When it is more than abuse – Experiences within the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

By Peter Graham Dryburgh

The hurt and harm of spiritual abuse is rarely inflicted upon people with the intention to wound anyone.
– Major Scott Nicloy

When we think of abuse in the year 2016, we think of horrific, intentional acts that are set out by a perpetrator, whose simple intention is to violate, humiliate and control another person by whatever means possible – for they need this, they thrive on this to succeed in their role, it is a must, it is the core, the life essence of the perpetrator.

Sadly in this day and age, there is an unspoken danger, an abuse never mentioned, nor addressed by law no society in general, but we have passed new laws around psychological abuse in the UK (December 2015) to protect the oppressed, but it is still not recognised that within the realms of ‘spirituality’ that there is abuse, there is manipulation, there is control forced upon those who feel ‘devoted’ and (simply in my opinion), that this must change.

A number of years ago, I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as living with a condition called “Developmental Post traumatic Stress Disorder”, which is a culmination of many traumas in life to effect the mind, or the brain, and one of these contributors was most definitely ‘spiritual abuse’ at the hands of and the control of the ‘New Kadampa Tradition’, which cost me my home, my job and around £10,000 in debt, but most importantly, for a long time, it cost me my confidence and self esteem, my dignity and my heart.

When you give nothing but trust, you sometimes leave yourself vulnerable; however, when you are manipulated into this trust, and manipulated into believing that you are doing the right thing, it can leave you quite damaged.

I remember my first ever meeting with the NKT, it was nothing more than a simple meditation class in my locality, it was an interest I had. At that initial meeting I raised the question around their relationship with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and I was greeted at the next class by the ‘resident teacher’, not the course teacher, to eliminate my fears and concerns regarding their ‘tradition’ – which I now realise was their first lie, their first mis-truth, and sadly the road into ‘spiritual abuse’.

Everything seemed to happen so quickly for me, I was encouraged to leave an unhealthy relationship that I had been in for a number of years, give up my property, leave friends and family behind – all in the name of ‘seeking perfection’ and Dharma – I had had an interest in Buddhism for a number of years, but I grew up in fishing villages and islands on the Scottish coast, so accessing this spiritual path was jarred with obstacles, until I moved for employment reasons to Birmingham, and I had been presented with such an easy access. One might say that I should have been more cautious, one would think I may have spotted the signs, but I challenge this, because, with every form of abuse, the perpetrator ‘sugar coats’ the truth, it is given with false love and the offer of true friendship and a spiritual ‘brethren’, a family almost.

In general NKT centres are portrayed by the press uncritically as the World Peace Cafe Baltimore which has an article in the Baltimore Sun http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/dining/bs-fo-world-peace-cafe-20150929-story.html

In general NKT centres or their activities are portrayed by the press uncritically. For instance the World Peace Cafe Baltimore has an article in the Baltimore Sun or there are similar uncritical articles in the Daily Telegraph or The Guardian about retreats in the NKT.

So I started attending classes, moved into the centre, started paying for as much as I could in order to ‘gain merit’ on my road to enlightenment, which became the most important ‘mantra’ in those years, almost more important than spiritual prayers themselves, ‘gain merit, gain merit, gain merit’ is something that was taught so hard lined it became something I ate, slept and breathed for a long period of time.

When the NKT offered me the opportunity to become ‘ordained’, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I was never able to refuse – it had almost become a situation where my dreams had come true – and this is where the real abuse started, it was customary to give ‘interest free loans’, pay for building renovation, cars, statues and even the resident teacher to attend ‘festivals and empowerments’ in foreign countries (I recall paying so that someone could go to Germany for ‘Highest Yoga Tantra Empowerment’ and also being told that I may not achieve enlightenment for ‘eons’ as doing so left me unable to afford to go myself). Sadly the more I gave, the more it seemed never to be enough, there was always a need for something – I was never allowed to give up my job (which was not an issue as I loved helping others, and worked full time in an alcohol and drug treatment service) as I was the only person who brought money into the ‘Centre’ that was not based on fraudulent benefit claims by the other ordained staff there.

As time went on, my responsibilities matched my financial contribution; on times where I could afford to take out loans from my own bank, my responsibilities were great, and the respect I appeared to be shown matched this; on months where I had to pay back more to the bank than I could to the ‘centre’, I was almost shunned and kept to the side – but I did so ‘willingly’ as it meant I was balancing the negative karma from both this life and past lives, and who would not wish for this, especially in the road to enlightenment – which after the HYT empowerment, would only take 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days – yet I never gained this empowerment, as I always paid for others to do so, generating the karma to allow myself to do so one day. I began to despair, for only one reason – that I might never find enlightenment – that I might never be free from samsara and able to actually help other people? I think this is when my doubts begun to set in.

Kadampa-Joy

The life within the New Kadampa Tradition is advertised as being full of joy and full of peace and ease.
© New Kadampa Tradition Facebook Page

I began to realise that even working from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Friday outside of the centre, I would often be up til 2 a.m. working on the building, and up again at 5 a.m. to ‘get the shrine room (gompa) ready for the day, my weekends had become full of ‘cherishing the centre’ and I lost any friends (and was encouraged to do so as they were negative to the path) who were not connected to the NKT; it became my entire life, my world, my every waking and sleeping moment.

