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 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,

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

The True Nature of the NKT Sponsored International Shugden Community Hate Campaign …


The True Nature of the NKT Sponsored International Shugden Community Hate Campaign Revealed: The Usurping of the Dalai Lama and Destruction of the Tibetan People’s Institutions in Exile

The videos released by International Shugden Community narrated by anchorman and sometimes NKT monk and resident teacher Kelsang Rabten are becoming increasingly political in nature. The thin veneer of a “human rights campaign” is beginning to peel away to reveal the true nature of these provocative protests and online hate media that goes along with them: the complete usurping of HH the Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama institution, and all of the institutions serving the Tibetan exile community in India.

The stage for this phase of the program was set with the new slogan being chanted by singing and dancing NKT members, some in monastic dress: False Dalai Lama. Such a slogan was developed with the view of establishing a doubt regarding the authenticity of the Dalai Lama in the minds of the general public attending his open talks. It was also meant to mobilize the ground troops of drum playing NKT “ordained Sangha” around a new effort – the usurping of Tenzin Gyatso from his position as the 14th Dalai Lama.

The video opens with intrepid reporter and part-time NKT monk Kelsang Rabten yelling at the Dalai Lama about being false and Reting’s recognition being fraudulent. He repeats over and over “it says you are the false Dalai Lama.” It is interesting that, having gone to the trouble to sneak into the talk and penetrate security, rather than bring up the Shugden issue (which is ostensibly the reason NKT is protesting), Rabten decides to use his 15 seconds in the spotlight to question the Dalai Lama’s authenticity and the validity of Reting Rinpoche as a regent.

The video then cuts to Rabten sitting in a living room in Italy (perhaps a side trip during the Livorno protests) presuming to present an “in-depth report” and says that in this edition he will be SPEAKING with several Western and Tibetan scholars to hear what they have to say about the issue of the “False” Dalai Lama. Interestingly, there are no interviews with Western scholars included in the piece, just highlighted excerpts from library books. One Tibetan’s face is blurred throughout the interview so it is difficult to determine if he is a scholar. The only true interview excerpts included in the piece (and questionably translated), are with a Geshe who teaches at Gangchen Lama’s centre in Italy. The significance of the only Tibetan scholar on the video being a resident teacher at Gangchen’s centre will be explained later.

First it is important to examine the source of the “research” that part-time monk Kelsang Rabten presents during his in-depth report. The only university level research he consults is the work of two China-linked Western academics, Melvyn Goldstein and Tom Grunfeld.

Of the two Melvyn Goldstein is the more authentic, although he is regarded as having a pro-China bias that runs through much of his work. Tom Grunfeld, on the other hand, has been mired in controversy throughout his career for his colonialist, racist sentiments that mark his attitude towards the Tibetan people ( This is on top of his lack of capacity in primary research regarding this topic as he understands neither the Tibetan or Chinese language.

The famous Tibetan scholar Jamyang Norbu describes Grundfeld’s “research” as racist at best:

Another propagandists for China with pretensions regarding Tibetan history is Tom Grunfeld of Empire State College NY, author of The Making of Modern Tibet. I have written a fairly long review essay, Acme of Obscenity on his anti- Tibet “history”, where I have also provided detailed information of his Maoist background and his lack of qualifications (no knowledge of spoken or written Tibetan or Chinese language – for starters). If a similar book appeared today about Blacks or Jews there would, without doubt, be universal public outcry. Tom Grunfeld writes that Tibetan mothers licked their babies as they emerged from the womb – like animals. He goes on to specify that Tibetan were cruel, dirty, ignorant, syphilitic (90% of the population suffering from venereal diseases according to TG) sexual degenerates who were observed making love on rooftops in full public view. Clearly this is intended to portray Tibetans as barbaric, subhuman, even bestial, thereby justifying Communist Chinese rule in Tibet as necessary and civilizing.

One wonders how the moral indignation with which NKT members and Shugden protestors’ react to accusations of links with China cannot be laughed at, as their propaganda relies on the work of scholars holding a racist view of “backward Tibetans”, and sees the PRC as “liberators”. If this were truly the case, why did Shugden lamas along with the lamas of other lineages seek to leave Tibet when the PRC invaded?

Part-time monk Kelsang Rabten then goes on to describe research that indicated Reting had a lust for power, and for this reason installed the fase Dalai Lama. It is never explained how choosing the “wrong Dalai Lama” would help raise Reting’s political profile.

From the way the story is presented it seems as if Rabten would have us believe this is the first time there has been more than one candidate for the position of tulku. This is patently false, and anyone with even a cursory familiarity with Tibetan history knows that almost every candidacy for the position of a high lama involves some element of controversy regarding the recognition. (see the articles on this site regarding the Karmapa dispute).

It would seem that the mere fact that there was another candidate is grounds enough to usurp the current Dalai Lama and label him as false. Several of the Tibetan Dalai Lama supporters now active on facebook regarding this issue, notably Siling Rinpoche, a scholar-lama from Sera Mey monastery, made the very valid point that the previous Trijiang Rinpoche’s recognition was also fraught with controversy. In fact, the majority of the people in the region from which the most vociferous of the Tibetan Shugden protest participants hail, Chatreng, was initiatlly dead-set against the recognition of the previous Trijiang Dorjechang, as he was from the U-Tsang region rather than their locality from where the Trijiang line traditionally came from. This information is contained within the autobiography of the previous Trijiang tulku.

The video then goes on to a supposed “interview” with a blurry-faced “Tibetan scholar” who says, with no evidence, names, or dates etc. that “many lamas, many people and many (sic) Tibetan government don’t believe he (Tenzin Gyatso) is the real Dalai Lama because there was one other child (candidate).” By way of evidence for this proclamation it is only revealed that the other candidate had “some signs”. (Those familiar with the process of tulku recognition in Tibetan Buddhism will note that it is not at all a rare occurrence for several children to exhibit signs of being a reincarnation. Indeed, in the case of the Dalai Lamas, it is the historical norm that several candidates were considered.)

Kelsang Rabten then goes on to explain that the current Dalai Lama was found in a village with a large Muslim population called Takster, a repeat of NKT’s Islamaphobic “saffron-robed Muslim” campaign, equating that since the Dalai Lama comes from a Muslim region he must be “false”.

The remaining balance of the video is an interview with Geshe Jangchub Gyaltsen who is credited as being “from Ganden monastery, now resident in Italy.” This does not give the whole story, as a simple web search reveals that Geshe Jangchub Gyaltsen is now actually the resident teacher at Kunphen Lama Gangchen Centre in Milano, Italy. (

Geshe Jangchub insinuates that since the other child candidate (who was later recongized as a lama called Diktru Tulku) comes from the Lhasa region (instead of the poorer and less famous region of Amo from where the current Dalai Lama was born), and since his family was wealthy and well-known in Lhasa society, he (Diktrul Tulku) must have been the correct candidate. One wonders who would take such elitist and classist comments seriously.

The dharma centre where Geshe Jangchub teaches is significant as the spiritual director of Kunphen Lama Gangchen Centre, is no other than a disrobed monk from Sera Mey, Lama Gangchen, one of the most vocal Shugden supporters in Europe, who can be demonstrably linked to Chinese government authorities. His photos feature prominently on PRC propaganda sites where he lauds the Communist Party of China’s activities that “benefit and protect” Tibetan culture. (

So what does this all mean, and why have the NKT-sponsored International Shugden Community videos gone from the Shugden issue to proving the Dalai Lama is “false”?

It is this author’s opinion that Shugden is actually a secondary issue. And that the current provocative activities are actually the result of careful planning by NKT founder Kelsang Gyatso, Gangchen Tulku (author of “Ocean of Truth Explained) and Kundeling Rinpoche (who said that the communist invasion of Tibetan by China was a good thing on television) to attempt to completely discredit and overthrow the Dalai Lama.

Shugden is a banner around which the troops of NKT, Ganchen Centres and, to a lesser extent, Tibetans from the Chatreng region and Serpom, can rally around. It is a way to mobilize a reasonable amount of people to discredit the Dalai Lama and disturb his followers, so that his activities can be undermined.

This is actually a political move by conservative Gelugpas opposed to the increasingly non-sectarian nature of Tibetan polity and openness of the Dalai Lama’s presentation of Tibetan Buddhism. As the Dalai Lama has in their eyes betrayed the traditional Gelugpa hegemony of the Tibetan political establishment he must be “false” and therefore worthy of deposition. In the words of Kelsang Gyatso’s student who posts under the moniker Atisha’s Cook, the Dalai Lama must be “shamed, belittled, ridiculed and discredited.”

It is worthy of note too that the court case brought to the Delhi High Court by the NKT-supported Dorje Shugden Devotees Society involved a writ application about the legality of the Central Tibetan Administration (formerly the Tibetan Government in Exile). One wonders how a deliberate attempt to deconstruct an organization that gives voice to the difficulties of Tibetans, and has no practical real political power in India accomplishes anything.

Indeed, such moves by Shugden lamas would be reason to label them as being agents of the Chinese regime, lauding Chinese government activities in Tibet and attempting to undermine the activities of the Central Tibetan Administration. One wonders how this hobnobbing of Shugden lamas with the Chinese authorities helps the cause of Tibetan Shugden worshipers who the NKT say are ostracized from their communities. Indeed, it would see to contribute to the marginalization of their communities in exile.

The current shift in focus of the NKT’s campaign, from the Shugden issue to a movement to depose the “false Dalai Lama”, reveals the nature of the intention of this group of fundamentalist lamas from the beginning.

One wonders who has anything to gain from such a move, when the pressure on the Tibetan people and their culture is at an all time high. It would seem, only a small group of fundamentalist Shugden lamas and the Chinese authorities.


See also

Shining Light on the Misrepresentations of the New Kadampa Tradition and Shugden Protestors


Part 1, 2, and 3 of the following misrepresentations and excerpts as clarifications are based on the new ebook, Dolgyal Shugden: A History by The Dolgyal Shugden Research Society.

PART 1 focuses on the historical background of Shugden up to and including the period of Pabongkha Rinpoche.

Dolgyal Shugden: A History

Dolgyal Shugden: A History. The front cover shows Palden Lhamo.

Misrepresentation: Dorje Shugden is worshiped as an enlightened deity in the Sakya tradition.

Clarification from the text: When a Nyingma lama was trying to subdue the Shugden spirit, it fled and sought refuge in Sakya Monastery where it caused many disturbances. There, Sakya lama Sonam Rinchen bargained with the spirit that in exchange for accepting a torma cake from the monastery, in would not harm those in the region.
Sakya Scholar Jampa Thaye states: “The usual Sakya view about Shugden is that he is controlled by … Four Faced Mahakala. So he is a worldly deity, or demon, who is no harm to the Sakya tradition because he is under the influence of this particular Mahakala.”

Misrepresentation: The Fifth Dalai Lama, although initially opposed to Shugden, realized he was an enlightened being and therefore ordered a temple constructed in his honour at Trode Khangsar, in Lhasa.

Clarification: It is not clear whether or not the Fifth Dalai Lama actually established this temple. What is interesting, is that this temple is actually classified as a “Tsen Khang” (spirit house). Even if the Dalai Lama was involved with the construction of the temple, its location well outside the perimeter indicates that Shugden was worshiped as a worldly deity. Its classification as a Tsen Khang makes it clear the being inside is regarded as a spirit. Because worldly deities were not considered objects of refuge, their shrines were located outside monastic perimeters.

Misrepresentation: The Shugden practice was never controversial amongst Gelug Lamas apart from the Dalai Lamas.

Clarification: This is clearly not the case, many great Gelug lamas were opposed to Shugden practice. The author of famous texts on logic and history, Purchog Ngawang Jampa states: “Nowadays many who consider themselves followers of Tsongkhapa and adopt the three robes of a fully ordained Buddhist monk, go for refuge to worldly spirits. They will have to face the consequence of meeting with great misfortune.

Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen, tutor to the 8th Dalai Lama: The new Dharma protector (Shugden) is the source of ruin of Tashi Lhunpo… if the monastery starts propitiation of some harmful spirit, it will be the source of great inauspiciousness.

The 8th Panchen Lama: “Propitiating and taking refuge in evil spirits like Dolgyal (Shugden), that are wandering hungry spirits, contradicts the practice of taking refuge in the Three Jewels, which is what distinguishes a Buddhist, therefore, such practices should be given up.”

Misrepresentation: We can prove that Dorje Shugden is an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri due to his aspect and function.

Clarification: Contemporary Sakya Scholar Dhongtog Rinpoche: “You who claim that Shugden is inseperable from Manjushri, what is the source of your assertion? There is no prophecy or scriptural reference to this in any of the Buddha’s teachings, or in the works of any Buddhist master, or in the works of Tsongkhapa. If there is one, supply the quote.”

Misrepresentation: Pabongkha Rinpoche’s view of Shugden as an enlightened being is evidence this is the correct view.

Clarification: It seems Pabongkha himself wavered between various views of Shugden. When chastized by the 13th Dalai Lama for propitiating Shugden, Pabongkhapa replied: “I want to say from the depths of my heart that it is only due to my ignorance and not that I have knowingly entered onto an unwholesome path and led others onto that same path.”

Misrepresentation: Pabongkha Rinpoche was never a sectarian lama. He is merely being smeared by the Dalai Lama and his followers for political reasons.

Clarification: It is clear he was sectarian based on this and many other quotations: “… many from our own side, monks or laypeople, high or low, are not content with Tsongkhapa’s doctrine, which is like pure gold, and have mixed and corrupted this tradition with the mistaken views and practices of other schools, tenent systems that are reputed to be incredibly profound and amazingly vast but are in fact mistakes upon mistakes, faulty, dangerous and misleading paths.”

He also stated: “Apart from the doctrine of Manjughosa Tsongkhapa alone, the views of all Sakyas, Kagyus and Nyingmas are erroneous … for them liberation and the path to omniscience does not exist.”

Misrepresentation: Pabongkha Rinpoche was a completely non-political lama, and was never involved in non-religious affairs.

Clarification: Between 1938 and 1940, Pabongkha Rinpoche made repeated requests to Kham’s Kuomintang military governor, Lui Chuntrang, to forcibly suppress local Sakya, Nyingma and Kagyu monasteries for propounding a “wrong view of emptiness.” (These letters are sourced from Volume Cha of Pabongkhapa’s collected works.

Misrepresentation: None of Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo’s followers or Shugden worshipers were ever involved in violence or sectarian actions.

Clarification: From a historical account included in the book: “The Lhasa administration was forced to send a delegation to the Geluk Shitam Gompa near Chamdo after a group of monks, claiming to be possessed by Shugden, broke down and smashed the doors of the Chamdo temple … the confessed that on their way (to Chamdo) they had entered a Nyingma monastery and destroyed a 30 foot image of Padmasambhava.”


PART 2: The Impetus for the Dalai Lama’s Opposition and an Examination of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and his sectarianism.

Misrepresentation: The Dalai Lama’s words against Shugden have no basis in reason whatsoever.

Clarification: The current Dalai Lama began to speak out on this issue with the publication of a violently sectarian work called “The Yellow Book” by Zemey Rinpoche, threatening “impure Gelugs” with tragedy and mishap.

From the text: Along with the attribution of the deaths of a number of Geluk followers to the deity, the book claimed it was Shugden’s retribution that led to a great flood at Gyantse in 1954, a flood which almost completely destroyed the town and killed thousands of people and animals.

Misrepresentation: The New Kadampa Tradition and Shugden Supporters Community (front group in the 1990s) are seperate organizations.

Clarification: “When Andrew Brown, a freelance journalist working for the Independent Newspaper at the time, rang the contact number given by one of the two groups (Shugden Supporters Community and Freedom Foundation), he soon came to realize that both the SSC and Freedom Foundation were front organizations set up and run by members of Kelsang Gyatso’s New Kadampa Tradition.”

Misrepresentation: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a fully qualified Geshe and completed Geshe examinations at Sera Monastery, he merely did not pick up his certificate.

Clarification: Gyatso’s own statements about his Geshe degree are very contradictory.  “Initially, Gyatso claims to have become a Geshe before  entering Sera, at a monastery where the degree was not awarded. He then claims to have been awarded the degree many years after completing his training at Sera, though he did not take any examinations. He then claims to have been awarded the degree immediately upon having completed the course of study at Sera, where the degree has always been awarded after thorough examinations. Examinations which Gyatso freely agrees to having never taken.”

Misrepresentation: After coming to India  Geshe Kelsang Gyatso spent 18 years in retreat at various locations in the Himalayan region.

Clarification: “Critics suggest Gyatso actually spent much of his time in India in Mussoorie, convalescing as a TB patient …” in addition to 6 years in Dalhousie.

Misrepresentation: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is preserving Tsongkhapa’s tradition from the pollution of mixing instigated by the Dalai Lama.

Clarification: … in rejecting the the eclectic approach to dharma, Kelsang Gyatso was rejecting an approach exemplified by Tsongkhapa’s life and which was demonstrated by his constructing a tradition taken from each of the pre-extant Buddhist traditions of Tibet. Gyatso, in championing Pabonkha’s exclusivism, came to represent an exclusivism which is the very anithesis of the spirit of Tsongkhapa’s eclectic tradition.


PART 3 Deliberate Misrepresentations About the Number of Shugden Followers, NKT’s Financial Transparency and the Murder of Gen Lobsang Gyatso

Misrepresentation: 4 Million people are affected by the Dalai Lama’s activities against the Shugden practice.

Clarification: The policies affect only certain Tibetan government departments and subsidiaries, monastic institutions connected with the Dalai Lama, and those who wish to take the Dalai Lama as their tantric master. According to experts with whom Brown spoke, only 100,000 people could be affected by the “ban”. After communicating with senior Buddhist academics, our conclusions are that the prohibition affects 30,000 at most.

Misrepresentation: The restrictions of the Dalai Lama effectively “bans” Shugden practice in all Tibetan communities in India and Tibet, as well as the West.

Clarification: Nowadays Shugden is propitiated without restraint in NKT centres worldwide, in numerous Chinese funded government monasteries in Tibet, and indeed in non government monasteries set up by devotees in the exile community, both in India, Nepal and beyond. The prohibitions surrounding Shugden worship then do not extend to all devotees but rather to a tiny minority of Tibetan Buddhists, each of whom is linked to the Tibetan government or His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the context of a tantric, guru-disciple relationship.

Misrepresentation: The New Kadampa Tradition is financially transparent and not involved in political activities.

Clarification: … the movement has repeatedly depended on its members collecting government assistance, often under false pretenses, and that this money has then been funneled in to the NKT’s own coffers to fund the expansion of its ever burgeoning property empire … the organization has taken full advantage of its religious status for charitable purposes, while simultaneously its members covertly engage in political activities and protests against the Dalai Lama across the globe.

Misrepresentation: Apart from the accusation of the CTA, and a document that may have been planted, there is no evidence Shugden worshipers were involved in threats to Gen Lobsang Gyatso or his death.

Clarification 1: There are other pieces of evidence. As one example: “A letter received by the Tibetan Government-In-Exile, dated May 5, 1996, and which requested a re-opening of the debate on the Shugden issue and restoration of devotees human rights warned: “… there should be no procrastination. And we, in our present state of desperation, have made up our mind to resort to desperate measures if such a decision is not made. And when we do take desperate actions, you will be filled with remorse.”

Clarification 2: The young suspects named by INTERPOL in the murders, suffered a breakdown of their car in Ambala, on the way to the home of Lobsang Gyatso in Dharamsala. They made a telephone call from a public kiosk, which was traced by the Indian police to the home of Chimme Tsering, the secretary of the Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society in Delhi.

line-gothicDemocracy in the NKT, NKT Ordination, More NKT Finances and Evidence of Shugden Activists’ Connections with the Government of China

Misrepresentation: The NKT is an open and democratic organization, whereas the CTA and its affiliated monasteries behave in a dictatorial manner, for example expelling Shugden monks from monasteries.

Clarification: It is tempting to compare this letter (of KG firing Lucy James from her teaching position) to the expulsion of 6 monks from Sera Monastery three weeks earlier, expulsions that sparked the wave of international demonstrations…However, that particular expulsion was conducted by the monastic community rather than by a single leader, after alleged repeated disruptive behaviour on the part of the six and in accordance with the procedures of the Vinaya, the ancient codes of Moral Discipline set down at the time of the Buddha himself.
In the case of Lucy James, no such process was followed; the draconian decision came down simply as the result of her incurring the wrath of Gyatso and was seemingly his alone. Gyatso took the same decision when another longstanding student of his, Kadam Bjorn Clausen, the Swiss National Spiritual Director, expressed similar concerns about the demonstrations; he too was asked to resigned, purportedly because Gyatso was “concerned for his safety”.

Misrepresentation: NKT students are free to study other teachings if they wish, emphasis on devotion comes from the teachings of Pabongkha Rinpoche.

Clarification: Gyatso’s emphasis on guru devotion, particularly via the fundamental NKT practice of guru yoga, actually represents a hardening of Pabongkha’s perspective (as Pabongkhapa emphasized reliance on the teachings of his Geluk forefathers)… Gyatso, in his “Great Treasury of Merit”… declares:

Experience shows that realizations come from deep, unchanging faith, and that this faith comes as a result of following purely one tradition, relying upon only one teacher, practicing only his teachings, and following his dharma protector.

… in Kay’s words “Even the most exclusively oriented Geluk lamas, such as Phabongkha Rinpoche and Trijiang Rinpoche, do not seem to have encouraged such complete and exclusive reliance in their students as this.”

Misrepresentation: It can be shown that the ordination offered in the NKT is a completely valid ordination, and consistent with Lord Buddha’s teachings.

Clarification: Gyatso and his followers claim the ordination is based upon the Mahayana Perfection of Wisdom Sutras … specific scriptural citations, the commonest and most effective method of establishing the validity of assertions made in classical Buddhist texts, are sadly lacking and therefore it is difficult to establish the validity of these claims …

Misrepresentation: The ordination of the NKT was modernized to make it more practical and democratic.

Clarification: Gyatso claims his new system of ordination was invented for reasons of practicality.  Another possible though equally pragmatic reason is that when the NKT was founded, there were insufficient fully ordained monks within the organization to form the necessary quorum required for the transmission of the vows of the Vinaya.

Misrepresentation: Other Buddhist traditions hold this system of ordination as valid.

Clarification: The Australian Sangha Association, made up of Senior monastics of the Theravada, Tibetan and Chinese Mahayana Traditions issued this statement about NKT ordination:

all Buddhist traditions, have always insisted on the necessity of the conventional Sangha to hold Vinaya vows properly received in accordance with the prescribed rituals. The opinion of the ASA is that for NKT to present themselves to the public as authentic Buddhist monks and nuns is wrong and misleading.

Misrepresentation: Those working as volunteers at NKT centres while in some cases receiving social assistance do so in perfect accordance with the law.

Clarification: .… a fundamental requirement of the UK state benefits system is that claimants of unemployment benefit should be available for, as well as actively seeking, employment in order to qualify for that assistance. One ex member, who worked as a cashier in the organization between 1992 and 1993, alleges that many of those within NKT during that period satisfied neither of those requirements, and that they were rather working full-time for the organization. He cited a number of examples:

  • working full-time for NKT while claiming to be unemployed
  • working part-time for the organization while claiming to be unemployed
  • studying full-time on the TTP and claiming benefits, robed members were reported to change into lay clothes borrowed from other residents before visiting their local job centre to register and claim benefits.
  • claiming rent at one NKT centre while living and working part time at others.

Misrepresentation: There is not a shred of evidence of members of the Shugden movement being connected to the government of the People’s Republic of China.

Clarification 1: “In March 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that, at the same time the Chinese government was involved in the destruction of mainstream Buddhist temples, it was rebuilding Shugden monasteries in Tibet.

Clarification 2: “native Tibetan monks are given permission to travel to India by the Chinese government on the condition that they are devotees of the (Shugden) deity.

Clarification 3: Chimme Tsering, the secretary of the Dorje Shugden Devotees’ Charitable and Religious Society (DSDCRS) in Delhi, met a representative from the Chinese embassy in Nepal to draft a letter to the Chinese government asking for their help in raising the profile on the issue of discrimination against Tibetan Shugden practitioners in India.

Clarification 4: In February 2001 DSDCRS organized a “Millenial conference on Human Rights” whose guest of honour was the Chinese ambassador to India. On February 1st 2004, two more officials from the Chinese Consulate in Delhi also met with DSDCRS senior Lobsang Yeshe in Mysore, South India.

Clarification 5: Lama Gangchen, an outspoken proponent of Shugden in Italy, has demonstrable ties to the Chinese government. At Ganchen Monastery in Shigatse Monastery, local Chinese authorities tried to compel monks to accept Gangchen as their spiritual guru and begin Shugden practice. Since (surprisingly) the monastery had no prior history of worshiping the deity, they refused. Monks who continued to refuse the government officials insistence on Shugden and Gangchen, were threatened with arrest, detention and imprisonment.

Photo of Shugden followers celebrating Losar 2013 with Chinese Embassy. Friends identified on this photo lama Ajo from Serpom monastery, lama Gyatso who ger recently in Tibet to criticise HH Dalaï Lama there, as well as US Shugden leaders, Phuntsok and Dechen Tulku. Dechen Tulku is the man who appeared recently on very contraversed photo with Jamyang Norbu.

Photo of Shugden followers celebrating Losar 2013 with Chinese Embassy. Friends identified on this photo lama Ajo from Serpom monastery, lama Gyatso who ger recently in Tibet to criticise HH Dalaï Lama there, as well as US Shugden leaders, Phuntsok and Dechen Tulku. Dechen Tulku is the man who appeared recently on very contraversed photo with Jamyang Norbu.

