these allegations as “superstition,” as you do, because they are the claims of Trijang Rinpoche written down by Zemé Rinpoche in his Yellow Book. They are there for all to see. Trijang Rinpoche even repeats some of these in his own writings.

It is true that protectors sometimes engage in wrathful actions for good reasons, but to condemn as worldly a little boy for getting angry while justifying the violent actions of a protector as enlightened, or dismissing them as “old wife’s tales to stop Gelugpas from mixing traditions” as you do is a contradiction.

I am not even going to bother dealing with the allegation that the 14th Dalai of Tibet is in fact a Muslim!


ISC propaganda video by Gen Kelsang Rabten / Nicholas Pitts

Therefore, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this book is written out of spite, and any reason, no matter how flimsy, is thrown in to bolster an already predetermined outcome.

You say, “Dorjé Shugden is an emanation of Mañjuśrī and the principal protector of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings in this age.” Phabongkha Rinpoche and Dakpo Kalsang Khedrup, the author of the verses of praise that Trijang Rinpoche commented, did assert that Shugden was an emanation of Mañjuśrī, and consequently so did Trijang Rinpoche. However, before that most masters in the Sakya tradition, where devotion to Shugden began, regarded him as a powerful spirit. Moreover, several Geluk masters regarded him as a spirit. I realize that these are assertions with no back up of scriptural reference, but to do that would turn this article in to a lengthy book. One day such a book, well researched and complete with references, will be published.

However, for now this short response is to introduce the fact that there are doubts abut the claims surrounding Shugden. There have been doubts all throughout the past three hundred years, from his beginning as Drakpa Gyaltsen in the 17th century. All parties accept that Drakpa Gyaltsen was the origin of Shugden, but at that time, the 5th Dalai Lama and those around him had their doubts. You may dismiss the 5th Dalai Lama as being unaware of the activities of his Desi’s supposed involvement in Drakgyen’s murder, or even as being complicit in it, but the written evidence at that time, as opposed to hearsay and rumour, points to other explanations. There is even no written evidence at that time that Drakgyen was actually killed.

You back up the claim that Shugden is the principal protector of the Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings with a quote from Trijang Rinpoche’s commentary on Dakpo Kalsang Khedrup’s verses of praise to Dorjé Shugden, which states that the 11th Dalai Lama enthroned him as such together with the Chinese emperor. The 11th Dalai Lama passed away when he was only seventeen, hardly a mature age to be making decisions on who is the protector of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings. It is telling that you choose a Dalai Lama as an authoritative source to back up your position. You ignore the stances of the three most influential Dalai Lamas: the 5th, 13th and 14th , and hone in on a young Dalai Lama who almost certainly had little or no influence in affairs. But then these three Dalai Lamas don’t follow your views on Shugden and so they are denounced and ignored.

If you say that the mention of the 11th Dalai Lama as someone who enthroned Shugden was a comment made by Trijang Rinpoche, that is true, but one (among many) differences between you and Trijang Rinpoche is that he had the greatest of respect and devotion for all the Dalai Lamas. He didn’t cherry pick those who supported his views. In his commentary to these verses of praise he goes out of his way to show nothing but total respect to the Great Fifth. Moreover, in his works and teachings he repeatedly praised the 14th Dalai Lama, urging his disciples to dedicate themselves to him. If you claim you are followers of Trijang Rinpoche, why don’t you follow his advice?

You say that Trijang Rinpoche “regarded the upholding of the Shugden practice to be very important.” Maybe, but he also regarded devotion to the 14th Dalai Lama as very important. So why don’t you follow that advice too? You berate Tenzin Wangdak for not bowing to Trijang Rinpoche, but it seems that you don’t either.

You say that the reason Dorjé Shugden is preferable these days to Kālarūpa, Vaiśravana and six-armed Mahākāla is, “The Dharma Protector who has the strongest karmic connection with the practitioners of Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition in this modern times is Dorjé Shugden. He is the one who is most able to help.” Really? And how does he help? By picking on those who practice any tradition other than the Geluk? These days in exile unity among the Tibetans is more important than ever. The last thing they want is some puritanical protector terrifying those who wander between spiritual traditions. Harmony between the main religious traditions is essential. Shugden hardly fits the role of a mediator or peace-bringer, does he?

If you respond by saying that it is the Dalai Lama who has caused divisions in the Tibetan community by introducing restrictions (no, not a ban) on Shugden practice, you should know that no-one has worked harder than him to bring all traditions together. Just look at his record in doing this since they arrived in exile. Just for once, be fair. Give him some credit. He has organized inter-tradition conferences, regularly welcomes, visits and shows respect to leaders of other traditions. He even included the Bon in Tibetan traditions. In teachings he will often try to bring the various philosophical traditions together (Dzokchen, Mahamudra, Mādhyamika) by unpicking the tradition-specific terminology and finding common ground. Isn’t this working for the unity of the Tibetan communities?

It was in this spirit of responsibility that he expressed his thoughts on Shugden. In 1975 the local Tibetans in Dharamshala were frightened to attend a Padma Saṃbhava offering ritual in the temple because they were afraid of what Shugden would do to them. Is this how Shugden helps? That was the catalyst for Dalai Lama’s embarking on an investigation into Shugden, culminating with the pronouncements he made. How can this be seen as anything other than a genuine concern for the unity of the Tibetan people? It is the unfortunate response of others that has caused the problems we have now.

These days in exile, and in the 21st century, the days of petty sectarianism are over. There is no place for each tradition to tightly cling to their own tradition to the exclusion of others. That may have worked in Tibet but not now in the modern world. The tradition of Tsongkhapa is open to everyone. The traditions of the Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyü are open to everyone. Does Shugden facilitate that? If so, please let me know.

You say, “You are all lost and confused because you have broken your Guru devotion by abandoning your reliance on the great Masters of the Gelugpa tradition such as Je Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche. You don’t trust your Gurus, you trust politics.”

What nonsense this is. And what an insulting judgment to pass on others you don’t even know. Guru devotion (as in the Fifty Verses on the Guru) allows for disagreement with the guru on certain points, as long as that disagreement is not based on anger or prejudice. If it is allowed in guru devotion practice, it must be something that exists within that practice and does not constitute an abandonment of the guru. Ling Rinpoche said he regarded Phabongkha as a perfect Buddha but when the Shugden issue came up he was uneasy. Did he too abandon his guru? The Dalai Lama has said many times that he has never lost devotion for Trijang Rinpoche as his guru. However, you believe he is a false Dalai Lama, and so you wouldn’t believe him. It is very convenient for your position if the person you are disagreeing with is damned as unreliable from the outset, because then you don’t have to disprove anything he says, as to your eyes he is almost certainly lying!

Your insults such as “lost and confused,” “wrongheaded,” “betrayers and purveyors of wrong views,” (the last one sounds almost evangelical!) are built on the notion that people such as Tenzin Wangdak have abandoned and defame great Geluk masters such as Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche. But they have nothing but respect for these masters as great practitioners. And they also are devoted to the Dalai Lama. The only people who are denouncing great lamas are you and your group who regularly turn up at events where the Dalai Lama is speaking and engage in your childish chant of “False Dalai Lama stop lying!”

Your proof that Shugden does not punish people is that if he did, “the False Dalai Lama would be dead for all the harm he has done to Tibetan Buddhism in general and the Gelugpa tradition in particular.” Goodness, where did you learn logic? The reason is based on the assumption that the Dalai Lama is false and that he has caused harm. As these are not accepted by those you are aiming the logic at, it falls rather flat. I could just return the logic: Shugden has not harmed the Dalai Lama because he can’t, because he is not false, and because he has not harmed Buddhism.

However, as I said above, read the Yellow Book. It is full of terrifying punishments meted out to those who practiced Nyingma teachings. As I said before, sometimes protectors can be violent, but please don’t paint Shugden as portraying only a peaceful aspect. If, as you say, Shugden’s “fearsome reputation is superstition: old wife’s tales to stop Gelugpas from mixing traditions,” then you are tagging Trijang Rinpoche’s writing as “old wives’ tales,” and that would be denigrating the words of a great Geluk master, something you would never do, surely!

You say that Shugden followers have no religious freedom because they must choose between breaking away from Shugden and breaking commitment to their gurus, or risk being ostracized from their families. Thousands of Tibetans have given up their Shugden practice, and enjoy plenty of religious freedom. They are not breaking their samaya with their gurus, as explained above. Those who continue the practice are free to do so. That is their choice. If there has been discrimination against Shugden followers in the Tibetan community that is wrong.

But look at this. Buddhist practice takes place in the mind. What you do in your mind is your choice. No one can stop you, and no one knows what you are doing. Think back to those brave Tibetans who spent years in Chinese prisons. Did they suffer the loss of religious freedom you complain about? Or were they able to practice bravely in the privacy of their own minds, away from the vicious hands of the prison guards? Palden Gyatso (author of Fire Under the Snow) spent over thirty years in prison. He managed to practice love and compassion for his jailers. I know him and he has told me these things personally. Such people did not let the vicious oppression of the Chinese daunt them. They used it to further their practice. In the face of that I find your cries of persecution rather hollow.

