Concerning The Protests At The Teachings Of H.H. The Dalai Lama: A Resolution Proposal II

Dear Nicholas Pitts/Kelsang Rabten,

Re: Resolution of the Shugden Conflict by the Removal of its Causes

First of all, can I thank you for responding in a spirit which demonstrates a sincere wish to resolve this unfortunate dispute.

I would like to address your response to my original request [copied after minor editing below] by taking each point at a time.

Your response suggests the following:

  1. That I send this current reply directly to the ISC
  2. Provide you with information about the nature of my relationship with the Dalai Lama.
  3. Confirm whether the Dalai Lama has knowledge of the contact being made and whether he supports it.
  4. You advise that “If someone genuinely close to the Dalai Lama made contact, and did so with the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and support, with the intention of moving towards a resolution I am certain there would be a very positive response from the ISC”

With regard to point 1, I would like to offer the following observation.

This point is a request that our communications be conducted privately, beyond public scrutiny. I am afraid I am unwilling to do this. You are aware, I am sure, of your anonymous correspondent Indy Hack’s recent, controversial decision to publish the content of a personal communication with Columbia University’s Professor Barnett online, despite Professor Barnett stating categorically that he objected to this in no uncertain terms. Indy Hack justified the decision to publicize the comments, stating, “What he said to me has such bearing on the protests and is so overwhelmingly in the public interest, I felt there was no choice but to share it”.

Since the current communication concerns bringing those same protests to an end, I feel it is similarly appropriate that our communication be conducted in the full glare of public scrutiny. This will ensure that nothing is hidden from anyone, as well as ensuring that all those involved, those affected, the general public and the press are free at all times to observe our progress and conduct. This is only fair; there should be no secrets, nor a ruling elite who decide how the situation should unfold from behind closed doors.

Points 2 asks that I provide you with information about the nature of my relationship with the Dalai Lama as a prerequisite to further dialogue.

Here, I would refer you to two useful ideas from the Buddhist tradition. While personally, I abhor the tendency in myself and others to preach to others how to practice Dharma, there are nevertheless certain teachings that can help us understand practicalities in life and indeed how to set such preconditions might be limiting and unwise. I hope you will forgive my apparent condescent.

The first of these is the parable of the poisoned arrow, from the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta from the Theravadin Majjhima Nikaya, which I am sure you are familiar with. For the sake of those who are not, and to paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.”

The second is the the teaching on the ‘Four Reliances’, common to the Theravadin and Mahayana traditions, in particular the first two, which state:

  1. Do not rely on the personality of the individual but on the message
  2. Do not rely on the words of the message but on their meaning

I will not preach to you about the meaning of these; they are self explanatory.

Nevertheless, I hope you understand my point. Who I am and the nature of my relationship with the Dalai Lama are somewhat irrelevant here. What is most important, whoever I am and whatever that relationship, is that I have the ear of many of the important players in this issue, Tibetans and Westerners alike and moreover, that they consider my ideas and opinions valid and important. I can assure that both are definitely the case, as those who know me and with whom you have conversed have confirmed. This is a genuine offer to you on my part for me to use whatever influence I have to help all those affected by the discrimination you and I both find abhorrent.

Moreover, I would point out to you that, even imagining I were part of the Dalai Lama’s innermost circle, this would be to your distinct disadvantage rather than to your benefit. Historically, in such situations those closest to such figures are often reactionary in their outlook, overwhelmed by a sense of their own importance along with their opinions, enduring deep seated delusions of their own grandeur. Clearly, such an individual would be useless to you in resolving issues such as those we wish to address here. Far better that you have an independent who holds a moderate perspective and yet has the ear of the hierarchs, who advocates a ‘middle way’ and who has the interests of all parties involved at heart.

Your final points are related and as follows:

3. Confirm whether the Dalai Lama has knowledge of the contact being made and whether he supports it.

4. You advise that “If someone genuinely close to the Dalai Lama made contact, and did so with the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and support, with the intention of moving towards a resolution I am certain there would be a very positive response from the ISC”

With regard to point 3, I have no idea whether His Holiness is yet aware of my decision to suggest all that I have done below since, as I made clear originally, I am entirely independent; I do not work for the Dalai Lama and I therefore do not need to seek his permission to act. Moreover, my decision to approach the issue in this manner was made less than 72 hours ago and is therefore a relatively new development. Nevertheless, I will forward the content of this communication to the relevant persons and ask that he be made aware. As to whether he supports such a contact, it goes without saying that His Holiness’ only concern is the happiness and freedom from suffering of all beings, regardless of their persuasion. In light of this, I think it safe to assume that he would support our initiative, since its sole purpose is to end suffering and restore peace and happiness to our communities.

I have already answered point 4 above, inter alia. I sincerely hope that we can move forwards on this and achieve a happy end as soon as possible, for the benefit of all involved.

Please take time to consider your response. The festive season is upon is, which usually brings with it a significant drop in activity on many fronts. Can I suggest you let me have your response to my original suggestions no later than the 5th of January, 2015, by which time you should have been able to discuss the issues and reached your conclusions?

Best wishes

Addendum

Subsequent to posting the offer below, I was advised that in Dharamsala, The ‘Global Tibetan Volunteers for the Truth’ (GTVT which have a definite connection to the CTA) are now placing NEW signs around town —I’ve seen the image. The new sign from the GTVT reads: ‘Give up alcohol your health will be better – Give up Shugden you will be happier / feel better.”

The GTVT have previously posted unattributed inflammatory material. Whether they are linked to the CTA is open to investigation. Nevertheless, it is clear that they have an aggressive agenda, which can only harm any peace process. Should you respond favourably, I can assure that everything will be done to bring such aggressive manifestations to an end.

Original  Proposal [edited version]

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Note by blog owner

The blog is actually closed, however until Saturday, 20th Dec. 14, 10am updates will be given and comments will be approved.

The story of a New Kadampa Tradition monk or How I got sucked into a cult

My name is Tenzin Peljor / Michael Jäckel. I was 29 when I met the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) in December 1995. At that time the general public didn’t know about any controversy relating to the NKT or how people have been damaged by the NKT. No Buddhist informed or warned any person interested in Buddhism to carefully consider whether they should develop their interest in Buddhism by placing their faith in the NKT. Here is a summary of my story.

Enlightenment by 21 Lamrim meditations! – What a marketing!

Enlightenment by 21 Lamrim meditations! – What a marketing!

I wanted to become a Buddhist monk after reading about the Four Noble Truths. Even in my childhood I wished to become a monk (though back then, a Christian one). Looking for a place where I could become a Buddhist monk, I learned about the New Kadampa Tradition through Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book, »The Meditation Handbook«, and the posters and advertisements of the NKT.

My NKT teacher, who was the NKT representative in my country, convinced me to move into the NKT center and to pay rent – about three times as much for a small room as I had paid for a whole apartment. When I complained, she said, “You should think about how much you value following this path.”

Moving into the NKT center, I had some Dharma books, including a Dzogchen book and one from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When the teacher saw me with these books she said, “We only study pure Dharma books here,” looking displeasingly on my two non-NKT Dharma books. Shortly after this episode, she showed me Geshe-la’s books, saying “These are pure Dharma books!” Then I heard about the dangers of mixing ‘pure Dharma’ with ‘impure Dharma’, as Geshe Kelsang puts it.

The ugly, unfortunate result of not understanding pure Dharma and of following misleading teachings that pretend to be pure Dharma is sectarianism. This is one of the greatest hindrances to the flourishing of Dharma, especially in the West. Anything that gives rise to such an evil, destructive mind should be eliminated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. (Clear Light of Bliss, 1982, page 154).

Assuming this to be true I threw these and my other Dharma texts into the garbage because I now feared that I might destroy pure Dharma by mixing it and thereby ‘harming countless living beings’ – doing evil. Subsequently, I did not read any Dharma book other than Geshe-la’s because I feared polluting my mind and destroying “this pure tradition”.

Later, I learned that I needed faith, and that doubt is the opposite of faith and very bad. It was explained to me that there are three kinds of doubt, but it was especially made clear that doubting Geshe-la, his teachings or NKT teachers is “doubt going in the wrong direction.”

When I studied Geshe-la’s book »Understanding the Mind«, I became even more convinced that I had acted correctly in throwing my previous Dharma books in the garbage, because on pp. 166–167 Geshe-la states,

It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism … studying non-religious subjects is less of an obstacle to our spiritual progress than studying religions of different traditions … the practices taught by one teacher will differ from those taught by another, and if we try to combine them we will become confused, develop doubts, and lose direction.

I didn’t want to loose direction or get confused. He was the master, he knew. My NKT teacher told me that we all are deluded beings and our analyses, thoughts and perceptions are not reliable: “Buddha says, we are not only wrong, he says we are totally wrong”.

The next things I learned were: Geshe-la is a Buddha, Geshe-la is completely reliable and knows the three times (present, past and future), and my NKT teacher is no different from him. If I see faults in them this is due to my impure mind, because Buddhas – unlike myself who is a deluded being whose perception is not reliable – don’t see faults, they have “pure view”.

Three years after I left the NKT in 2000. Losang Tashi was my monks name at that time.

Three years after I left the NKT in 2000. Losang Tashi was my monk’s name at that time.

The next step for me was that I was asked to lend my computer to the NKT office. When I asked for it back (to do my final university exams), I was told that I had donated the computer and I must be confused about what I had said. My NKT teacher explained to me, “Sometimes we do not remember what we say, you know …” It was explained to me that this academic study is worldly and unnecessary, a distraction from pure Dharma. Eventually, my NKT teacher and her most devoted students convinced me of this and I gave up the idea of finishing my academic study by doing my final exams. There is no need for an academic degree I thought. When I worried about it they told me I should not think too much, saying “Leave the thinking to the horses, they have a bigger head.”

I was asked to give a loan. I gave them all my savings and later when I asked for it back they said I should be patient. They made me feel that I was addicted to my money and that it was inappropriate to ask for it back. Likewise, my cupboard and another person’s couch were also taken. This other person was told he were addicted to his couch; therefore, he may be reborn as a tiny insect in that couch in the future.

The NKT center was gradually “inspiring” me to do more and more unpaid work for them (in order to ‘accumulate merit which we need for our spiritual progress’) and at the same time complained that I was away too often from the NKT centre as I had a mundane job in a private school: “You are too samsaric”, they said. Nonetheless I was giving them about 90% of my earnings.

Due to the gradual shift to do more and more unpaid work for the NKT and doing lesser mundane work from which I could make a living I could no longer pay the high rent the NKT centre demanded from me. Only one day after the date I should have paid my high rent they complained about my behaviour. They warned me about how much negative Karma I had created by not paying my rent on time. They denied that it was possible to balance it with their debts to me, “This is something very different, you should not even think like this.” They suggested that I should ask my friends to help me and to give me money. I did this; I asked a medical doctor who was a friend and she gave me the money. I didn’t get my savings back; so finally I decide to “donate” them.

I observed a similar pattern with all other NKT monks and nuns: finally, all of their savings, time and energy were taken over.

When I visited the NKT festivals in UK, we were told that we should have faith in our teachers, they are good teachers, and properly qualified. Later I found out that my NKT teacher had studied for only two years within NKT and that my NKT ordination was not an authentic monk’s ordination. A friend who complained about our NKT teacher to Geshe Kelsang was told, “If you would have Bodhichitta (a pure mind) you would see the Bodhichitta in your NKT teacher.” So of course my friend was wrong, he had no pure Bodhichitta, no pure mind, therefore he saw faults in his NKT teachers.

I didn’t want to receive the Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, but I had received so much pressure (manipulation) from my NKT teacher and the group that I took it. Afterwards, I was told that Geshe-la was now my root guru, and that if you leave your root guru you will be reborn in hell, all of your realizations will be lost and in all your future lives you will be without a qualified teacher.

Step by step, I was sucked into the system of NKT until I was quite brainwashed, deceiving myself and others. All of us were only worried about gaining “realizations” by being devoted to Geshe-la and doing what he says and giving our money, time and energy to the NKT to accumulate merit for ourselves (+ “inspiring” new followers of NKT to do it likewise), because without merit there would be no spiritual progress and no realizations.

This is me (Kelsang Tashi at that time) protesting against the Dalai Lama with the <a href="http://info-buddhism.com/new_kadampa_tradition.html" target="_blank">New Kadampa Tradition</a> under the front group <a href="http://info-buddhism.com/dorje_shugden_controversy.html#The_Conflict_in_the_West" target="_blank">Shugden Supporters Community</a> (SSC) in Berlin, Tempodrom, 6. August 1998. The Slogans were created by Kelsang Gyatso and state for instance "Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas. Please don’t lie." or "Dalai Lama please grand us religious freedom."

This is me (Kelsang Tashi at that time) protesting against the Dalai Lama with the New Kadampa Tradition under the front group Shugden Supporters Community (SSC) in Berlin, Tempodrom, 6. August 1998. The Slogans were created by Kelsang Gyatso and state for instance “Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas. Please don’t lie.” or “Dalai Lama, please grant us religious freedom.”

I learned also that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was possessed by a Mara (evil spirit) and was destroying the pure Buddhadharma and had broken with his root guru (implying that he will most certainly go to hell for this) and forcing others to do likewise. So, all of us, including myself, organized international protests against the Dalai Lama from 1996-1998. The NKT convinced me that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was so completely evil that I started to hate him and to also convince all the people I met how bad the Dalai Lama was. Another nun in deep despair, shedding tears confessed to me how much she hated His Holiness; another nun shredded her picture of the Dalai Lama. The protests became very aggressive and hostile; I felt very uncomfortable.

I learned that the last pure being on earth is Geshe-la and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an evil oppressor of religious freedom. I learned in NKT that the Dalai Lama is merely a worldly politician and is destroying the pure tradition of his root guru, Trijang Rinpoche.

Finally, I woke up, realising how one-sided Geshe-la’s claims were when he pointed out that the reason for some wrong developments within NKT was another person. Geshe-la completely blamed this person alone while stating that he (Geshe-la) had not done anything wrong and that NKT had not done anything wrong. I realized that this is not the Dharma and that my teacher’s and Geshe-la’s approach was not consistent with Buddhist teachings (for example, the Four Noble Truths) because delusions are the cause of suffering and things are interdependent / dependent arising and appear due to many causes and conditions and not due to a single cause. It is impossible to blame a single person for a conflict. I finally realized that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is not a Buddhist master because he hasn’t understood even the basics (dependent arising, patience, kindness and modesty), and I became determined to leave him.

Later, I recognized that I was not the only person who had such experiences; they seemed to be symptomatic and systemic for people in the NKT (Experiences of other NKT monks appear elsewhere on this website).

My NKT experience was like eating a sweet but poisoned fruit. The taste was sweet in the beginning; there were good times and good things I learned. Later, the poison started to ruin me.

Art work by Carol McQuire – A NKT Survivor

Art work by Carol McQuire – NKT Survivor

I expect that NKT will use their common strategy to blame the monk reporting here as mentally unhealthy or emotionally unstable or something similar (e.g. “disgruntled ex-member”) – as they have done so often in the past.

Nevertheless, I wish to express my gratitude to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and NKT. I learned a lot and I do not want to forget my positive experiences. Actually, in the end, my negative experiences turned into something good by my learning from my faults and those of Geshe-la and NKT – a great teaching that I will treasure. However, I would be happy if others could avoid stepping into such a devastating situation, which I see as a spiritual trap.

May His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the one who really cares for the welfare of migrating beings, have a very long life and may all his prayers and holy deeds be fulfilled.

May Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and his students of past, present and future attain the state of full enlightenment, may they have faith in the Three Jewels, follow genuine teachers and rejoice in the ten virtuous actions.

Written around the year 2006 or at the time when the New Kadampa Survivors Forum was set up.

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Open Letter by Chairman of the Board of Trustees of New Kadampa Tradition’s Maitreya Buddhist Centre

GUEST POST – re-posted with prior permission from the author

I think it might be useful to post here the open letter I wrote back in 2012 in my attempt to try and summarise how an NKT Centre, Maitreya Buddhist Centre in Bexhill, England, became fatally undermined by the authoritarian tactics of an NKT monk sent in by NKT head office with a hidden agenda to make sweeping changes against the wishes or best interests of the centre’s members:

Message from one of the charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre

Dear members and supporters of Maitreya Centre,

Maitreya Buddhist Centre, Sea Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, District of Rother, England.I would like to present to you the reasons for the charity trustees of Maitreya Centre refusing to comply any further with the instructions of the NKT (New Kadampa Tradition) head office. This is our side of the story and undoubtedly different to the one presented by Kelsang Chodor, the Resident Teacher, who did not give us the courtesy of allowing us to present our case at the same time as he presented his case to the members.

When Kelsang Chodor first arrived at Maitreya Centre, he promised to work with everybody at the centre and to give everyone the chance to get involved if they wished to help move the centre forward. However, right from the beginning he did not wish to discuss any matters concerning the centre with the trustees collectively, and frequently ignored the considered advice of the Admin Director (AD) and Education Programme Co-ordinator (EPC), who became very frustrated that much of their hard work was being undone and undermined. He called a meeting of all the members in January without consultation with the trustees. January being the traditional month of retreat in NKT centres, just holding this meeting at that time was deeply disruptive of the retreat; indeed, some people coming to the meeting were expecting to be able to have a retreat meditation but were stuck in the meeting instead. Chodor then announced his wish that the centre move to residential accommodation in Hastings. The fact that many members at that meeting expressed their concerns about aspects of this proposal and that there was not sufficient momentum generated for such a move, together with the concern of many that Sonam should still have a place within the centre if it moved to Hastings, probably goes a long way to explain what happened next, because very soon afterwards Kelsang Sonam was banned by NKT head office from all teaching activities. No explanation for this decision was given by the NKT despite repeated requests by the trustees. Finally, after several weeks, a brief statement was issued by NKT head office stating that Sonam was ‘impure’, without giving any evidence whatsoever for that claim and failing to give Sonam or anyone an opportunity to challenge that claim. I have known Sonam for 20 years now and I can honestly say that the claim of ‘impurity’ is just ridiculous. He has taught Kadam Dharma faithfully for many years to many hundreds of people and led many of them into the path of the NKT and has shown great compassion and loving-kindness in his practice of moral discipline and in his behaviour towards others. He has shown great patience whenever he has been the victim of malicious gossip by others in the centre, and has always served Lam-ma faithfully when she was Resident Teacher, helping her massively to cope with the burden of her duties. His humility and good heart is obvious to all who take the trouble to meet him and get to know him. The loss of access to his teachings has been devastating for the people in Hastings who attended his classes and derived great benefit from them, and the arbitrary, sudden, and unjustified nature of that loss has significantly damaged the reputation and credibility of the NKT in that area. But, perhaps more importantly, from the centre’s point of view, he ran two branches in the Hastings area, one of which was very successful indeed and brought a lot of much-needed income into the centre, and his series of Saturday Meditation Workshops were always very well attended and also brought much needed income into the centre. All this was lost when Sonam was ordered to stop teaching, placing a massive strain upon the centre’s cash-flow at a time when economic conditions worsening in the general economy were beginning to affect the centre too. Chodor made no serious attempt to retain those branches and workshops and never discussed with the trustees how they could be retained.

Then Chodor asked me to stop teaching the Friday afternoon class, again with no explanation and no justification provided other than that the Internal Rules give him the power to do so. Again he did not offer to discuss this decision with me although I asked him to do so, as I had genuine concerns about how the decision would affect those attending the class, especially as Chodor was not offering to find another teacher or to keep the class going; bear in mind that one of the ladies attending that class is a 95 year old lady for whom that class is the only one she can attend given her frailty and for whom it is precious to her at her time of life (she has also been a devoted member of the centre ever since it started). I ask you: would you have had the heart to deny her that class? Furthermore, the class was also generating significant income for the centre, income that would be lost and making the financial strain on the centre even worse. For these reasons I therefore decided to refuse Chodor’s request to stand down as a teacher. My moral conscience and bodhisattva vow did not allow me to abandon both the people attending that class and to weaken the centre still further by denying it a source of income. This has of course allowed Chodor to claim that I have broken the Internal Rules, but if that is true, then so be it. Here I stand, I can do no other.

Then we come to the next significant action of Chodor which was to ask for one of the monks of Bodhisattva Centre to move into the centre’s flat. That would have meant asking one of the existing residents to leave to make way for that monk, even though there were no grounds for ending his tenancy, and also giving priority to that monk above those people already on the waiting list of applicants (all dharma practitioners) who wanted to move in whenever a vacancy occurred. No doubt this refusal of Chodor’s request by myself and my colleagues has undoubtedly contributed to his, and NKT head office’s, present determination to remove us completely from any role within the centre, even though, according to our constitution, the administration of the flat is purely an administrative matter for the AD and trustees to manage, and is not the final responsibility of the Resident Teacher. Again, the trustees invited Chodor to attend a trustees meeting in order to discuss why he made this request and how we might be able to help him, but again he refused. He has always refused to discuss anything with the trustees.

Now, under charity law the registered charity trustees of this centre have a legal responsibility to ensure that the administrative and financial affairs of the centre are maintained in good order. We now feel that we are legally obliged to step in and prevent Chodor from continuing further to undermine the centre financially and, more importantly, undermining people’s access to the dharma by arbitrarily shutting down classes and courses without due cause or explanation/justification, and without adequate consultation with anyone or respect for the advice of the AD and EPC.

It should be borne in mind that under section 12 of the very Internal Rules that Chodor and NKT head office like to quote so much, the centre is obliged to emphasise its development by, amongst other things, “increasing the number of students, through caring for people with kindness and by making good publicity” and “ maintaining the centre as a pure, peaceful and harmonious society” and “increasing the number of branches of the Centre”. I charge that Chodor, backed by NKT head office, has been guilty of breaking the Internal Rules himself because his actions have helped to decrease the number of students, has treated many of them with great unkindness, minimised good publicity (Chodor refused to authorise a new Centre brochure for 2012 despite one that had been painstakingly prepared in good time by the EPC), decreased the number of branches and classes, and has turned what was a peaceful and harmonious centre for 6 years under the loving guidance of Lam-ma into one now riven by discord and irreversibly split. If Chodor is a completely pure and reliable teacher as the NKT says he is, what does such chaos say about his style of management and motivation in the short time he has been here?

Therefore, I am totally unapologetic about the actions that I and my colleagues have taken at this time, and I am willing to discuss them in detail and answer any questions that members have and I totally concur with Mr R. B. in his letter when he says the trustees will abide by whatever the members want when ALL of them have had a chance to express their agreement/disagreement with the trustees decisions. People who know me know what I have done for the centre over the years and my devoted service to the NKT for 20 years; I would never have taken a decision to stand up to the NKT lightly. I and my colleagues are having to take this extreme stance because there is nowhere to go within the NKT for our legitimate concerns to be addressed or even listened to. I am perfectly happy to stand down if a majority of local members want me and the other trustees to stand down, but I am equally happy to carry on as trustee if the majority of members wish me to.

The latest attempt by Chodor to allow only his side of the argument to be presented before the trustees can do so is just typical of the divisive manoeuvrings he has been engaging in throughout. Bear in mind that none of the trustees or centre officers were invited to the meeting he called yesterday with the members to discuss the private letter the NKT sent to the centre trustees, a private letter that he deliberately leaked to as many members as possible BEFORE the trustees had had a chance to compose a reply to NKT head office. Also bear in mind that I and my colleagues are just volunteers, not paid employees of a corporation. We cannot be compelled to obey orders coming from a head office over 300 miles away if we feel that they are unjustified. We have given up much of our time and energy to help the centre flourish for 6 years. If we go, other members will have to be volunteers and generate a high level of commitment and hard work to keep the centre going; total obedience to orders, regardless of circumstances, is not, and should never be, the requirement or expectation of volunteers in this or any other organisation.

Thank you for reading this and best wishes for your health and happiness,

Andrew Durling,

Chairman of the Board of Trustees,

Maitreya Buddhist Centre.

1st March 2012

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The story of a New Kadampa Tradition nun: “Disrobing”

GUEST POST

My name is Andrea Ballance. I was a member of the New Kadampa Tradition. I was ordained in this tradition. I was a fully absorbed, dedicated, misguided and later an abandoned devotee of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

I thought when I joined (before the internet as we know it, now you can always google the group you are getting involved with!) that this was a mainstream Buddhist organisation similar to being in a religion like the Church of England but the Buddhist version.

I joined as one of their main teachers called Gen-la Thubten was being exposed for having sexual relations under the guise of a spiritual practice with nuns, single students, students who were married and in long term relationships. I was kept oblivious to all of this so I had no qualms about diving head first into the tradition. I was extremely naive back then. I thought all Buddhism was connected to the Dalai Lama. He was on TV, had books in normal bookshops, etc., he had to be legit, except it turned out (more to do with my happy blindness rather than it being hidden) this tradition had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama and I had not noticed.

Andrea Ballance as a nun in the NKT.

Andrea Ballance as a nun in the NKT.

I was ordained for about five years. Disrobing (this is the name they give taking off robes and dressing like a normal person again) from being, what I thought was an ordained nun, took me a long time. The process had started really from the first year of my ordination. Small chinks and rips in my integrity and ideas of what is moral and right were my first warnings.

I can not tell you how much I loved being a nun. No words can describe to anyone the absolute amazement and joy I felt when I realised not only that I, ME, could be a nun but that I was actually going to get ordained. The freedom I felt, freedom from conventional demands of beauty, behaviour, dress and female expectation. The joy of being allowed to be something I admired with all my heart. A nun – to me the ultimate expression of spiritual compassion and bravery. I loved nuns and monks so much that I have to admit I did not feel worthy of the robes. I hid in my ordination photos – I did not want to ruin the pictures with my obviously misplaced aspiration.

After ordination I was living, motivated to the best of my ability, a REAL life. A life dedicated to compassion and growth. A life that really had the power to benefit and influence the world, starting with the people around me. I was an object of trust and unconditional love for people, albeit aspirational. I could be useful to people who like me, may have had dark times and needed just one human to project ‘good’ on to so that they could chose to keep going. The slow cracking and poisoning of this well meant life choice practically nearly killed me.

I never fitted in. I was never allowed to fit in. I would call out teachers if I thought what they were saying was wrong. For example a teacher said, in front of a crowd of mixed ordained and lay people, “Fat people do not look very nice but thin people might be sick”. This ended in me having stern words with this particular teacher pointing out the shallowness of the statement. Pointing out that people saw him as Buddha on the throne (although to be fair Buddha was no stranger to being portly) and Buddha never said anything like that! Pointing out that thin people may be anorexic and that he may have caused some serious damage and pointing out that fat people only ‘look bad’ to people who can not live in the real world. I was not liked. I was seen as a troublemaker and a problem. I was excluded and pacified and basically ignored as much as possible.

I moved around from one centre to another – asked by the guru himself to move into the centre my first terrible cold and selfish teacher was moved to. I could not move straight away and spent sometime with the new teacher that had been ‘promoted’ to the main centre, Manjushri Centre. I realised quickly that we would not get on. I felt physically sick when a nun cornered me in the main hallway and whispered that I had been ‘picked to be in Genla Samden’s inner circle’. I left as soon as I could.

I then moved to the centre run by my first teacher called Losang Dragpa Centre. This particular centre has been shut down and it is now and sold off. It was deemed too impure. Unsurprisingly I was kicked out of that centre after a couple of years accused of ruining people’s faith and ‘stalking’ the teacher. I have to add that this teacher I thought was like a best friend. Like family. I loved him very much and even though I saw him as terribly flawed I was devoted to him.

They then allowed me to move to another big centre called Madhyamaka Centre. This was run by a teacher called Chodzom who it was later revealed was having sexual relations not only with the teacher Genla Samden but also with her own students. I did not know that at the time but knew I was not welcome there. My problem was that if I left the Dharma centre and tried to go it alone as a nun without a group I knew that I would become lonely and isolated and that that would not be right for my spiritual growth. Needless to say leaving this Dharma centre was the rusty nail in the coffin of my ordination.

I did not know how to leave. Barely no relationship with my family. I was stuck. No money. No deposit for a flat. Nowhere to go to. No one who would understand me outside of this group. I couldn’t stay, it was just too painful. I knew of the current sexual habits of the promoted main teacher. I couldn’t settle with the way I had been cast out of my last centre. I was not welcome in the new centre and was policed. I had become very ill and suffered from exhaustion; this was seen as laziness and selfishness and I was bullied for it by the centre management.

The months before I finally left I completed a month of silent retreat. I had found myself thinking everyday that the students were not compassionate in the Dharma centre and tradition. Not interested in practice of Buddhism as I understood it. No compassion, no Dharma. If there was no Dharma there then why was I trying to be a nun there? This echoing would not leave me alone. It would start the minute I sat on my cushion to meditate and repeat mantras.

This month long silent retreat helped me to come to terms with my undeniable realisation that the tradition I was involved with was not right for me and questionable for others. With this came the realisation I could not wear the robes of a tradition, be their advertising so to speak, if the tradition had no integrity or compassion. I just couldn’t do it.

The whole experience leaving the Dharma centre and choosing to go it alone was so traumatic. I can not even remember how it all came about. When had I contacted my family? I cannot remember emptying my room. Where we went… How we got wherever we ended up. All that part of my memory is a blank, a void. Same with the following months, they are missing completely from my memory. I remember nothing until I remember that I was living back with my family.

I couldn’t talk about the things that interested, healed and motivated me. I felt like I had been dropped into another country and I didn’t know the language or the customs. It felt to me like I was a character in a dark comedy horror film – a film where I was the main character, a ghost of some drowned, gray, dripping, cold, uncomfortable to be around ex Buddhist nun. Forced, for a plot twist, to live in a normal warm blooded family. I was a bald-headed woman, wearing funny clothes, in a world that doesn’t recognize a desire to be a pure Buddhist.

If I had been isolated as a member of the NKT it was nothing to the isolation I experienced here. The confusion and darkness that filled my life was unbearable. I couldn’t talk about the pain I was in with anyone. How could they possibly understand? No one to turn to that could understand that my mind felt like it was being held in acid, burning all day and all night with no relief. The only relief was dreamless sleep. I tried to sleep all the time. I was a shell. No Sangha, no Dharma teachings, no deep conversations. Alone, exhausted, stripped bare. No practice, no prayers and eroding faith. Guilt for letting everyone down and not making it as a nun. Pathetic, untouchable, unlovable, rightly abandoned and ignored. Ignored even by my guru.

I couldn’t get angry and back on my feet because I can remember the underlying feeling that everything that had happened was meant to be for my benefit. It is what the wrathful guru, a real teacher like Marpa would do right! A guru who really believed in my potential and really believed in the fact this pathetic human could use Buddhist teachings to purify their intention. Become a really useful living being. A real guru, who trusted my intention to be pure, who would force me to go it alone, to face my darkest fears. In particular, my fear of being in a world that doesn’t recognize bodhichitta.