For China’s involvement see also

Dalai Lama protests 2014: Shugden group in Oslo / Norway

The International Shugden Community (ICS) – which is the third front organisation of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) – have planned three days of demonstrations under the Dalai Lama’s Oslo visit. A senior member of the NKT’s Facebook commented this two days ago in the following manner:

This hypocrite will be in Oslo tomorrow – scene of his false award for peace by the Nobel Committee.

The protesters claim a “hidden intensive persecution campaign of thousands of Tibetan citizens in exile” that they wish “to draw world attention to” … (read more)

For a background of the group and a verification of their claims by independent experts see the following article by theForeigner. The journalist has done his job and consulted Dr Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at London University SOAS’ (School of Oriental and African Studies) as an expert in the religious / political matter and INFORM as experts about New Religious Movements:

… the Dalai Lama is often accused by the pro-Shugden side as suppressing freedom of religion.

“This accusation makes no sense,” states Dr Hill. “The Dalai Lama is not head of any state; he has no military or police at his command; he has no political jurisdiction over which he can exercise suppression.”

“Some members of the Gelug sect left the authority of the Dalai Lama in order to follow what they see as a purer form of religion. These people may not be very popular in other parts of the Gelug sect, but their human rights have not been violated nor their freedoms suppressed; even if some people did want to suppress or silence the pro-Shugen side, they simply have no means of doing so,” Dr Hill concludes.

INFORM also remarks that a significant number of former NKT members report having been encouraged to join in protests against the Dalai Lama. These individuals have noted that any positive mention of the Dalai Lama at NKT meditation centres was (usually quietly) discouraged by the NKT teachers.

Moreover, INFORM state they received an enquiry from someone attending an NKT centre based in Sweden in connection with the current anti-Dalai Lama protests in Oslo. The person reported that Kelsang Tubchen was travelling to Sweden to encourage students and teachers in Sweden to attend these.

ISC press spokesperson Rachael Jeffrey tells The Foreigner there are no formal links between the ISC and NKT.

Read more …

The NKT ran protests already in 1996–98 against the Dalai Lama via the Dorje Shugden Supporter Community and they picked up the campaign again in 2008 via Western Shugden Society. For the Western Shugden Society campaigning NKT editors took over and manipulated all related Wikipedia articles in April 2008 (and these articles are still a mess today).

For the 2014 campaign the NKT founded a new front organization, the International Shugden Community. While during the first campaign in 1996-98 the media had the time and money to investigate the allegations and to offer their readers a balanced and critical account about the protesters, their assertions, the facts and the background of the group (see The Independent, The Guardian (PDF), and BBC) during the new wave of protests, from 2008 onwards, almost ALL international media repeated the allegations of the group without consulting independent academic experts / scientists. And even when they did, like the Time magazine, they misrepresented experts as Robert Barnett (Columbia University) pointed out. During the US vist of the Dalai Lama in March 2014 this pattern repeated itself again. In many cases the Shugden campaigners were able to mislead and misinform the media and spread these information on YouTube, Wikipedia etc. If you check all of this it is very hard even for a good minded and open person to understand what is true and what is not true.

After quite a while of media numbness in this matter there seems to be a bit of a shift, where the false allegations are being corrected and the background of the protesters is being investigated a bit more deeply than just repeating their claims …

See also

Of course for all of us who were or are directly affiliated or followed the NKT it is clear that it is NKT who run, organize and perform the protests, no matter if NKT followers lie to the press again and again. As we former members know, the “brainwashing” in NKT can be quite effective to repress memory and the events of the past. As a reminder here what Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the NKT, wrote himself:

Cc NKT Central Office, Gen-la Khyenrab, Gen-la Dekyong, Managers & community of KMC Florida and Parbawatiya Center

Letter #1, sent April 13, 2008

Dear Resident Teachers and Administrative Directors of NKT Dharma Centers,

You have received a copy of the letter sent to Sera Lachi, Sera Je and Sera Mey by The Western Shugden Society. From this you can understand that it is very possible that The Western Shugden Society will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama. Concerning this issue, we should know five things:

1. The demonstrations will be organised by The Western Shugden Society, not by the NKT.

2. The Western Shugden Society is the unification of all the Western Shugden practitioners, and NKT is a part of this main body.

3. When the main body, The Western Shugden Society, organises demonstrations, the NKT needs to voluntarily contribute and help.

4. There is no basis to break our constitution or internal rules because this is not organised by the NKT.

5. The Western Shugden Society organising the demonstrations is not for the purpose of the six monks only, it is the method to prevent the destruction of the pure lineage of Je Tsongkhapa, and to stop the extremely forceful campaign that the Dalai Lama is doing now to eradicate completely the practice of Dorje Shugden in India and other countries through unlawful actions.

We should recognise that the NKT is not involved politically, simply supporting The Western Shugden Society with these demonstrations. Peaceful demonstrations are respected by democratic governments, it is the position of the people, we should take this opportunity, there is no other method to stop the Dalai Lama´s campaign against Dorje Shugden practitioners.

There are three wheels of Dharma activities: 1) the wheel of studying Dharma, 2) the wheel of meditating on Dharma, and 3) the wheel of working for the Dharma. These demonstration actions are included within the wheel of working for the Dharma. Please keep this pure motivation.

With love and prayers,

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Letter #2, sent prior to April 27, 2008

My Dear Students,

I need help from you to solve the Dorje Shugden problem created by the Dalai Lama. Right now the Dalai Lama is removing the Tibetan Shugden worshipers from the Buddhist community saying that Shugden worshipers are not Buddhist because they worship an evil spirit – Shugden. At the same time he is preparing to remove western Shugden worshipers from the Buddhist community with the same reasons. His aim is to destroy the pure lineage of Je Tsongkhapa´s doctrine. To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted.

Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need.

With much love and prayers

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

NKT Office
Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre
Conishead Priory
Ulverston, Cumbria LA12 9QQ
[+44] (0)1229 588 533

The NKT and Its Relationship With Truth: Should People in Glass Houses Throw Stones?

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

Several months ago, I posted an article on this blog revealing significant flaws in the Tharpa Publications’ translation of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva. I gave examples of verses in which the Tharpa translation not only differs significantly from other translations, but also is at odds with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s own commentary on that text. In fact, I found forty-eight such verses! In another ten verses I found discrepancies between the Tharpa translation and other translations that were not at odds with Geshe Kelsang. In the comment section following my post, no one seemed particularly concerned about this trouble—and it appears that NKT students and establishment are not concerned either. So in the interests of bringing high quality Dharma to the West, I would like to bring this subject up once more!

Shortly after I posted the article, I wrote to Tharpa Publications myself and told them of these problems. I have received no response from this email and at this moment, months later (8:27 AM, March 12, 2014), Tharpa still proudly displays this statement on their website, advertising their own (seriously flawed) translation of the text:

Composed in the 8th century by the famous Indian Buddhist master Shantideva, this new translation, made under the guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, conveys the great lucidity and poetic beauty of the original, while preserving its full impact and spiritual insight. Reading these verses slowly, while contemplating their meaning, has a profoundly liberating effect on the mind. The poem invokes special positive states of mind, moves us from suffering and conflict to happiness and peace, and gradually introduces us to the entire Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment. (see here)

In case NKT readers doubt the accuracy of my own research, I have provided a verse-by-verse examination below. Perhaps this will save Tharpa translators some trouble and they can get started on the important work of fixing the text! That was my initial motivation in contacting them. Now I also want to inquire why they show so little concern for the truth? Why they proudly advertise the authenticity of a text that might have flaws?

The silence of Tharpa reminds me forcibly of conversations I have had on the website Dialogue Ireland with individuals who have been maliciously maligning the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist lamas—in fact, they are maligning all lamas except for Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Their vitriol and anger reminds me of what I see reflected on the faces of those NKT and Shugden protestors outside of Dalai Lama events.  When I first read the DI comments, they were written with such force and conviction that I was a little frightened they might be true. It challenged my faith. However, I forced myself to investigate. I forced myself to stay true to myself and not let fear govern my actions. I read peer-reviewed histories of Tibet. I read biased histories of Tibet. I read the writings of the Trimondis. I read Communist Chinese propaganda. I also happen to know quite a bit about the activities of HH Dalai Lama myself because he is my teacher and I study from him daily— but I read more of his books and his autobiographies. I listened to Mind and Life Conferences.

The result of my investigation did not particularly surprise me. I discovered that every malicious allegation made by commenters on DI that I investigated was either an outright falsehood, a careless error, an exaggeration, a mis-translation, a complete fabrication, or a quote or fact taken totally out of context.  What’s more, whenever I exposed a falsity or fabrication, I was called a “lamaist cult follower” and the truth of my statement was completely ignored.  This was my first direct experience of this anti-Dalai Lama machine, being initiated by Chinese and Shugden propaganda—and carried forward, it seems, by NKT students.

It seems that my comment to Tharpa was received in the same manner—it was simply disregarded as non-important, probably on the basis of my identity as a devotee of the Dalai Lama—and they simply continued business as usual. This surprised me. Even in the context of simple, proper business conduct, such allegations are usually investigated. I believe that any other publisher would at least reply to my email and investigate the trouble. Further, as a Buddhist practitioner, I find Tharpa’s disregard for the accuracy of their translation of this most sacred of texts to be disturbing at best.

Perhaps this is like translating a Tibetan word with no clear, exact English equivalent into one evocative word—BAN—and writing it on posters and placards to insight protest. These protestors are the same students who are given a flawed translation of an ancient Buddhist scripture and told that it “conveys the great lucidity and poetic beauty of the original, while preserving its full impact and spiritual insight.” Is this deception?

Recently, I have been reading commentaries by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and comparing them to those by my own teacher, HH Dalai Lama. This exercise has been very beneficial to my practice and has deepened my own understanding of Dharma. It has also deepened my faith in the Dalai Lama, whose approach to the Dharma is truly quite remarkable. Is there an NKT student anywhere who would do the same, who would study from HH Dalai Lama in order to investigate how his approach differs from and coincides with the approach being taken by their own lama? Would they ever challenge their faith—in order to make it firm? If not, how can NKT students justify their actions outside Dalai Lama teachings?

Recently, I read a news article from San Francisco in which protestors told the media that they were protesting against the Dalai Lama’s “lavish lifestyle.” I wondered if someone had decided that the Shugden issue wouldn’t sit as well with Western media as this familiar Western issue of “lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous”. Of course, I cannot know what formed the basis of that new idea. But I ask the NKT protestors who spoke to the media if they have ever actually investigated the Dalai Lama’s lifestyle? Are they aware that he accepts no money for teaching? Are they aware of how much he donates to charities? Have they walked through his modest home in India? Are they aware that he wakes at 3:30 am to practice and meditate and study and eats little if any dinner?

When I first began commenting on this website, I discovered an error in a post written by Tenzin, the website owner. In my first comment, I exposed this error. Tenzin’s response was immediate. He investigated, apologized and revised his post. I believe that this does not simply demonstrate Tenzin’s good and honest character—it also demonstrates that he is a sincere practitioner of Dharma. In my little understanding of Buddhist study and practice, students learn to challenge their own beliefs and attitudes constantly in order to deepen their understanding and remain true to themselves.  Is this lacking in the approaches being taken within NKT? Why is Tharpa silent?  It seems that until they can clean up their own house, until they can have the courage to acknowledge and then fix their own errors, they have no right to sit in judgment on the Dalai Lama. They have no right to call him a liar.

Last October, I attended a teaching on the Heart Sutra by HH Dalai Lama in New York City. While I was waiting in line outside Beacon Theater, there was a small band of protestors shouting “Dalai Lama go home!”

I remember smiling to myself and thinking how silly that sounded and thinking, “The Dalai Lama would love to go home!” But then I looked at the face of the elderly Tibetan woman in front of me. She looked hurt and confused. I wondered about the life of that woman, whether she had suffered much in Tibet and whether she had family there still whom she worried over. And then I looked at the red-faced protestors and wondered if they ever gave a thought to Tibetans being human beings. If they ever wondered about the suffering Tibetans had endured in Tibet. Did they ever stop to understand how important the Dalai Lama is to Tibetans, how he inspires them and helps them to maintain hope in the face of terrible tragedy?

I believe that most NKT students are caring, decent Dharma practitioners who would never intentionally harm others. In this context, I simply want to call on them to investigate before their next protest.  Find out where truth lies. Find out if Tibetans have suffered badly at the hands of Chinese. Find out if they deserve to be maligned and abused any further.  Find out if the Dalai Lama is a horrible demon—or simply a religious leader who takes his responsibilities seriously and has made a controversial decision based on information and reasons.  Investigate, investigate. And please, fix the Shantideva translation! Clean your own house before you throw stones at another!

Verses About Which GKG Concords With Padmarkara Translation Group and Not Neil Elliott

(49 Verses)

Some of these discrepancies might seem minor and insignificant to Western eyes. Some are clearly large and important. However, I cannot possibly presume myself capable of distinguishing between which words of Shantideva’s are important enough to be translated exactly and which are not really very important. I can only hope that the translations being made into modern English stay as close as they possibly can to the original intention of Shantideva—and leave it to the great masters to make commentaries on the entire meanings.

Sometimes it has seemed to me as if Neil Elliott is interpreting based on what he believes to be Shantideva’s intended meaning—instead of translating the actual Tibetan or Sanskrit words. This is most probably what accounts for the important discrepancy in Verse 2 in Chapter One. Sometimes, Neil Elliott even decides to add some poetic flourishes of his own, adding his own simile or descriptive phrase.  This I find disturbing.

I did my best to copy these verses exactly as I have found them. However, I am bound to have made typos and errors and for these I apologize.

Chapter One:

Verse 2:


“…My reason for writing this is to benefit others…” (p. 5)

Padmakara Translation Group (PTG):

“I thereby have no thought that this might be of benefit to others…” (p.33).

GKG’s commentary: “Also, since he has no skill in the art of rhetoric or poetry, he has no intention of benefitting others who have already understood the teachings of Buddha.” (p. 14)

Chapter Two:

Verse 34-35


“…I have committed many kinds of evil action
With respect to my friends and others.”
And yet my friends will become nothing
And others will also become nothing…” (p.20)


“… for the sake of friend and foe alike,
Provoked and brought about so many evils.”
“My enemies at length will cease to be;
My friends and I myself
Will cease to be…” (p. 44)


“… Out of my ignorance, I committed much non-virtue for the sake of my relatives and friends, and did much evil trying to destroy my foes… I understand now that my enemies, my relatives and friends, and even myself will all eventually pass away and become as nothing… ” (p.80)

Chapter Five: Many errors by Tharpa

Verse 35:


“… But always with a resolute mind,
Be mindful of my gaze.” (p.52)


“…But rather with a focused mind
Will always go with eyes cast down.” (p. 67)


…”We should cast our eyes downwards and look at the ground on which we are about to tread…” (186)

Verse 37:


“To avoid dangers or accidents on the path,
I should occasionally look in all directions,
And prevent my mind from being distracted
By relying upon conscientiousness.” (p. 53)


“And yet, to spy the dangers on the road,
I’ll scrutinize the four directions one by one.
And when I stop to rest, I’ll turn my head
And look behind me, back along my path.” (p.67)


“[37] As we continue walking, we should occasionally look in the four directions to be certain there are no dangers or obstacles.” (p. 186)

Verse 45:

Tharpa: “Whenever I listen to any sort of talk
Whether pleasant or unpleasant
Or observe attractive or unattractive people,
I should prevent attachment or hatred towards them.” (p. 54)

PTG: “And if by chance you must take part
In lengthy conversations worthlessly
Of if you come upon sensational events,
Then cast aside delight and taste for them.” (p. 68)

GKG commentary: “…when we are associating with people engaged in senseless chatter or when we are watching a spectacle or a drama, we should keep our mind free from all attachment.” (p. 190)

Verse 46

Tharpa: “If for no reason I begin to perform actions
That cause damage to the environment
I should recall Buddha’s advice
And, out of respect, stop straightaway. (p. 54)

PTG: “If you find you’re grubbing in the soil
Of pulling up the grass or tracing idle patterns on the ground,
Remembering the teachings of the Blissful One
In fear, restrain yourself at once.” (p.68)

GKG: [46] Unless there is some purpose for our doing so, we should not dig the earth, cut the grass, draw patterns on the ground or engage in any other meaningless activity. We should recall the advice of the enlightened beings, bring to mind the heavy consequences of mindlessness and refrain from all senseless actions.” (p. 190)

Verse 59: The setting in this and following verses is a Charnal ground—and there are references to vultures and jackals eating the flesh as a means to diminishing attachment to the body. The Tharpa translation misses the references to Charnal grounds completely—whereas both GKG and PTG keep that context.

Tharpa: “If mind, you are concerned
About death taking this body from you
And its being burned or buried beneath the ground,
Why do you cherish it so now?” (p. 56)

PTG: ‘When vultures with their love of flesh
Are tugging at this body all around
Small will be the joy you get from it, O mind!
Why are you so besotted with it now?” (p. 70)

GKG commentary: “Why do I cherish this body so strongly? Why do I guard it and think that it is mine? When death separates us from our physical form, we shall depart alone without friends. Who will guard our body then? …Who will inherit our body once we have died? In some countries the discarded body becomes a banquet for vultures and jackals…” (p.198)

Verse 60: I see no reference in any translation of the body being “borrowed from others” and don’t know what it means—is it an addition from Elliott?

Tharpa: “Why, mind, do you hold this body as mine
And grasp it with such affection?
It is only borrowed from others
And will soon be taken from you.” (p.57)

PTG: “Why, O mind, do you protect this body,
Claiming it as though it were yourself?
You and it are each a separate entity,
However can it be of use to you?” (p. 70)

GKG: “We are not the same as our body and soon we shall be separated from it. Therefore, is there any meaning or purpose in protecting and being attached to it?” (p. 199)

Verse 66: And once again, Elliott misses the reference to charnal grounds:

Tharpa: “It is suitable to protect it and care for it
Only for attaining spiritual goals—
This body of a human being
Should be used just for practicing Dharma.” (p. 57)

PTG: As second best, it may indeed be kept
As food to feed the vulture and the fox.
The value of this human form
Lies only in the way that it is used. (p. 71)

Stephen Batchelor: “At second best it is only fit to be guarded
In order to feed the vultures and jackals.
(Truly) this body of a human being
Should only be employed (in the practice of virtue). (p.45)

GKG: “…Perhaps the only reason we are guarding our body is to be able to feed it to the vultures and jackals later on. The only reason for us to be protective of our bodies is if we are going to use it for the practice of virtue.” (p.200)

Verse 67:

Tharpa: “But if you guard it for other purposes
What will you be able to do
When the merciless Lord of Death seizes it
And reduces it to a pile of ashes?” (p.58)

PTG: “Whatever you may do to guard and keep it
What will you do when
The Lord of Death, the ruthless, unrelenting,
Steals and throws it to the birds and dogs?” (p. 71)

GKG: “…Otherwise, we are doing nothing more than preparing food for jackals.” (p. 200)

Verse 69: In this verse, Elliott adds his own piece of advice about not grasping and ignorance, words and meaning I cannot find in any other translation—or in GKG’s commentary.

Tharpa: “In exchange for paying my body its wages,
I will employ it to create virtue for myself and others;
But I should not grasp it as “mine”
Because such grasping is a form of ignorance.” (p. 58)

PTG: “So pay this body due remuneration,
But then be sure to make it work for you.
But do not lavish everything
On what will not bring perfect benefit.” (p. 72)

Stephen Batchelor: “Now having paid my body its wages,
I shall engage it in making my life meaningful.
However, if my body is of no benefit,
Then I shall not give it anything.” (p.45)

GKG: “We should be glad to pay it its proper wages if it helped us to engage in the practice of Dharma for our own and others’ benefit, but critical and strict whenever we discovered that it was not benefitting anyone.” (p. 200)

Verse 81: Elliott’s meaning is much less clear than the other two translations, which also lend themselves very well to GKG’s commentary.

Tharpa: “With either a cultivated motivation
Or one that arises spontaneously
I should always sow seeds of great virtue
In the fields of holy beings and living beings.” (p.60)

PTG: “Always fired by highest aspiration,
Laboring to implement the antidotes,
You will gather virtues in the fields
Of qualities, of benefits, of sorrow.” (p. 73)

Stephen Batchelor: “Always being motivated by great aspiration,
Or being motivated by the remedial forces,
If I work in the fields of excellence, benefit and misery,
Great virtues will come about.” (p.47)

GKG: “Whenever we think to engage in a particular practice we should first contemplate its benefits and thereby develop a strong aspiration for what we are about to do… Shantideva now mentions three groups of objects to which our virtuous activities can be directed. These he refers to as the ‘field of excellence,’ the ‘field of benefit’ and the ‘field of suffering.’” (pp. 203-204)

Verses 88-91: These verses make one wonder if Elliott is reading the same text as everyone else, including his own teacher!

Tharpa: “I should listen to Dharma
With respect and a good heart,
Recognizing it as the supreme medicine
For curing the pains of anger and attachment.

“I should teach the vast and profound Dharma with a pure intention
Free from any wish to acquire wealth or reputation;
And I should always maintain a pure motivation of bodhicitta
And make great effort to put Dharma in practice.

“I should explain Dharma to release those who are listening
From samsara, the cycle of suffering,
And to lead them to the ultimate goal—
The attainment of full enlightenment.

I should keep places clean and not throw litter
But dispose of it correctly.
Moreover, I should not defile
Water or land used by others.” (p. 61)

PTG (consonant with others) translate as follows:

PTG: “Do not teach to those without respect
To those who like the sick wear cloths around their heads,
To those who proudly carry weapons, staffs or parasols,
And those who keep their hats upon their heads.
Do not teach the vast and deep to those
Upon the lower paths, nor, as a monk,
To women unescorted. Teach with equal honor
Low and high according to their path.

Those suited to the teachings vast and deep,
Should not be introduced to lesser paths.
But basic practice you should not forsake,
Confused by talk of sutras and of mantras.

Your spittle and your toothbrushes,
When thrown away, should be concealed.
And it is wrong to foul with urine
Public thoroughfares and water springs.” (pp. 74-75)

GKG: “[88] Dharma should never be taught to someone who lacks respect either for us or for Dharma itself. Teaching such a person will not benefit him or her and will only create downfalls, or obstacles, for ourself… Shantideva next gives a detailed account of the circumstances in which it is improper to teach Dharma. Because teaching should only be given to those who have the proper attitude we should never teach anyone whose dress, manner or bearing demonstrates disrespect. This would include those who cover their heads though they are not sick, those who have not put down their umbrellas…

“[89] When trying to discriminate between proper and improper teaching situations we should take into account the general expectations and preconceptions of the society in which we live. For example, in many societies it is considered shameful for a man to remain alone with an unaccompanied woman unless that woman is somehow related to him. In such societies, therefore, it would bring great disrespect to Dharma for a male teacher to give Dharma to an unaccompanied woman… As far as the contents of our teachings are concerned, we should try to determine the capacity and inclination of our listener’s mind. If a student has a small disposition, we should not force the profound and vast teachings of Mahayana upon him… [90] we should not lead someone into the Hinayana path if he or she has a strong desire to receive Mahayana teachings. And, of course, under no condition should we ever forsake the Bodhisattva way of life…

[91] It is also important to observe good hygiene. We should not spit wherever we like, or throw our cleaning implements, such as the sticks used in India for cleaning teeth, on the ground without covering them up. Neither should we defecate or urinate on the banks of rivers, near water or in any place frequented by others. (pp. 209-210)

Chapter Six

Verse 32:

Tharpa: “If all things were like illusions, who would restrain what?
Surely any restraint would be inappropriate.”
On the contrary, it is precisely because things lack inherent existence
That it is possible to assert the continuum of suffering can be cut.” (p.74)

PTG: “Resistance,” you may say, “is out of place,
For what will be opposed by whom?”
The stream of suffering is cut through by patience;
There’s nothing inappropriate in wanting that!” (p. 82)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: Sanskrit: “[Qualm] ‘Averting anger is inappropriate, for who averts what?’
“[Response] That is appropriate, because it is a state of Dependent Origination and is considered to be the cessation of suffering.”
Tibetan: “[Qualm] ‘What counteracts what? Isn’t even the counteracting inappropriate?’
[Response] ‘There is nothing inappropriate in asserting that miseries are brought to an end in dependence on that.’” (p. 65)

Stephen Batchelor: “–(If everything is unreal like an apparition) then who is there to restrain what (anger)?
Surely (in this case), restraint would be inappropriate—
It would not be inappropriate, because (conventionally) I must maintain
That in dependence upon restraining (anger) the stream of suffering is severed.” (p.58)

GKG: “It might be argued that if everything is like an illusion, who is there who should restrain what anger? Surely all such restraint would be inappropriate in a world of illusions. But this objection is not correct. Although all things are like illusions in that they lack self-existence, suffering is still experienced. Severing this stream of suffering depends upon the efforts we exert in restraining such delusions as our anger. Although things lack independent existence—in fact, because they lack independent existence—cause and effect operate to bring suffering results from non-virtuous actions and beneficial results from virtuous ones. “(p233)

Verse 84: In this verse, Elliott has translated a meaning markedly different from other translators and his own teacher.