Meeting Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (GKG) was a special and rare occurrence, and when I did, he would simply laugh and tell me that any worries were due to negative karma, and to simply see these issues as purifying negative karma, to see them as wonderful opportunities on the road to enlightenment, so as I had become so engrossed in seeing GKG as my living Guru, and a living embodiment of the Buddha himself, then of course I would thank him and feel that I had done wrong by even questioning the ‘challenges and worries’ that I faced in daily centre life.

I used to welcome an NKT festival in Ulverston as it was almost a break, a holiday from responsibility. I was often challenged by ‘senior’ monks and nuns as I always missed the first session in the temple, morning meditation, as I used this for catching up with sleep – and frankly it was a delight to be able to shower and dress in peace away from the sometimes thousands of people who were there – it became my welcome break – and I think the beginning of realising that things were not right.

I started to worry when there were death threats made against GKG and security precautions were taken – such as bullet proof vests were being worn by monks under their robes – and we were asked if we would take a bullet for ‘Geshe-la’. This is when it became real to me, realising that it actually can’t be a safe place, a genuine place to be, so I hatched a plan to leave, which was filled with obstacles. It was almost similar to the film ‘The Running Man’ – and with every sexual based scandal the NKT was facing with all the corruption and money laundering that was evident, with benefit fraud, and exploitation of innocent people, you think it would be easy to walk away when you are faced with these dilemmas – but it isn’t, there is the huge guilt of ‘breaking away from the Guru’, there is the being ostracised by your community, friends and even teachers.

I made a decision to deliberately break my ‘ordination vows’ so that there was no way I could or would stay, and even that process wasn’t without challenges – I did nothing sinister, I simply masturbated to break my celibacy vow – thinking they would simply discard me for this – however, I was wrong, I was told to do the Sojong Practice and that was told it was a standard process, almost a ‘secret club’ that most monks would do this once a year, then renew their own vows at the ordination of others – I was even partnered with another monk who would talk to me about how ‘okay this was’ and told (and I quote) “we all do it”. The only thing that I had to change, was that I would have to do a month’s retreat and write a letter to GKG to apologise for doing this “without permission”.

© Carol McQuire: “Transform Your Life”

© Carol McQuire: “Transform Your Life”

So there is no celibacy in the NKT ordained community – and this is when my mind became so entrenched in absolute terror – but terror of remaining there – as I was assigned another monk to ‘help me’ in my celibacy – and this turned out to be that if I did not masturbate myself – it was okay, the expectation was to ‘help each other’ – not a comfortable concept – he now (K Cho) runs and manages a prominent centre in Rome, so my mind was made up!

I actually waited for the centre to ‘close’ for two weeks, and everyone went away to where they went to. I remained, and spoke with a student at the centre, and asked for her help. I lived in her cupboard for a number of week as I had nowhere else to go, I was not allowed to speak to anyone, and as I could not get transport I left my belongings there – of which I managed to fish some clothes and basics from a skip a few days later.

If I was to be asked what my biggest mistake was to date, it was picking up a copy of ‘Transform Your Life’ in a bookshop all those years ago – it did transform my life, but not in a good way, not by any means…

Posted originally on the New Kadampa Survivor Testimonies Facebook Page.

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More NKT survivors’ testimonies

The Secular vs. the Spiritual: Is India Squandering Its Top Export: The Buddha?

Secular values are the values that citizens share regardless of their religious differences; secular policies are policies to which citizens can be expected to give rational consent regardless of their religious commitments. – Jay Garfield

You might have read the quite harsh essay by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche on the Indian Huffington Post Blog, called “How India Is Squandering Its Top Export: The Buddha“. In that essay Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche essentially argues that India and Nepal should respect more deeply “their Buddhist heritage” and should deal with it in far better ways. Rinpoche called India’s and Nepal’s “lack of concern” to be “both a leadership failure and an endemic societal blindness.”

Jay Garfield wrote an intelligent reply, “In Defense of the Secular“, pointing out some issues in Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s essay. One of Jay Garfield’s points is that the usage of the word “secular” as a pejorative term as well as its contrasting with the “valorized spiritual” is a mistake because “it creates a pernicious duality between the secular and the spiritual that denigrates the civil society that is the best protection that a minority tradition like Buddhism could ever have.”

There are some other issues in the essay by Dongsar Khyentse Rinpoche that might need to be addressed or thought/discussed about. For instance, the demise of Buddhism in India. The demise of Buddhism in India is a complex issue as Thierry Dodin pointed out in an interview. One of Dodin’s points was that Buddhism in general is no form of religion that reaches out to the masses. “The Buddhist elites, whether in the Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana – all three were represented in Southeast Asia – care little about whether the people understand the teachings. Among the lay people, Buddhism has always been more addressed to educated and relatively wealthy people who had time and leisure to devote themselves to the great metaphysical questions – suffering, cessation of suffering, etc. For the masses it has tolerated traditional forms of religion as the prebuddhist spirit worship or even introduced Indian gods like Brahma or Ganesha that were tangible. Other religions – Islam, Hinduism and Christianity – are in many ways closer to the people: they give the people’s daily lives a structure and put the individual in a social system of coordinates.” (translation by me)

I have also strong reservations about Dongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s portrayal of China’s efforts with respect to Buddhism in such a positive light and that he is using China as a positive example to criticise India and Nepal while not spending a single word about the often questionable motivations of China’s engagement for Buddhism. The efforts of the Communist Party in China or the PRC in general to do something for Buddhism is mainly a means to control people and to exert soft power. (see for instance: “Seminar held to reinterpret Tibetan Buddhism to justify China’s policy in Tibet” by TibetanReview)

Did Geshe Kelsang Gyatso lie when he claimed that he didn’t receive teachings from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama?