It did not occur to me at the time to question the fact this ‘test’ was being given to a nun who had never been able to get any personal guidance on her practice or even stabilize any meditation techniques. With no one to take refuge in. I was left with an unsettling, undermining feeling that I should be grateful. That all my feelings of utter devastation, confusion, my feelings of isolation and abandonment were the evidence no one could work with me. That I deserved abandonment. The crushing and humiliating proof of what a self-obsessed, ego-driven, selfish person I was.

This invisible acid bath of torture I found myself lying in had the words MY and SELF forming in its vapours. The biggest crime an aspirant of unconditional love could commit. Everything I was, was harmful mind disease. I did not want to reach out and contaminate another human being. I was contagious and a vortex of badness that would ruin peoples lives.

I would like to say this dark place taught me loads of positive things and that i was back on my feet in months. But being an ex- cult member doesn’t heal like that. It just doesn’t make sense one morning and TA DA! you jump out of bed shouting, “Oh! That was unpleasant but I learnt a valuable lesson there”. The reality is, you exist. You exist until something manages to get inside the darkness and empty greyness and make life have meaning. That thing has to get in almost against your wishes. It needs to germinate when you are not looking and often it is just time and space away from the cult that gives the seed of happiness a fighting chance.

For a long, long time nothing has ‘enough’ meaning. Nothing really motivates you. Nothing makes you feel happy naturally as a by product of it just being there. It is grim, exhausting, lonely and relentless. You become a bedfellow with suicidal thoughts and the arguments for not ending it all. You revisit your guilt and pathetic-ness, each time fighting their gravity because the only thing left in you is the belief that negativity is a bad thing. Of course you know what negativity is, you have a degree in that. An intimate knowledge that can be called upon for varying levels of self abuse your cult no longer needs to provide people for because you have taken on their job for them.

You do survive however. You do become endowed with a creeping feeling of meaning in your life and you do go on to achieve awesome things and be an awesome person. It just might take ten years or more before you can get it together enough. For your memory to stay strong enough to be useful. And, as in my case, you might find you are no longer motivated by love and kindness just a desperation to be free of being remembered as ‘that person who brought it upon themselves, because they willingly joined a cult’.

You may also find that when you go through periods of having a good time… or people being nice to you… or a run of good luck… or even something small like someone checking how you are feeling, that you have an overwhelming need to run, hide and cry. The panic may swallow you whole and leave you breathless and you may feel lost in this new and unchartered experience. You must be your ultimate bravest at these points. You are entitled to be loved and experience happiness after all you are a sentient being and there are Bodhisattvas out there working on your behalf too.

May EVERY living being be free from suffering – even us.

Andrea Ballance also created the video cartoons :: Watno Guru

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyioONrBQPXSf832XN6iiUw

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More NKT survivors’ testimonies

Concerning The Protests At The Teachings Of H.H. The Dalai Lama: A Resolution Proposal I

GUEST POST

@ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Len Foley, Neil Elliott, and Nicholas Pitts (Kelsang Rabten)

I am a member of a small, unofficial, though well connected group of activists who have at heart the best interests of all parties concerned in the Shugden issue. I would like to offer my hand to you in a spirit of reconciliation and ask you to consider the following.

Since 1996 you have been protesting at various events wherever and whenever the Dalai Lama has appeared. You state the reason for your protests is that the followers of Shugden are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.

As principal evidence of this discrimination you circulate press packs which provide photographs of signs requesting Shugden devotees not to enter certain premises. These premises are of three types: religious institutions such as temples and monasteries; medical facilities; and shops owned by private individuals.

With regard to the first of these, you should be aware that it is a right enshrined in law, both in India and elsewhere in the civilized world, for the patrons and proprietors of religious institutions such as temples to ask those who hold differing religious views from their own not to enter certain buildings or areas. In India, non- Hindus are frequently instructed not to enter Hindu temples; thus exercising a right of admission refusal enshrined in Indian law. Elsewhere, in Saudi Arabia non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the city of Mekkah. In the West too, similar prohibitions exist: Gentiles are asked not to enter certain areas of synagogues, non-Catholics are prohibited from teaching in Catholic schools without the permission of the Church in some European countries, and so on. Even in the temples of the New Kadampa Tradition, those who have chosen not to receive certain tantric initiations such as Vajrayogini cannot enter premises where Vajrayogini teachings are taking place.

In short, ‘discrimination’ on religious grounds is quite normal practice in many of the religious traditions across the world and followers of these religions accept this, without claiming that they are being deprived of their human right to religious freedom or that they are the victims of discrimination. Please explain why followers of Shugden should be treated any differently in this regard and why normal accepted protocols should not be observed in their case.

However, you should be aware that if it is the case you consider yourselves discriminated against by the signs in religious institutions, there is very little that can be done about these, since such prohibitions are entirely legal, accepted practice internationally, with regard to the followers of many faiths. If you remain concerned over these signs, please lobby the Government of India, since it is they aho sre responsible for legilating in this regard.

Secondly, with regard to the documentary evidence provided from medical facilities, these images are over 15 years old and apparently no longer current. Please provide current evidence of  discrimination in a medical context so that, if it should prove to exist, those responsible can be informed of the disagreeable nature of their conduct and the problems their actions are causing and asked to remove all signs and restrictions, with a view to restoring harmony between our communities.

If you can provide current evidence of discrimination with regard to medical care, you are welcome to do so since it will give us an opportunity to rectify this discrimination immediately. If on the other hand you cannot provide current evidence, it would be entirely appropriate for you to cease protesting in this regard, since the offending circumstances have clearly ceased to exist.

Thirdly, with regard to the signs in shops in the exiled Tibetan community, these have been placed there as the result of individuals’ personal decisions, after considering the advice of HH the Dalai Lama. As such, His Holiness cannot instruct them to now remove them since this would imply that His Holiness had instructed them to be placed there in the first place and indeed that he was wielding political control over these individuals, neither of which is the case.

Nevertheless, I can confirm that many of  the individuals concerned have already realised their actions are providing ammunition for the critics of His Holiness and have therefore chosen to remove the offending signs. I can now confirm, categorically, that there are no more signs in Dharamsala or Mundgod. If you dispute this, please provide appropriate, dated photographic evidence. The situation in the settlement at Bylakuppe is not yet as clear but I do know efforts are underway to advise those who post such signs that, though they may well be acting in good faith, their actions are causing great harm at many levels and that it would be best therefore to remove them.

In summary, every effort is being made to ensure that, where actionable, any instances of discrimination against Shugden worshippers you claim are brought to an end.

In response, if it can be shown that the remaining shop signs in Bylakuppe and anywhere else they may have arisen have been removed, will you cease your demonstrations? If you are unwilling to do this, please state your reasons so they can be addressed at the earliest opportunity and this unfortunate situation can be resolved.

Please send your response to this website as soon as possible for public scrutiny and so any problems can be addressed.

Thank you.

updated December 18, 2014, at 01:24 pm

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Helpful background interviews

Update Dec. 18, 2014

More and more testimonies from former New Kadampa Tratition (NKT) followers

In the last weeks three new public testimonies of “New Kadmapa Survivors” were posted with the full name of the author on the New Kadampa Survivor Actvists Facebook Group.

In a new testimony Ivy describes the experience exactly as most of the stories of encountering and then following the NKT unfold:

I was in the NKT for 5 years. My initial year there was incredible. Everyone was so kind and seemed so happy. I stayed on the outskirts for a while, only going to GP classes once a week or a puja here or there. I was befriended on Facebook by practically everyone within a few weeks. Each time I went to the center I was bombarded with attention by nuns and starry-eyed students, which made me feel extremely welcome. Eventually one nun started asking me if I wanted to build merit by cleaning the bathrooms at the center once a week. It took me about a year to work my way into the “inner circle” of the center this way. I began volunteering for reception shifts, helping in the bookshop, doing flower offerings, cooking meals, assisting the teacher in his branch classes, and of course, cleaning the bathrooms. I became close friends with some of the more senior members of the center and soon began considering moving in to the center myself, and perhaps even ordaining …

Ivy’s story ends similar as the story ended for those who had the integrity and courage to leave the NKT and who want now to inform the broader public about the NKT in order to protect others from the damage NKT is inflicting on their followers in the long run:

With a heavy heart, I quietly stopped going to the center. No one ever contacted me to see where I went or what happened, even though I’d been very close friends with them for 5 years. They all unfriended me from Facebook after I posted a picture of the Dalai Lama with a quote about kindness. It took me years to come to grips with the fact that I was in a cult. My entire life was built up and then shattered. I’ve been going to therapy ever since but I still am very distrustful of people, particularly dharma teachers. I haven’t been able to meditate because every time I sit my mind is flooded with memories. The NKT is an extremely dangerous organization that has ruined the lives of a lot of genuine spiritual practitioners. I hope that anyone reading my story will think twice about joining their ranks.

Read Ivy’s full story …

Thank you Ivy and all those who started to speak up!

More NKT survivors’ testimonies

 

Kelsang Gyatso’s Teachings for Westerners – ‘From Dharma into Dogma?’

GUEST POST by Carol McQuire

(Provisional notes)

This is a short general summary of what Kelsang Gyatso taught and how. In 1977, he was invited by Lama Yeshe to teach at ‘Manjushri Institute’, created and owned by the FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) in Cumbria, UK. Kelsang Gyatso was not asked to teach on the ‘Geshe Studies’ programme but to give ‘introductory’ teachings – specifically to teach Shantideva and Chandrakirti.[1] Kelsang Gyatso later, and contentiously, kept Manjushri Institute as the mother centre for his New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). [2]

It is customary for every Tibetan teacher to give the origin of the teachings he or she gives, usually stating exactly who gave them each transmission and teaching. This is considered a sign of respect towards the lineage and a guarantee of the validity of the teaching.

Kelsang Gyatso acknowledges having ‘received [lamrim] teachings’ and ‘the opportunity to study and practice Heruka and Vajrayogini’ from his spiritual guide, Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang.

I can find no further acknowledgements in his other books as yet, except to the Tibetan texts he selected from.

I will refer to standard Tibetan Buddhist names for the texts that Kelsang Gyatso taught, as well as the titles of the NKT books (in brackets) published by Tharpa Publications, Kelsang Gyato’s own publishing company. All the information below is compiled from various editions of these books.

It is integrated in the Internal Rules of the NKT that the books and study programmes should remain unaltered after the author’s death. [3] No NKT teacher or student can publish using knowledge from these books or refer to their NKT ‘career’. [4]

COMMENTARIES TAUGHT IN TIBETAN 1977- 1986 Manjushri and Madhyamaka Centres

Translated by Tenzin P. Phunrabpa; edited with and published by western students in later years. Compared to classic presentations, very few quotes from other teachers are included in the books.

Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacharyavatara (Taught 1977, pub.1980) (Meaningful to Behold)

Lama Chopa – Guru Yoga explanation (Taught 1979-80, 1986 and 1990, pub. 1992) (Great Treasury of Merit)

Six Yogas of Naropa (Taught 1980, pub. 1982) (Clear Light of Bliss)

Heart Sutra (Pub. 1986) (Heart of Wisdom)

Lamrim: Commentary to Yeshe Tsondru’s Essence of Nectar. (Taught 1981, pub.1990) [5] (Joyful Path of Good Fortune)

Instructions on how to practice Vajrayogini (Taught 1981, pub. 1991) (Guide to Dakini Land)

Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara (Pub. 1990) (Ocean of Nectar)

Eight Verses of Mind training (Langri Tangpa) (Pub. 2000) (Eight Steps to Happiness)

Training the Mind in Seven Points (Chekhawa) (Pub. 1988) (Universal Compassion)

BOOKS WRITTEN FROM TEXTS: 1986 – 1997

Written with and edited by western students. Not known if these books were taken from previous oral teachings. No credits given in the books to any translator.

A short book on the Bodhisattva Vow (Pub. 1991) (The Bodhisattva Vow)

Shugden – Edited and shortened practice for the NKT (pub. 1991) (Heart Jewel)

Lorig (Pub. 1993) (Understanding the Mind)

Tantric grounds and paths (Pub. 1994) (Tantric Grounds and Paths)

Commentary to a shortened Heruka Body Mandala (Compared with two other versions) (pub. 1997) (Essence of Vajrayana)

SHORTENED VERSIONS OF THE ABOVE: 1997- 2014

Earlier books were re- edited with western students and reissued, including simpler versions of Lamrim and ‘Tantric Mahamudra’. Kelsang Gyatso taught using short extracts from his own books; students would understand the rest by reading. References within the books refer to Kelsang Gyatso’s books.

The NKT and its study programmes, including ‘Teacher Training’ were started in 1992 after Kelsang Gyatso designed them on his ‘retreat’ (1987-1990) when he also wrote ‘A Meditation Handbook’; a highly simplified Lamrim manual. After 1992 he no longer gave twice weekly teachings to the Manjushri Centre community. NKT students were expected to study with western teachers: Kelsang Gyatso only taught at ‘NKT Festivals’ a few mornings each year.

When the first NKT ‘World Peace Temple’ was built in Manjushri, c.1999, Shugden Five Deity statues were integrated into the main shrine room. Shugden statues are traditionally kept in a separate room. When he first came to Manjushri Institute, Kelsang Gyatso would hold Shugden pujas in his private rooms with invited guests. [6]

Foonotes

[1] See Modern Day Kadampas, New Kadampa Tradition, 1997, p. 7

[2] Now called Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre.

[3] http://www.newkadampatruth.org/a-moral-discipline-guide-the-internal-rules-of-the-new-kadampa-tradition-international-kadampa-buddhist-union

See section 9.

9. Books

9§1. To prevent the development of confusion and disagreement among NKT students, no NKT-IKBU Teacher or Spiritual Director shall write books or other material that contain elements of traditions that differ from the New Kadampa Tradition or that in any way contradict NKT Dharma books.
9§2. After the author passes away, no-one shall change the meaning or presentation of the content, in any format, of the Dharma books used in the three NKT Study Programmes,  unless there are valid reasons for doing so approved by the GSD and the majority of the members of the Education Council.

[4] See Nick Gillespie, libel threat, 2012. http://www.nktworld.org/nixed.html

[5] See Modern Day Kadampas, New Kadampa Tradition, 1997, p. 7

[6] Personal account

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Last time I saw Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

GUEST POST

Last time I saw him we stayed there the whole week. We spent a fortune of course. This was last year in October. When we arrived from that empowerment and retreat we began to have a horrible crisis; it was the beginning of our doubts. During the teachings he was constantly coughing and I saw him rather weak. The last day he was supposed to say some words but he didn’t, it was Dekyong the one who spoke on his behalf when the theatre play finished. We were told that that was going to be his last appearance in public.

We were told forever.

KG 2006-001

Two months later I went to another empowerment and some monks with tears in their eyes made people to sign on a piece of paper a document asking Gyatso to come back. It was a kind of petition. I remember that it was Kelsang Rabjob the one who burst into tears.

People began to sign the document. We didn’t sign. In that empowerment I learned about lots of people, especially two women who said they had been harassed because of the hard work they had to do and the bad treatment. What I really think is that these guys are hiding something. Imagine the moment someone spill the beans …

The last retreat we had with the Kadampas was before the summer and this was when we decided to leave the organization. This time the teachings were performed by an English monk, quite ill too. His teachings were not well understood by people attending this retreat. We began to hear complaints coming from some guys who said that they couldn’t understand a word. I then asked Kelsang […] if he knew something about Gyatso and he said to me that he had said goodbye forever.

I think that if hypothetically he is dead only some, the chosen ones, know it but I cannot tell you because I don’t know. I only told you what I lived in my last empowerments. That was definitely his last appearance as they told us.