Tharpa: “People become angry when someone benefits their enemy,
But whether their enemy receives benefit or not,
It is the enemy’s own anger that urges him to attack;
So it is that anger which is to blame, not the benefactor.” (p. 83)

PTG:  “If someone else receives a gift,
Or that gift stays in the benefactor’s house,
In neither case will it be yours—
So given or withheld, why is it your concern? (p. 90)

GKG: “[84] Suppose someone gives our rival some money. The jealousy and unhappiness we feel about this will not do anything to change the situation. Whether that person gives money to our rival or not, there is no way in which we are going to receive that money. So why should we be jealous?” (p. 247)

Verse 87: Here, Elliott gives a nice verse, but it is doubtful that it is what Shantideva wrote!

Tharpa: “The thought that wishes for our enemy to suffer
Harms only us, through creating non-virtue.
Understanding this, we should not develop harmful thoughts
Toward anyone, including our enemy.” (p. 83)

PTG: “If unhappiness befalls your enemy,
Why should this be a cause for rejoicing?
The wishes of your mind alone,
Will not in fact contrive his injury.” (p. 90)

GKG: “[87] There is no reason to be happy and joyful when our enemy meets with suffering. How does such a jealous reaction hurt our enemy or benefit ourselves?” (p. 247)

Verse 90-91: Elliott is consonant with others in Verse 90, but then construes his own conclusion to that verse, which differs from other interpretations, including that of his own teacher.

Tharpa: “Praise, fame and good reputation
Will not increase my merit or extend my life,
Nor will they give me strength, freedom from illness,
Or any form of physical pleasure.

Transient pleasures, such as drinking and playing meaningless games,
Are deceptive.
If I understand the real meaning of a human life,
Such things will have no value for me.” (p. 84)

PTG: “The rigmarole of praise and fame
Serves not to increase merit or one’s span of life,
Bestowing neither health nor strength
And nothing for the body’s ease.

If I am wise in what is good for me,
I’ll ask what benefit these bring.
If it’s entertainment I desire,
I might as well resort to alcohol and cards!” (p. 91)

Stephen Batchelor: “The honor of praise and fame
Will not turn into merit or life;
It will give me neither strength nor freedom from sickness,
And will not provide any physical happiness.
If I were aware of what held meaning for me,

What value would I find in these things?
If all I want is (a little) mental happiness,
I should devote myself to gambling, drinking and so forth.”


GKG: “[90] To answer this doubt we have to examine the value of fame, reputation, praise and the like. How do these benefit us? Will others’ opinions help us to develop our minds, ensure our long life or prevent us from becoming sick?… [91] If our only interest is in obtaining the transient pleasures of a good reputation, wealth and sense gratification, there is no fault in behaving the same heedless way we have always done and continuing to neglect our spiritual training…” (p. 248)

Verse 123: Here, Elliott simply provides his own poetic image, a nice one, but not likely the one that Shantideva intended!

Tharpa: “If we harm a child,
There is no way to please its mother.
In the same way, if we harm any living being,
There is no way to please the compassionate Buddhas.” (p. 89)

PTG: “Just as when a man who’s tortured in a fire,
Remains unmoved by little favors done to him,
There’s no way to delight the great compassionate buddhas,
While we ourselves are causes of another’s pain.” (p. 95)

GKG: “[123] someone who is ablaze with fire finds no pleasure in receiving food and delicacies. Similarly, if we harm sentient beings and then offer elaborate gifts to the compassionate Buddha, these offerings will never please him.” (p. 254)

Chapter Seven

Verse 20: Once again, Elliott seems to miss Shantideva’s essential point.

Tharpa: “Some people might be discouraged out of fear
Of having to sacrifice their flesh,
But this is due to not understanding
What we should give, or when.” (p. 98)

PTG: “’That I must give away my life and limbs
Alarms and frightens me’—if so you say,
Your terror is misplaced. Confused,
You fail to see what’s hard and what is easy.” (p. 101)

GKG: “[20] When we hear about the great sacrifices that the great Bodhisattvas in the past have made while traveling the path we may become discouraged. The thought of giving up our flesh as they did fills us with great fear and we do not even want to contemplate such a ghastly experience. This fear, however, only arises because we are unable to discriminate between great and small suffering.” (p. 269)

Chapter Eight:

Verse 21: Here, Elliott has provided his own simile, with a meaning not consonant with any other translator or his own teacher. Unfortunately, according to my teachers, this verse is an important one, with an important meaning.

Tharpa: “Why am I unhappy when someone criticizes me
And happy when I am praised?
Both criticism and praise are just empty words,
Like echoes in an empty cave.” (p. 116)

PTG: “Why should I be pleased when people praise me?
Others there will be who scorn and criticize.
And why despondent when I’m blamed,
Since there will be others who think well of me?” (p. 113)

Stephen Batchelor: “If there is someone who despises me,
What pleasure can I have in being praised?
And if there is another who praises me,
What displeasure can I have in being despised?” (p. 92)

GKG: “Moreover, [21] there will always be some people who praise us and others who will despise us. So what pleasure can there be in being praised, and what displeasure from being despised?” (p. 296)

Verse 43: The setting for this verse is a traditional Indian wedding—Elliott appears to provide his own commentary instead of translating the actual scene as described by other translators.

Tharpa: “When we are very attached to someone
We want to see their face again and again;
But whether we see their face or not,
The real face always remains covered with skin.” (p. 120)

PTG:  “Oh what pains you went through just to draw the veil,
And lift the face that modestly looked down.
That face which, looked upon or not,
Was always carefully concealed.” (p. 116)

GKG: “[43] In ancient India, whenever a man encountered a woman, her face was hidden by a veil. Even at the marriage ceremony, her face would be covered and she would be very bashful….” (p. 305)

Verse 44: Elliott once again misses the meaning completely, once again missing the setting of a charnel ground.

Tharpa: “If we were to remove that skin,
We would realize that they are not an object of desire
But an object of aversion;
So why do we develop attachment for others’ bodies?” (p. 120)

PTG: “That face for which you languished so…
Well, here it is, now nakedly exposed.
The crows have done their work for you to see
What’s this? You run away so soon?” (p. 116)

GKG: “If this unveiling of a woman’s face can have such a magnetic effect on a man, [44] why is he not similarly attracted when, after death, her face is uncovered by vultures? Why does he not want to copulate with her then? Her body is still there but the man only wants to run away from it.” (p. 305).

Verse 45: And Elliott continues to miss the charnel ground setting in the following verses.

Tharpa: “Although we jealously guard our lover from others’ advances,
The Lord of Death will take him from us
And his body will be burned or buried in the ground;
So what is the point of our jealousy and attachment?” (p. 120)

PTG: “That body that you guarded jealously
And shielded from the eyes of other men,
What, miser that you are, you don’t protect it,
Now that it’s the food of graveyard birds?” (p. 116)

Stephen Batchelor: “(Previously) I completely protected (her body)
When others cast their eyes upon it.
Why, miser, do you not protect it now,
While it is being devoured by these birds?” (p. 96)

GKG: “[45] Lecherous men cherish a woman’s body so much that if another man were merely to look at her, great jealousy would arise. If this is the case, why do we not protect her when the vultures are tearing her to pieces with their beaks?..” (p. 306).

Verse 46: Once again, Elliott misses the charnel ground setting.

Tharpa: “Others’ bodies to which we are very attached
Are just collections of flesh and bone.
At any moment, they could be destroyed by the Lord of Death;
So why develop attachment to them?” (p. 120)

PTG: “Look, this mass of human flesh,
Soon to be the fare of carrion beasts,
You deck with flowers, sandalwood, and jewels,
And yet it is the provender of others!” (p. 116)

Stephen Batchelor: “Since vultures and others are eating
This pile of meat that I behold,
Why did I offer flower garlands, sandalwood and ornaments
To that which is now the food of others?” (p. 96)

GKG: “[46] Why go to the trouble of offering flower garlands, sandalwood and ornaments of gold and silver to something that will shortly be devoured by others?” (p. 306).

Verse 48: Because Elliott has missed the context of the wedding and the charnel ground, his translation here is rendered meaningless.

Tharpa: “Since both dead bodies and living bodies
Are mere collections of flesh and bone,
Why am I attracted to living bodies but not to dead ones?
Thinking in this way, I should stop attachment to others’ bodies.” (p. 121)

PTG: “You loved them once, when clothed and draped they were.
Well, now they’re naked, why do you not want them?
Ah, you say, your lust is no more there,
But why did you embrace them, all bedecked and covered?” (p.117)

GKG: [48] It is also strange that we are attached to her body when it is covered with skin and clothed, but repulsed by it when it lies exposed on the charnel ground.” (p. 306)

Verse 49: Here, it seems that Elliott has translated a word meaning “excrement” to mean “urine.” Also, he translates “food” to mean “fluids.”

Tharpa: “Both saliva and urine come from the same source—
The intake of fluids into the body—
So why is it that we like saliva when kissing
But have no desire for urine?” (p. 121)

PTG: “From food, a single source, come equally
Their body’s filth, the honey-nectar of their mouths.
So why are you delighted by saliva,
And yet revolted by excrement?” (p. 117)

Stephen Batchelor: “Since both excrement and saliva
Arise solely from food,
Why do I dislike excrement
And find joy in saliva?” (p. 49)

GKG: “[49] When we kiss a woman we drink the saliva from her mouth. Why is it that we like this spit that arises solely from the food she has eaten but not her urine and excrement, which arise from the same source?” (p. 306)

Verse 51: Here, Elliott simply misses the meaning.
Tharpa: “Just as we sometimes get angry at other people,
Why don’t we also get angry at pillows?
For although they too are soft to touch,
We cannot copulate with them!” (p. 121)

PTG: “Lustful ones, befuddled by desire,
Because you cannot copulate with them,
You angrily find fault with pillows,
Even though they’re smooth and soft to touch!” (p. 117)

Stephen Batchelor: “Thinking that they cannot sleep with this cotton,
Although it is soft to the touch,
Confused, negative and lustful people
Become angry towards it instead.” (p. 97)

GKG: “[51] But we are so confused that we cannot tell the difference between what is clean and what is unclean. If we find our pillow uncomfortable one night we are liable to get angry with it, but we never become upset with the discomfort of sleeping next to the impure body of a woman.” (p. 306)

Verse 58: Once again, Elliott does not translate excrement as do other translators.

Tharpa: “If you do not want to touch a place
Covered with impurities such as vomit…” (p. 122)

PTG: “And since you’re disinclined to touch
A place or object grimed with excrement…” (p.118)

Stephen Batchelor: “Since I do not wish to touch
A place that is smeared with excrement…” (p. 98)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If you do not desire to touch soil and the like because it is smeared with excrement…” (p. 96)

GKG: “If you do not want to touch a place that has been defiled by excrement or vomit….” (p. 307)

Verse 69: Elliott translates the last line in this verse with a meaning different from other translations and his own teacher.

Tharpa: “Putting so much effort into beautifying it
Is just like polishing a sword that will be used to harm you.
It seems the whole world is pervaded by this madness
Because people believe beauty is only external.” (p. 124)

PTG: “Why go to such excess to clean and polish
What is but a weapon that will injure us?
The cares that people squander on themselves in ignorance
Convulse the universe with madness.” (p. 120)

Alan & Vesna Wallace: “Why do you meticulously polish it like a weapon for suicide? The earth is crowded with insane people, diligent in deluding themselves.” (p. 97)

GKG: “[69] this is like polishing and sharpening a weapon that will eventually kill us. There is no reason to engage in activities that will do nothing but harm us, yet this is precisely what people all over the world are constantly doing. They are deeply confused about what is virtuous and non-virtuous, what is clean and unclean.” (p. 309)

Verse 71:

Tharpa: “Furthermore, we do not come to enjoy others’ bodies
Without acquiring material possessions.
We exhaust ourself in non-virtuous activity to gather these
Only to experience suffering in this life and the lower realms
In the next.

PTG:  What’s more, possession of another’s filth
Is not to be acquired free of charge
All is at a price: exhaustion in this life,
And in the next, the sufferings of hell!

GKG: “[71] Furthermore, its basically impure nature is not the only disadvantage of the desirable body of others. We should realize that in order to engage in the sexual act, we tie ourselves ever tighter to the unsatisfactory aspect of samsara. As stated before, we forfeit our wealth, act non-virtuously and work with great difficulty merely to possess the object of our desire. Because of all this we encounter many problems during this lifetime and create the cause to descend to the lower realms where we shall experience even more suffering.” (p. 309)

Verses 97-98: Once again, Elliott misses the meaning—completely in both verses.  I have intentionally highlighted the “not” in Verse 98 and the “is” in GKG’s commentary to show the discrepancy.

Tharpa: “But why should I protect others
If their suffering does me no harm?
If we cherish only others, we find their suffering hard to bear;
So we definitely need to protect them.

It is not a wrong conception to think
That it will be I who experience the future suffering,
Because it will not be another person who dies
And yet another who is reborn.” (p. 129)

PTG:  “Since pains of others do no harm to me
What reason do I have to shield myself?
But why to guard against “my” future pain which
Does no harm to this, my present “me”?

To think that “I will have to suffer it”
In fact is but a false conception—
In the present moment, “I” will perish;
At another time, another will be born.” (p. 124)

GKG: “ As I said before, there is no reason for me to protect others from their misery. It causes me no harm. Then why do we work to eliminate the sicknesses of old age coming in the future or even the discomforts of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow? These future sufferings will do us no harm today. But if such misery is not prevented now I shall experience it in the future. This is a misconception. The self of this life will not experience the suffering of future lives.” (p.335).

Verse 100: Once again, Elliott’s meaning is different from others.

Tharpa: “We alleviate the suffering of the foot with the hand
Because it is a specific method to relieve this pain.
It is also incorrect to grasp at an independent self and others—
Such grasping should be completely abandoned.” (p.129)

PTG: “’This may be irrational,’ you’ll say.
‘It happens simply through the force of ego clinging.’
But that which is illogical for both of us
Should be refuted and dispensed with utterly!” (p. 124)

Stephen Batchelor: “—Although this may not be justified
It is done because of grasping at a self—
Yet surely whatever is not justified for myself or others
Should at all costs be rejected.” (p. 105)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If one argues that even though it is inappropriate, it happens because of grasping onto a self, our response is: With all one’s might, one should avoid that which is inappropriate, whether it belongs to oneself or to another.” (p. 102)

GKG: “[100] It is inappropriate to relieve the suffering of our foot and of our future lives because we grasp on to these as ‘my foot’s suffering’ and ‘my future life’s suffering.’

It is completely unjustified to cling to the independent existence of the self and the independent existence of others. It is important to stop this grasping at independent existence because this has been the root cause of our floundering in the swamp of samsaric suffering since beginningless time.” (p. 336)

Verse 118:

Tharpa: “Out of his great compassion,
Arya Avalokiteshvara even blessed his own name
To relieve living beings from the fear of self-cherishing;
So I should recite his name mantra to receive his blessings.” (p. 132)

PTG: “This is why the Lord Avalokita
Out of great compassion blessed his name,
That those caught in the midst of multitudes
Might be released and freed from every fear.” (p. 127)

Vesna & Alan Wallace (Sanskrit): “Therefore the protector Avalokita empowered his own name to remove even one’s fear arising from timidity in front of an audience.” (p. 104)

GKG: “[118] The superior bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, out of his great compassion, sought to alleviate peoples’ fears by blessing his own name. He proclaimed, ‘If frightened sentient beings recite my name three times they will be free from all their fears…’” (p. 343)

Verse 181: Once again, Elliott misses the charnel ground analogy.

Tharpa: “Whether I care for it in the way that I do
Or allow it to be harmed by others,
The body itself develops neither attachment nor anger;
So why do I feel so attached to it?” (p. 143)

PTG: “Whether I protect and pamper it,
Or whether it is torn by beaks of carrion birds,
This body feels no pleasure, no aversion—
Why then do I cherish it so much?” (p. 136)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “Whether it is nurtured by me or eaten by vultures, it feels neither affection nor aversion, so why am I fond of it?” (p. 112)

GKG: “[181] Although we spend a lifetime caring for this body and guarding it strongly, in due time, it will be eaten by vultures.” (p. 361)

Chapter Nine

Verse 8: GKG’s commentary clearly comments on the PTG translation and not Elliott’s.

Tharpa: “No, there is no fault, because things exist by conventional, valid cognizers.
From the point of view of worldly people, seeing things is seeing reality;
But worldly people never actually see reality
Because the real nature of things is their emptiness.” (p. 149)

PTG: “Then know that there’s no fault. For momentariness
Is relative for meditators, but for the worldly, absolute.
Were it otherwise, the common view
Could fault our certain insight into corporal impurity.” (p. 138)

GKG: [8] Thus there is no contradiction between the Yogis’ understanding and our statement that things exist merely conventionally… In the world, the body is regarded as something pure and clean but in reality it is not. If it were, then the view of the worldly people would harm the Yogi’s realization that the nature of the bodies of ordinary men and women is impure.” (p. 381)

Verses 41 – 44 in the Tharpa translation are clumped together and so it is not certain exactly which verse is which. However, the GKG commentary follows the translation by PTG, up until Verse 43—and follows Stephen Batchelor’s translation up until verse 44. The overall meaning of Elliott’s translation of those verses misses the point. I have done my best to demonstrate this.

Verse 41:

Tharpa: “‘Because we do not believe in the Mahayana, your
Quoting from Mahayana scriptures is pointless.’
We both believe that the Hinayana scriptures are valid;
So you should apply your reasons for believing the Hinayana equally to the Mahayana.
Thus we understand that both are the holy Dharma taught by Buddha
Himself.” (p. 156)

PTG: “You say the Mahayana has no certainty.
But how do you substantiate your own tradition?
‘Because it is accepted by both parties,’ you will say.
But at the outset, you yourself lacked proof!” (p. 143)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “[Hinayanist:] The Madyamaka is certainly not authenticated.
[Madyamaka:] How is your scripture authenticated?
[Hinayanist:] Because it is authenticated by both of us.
[Madyamaka:] Then it is not authenticated by you from the beginning.” (p. 120)

GKG: “Hinayanist: The citations you are using to establish your point are from the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, which are Mahayana texts. [41] But we do not except that the Mahayana scriptures are the word of Buddha, so it is of no avail to try to prove your points on the basis of their authority…”

Prasangika: For that matter, how are your own scriptures established as the word of Buddha?

Hinayanist: Our Sutras are clearly the word of Buddha because both of us accept them as such.

Prasangika: Nevertheless, those Sutras were not established as the word of Buddha for you before you accepted the validity of your tradition.” (p. 397)

Verse 42: Here, it almost seems to me as if Elliott is providing his own commentary, missing Shantideva’s point completely.

Tharpa: “Because they do not understand its profundity,
The Vaibashika schools deny the Mahayana;
And because they do not believe in nirvana,
Some non-Buddhist schools deny the Hinayana.” (p. 156)

PTG: “The reasons why you trust in your tradition
May likewise be applied to Mahayana.
Moreover, if accord between two parties shows the truth,
The Vedas and rest are also true.” (p. 143)

GKG: “[42] These reasons are equally able to establish the Mahayana Sutras as the word of Buddha. Also, just because two people accept something as true, this is no real proof. If it were, then since many people believe the Vedic scriptures to be true, it would follow that they are true.” (p. 397)

Verses 43-44:

Tharpa: “Buddha’s purpose in teaching both the Mahayana and the Hinayana
Was to lead living beings to permanent liberation from the cycle of Suffering.
Focusing on this ultimate aim, practitioners of both the Mahayana and the Hinayana
Emphasize the three higher trainings of moral discipline, concentration and Wisdom.” (p. 156)

PTG: “’Mahayana is at fault,’ you say, ‘because it is contested.’
But by non-Buddhists are your scriptures also questioned,
While other Buddhist schools impugn and spurn them.
Therefore, your tradition you must now abandon.”

“The true monk is the very root of Dharma,
But difficult it is to be a monk indeed.
And hard it is for minds enmeshed in thoughts
To pass beyond the bonds of suffering.” (p. 143)

Stephen Batchelor: “Vaibhashika: (43) The Mahayana scriptures are not credible because they are disputed.

Madyamaka: However, since all your scriptures are disputed by the non-Buddhist and some by other Buddhist schools, you should reject your own scriptures, too. (44) You accept any teachings which can be classified into the three scriptural categories (Tripitaka) as the word of the Buddha, according to whether it discusses the higher training of moral discipline, concentration or wisdom. If this is so, since these three trainings are taught in most Mahayana scriptures, such as the ‘Samdhinirmochana Sutra,’ they are therefore similar to your scriptures. Why then do you not accept them as the word of the Buddha?” (p. 131)

GKG: “Hinayanist: [43] There is much dispute about the Mahayana scriptures; thus their credibility is put into question.

Prasangika: The Hinayana scriptures are greatly disputed by the followers of the non-Buddhist schools yet you do not question their credibility… Therefore if you can reject the validity of the Mahayana Sutras on the grounds that they are under dispute, you should equally reject the validity of your own scriptures.

[44] For you the criterion for a sutra being considered as the word of the Buddha is if it can be included within the Tripitaka: the three sets of scripture. Most of the Mahayana Sutras teach all of the three higher trainings; therefore they too can be included in the Tripitaka. If you accept the teachings of the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma as the word of Buddha, why do you not accept the teachings of the second and third turnings as well?” (p. 397)

Verse 47:

Tharpa: “The principle holders of Buddhadharma were said to be those who have
Attained Nirvana, the Arhats;
But the Arhats that you proponents of things assert
Cannot be real Arhats because, according to your view,
Their minds still grasp at truly existent things.” (p. 157)

PTG: (as in verse 44): “The true monk is the very root of Dharma
But difficult it is to be a monk indeed.
And hard it is for minds enmeshed in thoughts
To pass beyond the bonds of suffering.” (p. 143)

GKG: “[47] After Buddha’s passing away, the monk Arhats were those who upheld and were responsible for the propagation of the Buddha’s teachings. They became like the root of the teachings. However if, as you maintain, they had not understood that all phenomena are devoid of true existence, it would be extremely difficult to maintain that they were actual Arhats. It is impossible for there to be an Arhat, a being liberated from samsara, who still clings to true existence.” (p. 398)

Verse 65: Elliott renders a different meaning here to other translators, as well as his own teacher.

Tharpa: “’It’s like an actor changing roles and being seen in different aspects.’
Well, if the I changes in this way, it cannot be permanent!
Although the aspects change, its nature remains one and the same.’
But you cannot establish an unchangeable nature of the I, because you
Deny the ultimate nature of I, the lack of a truly existent I.” (p. 161)

PTG: “’But like an actor,’ you will say, ‘it takes on different roles.’
If so, this consciousness is not a changeless thing.
‘It’s one thing,’ you will say, ‘with different modes.’
That’s unity indeed and never seen before!” (p. 146)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If it is the same thing taking another guise, like an actor, he too is not permanent. If he has different natures, then this unity of his is unprecedented.” (p. 123)

GKG: “Samkya: [65] The self is like an actor who is constantly forsaking one role and assuming another. When the conscious self apprehends visual form, it ceases to apprehend sound.

Prasangika: In that case, it would follow that the self is impermanent because, just like an actor, it changes its role and aspect.”

Samkya: There is no mistake because although the aspects change its nature remains one and the same. Hence, the apprehender of sound has the same nature as the apprehender of visual form.

Prasangika: So you assert that two unrelated phenomena—the apprehenders of sound and of visual form—can be of one nature. But such a proposition has never been heard of before.” (p. 410)

Verse 125: Elliott’s translation here definitely lacks the clarity of the other translations.

Tharpa: “If effects such as suffering are produced without Ishvara’s wishing for them,
It follows that they are produced through the power of something other than him.
You say that all effects are produced according to Ishvara’s wishes,
But those wishes have no power to produce all things, so how can Ishvara
Be the creator of everything?” (p. 174)

PTG: “If Almighty God does not intend,
But yet creates, another thing has forced him.
If he wishes to create, he’s swayed by his desire.
Even though Creator, then, what comes of his Omnipotence?” (p. 155)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If Ishvara creates without desiring to do so, it would follow that he is dependent on something other than himself. Even if he desires to create, he is dependent on that desire. Whence is the supremacy of that creator?” (p.130).

GKG: [125] The god Ishvara can have no wish to produce the effect of suffering; this is something produced by our own actions. But if this is so you can no longer maintain that Ishvara is the creator of all possible effects. Alternatively, you would have to maintain that he is responsible for the unsought sufferings of the beings he created.

“Moreover, if all effects were wished for by Ishvara, it would follow that creation depends upon the wishes of Ishvara. These wishes are impermanent whereas Ishvara is permanent; now it seems that creation is not produced by the permanent Ishvara but by impermanent wishes. Therefore, how can you say that Ishvara is the cause of everything?” (p. 439)


(10 verses)

Chapter 5, Verse 77: PTG and Stephen Batchelor interpret this verse to be in reference to finding happiness in rejoicing over the good qualities of others, whereas both Elliott and GKG simply see it as acting for others’ happiness. Given the context of the verses preceding it, I would expect that PTG and Batchelor’s meanings were more likely correct.