Recently I met a western NKT nun here in the UK. She told me she had nothing to do with the politics of the Shugden issue, but quietly went about her devotions to Shugden. Does she not have religious freedom? Nobody was stopping her from doing her practice. As I said, if there are those in the Tibetan community who discriminate against Shugden practitioners, that is not right. But before they complain, think about Palden Gyatso.

You talk a bit about Tibetan history, in which you say that, “this practice has been passed down for three hundred and fifty years from Teacher to Student and was practiced by all the great Gelugpa Lamas and Sakya throne holders.”

Tibetan history is a hall of mirrors. You are never sure what you are looking at. The secretive nature of Tibetan society and its tendency for interpretation (outer, inner, secret, and so on) of events make it difficult, but not impossible, to come down on one side or the other. The Dorjé Shugden history site looks well researched, and I will take some time to read it.

However, it is not the case that ALL great Geluk lamas and Sakya throne holders practiced Shugden as you maintain. Moreover, much of the practice before Phabongkha centered on Shugden as a fierce worldly spirit, rather than an emanation of Mañjuśrī, even though the two may not be contradictory. Moreover, if this practice has been handed down for 350 years, that would mean it began around 1665, nine years or so after Drakpa Gyaltsen’s death. But the first recorded contact between a lama and Shugden was some 54 years after his death when he appeared before a Sakya Lama. Minor point maybe, but you would probably pick me up for it.

Maybe we should pool our research and thrash these issues out at a conference some time. What do you think? These points of history need to be sorted out in a calm and rational fashion.

You mention the murder of Ven. Losang Gyatso, and cast doubt on his killers being Shugden supporters. Yes, there have been no convictions, and without a trial it cannot be conclusively determined either way. But, come on. Is your doubt based on a fair appraisal of the available evidence or is it a product of your bias toward Shugden? You level the same charge at the Tibetan government, but is there no bias in your stance of attempting to exonerate Shugden supporters of this crime?

Having said that, I must declare an interest here. He was my teacher for eight years at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. I owe him a great debt of gratitude. He allowed me, a layman, to enter the school and join in the classes and debate sessions. I value my time at that school highly. It helped me make sense of the Dharma. So maybe I am biased too, but look at the evidence.

He was indeed outspoken. Many in the Geluk tradition complained about him as you say. And who are the most puritanical of the Geluk? Who are those who would not take kindly to criticism of the tradition? He had received threats from the Dorje Shugden Charitable and Religious Society. This letter is for all to see. And what about the obscene letter received after the murder in which the sender asks if they enjoyed the three carcasses of meat as a Losar present, and that there would be more carcasses if the present practice is continued? Although it is not signed, the contents make it clear on whose behalf the letter is written.

You suggest that Namgyal Monastery might have committed the murder. Are you serious? Namgyal is the monastery of the Dalai Lama, who appointed Ven. Losang Gyatso as principal. What possible motive could they have? The proof offered is that there was a movie being played at Namgyal the night of the murder, and that this was unusual and could have been set up to drown out the noise of the act. Is this a serious piece of evidence!

The Indian press reported on the murders, quoting the police as clearly linking the murders to Shugden followers, and even naming four of the accused. The whole story of the taxi pursuit from Delhi and the phone call to the Dorje Shugden Society in Delhi is there. I will not go into detail here, as it is too lengthy, and this has been well documented. Also you could, and probably would, just dismiss it as uncorroborated, and so we would enter the back and forth process of discussion and argument.

In conclusion, your vilification of the Dalai Lama is unprecedented in the long history of this institution. Never before has there been such a focused attack on a Dalai Lama because of one particular action he has taken. Even if you disagree with his stance on Shugden, which of course you are perfectly entitled to, why then do you proceed to condemn the whole person with claims that he is a false incarnation, a liar, a mere politician, a harmer of the Geluk tradition, and so on. What excessive defamation just because of his stance on a particular protector. Have you never looked at the whole of his character, his dedication to world peace, the Tibet struggle? Are the hundreds of institutions who have showered awards upon him blind? Are the millions who revere him stupid? And are you, and Chinese communist party, the only ones who see the truth?

If you see someone as wholly bad because of one action that he or she has taken, then you will interpret everything they do as bad. Nobody can know everything about a person, but you can come down on one side or the other by looking at the whole person, not just one action he has committed, and making a sensible choice. I have been around the Dalai Lama since the early seventies. I have met him several times. I have taken teachings from him many times, I have examined what he teaches, I have observed him closely, and my conclusion is, at the very least he is an honourable man, an ethical person, a good monk, a kind hearted soul who puts others first, a great thinker, someone who takes his responsibility as Dalai Lama very seriously, and everyday tries tirelessly to put every Buddhist teaching he has learned into practice. How many of us can claim the same?

You could of course just dismiss me as a Dalai Lama cheerleader, and that is up to you. Or we could try and work this out, settle it once and for all. We could sit around a table and talk about it. A meeting was held in California recently. It didn’t get very far, because it was only the first one. But who knows what is possible if we only try?

Gavin Kilty
September 2015.

line-gothicGavin Kilty has been a full-time translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics since 2001. Before that he lived in Dharamsala, India, for fourteen years, where he spent eight years training in the traditional Geluk monastic curriculum through the medium of class and debate at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. He also teaches Tibetan language courses in India, Nepal, and elsewhere, and is a translation reviewer for the organization 84000, Translating the Words of the Buddha

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Who is demonstrating against the Dalai Lama? [Questions and Answers about the New Kadampa Tradition]

by Carol McQuire

Who is demonstrating against the Dalai Lama?

The protests against His Holiness the Dalai Lama are organised by the International Shugden Community (ISC) whose directors are senior teachers and members of the New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU). They are supported on the ground by other NKT followers and a minority of Tibetan Shugden practitioners who have proven links to Chinese interests.

NKT teachers are all volunteers with no contracts or worker’s rights, although some are paid. There is some evidence from 2008 that shows a senior NKT teacher was removed from her NKT teaching role after publicly criticising the protests against His Holiness.

What is the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)?

The NKT is a controversial New Religious Movement – academically analysed as being appreciably different from mainstream Buddhism. It was created as a legal entity by a Tibetan Buddhist monk called Kelsang Gyatso and his students in 1992. It can be called ‘separatist’ due to its official policies of separation from all Tibetan teachers except Kelsang Gyatso. Centres are advised never to accept invitations and to ignore requests for help from any Tibetan Buddhist group or teacher. The NKT is mentioned several times in an academic pamphlet on religious extremism in UK universities.

The NKT functions like a ‘spiritual franchise’; each NKT centre or business is a member of the ‘Kadampa Buddhist Union’, is financially independent of the NKT and sustains any losses locally while all profits are passed directly to the NKT through the ‘International Temples Fund’. Each centre has to follow the ‘NKT Constitution’ and ‘Internal Rules’. There are exceptions [See “Who runs the NKT?”]

The NKT’s main daily spiritual practice chosen by Kelsang Gyatso is a Guru prayer to Je Tsongkhapa combined with prayers to Shugden, a Tibetan protector whose propitiation began in the 18th century amongst an elite male group of Gelug tantric meditators. The practice became popular during the 20th century until it was seen as provocative of sectarian dispute.

How is the NKT set up legally?

The purpose of the NKT is to ‘increase Buddhist faith in the world’ by ‘promoting the activities of the union of Kadampa Buddhist Centres known as the NKT-IKBU’, to ‘introduce the Buddhist Faith of the New Kadampa Tradition publicly’, to ‘exemplify Buddhist practice by service to the public’ and to ’emphasize the development’ of affiliated ‘Kadampa centres’, ‘publishing activities’ and ‘companies’.

The NKT and each of its subsidiary businesses (such as centres) in the UK are registered as both a ‘company’ and a ‘charity’ (giving them tax free status). All ‘NKT’ centres are therefore independent businesses that are ‘spiritually affiliated’ with the NKT but are legally and financially independent entities. In other countries, a similar ‘independence’ is set up according to local laws. Local directors of NKT centres are the persons responsible in case of loss while the NKT generally takes no responsibility. Exceptions are the one remaining ‘Kadampa Hotel’ in Holland and the ‘Kadampa Primary School’; the former runs at a loss as did the latter until 2014. The Spanish (and its subsidiary Taiwanese) company owned by the NKT ran at a loss in 2014. The NKT also owns the London Kadampa Meditation Centre (KMC) and the German International Retreat Centre (IRC).

As stated by NKT sources, the ‘business lineage’ of the NKT is considered equally as important as the spiritual in furthering the aims of the charity.

How big is the NKT?