I sometimes wonder if all those empowerments during all those years were real empowerments. As a matter of fact Gyatso broke a very important lineage.

For the opening of the second centre in Madrid, the premises cost nearly a million Euros – I know the price they paid because someone told me. We spent 30,000 Euros in three years. Empowerments, journeys, books, Sadhanas, CDs, courses, donations etc etc. They told us that going to Brazil was very auspicious. We were totally brainwashed. Remember that they made us believe that Gyatso was a Buddha, the emanation of Je Tsongkhapa.

We did everything for Gyatso, everything in our hands. I know a couple who sold their flat to cross the ocean to see him. They live in a rented flat now. I still feel embarrassed about the money I spent. I have never told my family these things …

Unfortunately we have lost wonderful friends. They believe in all this bloody stupid thing of Shugden, they say that it’s an emanation of Wisdom Buddha and all that stuff. They cannot see what there is behind all that. I only hope people to realize but to be honest I think that is extremely difficult. In this life you have to stop one day and to question what you are doing. I believe in the Three Jewels but I don’t believe in a crazy monk, monks who go to demonstration like if they were Nazis, manipulative People who say they are Sangha etc etc.

Can you believe that I am meditating more right now than in my years with the NKT?

In my years with the NKT we used to have hundreds of teachings, some of them by unqualified teachers. Those “teachers” were students who two hours earlier they had prepared the lesson. They used to read from the books, especially modern Buddhism. I would also like to say that I don’t bear a grudge to Gyatso. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him or any person. I will pray … Praying is just a comfort for me right now. You see … Whenever I see a baby or an old person or someone in need here in the city where I live, I always whisper, Om tare tutare ture soha. I know that Tara will be always there helping everybody.

New Kadampa Shugden protesters: Maybe better to go home and do something meaningful

KG2006

NKT students were told in October 2013 that they would not see Kelsang Gyatso in person ever again.

Do you think slander and hate are going to help him?

Some small group in our NKT society engage in meaningless activity on the internet, not only Sangha, some lay. This is incorrect. We are Kadampa practitioners, Kadampa Teachers. Why are we enjoying meaningless activity, discussion? We can have a meaningful discussion with pure practitioners or senior practitioners, Teachers. There is no meaning in talking about silly things publicly on the internet.

No meaning engaging in silly question and answers on the internet. Please Gen-la Khyenrab, pass my message. I am telling you for your purpose and our society’s purpose. In this way, keep individuals and society pure and show very good example. – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso*

* This message by Kelsang Gyatso was sent to all official NKT internet chat forums a while ago but in another context

Guest post by NKS

 

The Monk Who Had No Confidence: ‘Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche’

I write with sadness and shock about a person who was my ‘teacher’ for 12 years. I have researched Kelsang Gyatso’s life for the last three months. I have consulted books, websites, videos, academics, monks, teachers, Tibetans, westerners, and of course, listened to other NKT ‘survivors’. I can reference my sources. I will show you that Kelsang Gyatso does not have the qualifications or experience you would expect a ‘lineage holder’ in Tibetan Buddhism to have. The phrase ‘getting away with it’ comes to mind. And ‘beware of too many titles’?

NKT followers will say this does not matter. That is their decision. But in terms of what this means for Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism in Britain at least, is that in relation to what ‘training’ and what ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ is, the NKT is not. To attribute failures to ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ when what is at fault is the corruption of a system that in its own context has produced marvellous human beings is mistaken. ‘Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’ is the product of invasion, destruction and diaspora, perhaps even trauma. His NKT is ‘not’ Tibetan Buddhism – the NKT will already tell you that. But the ways in which it ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ Tibetan Buddhism – most NKT followers don’t know.

I have made a document. If any Tibetans or westerners can provide added information to complement or discredit my account, it will be welcomed. The process of making it – and it is ongoing – is full of side tracks and cul de sacs. I imagined a stressed NKT ‘Education Programme Co-ordinator’ trying to finish a leaflet, with instructions from his or her Resident Teacher to ‘write about Geshe-la’s life’ and very little information, inventing a few extra details to make up the word count. I enclose one account of his life circulated amongst NKT ordained at the end so that you can see the myths exposed. Like the ‘third Buddha’ attribution – Kelsang Gyatso can always say “It’s up to my students what they say!” And perhaps that’s what his students wanted to hear.

Nothing is clear in Kelsang Gyatso’s life. Even his birth place is unclear, given differently according to your source. NKT accounts differ. There is no authorised biography. There is no biography. It all feels ‘hidden’, uncertain and vague; nothing can be ‘known’ accurately – his teachers, his studies, the transmissions he received, when, where and from whom, even if he was fully ordained. Tibetan sources say he was not. As an ex NKTer said “He goes to great lengths to have his followers talk about him.” He can always say later that they made a mistake!

I have not analysed the ‘story’ of how Manjushri Institute was lost to Kelsang Gyatso and his students. I have reconfigured some ‘facts’ about Kelsang Gyatso in a slightly different way. I have mostly used Kelsang Gyatso’s own words – he tries to keep carefully within the boundaries of what could be called ‘truthful’ in his books and often ‘gives himself away’ in his oral teachings, if you understand the Tibetan context. A lot of the meaning comes from what he leaves out, not what he says. For instance, in his books, he only credits having received two teachings from a particular teacher and these are the teachings he first gave in the UK; commentaries to Lamrim and Vajrayogini practice. Nothing else is given an ‘oral’ source, unheard of in Tibetan Buddhism. For a ‘master’ who complains that His Holiness is ‘destroying the pure Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa’, Kelsang Gyatso has remarkably little of that lineage in himself. Whether through illness or through other causes, he is not remembered by many Tibetan sources as actually being seen studying in Tibet, (though a top Geshe did say that ‘Kelsang Gyatso did well in his studies’) and he managed to avoid the very transmissions from His Holiness the Dalai Lama that would have provided a basis for a ‘Je Tsongkhapa’ lineage. Of course, his uncle was the Kuten Lama, a Shugden oracle, so he most probably had a monastic education, but I can find little proof other than his own words until he arrives in Buxar in exile. I have still yet to find ‘Nyamring’, or ‘Ngamring Jampaling’ monastery where he was living as a child. There are leads, but nothing is definitive.

How could I teach as I could not speak English? I had no confidence” thought Kelsang Gyatso before coming to England. Perhaps it wasn’t the English he lacked confidence in. How much Dharma did he study? We don’t know. All his major books – presentations of standard, traditional texts common to all branches of Tibetan Buddhism – were translated by Tenzin P. Phunrabpa to whom credit should still be given, including for Ocean of Nectar. Most of the NKT study programmes are based on these early books. NKT students think that these commentaries to introductory texts are ‘Geshe-la’s’ and his greatest and unique kindness to them. They are not unusual – they are packaged properly.

His later books weren’t translated from Kelsang Gyatso’s oral teachings: they were written with the Tharpa editing team and panned out through local NKT study programmes. The focus has been, not teaching his students, but ‘The Importance of Developing New Dharma Centres’, the name of an NKT leaflet published in 1992. Kelsang Gyatso has not published more complex books as he matures, but simpler ones to attract a simpler audience. His attempt at publishing for a Tibetan audience, in 2014, was quickly dropped from the Tharpa website after the gift of 500 books to a Shugden monastery in India, Shar Gaden. I was told by two separate sources, that the Tibetan spelling was remarkably bad. Kelsang Gyatso did offer us the ‘Perfection of Wisdom Sutras’ (I heard him live, I can’t remember the year) but said that we ‘weren’t ready for it’ and should do more Lamrim. That book never appeared.

Kelsang Gyatso has repeatedly stated that ‘the book is the teacher’ and given minimal oral or ‘live’ commentaries to his own published books as he stressed, as his students, that we read the book ‘again and again’ as he did, until it felt like ‘Je Tsongkhapa was talking to him’. In the NKT Teacher Training Programme we were asked how we were going to create those experiences for ourselves. Transmissions from thin air…? In the Tibetan world this is not transmission, especially for tantra: if everything is edited, shortened and rounded out, then ‘what’ were we studying? Like the medicinal tree, we had part of the beauty of Dharma. The danger is in taking that as the ‘whole’. If there’s a long way to fall, as in tantric practice, you need more instructions, not less. You can’t make do with a book and your own imagination. You can easily get lost, disoriented, confused and, dangerously mistaken. And ‘teach’ the same misapprehensions to others, even if you are ‘keeping to the words in the books’ as an NKT teacher. At what point in this process of ‘bringing pure Dharma to the West’ is the ‘transmission’ lost? That is a new question. And we don’t really know what ‘transmissions’ Kelsang Gyatso has. Any Tibetan teacher will tell you; it’s their guarantee.

My conclusion? Read his life. (Out soon!) I think, with so little formal study, that Kelsang Gyatso, faced with a request from Geshe Rabten to go to Switzerland in 1978 to teach Dharmakirti’s Pramanavartika, (difficult even for highly trained teachers), soon realised he’d be better as an ‘independent’ teacher with his own British students, far away from the ‘systems’ he left behind in Tibet. He’s still fighting those systems, so that he can’t be ‘seen’ by them, hiding as he is behind ‘Shugden’ and full of blame. Is this a smoke screen for the fact that he never became what His Holiness the Dalai Lama definitively is, a fully qualified teacher? If you abandon a ‘system’, you have to create your own – I feel Kelsang Gyatso got trapped within his own invention as the very system he rejected is simultaneously also the source of his own attraction.

If my ‘life’ of Kelsang Gyatso provokes a proper biography, or parts of one, I will be content. Kelsang Gyatso is an unknown.

Carol McQuire, New Kadampa Survivors, 31st October 2014.

Last edited on Nov. 2, 2014, 2:23 pm

See also

New Kadampa Tradition: Never mix with Tibetan Buddhists, they can cause “great spiritual confusion” and are dangerous for your “purity”

New Kadampa Tradition
International Kadampa Buddhist Union


To all NKT-IKBU Centres
05 August 2010

Dear Administrative Directors,

Because of the potential for great spiritual confusion both now and in the future, we advise and request that NKT Centres, teachers, managers and residents do not get involved with the activities of any Tibetan Buddhist groups, teachers or their students.

If you receive any invitations or requests from a Tibetan Buddhist group, teacher or student, please politely decline them, and forward them to the Education Council Representatives for our information.

These approaches can be for support in some form (for example with donations, fundraising events, visa applications, hosting, transport, publicity, social events); or offers to give teachings, empowerments or informal talks, or to perform pujas, ceremonies, ritual demonstrations and so on.

The main reason for this request is to help NKT practitioners to avoid mixing spiritual traditions, while of course maintaining respect for other traditions. It will also avoid being drawn into the many difficult political problems associated with Tibetan Buddhism, caused by mixing Dharma and politics.

Please inform the teachers, managers and residents at your Centre of this advice and request.

Thank you for your co-operation.

Warm regards,

Steve Cowing, NKT-IKBU Secretary
on behalf of the GSD and Education Council Reps

NKT declaration of sectarian views 2010

See also

And

What is the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)?

GUEST POST by Ex-NKT

The NKT-IKBU (International Kadampa Buddhist Union) is a controversial New Religious Movement – different from mainstream Buddhist groups – created by one Tibetan Buddhist monk called Kelsang Gyatso in 1992. There are no other Tibetans in the group, either as teachers or students, and there is no contact between the NKT and the rest of the Buddhist world. It can be called a ‘separatist’ organisation.

A UK-based research group dedicated to New Religious Movements that is partially government funded – INFORM at the LSE in London – received more enquiries about the New Kadampa Tradition than about any other group, including Scientology, in the last 5 years. Inform mentioned the NKT three times, along with Scientology and other radical groups, in their leaflet ‘Extremism on Campus’.

Due to the NKT’s promotional campaigns and expansion techniques – not used in traditional Tibetan Buddhism where the teacher generally only teaches when asked – the NKT is still expanding its international property portfolio. The NKT-IKBU has roughly 48 centers in the UK, 50 in the US including in Hollywood and the Hamptons, and more than 120 in the rest of the world, with roughly 600 venues temporarily rented for giving classes. ‘World Peace Temples’ are within Meditation Centers. There are 32 World Peace Cafes, one hotel and a children’s Primary School in England. Tharpa publishing company only publishes Kelsang Gyatso’s books, translated into many languages including Chinese.

Kelsang Gyatso’s teachings are described as ‘Modern Buddhism’ which claims to remove the ‘Tibetan’ from Tibetan Buddhism for western people. The NKT ordination, teachings, study program and volunteer work conditions are unlike those in other Tibetan Buddhist groups and are focused on maintaining the ‘purity’ of the NKT and the danger of ‘mixing’ with other traditions or the ‘meaninglessness’ of ‘ordinary’ life.

Dismissing orthodox doctrine, Kelsang Gyatso has made a ‘protector’ practice of ‘Shugden’ the central focus of his own tradition, using it to give an ‘NKT’ identity or ‘allegiance’ that can unify his students all over the world. It is the obligatory daily practice for every NKT centre and teacher. For NKT students, following Kelsang Gyatso’s instructions, their ‘Shugden’ has become an incomparable ‘Wisdom Buddha’ who can solve all their problems, and is completely bonded, psychologically, with Kelsang Gyatso as their unique ‘spiritual guide’.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has advised that his own students should not worship ‘Shugden’ as it increases sectarian conflict and is historically connected to violent disagreements in the Tibetan world, including the murder of his close associate and two other monks, 100 yards from the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala in 1997. Kelsang Gyatso has retired but still appears to actively promote his students engaging in a defamation campaign against His Holiness the Dalai Lama for making this doctrinal decision. NKT followers who disagree with the demonstrations have quickly been removed from their NKT teaching posts by Kelsang Gyatso. Investigations show that accusations of ‘abuse’, creating ‘apartheid’ and ‘lying’, etc that the NKT aim at His Holiness the Dalai Lama have no foundation in fact.

There are many documented cases where the NKT has threatened to sue using libel law to silence other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. After initially pleasant experiences, survivors report being pushed by the group into serious commitments they did not wish to make. Followers leaving the group are told they will suffer in the ‘hell realms’ for leaving their ‘Guru’.

The NKT has been called a ‘cult’ by ex members due to the lack of democratic management and the group deliberately prioritising its own purposes over the well being of any individual. It is not known how many ‘NKT survivors’ there are, but an online support group has more than 1,200 members. Survivors have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and trauma. Many report confusion, a sense of betrayal and a deep distrust of others. Survivors experience problems integrating into ordinary society such as financial distress due to lost careers, housing problems and loss of contact with families as a result of their previous commitment to the NKT. Other psychological effects include intense fear, guilt, and disorientation relating to their identity and purpose in the world without the NKT.

Journalists drawn into the ‘Human Rights’ aspect of the NKT campaign may easily find themselves promoting the interests of the NKT.