Tharpa: “I should perform all actions for others’ happiness.
This good quality is precious and rare,
And through it, I shall enjoy the pure happiness and joy
That arises from actions that benefit others. (p.59)

PTG: ‘The goal of every act is happiness itself,
Though even with great wealth, it’s rarely found.
So take your pleasure in the qualities of others.
Let them be a heartfelt joy to you.” (p.73)

Stephen Batchelor: “All deeds (of others) are the source of a joy
That would be rare even if it could be bought with money.
Therefore, I should be happy in finding this joy
In the good things that are done by others.” (p. 46)

GKG: “In brief, we should let all our actions of body, speech and mind be directed towards the happiness of others. Such beneficial conduct is rarely found in the world…” (p. 202)

Chapter 6, Verse 4:

Tharpa: “Overcome by a fit of anger,
I might even kill a benefactor
Upon whose kindness I depend
For my wealth or reputation.” (p.69)

PTG: “Noble chieftans full of hate
Will be attacked and slain
By even those who look to them
For honors and possessions. (p.78)

Stephen Batchelor: “A master who has hatred
Is in danger of being killed
Even by those who, for their wealth and happiness,
Depend upon the master’s kindness.” (p. 53)

GKG: “[4] Wishing to retaliate against those who have harmed us, we expose ourselves to great physical danger merely to exact our petty revenge. .. Sometimes this blind rage is even directed at our loved ones and benefactors.” (p. 217)

Chapter 7, Verse 13: Here, the difference of interpretation has to do with the question of whether someone is dying and “crying out like the gods” or whether we wish to “remain like a long-life god while living in the jaws of death.”

Tharpa: “I wish for higher attainments without having to make any effort,
Permanent freedom without having patiently to endure any pain,
And to remain like a long-life god while living in the jaws of death.
How foolish I am! When death comes, I shall be overwhelmed by suffering!” (p. 97)

PTG: “Much harm will come to those with small forbearance,
Who wish to have the fruit without endeavor.
Seized by death, they’ll cry out like the gods:
‘Alas I fall, by pain and sorrow crushed.’” (p. 100)

Stephen Batchelor: “Much harm befalls those with little forbearance
And those who want results without making any effort.
While clasped by death, they shall cry like the gods,
‘Oh no, I am overcome by misery.’” (p. 78)

GKG: “[13] We want to gain swift enlightenment without having to apply any effort, and we want to be happy without having to create virtuous causes. Furthermore, unwilling to endure the slightest discomfort we wish to vanquish all suffering, and while living in the mouth of the Lord of Death we wish to remain like a long-life god…” (p. 266)

Chapter 7, Verse 38: Here, the difference is between whether I have only accomplished my own discomfort in my mother’s womb—or her discomfort.

Tharpa: “Do I give help to those in danger?
Or relief to those who are suffering?
No! All I have done is experience the discomforts
Of being in my mother’s womb, and all the subsequent sufferings.” (p. 101)

PTG: “The frightened I have not encouraged
And to the weary I have given no rest,
My mother’s birth pangs and her womb’s discomfort,
These alone are my accomplishments!” (p. 103)

Stephen Batchelor: “I have not granted fearlessness to the frightened
And I have not given happiness to the weak.
All I have given rise to is
The agonies in the mother’s womb and to suffering.” (p. 82)

Vesna & B. Alan Wallace: “I have not granted fearlessness to the frightened, nor have
I comforted the distressed. I became a spear in the womb just for my mother to suffer.” (p. 81)

Kate Crosby & Andrew Skilton: “I have not given fearlessness to the fearful, nor have
I comforted the afflicted. I became a barb in the womb solely to my mother’s suffering.” (p. 70)

GKG: “[37-38]…Have I granted fearlessness to people who are frightened by those in authority, robbers, adversaries, wild animals and so forth? Have I confessed all my non-virtues and accumulated a wealth of virtue? No I have done none of these things.

“We should take a good look at how our life has been spent. Since the agonies of our birth we have encountered the sufferings of sickness, ageing, not getting what we want and receiving what we do not want.” (p. 274)

Chapter 8, Verse 60: Did Shantideva himself actually write “thirty-six different kinds of impurity”?

Tharpa: “You have no desire for the body of an insect, however small,
That emerges from a pile of dung;
So why do you desire a gross, impure body
That is produced from thirty-six impure substances?” (p. 123)

PTG: “The fetid worms that live in filth—
You have no love for them, even little ones.
And yet you’re lusting for a human form,
From filth arisen, and replete with it!” (p. 119)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “You do not desire a dirty worm originating from filth because it is small, but you desire a body that consists of much filth and is also born from filth.” (p. 96)

Stephen Batchelor: “I have no wish for a small, dirty maggot
That has come from a pile of filth,
So why do I desire this body, which by nature is grossly unclean,
For it too was produced by filth?” (p. 99)

GKG: “[60] Not even a particle of desire arises in us for the small insect that arises from a pile of dung. Why then are we so attached to a body, made up of thirty-six different kinds of impurity?” (p. 307-308)

Chapter 8, Verse 104:

Tharpa: “But such compassion will bring me suffering
So why should I strive to develop it?
How can compassion bring suffering?
It is the very nature of a peaceful mind!” (p. 130)

PTG: “’The sorrow felt in pity aggravates,’ you say
‘The pain already felt. So why engender it?’
But can the sting of pity be compared
With all that other beings have to suffer?” (p. 125)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “[Qualm]: Much suffering comes from compassion, so why should one force it to arise?

[Response]: After seeing the suffering of the world, how can this suffering from compassion be considered great?” (p. 102)

GKG: “[104-105] It is too much of a burden to cherish others as we do ourself. These others have limitless suffering. Why should I want to take on more suffering than I already have? If a bodhisattva had to experience more suffering in the course of helping other sentient beings overcome their misery, he or she would gladly endure it… But do not be concerned that such a being will have more suffering from his practices. When he sees someone in misery, his own great compassion protects him from experiencing any problems or suffering…” (p. 337)

Chapter 8, Verse 152: This is a clear difference of interpretation. Whose hair pores are tingling? In this verse, it seems that the entire purpose of this particular visualization practice has been missed by GKG and Elliott.

Tharpa: “When others hear of my good qualities
As they are proclaimed to the world
May they experience so much delight
That their hair pores tingle with excitement.” (p. 138)

PTG: “Just to hear them talk about my qualities,
My reputation on the lips of all,
The thrill of it sends shivers down my spine,
The pleasure that I bask and revel in!” (p. 131)

Vesna & Alan Wallace (Sanskrit): “Hearing my own good qualities being praised everywhere in this way, thrilled, with my hair standing on end, I shall enjoy the delight of happiness.” (p. 108)

GKG: “… May my superior qualities and realizations be known to all beings and, as a result, may they develop such bliss that their hair pores tingle with delight!…” (p. 355)

Chapter 9, Verse 3: GKG and Elliott later run into trouble with their interpretation of this verse.

Tharpa: “Of those who assert the two truths, two types of person can be distinguished:
Madyamika-Prasangika yogis and proponents of things.
The views held by the proponents of things, who assert that things are truly existent
Are refuted by the logical reasonings of the Prasangika Yogis.” (p. 148)

PTG: “Two kinds of people are to be distinguished:
Meditative thinkers and ordinary folk;
The common views of ordinary people
Are superseded by the views of meditators.” (p. 137)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “In light of this, people are seen to be of two types: the contemplative and the ordinary person. The ordinary folks are superseded by the contemplative.” (p. 116)

GKG: “The views of the common Yogis who assert that all things are inherently existent are refuted by the logical reasonings presented by the Yogis who hold the Prasangika viewpoint, such as Shantideva.” (p. 370)

Chapter 9, Verse 4: GKG demonstrates the trouble with his and Elliott’s interpretation. In one line he interprets this verse as referring to the many levels of insight of the Prasangika. In the next line, he says that Shantideva’s purpose in mentioning the different levels of understanding of yogis is to point out that “the Prasangika the he represents is superior to and cannot be contradicted by any of the other philosophical schools.” It seems he is contradicting himself and would have done better to have interpreted both verses as did PTG.

Tharpa: “Moreover, among the Prasangika Yogis, there are different levels of insight-
Those with greater understanding surpassing those with lesser understanding.
All establish their view through valid, analytical reasons.
Giving and so forth are practiced without investigation for the sake of achieving resultant Buddhahood.” (p. 148)

PTG:  “And within the ranks of meditators,
The lower, in degrees of insight, are confuted by the higher.
For all employ the same comparisons,
And the goal, if left unanalyzed, they all accept.” (p. 137)

GKG: “[4] Furthermore, yogis holding the Prasangika view include those with many levels of insight; therefore, those with higher levels of understanding surpass and go beyond those with lesser degrees of realization. (It should be noted that a Yogi is someone who has achieved the concentration of the union of tranquil abiding and superior seeing.) But why is it necessary for Shantideva to mention the different levels of understanding of Yogis? He does so in order to point out that the Prasangika that he represents is superior to and cannot be contradicted by any of the other philosophical schools.” (p. 370)

Chapter 9, Verse 49: Because I have a lot of trouble getting my mind around the idea of a “non-deluded confusion”, I’m afraid I prefer the PTG translation, which makes sense to me. I’ll leave this debate up to those wiser than myself!

Tharpa; “The abandonment that Arhats achieve is not temporary.
They definitely do not take rebirth in samsara again.
But just as you say that they have non-deluded confusion,
Why not also say they have non-deluded craving?” (p. 157)

GKG (agrees): “Proponent of things: [49] The abandonment of delusions that we attain through meditating on the sixteen characteristics of the four noble truths is not temporary but final, and it includes the abandonment of all impurities as well. Such Arhats are free from craving, the principle cause for being born in samsara; thus there is no chance of their being born in samsara again.”

Prasangika: For you there are two kinds of confusion: deluded and non-deluded confusion. If you can talk of a non-deluded confusion then why not of a non-deluded craving? Such a craving would then have to be possessed by your so-called Arhats. Although temporarily they may not have the craving derived from grasping at a self-supporting, substantially existent self, they will still have the craving derived from grasping at a truly existent self.” (p. 399)

PTG: (as in Verse 46): “’Only for a while,’ you say. ‘For it is certain
That the cause of rebirth, craving, is exhausted.’
They have no craving, granted, through defiled emotion.
But how could they avoid the craving linked with ignorance?” (p. 143)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: (as in Verse 46): “If you think that as long as there is no craving there is no grasping onto rebirth, why could their craving, even though free of mental afflictions, not exist as delusion?”

Footnote: “The Pranjika p. 208: ‘As the lack of knowledge (ajnana) that is free of mental afflictions.’ The point here is that according to the Abhidharmakosha, there are two types of delusion: afflictive and non-afflictive. Thus, Shantideva is suggesting that there may similarly be both afflictive and non-afflictive craving and that Sravaka Arhats may be subject to non-afflictive craving.” (p. 121)

Stephen Batchelor: “Vaibhashikas: Although they (49) temporarily are not freed from suffering, as soon as they abandon their disturbing conceptions, they will be freed when they leave their bodies because they definitely do not have any craving for the aggregates of body and mind, which is a principle condition for conditioned existence.

Madyamaka: Yet while they still have a form of craving that is a completely undisturbing state of confusion, why would they not take rebirth with aggregates contaminated by actions and disturbing conceptions?

And footnote on the term “completely undisturbing state of confusion” : “Nyon-mongs ma-yin pa’I rmongs-pa According to the Hinayanists, the subtle confusion existent in the mind of an Arhat that distinguishes that state of realization from that of a Buddha.”

Sources Cited

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, 2007, Meaningful to Behold, Tharpa Publications, Glen Spey, N.Y.

Shantideva, (Padmakara Translation Group translator) 2003, The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambhala Publications, Boston, MA.

Shantideva (Neil Elliott translator) 2002, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Tharpa Publications, Glen Spey, NY.

Shantideva (Stephen Batchelor translator) 2010, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, India.

Shantideva (Vesna A Wallace & B. Alan Wallace translators) 1997, A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY.

Kelsang’s monks and nuns protest again, accusing the Dalai Lama of religious persecution and human rights abuses

His Holiness the Dalai Lama just met US President Barack Obama and the American people, while a Western Shugden group launched via the newly founded International Shugden Community (ISC) a PR Campaign to attack him.

Here is some background information about this Shugden group and a response to the group’s Feb. 19, 2014 PRWEB attack, and the subsequent street protests staged in San Francisco by Prof. Robert Thurman – posted with kind permission.

The Background of the Shugden Group

Behind these protests is a controversial UK-based New Religious Movement called the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), founded in 1991 by the Tibetan Kelsang Gyatso. Ex members harmed by the group have founded a self-help support group, New Kadampa Survivors, a group which currently has 1224 members. In recent years, Inform, an independent charity providing information about what many refer to as ‘cults’, sects, New Religious Movements (NRMs), non-conventional religions etc. and which is based at the London School of Economics and was founded by Professor Eileen Barker, received more inquiries about NKT than about Scientology. Indeed the NKT was explicitly mentioned in their leaflet “Extremism on University Campuses”.

It is not the first wave of protests that was initiated and conducted by Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT under the guise of a front organization. It’s already the third world wide media campaign of that group against the Dalai Lama. Unlike the first campaign in  1996-98¹ the last two campaigns (2008-ca. 2013) and the new campaign in 2014 demonstrate a severe inability and a thorough lack of investigation of the international media in their reports about who the protesters are and what their background is. So far I have not seen any newspaper article, TV news or video that provides proper background information about the protesters.


NKT’s first world wide campaign from 1996–98 under the name Shugden Supporters Community (SSC). Here Germany, Berlin 1998

The NKT launched the first campaign against the Dalai Lama – according to NKT’s Newspeak a “ruthless dictator” and “oppressor of religious freedom” – under a front group with the name Shugden Supporters Community (SSC) in 1996-98.¹ In 1998 Kelsang Gyatso wrote in an Open Letter to the Washington Times that “in October 1998 we decided to completely stop being involved in this Shugden issue because we realized that in reality this is a Tibetan political problem and not the problem of Buddhism in general or the NKT. We made our decision public at this time — everyone knows the NKT and myself completely stopped being involved in this Shugden issue at all levels.”

Loud is the noise that ordinary men make. Nobody thinks himself a fool, when divisions arise in the Sangha, nor do they ever value another person higher than themselves. – The Buddha, Mahavagga


Kelsang Pema (Helen Gladwell), personal assistant of Kelsang Gyatso and spokes person of the Western Shugden Society (WSS), speaks to the press

However, some years later he changed his mind and asked (or better pressurized) his students² by writing to them “To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organize demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted. Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need. With much love and prayers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso”. Kelsang Pema, a NKT nun, was at this time his personal assistant. With Kelsang Pema as the spokes person a second campaign was launched under a new front group, the Western Shugden Society (WSS), from 2008–ca.2013.³ The Dalai Lama was depicted by the NKT/WSS/Kelsang Gyatso as a “21st Century Buddhist Dictator”, a “liar”, “the saffron robed Muslim”, a man whose “real nature is cruel and very evil”. Pema was later stripped form power by Kelsang Gyatso due to unexplained reasons.


NKT resident teacher Rebecca Gauthier and spokes person of the International Shugden Community (ISC) speaking to the press in San Francisco

For the campaigning from 2014 onwards the NKT founded again another front group, the International Shugden Community (ISC), whose spokes person is Rebecca Foley / Rebecca Gauthier, NKT Resident Teacher at the Tushita Kadampa Buddhist Centre near Los Angeles and co-author of “The Celibate – Sex. Lies. Salvation.” (She seems to have married Len Foley, the other author of that book.) Len Foley has been mentioned in different press articles as another spokes person of the protesters.

NKT now runs the common PR strategy:

Hundreds of Buddhists⁴ Protest, Accusing the Dalai Lama of Religious Persecution and Human Rights Abuses


NKT resident teacher Gen Kelsang Rabten (left) protesting with other NKT followers under the second front group NKT founded, Western Shugden Society (WSS)
[Image & caption added by blog owner]

Impassioned protests against the Dalai Lama will be staged this week during his speaking engagements in California by the International Shugden Community. Demonstrators are accusing the Dalai Lama of using his political power to ban a mainstream religious practice and create a religious apartheid, segregation, and system of persecution in the Tibetan exile community, including refusal of medical treatment, violent attacks on citizens and making hundreds of monks homeless.

Len Foley, NKT teacher, co-author of “The Celibate – Sex. Lies. Salvation.” and inventor of the “bionic burger” goes in this video even so far as to mention the holocaust (0:57):

With respect to the claims the group makes Tibet scholar Robert Barnett from Columbia University said already to the editors of Time Magazine in the past:

I also made it clear that the Western Shugden group’s allegations are problematic: they are akin to attacking the Pope because some lay Catholics somewhere abuse non-believers or heretics. The Western Shugden Group is severely lacking in credibility, since its form of spirit-worship is heterodox, provocative and highly sectarian in Buddhist terms and so more than likely to be banned from mainstream monasteries – while its claimed concerns about cases of discrimination in India should be addressed by working within the Tibetan community instead of opportunistically attacking the Dalai Lama in order to provoke misinformed publicity for their sect.


A Response by Robert Thurman, President, Tibet House US

Ever since 1997, when, according to detailed Indian police investigations, pseudo- monks who infiltrated to Dharamsala from China murdered the Venerable Lobsang Gyatso, a noted lama close to the Dalai Lama, and his two young disciples, the cult of the Dolgyal-Shugden spirit has been on the attack. The well-evidenced culprits were not tried as they escaped back into Tibet and China, but the cult continued its campaign at the behest of, and with substantial funding from, the United Front department of the People’s Republic of China, the agency handling relations with non-Chinese “minority nationalities.” The futile effort of the cult backed by the agency seeks to alienate Tibetans from the Dalai Lama, their beloved leader and even to turn world public opinion against the acclaimed Nobel Laureate and Gandhi heir. The final aim is to disrupt the Dalai Lama’s fifty-year-long nonviolent “truth and justice” campaign, to free the six million Tibetan people to be themselves in the special autonomous minority region offered them by the Chinese constitution, so far only on paper.

The cult and agency attack campaign is futile since its main claims are so easy to refute:

1) The worship of their chosen deity was not “banned” by the Dalai Lama, since he has no authority to “ban” what Tibetan Buddhists practice. “Banning” and “excommunicating” are not Tibetan Buddhist procedures.

Although they are Buddhists who should focus on emulating the Buddha, members of the cult are free to worship their chosen “protector deity,” whom they call Dorje Shugden, as much as they like. The young Dalai Lama himself did propitiate it as a minor worldly spirit or angel, until he studied the history of its cult and decided it was not a protector at all, but instead a mischievous “king” spirit known as Dolgyal (“king demon from Dol”). Once his historical studies brought him to that conclusion, he recommended that other lamas in his school cease their relationship, or at least keep it to themselves, since its liturgy contains condemnation of the minority sects of Tibetan Buddhism and of non-Buddhist religions. In the late 80s’, when certain individual lamas began to proselytize its cult, inducting even Western practitioners new to Buddhism, especially in England, he took the step of asking such persons to refrain from attending his initiations and associated advanced teachings, on the grounds that they were not following his advice and so should not take him as their teacher. They then went on the attack, claiming they had been “banned” and “excommunicated,” etc., when in fact the Dalai Lama was exercising his religious freedom by not accepting students who reject his advice, and actually go so far as to condemn him!

2) The cult of Dolgyal Shugden is that of a minor angel or demon, and never has been mainstream, To claim that “four million” people belong to it, or even “millions,” is untrue.

3) The members of the cult do not come from numerous Tibetan sects, but exclusively from the super-orthodox fundamentalists of the majority Gelukpa sect or order.

4) The Dalai Lama has never asked anyone to persecute anyone, and members of the cult who mind their own business and do not attack the Dalai Lama are not bothered by other Tibetans. Those who do attack the Dalai Lama with outrageous name-calling—”dictator,” “false lama,” even “demon,” and “liar,” etc., naturally do provoke the vast majority of Tibetans, who adore their Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama himself has never approved of either the provocations or any harsh responses, and remains steadfast in his adherence to nonviolence in principle and practice.

5) The whole fuss would have died down long ago except for the fact that the “hard-line” operatives of the “United Front Work Department” of the People’s Republic of China, the agency in charge of dealing with China’s “minority nationalities,” sees the cult as a potential wedge they hope to drive between the Dalai Lama and his people and between him and world opinion. They therefore fund the leaders of the cult in Tibet, Mongolia, India and the West, and provide them the means to carry on their expensive propaganda campaigns. Evidence for this is very plain on the surface. For example, the so-called “Panchen Lama” reincarnation, whom the Communist party chiefs appointed after abducting and disappearing the five year old boy properly chosen in the traditional way by a committee of his monastery with approval of the Dalai Lama, is shown on the internet in various photographs sitting in front of a large icon of Dolgyal Shugden, as a sign of aggressive defiance of the Dalai Lama. The obvious fact is that the clearly stated purpose of the cult and the United Front agency of the PRC is to try to prove to the world that the Dalai Lama is not as nice as we all think, but is a bad, even “evil,” person.

Whatever one believes about the reality of fierce angels or demons, it is clear that the leaders of the Dolgyal Shugden  cult have done nothing over the last 30 years but cause trouble, both to their own followers and to the unity of the Tibetan people, both in exile and in Tibet. It has benefited no one except those misguided operatives in the Chinese government who wish to destroy Tibetan Buddhist culture, in order to assimilate systematically deracinated Tibetans into becoming second class Chinese citizens, and thus, through such a policy of crushing the identities and even lives of the “minority nationality” Tibetans, to secure forever their claim to the vast territories and resources of the Tibetan plateau. But as we have seen all over the world—and as aware persons can attest here in America with our still very much present First Americans—history never does end, people do not give up their distinctive identities, and truth and justice inevitably arise from the ashes of even genocidal flames.

Those who would like to read a thorough study of the Dolgyal Shugden cult by a distinguished professional journalist, can download a kindle copy of R. Bultrini, The Dalai Lama and the King Demon, published by Tibet House US.

Robert A. F Thurman

President, Tibet House US


Update March 3rd, 2014


¹ See some press articles from the UK like “Battle of the Buddhists” by The Independent, The Guardian’s Shadow boxing on the path to Nirvana, or the BBC documentary »An Unholy Row« (1998) about the New Kadampa Tradition and the Dorje Shugden Controversy. For a summery of this first campaign see here.

² Kelsang Gyatso for instance removed the NKT resident teacher and editor of his books, Lucy James, immediately from her positions and power when she dared to remind him of what he said in 1998, that the protests are political and that NKT (also according to the UK charity laws) should not engage in political actions. This set an example for all NKT people that those who object the protests will be removed from their positions and status.

³ From 2008 onwards the campaigning by the NKT students of Kelsang Gyatso included the manipulation of Wikipedia articles.

⁴ Those protesters who dress themselves in the Tibetan robes of Buddhist monks and nuns are not members of the monastic order of the Buddha, they are not even novice monks or nuns, and therefore they cannot act on behalf of those who are full members or partial members of the Buddhist monastic order, fully ordained monks and nuns or novice monks and nuns. However, they have of course freedom of speech but if slander is “freedom of speech” or an unethical or illegal act everybody has to check and judge for themselves.

  Last edited by tenpel on March 16, 2014 at 1:16 pm
(the Shugden/Panchen Lama image was removed,
new images were added,
Len Foley information and video were added,
a better introduction, a quote by Robbie Barnett  and two headlines were added,
added information about NKS & Inform,
added link to Bob Thurman article, Huffington Post
added Mahavagga quote from Buddha)

Is the NKT a Pure Lineage of Tsongkhapa? The Problem With Root Texts Within the NKT Study Program

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

Online statements change frequently and I know that organizations, such as the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) evolve and change. However, at the time of this writing, (Dec. 8, 2013) these claims still appear on a NKT website as part of their statement of purpose. As stated by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (GKG) in 1998, they write:

We are pure Gelugpas. The name Gelugpa doesn’t matter, but we believe we are following the pure tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. We are studying and practicing Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings and taking as our example what the ancient Kadampa Lamas and Geshes did. All the books that I have written are commentaries to Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. We try our best to follow the example of the ancient Kadampa tradition and use the name Kadampa to remind people to practice purely.

Later in that same web page is stated:

The NKT exclusively teaches Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine

All of Geshe Kelsang’s books, which are the core of the three NKT study programs, are based on Je Tsongkhapa’s commentaries to the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Vajradhara, and other great Buddhist Masters.”[1]

The Nkt’s choice of the word “pure” in regard to their statement of purpose, is in itself problematic. However, that discussion is not my purpose here. Readers may view an examination of that topic here.

For my purposes here, I will be using the term “purity” to refer to a meaning of authenticity or correctness—and address NKT’s claim in that regard.

Even in that context, even without knowing anything about the NKT, such claims seem to be extraordinary. Anyone who knows anything at all about Tibetan history and has read any of the biographies of the Kadamapa masters, will be aware that Tsongkhapa’s lineage is a compilation of different lineages (Kagyue, Sakya, Kadampa) and emerged through the efforts of many translators, many scholars, and many extraordinary and realized meditators. The emergence of the Gelugpa was a joint effort of cooperation between different lamas, lineages and translators over hundreds of years. In light of this, GKG’s claim that he alone, with no assistance from Gelug practitioners, scholars or translators outside of NKT, is capable of bringing a pure tradition of Tsongkhapa to the West is quite remarkable!

For example, here is what is missing in the NKT study program from Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition:

  • there is no tradition of the Vinaya as practiced by Tsongkhapa (Vinaya constitutes the rules and commentaries for the ethics of monks and nuns)
  • there are no English translations of the 18 volumes of Je Tsongkhapa’s work in the NKT study program.
  • there are only two texts by Je Tsongkhapa himself in the NKT, the Three Principle of the Paths (two pages) and a lamrim prayer (one page)
  • there are none of the five Maitreya texts which form an important corpus in traditional Gelug study programs.
  • the study and practice of the combination of the three Highest Yoga Tantras, Guhyasamaja, Heruka and Yamantaka do not exist in NKT. These are central to the Gelug lineage and there is a good translation of Tsonkhapa’s commentary on Guhyasamaja available.