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) (or “Kadampa Buddhism” / “Modern Buddhism”), makes a big fuss about Guru Yoga, using this teaching to demand utmost obedience from his followers in the name of “Guru Devotion”. While he can’t accept non-obedience or criticism against his own person he put a lot of effort into initiating and running three world wide Anti-Dalai Lama campaigns, using his ill informed or misinformed western converts to attack the Dalai Lama as a “ruthless dictator”, “21st Century Buddhist Dictator”, “destroyer of the Buddhadharma”, “false Dalai Lama”, “saffron-robed Muslim” whose nature is “very cruel and evil”. (For the whys see here.)

When Kelsang Gyatso was expelled from his monastery in 1996, the expulsion letter of his monastery college Sera Je found his behaviour against the Dalai Lama unacceptable, especially because Kelsang Gyatso received both sutra and tantra teachings from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama when he was in Tibet. The letter claimed that Kelsang Gyatso received the fifth Dalai Lama’s Lamrim Jampel Shalung at the Norbu Linka summer palace and the Kalachakra Initiation in 1956.

Having the Dalai Lama as one of his teachers and running international character assassination campaigns in the guise of “religious freedom” against his own teacher is a grave fault according to both, Sutra and Vajrayana teachings. It is also hypocritical by Kelsang Gyatso to demand utmost and rather slavish devotion from his own followers and abusing these followers to run a defamation campaign against one of his own teachers, the Dalai Lama. It is ridiculous to threaten his own followers to “break their guru devotion” if they dare to oppose him even respectfully – threatening them with countless rebirths in the hell realms – while he himself runs disrespectful smear campaigns against one of his own teachers who is widely considered to be a great Bodhisattva.

However, Kelsang Gyatso tried to escape the consequences of his own behaviour and the arguments pointing out his misbehaviour by claiming that he has never received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama (see for instance this interview).

In a new YouTube video, Geshe Tashi Tsering of the Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London says he has evidence that Kelsang Gyatso “received many teachings from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, including Vajrayana teachings.” As an example Geshe Tashi Tsering mentions a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Nga Rim Chen Mo, The Great Exposition of the Path of Mantra. Geshe Tashi names two witnesses who are still alive, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin and Geshe Lobsang Tengye who are both of Kelsang Gyatso’s former monastery (Sera), his former college (Sera Je) and his former house (Tsangpa Khangtsen).

I think all NKT followers and ex-NKT alike can relax because there is nothing to be feared by leaving a teacher who does not live what he preaches, and who is – according to his own teachings – on the path to hell ;-)

Actual, it is virtuous and correct to leave a non-virtuous or abusive or misleading teacher because such a teacher will lead his students onto wrong paths.

Je Tsongkhapa citing the Ornament for the Essence said:

Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result. – Je Tsongkhapa in “Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice”, ISBN 0861712900, p. 46

However, following the 14th Dalai Lama’s advice to former NKT followers, “You should continue to regard him with respect …”

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Jamgong Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in “Buddhist Ethics” (Treasury of Knowledge), Snow Lion Publications:

Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions

8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend

The harmful teacher is one of bad temperament, of little pure vision, great in dogmatism; he holds [his own view) as highest, praises himself, and denigrates others.

In general, the nonspiritual teacher (mi-dge-ba’i bshes-gnyen) is a lama, teacher (mkhan-slob), dharma brother [or sister] (grogs-mched), and so forth—all those who are attached to the phenomena (snang) of this life, and who get involved in unvirtuous activity. Therefore, one must abandon the nonspiritual friend. In particular, although they have the manner of goodness in appearance, they cause you to be obstructed in your liberation.

The nonspiritual teacher has a bad temperament, little pure vision (dag-snang), is very dogmatic (phyogs-ris), holds as highest his view (lta-ba) as the only dharma, praises himself, slanders others, implicitly denigrates and rejects others’ systems (lugs) of dharma, and slanders the lama—the true wisdom teacher—who bears the burden of benefiting others. If you associate with those who are of this type, then, because one follows and gets accustomed to the nonspiritual teacher and his approach, his faults stain you by extension, and your mindstream (rgyud) gradually becomes negative. Illustrating this point, it has been said in the Vinaya Scripture:

A fish in front of a person is rotting and is tightly wrapped with kusha grass. If that [package] is not moved for a long time, the kusha itself also becomes like that. Like that [kusha grass], by following the sinful teacher, you will always become like him.

Therefore, as it has been said in The Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection (mDo dran-pa nyer-bzhag; Saddharmanusmriti-upasthana):

As the chief among the obstructors (bar-du gcod-pa) of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.

In every aspect one should be diligent in rejecting the sinful teacher.