INFORM

Inform is an independent charity providing information that is as up-to-date and reliable as possible about what many call cults, sects, new religious movements (NRMs), non-conventional religions, alternative religions, spiritual or esoteric movements and/or self-religions based at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Information by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Declaration concerning the demonstrations by New Kadampa Survivors

Different issues the NKT claim as ‘abuses’ by the Dalai Lama are discussed here:

Further information on the NKT can be found here:

Kelsang Gyatso’s Tibetan Relations

GUEST POST by Ex-NKT

Concise information for a broader public

Kelsang Gyatso’s Tibetan Relations

  • Kelsang Gyatso is the Tibetan Buddhist monk who founded his own New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) in 1992. He has lived in the UK since 1977.
  • Members of the NKT pose as the ‘International Shugden Community’ and the ‘Western Shugden Society’ and protest against the Dalai Lama for ‘abuse of the Human Rights’ of the Tibetans, saying that Shugden practitioners are refused employment, basic services, medical access and travel papers by the Tibetan government.
  • The Tibetan Homes Foundation was started in 1962 in Mussoorie, India, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is a registered charitable institute dedicated to the care of orphaned Tibetan children and destitute Tibetan refugees.
  • Kelsang Gyatso’s sister, Kunchok Chonyi, lived at the Tibetan Homes Foundation Home in Rajpur, as she was ‘old aged and destitute’. She is known to practice Shugden.
  • Ngawang Dolker, known as the niece of ‘Kelsang Gyatso, the well known devotee’ of Shugden, was working as a nurse at the Tibetan Homes Dispensary, from 1985.
  • In September 1996, both women travelled to the USA on Tibetan Government permits through the Tibetan ‘Family Reunification Program’.

On the path to enlightenment, in traditional Tibetan Buddhist thought, it is considered essential to repay the kindness of others.

  • In July 1996 Kelsang Gyatso published 2,000 copies of a polemical text entitled “A Sword That Cuts the Suffering Plaint of Tibetans-in Exile” circulating these amongst the Tibetan exile community, mainly in India. In this text Kelsang Gyatso condemned the Dalai Lama for spending his whole life collecting the wealth of simple Tibetan people, giving them no material help and doing nothing that is really helpful for Tibet.
  • Kelsang Gyatso also criticised the Dalai Lama for deceiving the Tibetan people, suppressing their democratic rights and freedom, and using his initiations, particularly the Kalachakra (for World Peace) to ‘control the public’ and ‘destroy his opponents’.
  • Kelsang Gyatso and his NKT followers completely ignore the suffering of the Tibetan people. Kelsang Gyatso only supports his own charities that specialise in buying real estate to create NKT World Peace Temples and Kadampa Meditation Centres in every city in the world. NKT students have been told that supporting any ‘Tibetan’ or other charity is a waste of money that should go towards the NKT.
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama regularly devotes his resources towards promoting Tibetan Buddhist culture and secular ethics, donates large amounts of money to scientific, medical, humanitarian and ecological causes and charities, and acts as Patron to many other charities worldwide. The Dalai Lama Trust, his own registered charity, provides grant-based support to various organizations and individuals working for the promotion and preservation of Tibetan Culture. He tries to meet every refugee who escapes from Tibet.

Documents

See also

Revised Declaration from New Kadampa Survivors concerning the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The following is a revised and abbreviated version of the Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness.

line-gothicWe, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dolgyal Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT sangha demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The NKT, led by their teacher Kelsang Gyatso, operates as the ‘Western Shugden Society’ (WSS) and more recently as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC). These groups attack His Holiness with unwarranted allegations and distortions of what we know to be the truth. We now believe it is time to speak out!

1) The NKT call His Holiness the Dalai Lama a ‘liar’. His Holiness holds a different view from Kelsang Gyatso concerning the nature and history of Dolgyal Shugden and the effects of this practice upon the well-being of His Holiness, the Tibetan people and their cause. A difference of opinion is not lying.

2) The NKT claim that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has broken samaya with all his teachers by rejecting the practice of Dolgyal Shugden. This practice was viewed as problematic by His Holiness’ Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche. After extensive historical investigation His Holiness saw that Dolgyal Shugden worship was often associated with sectarian views and ‘distorted aspiration’. He explained to his Junior Tutor Trijang Rinpoche why it was his duty to avoid this practice and advise others to do so. Masters of other traditions have also dismissed this practice after investigation. According to Buddhist scriptures and past masters, these are correct and appropriate actions.

3) Kelsang Gyatso claims that by rejecting Dolgyal Shugden, His Holiness is rejecting all the lineage teachings of the Gelug tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. Shugden was not taught by Je Tsongkhapa and His Holiness still holds his lineage gurus and all Gelug teachings in the highest esteem. Kelsang Gyatso, however, is never seen in public with teachers connected to the lineage he claims to represent. He is alone, with no influence from either peers or superiors. He created his NKT in 1992 after a schism with another Tibetan Buddhist group whose property he kept as his own. In 1996 he was unanimously expelled from Sera Je Tibetan Buddhist monastery for being a ‘holder of broken commitments and wrong view’. Kelsang Gyatso has made his own tradition of ‘Modern Buddhism’ and his own ordination system without the traditional monastic code of conduct. He has isolated his students from the wider Buddhist world.

4) The allegation that the Dalai Lama is repressing Freedom of Religion is more relevant to the way the NKT operates. NKT centres are dedicated to the exclusive devotion of Kelsang Gyatso and Dolgyal Shugden. No other Tibetan teachers are allowed. NKT centres only sell Kelsang Gyatso’s books. Students only study Kelsang Gyatso’s books with teachers trained in the NKT and appointed by Kelsang Gyatso. Teachers at all critical of the NKT are removed from their posts. Ordained NKT people and others are told they may never get enlightened if they leave the NKT.

5) The Tibetan people number little more than 6 million. An unknown number of Tibetans, often quoted as being more than one million, have been slaughtered due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation. Claims made by the ISC such as ‘4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ from His Holiness’ abuse of their Human Rights are obviously untrue.

No established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT, WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Dolgyal Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’.

6) There are many documented cases where the NKT has threatened to sue using libel law to silence other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. In our experience, the NKT generally prioritises the expansion of the group over the welfare of individuals. The NKT Survivors internet group numbers over 1,200 subscribers. There is no Dalai Lama Survivor’s group.

7) In 2008 Kelsang Gyatso stated that he was personally organising the NKT’s participation in the protests led by the Western Shugden Society (WSS). All the Directors of the WSS were and are members of the New Kadampa Tradition. However, the NKT has denied that they have any connection to the WSS. The latest NKT front group, the International Shugden Community (ISC) actively recruits protestors and fundraises for demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama inside NKT centres.

8) Misleading and deceitful media techniques are used in NKT campaigns. In his YouTube “News Broadcasts” for the ISC, senior NKT monk Kelsang Rabten hides his bias and status as a monk by not wearing his robes. An ISC video uses footage of young Burmese monks to fraudulently misrepresent the situation in India regarding the supposed ‘ostracism’ of Dolgyal Shugden followers. The mainstream press has published NKT accounts without confirming their accuracy.

9) 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 the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT. His Holiness has not changed his view or his actions since 1996. Therefore we question what has caused NKT followers to start their demonstrations and defamations again in 2014.

We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture. We question the intentions of those who use their culture but do not support this struggle, not even acknowledging the kindness given in training their own teacher.

We feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students have no basis in fact for making any attempts to discredit and disparage His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We request them to stop misleading and disturbing others with this false campaign.

26th September 2014

Carol McQuire
Jamie Kostek
Lynne Cracknell
Ani Tsultrim
Graham Smetham
Linda Ciardiello
Ian Thomas
David Cutshaw
Robert Helms
Steve Maxwell
Michael Brown
Charles Wesley
Andrew Durling
Andrew Cheadle
Kevan Webb
Tenzin Peljor
James Tregaskis
Tim Ford
Karma Yonten
Amanda Zinski
Stuart Everard
Andrea Ballance
Yeshe Tsomo
Richard Litchfield
Anne Maxwell
Andrea Clarkson
David Silver
Steve Cody
Peter Dornan
Ben Grimwood
Adrian Benson
Charles Miller
Chris Cliff
Michele White

Supporters

Lyn G Farrell
Charlie Worthington
Tony Allen
Ganesha von Hendricks
Ashoka von Hendricks
Dan Ballance
Joanne Clark
Carol Brearley
Jon Underwood
Erika Adler

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Download

Background

See also

Kelsang Rabten Calls for Dialogue at the SOAS Conference: Is Dialogue Possible?

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

At the SOAS conference, Rabten began his talk by stating:

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

 

“I’d like to make quite clear that we’re not here to argue. We very much want to move towards a resolution to this issue.

“We have tried to have dialogue on this with the Dalai Lama and his representatives for nearly twenty years … So even though they’re not here, maybe this is a step in that direction, who knows?”

Indeed, his stance was calm and reasonable. However, beside him on the table was a book entitled The False Dalai Lama: The Worst Dictator in the Modern World. How could the Dalai Lama ever have dialogue with people who write such things? In my mind, much of this dispute rests on the fact that many within the organized (rather fanatic) Shugden community have now demoted His Holiness from any position of religious or spiritual authority at all.

Given that the Dalai Lama’s stance regarding Shugden worship is based on him fulfilling his responsibility and duty as a religious leader, dialogue seems pointless. He made his points about Shugden, but insists that people should not follow him without investigating this issue and its 400 years of history thoroughly. He also states that its up to the individual to accept or to reject his advice. Shugden people can practice Shugden, Rabten can practice it. They have their own monasteries, their own places, but there are restrictions on the institutional level. So their rights to practice are met. However they cannot practice at places where the majority of the community decided against it– by a procedure laid down in the Vinaya (monastic code of discipline) by the  Buddha. This is comparable to prohibiting smoking in public places because it harms the non smoker. So, the real point of difference is not about the rights of Shugden worshippers, but about the Dalai Lama’s right advice and the right of people to follow his advice and to decide against smoking (Shugden worship) at public places —and that’s a different topic entirely!

Further, if Shugden worshippers see hidden agendas behind everything the Dalai Lama’s says and won’t take his words on face value, what is the point of speaking with him? They will come to their own conclusions regardless of what he says! Further, to call the person whom you claim to seek dialogue with a liar, evil and cruel, ruthless dictator, worst dictator of the modern world—is this a basis for a dialogue? Are Kelsang Rabten and NKT, or the organised Shugden fanatics, really willing to listen to anyone’s point of view but their own in dialogue?

In addition, how can there be dialogue while there is still so much deceit? I have found evidence of fifteen incidents of deception just in a few videos on the International Shugden Community (ISC) website—fifteen and I’m still counting. (see here) Some of these are unsubstantiated claims and some can only be called outright lies. This was the problem Tibetans encountered with the Chinese, where finally dialogue was proven to be fruitless.

In my view, the only dialogue that would be worth having in this situation would be regarding living conditions of Shugden worshippers in India. These would include the claims that Shugden worshippers aren’t given basic services, community membership or proper housing and are subjected to violence. The Indian legal system and the Tibetan Government in Exile could be part of these dialogues—and the Dalai Lama’s presence wouldn’t be needed at all. However, in view of the impossible demands Rabten makes at the end of his SOAS talk, such a constructive approach is clearly not what he is advocating.

Sometimes it even seems as if the ISC is more interested in harming the Dalai Lama than in helping Shugden worshippers in India.

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

As to Rabten’s claim that concerned Shugden worshippers have been trying to have this dialogue for nearly twenty years, it is clear that the slanderous ideas in the past and in the book beside him on the table are not new. Claims that the Dalai Lama is a horrible “dictator” and a conniving conspirator have been slung at him for nearly twenty years now from Shugden worshippers. The following quote from Rabten’s own teacher, Kelsang Gyatso, was written in 1997:

In reality [the Dalai Lama] is misleading people in order to
 fulfill his wishes. His main wish is to destroy the practice of Dorje Shugden 
and then to change the entire Gelug tradition. He wants to integrate all the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism into one so that the leaders of the other 
traditions will no longer have a role and he will become the only leader of
 Tibetan Buddhism. In this way he can easily control the spiritual life of 
all practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. I know this is his wish; he has been 
working towards this for many years.

Once again, how can there be dialogue if this is Kelsang Gyatso’s impression of who the Dalai Lama is? And how can there be dialogue if protesters are willing to go so far in their smear campaign as to hold insulting placards, depicting a revered teacher of Dharma, a fully ordained monk in robes in mocking caricature?

How can there be dialogue until the weapons are withdrawn?

Rabten then closes his talk at the SOAS conference by listing Shugden worshippers’ “requests” (which sound very much like demands). He states,

So to resolve this issue, we would request that everyone, especially those of you who care about the Dalai Lama’s image and reputation, to ask the Dalai Lama to accept the following four points:

  1. To allow anyone who wishes to practice Dorje Shugden the freedom to do so.
  2. To stop completely the discrimination against Shugden practitioners.
  3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled to return to their monasteries and nunneries. And to receive the same spiritual and material rights as non-shugden practitioners.
  4. To write to Tibetan communities throughout the world telling them that they should apply practically the above three points.

The moment this happens, all our demonstrations will finish. I don’t think any of those requests are unreasonable. We simply want these people to have genuine and complete religious freedom. If that happens, all of our protesting will finish.

This is not a statement for dialogue; it is an ultimatum. Rabten repeats several times that if the demands are met, “protests will finish.” Rabten needs to understand first that the Dalai Lama cannot over rule the majority vote of the monks in the monasteries, who decided democratically, and based on the Buddha’s Vinaya, to separate from Shugden monks. If the Dalai Lama were to force the monasteries to go against their majority vote this would be an act of a dictator. On the other hand, His Holiness was clear: whatever the outcome of the vote is, also if it is pro Shudgen, he would definitely accept it. Now the NKT/ICS/Shugdenists should accept the rights of the majority and practice at their own places—which they can do freely.

Rabten also demonstrates his complete lack of understanding as to what followers of the Dalai Lama “care about.” This is not about “the Dalai Lama’s image and reputation.” Rabten’s is a jaded viewpoint regarding sincere students and followers of the Dalai Lama—who see his message as a world treasure.

Let me say to Rabten clearly: The Dalai Lama can take care of himself. His image and reputation are only important as tools towards fulfilling his life’s work. Beyond that, they have no role or importance.

And I would also remind Rabten that everywhere the Dalai Lama goes, people gather in the thousands and continue to be inspired to become more caring, decent human beings. Many people are so deeply moved by his words and presence that they start to weep – no matter what background, be they criminal, atheist, Christian or Muslim, scientist or old lady.  A few small bands of protesters have barely scratched the surface of his popularity or his work to make the world a better place. Recently, when he was in Ladakh, 140,00- 200,000 attendees came to hear him teach and give an empowerment. The countryside was a sea of attendees.

Rabten’s last words sounded to me like a threat from a man who imagines he has more power than he possesses. He imagines that the protests and the smears will force the Dalai Lama to change his mind. At the same time, he calls for dialogue! I fear he has little understanding of the situation. He fails to understand that the Dalai Lama spent years of investigation, reflection and contemplation regarding the issue of Shugden worship before he came to the difficult decision to restrict this practice. He is not going to change that because of a few people shouting themselves hoarse outside his events! He has said on different occasions that he has done his research expressed the results and now it is up to others to do their own unbiased, open research into the 400 years of Shugden worship.

From my own point of view, watching the aggressive faces or the dancing, hypnotic hilarity, or the robotic repetitions of protesters—or listening to accounts from X-NKT students—I have only gained a greater conviction that the Dalai Lama’s decision was the right and wise one. By its results, particularly within the NKT, Shugden worship appears like a dangerous, cult practice to me. The Dalai Lama is clearly protecting the Buddha Dharma by restricting it. How can there be dialogue while Shugden worshippers behave in these ways?

UPDATE

This morning, (August 25), during the question-and-answer at HH Dalai Lama’s teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara in Hamburg, a questioner asked something to this effect:

“If Trijang Rinpoche saw Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being, then why have you gone against your guru’s advice and banned the practice?”

His Holiness replied, “Good question.” and proceeded to answer.

However, the questioner immediately interrupted him and shouted loudly, “Stop lying!”