I believe that NKT students tread a difficult path. The NKT organization has placed itself well outside of mainstream Tibetan Buddhism—and yet NKT study programs are positioned in the center of mainstream Tibetan Buddhist study. Students are taught to revere Buddha, Nagarjuna, Atisha, Tsongkhapa and Shantideva, the same Buddhist masters that we in mainstream Tibetan Buddhist circles revere. They study from those masters. We also study from those masters. Yet oddly, students are lead to believe that NKT is somehow different, that NKT is “pure”.

Resulting from this is a likely inference that Gelug/Kadam study and practice outside of NKT is not “pure.”—not authentic. This inference results also from the fact that no texts by Tsongkhapa, Atisha, the Buddha, Shantideva, Nargajuna or any other teacher, translated outside of Tharpa Publications, is integrated into NKT study programs or even sold in NKT centers—and no commentaries by teachers other than GKG are studied within the study program. In that way NKT student are totally dependent on Kelsang Gyatso’s texts and if there are any faults in them, or if they miss important points of the path, they cannot go beyond these limitations or correct their misunderstandings derived from it. Therefore it is possible that this inside/outside path (pure/impure dichotomy) could place students at risk for some confusion!

In fact, so little attention is paid to the study of root texts in the NKT study program that the one translation of a major root text available to NKT students contains many errors. Moreover, these errors have not been noticed or corrected in the ten years that the book has been in circulation! This text is the Tharpa Publications translation of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara. Last I counted, there were over 40 verses rendering a different meaning to that given in four other translations that I possess!  Worse still, many of these errors do not appear in GKG’s commentary on the text. Despite Tharpa’s claims that the translation was done “under the compassionate guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,” he seems unaware of the many errors that it contains!

Here are some stark examples. In the second verse of the text, Shantideva makes a gesture of humility as part of his statement of purpose in composing the text. He writes, as translated by the Padmakara translation Group (and consonant with other translations), “

I thereby have no thought that this might be of benefit to others…” (p.33).

However, the translator from NKT reads this line quite differently and writes,

“My reason for writing this is to benefit others…” (p. 3)

GKG commentary favors the mainstream translation:

“Also, since he has no skill in the art of rhetoric or poetry, he has no intention of benefitting others who have already understood the teachings of Buddha.” (p. 14)

So it appears that GKG is probably reading from the Tibetan and is unaware that his translators have a different rendition! (Of course, GKG does not see this statement as an expression of humility as do other commentators, but that discussion is not my purpose here.)

In Chapter Five, verses 88-91, the Tharpa translation gives a dramatically different rendition to that of other translations, making one wonder if they were reading a different text! Here is an example:

In Verse 88, the Tharpa translation reads:

I should listen to Dharma
With respect and a good heart,
Recognizing it as the supreme medicine
For curing the pains of anger and attachment. (p. 61)

The Padmakara Translation Group (and others) translate as follows:

Do not teach to those without respect
To those who like the sick wear cloths around their heads,
To those who proudly carry weapons, staffs or parasols,
And those who keep their hats upon their heads. (p.74)

How on earth could two such completely different renditions occur?

GKG’s commentary on verse 88 reads:

“Dharma should never be taught to someone who lacks respect either for us or for Dharma itself. Teaching such a person will not benefit him or her and will only create downfalls, or obstacles, for oneself … Shantideva next gives a detailed account of the circumstances in which it is improper to teach Dharma. Because teaching should only be given to those who have the proper attitude we should never teach anyone whose dress, manner or bearing demonstrates disrespect. This would include those who cover their heads though they are not sick, those who have not put down their umbrellas … “ (p. 14)

So GKG is clearly addressing the translation as given by the Padmakara Translation Group (and three other translators), unaware that the Tharpa translation renders his commentary meaningless! Translation by Tharpa of the three verses following, 89-91, have exactly the same trouble, rendering inexplicable meanings that do not accord with any other translations or even GKG’s commentary.

And this is not the only occurrence of such discrepancies. They happen numerous times throughout the text (I’ve lost count!). In Chapter Eight, there are six verses on just two pages alone that render an entirely different meaning to all other translations!

Here is an example of two of these verses:

In verses 43-44, the Tharpa translation reads:

43. When we are very attached to someone
We want to see their face again and again;
But whether we see their face or not,
The real face always remains covered with skin.

44. If we were to remove that skin,
We would realize that they are not an object of desire
But an object of aversion;
So why do we develop attachment for others’ bodies?

The Padmakara Translation Group and GKG both read these verses differently, placing the context in a charnal ground and also in a traditional Indian wedding:

43. Oh what pains you went through just to draw the veil,
And lift the face that modestly looked down.
The face which, looked upon or not,
Was always carefully concealed.

44. That face for which you languished so …
Well here it is, now nakedly exposed.
The crows have done their work for you to see.
What’s this? You run away so soon?

GKG’s commentary reads:

“[43] In ancient India, whenever a man encountered a woman, her face was hidden by a veil. Even at the marriage ceremony, her face would be covered and she would be very bashful … [44] why is he not similarly attracted when, after death, her face is uncovered by vultures? Why does he not want to copulate with her then? Her body is still there but the man only wants to run away from it.” (p. 305).

Then later in Chapter Eight, there is this discrepancy involving two important verses:

In verses 97-98, the Tharpa translation reads as follows:

97. But why should I protect others
If their suffering does me no harm?
If we cherish only others, we find their suffering hard to bear;
So we definitely need to protect them.

98. It is not a wrong conception to think
That it will be I who experience the future suffering,
Because it will not be another person who dies
And yet another who is reborn. (p. 129)

This is another very strange translation that misses Shantideva’s meaning completely. The Padmakara Translation Group (and all others, including GKG) provide an opposing meaning:

97. Since pains of others do no harm to me
What reason do I have to shield myself?
But why to guard against “my” future pain which
Does no harm to this, my present “me”?

98. To think that “I will have to suffer it”
In fact is but a false conception—
In the present moment, “I” will perish;
At another time, another will be born. (p. 124)

GKG writes, ignoring the Tharpa translation: “As I said before, there is no reason for me to protect others from their misery. It causes me no harm. Then why do we work to eliminate the sicknesses of old age coming in the future or even the discomforts of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow? These future sufferings will do us no harm today. But if such misery is not prevented now I shall experience it in the future. This is a misconception. The self of this life will not experience the suffering of future lives.” (p.335).

Here is another example of Tharpa’s translation troubles:

In Chapter Six, Verse 123, the Tharpa translation reads:

If we harm a child
There is no way to please its mother.
In the same way, if we harm any living being,
There is no way to please the compassionate Buddha. (p.89)

This is a very nice translation and does convey a meaning very close to what Shantideva intended. However, I don’t believe that it is what Shantideva actually wrote! Here is the translation from Padmakara Translation Group:

Just as when a man who’s tortured in a fire,
Remains unmoved by little favors done to him,
There’s no way to delight the great compassionate Buddhas,
While we ourselves are causes of another’s pain. (p.95)

And GKG’s commentary on this reads:

“someone who is ablaze with fire finds no pleasure in receiving food and delicacies. Similarly, if we harm sentient beings and then offer elaborate gifts to the Buddha, these offerings will never please him.” (p. 254).

Once again, he clearly favors the translation done by the Padmakara Translation Group!

These are a few examples of the errors I found in the Tharpa translation of the Bodhicharyavatara made “under the compassionate guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.” Indeed, translators (and lamas) are only human and errors will happen. I myself study this text using four different translations because I know that there will be discrepancies. However, the errors in the Tharpa translation are more pervasive and significant than I have seen anywhere else, and they could render the entire translation flawed. That in itself is not alarming, because there are probably other flawed translations out there. Nor is it my intention to nit-pick. However, GKG has made an extraordinary claim by saying that he alone, without assistance from other translators or commentaries, is capable of bringing the Kadampa/Gelug tradition “purely” to the West. And my question is: How can he claim purity with errors such as these? With errors such as these, he can only claim to be human and to need more help from others!

I also wonder why no student of NKT has ever questioned this confusion—this text was published over ten years ago! Have they become so confused that they don’t even recognize confusion when it appears? Or perhaps they simply have never cultivated the habit of critically reading a root text in conjunction with a commentary.

Thousands of hours of work has been done to translate into English the Kangyur and Tengyur—to translate the great works of Tibetan scholars such as Tsongkhapa—to translate the works of the great scholars of ancient India. Much more work is still to be done. This work is being done because authentic Buddhism cannot be brought to the West without the root texts. That is the robust tradition that Tsongkhapa followed. If the NKT is sincere in “studying and practicing Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings and taking as [their] example what the ancient Kadampa Lamas and Geshes did,” then surely they would follow the tradition of diverse and extensive study of the many root texts upon which the Kadampa tradition relies? Surely they would put much emphasis on providing students with (accurate!) translations of these texts? Perhaps instead of seeking to follow a “pure” lineage of Tsongkhapa, they would do better to follow a robust lineage of Tsongkhapa, one that questions and investigates and makes cross-references—and isn’t afraid to read texts that come outside of their one, narrow view?

GKG writes in Understanding the Mind:

“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.”  (pp. 166-167).

Is that true? Or is there greater risk for confusion when students are not given opportunity to question and cross-reference many sources and texts, when they are denied full access to their critical faculty?

As the Buddha said,

Bhikshus and the wise should examine my teachings like goldsmiths analyze gold, by cutting, rubbing and scorching it. Examine my teachings in the same way and then put them into practice. Do not practice Dharma on the strength of blind faith alone.[2]

Contrary to this robust advice by the Buddha, the diet within the NKT study program could be called pre-digested, because all the study is interpreted by one individual alone. The root texts are almost exclusively provided to students through the one lens of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Pre-digested is the diet of invalids and babies. Does Geshe Kelsang believe that Westerners are incapable of digesting the rich diet of the ancient texts themselves? Incapable of receiving a full and nutritious diet?

Here is an example. In Lamrim Chenmo, Tsongkhapa writes extensively on the qualities necessary in a spiritual teacher. He quotes from authors such as Maitreya and advises students on how to show respect for the teacher, while still maintaining their ability to judge the teacher and critically analyze his/her teachings. He tells the story of Atisha and Serlingpa:

“The great Elder [Atisha] held the Madyamaka view and Ser-ling-ba held the view of a ‘true aspectarian’ Cittamatrin [Mind Only School]. Therefore, Atisha’s view was superior to that of Ser-ling-ba. Still, Atisha upheld Ser-ling-ba as the guru who was unrivaled amongst his gurus, because Atisha had obtained the spirit of enlightenment and a general presentation of the stages of the Mahayana path in dependence upon him.” (p. 82)

So yes, Atisha held Serlingpa in high esteem—however, he also refuted Serlingpa’s main philosophical standpoint. He did not allow reverence for Serlingpa to dull his own critical faculty. In the two major texts by GKG that I have viewed, Joyful Path of Good Fortune and Meaningful to Behold, there is no mention of Atisha’s philosophical differences with Serlingpa , though GKG does speak of Atisha’s great devotion for Serlingpa.

In addition, if one compares GKG’s main commentary on Lamrim, Joyful Path of Good Fortune with Tsongkhapa’s major commentary on Lamrim, Lamrim Chenmo, it appears that overall, GKG’s instructions on guru reliance are weighted towards blind faith, while Tsongkhapa’s are not. GKG advises us to view the lama as a Buddha, with the reasoning that the faults we see in our lama are actually faults in ourselves and our own faulty perceptions. In fact, I found no teaching whatsoever coming from GKG about how we are to act when the lama advises us to do something that is not in accord with the Dharma, no acknowledgement anywhere that lamas will have faults. He does not provide students with that important dimension to proper reliance on a spiritual teacher—nor does he allow them to believe their own eyes if they see faults.

On the other hand, Tsongkhapa acknowledges that lamas will have faults, saying “if you rely on nonvirtuous teachers and bad friends, your qualities will slowly diminish …” (p.90). He also quotes from several sources about what to do if the lama advises us wrongly: “… the Cloud of Jewels Sutra says, ‘With respect to virtue, act in accord with the guru’s words, but do not act in accord with the guru’s words with respect to nonvirtue.’” (86). Even in the context of the instruction “seeing the guru as Buddha,” Tsongkhapa’s advice is grounded in sound reason, steering students well away from blind faith. He reasons that focusing on the good qualities of our lamas, while ignoring their faults, will help us better cultivate those good qualities in ourselves. Unlike GKG, Tsongkhapa does not stress that it is our own misperception when we see faults in our lamas! He does not put blinkers on our eyes! Faults are faults—not seeing them is blindness. Not focusing on them is a useful training of the mind.

At least, that is my small understanding of Tsongkhapa’s instructions and how they differ from GKG’s. I don’t pretend that it is necessarily correct! I am simply trying to start a conversation, trying to demonstrate how studying commentaries beside the root texts can begin investigations that deepen our understanding and critical faculty. No one denies that NKT’s approach is one-sided. And I particularly don’t deny that GKG appears to be a very intelligent lama. However, I am asking if his approach is safe? Understanding the full diversity of Tsongkhapa’s advice to following a spiritual teacher—an approach that is similar to that taken by HH Dalai Lama in regard to Trijang Rinpoche, for example—is vital for Western students and it appears to be missing from the NKT study program. Students have no access to the extraordinary means—provided by Tsongkhapa himself—by which they can judge GKG’s commentaries—except those means provided by GKG!

There will be many who claim that I am attempting to “smear” the NKT. However, anyone who knows me will know that I also question practices within other Western Tibetan Buddhist organizations, such as Rigpa. I myself study and practice outside of mainstream Tibetan Buddhist communities because of some of the problems I have encountered. These troubles are not exclusive to the NKT, though I believe that the NKT has brought them to new and potentially very dangerous levels.

I believe that Westerners need to be having these conversations and asking these sorts of hard questions. Every Western Buddhist center that is reliant on a powerful, charismatic leader must be prepared to answer hard questions about the Buddhism being taught. If that Buddhism is weighted heavily towards the teachings and texts written by the powerful, charismatic leader, at the expense of the root texts of past masters, then questions need to be asked. Then students are at risk. Students are not being given the whole truth and then we can start talking about cults.

The NKT claims to be a “pure lineage” of Tsongkhapa—and yet they fail to provide students with a full study of Tsongkhapa’s teachings, one that includes the extraordinary breadth of his actual writings and thinking, as evident in those many root texts that have already been translated into English. They claim to provide a study of the Bodhicharyavatara—and yet the translation of the root text they study from is seriously flawed. I could be wrong, but I can see only two directions open to NKT. One is to simply use the translations of the root texts that are available (despite the fact that most have been done by mainstream Tibetan Buddhists and some are dedicated to HH Dalai Lama) and thereby create a fuller study program of Tsongkhapa’s lineage. The other option is simply to bite the bullet and admit that they are not pure Gelug, not pure Kadam, not pure Tsongkhapa nor Shantideva, but pure Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

Sources Used:

Tsonkhapa, (translated, 2000) The Great Treatise On The Stages of the Path; Volume One; Translated by The Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee; Snow Lion Publications; Ithaca, NY.

Shantideva, (translated 2003) Bodhicharyavatara; Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group; Shambhala Publishing; Boston, MA.

Shantideva (updated translation 2006); Bodhicharyavatara; Translated by the Padmakara  Translation Group; Shambhala Publishing; Boston, MA.

Shantideva (translated 1979); Bodhicharyavatara; Translated by Stephen Batchelor; Tibetan Works and Archives; New Delhi, India.

Shantideva (translated 1997); Bodhicharyavatara; Translated by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace;  Snow Lion; Ithaca, NY.

Shantideva, (translated 2002); Bodhicharyavatara; Translated by Neil Elliott “under the compassionate guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso”; Tharpa Publications; Glen Spey, NY.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso; (revised 2007); Meaningful to Behold; Tharpa Publications; Glen Spey, NY.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso; (revised 1995); Joyful Path of Good Fortune; Tharpa Publications; Glen Spey, NY.

Gesehe Kelsang Gyatso (2002); Understanding the Mind: The Nature and Power of the Mind; Tharpa Publications; Glen Spey, NY.

The Dalai Lama and the King Demon – Dorje Shugden by Raimondo Bultrini

… the Buddhist movement never tries to destroy evil absolutely, as it would be evil to do so. Instead, it seeks to transform evil into good, turning even demonic entities into ‘protectors of freedom’ (dharmapala) or ‘world protectors’ (lokapala). To think that evil can be eradicated by destroying an external demon is to miss the ‘dark side’ within oneself, to destroy one’s own demonic unconscious potential, and hence actually to be taken over by the demon of one’s own egotism. – Robert A.F. Thurman

Cover Dorje Shugden / Dalai Lama Book by R. BultriniThose who are interested to get a broader and more detailed background knowledge about the Dorje Shugden controversy and their global players might find the book The Dalai Lama and the King Demon – Tracking a Triple Murder Mystery Through the Mists of Time by Raimondo Bultrini, an investigative journalist from Italy, very useful. (You can only pre-order it, the publication date is 1st Jul ’13.)

Bultrini is a senior journalist who worked for different Newspapers, including La Republica, and who wrote investigative and featured articles on Mafia, Red Brigates and on the new fascist bloodbath killings which occurred in Italy during those years. Bultrini is a member of Choegyal Namkhai Norbu’s Dzogchen Community in Italy.

The upcoming book by Bultrini about the Dorje Shugden Controversy is a translation of ‘IL DEMONE E IL DALAI LAMA’ (2008, 406 p.) from Italian into English.

In this book Bultrini shows the different players and their different involvements, including that of the Chinese authorities and the Dharamsala’s counter-espionage, the New Kadampa Tradition’s/Kelsang Gyatso’s involvements as well as that of Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, Kundeling Lama, the 14th Dalai Lama, his sister, the Delhi ‘Shugden Society’, the assassination of Gen Lobsang Gyatso … and vicious plans from here and there. To give you an idea about some of the dynamics most Westerners just don’t know, here an excerpt:

In a talk broadcast in 2002 by a Tibetan radio station, the young Trijang offered a number of disturbing revelations. He recounted how, while still in Dharamsala, he was told of a plan by the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women’s Association to attack his Labrang [the residence of the lamas.]. “Consequently,” he said, “the Chatreng community appealed to me to immediately come to Delhi and thereafter to leave for Densa [Ganden monastery in south India]. I did so, leaving my attendant, Tharcin, in Dharamsala to request an interview with His Holiness. Anonymous letters and telephone calls were received at the Labrang, where masked men were seen trying to enter my residence at night. As a result, the Chatreng community deputed around twenty guards for my security. In 1996, Gonsar Rinpoche and others decided to move me to Switzerland. The situation in India deteriorated and grew tense between the followers and non-followers of the Protector, consequently delaying my return. Later that year with my aide Tharcin I had an audience with His Holiness during his visit to Switzerland. Tharcin apprised him of the threats to my life and we agreed I should continue my studies abroad. Six years have passed since then.”

Trijang recounted how he had subsequently had other audiences with the Dalai Lama in Europe, during which the Tibetan leader had asked him to choose between his spiritual guide and the protector. “I could decide against him”, he said, but nor could I stop propitiating Shugden with whom my relationship dates back to previous incarnations. I find myself in an immensely difficult situation. The followers of the Protector would not have listened to me”, he added, “and no one seems to care about the difficulties I am facing (…) I also don’t want the people of Chatreng, who have great expectations of me, to be disheartened. But if I continue to propitiate the Protector publicly, I would be compelled to become a sort of head of his worshippers, and this would be an offence to the Dalai Lama from whom I received my Bhikshu ordination, and has always treated me with extraordinary benevolence. I cannot even hope to keep a low profile as they [the Shugden devotees] would not let me.”

The broadcast contained another series of remarkable revelations. “I have reason to believe”, he said, “that my return to India may possibly result in internal chaos, attempts on lives and other immoral activities bringing disgrace to His Holiness (…) I cannot sleep and I have had health problems. I am worried about thinking what will happen next. It is quite terrifying to think that I might be a cause of disgrace instead of serving the Tibetan people and His Holiness (…) Some have told me, “If you abandon the Protector [Shugden], there is no knowing what will happen. We will not consider you a lama [as guru]. The people of Chatreng are strange, very wild and unruly. We do not know what they may do.”

It is very clear my life might be in danger. So I have decided to leave my Labrang and disrobe, so that none of the Shugden worshippers can ask me to be their leader. I hope that this way I can respect the wishes of the Dalai Lama and still revere the protector, practicing in private and far from everyone. I intend to follow a middle way, neither for nor against Shugden. I appeal to both parties not to contact me.”

His account ended with another dramatic twist. “In my own Labrang,” he said, “I have recently witnessed a kind of factionalism and I have discovered that one person in particular was planning an evil conspiracy. This plan was to murder my assistant, Tharchin, and to implicate His Holiness’s government in exile with this odious crime. The conspirator aimed to become chakzoe [manager] of my estate. Tharchin has been very kind to me, more so than my own parents, and has taken care of me since I was three years old. As well as managing the affairs of my Labrang. With my own ears I heard this person discussing on the telephone a plan to assassinate Tharchin. It is really a matter of great sadness and surprise, especially since the person involved in this ploy has been very close to me as well. If he succeeds in his plan, it would be a cause of great trouble for the Labrang, as well as a cause of disgrace to the Tibetan government and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. These are not lies, but true facts which I want everyone to know. That is why I made this statement.”

Trijang concluded his message urging the followers of the Protector to stop seeking him. “I do not wish to be in touch with you,” he said. [After this declaration, Trijang moved to the United States with a small number of his most faithful followers.]

The young Trijang Rinpoche’s radio message created no little embarrassment among the Gyalpo’s practitioners. The image of a community, ‘living peacefully and devoted to the Buddhadharma’ promoted in their propaganda material was seriously damaged, and, for a long time, the polemics against the Dalai Lama seemed to be diminishing. But hopes that they would fade away completely have not been fulfilled – far from it.

I have still to check if the book includes also something about the New Kadampa Traditions’s ‘Western Shugden Society’ campaign, which started in April 2008, and the lawsuit against the Dalai Lama and the TGIE by Kundeling Lama which was finally not even accepted by the Delhi High Court (see PDF: Delhi High Court Dismisses Dorjee Shugden Devotees’ Charges by TibetNet/CTA).

For the publisher’s announcement see:

More by Raimondo Bultrini:

Dorje Shugden – Academic Research:

Update July 7th, 2014

  Last edited by tenpel on July 7, 2014 at 1:25 am

Is the NKT a Personality Cult? – A Check Based on Word Statistics

In Germany there is a politician, Peer Steinbrück, who runs a campaign “More We, less I”. Spiegel Online investigated in a ‘Münchhausen Check’ if Steinbrück really says what he preaches by investigating two of his speeches and making a use-of-words statistic. For this they used among others a tool called Wordle to create a word cloud that makes the results easily visible. For the creation of a word statistic cloud the website or blog must have an Atom or RSS feed. The more a word is used the bigger it is written. In that way you get easily what is been stressed the most.

Now, I wondered what would be the result if I check the official New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) start page as well as their official site about Buddhism. I expected that at the centre of NKT and Buddhism is not the Buddha or Buddhism but NKT and its founder Kelsang Gyatso – this is what I would expect at least from a ‘good personality cult’ or based on my experiences.

Here are the results

Result of the official Homepage of the New Kadampa Tradition,, relying on the Atom or RSS feed of that site:

Wordle: New Kadampa Tradition

The result of the official “Buddhism” page of the New Kadampa Tradition,, relying on the words displayed, is:

Wordle: New Kadampa Tradition about "Buddhism"

To create the use-of-words statistic of NKT’s official “Buddhism” page I used all the words displayed on that page. The reason for this approach is that the Wordle javascript program relies on the Atom or RSS Feeds of the blog or site, and is therefore on all pages of a site the same. Hence, it doesn’t convey what words are really displayed to the reader of a specific page.

While the first result above shows that at the very centre of NKT is one person only “Venerable Geshe Kelsang founding NKT-IKBU”, the second result above demonstrates that “Kadampa” is what “Buddhism” is all about for NKT, and since the term “Kadampa” is synonymous with NKT – at least in the cosmos of NKT, as well as in their self-promotional approach – the meaning it conveys is ‘Kadampa=NKT=Buddhism’ or in brief ‘We are Buddhism.’

Another question I had is, who is the focal object of NKT’s Western Shugden Society? Is it Buddhism, Shugden or the Dalai Lama?

Here is the result of

Wordle: Western Shugden Society

Using those statistic tools based on the NKT’s own Atom or RSS feeds and words displayed respectively it becomes somewhat more clear that the main object of ‘the Buddhism’ the New Kadampa Tradition is advertising is not so much Buddhism or the Buddha but mainly one person, NKT’s founder Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The main object of NKT’s Western Shugden Society is not Dorje Shugden but one person, the Dalai Lama.

In that way it is also somewhat statistically explainable what drove Gen Kelsang Sangye to promote a new book of his guru at a BBC World News talk about Mindfulness in Schools. He has no other choice if he speaks about Buddhism or mindfulness than being compelled to stress his guru Kelsang Gyatso and one of his new books respectively because only HE is the center of his life, his tradition and his Buddhism.

But shouldn’t we begin with ourselves first? I checked this blog. Who is the focal object of this blog, NKT, Shugden, Tibet, the Dalai Lama, Sogyal, I (tenpel)? The RSS Feed gives this result:

Wordle: The Dorje Shugden Group WordPress Blog

Applying the approach of getting the statistics not based on the RSS Feed but on the mere words the start page displays, the following result is given:

Wordle: Blog The Dorje Shugden Group - Start Page

To make the investigation complete, here also the words-displayed statistics – which means not relying on the RSS or Atom Feeds – of the NKT’s and the Western Shugden Society’s official start pages:

Wordle: NKT official Homepage - use of words statistic

Wordle: Western Shugden Society - Use of words displayed on start page.