The NKT has roughly 48 affiliated residential ‘Kadampa Buddhist’ (KBC) and ‘Kadampa Meditation’ (KMC) centres in the UK, 50 in the US, and more than 120 in the rest of the world. Approximately 600 venues are temporarily rented, often only by the hour, for giving classes. Even adding the temporary venues this does not add up to the ‘1,100 centres and groups’ the NKT claims that Kelsang Gyatso has established.

The ‘World Peace Temples’ are temple buildings that are within the 16 Kadampa Meditation Centres such as that at Manjushri KMC, the ‘mother centre’ of the NKT. There are 3 international retreat centres, 32 World Peace Cafes, one ‘Kadampa Hotel’ in Holland and a children’s ‘Kadampa Primary School’ in England. Tharpa publishing company, which only publishes Kelsang Gyatso’s books and translates these into other languages including Chinese, has affiliates and distributes world wide. Profits are also collected from the NKT’s worldwide festivals and celebrations and through selling statues made in the Kadampa Art Studio at Manjushri.

Where does the NKT’s money go?

Every NKT business has the same intention as stated in the NKT’s ‘Internal Rules’ – ‘flourishing Kadam Dharma’ – all profits are directed to their ‘International Temples Fund’ (ITF) – which aims to create a New Kadampa Tradition temple in every major city in the world.

Public accounts clarifying the specific activities and decisions of the International Temple Fund (ITF) are not available. To get some information about how these funds are collected from each NKT subsidiary and what they are used for it is necessary to view the financial accounts and websites of each NKT centre/business.

The ITF can only be seen as a few figures in the final section of accounts for the ‘New Kadampa Tradition’. At the end of 2013, the ITF had £2.8 million designated funds with £14.7 million available as unrestricted funds giving a total of £17.5 million. Including this, the NKT had a total declared fund of £20.7 million.

This does not reflect the real value of the NKT as if the NKT decides that any affiliated centre or business should be sold, all profit will revert to the ITF. Although NKT income had generally decreased in 2014, the ITF had risen to £18.6 million by December 2014.

There are now a number of NKT teachers who have taught using Kelsang Gyatso’s methods for over thirty years. NKT ‘Resident Teachers’ – one for each NKT centre –
are not funded by the NKT but by their local centres who also pay for the costs of their teacher’s international travel and study with the NKT. The NKT has no pension or retirement policy, no hospice and gives no job security.

Due to this lack of support for NKT teachers and administrators and the pervasive use of volunteers, overheads are very low at only 6% of income in 2013.

How do NKT centres start?

Funds are collected locally with inspiring campaigns ‘for world peace’ and the opportunity to ‘spread the pure Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa’ and then interest-free loans may be given if the ITF considers a new centre viable. For instance, there is currently a ‘Train 50 teachers for London’ campaign and fundraising for plans to build a NKT ‘London Temple’ in Wimbledon with £800,000 allocated as a grant from the International Temples Fund. Unusually, this London centre was bought by the NKT in 2014 – new centres most often acquire their own mortgages.

The older residential centres in the UK were started by using live-in volunteers who renovated large, empty buildings bought cheaply by the NKT. These volunteers lived mainly on state benefits. English Heritage and local council funding have been given to help with renovations as the buildings were ‘listed’ (protected) and the NKT provided needed new accommodation.

The largest centre the NKT has – the ‘mother centre’ Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in Cumbria, UK – was actually bought by the FPMT, another Tibetan Buddhist group, in 1975. In a deeply contentious dispute, Kelsang Gyatso kept Manjushri for his own purposes, even though he reportedly already had another residential centre given to him in York. According to oral accounts, his stated intention from the late 1970s in the UK – he arrived in 1977 – has been to promote ‘pure Dharma’ by creating his own ‘independent’ centres.

How does the NKT expand so easily?

These earlier, large NKT residential centres are frequently remortgaged to send funds to the ITF. Bodhisattva Centre in Brighton sent £429,530 in 2013 as a loan, having remortgaged the centre for £522,032. This cost is then covered locally by charges for teachings and accommodation. Centre residents often temporarily ‘give up’ their rooms to be rented during main NKT teaching courses producing a ‘double’ rent. There are no discounts or free teachings for ordained sangha or concessions for low income students. Even working holiday visitors can be asked to pay for teachings.

The NKT, through the ‘International Temples Fund’, is continually expanding its international property portfolio. It is not clear who makes the decisions about which properties to buy. Kelsang Gyatso previously secretly visited projected temple sites in person but this is no longer the case.

According to centre websites, in 2014, the International Temples Fund (ITF) spent $4.75 million on two new centres in the US; one a street away from Hollywood Boulevard and the other in the Hamptons, New York State.

Teachers for NKT centres are trained very quickly compared to teachers in any other Buddhist tradition. Students learn techniques to ‘transmit’ Kelsang Gyatso’s books to others. The ‘Special Teacher Training Programme’ [STTP] in London or online takes only 2 years. The residential programme at Manjushri only lasts 6 months. The requirement for entering the training is mainly ‘faith’, not any specific study or time spent in the NKT. Once on the training programme you can be asked to teach even if you have not completed any course; you only need to express the intention to complete it. No other training is given to or qualification taken by either teachers or administrators.

How does the NKT keep control of so many centres and teachers?

The NKT General Spiritual Director appoints and ‘authorises’ a resident teacher for every NKT centre in the world. Each resident teacher then decides who else is authorised to teach at their local centre. Resident teachers do not normally have any employment outside NKT centres and are often the only people maintained by a centre.

The NKT system is kept consistent by the study programmes which focus on simplified and highly edited traditional Tibetan Buddhist texts with commentaries by Kelsang Gyatso. NKT teachers have to memorise and teach from these books. In many ways ‘the book is the teacher’ and if NKT teachers deviate from this style they are at risk of losing their teaching roles. Each summer the resident teachers are required to be in residence at Manjushri and all of those living outside the UK, even the most senior teachers, study on Neil Elliott’s London ‘STTP’ [Special Teacher Training Programme] online.

Studies and exams are often repeated and the more complex books are seldom taught. Very few NKT teachers have finished the original TTP study of 12 books; the STTP has only 6. Students are encouraged to think of themselves as empowered ‘by the lineage’ and to be giving the ‘oral transmission’ of the texts to others. The teachings are given in a very simple, repetitive way and the accompanying meditations and sung prayers are in a slow ‘new age’ style. Ex members recall these for decades afterwards.

The NKT gives very little ongoing supervision to resident teachers. This means that although the study programmes are systematic, each resident teacher has complete personal freedom to behave as they wish in their local centre. The NKT will only check if there are ‘complaints’. There is no system of training in ethical behaviour based on the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Vinaya (code of ethics).

How can I identify an NKT centre?

Avoiding online criticisms of ‘the NKT’ in social media, newspapers, academia and by ex NKT followers the NKT have often repackaged their promotion. For universities, schools or health services they call themselves ‘Modern Buddhism’ or ‘Kadampa Buddhism’, ‘Modern Buddhism and Meditation’, ‘Meditate In London, etc. Local centres do not often mention ‘NKT’ in their ads. Instead they use their individual names such as Heruka Kadampa Meditation Centre, Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre, Kadampa Buddhist Centre, etc.

Found in Waterstones in Putney.

Found in Waterstones in Putney.

Who runs the NKT?

Power in the NKT is concentrated. The trustees of the NKT, who manage the NKT/ITF’s extensive funds, are the General Spiritual Director (GSD), and the Deputy Spiritual Director as well as two other NKT students. The executive officers are the Secretary and Deputy Secretaries of the NKT, the Secretary of the GSD and a treasurer.

The Finance Committee is made up from these same 8 people. The NKT Secretary and Deputy Secretary also function as the Kadampa Meditation Centre and Temple Development directors. This gives them three roles each.

The Education Council is made up of the ‘members’ of the NKT and consists of Kelsang Gyatso, each NKT centre and every resident teacher in the world. It is managed by the GSD and the NKT Secretary. Conflicts can be solved easily as all NKT teachers are appointed by the GSD and can be fired immediately and any changes that a local centre may try to make have to be authorised by all the members of the Education Council. The GSD is also a named Spiritual Director of every NKT centre. Where there have been serious conflicts which involved the Charity Commission in the UK, a threat of arrest for unsubstantiated charges of fraud was made by the police against one local director because he did not agree with NKT policy.

The NKT has 27 paid employees. Who those employees are and what their salaries and responsibilities are cannot be determined from the trustees’ reports.

Neil Elliott, the teacher of the online STTP in London, is teaching all the international Resident Teachers instead of, as would be expected, the GSD, who only trains them for 2 weeks each summer. Neil was previously the ‘heart disciple’ of Kelsang Gyatso but he resigned and disrobed amidst allegations of sexual misconduct in 1996. According to the NKT Internal Rules, no one who disrobes is allowed to teach again in the NKT. It seems that the NKT can ignore its own constitution when this is convenient.