Reuters’ Special Report about the Shugden controversy and the joint effort of China’s Communist Party & the New Kadampa Tradition to discredit the Dalai Lama

Here is the new special report by Reuters, “China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama“, about the globalized Dorje Shugden controversy and how the Shugden movement gets “clandestine support from [China’s] Communist Party.” Reuters: “Their joint campaign to discredit the Tibetan spiritual leader is paying off, especially in Britain.”

Reuters’ investigation is part four of Reuters investigates “The Long Arm of China”. The detailed and thorough journalistic analysis by Reuters includes an investigation of the background of the Shugden controversy, “The politics of Tibet’s poisonous religious divide“.

See also

Update

Last edited on Dec 26, 2015

The psychological pitfalls of integrating an Eastern spirituality into a modern Western context. (Spiritual by-passing)

By Coline R. Moore

(This was originally written as an essay submitted for a counselling qualification and thus is a bit academic – however some people might find it useful.)

The disciple is unworthy; modestly he sits at the Master’s feet and guards against having ideas of his own. Mental laziness becomes a virtue; one can at least bask in the sun of a semi-divine being. He can enjoy the archaism and infantilism of his unconscious fantasies without loss to himself, for all responsibility is laid at the Master’s door. – C.G. Jung

A striking expression, with the aid of a small amount of truth, can surprise us into accepting a falsehood. – Vauvenargues

Cult thinking doesn’t just exist in cults. It exists in schools, companies and idealistic organisations – wherever emotional need (which is universal) meets two cc’s of charisma. Some families are mini-cults, where an all powerful father binds his children emotionally by dealing out love with the one hand, and abuse with the other – from ex-premie website.

It seems to me that people aspiring to practise Buddhism sometimes fail to progress and create further difficulty for themselves and others because of trying to be “good Buddhists”. This is exacerbated if there is a premature identification with “non-self” (‘anatta’ – a central tenet of Buddhism) and spiritual realisation, effectively (and at least temporarily) foreclosing movement towards a fully embodied realisation of potential. As an undergraduate psychology student in the late seventies I was familiar with Jung’s caution against adopting wholesale Eastern spirituality:

… it is sad indeed when the European departs from his own nature and imitates the East or “affects” it in any way. The possibilities open to him would be so much greater if he would remain true to himself and evolve out of his own nature (my emphasis) all that the East has brought forth. (Jung, C.G. 1962 p 85-86)

Perhaps Jung was not arguing for an outright rejection of Eastern spirituality so much as for a genuine emergence of spirituality out of authentic existential dilemmas. But what were the dangers that Jung was alluding to?

“Western consciousness … has been uprooted from the unconscious and the latter is suppressed. In the East, the unconscious is manifest in experience, and in that context it is appropriate to seek to control the influence of the passions by detaching from them. In the West, a similar path can lead to a further and undesirable suppression: “ … since one cannot detach oneself from something of which one is unconscious, the European must first learn to know his subject (the unconscious).” (Jung 1978, p83) The initial task is thus to assimilate unconscious contents into consciousness and, only then, to seek an emancipation from them … It is premature to seek liberation from something we have no contact with; one cannot set down something one does not know one is carrying. To attempt to do so is to foster an even greater separation rather than a movement toward wholeness …” (Ray 1996 p.26)

498887main_Fermi_bubble_art_no_labels

(c) NASA

To know one’s subject from a person centred viewpoint involves knowing when values are “introjected or taken over from others, but perceived in distorted fashion, as if they had been experienced directly.” (Merry 2002, p 35) and knowing when experiences are “… ignored because there is no perceived relationship to the self-structure (and) denied symbolization or given a distorted symbolization because the experience is inconsistent with the structure of the self.” (ibid)

Even when behaviour is brought about by organic experiences and needs it may be that “the behaviour is not ‘owned’ by the individual.”

(ibid p36) Thus … “Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies to awareness significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self-structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.” (ibid)

Of course since Jung was speaking his assertions have been extensively challenged and developed and Eastern spirituality has entered the collective consciousness. Nevertheless the post modern spiritual landscape is a complicated one due both to the plethora of therapies and counselling styles let alone conceptions of self (Brazier 1993 p82-83).

Carl Rogers “viewed the self … as a fluid structure, subject to change and revision, rather than something fixed at a particular point. This is consistent with Rogers’ entire attitude towards the person as being in process throughout life. In other words, the self is not an entity; rather, it is a constellation of perceptions and experiences, together with the values attached to those perceptions and experiences.” (Merry 2002 p33)

This idea of anatta or “no self” in Buddhism has given rise to a great deal of confusion and difficulty amongst Western practitioners and teachers of Buddhism and therapists or counsellors who wish to incorporate Buddhist ideas.

In the Buddhist world there is a distinction between “… the mere self, the transactional self which functions conventionally in the world, and an absolute or essential self, a fictitious self, which is to be denied.” (Watson 2000, p31) According to this view the self “is an illusion; it is the imposition of a container self with attributes of independence and permanence upon the foundations of the conventional or transactional self of ever-changing mind states.” (ibid p33)

According to her a modern psychological understanding of the development of self in the individual mirrors the process in the species as a whole so that “… bodily awareness comes first. This is followed by representation of one’s own physical state; a move from self monitoring to self-awareness, which leads to the imputation of a self within a system. Once this imputation is symbolised within language it is reinforced and reified by social structures and value systems of the cultural sphere. Self-image as process retaining a connectedness with the environment, gives way to a self-concept which becomes increasingly solid and autonomous” (ibid.)