In case you have problems with the Javascript on Wordle, here are the results in a gallery:

Last edited by tenpel on May 3, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Is forsaking the Guru, Kelsang Gyatso, worse than the karma generated by Hitler and Mao Tse Tung?

Offline there was a brief email discussion about an advice Lama Zopa Rinpoche is giving here:

We had already a discussion at E-Sangha in 2007 about this advice in the thread “New Beginnings – New Teachers, Constructive discussion on starting over“. [When I remember correctly it was at this thread where the first public account of sexual abuse of Kelsang Gyatso's appointed successor Steven W. (Kelsang Samden) appeared – in the form of an innocent question a la "Can a monk in the Gelug school have sexual relationships?" After it became public that way at E-Sangha over night – in the literal sense – Samden was removed from all NKT websites.]

It might be useful for some to have some thoughts about Lama Zopa’s advice also here at the blog. That’s why I copy and paste my past thoughts on it from that thread (including all grammatical and spelling errors).

My own teacher said I should ignore this advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. I hope this is of help for some.

March 26, 2007

Dear seeker,
as you have brought up the links here you may also have found the advice of Ven. Lama Zopa Rinpoche of Forsaking the Guru here:…e/shugden.shtml

This advice was referred to by present NKT to ex-NKT as well.

With all the respect to Lama Zopa Rinpoche I do not agree with it. I will give some reasons and sources here.

The problem here is very difficult and tricky. So I will use common sense, background and the scriptures.

1. the letter is a personal advice – not intentioned for the public

2. It seems to me that Lama Zopa Rinpoche is answering based on the teachings on Guru devotion how them were taught by Trijang Rinpoche – these teachings seem to be quite radical and seem not to include the case of following false Gurus or Gurus who have gone wrong.

3. It appears to me that Lama Zopa Rinpoche – although in my eyes a real Bodhisattva, tends towards to take teachings sometimes very literally as Pabongkha Rinpoche did. (Also in our Vinaya class the Geshe said he does not share the literally interpretations of some of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s views. So you can see there are different opinions and approaches. Nevertheless this Geshe cherish Lama Zopa Rinpoche very much as a holy being.) None of my Lamas gave me such advice, as Lama Zopa Rinpoche is giving here. One of my teachers said: we regard it as positive to separate from a false teacher. I should follow HH the Dalai Lama’s advice, his advices are in accordance to Sutra and Tantra. The same was taught by H.E. Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche: He said one must separate from false Gurus, because they will lead one away from the path. The same you find in Jamgon Kongtrul’s text and Alexander Berzins summery of different texts. (Quotes see below).

4. Tsongkhapa’s texts do not support this view: Tsongkhapa said: Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result. (see Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice by Tsongkhapa, ISBN 0861712900 – page 46) In his commentary on Guru devotion Je Tsongkhapa states one should not follow “if it is an improper and irreligious command”, and cites the Vinaya: “If someone suggests something which is not consistent with the Dharma, avoid it.” (see: The Fulfillment of All Hopes: Guru Devotion in Tibetan Buddhism, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-153-X, page 64)

5. My common sense and proofing do not support this view. I do not think it is a good action to send the victim back to the perpetrator and giving thereby the chance to be misused/misguided again, which will be very negative for both sides. What is the use of that?

6. I think Lama Zopa Rinpoche tries to harmonize the different difficulties and views in the Gelug school, whereas HH the Dalai Lama is quite frank about what is correct and what is not, so the advices of HH the Dalai Lama gives a more frank direction. I do not believe that such advice will ever be stated by HH the Dalai Lama nor have any of his advices regarding that topic such connotations as this advice.


- Chapter 15 Fear of “A Breach of Guru-Devotion”…teacher_15.html

- Buddhist Ethics (Treasury of Knowledge) by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, Snow Lion Publications

Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions

8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Buddha said:

The devotee acquires the same faults
As the person not worthy of devotion,
Like an untainted arrow smeared
With the poison of a tainted sheath.

Steadfast ones who fear the taint of faults,
Do not befriend bad people.
By close reliance and devotion
To one’s companion,
Soon one becomes just like
The object of one’s devotion.

The wise devote themselves to holy,
Not to unholy people,

Wise persons are those who know
Infantile ones for what they are:
‘Infantile ones’ are those
Who take infants to be the wise.

The cencure of the wise
Is far preferable
To the eulogy or praise
Of the infant.

Devotion to infants brings misery.
Since they are like one’s foe,
It is best to never see or hear
Or have devotion for such people.

Like meetinng friends, devotion to
The steadfast causes happiness.

Therefore, like the revolving stars and moon,
Devote yourself to the steadfast, moral ones
Who have heard much, who draw on what is best -
The kind, the pure, the best superior ones.

(from the Tibetan Dhammapada)


Je Tsongkhapa citing the Ornament for the Essence said:

Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result.

(see Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice by Tsongkhapa, ISBN 0861712900) – page page 46


Dza Patrul Rinpoche in “Words of my perfect teacher”:

The Great Master of Oddiyana warns:

No to examine the teacher
Is like drinking poison;
Not to examine the disciple
Is like leaping from a precipice.

You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual friend without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence, you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.

By not examining a teacher with great care
The faithful waste their gathered merit.
Like taking for the shadow of a tree a vicious snake,
Beguiled, they lose the freedom they at last had found.

So why following and going back to Gurus one has recognized as not genuine or misleading? I think the most need is to overcome negative feelings in any direction. Because they disturb the mind.

But a weak mind and a misleading Guru, what will be the result other than harm? Why going back?

This is my opinion and I think every one has to check on his own and has to find his own approach.

  Last edited by tenpel on November 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

The Birth of the New Kadampa Tradition ‘Lineage': ‘Teething Problems’


Recently, a poster on this blog spoke of “cases of denial, which, in the current climate here in the UK, especially with regard to sexual exploitation, are relevant. These are related to individual’s actions and not to policy but there was a reluctance to accept that this was happening.”

For the sake of clarity, these issues are here recounted.It should be noted that since the deposition of Steve Wass, Kelsang Gyatso’s second appointed but failed successor, further appointees have come and gone, under circumstances which are far from clear (how could it be otherwise in a climate where cover ups and a complete unwillingness to admit to mistakes are clearly the norm?) Those knowledgeable about these circumstances are welcome to share that knowledge here, provided they are not simply  repeating rumour, as are those with knowledge of the ongoing psychiatric consequences experienced by the victims of the abuse cited, as well as their attempts to come to terms with these.

The link between Gyatso and Elliott was and is a strong one and it is clear that from very early in their relationship, the former recognized the latter’s potential as an effective orator and organizer. One of the conditions of membership that Gyatso stipulated in his 1991 letter to centres inviting them to join the NKT was that, when he died, ‘Gen Thubten Gyatso’ (Elliott) would be the organisation’s ‘Spiritual Director’.[1] Gyatso even went so far as to pen a long life prayer for his disciple which, until 1996, was regularly sung throughout all of the NKT’s centres. Elliott reciprocated by referring to his teacher as the greatest reformer of the Buddhist traditions since Tzong Ka Pa, ‘the Third Buddha’ who ‘restored the essential purity of Buddha’s doctrine’ and demonstrated ‘how to practice it in these extremely impure times’. According to Bunting, Elliott was, ‘The power behind the throne’;[2] he was certainly a figure held in awe by many among the organisation’s ever-burgeoning intake.

Elliott himself was an enigmatic individual, oft seen in his early ordained days pounding Manjushri’s cloister beneath a dark cloud with furrowed brow, an indication perhaps of the intense personal struggles he was undergoing at the time; the above, somewhat dualistic portrayal of the ‘pure’ versus ‘impure’ dichotomy that haunts so many beginners in Buddhism perhaps offering an insight into what the nature of those internal struggles might have been. In time however, he gave the appearance of having controlled his demons and subsequently became a central figure in the development of the NKT. Kay tells us that many of the distinguishing features that pervade today’s NKT, such as its study programmes and expansionist policies, were a direct result of Elliott’s inspiration. He was also a keen propitiant of Dorje Shugden and it was his influence as much as Gyatso’s that led to its instigation as a central and universal NKT practice.

The intensity of his devotion to both deity and teacher were rewarded, as we have seen, by Gyatso’s authorization of Elliott to grant Shugden initiations. Elliott was portrayed as, ‘…the first qualified English Tantric meditation master in Britain’[3] though actually, two other English teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the UK[4] had several years previously been given permission to grant initiations; unlike Elliott however, each had trained for lengthy periods in their own respective traditions. That the myth of Elliott’s uniqueness continues to endure demonstrates the ignorance of those who perpetrated it and those who believed it with respect to their knowledge of the other Tibetan Buddhist traditions extant in the UK at the time.

As Lord Acton observed, absolute power corrupts and this seems to be exactly what happened with Elliott, as a result of the absolute power which he came, so rapidly, to wield.[5] Delusions of grandeur seem to have set in by the spring of 1994 when he declared NKT teachers (and thereby, by implication, himself) to be ‘emanations’[6] of Gyatso, ‘the Third Buddha’, a declaration that, with little imagination, could be interpreted as a direct claim to enlightened status.

Despite the fact that such a claim, if untrue, represents one of the ‘four defeats’ resulting in immediate expulsion from the monastic community,[7] this does not appear to have been the basis for his rather unceremonious public disrobing in 1996, after what the Guardian newspaper described somewhat nebulously as a ‘breach of his monastic vows’.[8]

That Elliott should fall prey to worldly whims and stumble back into the garden of earthly delights is not an indication of great evil but rather an indication of his being subject to the same basic frailties that affect each of our ordinary human lives. Nevertheless, the event was extremely damaging for Gyatso and the NKT for a number of reasons, not least because it cast doubt on the judgment of one perceived by his followers to be the ‘Third Buddha’. Again, for someone in a position of such power and respect to demonstrate what appear to have been some rather basic human shortcomings cast doubts over the efficacy of the whole of the NKT’s path, of which Elliott was probably the most devoted adherent. Finally, if Elliott’s misconduct was of a sexual nature, this raises the spectre of misuse of power and sexual abuse, something which the NKT would certainly not wish to be associated with; the fact that the organization repeatedly refused to comment on the specific causes for his expulsion could be interpreted as an indication of a fear of the potential damage such allegations might cause.[9]

Elliott disappeared from the radar for a short while but, despite his initially being ‘banned’ by the NKT,[10] returned to the organization as a layman and now resides at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre (formerly ‘Manjushri Institute’) where, according to ex members, he continues to play an important role in the NKT. In 2003, the NKT’s publishing house Tharpa produced yet another of the ubiquitous translations of Shantideva’s popular ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s way of Life’, this particular translation being the work of Kelsang Gyatso and Neil Elliott. Images of him alongside members of the press during the demonstrations against the Dalai Lama outside the Albert Hall in 2008 and videoing the demonstration in Nürnberg indicate that Elliott is also involved with the WSS at a relatively senior level.

After the debacle of Neil Elliott’s very public disrobing in 1996, Gyatso eventually appointed Steve Wass, or Gen-la Samden Gyatso, as his next successor and Assistant Spiritual Director in charge of the worldwide development of the NKT. ‘Gen-la’, one of the first of Gyatso’s first disciples to have ordained under his newly created system of ordination, was described as:

‘…a powerful and inspiring teacher with vast personal experience of the Buddhist path. He teaches even the most profound teachings with perfect clarity and is loved and respected internationally for his practical, warm-hearted approach to Buddha’s teachings.’[11]

Elsewhere, he was portrayed as:

‘…a perfect example of the extraordinary qualities we can develop through sincerely relying on a spiritual teacher and putting Buddha’s teachings into practice in our daily lives … If we follow his example and rely on his teachings we can make our lives truly meaningful.’[12]

However, websites[13] created by NKT followers in 2008 to ‘fight the smears’ against the organisation, indicate that ‘Gen-la’s’ behavior behind closed doors at the time was far from exemplary.

These tell us that in December 2006 allegations began to surface on the internet that Samden Gyatso had been engaging in sexual acts with a number of women over a considerable period of time, behaviour allegedly justified by his claiming the sex was ‘tantric’. Moreover, it was suggested that, despite having full knowledge of this, Kelsang Gyatso had failed to act. As a result, Samden remained in his position and continued the abuse for a significant period of time.[14]

According to the NKT’s ‘smears’ website, in November 2005 an ex-NKT monk wrote to Gyatso explaining his suspicions about Samden’s misconduct, suspicions based on specific advice Samden had given him. Gyatso asked if the ex-monk had any evidence of misconduct, which he had not. He was then asked not to repeat the allegations, unless he could produce said evidence.

In January 2006, the same person wrote to Gyatso again, explaining the nature of his suspicions in more detail. Once again, he had no proof; neither had he seen anything, nor had anyone confided in him; he simply felt a ‘strong suspicion’. Gyatso revealed in response that he had in fact confronted Samden over the allegations, but that the latter had responded by denying any wrongdoing.

Samden Gyatso was finally removed fifteen months later, in February 2007, purportedly for other, unassociated reasons,[15] reasons which were outlined in a letter sent to the Resident Teachers (RTs) of each of the NKT’s many centres. It was only after his removal, the NKT claim, that a small number of people came forward, each with similar stories of sexual exploitation providing evidence that there was indeed substance to the earlier allegations.

Gyatso then wrote to Samden condemning his behaviour. The letter, which was copied to all NKT RTs read:

‘You have destroyed the NKTs reputation and the power of all NKT Resident Teachers. Through your actions so many ordained Teachers have disrobed following your view which is opposite to Buddhist view – you tried to spread a sexual lineage which you yourself created. Even in society a Teacher cannot have sex with students. After you left many people confessed to me that you had had sex with them … We will never allow your sexual lineage to spread in this world.’

According to the ‘smears’ website, Gyatso and others in the NKT are presently trying to help individually anyone affected by Samden’s behaviour. Samden himself simply disappeared from the NKT radar: in May 2007, Vishvapani of the FWBO noted that:

‘If you follow links to Samden on the NKT’s webpage they will take you, in a somewhat Orwellian manner, to his replacement, Kelsang Khenrab, with no word of explanation of how or why the change took place.’[16]

The deposition of Samden Gyatso was an imperative for Gyatso for a number of reasons. Firstly, in Tzong Ka Pa’s monastic tradition, to engage in sexual acts with a physical partner is totally forbidden for monks; Gelug monastic practitioners must rely only on a visualized partner throughout their corporeal life before achieving enlightenment in the after-death state through meditative transformation of that experience.[17] For Samden to introduce a path which contradicted this, as the above implies, represented a clear threat to Gyatso’s portrayal of his organization as the inheritor’s of the purity of Tzong Ka Pa’s tradition; if Samden’s path were to gain credence, this would totally undermine such a claim.

Secondly, the deposition was imperative from a public perspective because, in distancing themselves from Samden and his actions, the NKT and Gyatso were able to separate themselves from the abuse which he had seemingly perpetrated. What seems rather strange however is that, in doing so, they openly revealed both the nature and degree of the abuse in which their former Assistant Spiritual Director had supposedly engaged. In light of the circumstances surrounding his predecessor’s deposition still remaining a closely guarded secret, this represented a significant change of tack by the NKT. Let us examine the nature of this alleged abuse so as to understand why this unprecedented revelation was necessary.

It can be argued that while all forms of sexual abuse are immoral, the level of that immorality varies in dependence upon the nature and context of the abuse. For instance, while the sexual abuse of an adult is immoral, the sexual abuse of a vulnerable minor is perhaps significantly more so.

In this case, the sexual activity is alleged to have taken place between two, consenting adults at any one time. Normally, such a consensual act would not be considered immoral. However, Samden was both a monk and the Assistant Spiritual Director of the whole of the NKT empire and, as such, occupied a position of trust. This raised status transforms a consensual act into an abusive one. The UK Sexual Offences Act 2000 for example, argues that it is an abuse where a person who holds a position of trust over another engages in sexual relations with that person. Since Samden was in a position of great power and trust at the time these events are said to have occurred and the supposed relationship between the individuals concerned was a fiduciary one, it would certainly be appropriate to refer to such acts as abusive.

Of course, it could be argued that, because the supposed victims were adults under the impression that the sexual activity was, it seems, ‘tantric’ and therefore conducive to their long term well-being they would have consented to the activity, thus rendering it non-abusive. The reality of the situation however, is that the path that Samden is alleged to have espoused was common to him alone; as Gyatso put it, ‘you tried to spread a sexual lineage which you yourself created’. As a trained Buddhist practitioner with many years experience of teaching the tantric path, Gyatso would surely have been capable of distinguishing a fabricated path from a valid, historically established one.

What this means is that, not only would Samden’s purported multiple relationships with his female students been abusive, occurring as they seem to have done in the context of an unequal relationship, but also that they were justified on the basis of a false representation of the Buddhist path which promised the victim spiritual benefits if they participated. The sexual abuse then would have been of a ritualized form.

It was therefore, of the utmost importance for the credibility of Gyatso and the NKT that they publicly distanced themselves from Samden’s actions at the earliest opportunity, since no organization would want to be accused of knowingly and consistently presiding over adult ritual abuse or be forced to deal with the aftermath of such a scandal.

As with the case of Neil Elliott however, this raises some important questions, not least among them, how Gyatso could once again have not realized that he was presiding over misconduct, misconduct that had been pointed out to him repeatedly but against which he had failed to act. Seemingly, this occurred because the initial accuser had not presented Gyatso with any substantial evidence. Some however must surely have wondered why the ‘Third Buddha’ would have needed such evidence and, in light of his experience with his first proposed successor, why Gyatso had not acted significantly earlier.

In a 2008 response to allegations that ‘Geshe Kelsang has made mistakes in establishing the manner of his succession’[18] the NKT claimed that Gyatso had in fact ‘…shown great skill in establishing the manner of his succession’, and that it was ‘…thanks to having experienced first-hand the limitations of the other methods of succession that NKT practitioners can appreciate the current system and realize its wisdom’; unsurprisingly, the response made no specific reference to the nature of the ‘limitations’ highlighted by the inappropriate actions of either Elliott or Samden, despite their magnitude.

[1] Kay (2004) p 79
[2] M Bunting (August 15th 1996) ‘Sect Disrobes British Monk’ The Guardian, London
[3] Bunting (August 15th 1996)
[4] Rigdzin Shikpo (Mike Hookham) of the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions, and Lama Jampa Thaye of the Sakya and Kagyu traditions.
[5] John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834-1902). The historian and moralist, expressed the opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 that: ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.’
[6] Thubten Gyatso ‘On training as a teacher’ in ‘Full Moon’ NKT magazine
[7] 1) Penetrative sexual intercourse. 2) Stealing above a trivial amount. 3) Killing a human being. 4) Falsely claiming superior spiritual achievements. If a monk engages in any of these four actions, he is no longer a monk and is not readmitted into the community.
[8] Bunting (August 15th 1996)
[9] Bluck (2006)  ‘…senior disciple Gen Thubten Gyatso was ‘disrobed and banned’ from the NKT, ostensibly because of a ‘breach of his monastic vows’ … though there is some confusion here.’ p 132
[10] Bunting (15th August 1996)
[11] Publicity, Australasian Festival 2006, published 24th March 2005
[12] Publicity for a course at the NKT’s Rameshori centre in Atlanta, Georgia, November 2005
[15] One person appears to have been told that Samden had resigned because he found the prospect of eventually becoming the NKT’s General Spiritual Director too heavy, and that he had withdrawn ‘into retreat’. See Vishvapani (May 2007) ‘NKT Succession and Questions of Authority’
[16] Vishvapani (May 2007)
[17] See A Berzin (August 2003) ‘A Short Biography of Tsongkhapa’: ‘Tsongkhapa died at Ganden in 1419, at the age of 62. He attained enlightenment after his death by achieving an illusory body (sgyu-lus) instead of bardo. This was to emphasize the need for monks to follow strict celibacy, since enlightenment in this lifetime requires practice with a consort at least once.’

Kadampa Primary School Derbyshire – A Happiness Cult?

The controversial New Kadamapa Tradition (aka Kadampa Buddhism, NKT) is going to run a Primary School in Derbyshire (UK) – “the first in the world to follow the works of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a meditation master and internationally renowned teacher of Buddhism who established the new Kadampa tradition”.

Well, since they are already in the NHS, chaplaincy work etc. why not getting even kids from the age of 3 to 11 into the NKT? The earlier they are introduced into the group doctrine the better followers they might become, and NKT can grow even further.

Some suggested parents should be alarmed about this development, and I agree with them.

The New Kadampa Tradition is outside of mainstream Buddhism and is accused by former members as well as by critics to be a rather destructive cult (for details see Controversies). Former members of this organisation support each other at the New Kadampa Survivors Forum with presently 1110 members. Someone from this self-help forum compiled the main concerns that former members share:

What should ring the alarm bells for concerned parents?

Be happy, all of the time

The main motto of the school is a classical “happiness cult” issue which is rather common in controversial NRMs or cults:

“Everyone can be happy, all of the time.  Sounds unbelievable?  It’s true!

What is the problem with such an ethos at the heart of the Kadampa Primary School? It’s just unrealistic. Only enlightened beings can be happy all the time. Contrary to what the Buddha has taught (that life is pervaded by the three types of suffering) the NKT is promoting a happiness cult which suggest instead that one can be happy “all of the time”. Through such an attitude the kids might be urged to “be happy” “to behave happy” and they are either directly or indirectly blamed it would be their own fault if they are unhappy, thereby installing feelings of guilt and shame in them. The children might then gradually repress their negative feelings (like anger) to conform with the ethos and they might urge themselves to show happiness even when they are unhappy. Which leads to many kinds of problems. This type of happiness cult and the repression of negative feelings or the denial of them can be found within the NKT (spiritual bypassing). It goes along with a pressure to show happiness to the outside world as a sign of a good (“pure”) Dharma practice. And this happiness cult produces feelings of guilt if one is not happy because this is seen as a sign of a bad Dharma practice – of having failed. This happiness cult culture is already very present within NKT, and the NKT teachers will transfer this culture to the kids with the respective psychological damage. Such a “happiness cult” is extremely unhealthy because it goes along with feelings of guilt, the suppression of feelings and a dissimulation of happiness which is enforced by the group dynamics. It would be by far better to help the children to understand that they cannot be happy all of the time and how to deal in a healthy way with feelings of jealousy, anger, hate, unhappiness, pain and suffering etc., and to accept those feelings as a part of our human life and human nature. Negative emotions must be first accepted as a part of our life and based on this acceptance they can only gradually be diminished, and only an Arhat or Buddha is completely free of them and “happy all of the time”.

Contradictions in the presentation

The “Dharma Scheme of Work Policy”(see Dharma-Policy) states

Dharma Scheme of Work Policy

2012 – 2013

‘The International Kadampa Schools will be the gateway through which children of the modern world can enter the great treasury of wisdom and compassion that is known as Kadam Dharma. I would like to encourage every child to enter this treasury so that they will find a meaningful and happy life’. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

The Dharma Scheme of Work at the Kadampa Primary School Derbyshire is offered as an optional subject and is entirely dependent on parent and pupil choice.  There is one KS2 class weekly and one KS1/FS class weekly.  It’s aims are to provide pupils with the opportunity to begin the process of fulfilling their full spiritual potential.  The essential aspects of how to lead a happier and more meaningful way of life will be taught in a practical ways to ensure the pupils have the necessary skills to deal with all the challenges of life.

We see the Dharma Scheme of Work as an integral part of the education experience as a whole.

Objectives for the children
Children should aspire to be able to:

  • Enjoy the Dharma Scheme of Work.
  • Develop their good qualities by putting Dharma into practice in their lives.
  • Reduce their negative qualities by putting Dharma into practice in their lives.
  • Benefit others by putting Dharma into practice in their lives.
  • Wish to continue practising Dharma throughout their life to benefit both themselves and others.

What are the problems here?

The announcement makes the strategy of the NKT visible. On the one hand it is claimed that the Dharma Scheme of Work would be optional but then it is clearly stated to be an integral part and one should aspire to enjoy the Dharma Scheme of Work. Through this it becomes clear that what was announced in the beginning as optional is finally becoming  compulsory and one is potentially pressured to joyfully submit oneself to this work. This is exactly how NKT is operating: in the beginning rookies are told they don’t need to worry, e.g. they don’t need to be anxious about the HYT commitments and finally after they have received the HYT empowerment (or just some teachings) them is told (directly or indirectly) that “Geshe-la” is now their “root guru” and leaving the root guru will lead one to the hells.