Why are people attracted to the NKT?

In the UK, the NKT offers a very ‘British’ experience – tea, gardens and ‘pure’, simple meditation teachings with very few foreign words given by friendly teachers of your own nationality and culture. The NKT tries to use teachers from each culture in their home countries. Practising Dharma, even sophisticated tantric practices, is made easy and comfortable.

Increasing personal satisfaction developed from meditating is linked up by the NKT with their project of ‘world peace’ – for promoting NKT ‘pure Dharma’ and creating temples all over the world. It is easy to feel you are being useful and compassionate if you support this.

What do the NKT celebrate?

The NKT have their own system of celebratory events unaligned to the Tibetan Buddhist calendar and do not go to any historically Buddhist places, such as Bodhgaya, on pilgrimage. Followers are only encouraged to attend NKT festivals.

How many New Kadampas are there?

There is no clear data on how many followers, students or centre residents the NKT has. The legal membership is mentioned under ‘Who runs the NKT’? The largest NKT centre is Manjushri KMC with approximately 90 live-in students; Bodhisattva KMC has less than thirty. UK centres tend to be residential; international centres tend to be smaller with space only for the teacher and a few others.

The NKT’s main International Festivals are the Spring and Summer Festivals held at Manjushri KMC and the Fall Festival held at different centres each year, often where a new temple is being opened. NKT data for festival attendance and profit is as follows:

Spring: 1,400
Summer: over 2,000
Fall: no data (New York)
Profit: £741,670
(Profits from New York were kept by the New York World Peace Temple/KMC)

Spring: 1,100
Summer: 2,500
Fall: 6,900 (Portugal)
(Announced as Kelsang Gyatso’s last appearance in public)
Profit: £998,981

Spring: 1,400
Summer: 2,220
Fall: 750 (Spain)
Profit: £836,135

How many people visit NKT centres?

Manjushri KMC, as a building of historic as well as religious interest, has a full programme of community access including guided tours and school visits. Most of these are charged.

2014: 15,000 adults, 2,000 children (900 Girl Guides) and another 900 on tours
2103: 13,800 adults and 2,225 children
2012: 13,500 adults and 2,200 children
2011: Under 11,000

Other NKT centres have open days and free short drop in meditation sessions to encourage visitors as well as facilitating school visits which are charged.

What are the complications of going to NKT classes?

A first contact with Buddhist teachings can transform lives – but this is mainly attributed to Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT, not to Buddha or to Tibetan Buddhism. Students are soon made to feel they should ‘return the kindness of the Guru’ in giving them the NKT centres and the NKT’s ‘special’ Dharma by working for and giving to a centre as well as helping others to do so.

Special, exclusive commitments to the NKT are added to the ‘simple Buddhist path’ the NKT teach through the tantric and refuge vows students are soon expected to take if they wish their path to enlightenment to be faster. These commitments oblige students to practice Shugden prayers and meditations daily, to promote the NKT Dharma and not to criticise the NKT. Ordination vows keep the ordained tied to the NKT. Their ordination is not to ‘Buddha’ but to the NKT with Kelsang Gyatso as their spiritual guide for all future lives.

Kelsang Gyatso gives a simple ordination of ten promises based on avoiding 5 non virtues and ‘practising contentment’ and celibacy. This ‘transforms’ into ‘full’ ordination only by following the NKT path and changing one’s motivation, not by taking more vows, as is the case in all other ‘full’ Buddhist ordinations.

A sense of obligation and loyalty to the NKT develops that in practice becomes ‘obedience’ to ‘Geshe-la’s (Kelsang Gyatso’s) wishes’. Followers also describe feeling they are ‘special’ because they are committed to a ‘special’, unique and fast path which they consider superior to any Tibetan Buddhist presentation.

What will paying for NKT classes and volunteering in the NKT promote?

Money given to the NKT will expand and promote the NKT all over the world – without respecting the Human Rights of NKT followers who are volunteering for the organisation. There are no labour rights, pension schemes, etc. Any NKT teacher can be asked to leave their role immediately without any recompense for their work.

Money given for meditation classes will also be contributing to protests against the Dalai Lama – NKT teachers are living on stipends from their local NKT centres whilst protesting as ‘members of the ISC’. Each NKT centre pays the costs of its own resident teacher, not the NKT. Therefore, to prove that a centre has no involvement with the protests, each one would have to prove either that their resident teacher did not attend the protests or that whilst attending the customary NKT stipend was not paid to their teacher.

Why is it difficult to leave the NKT?

NKT ordination cannot be transferred. NKT teachings have an intense focus on the special purity of their own presentation that often prevents a stress free appreciation of other teachings. People easily feel guilty about ‘breaking vows’ and a deep sense of loss at losing their NKT roles and NKT Dharma. Leaving the group may mean starting a completely new social life. People may have given all their savings to the NKT and not worked in an ordinary career for decades. Some may have, simply, nowhere else to go.

What do ex NKT followers report?

People can become ‘addicted’ to the NKT world view in which activities outside the NKT world become ‘meaningless’. Personal ambition can easily become deeply attached to the NKT project of world expansion and the role of ‘being a Buddhist teacher’. Ex NKT followers frequently mention anxiety, depression and exhaustion caused by overwork and coping with unrealistic expectations from senior NKT teachers and managers only trained in promoting the NKT. There is no other training in counselling, administrative or executive skills. There is no ‘duty of care’ towards any teacher or student in the NKT.

What concerns about Shugden does the Dalai Lama have?

His Holiness does not say that no one should practice Shugden but is warning against the possible consequences of doing so. In certain cases the practice of Shugden can lead to a deeply sectarian exaggeration of the ‘purity’ of a particular kind of Buddhism, destroying unity between practitioners as well as affecting their health and leading towards the breaking of refuge vows. Therefore, for their well being, he recommends that his own tantric students do not practice Shugden.

Is the NKT Tibetan?

The NKT stated recently that they are an ‘independent Western Buddhist tradition’ and that ‘the NKT is not Tibetan Buddhism but Western Buddhism’. It should be questioned then, why NKT monks and nuns are given Tibetan names and use Tibetan Buddhist ordination robes.

The NKT state that their ‘spiritual practice’ is based on the study programmes of ‘Buddha’s teachings of sutra and tantra‘. However Kelsang Gyatso, the NKT’s founder and ‘ordaining master’ is only a Buddhist teacher on the basis of his own Tibetan Buddhist training and ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

The NKT state that ‘there is no connection whatsoever between this spiritual tradition and the Dalai Lama’ but Kelsang Gyatso is known to have attended teachings from the Dalai Lama whilst he was studying.

Is there a precedent for NKT students or Shugden practitioners having to ‘choose’ between the advice of different teachers?

The ISC campaign states that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made Shugden practitioners suffer as they have been forced to choose between keeping their Shugden commitments, which may be family and/or Guru based, and following His Holiness’ advice. However, when Kelsang Gyatso was finalising the creation of his own tradition in the early 1990s, residents at Manjushri Institute (later KMC) were forced to choose between Kelsang Gyatso and any other teacher they might follow. Kelsang Gyatso claimed exclusivity.

It is unthinkable for the Dalai Lama or any ethical Tibetan teacher to demand exclusivity.

Why are the protests against the Dalai Lama so defamatory?

If the NKT are not ‘Tibetan’ and the Dalai Lama’s view of Shugden is only a request to followers committed to his tantric initiation practices, then why should the NKT in the guise of the ISC continue to protest using unethical but legal protest techniques such as ridicule and noise?

There is documentation showing that the use of ‘ridicule’ is a deliberate ISC policy promoted by senior NKT members most probably due to the lack of serious evidence that can be verified by third parties to support their exaggerated claims. Within the last year ISC followers have claimed both ‘six million’, ‘four million’ and now only ‘many thousands’ of Shugden practitioners suffering from abuses supposedly caused by His Holiness’s advice on Shugden.

Why has the ISC changed its four points?

The ISC recently changed its four points; demands made to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The ISC had claimed continuing ‘persecution’ and ‘prejudice’ and called for the return of the Shugden monks to their monasteries. The ISC no longer calls for the return of the monks. Shugden monks in India are now content with separate institutions as this policy managed by the monasteries through democratic voting has been successful. There is now very little evidence of any direct conflict in the streets of Bylakuppe. NKT monks and nuns have far fewer rights within the NKT than any monk at Shar Gaden and Serpom – the Shugden monasteries in India.

Why are the protests damaging for the Tibetan cause?

The protests create confusion about Tibetan Buddhism and the role the Dalai Lama has in Tibetan society. Buddhism is embedded in Tibetan culture and the management of a country using the ethics of spiritual practice is seen as deeply valuable. The ISC campaign minimises and ridicules the Dalai Lama’s concern for his people as ‘political’.

