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

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.

Andrea Ballance is a survivor of the Buddhist group NKT and tells ASLI “I have lived through PTSD and RT (religious trauma). I feel that I have something to say that can help people. I feel art in all its facets has an important role to play in an individual’s health and the health of our whole society”.

Originally posted on ASLI MAGAZINE:

Artist Andrea Ballance

Andrea Ballance, 41 from Lancing, England is a multimedia community artist who submitted for our first campaign “Celebration of Women”, as a team we felt keeping Andrea’s work for the following campaign would give her a better platform as her piece speaks about the effects of post traumatic stress disorder and being a survivor. This is why we felt her story was better suited for the present campaign “mental illness, health and recovery”.

Andrea is a wife and Mother of two children and has lived all over England as well as mainland Europe and describes herself at present as a: “stay at home mum with 1001 projects bursting from every thought”.

I feel my true artistic background is a lifetime of being obsessed with light and dark. This then turned into an obsession with colour tones and led to me doing a degree in Community Art.

Initially my work was…

View original 4,257 more words

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

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:

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

Tibet’s top religious leaders condemn Shugden worshippers’ anti-Dalai Lama tirade

On June 20, 2015, Tibet’s top religious figures – the heads of the five schools of Tibetan Buddhism¹ and Tibet’s Bon tradition – have condemned those among the controversial Shugden (Dolgyal) worshippers who make “false allegations” and continue a “hate campaign” against the Dalai Lama. They made their position clear at the conclusion of the 12th Religious Conference of the Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Tradition held at Dharamshala, India, over Jun 18-20.


The press release from the CTA web site (20th June 2015) states:

The 12th Religious Conference of the Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Tradition strongly condemn the false allegations and the continued hate campaign carried out by the Dolgyal cult group against His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a global icon, known for his immense contribution towards world peace and particularly for his service in the promotion of Tibetan Buddhism and culture.

We are deeply grateful and appreciate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s concern for the Tibetan people and Buddhists worldwide, and for truthfully explaining the harmful effects of propitiating Dolgyal.

Therefore, we, the participants of the 12th Religious Conference of the Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Tradition, under the leadership of our respective spiritual heads, wholeheartedly pledge to follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice and urge others to do the same.

The Tibetan Review reports that

The conference reviewed the resolutions passed in the previous conferences and discussed ways to develop Buddhist learning, co-ordination with other Buddhist nations, organising introductory Buddhist teachings, and developing the capability of the monks and scholars of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon tradition.

In his address to the conference on its concluding day, the Dalai Lama spoke about the importance of secular ethics and the need to do analytical study of the Buddhist texts so as to be able to get at the essence of the Buddha’s teachings and thereby gain real benefits from them.

More than 66 representatives from 58 monasteries and Buddhist institutes, including the Gaden Tripa Rizong Rinpoche, the Sakya Trizin, the Karmapa Rinpoche, the Menri Trizin, the Shabdrung Rinpoche, the Drukchen Rinpoche’s Representative Khenpo Tenzin and the Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche’s representative Kathok Gezey Rinpoche attended the conference, as did representatives from the Jonang tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, said the exile Tibetan administration at Dharamshala on its website Jun 20.

See also

More Statements

¹ Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, Jonang & Gelug.

² The translation is made by Shugden followers. The usage of English terms which should represent the meaning of the Tibetan is often not very precise and suggestes an ideological bias. For a detailed account about Shugden based on academic research see: Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal – Untangling a Complex Issue by Tenzin Peljor / Wikipedia

Tibetan Community UK Statement Concerning The Protests Against The Dalai Lama


Issued by Tibetan Community in Britain on 12 June 2015

  • Since early 2014, a sectarian group, the International Shugden Community (ISC), has been staging aggressive public protests during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visits to the West. This group is a front organisation of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), a group of religious extremists based in the UK with a known history of antagonism towards the Dalai Lama.[1]
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama is committed to promoting religious harmony and understanding among the different Buddhist schools, and between the world’s major religious traditions. Given this commitment, His Holiness takes a strong position when it comes to sectarian intolerance.
  • In Tibetan Buddhist history, Dolgyal (Shugden) practice has a long association with extremism and causing sectarian disharmony. As a result, His Holiness has advised his followers of the negative consequences of this divisive practice and has discouraged Dolgyal followers from attending his teachings. He has not ‘banned’ the practice as the demonstrators claim. His Holiness has repeatedly said: “It’s my moral responsibility to tell others what I believe to be beneficial or harmful. In the end, it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not they heed my advice.”[2]

NKT followers are mostly non-Tibetan Westerners in monks’ and nuns’ robes. Increasingly, they have adopted aggressive strategies to undermine the Dalai Lama across the world, in the form of social media campaigns and public demonstrations outside teachings and talks by His Holiness.