(c) NASA Pluto's Blue Sky

(c) NASA Pluto’s Blue Sky

But what happens if there were a shift away from the self concept towards the organismic self? What qualities might a fully functioning person exhibit? Merry, summarising Rogers, claims such a person would

… Be open to experience. Exhibit no defensiveness. Be able to interpret experience accurately. Have a flexible rather than static self-concept open to change through experience. Trust in … her own experiencing process and develop values in accordance with that experience. Have no conditions of worth and experience unconditional self-regard. Be able to respond to new experiences openly. Be guided by … her own valuing process through being fully aware of all experience, without the need for denial or distortion of any of it. Be open to feedback from … her environment and make realistic changes resulting from that feedback. Live in harmony with others and experience the rewards of mutual positive regard.” (Merry 2002, p40)

Similar qualities seem to emerge, according to psychologist Guy Claxton, when the ‘self-system’ is switched off, as it is, he suggests, in mystical experiences. Basing his ideas on the writings of a number of mystics and psychologists including William James and Jung, he claims that in such states the brain-mind’s “intrinsic ability to harmonise and prioritise would be freed from the demands and vetoes of the SS (self system), dissipating the sense of stuckness, and re-establishing a sense of flow … the sheer weight of needs, threats and preoccupations would drop dramatically … the disqualified senses of connectedness and belonging would be immediately rehabilitated, and the inhibited priorities of compassion and care would be released to take their place … the sense of loss of self … and of impenetrable (but trustworthy) mystery at the core of experience, arises … when the SS is disabled, so too are all its defensive inhibitions and evasions.” Claxton 2000, p 108-9

However traditional Eastern societies “provided a religious context that honoured and supported spiritual retreat, and placed little or no emphasis on the development of the individual.” (Welwood 2000 p140)

Unfortunately in their zeal many Westerners have imitated the traditional model and “pursuing impersonal realisation while neglecting their personal life … have found in the end that this was like wearing a suit of clothes that didn’t quite fit.” (ibid)

Welwood suggests that “though industrial society has alleviated many of the grosser forms of physical pain, it has also created difficult kinds of personal and social fragmentation that were unknown in premodern society – generating a new kind of psychological suffering that has led to the development of modern psychotherapy.” (ibid p144)

Without wishing to idealise Eastern cultures, he explains that “in giving priority to the welfare of the collective, Asian societies also did not foster the division between self and other, individual and society, that is endemic to the Western mind. There was neither a generation gap nor the pervasive social alienation that has become a hallmark of modern life.” He explains how early childrearing practices combined a positive regard with sustained early mother-child bonding and worked with the collective responsibility to produce a strong self esteem together with a strong psychological foundation to the self, qualities which by contrast are often lacking in the West. The more pervasive extended family exposed children to a wide variety of role models and sources of nurturance which create an ego structure whose boundaries were more flexible, permeable and less strongly defined than in the West. This automatically prevented the kind of narcissistic injuring and intense reactivity that often occurs in nuclear families. (ibid)

In sum Welwood suggests that “the traditional Asian family seems to foster more of an inner core of well-being than the modern Western family does, by providing more of what Winnicott describes as the two essential elements of parenting in early childhood: sustained emotional bonding and allowing the child to be, to rest in unstructured being.” (ibid p147)

Because the context in which Eastern spiritual practices arose is usually so different to what prevails in the West today it behoves Western practitioners and teachers of Buddhism to be as psychologically astute as they can be. Welwood suggests that the founders of these traditions never contemplated the host of issues that beset the practitioner today especially outside of the monastic tradition. (ibid 2000 p138) He makes a distinction between realisation and actualisation, the former being a direct experiential realisation of “one’s own true nature beyond the conventional ego” (the initial goal of Buddhist practices) whereas “actualisation refers to how we live that realisation in all the situations of our life.” (ibid p139) He suggests that “psychological work might serve as an ally to spiritual practice – by helping to bring an awareness into all the hidden nooks and crannies of our conditioned personality, so that it becomes more porous, more permeable to the larger being that is its ground.” (ibid p140)

Indeed he suggests that “expressing absolute true nature in a thoroughly personal, human form may be one of the most important evolutionary potentials of the cross-fertilisation of East and West, of contemplative and psychological understanding. The great potential in bringing these approaches together is to learn how to transform our personality … thus redeeming the whole personal realm, instead of just seeking liberation from it.” (ibid p166)

To fail to bring this psychological awareness to the task in hand is to invite various distortions and difficulties no matter how great a spiritual realisation one may have had because at some point practitioners again “… encounter circumstances that trigger their emotional reactivity, their unresolved psychological issues, their habitual tensions and defences, or subconscious identifications …” (ibid p139)

Welwood has coined the term ‘spiritual bypassing’ to describe “the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional’ unfinished business’, to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings and developmental tasks in the name of enlightenment.” (ibid p150) and he warns that even those “who develop a high degree of spiritual insight power, even brilliance, may still remain consistently blind to islands of darkness and self-deception in themselves. They may even unconsciously use their spiritual powers to reinforce old defences and manipulative ways of relating to others.” (ibid p139)