His Holiness then attempted to explain that as a Buddhist monk, he was committed to telling the truth.

Whereupon the questioner continued to shout loudly, “Stop lying, stop lying, stop lying.” He had a microphone, so it was quite loud!

This man was ultimately asked to leave by security and we could hear him shouting his slogan off in the distance as he was escorted out of the venue.

Is this what Rabten and the ISC/NKT mean by dialogue?

Update 31 Oct 2014

A dialogue had been arranged in London, at Tibet House, in 1996 between representatives of the Tibetan Government in Exile and Jim Belither and Lucy James of the NKT, amongst others. However, whilst these NKT members were on the train from Yorkshire to the meeting, a person on the train suffered a heart attack and the train was delayed. This was interpreted by the NKT members as an inauspicious sign and because of this as well as the fact that the time of the meeting coincided with a demonstration arranged at Eccleston Square, (the Buddhist Society I assume), they did not attend the meeting. The meeting was interpreted as a trap to disturb the arranged demonstration and no other meeting was arranged.

See also

See also by Joanne Clark

Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness

We, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dorje Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT sangha demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Inaccuracies and distortions of what we know to be the truth have been published as fact. The New Kadampa Tradition currently operates as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC). Many allegations and insults are made against His Holiness which are completely unwarranted.

At demonstrations and on numerous web sites and Facebook pages, the NKT/ISC viciously attacks the reputation of His Holiness. We have tried to address inaccuracies with the group, but without success. We believe it is time to speak out with one voice. Here we highlight a few of the issues created by the New Kadampa Tradition, their leader Kelsang Gyatso, and his followers:

1) The NKT/WSS/ISC say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a ‘liar’. A difference of opinion does not equate to lying. His Holiness holds a different opinion from Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT about the nature and history of Dolgyal Shugden and the effects of this practice upon the well-being of His Holiness, the Tibetan people and their cause. To call His Holiness a ‘liar’ because of this difference of opinion makes no sense.

2) The NKT/WSS/ISC claim that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has gone against all his teachers, broken his samaya and destroyed the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa by rejecting the practice of Dolgyal Shugden. His Holiness states that after conducting extensive research into the history and problems of Shugden practice, he consulted with his Junior Tutor Trijang Rinpoche and explained the reasons why it was his duty to reject this practice. The historical record shows that Shugden practice is often contentiously associated with sectarian views and ‘distorted aspiration’ and was viewed as problematic by His Holiness’ Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche. In fact, in this action His Holiness was actually following a course which, according to Buddhist scriptures and past masters, as Kelsang Gyatso himself states, is absolutely correct and appropriate.

In his book Clear Light of Bliss Kelsang Gyatso states: “When deciding which doctrine to rely upon, we should not be satisfied with the fame or reputation of a particular teacher, but instead should examine what he or she teaches. If, upon investigation, we find the teachings reasonable and faultless, we should accept them, but if they lack these qualities we should reject them, no matter how famous or charismatic their expounder might be.”

Kelsang Gyatso therefore contradicts his own advice when he asserts that His Holiness has broken his samaya with Trijang Rinpoche.

3) Kelsang Gyatso also claims that by rejecting one particular protector practice, this means that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is rejecting all Gelug teachings, the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa. His Holiness has not rejected all Gelug teachings and still holds his lineage gurus in the highest esteem. Kelsang Gyatso, however, is never seen in public with any teachers connected to the lineage he claims to represent. He is alone, without the influence of either peers or superiors. He created the NKT in 1992 after a schism with another Tibetan Buddhist group which invited him to the UK to teach in 1977 and whose property he then kept as the ‘mother centre’ of the NKT. In 1996 he was unanimously expelled from Sera Je Tibetan Buddhist monastery, where he trained, for being a ‘holder of broken commitments and wrong view’. As he is the only Tibetan teacher in his own tradition of ‘Modern Buddhism’, with his own ‘new’ ordination and no study of the traditional Vinaya teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, he also effectively isolates his own students from the wider Buddhist world.

4) In 1998 Kelsang Gyatso stated that the NKT would no longer be involved in any further demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He admitted that the Shugden issue was, in reality, an issue of Tibetan politics and promised that the NKT would not take part in any further inappropriate actions. Since then Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT have organised two further rounds of protests, one beginning in 2008, and the latest round currently being staged.

5) In 2008 Kelsang Gyatso wrote to all his dharma centres stating that he was personally organising the NKT’s participation in the protests. He also said the protests were being organised by a group called the Western Shugden Society (WSS). A simple check reveals that all the Directors of WSS were and are members of the New Kadampa Tradition. Yet the NKT often denies that they have any connection to the WSS. Kelsang Pema, Gyatso’s former assistant, informed journalists that the WSS had no leader.

6) Even if the NKT say that it is only an ‘individual decision’ for a student to support the protests, we know that at present the ISC directly and actively recruits protestors and fundraises for demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama inside NKT centres.

7) The 2014 NKT campaign is delivered by its latest front group, the International Shugden Community. Currently, the ISC has two registered groups. In Norway ISC records show the Executive Director and Chairman to be NKT teachers. The ISC US based non-profit company in California shares an address with a large health food company of which Len Foley, an ex NKT teacher, is CEO. His wife, Rebecca Gauthier, an NKT Resident Teacher, is also spokesperson for the ISC in the US.

The ISC front-man is a senior NKT monk named Kelsang Rabten. In his YouTube “News Broadcasts” Kelsang Rabten does not wear his monk’s robes and appears to be a professional journalist. He hides his status and biased position. One ISC video uses footage of young Burmese monks conducting traditional alms-rounds to fraudulently misrepresent the situation in India regarding the supposed ‘ostracism’ of Shugden followers. Techniques such as these are deceitful, designed only to exaggerate their claims against His Holiness.

8) The allegation that the Dalai Lama is engaging in repression of Freedom of Religion is, in fact, more relevant to the way the NKT itself operates. NKT Centres are dedicated to the exclusive devotion of Kelsang Gyatso. NKT centres and teachers are only permitted to teach from books written by Kelsang Gyatso. Teachers other than those trained by the NKT and appointed by Kelsang Gyatso are not allowed. Ordained NKT people and others are told they will be reborn in the hell realms and may not get enlightened if they leave the NKT.

9) With the backdrop of continued Human Rights abuses against the Tibetan people, who number little more than 6 million in total, and the mass slaughter of an unknown number of Tibetans due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation often quoted as being more than one million, claims made by the ISC such as that ‘4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ are obviously lies.

No established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT/WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’.

We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture and question the intentions of those who use this culture but appear not to support this struggle.

Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT.

10) There are many documented cases where the NKT threatened to sue using libel law and thus silenced other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. In our experience, the NKT generally prioritises the expansion of the group over the welfare of individuals. The NKT Survivors internet group numbers over 1,200 subscribers. There is no Dalai Lama Survivor’s group.

In view of the consistently unkind behaviour of his own organisation, we feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students can have no moral right for making such attempts to discredit and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Those of us who once belonged to the New Kadampa Tradition are resolved to bring these inaccuracies, disinformation, and outright lies to light. Who better to reveal the truth than we who were once inside the organisation?

19th August 2014

Carol McQuire
Jamie Kostek
Lynne Cracknell
Ani Tsultrim
Graham Smetham
Linda Ciardiello
Ian Thomas
David Cutshaw
Robert Helms
Steve Maxwell
Michael Brown
Charles Wesley
Andrew Durling
Andrew Cheadle
Kevan Webb
Tenzin Peljor
James Tregaskis
Tim Ford
Karma Yonten
Amanda Zinski
Stuart Everard
Andrea Ballance
Carol Dawson (Yeshe Tsomo)
Richard Litchfield
Steve Cody

Supporters

Lyn G Farrell
Charlie Worthington
Tony Allen
Cynthia von Hendricks
Ashoka von Hendricks
Dan Ballance
Joanne Clark

line-gothicDownload

Update

 

Ordained Too Early: An NKT Survivor Tale (Another New Kadampa Tradition Monk’s Story)

GUEST POST by Rob

In the NKT doubts about the NKT leadership are explained to be very dangerous and negative, they are said to be "doubts going into the wrong direction", deriving from an "impure mind", a "pure mind" NKT teachers explain doesn’t see faults. And faith Geshe Kelsang Gyatso – commonly called "Geshe-la" in NKT – is explained by Geshe-la "that functions mainly to oppose the perception of faults in its observed object." Of course such a context helps the NKT student to be "be like a wise blind person who relies totally upon one trusted guide instead of attempting to follow a number of people at once." (all quotes from the books of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.)

In the NKT doubts about the NKT leadership are explained to be very dangerous and negative. Doubts about the NKT and its leadership are said to be “doubts going into the wrong direction”, deriving from an “impure mind”. A “pure mind”, NKT teachers explain, doesn’t perceive faults. And faith is explained by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso – commonly called “Geshe-la” in NKT – to have the “function mainly to oppose the perception of faults in its observed object.” Such views encourage an NKT follower to “be like a wise blind person who relies totally upon one trusted guide instead of attempting to follow a number of people at once.” (All quotes from the books of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Image & capture added by Tenpel.)

 

Someone suggested I tell my story, so thought I’d write a bit here about my time in the NKT, in case it’s interesting or helpful to anyone. There’s nothing incredibly scandalous or juicy, but why not.

I got involved in the NKT at a young age: 19. I first discovered Manjushri Centre at a low-point in my life when I really needed an escape. The atmosphere of kindness was very new to me, and I was hooked in almost immediately because of that. I didn’t know a whole lot about the different traditions of Buddhism at the time, so this was also the time I fell in love with Buddhism, without realizing what I had found intertwined with the good stuff.

After I returned home from a working visit, I meditated on my own and felt my heart chakra lit up for the first time in a special way, which I felt was the presence of Buddha at the time. This experience confirmed to me that everything was true and good. (I think this is one of the main ways we get hooked into traditions. We have spiritual experiences, and this leads us to adopt the associated beliefs with less questioning. At least this is my experience. Like a Christian who feels the “holy spirit”, then adopts the bible because of it.)

I then got involved with my local centre in Preston. I starting attending the pujas and GP classes, not really knowing what was going on at the time. A couple months later I was encouraged to move into a centre, and so I moved into the centre in Lancaster. Due to the meditation experiences I was having at the time, I never really questioned anything for a long time. Meditation in general and chanting can have a big effect on the mind, no matter what tradition or religion you’re in. In my mind, everything I was being told was true, because the practice felt really good.

I soon became the resident teacher’s lap-dog, and she joked with another nun that I was like Milarepa, and I felt like him (thankfully without the back-blisters!) Though I had been a lazy person in general, so I was thankful for the kick up the backside. I was scared of spiders, so I had to clean all the spiderwebs from the gompa, and capture the spiders and release them in the basement. The agony! I designed the centre publicity, with her over my shoulder, having me scrap one version after another and redo, over and over again (like Milarepa! but admittedly, a bit easier, heh.)

I was always taught to keep a pure view, so I had become to believe she was a Buddha and I ignored any mistakes or strange behaviour I saw. Looking back I know she was very young herself and inexperienced. Running a dharma centre after 6 years experience. But she was a good woman and person, but very indoctrinated.

I ordained at the age of 21, having only lived in the dharma centre for 1 year. I was entranced with the robes. I guess inside I wanted to be “special” like that, like I was getting into some kind of secret society. I really don’t feel I was mature enough at the time to make that decision.

As a monk, I never really felt 100 percent a monk. The lifestyle didn’t feel “monk-like” enough. I felt in-genuine. If I saw monks from the original Tibetan traditions, I would feel like they were proper monks, and I was a pretender. I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and yet, in a way I was right. It was all too easy to get robed up, without having the real motivations behind it.

Over time, due to working closely one-on-one with my RT, I began to develop attraction and feelings for her. So I decided to move to the centre in Preston. Where it was not long before I was enrolled on TTP and teaching a branch GP class.

I always felt a lot of guilt in my practice, that I was never doing enough. Every time I saw Geshe-la speak, he would give us a new practice and tell us to do it every day. And I really tried. I had all the hours of the day mapped out, and my daily practice became intense. Combined with the stress of TTP and teaching my GP class, I became like a time-bomb. I was doing too much and pushing myself too much. But I didn’t feel like there was any other way. I was frightened of entering the lower realms, dieing before my time. And I’d made all sorts of commitments to different practices, and I didn’t want to break them. I felt trapped.

I began to see my practice as this big, complex struggle, that I had to go through every day. It all seems so complicated, when the whole point was supposed to be inner peace. It just didn’t seem right. I began to sit out in the garden at night, and just sit and do nothing at all, and my mind would go quiet and I’d feel at ease.

I discovered a Theravada teacher online, called Ajahn Brahm, and I watched his videos, and his teachings made a whole lot of sense, showing a maturity that I didn’t see in the teachers of the NKT. “Pure view” had stopped my from seeing that. There was always a voice in the back of my mind, when Geshe-la was teaching, that told me he was basically reading from a book. Geshe-la teachings were never that inspiring to me, now that I think back. He sounded like he was just parroting his teacher, just like all the NKT teachers parroted him. Ajahn Brahm, on the other hand, was not a parrot. He spoke from his own experience, person to person. He knew the essence of the teaching, so he didn’t need to recite his own teacher’s words, word for word.

I attended the protests against the Dalai Lama in London, which I sincerely regret now. I don’t feel guilty, as I had no malice at all, but I regret it. I remember at the time, shouting the words with the others. I don’t even remember what the words were now. When I saw the supporters and students of his holiness walking by, after his teachings, I felt a lot of peace and love emanating from them, and I knew there was nothing wrong about them. I even saw the Dalai Lama in his car, and he waved to us all, as if we were dear friends. Some of the monks protesting with me seems pretty angry and aggressive. Some made a point of being peaceful, but there were a lot with aggression. One in particular was my own RT at the time, who is a well-respected monk. I suppose he thought he was being “wrathful”?

The leaflets we were given during the time of the protests were quite shocking, and caused many doubts among practitioners. The issue was that our propaganda brochures appeared to be written by an angry baby. The wording was very immature. We wondered, “had Geshe-la written this himself? And if not, surely he has at least approved the brochure?”

Going back to my life in the centre, my practice began to crumble, and I dropped out of TTP and stopped teaching GP. I began watching DVDs in my room instead, of Dirty Harry and the like, heheh. Luckily, I had a friend in the centre. A “non-Buddhist resident”. He’d spent some time with Theravada monks years ago, and had a “distaste” for the NKT. I’m wondering if the whole reason he moved into the centre was to rescue people from the NKT. He acted like a father figure for me, and was there for me, and backed me up when I was developing my doubts and considering disrobing and leaving the NKT.

I wanted a simpler path. And I began to question all the things I’d been believing blindly. Then there came a time when I decided in my mind that I had disrobed. As soon as my RT found out, he wanted me to leave the centre the very next day, without giving me chance to sort somewhere else out to live. Luckily my friend had some knowledge of the law, and told me they couldn’t do that. So I refused to leave, and carried out another month, mostly staying away from everyone except “the non-buddhists”.

When I finally left, I fell into a bad depression. All my beliefs were stripped away through what seemed like an unstoppable process, and I was left knowing completely nothing, and I was scared. I didn’t know where to turn, what tradition or religion, or what. I didn’t know what to believe anymore, but all the NKT stuff was still ingrained, and for the next year or so, and even now I suppose, I feel like there’s something I should be doing to avoid the hell realms, or something like that. And Sometimes I randomly worry that I’ve made the wrong decision, and I don’t want to accept it if I have, as I “abandoned me spiritual guide”, which equates to a billion aeons in hell or something. It sounds ridiculous, but the beliefs really get ingrained. The mind gets familiar, as the NKT would say.