In doing so, the International Shugden Community has aligned itself with the Chinese Communist Party authorities in Tibet, which are engaged in a systematic ideological campaign against the exiled Tibetan religious leader; a key element of their policies aimed at undermining Tibetan religion and culture.[3] In Tibet, Dolgyal worship is actively financed and promoted as a means of dividing Tibetans and of undermining the Buddhist religion. Discouraging worship of the spirit is now a criminal offence in Tibet, for which one man was recently imprisoned for 10 years.

Clearly aware that the main allegations of its demonstrators are easily disproven, the ISC has made increasingly outrageous claims against His HolinessISC propaganda for instance, features an offensive depiction of the Dalai Lama as a pig. And appearing to believe it is an insult to characterize someone as a ‘Muslim’, the Dalai Lama is described by the ISC as a ‘Muslim masquerading as a Buddhist’, and, echoing the allegations of the Chinese government in Beijing, is also compared to Hitler.[4]

The Tibetan Community in Britain is deeply distressed by this inflammatory and extremist campaign against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s most respected religious teachers and the beloved leader of the Tibetan people. We condemn the protests and baseless allegations against His Holiness made by Dolgyal Shugden organisations. We would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest respect and confidence in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his advice on the dangerous nature of the practice of Dolgyal Shugden.

Allegations of the International Shugden Community demonstrators

  • The demonstrators allege that His Holiness has ‘banned’ Dolgyal worship, but have failed to provide any evidence for this ‘ban’ – because it does not exist. Since the Dolgyal devotees do not acknowledge His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an authority, they are free to simply ignore his advice. In reality, devotees continue practicing freely, both privately and in Dolgyal monasteries and temples in India, Nepal and in NKT communities in the West.
  • The majority of monasteries in exile, based on democratic majority decisions and their monastic rules, have decided against this practice. Monks who wish to continue the practice of Dolgyal worship have formed two new monasteries in South India and were provided with land, property and funds by the two parent monasteries. They refused to accept Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala’s monthly allowance for the monks in the Tibetan monasteries.
  • The NKT/ISC alleges His Holiness is “restricting religious freedom”. Historically however, the main function of Dolgyal practice has been to prevent open-minded Buddhists from studying outside their own school’s teachings, in other words, restricting religious freedom.

Geshe Tashi la, Spiritual Director at Jamyang Buddhist Centre advises members of Tibetan Community to show restraint against misguided Shugden followers

Further information and contacts

“Shugden: A History” by the Shugden Research Society, published by Tibet House, New York, US, 2014 [Available via Amazon]

Also see


[1] Over the past few years, the Home Office-funded research group ‘Inform‘, whose task is to provide the UK-Government, NGOs and the public with neutral information on New Religious Movements, has received more queries about the NKT annually than any other organization.

[2] See: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice concerning Dolgyal (Shugden):

[3] In 2014 the Chinese government issued a new internal directive, promoting propitiation of the controversial Tibetan Buddhist spirit in a bid to further discredit the Dalai Lama:

[4] Even former members of the organisation, who describe themselves as ‘survivors’, have condemned the ISC demonstrators for making “completely unwarranted allegations and insults” against His Holiness:



Tibetan Community UK is a non-governmental community-based organisation. Its affairs are run by a democratically elected Council Members on pro bono service. The Council Members, who serve a two-year term, organise cultural and socio-political events for members and friends of Tibet. We also work with UK-based Tibet-related organisations as well as Tibetan Communities (currently across 15 countries) in Europe  towards creating a greater awareness of Tibet’s political and human rights situation.

Read more … | Statement

New design & new articles about NKT, Hitler’s letters to Reting, Vinaya etc. + Revised articles about the NKT “Kadampas”, Geshe Kelsang & Shugden

Bildschirmfoto 2015-06-09 um 15.57.40

After about 18 months of hard work, with the kind support of friends, I am happy (and somewhat relieved) to announce the revision and redesign of the site

Key objectives were to create a modern and fresh design, to use more images because visitors complained about the lack of visual stimuli, to make it mobile device able (responsive), to add new articles, to revise existent articles, and to make it social media able – up to now I was not very interested in using social media, but I have had to learn that there is no way to ignore social media if you want to reach people.