Importantly, the protests deflect attention from the abhorrent and documented persecution of Tibetans within China that Human Rights organisations such as Amnesty International so clearly reveal.

The Chinese government supports Shugden and creates further conflict within Tibetan society – third party evidence can be found of people being imprisoned for criticising Shugden worship.

What are the benefits of the protests for the NKT?

Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the NKT organised demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama that coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT who in each case were ordained monks.

His Holiness has not changed his general advice on Shugden since 1996 except to suggest a referendum on Shugden in 2008. Facilitating the independence of Shugden followers stemmed increasing conflict. Therefore what caused NKT followers to start their demonstrations and defamations again in 2014? A possible cause is another crisis of power; the need for cohesion when a strong ‘good image’ at the pinnacle of the NKT is missing; Kelsang Gyatso has not been seen in public nor appeared in any videos or photos since October 2013, nor has his death been announced. Followers are only told what are ‘Geshe-la’s wishes’ and are expected to follow them.

Protests against the Dalai Lama increase solidarity and pride within the ISC/NKT. This reinforces the protesters’ sense of being ‘heroic’ and ‘victimised Kadampas’ saving Tibetans from ‘impure Dharma’ and the ‘mixing of politics with religion’. Surely a concern for the well being of his own people is a sign of the compassion of a spiritual leader not of his corruption?

The protests also keep NKT followers distanced from understanding the non sectarian approach of the Dalai Lama – the protesters are ignorant of Tibetan history, culture and Buddhist practice. The giving up of personal independence to the ‘perfect Guru’ and his intentions are NKT practices through which they mistakenly see and judge Tibetan Buddhist practice and practitioners. They deeply misunderstand the open, humanitarian and tolerant ethos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Why are there demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama?

In Tibetan Buddhism there is no expectation that any person should follow the instructions of a teacher they do not respect. The ISC/NKT followers show no respect for His Holiness so there is no expectation whatsoever that they should follow his advice. Tibetan Shugden Buddhists in India either practice independently of His Holiness or they follow his advice; some now live in independent Shugden monasteries and others simply practice Shugden in private to keep their family or other commitments. Shugden monasteries have the proven support of His Holiness and their Tibetan monastic institutions of origin promoted their independence. The needs of Shugden practitioners have been respected. There is no substantial evidence of Human Rights abuses. Any serious conflict relating to Shugden has dissipated.

However, followers of the Dalai Lama are still subject to the harassment of loud drumming and shouting which, whenever legally possible, have been happily used by NKT/ISC followers to prevent His teachings from being heard peacefully in the west. NKT, ex NKT and others are also subject to continuous attempts at silencing any criticism of the NKT/ISC. Social media is covered with NKT/ISC anti Dalai Lama defamations. The NKT/ISC’s own behaviour displays what His Holiness warns against as a possible consequence of Shugden practice – divisive sectarian behaviour. It is precisely this kind of behaviour that creates more fear and puts Shugden practitioners into disrepute.

It is no longer possible for ISC protesters to insist they are ‘behaving independently’ of the NKT when, instead of teaching meditation, senior NKT teachers are following His Holiness around the world. What business or spiritual organisation would allow its members so much freedom to follow concerns it did not share?

If the NKT’s ‘Modern Buddhists’ really have no debt or connection to Tibetan Buddhism, as they say, then surely they should acknowledge their lack of knowledge of Tibetan ways of being. But then on what grounds can they claim to have exclusive access to the ‘only pure Dharma’ of Je Tsongkhapa – a Tibetan teacher whose lineage they claim to follow without studying his books and methods – and upon what right can they then claim to have the wisdom to judge His Holiness so harshly?

Perhaps NKT followers suffer nostalgia for the roots they have cut. Recently published public accounts show that the NKT has lost considerable income in the last year. Tibetan Buddhism, via His Holiness, continues to flourish outside the Tibetan world.

Carol McQuire
New Kadampa Survivors
September 13th 2015

Is there no medical treatment for Shugden followers as Anti-Dalai Lama protesters claim?


by Carol McQuire

The latest ISC/NKT leaflet ‘evidence’ of prejudice against Shugden practitioners states that the Shugden monks and families in India do not get access to proper medical treatment. This is not the case. The actual situation is more complex and culturally distinct to the medical system the ISC/NKT are accustomed to.

In the the images of discrimination section of the ISC leaflet there is a picture of a sign supposedly at the Drepung Loseling Clinic at Mundgod Tibetan Settlement.

This image caption from the new ISC leaflet is totally misleading. The ban from entry into the monastery has not relation to the claim that health treatment is refused for Shugden proprietors.

Screen shot from the new ISC leaflet.

These signs are unfortunate as they can be easily misunderstood; all this means in practice is that Shar Gaden and Serpom monks use the clinic of their own colleges – just like every other Tibetan monk.

Through fundraising there are now 5 new clinics for monastics all providing the same services.

Each of the large Gelug Monasteries there (Gaden Shartse, Gaden Jangtse, Drepung Gomang, Drepung Loseling) has its own clinic providing basic medical care. They all use their own clinics.

It’s Tibetan style: Sera Jey monks go to the Sera Jey Clinic, Sera Mey monks to Sera Mey clinic. Penor Rinpoche’s Nyingma monastery has its own hospital. Ganden Jangtse monks  go to Jangtse clinic, Gaden Shartse to Shartse clinic.

Laypeople go to settlement clinics in either Bylakuppe or Mundgod, neither of which have signs at the moment.

Many monks prefer Indian GPs in the nearby towns to the clinics, as there are less wait times.

For anything beyond minor ailments all Tibetans are compelled to use Indian hospitals, which will treat anyone who can afford it, as the clinics are not equipped.

So the story that people are dying because of a sign at Loseling clinic is like most of the other stories the NKT/ISC present as evidence; inaccurate and misinformed.

As is so often the case, the ISC/NKT mix a little realism with exaggeration.

line-gothicSee also

Information by acknowledged academic authority

Update 21/09/15

Dalai Lama protesters & Shugden followers – Propaganda unlimited

Is there a need to go again into the bizarre, distorted and hateful propaganda spread worldwide either by the International Shugden Community (ISC) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) or the Indian and Singapore based organised pro Shugden campaigners?* Is there any need to address the hundreds of claims made by the organised pro Shugden campaigners on dozens of websites and blogs, press releases, tweeds, Facebook posts etc. they issue around the clock?

I would like to say, “No!” because for any person with some common sense and understanding of the issue it is hard to take the whole campaign seriously in any way or to find any creditability in it. However, the majority of the media worldwide seem to be still too naive or too busy or too uninformed (see Foreign Policy) so that they easily fall pray to the propaganda and human rights rhetoric of the campaigning Shugden groups … What ever the causes for the lack of care of so many journalists and media is, many of them have given the propaganda of the Shugden campaigners and their false or distorted claims a lot of space in their articles. By doing this they have provided a platform for the spread of propaganda and for bullying the Dalai Lama. I would be happy if this stops with the upcoming UK visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

For a tiny but clear glimpse into their propaganda universe here a quick overview*:

The claimed persecution of Shugden followers …

The claimed persecution of Shugden followers …

We had similar bizarre and untrue claims right from the start of the campaign in 2008. See for instance:

Joanne Clark unravelled a lot more of those distortions, outright lies and propaganda on her blog. Here a brief overview about this endless stream of misinformation:

But what about the young Tibetan whose finger were cut off? You can buy the mutilated hand online:



But what about the house set on fire? Well, for details see here:

Thanks to Steve Maxwell for his investigation about the mutilated hand!

See also

* It is not clear if those memes were made by Tsem Tulku and his followers (Kechara group) or Kelsang Gyatso and his followers (NKT/ISC). The memes of NKT/ISC are similar ridiculous but more focused on insulting and undermining the Dalai Lama – comparing the Dalai Lama with Hitler, portraying him as a pig etc. Whoever made the memes, NKT/ISC campaigners read such memes, believe in it, share it and use it as ‘evidence’ of discrimination. Such memes become a means to further fuel their fighting power (or aggression) against the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama UK Visit 2015: Statement By Ex NKT Followers On The Demonstrations Against His Holiness The Dalai Lama

We warmly welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the UK and wish him a safe and pleasant tour!

Dalai Lama UK 2015 Visit


Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition, a modern, western Buddhist group, first encouraged his students to attack and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his views on the Tibetan protector worship known as ‘Shugden’ in 1997.

Since then his followers, using various front organisations such as ‘The International Shugden Community’ (ISC), have protested against the Dalai Lama using loud noise and abusive and offensive language misrepresenting his role within the democratic Tibetan exile community and ignoring the status of Tibetans as refugees. Tensions around the Shugden issue have been dying down in the Tibetan communities in India since 2008 when Shugden monastics were given properties and land previously owned by the larger mainstream Gelugpa monasteries.