There is another potential danger. The statement above and the influence of the NKT teachers on the kids will make sure that the encounter with the NKT teachings of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and his Western devotees will issue forth a life long commitment to the NKT, Geshe Kelsang Gyatos and his books. The rather innocent appearing point Wish to continue practising Dharma throughout their life means in the context of NKT (and the Kadampa Primary School will be “pure” NKT) that the kids must wish to practice the NKT teachings throughout their life (which is only possible by binding oneself to the NKT). So, the kids must finally (in the deepest sense of the context and meaning) wish and aspire to read and to study exclusively the books about Buddhism written by ‘Geshe’ Kelsang Gyatso, and to rely totally on him, his protector (Shugden), his NKT tradition, his NKT teachers, his NKT ordination, his NKT study programmes, his NKT temples, his NKT centres, his NKT cafes, his NKT hotels … and now also his NKT schools throughout their life. Why? This is the real understanding the NKT teachers will infuse into the minds of the kids. This understanding was well expressed by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso himself in his “bible” on “Guru devotion”:

“Experience shows that realizations come from deep, unchanging faith, and that this faith comes as a result of following one tradition purely – relying upon one Teacher, practising only his teachings, and following his Dharma Protector. If we mix traditions many obstacles arise and it takes a long time for us to attain realizations.” (Kelsang Gyatso: Great Treasury of Merit: A Commentary to the Practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, 1992, p. 31)

Separate from all government influence and control

And if these hints aren’t sufficient to alert concerned parents maybe this statement by the official Kadampa Primary School Derbyshire website rings some alarm bells:

” … it was decided to create a school separate from all government influence and control”


Last edited by tenpel on July 24, 2013 at 10:43 am

New Kadampa Tradition – INFORM 2011 – Extremism on University Campuses

In their Annual Report 2011 INFORM reports to have received the most inquiries with respect to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) / Kadampa Buddhism, founded by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in 1991. Also in 2008 and 2010 INFORM received the most inquiries about the NKT. (I don’t know how the statistics were in 2009.)

In INFORM’s leaflet  “Extremism on University Campuses” from 2011 the New Kadampa Tradition is explicitly mentioned three times in three different contexts.

Here are some details from the Inform 2011 Annual Report with respect to the New Kadampa Tradition:

In 2011 Inform dealt with 342 enquiries. (It dealt with 341 enquiries in 2010.) There were enquiries about 73 different religious groups. Groups enquired about more than four times were:

New Kadampa Tradition 20
Unification Church 13
Church of Scientology 10
Rigpa 7
Brahma Kumaris 5
Believer’s Loveworld 5
Hizb-ut-Tahrir 4
The New Cathars 4
Mohan Singh 4
Transcendental Meditation 4

General enquiries about religious traditions or practices 71
General enquiries about Inform and its work 43

There were also 44 enquiries asking about groups that were at the time unknown to Inform; most of these have since been researched and added to the database.

Enquirers by category that enquired more than 4 times were:
Government Body 58
Chaplain/Church network 47
Academic/writer 38
Former member 33
Student 31
Media 29
General public 26
Relative/friend of member 19
Current members 19
Education Institution 7
Counsellor/Therapist 7
Advice Agency 5
Cult Watching Group 4

Power Games from The World of NKT

Maitreya Buddhist Centre

Maitreya Buddhist Centre, Sea Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, District of Rother, England.The NKT Maitreya Centre1- or better the charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre – allow to get some insights in the power politics within New Kadampa Traditon (NKT).

The common politic within NKT is to remove everybody from power who is not totally in line with the NKT policies. For being removed from the position of a NKT Teacher it was sufficient in the past to recommend a book not written by Geshe Kelsang or to disagree with the protests against the Dalai Lama.

I found the politics within NKT always arbitrary and undemocratic, and Geshe Kelsang as the autocrat par excellence. Usually those power games were rarely documented to the non-NKT world. But the charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre are courageous enough to reject the NKT power games. To help themselves they involved the Charity Commission. The NKT leadership plays all dirty tricks to get rid of the present charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre, which includes that John McBretney, the man who signed the “Open Letters to British Political Leaders“, falsely claimed to be the legally valid representative of the members of Maitreya Buddhist Centre. But since this didn’t work NKT now set up a fraudulent website, purporting to be the official site of Maitreya Buddhist Centre, using the charity’s registration number and using its registered address.

For details see: and

No Dharma Books written by NKT teachers

If one looks into the history of NKT one can see that in more than twenty years of NKT’s existence none of the close students of Kelsang Gyatso or any NKT teacher has ever written a Dharma book which reflects or comments on the Dharma.2 I remember that my NKT teacher told me that Neil Elliot, the former appointed successor of Kelsang Gyatso, wrote a book on Karma but it has never been offered within NKT nor could I find a copy of it outside of NKT. I assumed there was some trouble behind the scene, and Neil Elliot was forced to withdraw the book or its publication. It appears that one of the many unwritten rules within NKT is that as long as Kelsang Gyatso is alive none of his followers can write a Dharma book.3 It would be a case of heresy to do so. A recent trial to publish a Dharma book “Where Happiness is” by Nick Gillespie—who was NKT Resident Teacher for decades, in Florida and in the UK—is presently suppressed by NKT with threat of legal actions and by putting a ban on him which ceases the connection of him with all NKT centres, especially the KMC New York City. I wonder why on the 21st July 2009 the Education Council had removed Nick Gillespie from the position of an NKT Resident Teacher already. The year could indicate that he was critical with the Anti Dalai Lama protests but actual I don’t know.

The NKT fighters for religious freedom would do better to improve the NKT’s own oppressive system ;-)


1 Update June 12, 2012: “The web domain has been taken over by Chodor, so although it is still online, it is effectively immobilised and useless, for he has apparently changed the passwords thereby denying the website designer any access to the domain; therefore, please ignore that web domain as it is not relevant at all now.” (see Maitreya News Update on 24.5.2012)

2 Update and Correction, April 30, 2012: There is a translation of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara by NKT’s printing house Tharpa Publications that names Neil Elliot as the one who “rendered” the translation from Tibetan into English “under the compassionate guidance of Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.”

3 Update and Correction, April 30, 2012: Since the public establishment of the “Internal Rules” of NKT around 2008-09 it became an official NKT policy that “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.” + “11§3. Since it is heavy negative karma to do so, practitioners of Kadampa Buddhism shall not sell images of Buddhas (such as statues, posters, or cards), stupas, Dharma books or booklets or audio/visual recordings, for their own business and personal profit.”

Update May 17, 2012

Dispute closes Buddhist centre – Local News – Hastings and St. Leonards Observer (PDF)

Update July 17, 2012

Charity Commission and the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) 2012/07/17

Update Sept. 14, 2012

Boring Books by Je Tsongkhapa vs. Good Feeling Books by Geshe Kelsang

The following is an excerpt of a transcript of a speech given by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

Talk on Je Tsongkhapa Day 25th October 1996, edited November 27th 1996

At Lama Chopa puja at Manjushri Mahayana Buddhist Centre


At least we should understand that we have a very special opportunity to learn the Stages of the Path, Lamrim, through scriptures or books such as Joyful Path of Good Fortune. In reality this book is Lama Tsongkhapa’s present that comes from his kindness and wisdom. Without Lama Tsongkhapa’s blessings it would have been impossible to produce this book. It is from his wisdom that we now have such a wonderful holy Dharma book that can fulfil our wishes and directly protect us from suffering and problems right now. However, we are not using this book practically to change our mind and gain deep experience, but we just read and study it, and try to understand some of its meaning which we immediately forget.



We have already found a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction. For us, there is no confusion, and everything is very comfortable. Nowadays there are many followers of Tibetan Buddhism who are confused because of the many differing views taught by Tibetan Lamas and because of their different ways of teaching and behaving. But for Kadampa Buddhists now in the West everything is very comfortable and clear. We have a clear direction free from confusion. This is because of the strength of our faith and the purity of our view. Sometimes, of course, we have a slight problem over our motivation. We must be careful and try to improve our motivation. For this we need to practice Joyful Path of Good Fortune. Other than this, we have many good qualities. Our wisdom, for instance, increases month by month and year by year.

I am not praising this tradition because it is our tradition. For instance, I can say that you will never find another book as good as Joyful Path of Good Fortune from any other source. I am not proud but I am telling you the truth. You can read other books and check. When I read I also find it amazing. I do not feel that it is my teaching. I understand that in reality my body was like a tape recorder, and that perhaps the Dharmapala put the teachings inside my heart and they came out of my mouth. For instance I have read Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path and Joyful Path of Good Fortune and I feel that for you Joyful Path of Good Fortune is better because Je Tsongkhapa’s text is very technical and scholarly with many quotations. Without possessing deep wisdom it would be difficult to understand and you would probably get bored with it. I find it OK because I have already learned it, but you would be bored with it because of it being very technical. In Joyful Path of Good Fortune, however, everything is set out in a very practical way. It can immediately give us a good feeling.

Comment by Tenpel

The text offers some insights into the thinking and views of Geshe Kelsang and what he wants his followers to believe in:

  • in the first paragraph, Kelsang Gyatso is saying that his books actual embody Je Tsongkhapa’s wisdom. So he is equalizing the quality of his books with the quality or wisdom of Je Tsongkhapa’s texts (or books). The claim is, there would be no difference. They are of the same quality. (Later he will point out some differences, that Tsongkhapa’s books could be “boring” while his own books are more “practical”. Which actual says, that his books are better for his students than the books of Je Tsongkhapa.)

The next two paragraphs are mainly saying:

  • who follows NKT has “already found a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction” whereas others, who don’t follow NKT, are confused:
  • “there are many followers of Tibetan Buddhism who are confused” (this means: you can be happy to be within NKT and outside of NKT there is confusion. Since you don’t want confusion, its better to stick to NKT because “you have already found a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction”)
  • if you follow NKT “everything is very comfortable”, yes, “for Kadampa Buddhists now in the West everything is very comfortable and clear.” (Are you so stupid not to follow this clear and comfortable path?)
  • NKT is distinct different and better than those Tibetan Buddhists because “for Kadampa Buddhists now in the West everything is very comfortable and clear.”
  • There is something very special in the NKT you are following “This is because of the strength of our faith and the purity of our view. Sometimes, of course, we have a slight problem over our motivation.” This means: if you as a NKT follower have “pure view” (don’t see problems in NKT and me, your Guru) then everything will be nice, if there is any problem at all its not coming from the NKT or me (Geshe Kelsang) but through “a slight problem over our motivation”
  • To overcome these slight problems, please stick to my NKT and my literature, only there you can find salvation (or solutions) “For this we need to practice Joyful Path of Good Fortune.” (my perfect Lamrim Text)
  • you know, we are good because “we have many good qualities. Our wisdom, for instance, increases month by month and year by year.” (these are all mere claims, where is there any evidence for this? but doesn’t this sound nice, doesn’t feel this comfortable? why is our wisdom increasing day by day? because you follow me! :-) )
  • You might feel resistance to what I am saying? Maybe a bit too much elation? But I (Geshe-la) am not “praising this (my) tradition because it is our tradition” but I have evidence for this … the evidence is his, Geshe-la’s, own experience, and this experience is nothing subjective but “the truth”: “you will never find another book as good as Joyful Path of Good Fortune from any other source” (means: my book is better for you than Je Tsongkhapa’s Great Lamrim text, its the best you can have in the whole world! so be happy with what my NKT offers, be happy with my excellent books, there is nothing better than what my NKT has to offer, I am telling this from my own experiences, and this should be valid for you too.
  • “You can read other books and check. When I read I also find it amazing.” (so there is freedom, you can check but you can only come to the same conclusion as your Guru, Geshe-la, has drawn it.) Why?  Geshe-la is not just anybody (what do you think who you are?) Geshe-la says “in reality my body was like a tape recorder, and that perhaps the Dharmapala put the teachings inside my heart and they came out of my mouth.” (So you should believe what Geshe-la, your guru, is  telling you). What is he saying?
  • Don’t read Je Tsongkhapa, stick to my books. Why, because to understand those “very technical and scholarly” texts by Tsongkhapa you need “deep wisdom” (which you don’t have) and hence “it would be difficult to understand” it, but he, Geshe-la, has this wisdom because “I find it OK because I have already learned it”.
  • What is all of this saying to a NKT follower at the Je Tsongkhapa Day? You don’t need to read Je Tsongkhapa’s Great Lam Rim text books, if you do, you are going to get bored with it, just stick to my, Geshe-la’s, books then you will feel good. If you follow (my) NKT then you have a clear path, outside of NKT there is the danger of confusion and the boring books by Tsongkhapa. You can be so happy to have met the New Kadampa Tradition, I have brought to you.

Is there any contradiction to celebrate the “Je Tsongkhapa Day” and the message of the day is: you don’t need Je Tsongkhapa’s text books but you need NKT and Geshe-la’s books, which are better than Je Tsongkhapa’s text books? No, there isn’t, because the NKT and Geshe-la’s books are not different from Je Tsongkhapa’s wisdom, they are even better, “more practical not boring, you know?”. There is nothing wrong, ha ha …

You know, another thing Geshe-la wants you to believe in is, that it were beneficial to see him as (the Third) Buddha:

Now you might get an idea how views are developed in NKT:

  • Geshe-la is a Buddha (there is spiritual benefit from it, and it shows students have “pure view”)
  • his books are the wisdom of Je Tsongkhapa, and even somewhat more practical
  • outside of NKT there is confusion
  • in NKT there is “a correct spiritual path and a clear spiritual direction” and
  • “everything is very comfortable”

With respect to the Third Buddha claim (which came into existence by Neil Elliot / Gen Thubten) according to the New Kadampa Tradition’s “Truth Site” it were a “Smear” that “Geshe Kelsang Gyatso calls himself ‘the Third Buddha’ and seeks veneration from his students”:

Geshe Kelsang has never used this term in relation to himself, in fact he is very humble and self-deprecating, attributing all the success of the NKT to Je Tsongkhapa.

Personally, I am not convinced that equalizing the own works with that of Je Tsongkhapa and claiming the own works would be more “practical” while those of Je Tsongkhapa were rather “boring” and “you will never find another book as good as Joyful Path of Good Fortune from any other source” is “humble and self-deprecating”.

And how humble is it to claim “Geshe Kelsang is the only Tibetan Lama to have provided a complete re-presentation of the Buddhist path in accordance with the needs and inclinations of the modern world.”? [1], and where did NKT students get this idea from?

[1] derived from, April 9, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Cartoon NKT Survivor Experiences & New Discussions

There is a series of cartoons from a former NKT nun which are well made and shed light on life within the New Kadampa Tradition / Kadampa Buddhism.

It makes me very sad to watch them.

I can highly recommend these clips. Here is a brief selection:


Some new discussions or links:

* The new generation of NKT practitioners stick now to the Internal Rules of NKT and have brought their case to the British Charity Commission. Both, the charity trustees and NKT, have agreed to accept the Charity Commission’s guidance to settle their dispute. This is quite of an amazing development because so far NKT leadership decided everything and disobedient members were just expelled or pushed to go.

  Last edited by tenpel on January 16, 2014 at 12:58 am

INFORM statistics – Geshe Title of Kelsang Gyatso – Not Isolating Groups

For one week I was in London. During that time I visited also INFORM—an internationally renowned research group based at the London School of Economics. I am full of praise and respect for their work. First of all, the persons I met are very intelligent, clear minded and have a warm, unbiased and compassionate attitude, which I really cherish very much because such qualities are a must for such work and they are always useful for self and others. Also INFORM is not unaware about the harm New Religions can bring to people, which was important for me to see because some accounts I read from Massimo Introvigne (CESNUR) seem to confirm the criticism of cult-watch-movements that he might be rather supporting these groups by downplaying the potential harm that so called cults can bring to others.

Actually I think there is a fine line between the freedom of religion, and a setting which creates an environment that undermines the freedom of an individual or actually encourages the exploitation of individuals on a material, emotionally or sexual level. What is more important, the concept of “freedom of religion” or that the people’s freedom and well-being is not harmed in the name of religion? In Germany the concept of “freedom of religion” was seen as higher than the concept of the “rights of animals”, therefore a German court gave permission in the name of “religious freedom” for kosher butchering. A decision I feel to be quite questionable even in mundane perspective not to speak about a Buddhist point of view.

Researchers like Margaret Thaler Singer stress the rights of the individual not to be harmed in the name of religion and researchers like Massimo Introvigne stress the rights of the freedom of religion and that New Religious Movements should not be harmed by denouncing them or portraying them in a biased manner. Actually I appreciate both approaches. But for my taste how Introvigne writes about Singer appears to me also as being biased and at times even hostile. Maybe I am wrong about Introvigne, but to me the key point seems to be that if we cling too strongly to ideas of purity (etc.) or hold fanatically to the concepts of rights, there is a tendency to see these ideas as more important than the sentient beings’ welfare. These attitudes will always lead us away from being really human, compassionate and wise. All types of fundamentalism or inhumanity go together with the attitude that certain concepts are seen as more important than sentient beings welfare and freedom. What makes the things even more complicated is that these concepts also claim to exactly know what is good or bad for the being’s welfare… We’re walking on razor’s edge…

It was mainly from my Wikipedia work, what I learned there as an editor, some explorations into the so–called “cult” or “anti-cult” stuff, and exchanges with INFORM that protected me from falling from one extreme to another, which means after having followed devotedly a cult movement to apply the same black and white patterns but now as an “anti-cultist”. This danger really exists after having left a cult. One is at risk to not recognize the black-and-white patterns and to fall under their spell again. In that sense one needs really a “deprogramming” of one’s bad mental attitudes in order to really ‘get rid of the cult’ not only outwardly but also inwardly, in the own mind.

During my visit to INFORM and in the last days I learned three things. One is with respect to NKT, the second has to do with the Geshe title claim of Kelsang Gyatso, and the third thing I learned is to question the ways of how to deal with groups which have a lot of destructive patterns. Besides the INFORM visit, one of the highlights with respect to my thinking about NKT and the issue of destructive movements or spiritual leaders who lead their students astray was a meeting with Claude AnShin Thomas, the head of the German Buddhist Monastic Congregation, Ven. Bhikshuni Thubten Choedroen, who I met with in Kassel (Germany) on July 18th, 2011. I was thinking it might be helpful to share some of the points here in brief:

INFORM’s Statistics of Enquiries

It was quite astonishing for me to learn during my INFORM visit that in 2008 and 2010 the most enquiries with respect to groups were with respect to the New Kadampa Tradition. The NKT topped even Scientology. Here are the statistics. They are available for the public and were provided by Suzanne Newcombe (PhD), Research Officer at Inform:


In 2008 Inform received enquiries about 84 different groups about which it already had some information. Of these specific groups, those about which Inform received the most enquiries were:

39 New Kadampa Tradition
37 Mehdi Zand / World of Yaad
22 Church of Soientology
20 Mohan Singh
15 Unification Church
8 The Family International
6 Brahma Kumaris
5 School of Economic Science
4 Exclusive Brethren
4 Hizb ut-Tahrir
4 International Churches of Christ
4 Landmark Education
4 Soka Gakkai International

Inform notes in their report about 2008: “A considerable amount of staff research time arose out of the enquiries about the New Kadampa Tradition, Mohan Singh, and Mehdi Zand and the World of Yaad.”


The 2010 Annual Report is not finalised. For 2010 the comparative figures are:

28 New Kadampa Tradition
27 Mohan Singh
13 Church of Scientology
9 Falun Gong
6 Rigpa
5 Exclusive Brethren
5 Adidam
5 Friends of the Western Buddhist Order
5 School of Economic Science
4 Unification Church
3 Brahma Kumaris
3 Diamond Way Buddhism
3 Divine Light Mission
3 Hizb-ut-Tahrir
3 Jehovah’s Witnesses
3 Landmark
3 New Frontiers
3 Rastafarianism
3 Sahaja Yoga
3 Schiller Institute
3 Universal Church of the Kingdom of God
3 Mehdi Zand

1996-2010 enquiries about the New Kadampa Tradition:

1996 – 19 enquiries
2 former members
3 current members
2 media

1997 – 9 enquiries

1998 – 11 enquiries
3 current members
1 media

1999 – 6 enquiries
2000 – 6 enquiries
2001 – 6 enquiries
2002 – 3 enquiries
2003 – 3 enquiries
2004 – 2 enquiries
2005 – 1 enquiries
2006 – 7 enquiries

2007 – 17 enquiries
8 former members
1 current member

2008 – 39 enquiries
6 current members
13 former members
1 media

2009 – 23 enquiries
3 current members
6 former members

2010 – 28 enquiries
5 current members
7 former members

Geshe Title of Kelsang Gyatso

The Geshe title of Kelsang Gyatso is somewhat a mystery, while he claims to hold a Geshe title, some sources say he didn’t receive the Geshe degree. The New Kadampa Tradition sent their point of view to INFORM together with the permission to make it available if someone asks for it: »Separate document regarding Geshe Kelsang’s personal situation«. (PDF) If one reads it carefully and has some background it shows some inconsistencies, e.g. in Tashi Lhunpo it is not possible to study to become a Geshe, one is offered the Khachen degree. It seems that Kelsang Gyatso indeed didn’t really receive the formal Geshe title, and he himself states that he didn’t accept the changes with respect to it, hence he had to bear the consequences of this decision.

The arguments the New Kadampa Tradition is using to defend the Geshe title are not very helpful because it is not uncommon either to call someone out of respect a Geshe or even just for fun. To praise a learned person as a master and to write long life prayers which portray him to be a great teacher is a common approach in Tibetan Buddhism. The statements made in long life prayers shouldn’t be taken literally. Our Lharampa Geshe in Italy even forbade to recite his long life prayer “because it is not true.” To use long life prayer statements as arguments to settle a controversy about a Geshe title is not very productive in such a context.

The problem seems to be more that the Geshe title is sometimes used or given even if persons did not do the final debates and exams. For instance according to a Geshe at Nalanda monastery (France) Geshe Michael Roach received his Geshe title after he had done the amount of work of four years of study and because he was a generous sponsor. In that context some argued this is the way how corruption enters education and spirituality. I have been told that sometimes even cooks can get an honorific Geshe title. According to a fully ordained nun from the Tibetan Centre in Hamburg (Germany) Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok, who taught from 1997-1982 the Geshe program at Manjushri Institute (now NKT’s “mother centre”), a program which was approved by the Dalai Lama, and who served for seven years as an abbot in Sera received the Geshe title without the final requirements. But this is perfectly accepted by everybody and nobody has challenged it, he is held in highest esteems! So there is a type of acceptance, ambiguity or flexibility which is different to our Western world where it is a very clear process when one obtains a PhD. Trying to get some clarity I wrote to some learned persons:

Actual there are some Geshes, who didn’t do their Geshe exam but use the title Geshe and this is perfectly accepted and no problem within Tibetan Buddhism. I just heard that also my 80 year old teacher who was aboot for 7 years of Sera Je in India, Geshe Jampa Tegchok, and who was in the first 2 years together with Kelsang Gyatso at Manjushri Centre, did not do the Geshe exam, still it is perfectly fine for him to have the Geshe title and it is commonly accepted.

Carola Roloff (PhD) replied in an email:

That is true, although I know Tibetan geshes who do not feel that this is appropriate. It seems that it became more and more quite common, at the same time this leads to an inflation of the academic geshe title. Similarly it is criticized that more and more Tulkus are appointed. Generally speaking there are several geshe titles. The term geshe, lit. kalyanamitra, already occurred from the 8th century onwards, as we can see from the Kadam Chöjung and thus correctly pointed out by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Actually yesterday I learned that even Dromtönpa is considered to have been a geshe in the sense of a scholar, although he was a lay person. It seems that the geshe title by Gelugpa monasteries came only in existence by the 18th century. I have raised the issue of Tibetan scholar titles in my MA thesis and in relation to Rendawa in my PhD thesis.

When I asked for her permission to quote this statement, she agreed and asked to add the following paragraphs:

However, I would like to point out that this is a very complex issue. For example, in the Tibetan Gelug monasteries in Indian exile it was possible that you receive the geshe title as long as you were enrolled, even if you were travelling most of the time and did not join the classes, as long as you participated in the final exam. This does not mean that you have or do not have the knowledge required. It will depend on many circumstances such as the person’s ability and determination, the teachers close to the person etc., whether the knowledge has been accumulated.

For somebody who worked most of the time for the monastery and therefore was not able to join the classes, it was sufficient to memorize a certain text (minimum 50 pages/folios?) to receive the geshe title. During the traditional final debate session such person would sit next to the main of three main candidates, who sits in the middle, but would not be expected to say anything. This leads indeed to situations in which persons who never studied the major five texts receive a geshe title.

On the other hand there are monks (and nuns) who did the full study, which nowadays takes 17 years, but did not receive the geshe title, either because they did not want it (in the case of some monks), or because they did not receive it (in the case of nuns), although they seem to have passed all exams required according to the gelug exam regulations and perhaps could even become a geshe lharampa. Why some monks did not want the title may have various reasons such as (apparent or true) modesty/renunciation, or lack of money to make the traditional offering to the whole community of monks after they have received the degree. But again, this does not mean that those who accepted the geshe title are always true or not true practitioners.

So again, as so often, things are not black and white and have a very complex background. There are also cases like Lama Yeshe–founder of the FPMT and Manjushri Centre near Ulverston/Cumbria)–who was a Tulku and a Rinpoche but never used those titles. As far as it was told to me his situation was similar to that of Kelsang Gyatso but he never used the Geshe title.

Not Isolating Groups

We have a very sad case in Germany were the Vietnamese abbot (Thich Thien Son) of a huge community in Frankfurt (Pagode Path Hue) is accused of having inappropriate sexual relationships with some of his male students. According to former members he even claims wrongly this would be a part of the monk’s training and other masters would do it likewise. This abbot had been the former head of the Deutsche Buddhistische Ordensgemeinschaft (DBO). After extensive research by the DBO board and engaged Buddhists, based on five affidavits the “abbot” was finally expelled from the DBO. The DBO made a public statement on their website too. Some concerned Buddhists and the DBO informed teachers, musicians, and the Jade Buddha project about the findings of the DBO to be able to make an informed decision. Though many terminated their collaboration with the Pagode in Frankfurt, some didn’t. Among them was Claude AnShin Thomas and his decision was felt by some as controversial. Due to different reasons and circumstances the head of the DBO and I were able to meet him, and it was quite an extraordinary experience… To make it short, though Claude Anshin refused to take sides or positions with respect to the accusations his point of view is: “if the accusations are true the group needs help, if they are not true, they need help too and if they are semi-true they also need help. Isolating groups is not a good way of dealing with such problems.”