The teacher in these contexts needs not only to be aware of his own capacity for such distortions but also that of the student or client. Issues around transference and counter transference further complicate the matter. Buddhist teachers have no supervision for their work despite it frequently containing counselling or psychotherapeutic elements. Some may rely on their own teachers for supervision but others simply rely on an informal network or ‘sangha’ for balances and checks. In recent years, after many disastrous episodes in Buddhist centres ethical guidelines already present within Buddhism have been refined to make them appropriate to the role of teacher. Although breaches of trust have occurred in other areas it is within the sexual field that difficulties have most often occurred. In these new guidelines teachers …

a) “agree to avoid creating harm through sexuality and to avoid sexual exploitation or adultery … not to use their teaching role to exploit their authority and position in order to assume a sexual relationship with a student.

b) If a genuine and committed relationship interest develops … between an unmarried teacher and former student, the student must … be under the guidance of another teacher. A minimum … of three months … from the last formal teaching between them, and a clear understanding … that the student-teacher relationship has ended must be coupled with a … commitment to enter into a relationship that brings no harm …” (Kornfield 1993)

The new BACP ethical framework requires a counsellor to be in regular supervision – a notable difference to the ethical guidelines adopted by most Buddhist communities. Otherwise the guidelines are similar: “Practitioners must not abuse their client’s trust to gain sexual … or any other kind of personal advantage. Sexual relations with clients are prohibited.” (www.bacp.co.uk 2004)

One would hope that both teachers of Buddhism and counsellors in a Buddhist context would be sufficiently psychologically astute to recognise their own shortcomings and areas of difficulty so that unnecessary suffering is avoided. Supervision of Buddhist teachers would seem to be desirable given the various ways in which Buddhist teachings and practices have been misunderstood and misused by some Westerners and given the difficulties of adopting spiritual teachings within a Western context without a complementary psychological awareness. The ethical guidelines mentioned above offer some safety for clients and students alike but awareness of the issues would appear to offer the best security.

Colin Moore April 2004
Check my website for more details www.clearlightmind.co.uk

Bibliography

Jung.C.G (1962), Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’. R.Wilhelm (trans) Routledge, London

Ray C, (1996), Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings : Convergences and Divergences in Beyond Therapy, Guy Claxton Ed., Prism Press, Dorset

Merry, T (2002), Learning and Being in Person Centred Counselling, PCCS Books, Ross on Wye

Brazier, D (1993), The Necessary Condition is Love: going beyond self in the person-centred approach in Beyond Carl Rogers, Brazier, D. (Ed) Constable, London

Carl Rogers (1980), A Way of Being –found in www.bryant-jefferies.freeserve.co.uk/counspir.htm )

Jinpa, G.T (2000), The Foundations of a Buddhist Psychology of Awakening, in The Psychology of Awakening, Watson, Batchelor and Claxton (Eds) Weiser inc. York Beach USA

Rogers, C.R. (1961), On Becoming a Person, Constable, London

Watson, G (2000), I, Mine and Views of the Self, in The Psychology of Awakening, Watson, Batchelor and Claxton (Eds), Weiser inc. York Beach USA

Claxton, G (2000), Neurotheology: Buddhism, Cognitive science and Mystical Experience, in The Psychology of Awakening, Watson, Batchelor and Claxton (Eds), Weiser inc. York Beach USA

Brazier, D (2000), Buddhist Psychotherapy or Buddhism as Psychotherapy, in The Psychology of Awakening, Watson, Batchelor and Claxton (Eds), Weiser inc. York Beach USA

Welwood,J (2000), Realisation and Embodiment: Psychological Work in the Service of Spiritual Development, in The Psychology of Awakening, Watson, Batchelor and Claxton (Eds), Weiser inc. York Beach USA

Kornfield, J, (1993) A Path with Heart: A Guide through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, Bantam, New York

ethical framework for good practice in counselling and psychotherapy (2004) www.bacp.co.uk

line-gothicSee also

Who needs facts when we have the Internet?

Guest Post by Sandy Clarke

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal. There are those who do not realise that one day we all must die. But those who do realise this settle their quarrels. – The Dhammapada

So bizarre do I find the notion that I’m behind the ‘Indy Hack’ persona that I struggle to know where to begin in presenting this guest blog. I’m grateful to Tenzin Peljor for providing me the opportunity to offer some of my thoughts on the issue, and to give insights into my brief experiences with Tsem Rinpoche and his Kechara organisation.

From the outset, I wish to say that I’m reluctant to write about either issue: as some on both sides of the argument will know all too well, there are always enough people to fuel the fire. Progress towards an amiable conclusion is a rare gem to be found as controversial discussions evolve and heels are dug deeper into the ground. I’m also keen to avoid dishing out unnecessary criticism. My thoughts here reflect my experiences, and in no way attempt to define any organisation or person in their entirety. I don’t say this out of any fear of retribution or criticism; rather, I say it simply because I don’t know enough to make such judgements or assessments.

Recently, I was mentioned in a (now deleted) tweet by someone who asserted that I was Indy Hack. Prior to this tweet, I had never heard of the Indy Hack persona. According to the Indy Hack Twitter account, the person(s) is apparently from the UK and a journalist, but that’s where the similarities end with regard to the tenuous linking of us both by people who seem eager to jump to wayward conclusions.