I really feel lately, as I really feel like a child. I don’t know anything at all. Everything has gotten so complicated, and life seems really challenging. I don’t know who is right or wrong, how I should live my life or what.

I also seem to have developed some level of realization of death. It was one of my main practices as a monk, I did it every day, but never had a feeling for it. But now I think about death every day, in a spontaneous and frightening way. Like the raw, reality of it hits me in the face, like a very sober awakening, but I don’t know what to do with it. With no faith in anything, there’s nowhere to turn with that fear. I feel paralysed in my life, and I’m slowly wrecking everything. I don’t have a job, and I’ve been getting sanctions on my benefits. I’ve even been smoking weed. I just don’t have any ambition any more, or any clue as to what to do with my life, and I just can’t find an answer.

To wrap it up, some positive things I got from my time in the NKT:

I learned a lot about acceptance, and it’s a skill I can still use to deal with any situation, even pain. Though this was due to my own constant practising and contemplation, learning to notice the way the mind resists, and releasing it. I wouldn’t say it was down to anything written in the NKT texts, aside from the initial few sentences that got me thinking about it.

I learned to still my mind with concentration, and my ability to do this in meditation is still in-tact, post-nkt. Though again, I kindof feel like I learned this in-spite of the NKT. The whole practice never seemed that conducive to concentration to me, as there were just too many different objects to concentrate on, that it seemed ridiculous in the end.

Though now that I think about it, I think I had to basically re-learn meditation after the NKT, as for a long time I just couldn’t do it. Later I came to realize that meditation wasn’t taught that well at all in the NKT, after I listened to other meditation teachers, who clearly had a lot more genuine experience, which they spoke from, rather than para-phrasing books. Now I’ve learned to be at ease with myself, and it is a big difference to the constant struggling I experience in the NKT.

Ajahn Brahm had explained about Goal-Orientated paths and Source-Orientated path, and the NKT is a goal-orientated path. There is a lot of striving, at least that is my experience. Which is not very conducive to peace in my opinion.

It is nice to have let go of all that.

Anyway, hope this wasn’t too long and boring. Forgive me if the writing is a bit scattered.
Sincerely,
Rob
(Oct. 4th, 2012)

See also

Kalon Trisur Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche – Talk on the clarification of the current issue of Dolgyal at TCV Suja on 26th July, 2014

Here a summery of the video in English: The reason for the discussion is related to the questions that were put to the officials during the last discussion on Shugden in the Dharamsala TCV school. He mentioned that there were seeds of doubt regarding this issue that he wished to clarify the issues to clarify these doubts.

  • He also mentioned that he was happy that the students of the TCV school raised those doubts rather than hiding them, as this allows for an open discussion and gives people like himself to clarify the situation and provide further information. It is important to have questions in the context of a proper discussion, and without that the opportunity to explain and clarify is not available.
  • Therefore it is excellent that the students asked questions. He liked that the students asked questions and asked them to take advantage in the future of opportunities to ask them rather than remaining silent about doubts. He realized that only 6 students asked the questions in Dharamsala, but understands other students may share their questions and not be so confident to stand up in a crowd and share them. So some of what he shares in the talk will be based on these questions.
  • The allegations from the Shugden side that HH Dalai Lama is harming their religious freedom and their human rights are incorrect. An example of the incorrect allegations is the explanation of HHDL’s advice regarding this matter as a “ban”, this English word “ban” features in their materials. If we were to render this English word into Tibetan it would mean something like “not allowed, not permitted”. The Dalai Lama gave advice regarding this issue, critiqued it , but never said that Shugden practice was “not allowed”. (Tibetan for not allowed: mi chog). Therefore we can clearly state there is not a “ban”.
  • It is on this incorrect basis of HHDL issuing a “ban”, that the Shugden groups are loudly protesting, organizing against HHDL whenever they have the opportunity.
  • But we can clearly state that HHDL has never said Shugden practice is “not allowed”. He has said that it is good if one does not rely (on Shugden). It is clear, if one continues to rely (on Shugden), this becomes a case of disharmony with the advice of the Lama, and for this reason the Dalai Lama asked these people not to attend his religious discourses. It is stated clearly though that whether people listen to the advice or not, is their choice. Since there is extensive written evidence of this, there is no need for further clarification.
  • The policy of HHDL remains the same, for example during the Kalachakra initiation he requested those who rely (upon Shugden) to not come to the initiation, but whether one relies on Shugden or not is in one’s own hands (one’s own choice).
  • Therefore we see HHDL did not say “you are absolutely not allowed to rely on Shugden”. He said that it is “good if you do not rely on it, but whether you listen to this advice or not is up to you.” Therefore we understand that within the Tibetan community HHDL has not and cannot issue a “ban”, this is clear.
  • So we can see this is not an issue of freedom as people were clearly told it was up to them whether they acted according to the Dalai Lama’s advice or not. However, the Shugden side is explaining that due to the advice of the Dalai Lama, the result has been that this harms their religious freedom or their human rights. So some people may have a doubt that even to advise against the practice may have a result of harming the (Shugden side’s) religious freedom. To really understand this situation properly, one needs to do one’s own research.
  • If we examine the way of working of these (Shugden) organizations in the West, we can see that they fit in with the word “cult”. It would be difficult to come up with reasons to refute that they are a cult. For example, in the dharma centres of Geshe Kelsang, there were questions brought forth in the British government about their cult-like aspects. They managed somehow to prevent those questions from ripening into bigger problems. Bob Thurman has said that if the New Kadampa organization is not a cult, it is very clearly going in the direction of a cult.
  • In terms of the Refugee Welcome Centres and Schools, every Tibetan has been provided with the same facilities and conditions, including those who have said they rely on Dolgyal-the administration has not discriminated in this regard. They have been given the same access to health facilities and schools.
  • The previous Ganden Throneholder, Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche (now resident in France) deceived HH Dalai Lama and promised to avoid Shugden in order to secure enough supporters to take the Ganden throneholder position. There should be a something in writing to this effect. As soon as this ended his tenure as Ganden Throneholder, he revealed he was still practicing Shugden.
    The CTA has requested documentation of specific incidents, individuals and evidence of Shugden believers being turned away from essential services such as medical help and education, and has received none.
  • Samdhong Rinpoche urged the students not to believe what he said because of which “side” he was on. He also urged them not to believe Shugden claims simply because they identified with that “side”, but to do the reading and checking necessary to form their own opinions.
    He mentioned that prominent Shugden people, of whom the CTA is well aware, were recently issued travel documents through the assistance of the CTA and the Indian government just like any other Tibetan. He noted the significant number of known Shugden people travelling on these documents. Therefore there are no human rights violation on freedom to movement, Shugden people are regularly leaving for foreign countries and returning to  India.
  • Mentioned that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and Gangchen Rinpoche have an incorrect understanding (extreme?) with regards to the teachings on “How to Rely on the Virtuous Friend (Teacher)”.
  • Even though the above people have caused problems, still according to Buddhism actually we should have compassion for them. Especially compassion considering the future karmic consequences of their actions.
  • Has reiterated that in the case of Kelsang Gyatso and Gangchen, they have been safe for many years. That the CTA NEVER issued orders to kill or harm these people. At the same time, compassion does not mean that their incorrect views, and mistakes, should not be pointed out and corrected.
  • He mentioned that Shugden people being refused from certain shops was not a campaign of the government.  This was a decision of the individual shopholders-that they had a right to privacy. This is a boycott, rather than human rights abuse, that began due to negative actions of Shugden party. That this is a personal decision. Explained it as an individual grassroots political action, like boycotting Chinese products as a way of effecting change in policy. It could be looked at as the shop or restaurant owners following a policy of what Gandhiji calls “non co-operation” with the Shugden side as a way of boycotting to affect change. So it is not social discrimination, but a social boycott. This manifests as a choice not to engage in material exchanges with the Shugden side.
  • Such a boycott is not necessarily negative. If the students harm others, this is negative. We can understand the current boycott as being a temporary and direct response to the lies and protest actions currently being done against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We understand that whether one relies on Dolgyal or not is a decision within one’s mind. The current boycott that we see in some cases is a response to the misleading protests of the Shugden group, as this harms Tibetan society. Therefore we cannot say the decision to remain at a distance from  those participating in such Dolgyal organizations is a bad thing.
  • At the school for example, if the students are criticizing or harming them, this is not proper. But it should not be required to maintain close relationships with those of Dolgyal organizations. Choosing not to do so is not necessarily harmful for either party, from the point of view  of damtsik (samaya) it could be beneficial, in my personal opinion.
  • Mentioned that Shugdens took their case to both Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Campaign, and neither organization felt what was presented to them required a mandate to action.
  • Sees this issue through the lens of democracy like this: Democracy is open society that takes decisions for the well being of the people. Hence, considering harm of Shugden practice, for the well being of the people it should be spoken out against.

Update: Full Speech

The last Upholder of the Gelug Mahamudra Tradition: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

In the past it was the designated successor of Kelsang Gyatso, Kadam Neil Elliot, who claimed that the (whole) Vajrayana Mahamudra tradition is only existent in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and not outside of NKT. (There is still the recording of his voice).

Elliot claimed:

From 1991 to 1995 Gelong Thubten Gyatso (a.k.a. Neil Elliot) was 'the chosen one' to succeed former Geshe Kelsang. He was known as the 'heart-disciple' of GKG, who wrote a long life prayer for him recited regularly at NKT centres. Thubten was later disrobed because of a 'breach of his monastic vows', a polite way of saying sexual abuse. Neil Elliot (Thubten) organized and attended the WSS demonstrations–the old man himself reassigned Elliot to 'special ops'.

From 1991 to 1995 Gelong Thubten Gyatso (a.k.a. Neil Elliot) was the officially appointed successor and the ‘heart-disciple’ of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Kelsang Gyatso wrote a long life prayer for him recited regularly at NKT centres. Neil Elliot, who is very charismatic, played a key role in attracting Westerners to the NKT and he was the driving force that removed eclectic practitioners, who were not keen to exclusively rely on NKT/Kelsang Gyatso, from NKT. Such practitioners were seen as a threat for the “purity” of NKT. Later, Kelsang Gyatso had to strip Elliot officially from power after it became public via internet that Elliot was involved in sexual misconduct. (The NKT tried by all means to hide the reasons for this power change and the same story – even worse – repeated itself with the second officially appointed successor of Kelsang Gyatso, Samden Gyatso, a.k.a. Steve Wass.) Currently Neil Elliot is the resident teacher of NKT’s London Centre “Kadam Meditation Centre”. People aware of the NKT history find it very hypocritical that Elliot partakes in the protests against the Dalai Lama, calling the fully ordained monk and the holder of the monastic discipline the 14th Dalai Lama a hypocrite and liar, while Elliot turns a blind eye on his own inglorious past.

And we can say these days, previously you could find the practice of the Mahamudra outside this Tradition; other Traditions held this practice. But these days we can say definitely it doesn’t exist outside of our Tradition. Only this Tradition holds the lineage, the pure lineage, of the Vajrayana Mahamudra. So this is what we need to preserve, this is what we need to protect.

As some (controversial) Buddhist leaders get older, they or their Western students seem to be concerned about their legacy (see also Propaganda: The making of the holy Lama Ole Nydahl). There seems to be a need to establish their uniqueness and special contributions even before they die. For that purposes myths are created which single out those persons as unique and extraordinary. Tharpa publications produced a new book where NKT is publicly announcing such a myth in order to raise awareness within the Tibetan community about the uniqueness of the NKT founder Kelsang Gyatso. After NKT – based on the diligence of Kelsang Gyatso – has denounced the Dalai Lama (who Tibetans regard in the majority as their supreme leader) worldwide as a liar, hypocrite, saffron-robed Muslim, evil, cruel, worst dictator etc., it seems now is the time to teach Tibetans about the supremacy of Kelsang Gyatso by publishing a book in Tibetan, The Oral Instruction of Mahamudra. Via the NKT publishing arm, Tharpa publications, Kelsang Gyatso himself is keen to insinuate that he might be the last person on the planet who possesses the oral lineage of Mahamudra passed on by Trijang Rinpoche to him. Which means, enlightenment goes only through him (or his books) nowadays.

line-gothicTitle: “Meaningful to Behold” (mthong ba don ldan) : The Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage Well Explained, Combined with A Summary of Essential Instructions of the Hearing Lineage

author credited on cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka

TheOralInstructionOfMahamudra-KelsangGyatso

Front cover of “The Oral Instruction Of Mahamudra” by Kelsang Gyatso

Contents:

1.”Meaningful to Behold”: The Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage Well Explained

2. The Preliminary Practice of the Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage: How to Practice the Guru Yoga of the Hundreds of Deities of Tushita – in Accordance with the Mantrayana System

3. The Ganden Whispered Lineage Mind Ornament (“Adornment of Realization”): The Meaning of Profound Emptiness Well Explained (in verse)

4.”Essence of Tantra” Way of Practice of the Method of Accomplishment (Sadhana) of the Great Ghantapa’s Body Mandala of Glorious Chakrasamvara

Summary of Forward (Quick, Rough Rendition, Not Checked or Polished):

Many years ago Gelek Rinpoche, now resident in America, via telephone, asked a question to the Honorable Palden la of Trijang lhabrang. Gelek Rinpoche asked Palden la if there was anyone who had received the Mahamudra commentary instruction lineage suitably.

Palden la replied that he remembered, back in Tibet, at Tsechokling Monastery, among those who requested teachings of the Profound Instruction of Mahamudra there was Tsangpa Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, now of England, present. He also indicated another suitable receiver of this teaching may not exist.

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Back cover of “The Oral Instruction Of Mahamudra” by Kelsang Gyatso

Then, at the insistence of a few lamas and geshes in both India and the West, who said since you are advanced in age it would be difficult for you yourself to teach/transmit this to assemblies of Tibetan people.

Within Tibet, Lama Thubten Purbu Rinpoche said you must offer this lineage of Mahamudra Instruction that you hold.

The reason to offer this is to revive the essence of the Conqueror’s doctrine (Gelug tradition), which has degenerated, and also to develop it, amongst the Tibetan people.

In this way may hearts  hold a cherishing of Jamgon Tsongkhapa’s Doctrine.

Kelsang Gyatso

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It is clear that after the Dalai Lama failed so tremendously (in the eyes of Kelsang Gyatso and NKT) there is now only one shining star that is the bearer of the holy, secret and pure lineage of Trijang Rinpoche and Tsongkhapa, which is Kelsang Gyatso. “How fortunate we are!” (as NKT would joyfully exclaim the underlying message.)

Apparently the book seems to be looking for legitimacy from Tibetans (although two people who speak Tibetan say it is full of grammatical mistakes). It claims that Kelsang Gyatso received this transmission from Trijang Rinpoche at a place called Tsechokling in Tibet and that he might be the only living person who has it. This increases his importance and subsequently he claims that he was urged to “offer this lineage of Mahamudra Instruction” – and kindly he did. As the back cover puts it: “This precious text was written by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in Tibetan.” The author credited on the front cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka (which insinuates an enlightened being) is one with the author credited on the back cover: Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Quite modest. According to the book, the name of the person who officially requested the book is a lama in Tibet, Lama Thupten Phurbu Rinpoche.