Kelsang Gyatso’s students stand beside Tibetans with proven connections to Chinese interests who are happy for His Holiness to be maligned. Protesters try to interrupt His Holiness and make him difficult to hear. They do not display any fear in stating their views even though they say that speaking out puts them at risk. Their requests for dialogue have been met.

Ex NKT followers, by contrast, are frequently silenced by legal threats and anonymous defamations when we have simply tried to clarify what we know to be our own valid experience. Academics, newspapers and publishers have also been threatened. Most ex NKT only wish to rebuild their lives outside the group in privacy and tranquillity. In this context, speaking publicly is too distressing; our vulnerabilities become too exposed to minimisation, ridicule and shaming.

As the founder of the NKT has not been seen in public since 2013 and we know the NKT to be unethical in its treatment of its followers in many ways, we seriously doubt the intentions behind the current protests against His Holiness; ISC campaigns have often been proved dishonest and illogical. Further clarification can be found in our declaration.

We would like to express our sadness at the behaviour of our previous companions who we understand to be misinformed and we wish His Holiness the Dalai Lama a safe and pleasant stay in the UK.

Ex NKT (New Kadampa Survivors) and Supporters
September 10th 2015


line-gothicMore statements

Information by acknowledged academic authority

Press coverage with a critical or an enlightening approach (chronological order)

Still worth a read

The Imperfect Buddha Podcast 3.2: Tenzin Peljor is in the house!

Matthew O’Connor from the Post-Traditional Buddhism blog made recently an interview with me. I didn’t listen to it yet. Hopefully it is somewhat meaningful. At least, I spoke from heart and tried to be honest. Its about cults and life in the New Kadampa Tradition, life as a monk in the West, Buddhism and the value of academic papers / research, websites I set up etc. …

If you are interested in it, here is the link to the interview at SoundCloud:

and here is the blog post:

The concept of “evil” in Buddhism and specifically in the context of Dorje Shugden

Here is an interesting essay by Georges Dreyfus from 2011 about the concept of “evil” in Buddhism, specifically in Tibetan Buddhism. Dreyfus examines in this essay among others the concept of “evil” in the context of the deity Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal. The essay highlights also the classes and functions of Dharma protectors, and the traditional role of Shugden in the Gelug school.

I think it is an important essay to get a better understanding about these tricky issues:

Cults, Cultish Shennanigans & Buddhist Groups

From Matthew O’Connell’s Post-Traditional Buddhism:

Episode 3.1 at Soundcloud.

Here it is, finally, after a long wait, episode 3.1 of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. We get ‘culty’ in this one, discussing Buddhists cults, cultish behaviour in Buddhist groups and the reasons why people join. We look at the NKT, Rigpa, Shambhala, Michael Roach and H.H Maitreya, otherwise known as Ronny Spenser and open the discussion up to a consideration of how cultish behaviours seep into even innocuous Buddhist groups when criticism is left aside and institutional politics encourage group conformity.

We tell a story or two to keep you entertained and manage to generate some banter in spite of this topic being a heavy one in places.

Is it possible that someone will get offended? Yes. Is that our intention? No. We do speak truth to power though and that means shining the light on where things have gone wrong in western Buddhism.

Check it out. Spread the love and let us know what you think at our dedicated Facebook page.

See also

What does the Dalai Lama mean to a young Tibetan, grown up in occupied Tibet under Chinese rule?

One of Seven Billion Human Beings
by Jamyang Tashi 

“What does the Dalai Lama mean to you?” One of my American friends asked me this question about two years ago after we had a long conversation about the self-immolations inside Tibet that had reached media attention all over the world. My instant answer to my friend was: “It’s going to take a long time to talk about him”. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid answering but rather to see if he would be willing to listen to me explaining such a renowned person in my imperfect English. My answer had doubled my friend’s curiosity. He jerked forward and expectantly said, “Please, I have nothing but time”.

I realized that I had misunderstood his question. He wasn’t asking me to talk about the Dalai Lama. He wanted to know how I felt about the Dalai Lama. Oddly this was a new question to me. I began noticing the difference between telling who the Dalai Lama is and explaining what he means to me. I immediately found myself in a situation I had never been in before. To explain what the Dalai Lama meant to me didn’t seem to require knowing any of his biographical data but to recall my own life. At this point the question had become personal and I became very emotional, and couldn’t say anything while my friend was staring at me. I felt embarrassed not having an answer after I had told him that I had a long answer to his question. At the same time, I was getting worried that he was going to notice my internal struggle to hold down the stirring emotion that might burst out from my eyes. I can’t remember how long I had paused but at some point my friend said: “It’s ok. I think I can guess how much he means to you”. Part of me was relieved, but his question remained with me. What I am going to say below is a very common experience shared by thousands of Tibetans, and so if I had a purpose in writing such a common story, it would be for my non-Tibetan friends who are so curious about why I am so attached to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

– See the full story at:

Tibetan Man Kills Himself to Avoid Arrest in Shugden Statue Controversy

A young Tibetan has killed himself to avoid arrest by Chinese authorities over the destruction of a statue of a Buddhist “protector” deity denounced by Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in a long-running religious worship controversy, sources say.

Tashi Tsering, 28, stabbed himself to death on Feb. 20 when police attempted to detain him in Markham (in Chinese, Mangkang) county, Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture, in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region over the statue’s destruction six years ago, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Read full article by RFA …

Though the Dalai Lama protesters play the “victim card” none of them nor any Shugden practitioner has ever been killed or tortured or imprisoned. Nor has any of the claims by the Anti-Dalai Lama pro-Shugden protesters received the support of any Human Rights Group. The victims are on the side of those who oppose Shugden worship (e.g. the triple murder of Gen Lobsang Gyatso and two of his students) and it was even planned by Shugden followers to kill an own follower in order to put the blame onto the CTA/Dalai Lama – this evil murder plan was reported by the icon of Shugden followers, Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche himself (see Bultrini).

The noisy misleading campaign of the New Kadampa Tradition Shugden protesters and the few Tibetans participating in it totally deludes these facts and turn the facts upside down. In that sense the NKT/ISC campaign is mentally totally in line with China’s Anti-Tibet and Anti-Dalai Lama politics and uses the same means of propaganda.

Further information

Dialogue with Dalai Lama protesters: What is the Dalai Lama lying about?

“Dalai Lama stop lying” – Which lie did he tell?

Many people wonder, why the Anti-Dalai Lama protesters (NKT via SSC, WSS, ISC) accuse His Holiness the Dalai Lama of lying or even of being a “very professional liar”. In fact, the Anti-Dalai Lama protesters are confused about this themselves. During the first wave of protest campaigns, from 1996–98, they accused the Dalai Lama to have lied about the following things, among others:

Berlin, Tempodrom, 8th June 1998. From 1996–1998 the New Kadampa Tradition organised world wide protests via Shugden Supporters Community (SSC). The big yellow banner reads: ‘Dalai Lama, please grant us religious freedom.’ From left to right the signs read (signs with the same slogan are listed only once): ‘Please stop ignoring human and religious freedom’, ‘Dorje Shugden is a Buddha of compassion, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is no wicked Chinese spirit, please don’t lie’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop to spreading lies’, ‘Dorje Shugden worship is no cult, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is not sectarian, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves all Buddhist traditions, stop spreading lies’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop spreading lies’, ‘These bodyguards helped the Dalai Lama on his escape from Chinese troops based on the Dalai Lama’s illegally ban they are now persecuted’.

Berlin, Tempodrom, 8th June 1998. From 1996–1998 the New Kadampa Tradition organised world wide protests via Shugden Supporters Community (SSC). The big yellow banner reads: ‘Dalai Lama, please grant us religious freedom.’
From left to right the signs read (signs with the same slogan are listed only once): ‘Please stop ignoring human and religious freedom’, ‘Dorje Shugden is a Buddha of compassion, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is no wicked Chinese spirit, please don’t lie’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop to spreading lies’, ‘Dorje Shugden worship is no cult, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is not sectarian, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves all Buddhist traditions, stop spreading lies’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop spreading lies’, ‘These bodyguards helped the Dalai Lama on his escape from Chinese troops based on the Dalai Lama’s illegally ban they are now persecuted’.

So, in the view of the protesters, the Dalai Lama lied because he holds different views than the protesters such as: that he does not see Shugden as a Buddha of Compassion – this is a lie, that Nyingmas have a problem with Shugden – this is a lie. [the former is an opinion or belief, the latter a fact]

Also, on the banner above words and claims are put into the mouth of the Dalai Lama that he never said – but this is a very common method used by the protesters, to mix untruths with semi-truths and some truths.

I was part of that campaign from 1996-98. Back then, the main reason why the Dalai Lama was considered a liar was because he stated that Shugden is a spirit and not a Buddha. This is why the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO) made clear in their statement:

Assertion: “The Dalai Lama is lying.” – Correction: To have a different perspective on Shugden than its devotees is not a lie, but the exercise of the right to have one’s own opinion.