Kadampa-Buddhism-Modern-Geshe-la-3bEspecially the revisions of the New Kadampa TraditionGeshe Kelsang Gytaso and the Shugden Controversy article might be worth reading.

Feedback and constructive criticism is welcomed.



Shugden Protests During The Dalai Lama Australia Tour: The Dalai Lama, A Profaning, Nazi-Loving Muslim Dictator?

The final point he makes is that the Dalai Lama is often accused by the pro-Shugden side as suppressing freedom of religion. “This accusation makes no sense,” states Dr Hill. “The Dalai Lama is not head of any state; he has no military or police at his command; he has no political jurisdiction over which he can exercise suppression.” – Prof. Dr. Nathan Hill in The Foreigner

You might have noted that there appeared some questionable press articles during the Australia tour of the 14th Dalai Lama – especially by The Guardian and The Sidney Morning Herald – who gave ISC spokes person Nicholas Pitts / Kelsang Rabten – a platform for his strange allegations without consulting any independent academic expert. In a way, its the naïvety and lack of responsibility and care of these media that give so much space to a controversial fringe group that uses Scientology-tactics to misinform the public, allowing them to abuse their media platform as a means to attack their perceived enemy.

However, if you are interested in a well researched newspaper article about the Anti Dalai Lama protesters and the Shugden controversy, since 2008 it is Foreign Policy which has published the most thoroughly investigated article. How could this happen? Because the journalist did not allow himself to be carried away by time pressure, lack of expertise or sensationalist greed etc. but instead he took time to investigate the topic carefully and in depth. Journalist Isaac Stone Fish spoke with all sides and he relied on an academic expert of contemporary Tibetan politics, Robert Barnett (Columbia University):

It is quite sad to see – once again – that also during the Dalai Lama’s Australia tour most of the media lack time and effort to do their work and that the press team of the Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama appears to be not very effective to get out sober information and to really correct the wrong claims by addressing them directly.

However, here is a funny video comment by the “China Uncensored” YouTube-Channel, that gives the visual summary and an appropriate comment to the ISC claims which scientists called more or less “non-sense” and Foreign Policy called “absurd”:

Update June 12, 2015

ABC News posted two well investigated articles ‘Zealous’ supporters of minority Buddhist sect target Dalai Lama and Explained: Who are the Shugden Buddhists criticising the Dalai Lama? for which they interviewed Dr. David Templeman, a Tibetan history scholar at Monash University’s Asia Institute and Professor John Powers from the Australian National University who corrected the ISC claims and put the whole issue into perspective.

Shugden followers forcefully bang drums – Sidetrack Attack on the Dalai Lama by Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)

Beat U. Wieser, Basel 8.2.2015, 7 PM

In St. Jacob’s Hall the Dalai Lama gives teachings to his followers, while his opponents demonstrate outside (The image is from an earlier visit to Switzerland, April 16, 2013)

The Buddhist splinter group of Shugden worshippers is currently staging a protest against the Dalai Lama, geared to draw the attention of the media. In Basel, as previously in Washington and next in Copenhagen, they denounce the Tibetan leader as a liar.

Thousands stream into St. Jacob’s Hall in Basel. Neither a television show nor a sports event is drawing the people. It is a nearly eighty year-old Buddhist monk, whose scriptural lectures are as complex as they are dry, that the crowd yearns to follow for hours. Asian and Western faces can be spotted in the fully occupied tiers. Tibetans, however, dominate the picture. The presence of the Dalai Lama, having arrived from Washington and on his way to Copenhagen, works like a magnet.

Controversy about a Patron Protector

Outside the hall, on the other side of the street, a few hundred people, predominantly of Western origin, have positioned themselves. Together with a handful of Tibetans, in the icy cold they chant their slogans, accompanied with rhythmic beats from drums, portraying the Dalai Lama as a liar and dictator. The polished rhetoric of the spokesperson for the media who accompanies the demonstrators cannot hide the fact that here is a fringe group that is blowing itself up out of all proportion to draw the attention of the media. It is not very credible, however, that on the other side of the street thousands of people should be flocking to their dictator or that they themselves are oppressors.

There exist many tensions and rifts within the Tibetan community, as also in any other religious community. The image of harmony within Buddhism and the Tibetan world, which is often cultivated in the West, says more about one’s own longings than about reality. The Shugden movement, which has recently come onto the scene more strongly and virtually latches itself onto the Dalai Lama’s heels in order to slander him at each of his appearances in a way that will draw the attention of the media, is neither new nor deals doctrinally with the central Buddhist teachings. The controversy fanned by it is going off on a minor sidetrack. It is as if, within Christianity, one were to lead a dispute over some patron saint.