Needless to say I don’t know of any affiliations Indy Hack may or may not have to Buddhist organisations or individuals, but some have offered up the idea that I work for Tsem Rinpoche and am attempting to smear the Dalai Lama and his supporters in relation to the Shugden controversy. As someone who tries his best to practice Buddhist principles, it seems to me rather un-Buddhist to smear or be aggressive towards anyone – I can’t imagine any circumstance which would lead me to be a part of – let alone run – such a campaign.

Further, I have very little idea of what the Shugden controversy is, and have even less interest in finding out more beyond what I do know. From my experience as a political journalist, I’m all too aware that debates, in which views and feelings are deep-rooted, rarely come to a conclusion in a short while: an extra voice is often a hindrance more than a help. Suffice it to say, my knowledge of the Shugden issue is negligible. I can no more explain the basics of the matter than I can Quantum Theory.

It’s true that I was, for between two-to-three years, assisting Kechara with some writing and editing work on a freelance basis. I randomly discovered Tsem Rinpoche around seven years ago while watching some videos on Tibetan Buddhism on YouTube and I was, as many others have been, intrigued by his character and charisma, and so I got in touch to see if I could offer my services in any way.

It’s also true that I became captivated by Tsem Rinpoche and his organisation, despite thinking at the time that I was too clever to be caught up in such nonsense. I even wrote embarrassingly gushing and saccharine tributes to Tsem Rinpoche (to save you the hassle of looking, one letter can be found here and a verse can be viewed here). These are examples of how easy it is to get caught up in a romanticised ideal, rather than producing anything of worth based on rational thought and reason. I don’t make any comment on Tsem Rinpoche’s character here – I merely admit a foolishness that can arise from being enthralled by a rose-tinted interpretation of personality.

I disassociated myself from Kechara after a few concerns became one too many. To a degree, I remained sceptical throughout, finding the ritualistic, superstitious aspects of the organisation a bit too fantastical for my tastes. I also disagreed with the “one lama one centre” policy that discouraged associates to seek teachings elsewhere.

There were two occasions that bolstered my decision to disassociate myself from Kechara. On the first occasion, I was told a story by an e-Division member that a disciple of Tsem Rinpoche’s was told to sell 108 Tsongkhapa statues in order to get rid of some heavy karma. She apparently failed to meet this target and died of cancer some months later.

On the second occasion, a personal assistant to Tsem Rinpoche at the time advised me that I could have my karma cleansed by monks during a special ceremony at Ganden monastery … for the small sum of £1500. Even as someone who was captivated by the teachings of Tsem Rinpoche, this leapt out along with the story about the student as being, quite frankly, bonkers. It was at this point that I realised Kechara was definitely not the place for me.

There are other incidents that gave rise to concern, but I trust these examples give a flavour of why I came to have my reservations. The organisation certainly seemed to be keen on welcoming new people into the fold. I was sent a box of gifts to my home in Scotland (including a statue of Tsongkhapa, with whom I apparently (paraphrase) “shared a strong affinity”), and a number of the Kechara members were extremely friendly and welcoming. There was lots of talk of “bringing people into the Dharma” which, although I found strange considering the Buddha seems to have discouraged evangelism, I dismissed at the time as being par for the course at Kechara. I was quite happy to help with the transcription, editing, and writing of publication material (for which I was paid), but I wouldn’t say I ever felt part of the Kechara organisation to the extent others clearly were.

The last correspondence I had with Tsem Rinpoche was via Facebook. We had what I thought to be an engaging debate on vegetarianism in relation to animal suffering. As in the famous Kalama sutra, Buddha strongly encouraged free inquiry and the questioning of scriptures, assumptions and even teachers. As Kechara members leapt to the defence of Tsem Rinpoche (as though he needed it), I was asked who I was to question his views, or comment on the Buddha’s teachings when I am nowhere near the same level of attainment. It’s perhaps at this point the last of my naivety in relation to Kechara fell away.

This last communication was around five years ago. I haven’t been in touch with Tsem Rinpoche since then, nor have I had any dealings with Kechara except for one email I received out the blue recently, offering me freelance work. I politely declined. It would appear that some people have been keeping tabs on what I’ve been up to (which feels weird), and so perhaps my work with a management consultancy firm in KL, Malaysia inspired the idea that I’d be keen to make a reconnection. Needless to say, I have no desire to do so.

I’ve been told – though I’ve been unable to verify as yet – that there may have been posts published recently relating to Tsem Rinpoche, written in my name. If such posts exist, critical or otherwise, for the record, I haven’t written anything for or about Tsem Rinpoche or Kechara since my last communication with him five years ago, nor do I intend to write anything along those lines in future.

I also noticed that a commentator on Tenzin Peljor’s blog appears to have suggested that a member of Kechara’s e-Division has offered rumours implying that I am behind the Indy Hack persona (though I appreciate I may have misinterpreted the comment). However, if it is the case, I have no idea why anyone would spread such a rumour, and would be disappointed to think it started from a Buddhist organisation. Again, it could easily be that I’ve completely misinterpreted the comment.