The protesters cannot tolerate another person’s opinion. If the opinion differs from theirs, then they regard the other party as a liar. This is a confusion much ingrained into the whole campaign and their way of thinking.

Also media are accused of lying if they don’t agree with the protesters’ point of view.

Also media are liars if they don’t agree with the protesters’ point of view.

From 2008 onwards, the anti-Dalai Lama protesters repeated via WSS this initial “reason” for why the Dalai Lama is allegedly lying and blew it up. They now spoke of a “Big Lie”, a term that means in a monastic environment that a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun has lost his or her root vows (Parajika) and is no longer a monk or nun because of having lied about “supramundane attainments” such as realisation of a concentration (jhana) or emptiness etc.

Here is the PDF of the WSS website where the Dalai Lama protesters state:

The Big Lie

The Dalai Lama says Dorje Shugden is a harmful spirit.

For centuries, every great Master in the Buddhist Tradition passed down from Je Tsongkhapa, including the Dalai Lama’s root Guru Trijang Rinpoche, has revered Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being who helps sincere practitioners progress on the spiritual path by developing pure minds of love, compassion, and wisdom.

The Dalai Lama himself was trained in this tradition, and for 40 years relied upon Dorje Shugden, even composing a prayer of his own praising Dorje Shugden and requesting his help.

Then, suddenly in 1975 he abandoned the practice because he had ‘discovered’ Dorje Shugden was a harmful spirit!
Incredibly, we are being asked to believe that the Dalai Lama accidentally worshipped a harmful spirit for 40 years without noticing!

The protesters obviously cannot understand that human beings and spiritual masters can err and that they are able also to see their errors and to correct them. This seeing and correcting of one’s own errors is the very root of spiritual practice and any spiritual path and achievement. Even the Arhats of the Buddha made mistakes and erred, and even Je Tsongkhapa and Atisha (whose lineages they claim to uphold) saw their errors and corrected them.

From 2011 onwards the anti-Dalai Lama protesters invented new ideas for why the Dalai Lama allegedly lied. They claimed he lied because he said there is no (general) ban (which is factually correct), or because he lied about what his junior tutor (junior in rank) Trijang Rinpoche said to him. However, if you truly investigate these things and if you get to know and to see the context, it becomes clear: none of those things can be correctly considered a lie.

During the SOAS panel discussion in 2014, Rabten / Pitts – quite likely feeling the weakness of the previous “reason” why the Dalai Lama allegedly lied – offered a new “reason”:

He begins by quoting a statement from the Kashag in 1996 regarding the Dalai Lama’s restriction on Dolgyal (Shugden):

… the essence of His Holiness’s advice [to stop worship of Shugden] is that this propitiating Dolgyal does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.

Then Rabten / PItts comments:

Now, in this statement, the cause for Tibet refers to restoring the freedom of their country. So this statement by the Dalai Lama is at the root of the discrimination that  Shugden Buddhists have endured for the last thirty years. So I question whether any reasonable person could really believe that the reason the Chinese invaded Tibet is because some people were praying to Dorje Shugden. I question whether any reasonable person could really believe that the reason the Chinese continue to occupy Tibet is because of some people praying to Dorje Shugden. And I don’t think any reasonable person really believes the Dalai Lama’s life is in danger if people continue to follow their teacher’s advice by praying to Dorje Shugden.

So I would say none of these statements are true and when we say, “Stop lying,” these are the statements we’re referring to.

It’s not clear if Rabten is really so uninformed, incapable of putting himself into the shoes of others or just a grand manipulateur. The Dalai Lama’s statement is based on the sectarianism, disharmony and schism conjoined with Shugden worship or what he feels is at Shugden worship’s “root”. Sectarianism, schism and disharmony do “great harm to the cause of Tibet”.

It would be totally hypocritical to ask the Dalai Lama – who practices teachings from different Buddhist schools – to be the protector and guide of Tibetans and then propitiating Shugden who is praised by its propagators to kill, and shorten the life span of persons who are open and ecumenical as the Dalai Lama is, that’s why the Dalai Lama states “It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.” Martin Mills made clear that this is far from being heterodox:

Many Western observers of this issue find this last element of the Dalai Lama’s declaration surprising, but it is far from heterodox or arbitrary in terms of Tibetan Buddhist understandings of the place of lamas, or spiritual guides. The general Mahayana Buddhist view of higher teachers such as the Dalai Lama is that, as manifestations of Buddhahood, they appear only as a consequence of people’s good karma, and do so only to teach and guide other beings to liberation from samsara. As such, if people fail to take the advice of the spiritual guide, he simply withdraws his earthly presence. The present Dalai Lama had previously indicated that the matter of Shugden was decisive in this regard during the mid-1970s, when resistance to his reforms within the heart of the Tibetan Government-in-exile caused him to refuse their annual long-life offering, and to hint that there would not be a fifteenth Dalai Lama.

Rabten puts his own ideas and confusion into the mouth of His Holiness and criticises the Dalai Lama for his own projections instead of freeing himself from his confusion and projections.  – This is another deeply ingrained pattern of the protesters: they project their own confusion, hate, cultish group structure and sectarianism etc. onto the Dalai Lama, not seeing that what they attach to him are their own faults.


On 7th July 2015, representatives of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (OHHDL) invited the International Shugden Community (ISC) to meet and explain what they are accusing His Holiness of lying about. Nicholas Pitts / Kelsang Rabten and two other ISC representatives accepted the meeting and an discussion unfolded. See here what the official website of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to say about this:

See also

Updated on July 13, 2015 3:13

What is faith or devotion in Buddhism? – Asanga/Abhidharmasammuccaya

Here is a brief introduction approaching to clarify the terms “faith” and “devotion” in Buddhism / Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. To clarify the terms “faith” and “devotion”, a sober definition from Buddhist scriptures is essential as a start for further investigation.

Faith and devotion are synonymous.

Faith / Devotion (skt. shraddha, tib. dad pa)

The essential key point is that faith has as its object an existent phenomenon. Also the faults of an object (like the faults of Samsara or the faults of delusions) can be the object of faith [they can be the objects of the faith of conviction but not the objects of the faith of wishing]; so, it needn’t be only existing qualities which are the objects of faith.

In the definition below given by Asanga in his Abhidharmasammuccaya one must pair the following types of faith with their respective objects:

(1) the mind of the faith of clarity (or inspirational faith) has as its object excellent qualities
(2) the mind of the faith of conviction has as its object existent phenomena
(3) the mind of the faith of wishing has as its object phenomena that have power/potential (one sees the potential and wishes to bring it to full maturation)

The faith of clarity is free of delusions and apprehends its object, which is really existent excellent qualities, therefore very clearly. This type of faith leads usually to a strong emotion; one is touched by what one has as the object of faith (e.g. the qualities of compassion, the qualities of concentration or the qualities of a person) and bodily responses can manifest like getting goose bumps, tears fill the eyes, the body hairs stand on end. That’s why it is also called “faith of inspiration”.

Here the explanation by Yeshe Gyaltsen from his Lorig Commentary (translated from the Tibetan by Toh Sze Gee)

[C1] Faith (dad pa)
Regarding the entity of faith, the Compendium of Knowledge [Asanga’s Abhidharmasammuccaya] says:

QUESTION: What is faith?
RESPONSE: It is a conviction, clarity, and wishing with respect to an existent that is endowed with excellent qualities and power. It has the function of acting as a support for aspiration.

Just as it has been said above, faith is a knower that has the aspect of conviction, clarity, or wishing, and it serves as the direct antidote for non-faith. When divided, faith is of three types:

1. clarifying faith,
2. faith of conviction and
3. wishing faith.

Clarifying faith is a clear mind engendered by seeing the excellent qualities of those so endowed, such as the Three Jewels. Why is it called “clarifying”? For example, when one places a water-purifying gem in dirty water, the murkiness of the water is immediately cleared away. Similarly, when this faith is generated, the murkiness of the mind is cleared away, whereupon all excellent qualities of realization become suitable to arise in one’s continuum.

Faith of conviction is the gaining of conviction through contemplating the modes of dependent-arising, cause and result, and so forth that are taught by the Conqueror.

Wishing faith, is, for instance, having contemplated the modes of the four noble truths, ascertained true sufferings and true origins as objects of abandonment, and true cessations and true paths as objects of attainment, and having understood that these can be attained if one makes the proper effort, the faith thinking, “I shall definitely obtain them.”

Here I have merely identified some illustrations of the three types of faith; it is not that all [instances] have been exhausted here. Nowadays, in our world, liking and faith are spoken of as if they are the same; liking beer is said to be “faith in beer,” but liking and faith are nevertheless not the same. Faith is by entity a virtuous mental factor, whereas liking has both virtuous and non-virtuous factors. If this is explained in detail, there are the four possibilities:

1. that which is liking but not faith
2. that which is faith but not liking
3. that which is both
4. that which is neither

The first, that which is liking but not faith is, for example, liking one’s son, one’s wife and so forth, and liking sources of misdeeds, such as drinking alcohol and eating meals after noon [when ordained].