At its core, Buddhism is an atheistic religion that does not require a creator god. At its center, stand ethics, concentration, mental stability and wisdom. On the Buddha’s path, people are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves if they want to reach enlightenment. Despite that, veneration of protector spirits such as Dorje Shugden is traditionally a component of Tibetan Buddhism. However, it has no canonical basis and its origins probably lie in a diversity of folk religions.

Tendency toward Sectarianism

At the end of the 1970s, the Dalai Lama, who admits that previously he had also honoured Shugden among others, restricted this cult, which had already been controversial for centuries. He did this because he wanted to prevent believers from starting to strive for their wellbeing through the worship of a protector deity, rather than following the path of the Buddha based on individual responsibility. Moreover, the veneration of Shugden stems from the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, to which the present Dalai Lama belongs. He therefore felt a special duty to intervene based (not only) on the basic principles of Buddhism, but also especially because the Shugden followers set themselves off in contrast to the other three big schools, whereas he, as the pre-eminent Tibetan spiritual leader, emphasizes their common ground. This is also the reason why he sees in the Shugden cult a dangerous tendency toward sectarianism.

This decision was never without controversy among the Tibetans. Even on a political level, there were concerns on the part of the negotiators in the dialogue with the Chinese that the restriction could trigger internal discord that Peking would exploit for its own purposes. And this is in fact what has happened. China promotes Shugden worship in Tibet and asks exiled Tibetans about their stance on Shugden on the application form for an entry visa. Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama has upheld his decision because, in such a question, he did not see himself, as the religious head, to be in a position to let considerations of political tactics direct him.

The restriction on Shugden worship is not absolute, but concerns mainly the sphere of influence of the Tibetan administration in exile. Privately and in separate schools and monasteries Shugden (rituals) can be practiced. However, the Dalai Lama strongly requests that Shugden worshippers not attend his teachings, because then the trusting teacher-disciple relationship necessary in Buddhism could not develop between them.

Nevertheless, the restriction has over and again led to unrest and discord within the Tibetan community. It has also come to slander, threats and attacks. In 1997, three monks were brutally murdered in Dharamsala near the residence of the Dalai Lama. The Indian police declared that Shugden followers had been involved in the bloodshed.

Western Zealots

This internal Tibetan conflict has captured international attention mainly on account of Western Shugden followers and their work with the media. This organisation, which has forcefully banged drums in Basel, calls itself the International Shugden Community (ISC) with its seat in the USA. Despite all attempts at a cover-up, one can detect close connections to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), a Buddhist organization with over a thousand worldwide offshoots founded in Great Britain by Kelsang Gyatso and focused exclusively on him. The NKT has over and again launched groups and organisations just to conduct protests.

It appears absurd when on one side Western persons equipped with banners, megaphones and grim faces broadcast their message of false Dalai Lama and his lies into the cold winter air, while on the other side of the street thousands of Tibetans stream to His Holiness. It is quite possible that among the followers of the Dalai Lama there may be a few Shugden worshippers. However, most of them will probably practice the cult only in private and, because of that, do not turn away from their spiritualhead. That they are acting in that way simply under great pressure is not obvious in St. Jacob’s Hall, and one would not believe that to be the case despite listening to the smart Shugden spokesman with his cultivated English.


Originally published by Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Shugden-Anhänger rühren in Basel kräftig die Trommel: Angriff auf den Dalai Lama auf einem Nebengeleise.

The 14th Dalai Lama met with the Sarin gas murder Shoko Asahara – Take a Closer Look!

I found out today that Tricycle magazine has kindly put an important and thought provoking interview in that context online. Lawrence Shainberg interviewed academic expert Robert Jay Lifton in From Mysticism to Murder on Aum Shinri Kyo.

Dalai Lama and Shoko Asahara What does this really say, that they met?

Dalai Lama and Shoko Asahara
What does this really say, that they met?

The interview puts the meetings of Shoko Asahara with the Dalai Lama into context. However, the whole interview is worth to be read and to be reflected upon – not just only the passage that deals with the meetings of Shoko Asahara and the Dalai Lama – because it shows the dangers of gradually growing fundamentalism / dogmatism / totalitarism in a group; especially when there is a guru who abuses the guru-teacher relationship in order to gain total control over his devotees.

Read the interview …

A must read in that context is Robert Jay Lifton’s Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism.

See also


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