That I found myself to be involved in a weak conspiracy theory left me bemused; that the person(s) behind Indy Hack has caused some people some grief is upsetting, though I suppose he or she would argue that the people they’re “exposing” are the ones causing the grief. I have contacted one other person besides Tenzin Peljor with regard to this issue, namely Carol McQuire – both of whom I found after reading through a couple of blog posts, and tweets from the Indy Hack account. The reason I point this out is to, hopefully, avoid any assertions that I am, in fact, in the Dalai Lama’s employ, or that of MI5 or Mossad or whoever – my life is much too mundane to be part of some spiritual vigilantism, misguided or otherwise. I’ve perhaps inadvertently written a controversial line on politics, HR or business, but that’s as far as it goes.

For the past five years, I have been inspired by and attempting to follow Theravada Buddhism, discovering that the teachings of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Chah resonate most with my understanding and appreciation of Buddhism. After my dealings with Kechara, I decided to take the revolutionary step of actually reading the teachings of the Buddha, to take my lead from the source. It can be, in my experience, easy to forget that even the most charismatic modern-day spiritual teachers are flawed beings. To accept any idea without question is silly – to accept everything without question is to actively engage in serfdom.

On a person note, I find it sad that there is so much politics within what is supposed to be a religion of peaceful spiritual practice. It seems easy enough to read verses of, say, The Dhammapada, but much more difficult to heed its advice and warnings. Online aggression and bullying – regardless of where it comes from – is entirely disheartening, and doubly so when much of it is carried out anonymously. It’s sad to see that we’ve reached the point where we forget there are people on the other side, with stories, thoughts, feelings and emotions just like ourselves. Were it not for his equanimity and wisdom, I suspect the Buddha would feel like banging his head against the wall, given that we so often we miss the point of his teachings.

I’d like to thank Tenzin Peljor once again for providing me with a platform to express these thoughts. I don’t intend to write any further on the subject, and I apologise to anyone who may have been offended by anything I have written. As I mentioned earlier, my thoughts are based on the limited experience I have had with Kechara, and I stress again that I don’t know nearly enough about the organisation, Tsem Rinpoche, or the Indy Hack persona to make a bona fide judgement. I’m able only to share some of the experiences I’ve had, and why I disassociated myself from the organisation.

On a final note, perhaps an idea for us all to consider is to check the facts before reaching what we feel to be substantial conclusions. There have been, again on both sides, some ugly, needless criticisms levied at individuals – this isn’t the ideal way to behave, though I should thank the person who said all I brought to the table was an NUJ membership, bad poetry and banalities – a good lesson on ego was provided! A slight correction is in order though: I no longer bring an NUJ membership to the table.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s »Modern Buddhism« – Who are the Kadampas? – Geshe Tashi clears the distortion of four Kadampa deities

This is part 3 of many to follow. Geshe Tashi Tsering explains what Kadampa is and what the four Kadampa deities are which Kelsang Gyatso distorted, replacing Miyowa with Shugden.
These videos are aimed as an education for the general public particularly for those “supposed Buddhist ordained monks and nuns of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)”.

Part One: Geshe Tashi explains Buddhist ordination rite

Part Two: Geshe Tashi challenges NKT Buddhist ordination rite

Why Buddhist men shouldn’t be ordained

There are a lot of strange reasons by some Buddhist male monastics why women are not really suitable for ordination. Bhante Sujato finds similar reasons why men shouldn’t be ordained.

Sujato’s Blog

Just because I can’t resist.

10. A man’s place is in the workforce, where he can earn money to donate to nuns.

9. Mens’ avoidant and primitive ways of communicating and dealing with emotions make them unsuitable for community living.

8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to pursue a spiritual calling. Indeed, the broad shoulders and “top-heavy” physique of “real men” can cause them to topple over in meditation. This creates a crashing noise that distracts the women, whose “pear-shaped” bodies have clearly evolved for sitting still for long periods of time.

7. Studies have shown that men are more violent and more promiscuous than women. In addition, men drink more. They therefore have stronger unwholesome roots of greed, hatred, and delusion due to their bad kamma…

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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 Elliott 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.

Confidentiality

  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.

General

  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?

ShugdenProtests-SamdhongRinpocheCaricature

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.

NAME ONLY

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”.

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…

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

by Carol McQuire

Who is demonstrating against the Dalai Lama?

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

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

What is the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)?

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

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

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

How is the NKT set up legally?

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

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

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

How big is the NKT?

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

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

Where does the NKT’s money go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do NKT centres start?

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

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

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

How does the NKT expand so easily?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I identify an NKT centre?

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

Found in Waterstones in Putney.

Found in Waterstones in Putney.

Who runs the NKT?

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

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

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

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

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

Why are people attracted to the NKT?

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

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

What do the NKT celebrate?

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

How many New Kadampas are there?

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

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

2014
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)

2013
Spring: 1,100
Summer: 2,500
Fall: 6,900 (Portugal)
(Announced as Kelsang Gyatso’s last appearance in public)
Profit: £998,981

2012
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

STATEMENT BY EX NKT FOLLOWERS
(NEW KADAMPA SURVIVORS) ON THE DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA

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

Contact: zopadechen@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/NewKadampaSurvivorActvists/

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: http://www.contactmagazine.net/dharamasla-life/one-seven-billion-human-beings

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