The second, that which is faith but not liking is, for example, fear from one’s depths and faith of conviction regarding the drawbacks of the sufferings of cyclic existence.

That which is both faith and liking is, for example, faith from one’s depths and liking due to contemplating the excellent qualities of the spiritual guide and the benefits of wholesome actions and their results.

That which is neither faith nor liking is anger, suffering, and so forth.

QUALM: Well then, are liking and respect the same or are they different?
RESPONSE: Again, in the world we speak of them as if they are the same, but in fact they are not. Liking a spiritual friend is faith, but respect for him involves contemplating his kindness, knowing shame, and valuing him highly. Hence, when [liking and respect] arise in the continuum, they are separate mental factors.

If, in accordance with how they appear in the great treatises, you analyze these modes in detail with the wisdom of individual investigation, examining the way in which they are generated in the continuum by turning your mind inwards, then you will get to know them; you cannot know them merely through words. With these meanings in mind, the Foremost Omniscient [Tsong-kha-pa] repeatedly advises that, in order to perform wholehearted practice, you must rely upon a skilful spiritual friend and acquire much hearing on the meaning of the scriptures. However, nowadays, when these great textual systems are explained to foolish beings who are deprived of the gem of intelligence and are inferior in merit, they become frightened, terrified and flee faraway, as though a poisonous snake had sensed the odor of musk, or a little child had caught sight of a whirlpool.

Those who view the exalted speech of the great scholars and adepts from the Land of Superiors [i.e., India] as pith instructions seem like stars during daytime.
Here, the function of faith is specified as “acting as a support for aspiration,” because, as explained above, the cause of all excellent qualities is effort; in order to generate effort, one needs the aspiration that seeks; in order to generate aspiration, one needs to see the excellent qualities as well as possess the faith of conviction. For this reason, faith is praised more than once as the foundation of all virtuous qualities in the scriptures and their commentaries. In this vein, the Formulae of the Three Jewels’ Blaze (Ratnolka-dharani) also says:

“Faith is the forerunner, and, like a mother, is the procreator.
It guards and increases all excellent qualities.
It dispels doubts and frees you from the four great rivers[1],
Faith signifies the city of happiness and goodness.

Faith is without murkiness and clarifies the mind.
It abandons pride and is the root of respect.
Faith is a jewel, a treasure,
And the best of feet.
Like hands, it is the root of gathering virtue.”

Also the Ten Teachings Sutra (Dasa-dharmaka-sutra) says:

“Faith is the best of vehicles
Through which you will be guided and definitely emerge.
Therefore, intelligent people
Rely on following faith.

Wholesome qualities do not grow
In people who have no faith,
Just as green sprouts [do not grow]
From seeds scorched by fire.”

Thus, all wholesome qualities are companions of faith. [Shantideva’s] Compendium of Trainings (Siksasamuccaya), stating, “having made firm the root of faith,” also teaches that faith is the root of all paths. Even the Great Being, the Protector Nagarjuna, emphatically taught that faith is the foundation of all paths. With these meanings in mind, the Foremost Omniscient [Tsong-kha-pa] made the statement “Training in faith, the root” one of the outlines in his Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path, and stated that “the root of all happiness and goodness is the faith of conviction.”

[1] From the causal point of view, the four rivers are: (1) ignorance, (2) views, (3) existence, and (4) craving.
From the resultant point of view, they are: (1) birth, (2) aging, (3) sickness, and (4) death.

The key thing is to understand that faith in Buddhism doesn’t mean to project qualities onto animate or inanimate objects they don’t possess, and that faith includes to see the really existing faults of an animate or inanimate object, like the faults of Samsara.

Haribhadra (ca. 700–770) discriminates additionally between faith based on reasoning and faith not based on reasoning. The former is stable and the attribute of beings with sharp intellectual faculties and the latter is not stable and it is the attribute of beings with dull intellectual faculties. The Abhisamayalamkara and its commentaries explain that both types of person, sharp faculty Bodhisattvas and dull faculty Bodhisattvas, will reach their destiny.

This topic is quite complex and it has many consequences for Buddhist practice, spirituality and our society in general. A sober understanding and a careful thorough analysis of it, using different texts and angles, is therefore crucial.

To give some hints for further investigation & analysis:

  1. The meaning of faith includes to be able to see the really existing qualities in others, like to see the generosity of a child, the patience of person or the affection, compassion or care of an animal.
  2. Faith is the basis for striving and striving is the basis for joyous perseverance; from joyous perseverance comes the fulfillment of one’s wishes (Nagarjuna). If you suffer from the three types of laziness the right response is not to push and force yourself but to go back to cultivate faith in the qualities you are striving for, the more you are touched and moved by the qualities of the object you are striving for, the more you strive for it and the more joyous perseverance naturally will unfold to attain it.
  3. In western society we have lost somewhat to stress and to see real human values, like compassion, self-restrained, patience, generosity, contentment, respect, gratitude, a sense of caring for others etc. With this lack of focus on qualities and an overly emphasis on seeing and discussing the faults of others our western society tends towards to not see qualities therefore basis human qualities cannot be cultivated and will degenerate. That’s why, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s emphasis on secular ethics and science is a real gift to the western world with far reaching consequences for generations to come.
  4. Self-confidence arises naturally when one sees one’s own qualities and faults realistically as they are. This needs introspection and honesty. That’s why the Dalai Lama stresses correctly that self-confidence comes from honesty: “If you conduct your life on the basis of truth and honesty, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence.” Compassion itself gives us also self-confidence because it makes more open and strong; strong enough to admit our faults. Again the Dalai Lama: “Kindness and compassion give rise to self-confidence, which in turn empowers us to be honest, truthful and transparent.”

In 2014 I had the honour to be part of the opening discussion about »Cultures of Faith« at the International Festival of Literature in Berlin. The Danish writer Janne Teller spoke about ethics, power and confidence in the context of writing and the South African Bishop Dr. Ndanganeni P. Phaswana spoke about reconciliation and the ubuntu philosophy, which forms the basis for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission held in South Africa. It was a very inspiring fruitful intercultural discussion about these topics.

Its really worth to dig deeply into these topics and not to be satisfied with a mere superficial understanding of the terms faith, trust, belief or confidence. As the Dalai Lama put it: We need to be 21st century Buddhists.

See also

What is the meaning of patience in Buddhism? – Ajahn Succito

Here is a wonderful experiential explanation of what real patience is.

Patience deals with checking emotional reactions, but it’s not a denial of emotional intelligence. Patience has the gut-knowledge that recognizes that a problem or a pain is not something to run away from, get flustered by or be self-pitying about. It has the wisdom to know that we have to prioritize the steps through which we can resolve suffering. It’s true that it may be possible to find an alternative route to the destination; it may well be that more negotiations are needed to resolve the problem; it may be that there’s a medicine that will ease the pain. But the first thing to do is to not react — to not rage, despair or mentally proliferate. Our first effort is to draw a line around the suffering, take a step back and know ‘that’s that.’ Then there’s the effort to recollect that we can be free of the suffering: that we can let go; we don’t have to take suffering in and adopt it as final, real and solid. After that initial recollection we have the encouragement to investigate, and then to draw out the hook that snags our hearts on the rough stuff of life.

All this takes patience. Patience holds us present with the suffering in a spacious way, encouraging the mind to open. And an open mind both feels more peaceful in itself, and more readily sees into the cause of its suffering.

Patience is not a numbing resignation to the difficulties of life; it doesn’t mean that suffering is all right. It doesn’t mean shrugging things off and not looking to improve our behaviour. Nor does it mean putting up with something until it goes away. The practice of patience means bearing with dukkha without the expectation that it will go away. In its perfection, patience means giving up any kind of deadline, so the mind is serene and equanimous. But if the patience isn’t pure yet (and it takes time to develop patience!), the mind still feels pushy or defensive. Impure patience is the attitude: ‘Just hold on and eventually things will get better; I’ll get my own way in the end if I’m patient enough.’ This approach can temporarily block or blunt the edge of suffering, but it doesn’t deal with the resistance or the desire that is suffering’s root.

Pure patience is the kind of acceptance that acknowledges the presence of something without adding anything to it or covering it up. It is supported by the insight that when one’s mind stops fidgeting, whining and blaming, then suffering can be understood. It is this suffering that stirs up hatred and greed and despair, and it is through practising the Dhamma, or Way, of liberation that its energy and emotional current can be stopped. Reactivity isn’t the truth of the mind; it’s a conditioned reflex, and it’s not self. Because of that, suffering can be undone, and when it is, the mind is free.

From Parami, Ways to Cross Life’s Floods by Ajahn Sucitto


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