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David with the head of Goliath

The book must be seen in wider context of a long battle (or vendetta) of Kelsang Gyatso against the Dalai Lama. It appears a bit as the fight of the small David (Kelsang Gyatso) against the giant Goliath (Dalai Lama). Kelsang Gyatso spend a lot of time and effort to denounce the Dalai Lama as a total non-spiritual fake Dalai Lama and he himself personally took responsibility to organize the international protests against the Dalai Lama in 1996-98 and from 2008 onwards. Kelsang Gyatso also tried to educate Tibetans with his own pamphlets in Tibetan language where he claimed such things as:

He (the Dalai Lama) spent his whole life only collecting the wealth of simple Tibetan People. What material help has he provided to the Tibetan people? And regarding the issue of Tibet, what has he done that is really helpful? – see “A refutation of attacks on the advice of H.H. the Dalai Lama regarding the propitiation of guardian deities” by Tenpai Gyaltsan Dhongthog, 1996, p.33 (PDF)

In that context it is noteworthy to watch how NKT tries by all means to claim that the Dalai Lama would have lied with respect to Trijang Rinpoche’s acceptance of HH the Dalai Lama’s stance on Dorje Shugden. The NKT wants to tell: this man is not reliable (whereas Kelsang Gyatso is). The more the giant Dalai Lama is put down the higher the glory of small David. The NKT put a new video on YouTube that continues to spin the NKT myths. Without having any convincing argument the NKT / ICS still claim that the Dalai Lama lied. As a part of the video the NKT / ICS present a rather young monk, Geshe Lobsang Kalsang, as the Disciplinarian Master of Sera Mey Monastery.

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According to the screen shot of this new NKT / ISC video this Lharampa Geshe Lobsang Kalsang is ‘from Sera Mey Monastery, Pomra Khamsten, Disciplinary Master from 200-2003′. However, according to Siling Tongkhor, Coordinator at Geden Tulku Association and Spiritual Director at Sermey Rongpo Khangsten, previously at Sera Mey Monastic University and Sera Tulkus group: “This monk, Lobsang Kalsang has never been the Disciplinarian Master of Sera Mey Monastery. He was from Sera Mey Monastery prior to the 2008 separation. And he became the disciplinarian master of Serpom, the Shugden monastery near Sera Mey.”

Geshe Lobsang Kelsang who was surely not any witness of the discussions between the Dalai Lama with Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche issues forth one claim after the other what Trijang Rinpoche had said without naming any reliable source. Mere claims that prove not anything.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-08-03 um 20.29.26The cover of the book is a portrait of Kelsang Gyatso ‘as’ Je Tsongkhapa, with Buddha Shakyamuni at his heart, and Heruka inside his heart. That makes Kelsang Gyatso appear as the direct ‘successor’ of Je Tsongkhapa, insinuating to bring to fruition the prediction of the Whispered Lineage – the Ganden Oral lineage – that states that one of the Buddhas of this fortunate aeon will actually be a manifestation of Tsongkhapa and will teach tantra … (In the past NKT spread quotes “from a Sutra” that in extremely degenerate times – which is now according to NKT – a very pure being will appear that restores the “pure Dharma”. Such claims are part of the myths which NKT creates to attribute a special role in this world to their leader Kelsang Gyatso – a special role also Kelsang Gyatso is convinced of to have.)

Lama Lobsang Thupwang Dorje Chang is now called ‘Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka’ (on the frontspiece) and in Tibetan ‘Lama Losang Tubwang Heruka’.

I understand this is problematic as

a) This kind of portrait of the teacher as ‘the Guru Tsongkhapa’ is a private part of practice and paintings such as this are traditionally not done until a teacher has died.

b) Siling Tongkhor told that ‘this is acceptable, technically’, or ‘theoretically’ ‘as long as they don’t regard him as a Yidam but merely as an spiritual protector – Dharmapala’. This requires more thought.

c) The cover features a living teacher seated on a lotus. This lotus seat is traditionally only used for teachers who are dead and it is considered highly inauspicious to depict a living teacher in this way; if I remember correctly it is said to be the cause of premature death. (This is also true for the NKT practice to put a hair of Kelsang Gyatso in statues. This is done only with hairs of dead teachers. If it is done with the hairs of a living teacher, such an action too is seen as very inauspicious and as a cause for calamities.)

Update August 30, 1014

1. Enquiries in Dharamsala suggest that His Holiness has taught it at least 5 times. Once back in the 70s or early 80s during one of Lama Yeshi’s Dharma celebrations; a couple of times since in the Tsuglagkhang here; last year at Gyumey and at Emory University in USA. He says he received the transmission from both his tutors. Apparently recently he asked Samdhong Rinpoche to give it somewhere and when Rinpoche said he was willing, but he didn’t have the transmission, His Holiness said then I’ll give it you. It doesn’t sound as rare and exclusive as the NKT make out.

2. Palden la was the manager of Trijang Labrang when Trijang Rinpoche was still alive.

When shown Kelsang Gyatso’s book, a Rinpoche in Dharamsala who had studied in Sera said almost immediately responded “O this looks like a lie” particularly in reference to Gelek Rinpoche. About Lobsang Kelsang he said “O he’s crazy.” Checked with a translator he said that in the Sera mey he was known as Palden Nyonpa which roughly means Glorious Nutcase. He said he was wild and eccentric; inclined to cause a splash. Even about his own teacher Gyarong Khensur he could be disparaging. Therefore this person is not a particularly credible witness.

3. His Holiness has been quite clear about the fact that he kept his tutors informed about his views and activities. He didn’t ask Ling Rinpoche to prevail on Trijang Rinpoche. He has himself described how he asked Trijang Rinpoche to speak out on the matter because of the weight of his influence.

The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and the Dalai Lama

GUEST POST by Robert – a former NKT monk

The Protests

If you have tried to attend one of the Dalai Lama’s teachings in the west over the last six years, you will have noticed a peculiar mob of people gathered outside in a loud, formal protest. This mob is composed almost entirely of western Buddhists, both ordained as well as lay, who have determined to follow the Dalai Lama wherever he teaches, to demand he give religious freedom and stop lying. These are the chants you will hear, “Dalai Lama, stop lying!” and, “Dalai Lama give religious freedom!” It is quite a peculiar thing to behold, as rather than a visibly angry protest, the protesters all have big smiles on their faces, as if they are in some kind of blissful trance, and the chants have a definite rhythm to them, and are even accompanied by musical instruments, such as drums and tambourines. You will even see ordained monks and nuns dancing. It’s almost as if you’ve stumbled into a Hare Krishna street festival.

This apparent blissful harmony may at first seem contradictory to their very message which is summarised in their deafening chants. It may seem contradictory to the hateful and racist speech found in their leaflets they hand out that call the Dalai Lama such names as “The Saffron-Robed Muslim”. The reality is that the majority of these protesters know very little about which they are protesting, aside from what they are spoon-fed from their teachers.

Central to the NKT’s daily practice is “reliance on the spiritual guide”, which in their eyes requires the development of an unshakeable faith in their teacher, or Guru. To ‘doubt’ their teacher is considered a delusion, and it is also believed that those who doubt their Guru will create the bad karma to be without religion in the future, and furthermore, to abandon their teacher means they will create the bad karma which will cause them to be reborn in hell for a near-infinite period of time. So this is an example of how fear works in a belief-system. Because this belief-system is so strongly ingrained in practitioners, they don’t dare let their mind wander to doubt and these protests are a prime example of this. They happily protest, because they will do virtually anything their Guru asks, even without understanding all of the facts for themselves.

I know this first-hand, as during the year 2008 I found myself partaking in one of these ‘blissful protests’. Back then, I was an ordained monk in the New Kadampa Tradition. I remember the day our Buddhist Centre, where we lived, received a letter from the Guru, requesting us to take part in a protest against the Dalai Lama. For many of us, it was the first time we had heard of this conflict between our Guru and the Dalai Lama, so we were quite shocked. I personally did a little research online at the time, but I really didn’t understand the situation, and did not know who was right or wrong. So I fell back on my ‘faith’ and assured myself that my Guru was enlightened and he knew what was best and I shouldn’t doubt him.

So I found myself engaging in the 2008 protests in London and Cambridge. I had a peaceful mind and no aggression in the slightest towards the Dalai Lama. If anything, I was looking forward to seeing him, and I felt a little elated as he waved to us all from his car window, as he approached his teaching venue. With my peaceful mind, I protested loudly, holding a banner that read “Dalai Lama stop lying”, shouting the same chants that they still chant today, “Dalai Lama give religious freedom!”, “Dalai Lama stop lying!” I was able to remain at peace, as this wasn’t really my protest. I didn’t really understand it, but I was told I was creating good karma, as I was following my Guru, and it was for a good cause.

However, my faith began to waver a little, when I read the booklets we were handing out. The language used was very crude and full of insults, like an angry child had written it. This was the booklet that contained the phrase “The Saffron-Robed Muslim”, which was a phrase that stuck in my mind and disturbed me. I thought to myself, “was this written by my Guru, who I believe is an enlightened Buddha? Even if it was not written by him, surely he must have approved this booklet!” It did not add up for me at all. I had joined Buddhism to become a better person; someone more peaceful and kind. This was not what I had imagined Buddhism to be.

I even had a dream, the night after my second protest. Some may say dreams are meaningless, and sometimes I agree, though other times I think our deeper self has an important message for us. In the dream I was among the followers of the Dalai Lama, almost like a spy, and we were standing behind some barricades. The Dalai Lama came walking by, like he was on the way to a teaching. Everyone was cheering him except for me. I tried to shout out my words of protest, but the others around me kindly and warmly tried to stop me by putting their hands over my mouth, but I did it anyway. “Stop lying!” I shouted out and the moment the words left my lips, there was complete silence. The Dalai Lama had stopped and was now facing me. He approached me and warmly spoke, “you must not make up your mind, until you understand all the facts.” This advice was like a lightning bolt and I will never forget that dream.

The Tibetan Situation

My dream showed me the reality, that I did not understand the situation in Dharamsala, the situation of the Tibetan people in exile, and the controversy surrounding the practice of Dorje Shugden. The only information I had was what had been fed to me by the NKT. Often this information was watered-down, very narrow-minded and superficial, even twisting the facts. In this world you can find circumstantial evidence to support virtually any claim, and if you piece it together just right, it can become very convincing, especially to those so deep in the bias that results from the brain-washing of a belief-system such as this, that it’s an absolutely necessity for them to believe in it. The NKT’s campaign against the Dalai Lama is not at all about the unbiased revealing of information. It is about slandering the Dalai Lama by whatever means possible. They have gone out of their way to attack the Dalai Lama’s reputation and the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism as a whole.

They believe so strongly in their cause, and need to believe so strongly, that they will do anything to achieve their goals. It’s not about making information available, it’s about destroying someone’s reputation. This is why they will call the Dalai Lama such names as ‘the saffron-robed Muslim’ and the ‘false Dalai Lama’, and producing derogatory imagery of him. Here is a direct quote from an NKT monk, who is actually one of the leaders and organisers of the protests:

Demonstrations my friend, and lots of them. Using every peaceful and wrathful method at our disposal to make the Dalai Lama realize what a horrible mistake he has made.

So you can understand from this statement above, it is clearly not about making information freely available to people, as they claim, rather it is a personal attack on the Dalai Lama. It is about winning. Those who they upset or offend along the way, and those who have their experience of the Dalai Lama’s teachings ruined by their protests, these are just acceptable losses to them.

The whole drama has come about from the Dalai Lama advising against worshipping a particular diety called Dorje Shugden. This is not, as the NKT would have us believe, a violation of religious freedom. The NKT would have you believe there is even violence against Shugden practitioners, and they went so far as to take the Dalai Lama and his administration to court. It is important to note, however, that the charges were thrown out, as there was no evidence of ANY specific instances of these attacks.

After studying scriptures of religious texts in-depths, the Dalai Lama concluded that Shugden was an evil spirit and worship of him did not belong in the Tibetan monasteries, so he advised everyone against the practice. It was voted upon in individual monasteries, whether to continue the practice or not, and the result was not to continue, and those who wished to remain in the monasteries were asked to take an oath that they would not practice. The local people also wanted to take this oath, but were denied, so they decided to gather together and take oaths of their own. Unfortunately this has caused a division between those who are against Shugden practice and the minority of those that still choose to practice it. It is not, however, how the NKT would portray these circumstances. Shugden practitioners are not ostracised from society and there is no evidence of violence against them. On the contrary, there are investigations into Shugden practitioners themselves, surrounding the deaths of monks close to the Dalai Lama. Also, one Tibetan monk recounted an event he personally witnessed at only 15 years old, where he witnessed pro-Shugden monks violently beating anti-Shugden monks.

The NKT would have you believe that Shugden worshippers are banned from even grocery shops, so they cannot even buy food, and are treated as real outcasts. The reality is they are restricted by certain monasteries and religious shops, as their practice is not compatible with the mainstream practices of those monasteries. In other words, it is against their belief system. We wouldn’t expect Catholic monasteries to allow Wiccans and Pagans to live with them, because that would be in contradiction to the beliefs of the monastery as a whole.

To those who are non-religious or don’t believe in spirits, evil or otherwise, this whole situation may seem absurd. It may seem absurd for the Dalai Lama to ask people to stop worshipping an evil spirit if they don’t exist! We have to remember though, that for Tibetan Buddhism and for the NKT, these spirits are considered as real. These are religious communities after all, where the existence of good-natured enlightened spirits and also evil spirits are regarded as real. So we have to think in this proper context, without bringing in our own beliefs about spirits. In this context, if there really is an evil spirit who can harm people, then of course the Dalai Lama is going to want to restrict this practice.

We also have to remember that the Tibetan country in exile is not like countries here in the west. It is a religious country, where the political leader and the religious leader is the same person, so the effects of alterations in the religion are further-reaching than similar alterations would be here in the western world. So we cannot think of this situation in terms of how we live in the west. There are always problems and disputes when things change, but this is not a matter of religious freedom. Just as Wiccans are allowed to do their own practices freely, as long as they are not living in a Catholic monastery, Shugden practitioners are allowed to do their own practices freely, as long as they don’t do it in a Tibetan monastery that has taken oaths not to do the practice. We must also bear in mind that these Shugden monastics are not homeless in the slightest, as there are monasteries they can live in that endorse the practice of Shugden, such as Shar Gaden. One only has to visit DorjeShugden.com and click on ‘Places’ in the top menu, to see the many monasteries that support Shugden practitioners.

The problem is that Shugden practitioners are angry that their practice is no longer part of the mainstream of Tibetan Buddhism, and they blame the Dalai Lama for this and want to discredit him and try to force him to reverse his decision, through harassment. It is certainly a shame that some of the Shugden monastics had to leave the mainstream monasteries and find new homes, but this inconvenience for them is the far lesser of two evils, from the point of view of the Dalai Lama, who we must remember is the spiritual leader of a society that deeply believes in good and evil spirits. We should never forget this context of the Tibetan culture and religion, and we should not impose our own beliefs on this matter. We must respect the right of the Dalai Lama to make decisions on behalf of his people, in respect to this culture and religion, which is different to ours, here in the west.

Thank you for reading,
Robertline-gothic

Robert set up a Facebook group, Exposing the NKT. The description of the group is:

This community is for those who wish to share and discuss their experiences within the New Kadampa Tradition, so we can support each other, and also we hope that this information may prove valuable to those interested in the tradition, who want to learn more about what they are getting themselves into.

This is also a community for the research into the Dorje Shugden controversy, and the elaborate campaign the NKT has undertaken against His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

We are not a hate community, and we believe in unbiased research. Our goal is simply to make information available to people, with which they can make up their own minds.

We believe that current NKT practitioners, as well as ex-practitioners, deserve our kindness and respect, so this community will not tolerate any hurtful speech, and we wish only to benefit all parties.

See also

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