Though the DBO statement and my own engagement in this case were not based on the wish to isolate the group, public statements such as these will rather naturally lead to an isolation and though such public statements might be useful to protect others and to enable people to make an informed decision, they aren’t necessarily the best way to address spiritual, power, sexual, material or emotional abuse.

At the moment I am in the process of sorting out these understandings, and I asked Suzanne Newcombe (PhD), a research officer at INFORM what she thinks about it. With her permission I quote her here:

Sociological research shows that it is when groups are social and physically isolated that the most harmful things happen. Extremism in both thought and behaviour is moderated somewhat by contact with other groups and ‘mainstream society’. This is partially behind Inform’s policy of always trying to maintain directly contact with the groups we study. ‘New’ groups or those with charismatic leadership can change very quickly and unpredictably, so it is also good to have contact so that one can have accurate information about what is actually happening.

In the Canadian Rigpa documentary one of the women says that she approached a visiting monk at Sogyal’s centre in France asking what it meant to be a ‘consort’ and was told by this person that it was ‘a great honour’. She later felt that this individual was colluding and supporting what she would describe as Sogyal’s ‘abuse’ of women. I wonder what would have happened if that monk would have said – no Buddhist should cause harm by sexual relationships. There is a fine line between being seen as ‘endorsing and colluding’ and being available to moderate, observe and counsel individuals away from harm. Being able to say clearly and with specific examples, how Thich Thien Son’s actions have caused harm to some of those who were in relationship with him, is very helpful.


One of the key theories sociologists use is that of ‘deviance amplification’ the wikipedia link here is a fair introduction: Deviancy amplification spiral. Traditionally, it focuses on media involvement in demonising sections of society or particular groups. However, you can also sometimes see the same cycle at work with say, a ‘problem’ child in school – the child becomes labelled as a problem and then acts more and more in accord with the label. If you want more reading along these lines, let me know and I’ll think a bit more.

It might be interesting for you to read some of Eileen’s work in positioning Inform – you can download the academic ‘What Should We Do About the Cults‘. (or from this page

I hope this is some food for thought.

Upadate 19 March 2012

updated: March 19, 2012

BBC: An Unholy Row

The BBC documentary An Unholy Row about the New Kadampa Tradition from 1998 can be watched now on YouTube:


NKT Ordination – Clarifying More Misunderstandings

Recently I received more explanations by Kelsang Gyatso which he gave to his followers with respect to the ordination women and men can receive in the New Kadampa Tradition (aka Kadampa Buddhism). I post them here together with some objections for the sake of dispelling the misunderstandings. At the end of this post there is an excerpt of a talk by Gen-la Samden to NKT monks and nuns.

Ordination ceremony July 28th 1999 at Manjushri

From the Ordination Handbook, p.20

As our renunciation deepens it will transform into bodhichitta, and our ordination vows will transform into Bodhisattva vows and finally into Tantric vows. In this way we can become a higher being able to maintain our ordination into our next life.

Objection: It is impossible that ordination vows can continue into the next life. The Vinaya and all commentaries on the Vinaya are clear about this. If the ordination vows could be carried into the next life then it follows very soon one would break one of the four root vows in the next life by just having sex through one of the three doors of the body, and since one has broken the root vows in one’s youth one cannot receive ordination in that very life again.

The ordination vows last for one life and cease with the death. Ordination vows cannot ‘transform into Bodhisattva vows and finally into Tantric vows”, if it were so then also all the ordained persons would receive the Bodhisattva vows and the Tantric vows by a miraculous way of transformation. The Bodhisattva vows and the Tantric vows as well as the ordination vows are conferred only by the proper ceremony as described in the scriptures, a qualified abbot/Sangha or master, and with a concious intention to receive them. Bodhichitta must be developed by applying the Mahayana teachings and renunciation supports that mind but does not transform into it otherwise if follows the Bodhisattvas who have attained uncontrived Bodhichitta have no renunciation because their renunciation would have transformed into Bodhichitta. What ‘higher being (is) able to maintain (the) ordination into our next life’? Please give an example and a scriptural source.

Ordination talk – Spring Festival 2000, Calistoga, California

In the Kadampa tradition we can carry our ordination with us from one life to the next. This is very different from the Hinayana tradition which nowadays Tibetan Buddhism is following. Western people need Kadam Dharma and it is particularly suited to them. Our Vinaya sutra is the Perfection of Wisdom sutra and Lamrim is its commentary. Our Vinaya is Lamrim. Through improving our Lamrim practice we improve our ordination. This is a different way of practising ordination from the Hinayana tradition, even different from the Mahayana tradition. Our ordination practices are very special and very clear, they are not complicated, so you should be happy with them.

Objection: In the ancient Kadampa tradition there exist no teaching that claims that the ordination would be carried to the next life. Atisha didn’t say that nor did any Kadampa master make such an assertion. Those in the Kadampa tradition, who were ordained, were ordained according to the Vinaya and especially about Atisha it is said that he had respected and followed the Vinaya in a perfect manner. Please give an example and an exact scriptural source where any of the old Kadampa master made such a claim. There is no one who has said this. According to the Vinaya the vows cease at the end of the life. The ordained Kadampas (e.g. Atisha) and the ordained Gelugpas (e.g. Je Tsongkhapa) as well as all the other ordained persons of the Tibetan schools of Buddhism follow the Vinaya. The explanation above is indeed ‘very different from the Hinayana tradition which nowadays Tibetan Buddhism is following.’ Statements like ‘Our Vinaya sutra is the Perfection of Wisdom sutra and Lamrim is its commentary. Our Vinaya is Lamrim.’ are twisted and wrong explanations. Neither the Perfection of Wisdom sutra nor Lamrim reveal or are texts that reveal how ordination vows are conferred and what the duties and rituals of monastic communities are. Though Lamrim practice supports an ordained person it cannot replace the Vinaya and the practice of the Vinaya. It is true what Kelsang Gyatso says: ‘This is a different way of practising ordination from the Hinayana tradition, even different from the Mahayana tradition.’ Yes, it is, it is self-made. I disagree with the conclusion of Kelsang Gyatso: ‘Our ordination practices are very special and very clear, they are not complicated, so you should be happy with them.’ This ordination has no support from any tradition, it is twisted, self-created and this wrong explanation shouldn’t be accepted. Actual it is really sad to read such twisted explanations.

However, still the NKT ordination can be considered to be valid insofar as it can be seen to be a so called “Rabjung ordination”. Such an ordination—usually given to Tibetan kids under the age of 18—does not confer actual ordination vows and the person is an “in-between” which means the person is neither a real lay person nor a real ordained person, such a Rabjung does also not belong to the Buddhist monastic order but is approaching to become a member of it by aspiring to become a novice or a fully ordained person.

‘Ordination handbook’. Ordination talk on July 29th 1999

He calls the vows ‘initial or basic ordination. The second level is called the Getsul – Getsulpa and Getsulma in Tibetan, or Shramanera and Shramanerika in Sanskrit… The third and highest level of ordination within the Pratimoksha is the Gelong ordination – Gelongpa and Gelongma in Tibetan, or Bhikkshu and Bhikkshuni in Sanskrit…’

He says he is following Geshe Potawa’s idea of ordination – that when he gained the realization of renunciation… ‘Only then did his basic ordained vows become actual Pratimoksha vows.’

There follows a discussion of how the New Kadampa ordination is Prasangika, following Khedrubje’s commentary to the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, and that the Vinaya Sutra ordination ‘can only be received from a highly qualified senior Teacher who has been ordained for at least ten years’ – so ‘superficially this was incorrect’ (Geshe Potawa saying that due to receiving Lamrim teachings from Dromtonpa he developed renunciation so his ‘ordaining master’ was Dromtonpa… but Kelsang Gyatso is following Geshe Potawa’s view of ordination.

The previous monastic vows follow ‘Madhyamika-Svantantrika’ commentaries due to the influence of powerful Madhyamika-Svantantrika Masters ‘materially and politically’ according to ‘my root Guru, Kyabje Trijang Dorejechang’.

Therefore when you ‘receive your ordinained vows (from KG) you do not have real renunciation, and your vows are artificial. However, later through the practice of Lamrim your artificial renunciation becomes actual renunciation and your vows become real ordained vows. As your renunciation deepens, and your wish to attain nirvana strengthens, your ordained vows transform into Getsul or Shramanera vows, and you become a Getsul or Getsulma. By continuing to improve your renunciation until it becomes spontaneous, your Getsul vows will transform into Gelong vows and you will become a Bhikkshu or Bhikkshuni.’


‘Nowadays the practice of Vinaya has almost died out. Not only the Vinaya but Buddhism in general is degenerating, including the Tibetan Gelug tradition… however here in the West we are very fortunate. For this is not a degenerate time but an increasing time…Since we are living in an increasing time we need to do everything very purely and correctly…If we followed the example of the tradition of a degenerate time, it would be impossible for us to make any progress….According to our Kadampa tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, you do not need to receive Gelong vows, full ordination, in a separate ritual ceremony.

As our renunciation deepens it will transform into bodhichitta, and our ordination vows will transform into Bodhisattva vows and finally into Tantric vows. In this way we can become a higher being able to maintain our ordination into our next life. This is the most profound way of understanding Kadampa ordination. The Dharma is the same but we are practising differently. We have a special presentation, which is simpler, more practical, and causes less confusion. This understanding is very important, otherwise in the future you may develop confusion about your ordination because we are practising very differently from Tibetans. So you need to know these things. This is a special method of practising Dharma and keeping ordination vows for the western practitioner.

Western people are well-educated; they do not have blind faith but immediately question and try to understand the truth. We cannot be like a fully ordained monk who has taken 253 vows but who is not keeping even one. We should never do this; we need to do everything correctly and purely. The Kadampa ordination solves all these problems. Practically speaking, all the 253 vows included in the Vinaya sutra are included within the ten commitments. The commitment ‘…abandon engaging in meaningless activities’ includes abandoning all meaningless activities – mental, verbal or physical. But whether we can abandon them all depends upon our practice of Lamrim.

The actual words of the Kadampa ordination are brief but the practice is very extensive. It is a condensation of the entire practice of Lamrim and includes all the meanings of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra. In the future we can say that our Vinaya Sutra is the Perfection of Wisdom sutra, and Lamrim is its commentary.

…we must be confident that our ordination is correct. If people say that you are doing wrong, you can tell them that we like our tradition, we are happy with it and for us it is enough.

Objection: Here the meaning of what Geshe Potowa said is confused. What Geshe Potowa wanted to emphasize is that due to the influence of Dromtöpa he developed renunciation and this realization made him really an renunciate not the ritual or the ordination. However, this does not imply that he did not receive the ordination vows by the proper Vinaya ceremony nor does this statement by Geshe Potowa imply that his vows were established by developing renunciation. The vows are not received by developing or not developing renunciation but by the proper Vinaya ceremony otherwise it follows that newly ordained people don’t receive the vows by the ceremony of ordination and if they haven’t received the vows they cannot break them, hence they can have sexual intercourse, they can kill human beings, lie about attainments or steal without breaking their vows—at least as long as they haven’t develop renunciation.

From the Ordination ceremony July 29th 1999

According to the Hinayana Vaibhasika school, ordination vows are subtle physical form and disappear at the time of death, but according to the Mahayana, vows are a type of mind and we do not necessarily lose our ordination when we die. If we can maintain the determination to keep our vows through the death process and into our next rebirth, we will still be ordained in our next life.

When most ordinary beings die they forget everything from their previous life. Their memory and mindfulness degenerates, and when they take their next rebirth they are unable to remember anything. If they were ordained they will again have to receive ordination from their Spiritual Guide. However, those practitioners who have gained profound realizations of moral discipline, which are powerful enough to withstand death, can carry their ordination with them into future lives. The Mahayana view is different from that of the Hinayana Vaibhashika tradition, and is more correct.

Objection: Here two different things are mixed up. The ordination is always based on the Vinaya which Tibetans relate to the Hinayana school. Though realised beings can carry Bodhisattva vows into the next life they cannot carry the ordination vows into the next life unless they are Bodhisattvas who have abandoned all delusions (on the 8th ground) because all Arhats are natural Bhikshus or Bhikshunis due to the purity of their mind.

I will add here some other explanations without commenting on them because those who have knowledge and understanding will be able to judge them for themselves.

Spring Festival 2000, Calistoga, California, Ordination talk – final draft prepared by Dekyi

We Kadampa Buddhists are trying to bring the Dharma into mainstream of human society and to help people integrate their daily activities with their practice of Dharma. Now we are beginning. I understand we have a very special opportunity here. No Buddhist has ever done this before.

Right now it is your responsibility to improve yourself. Sometimes people respect you and regard you as their Spiritual Guide, as a Holy being, or maybe like a Buddha. Even though we are not yet a Buddha it is right for us to teach the Holy Dharma because from the student’s side, whether his or her Teacher is a real Buddha or not depends upon the student’s faith, and view, not on the actual qualifications of the teacher.

But from our side we shouldn’t believe that we are anything special. If we come to believe that we are a Holy Being or a Buddha we are making a mistake.

We know that we are not a Buddha but we don’t need to say this to our students, because they have faith in us.

Some of you come to me and say, ‘Geshe-la, I am not being honest with my students, I have so many problems, delusions of anger, attachment, jealousy, many negative thoughts. I am just pretending to be a qualified Teacher, I am not being honest.’ Sometimes you might think like this because you are an educated westerner. You should never allow your delusions to make you discouraged, this is ridiculous!

I do appreciate that when some teachers get discouraged, that in reality they are being honest, but that is foolish. If you allow your students to see you unhappy they will lose faith, trust and confidence in you. Of course we have to judge ourselves, but when we find many faults we should not get discouraged but rather we have to encourage ourselves and make a strong determination to improve. This is very important.

We are not saying we are Buddhas, we are simply giving teachings with a good motivation. We are like a mother who cooks food for her children, while at the same time eating the food herself. We are striving to understand the Dharma while at the same time we are also teaching and encouraging others to practice, and practicing and improving ourselves. If faithful students see you as a Buddha, that is alright, you don’t need to say to them, ‘no, I am not a Buddha’. That is not necessary. At the same time you don’t need to say you are a Buddha. Just give people the freedom to believe whatever they want. If your students have pure view of you they will receive the blessings of the Buddhas through you.

You can understand from even the slightest experience that the Dharma works and can make you happy. But if you just read books on an intellectual level, understanding and thinking you know it without putting it into practice, you will have nothing. Only maybe increased pride, thinking that you are a Dharma teacher, and very special.

Sometimes we read our Kadampa books and see some contradictions. Maybe you think it is not clear or maybe you get discouraged. Using your wisdom you should contemplate the meaning and then come to your own conclusions. Or, the meaning may not be clear because your mind is not clear, this indicates that you don’t have much wisdom.

If you read and study the books carefully you will gain the confidence to teach others. It is not wrong to teach if your motivation is pure.

At the beginning don’t expect quick results. I am not saying you have to do everything at once, now we are just opening the door to practice. But do keep the intention to practice. If you give up this intention, then you have broken your vows. Some small damage or degeneration of your vows will happen but every month you can do Sojong and renew your vows and purify your downfalls.

After the third recitation I will click my fingers, this sound indicates that you have received the ordination vows. Generate a strong joyful feeling, a happy mind, thinking, ‘I have received the Dharma Jewel, actual refuge, within my mind and I am protected from samsara’s suffering’. So be happy, OK?

Ordination talk – Ven. Geshe-la, Spring Festival 2000, Calistoga, California, USA by Dekyi

I didn’t take classes on Highest Yoga Tantra myself. I spent most of my study years in debate. The focus in our monasteries was on debate, on philosophical subjects, Dharmakirti’s text alone took many years of study. I received Tantric initiations and some essential teachings from my root gurus, then I concentrated on my own reading of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. I imagined he was talking to me. I would read one paragraph, and through re-reading and contemplating the meaning, eventually it really felt as if he was speaking to me directly. It was like a real oral transmission. The first time I read it I understood the meaning, the second time my understanding improved and by the third reading I had begun to have a deep understanding of the material. In this way I studied the Tantras on my own.

Actually in Tibet at that time there were no Tantric classes, I learnt mainly through reading books and listening carefully to my Teachers. You can do this, these books are your Teacher and your Spiritual Guide. Your Spiritual Guide cannot always be with you in person, but your Dharma books are always with you. If you read and study the books carefully you will gain the confidence to teach others.

Gen-la Samden Sojong April 1993, Toronto. Transcript by Kelsang Wangden


Very nice to see so many Kadampa monks and nuns here today. Or New Kadampa, New Kadampa monks and nuns. It’s quite important that we do regard ourselves as New Kadampa monks and nuns. It’s clear that since Geshe-la, Venerable Geshe-la arrived in the West that he has created many, many new things. Often within our tradition we feel that it is merely the presentation of Buddha’s teachings that is new. The presentation of Buddha’s teachings is new but there are many other new things that can be found within our tradition that previously didn’t exist. We know the instructions themselves, at least the presentation is new. We know, for example, with respect to the sutra instructions, twenty-one meditations, for example, you will not find the twenty-one meditations explained before. Even within the Tantric instructions there are many, many new presentations given to us by Geshe-la. The programs, entirely new. The communities – new types of communities. Mixed communities of monks, nuns, lay people, all together. This is new.

Also we have to understand that the presentation Geshe-la has given of the ordained way of life is new. Our vows are new, aren’t they? No one had these, specifically these vows before. I think this is something we have to think about very, very carefully, because, with respect to this last point, we are not monks and nuns living in monasteries. We’re monks and nuns living in towns and cities. We’re not merely monks and nuns studying and meditating. If only! We’re monks and nuns doing lots of other things as well: teaching, we’re distributing publicity, meeting lots and lots of people, bank managers, even. It’s unheard of. It’s entirely new. And we’re not living in single sex communities, are we? We’re mixing with all types. We live in Communities, monks, nuns, lay people, female and male, so I think it is important that we think carefully about what it is to be a Kadampa monk or nun.

We have to understand how the ordained way of life is still very much relevant or significant in today’s age, in today’s society. And feel confident, really confident, following that ordained way of life which is not going to be the same as the ordained way of life followed by a monk, for example, in a monastery, studying, meditating, no other goal, meeting no lay people, being able to focus on their practice. If we feel the ordained way of life is, should be, like that, then we’ll run into problems straightaway… We can enjoy our ordained way of life, thinking that for us it’s the best possible way of life.

[There follows an explanation of how to deal with attachment by developing love]

So we can be this monk or nun living with people, loving them, acting out of love, helping them in whatever way we can, being with them, having a nice time with them, enjoying their company. And we’re moving forward. …Geshe-la has said that great bliss, the mind of great bliss, is the supremely peaceful mind, It’s the greatest inner peace we can experience. Why did he say that? We’re moving towards the great bliss that is the inner peace of a Buddha. So again we use that opportunity, when we’re with others we can act in accordance with our Tantric vows, and we try to generate a blissful mind, because we have some control over our attachment, we can try to generate a blissful mind, and at that time we can say that we’re developing our inner peace….That’s what we want! We’re making that journey to the inner pure land of a Buddha, here. So we can start to feel blissful when we’re with others. And our mind becomes even more peaceful….

….We can be monks or nuns living in this kind of society and having so much fun. Seriously…we can be enjoying – personally I feel there is no greater way of enjoying ourselves. If we understand the importance of developing inner peace, practising contentment, with external and internal conditions, revealing that contentment, showing contentment, practising discipline. Especially just watching our mind…And eventually controlling.

We can be the perfect monk, the perfect nun. In our heart we’re loving others, we’re feeling compassion towards others, wherever we may be, whoever we may be with. Deepening, stabilising that inner peace. Further, in accordance with our Tantric discipline we can be feeling blissful when we’re with others. Seems to me, without those Bodhisattva, without the Pratimoksha discipline it’s difficult actually. ..Why do I want to generate bliss? It’s so finally I can experience the inner peace of nirvana, of enlightenment.

Personally I feel that the Kadampa way of following the ordained way of life is the best by a mile, by a hundred miles, by a million miles. Honestly I do, I really do. At these times, in this kind of society, it’s not just that we are able to make swift progress because we are monks and nuns, but we are able to help others in such an extraordinary way. I think if we do it properly, I really do feel that we can bring ourselves so much enjoyment…And we can bring others so much enjoyment. We can be the best example for everyone. Absolutely everybody. Trying, at least, to maintain peace of mind when in the presence of others. Because you know we are very busy, we’re living in a chaotic world…

It seems already, without, even experiencing the unchanging peace of nirvana, we can bring others even a little bit of peace in their lives. That peace we know is the foundation of freedom and happiness. So with that inner peace, we ourselves experience fewer problems. We’re a lot happier. So through this we can actually help others become free of their problems…

Shutting ourselves in our room, ignoring our attachment, or fighting with our attachment, we going to be really miserable. As well, just going out and indulging our attachment are two extremes…

So we’ve got to find that middle way, haven’t we, that is the Kadampa way, being able to live in this kind of society, in these kinds of communities, in these kinds of times, as a monk or a nun….So personally I feel that it is definately possible, if we get it right, I think it’s so relevant, so significant, I really feel that it’s still the best way to practice Dharma, it’s the best way to help others. If we’re still not sure about why that is, then we do need to think about it quite deeply, and we need to discuss it with others….So as I said earlier, then we can go out into this big, wide world with confidence, with real confidence. It’s never been done before, it’s new, which is fantastic. Geshe-la has given us this because he thinks it’s the best way, doesn’t he? Otherwise he wouldn’t have given us it. The best way. So we need to think, how is it the best way? How is it the best way for me, how is it the best way for others? Best way for the whole world.

I can only give an introduction. I haven’t had much time really to explain what is so special about the Kadampa ordained way of life. But we need to think about it, don’t we? It’s new. New Kadampa. We’re New Kadampa monks, we’re New Kadampa nuns, with new vows that no-one’s ever had before, doing what nobody’s ever done before. So fully discuss it with others, just make use of this opportunity we have to discuss with our many spiritual friends. Many Sangha Jewels within our communities. Use them.

See Also

Delusion & Perversion

Yesterday I became a bit distracted and checked what NKT is presently doing. I found a new blog which I feel is worthwhile to read:

When I checked the WordPress tags I found one WordPress post by Michael-J B. W., a person who was (is still?) extremely skilled in putting a spin on the Wikipedia articles related to NKT or Dorje Shugden. I will comment on that here a bit but before I do that I’ll give a short (and one-sided) background to some of his activities. Michael has not only spun successfully Wikipedia articles, he also removed links to academic papers from my Website about Tibetan Buddhism which were linked on Wikipedia by (ab)using a rule which says that no website which mirrors WP content should be linked. Of course my websites only uses four former articles from WP and there is no problem in linking an academic article which has nothing to do with Wikipedia. WP is flexible enough to allow to link e.g.Prof. von Brück’s or Prof. William’s article though my website indeed include four former WP articles which are marked as being such. Since I’ve encountered Michael’s spins different times, I decided not to say anything or to restrain to respond to his perversions of the facts because I felt any engagement into that direction is just a waste of time.

However, yesterday I glanced through one of his posts, The Virtuous Friend: You Will Know Them by their Root. I was again struck by his abilities to turn the facts upside down. E.g. he wants to give the impression that I would deliberately ignore statements with respect to the teacher student relationship or that I would in a way manipulate or ignore certain information by suggesting e.g. “…but Tenzin Peljor fails to give his audience the surrounding context” or “the quote which Tenzin Peljor left out” or “how Tenzin Peljor pretends that Lama Zopa’s advice on not abandoning Shugden Lamas such as Geshe Kelsang Gyatso does not exist.”

Among others he refers to a post, Characteristics of those unsuitable to be gurus, offered here but Michael ignores that the information these quotes provide were just given for the sake to balance the one-sided and often misleading information of NKT or their followers and the fear and feelings of guilt these install in people and which function to bind people to the NKT making them fear to leave this new religious movement (or this ‘cult’ as some say). He also ignores that unlike Kelsang Gyatso I give exact book titles and page numbers where interested people can actual read the complete context while Kelsang Gyatso mentions certain texts but without mentioning the page number or a publication where people can cross check—not only this, he discourages his students to read books not written by him because they would “confuse” them. So my quotes are means to balance NKT’s or Kelsang Gyasto’s misinformation and they do not claim—unlike NKT or KG—to present the “complete path to enlightenment” implying neither cross checking or anything else is needed to achieve a better understanding of Buddha’s teachings.

Michael goes over the top in his suggestive post when he states:

Indeed, it is also interesting how Tenzin Peljor pretends that Lama Zopa’s advice on not abandoning Shugden Lamas such as Geshe Kelsang Gyatso does not exist. Lama Zopa points out how important it is “not to criticize, to keep the mind in equanimity regarding him.” One wonders why quotes like these do not appear in Tenzin Peljor’s set of advice:

“By giving up Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, you have created heavy negative karma in this life. Since you haven’t given me up, I suggest that you confess to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso about what happened, and devote yourself again to this virtuous friend.” — Lama Zopa Rinpoche

First of all, the ‘set of advice’ Michael is referring to is a compilation of different posts and quotes given in internet forums to fearful NKT followers as a means to help those, who were  manipulated by NKT teachings, to let go their fear and worries to leave that organisation. Since the organisation is totally fixed on Kelsang Gyatso, who himself said that he himself would be the NKT, people should learn that there is no problem in leaving an organisation or a teacher who is not really qualified or even misleading. The ‘set of advice’ states clearly in the beginning:

“This set of advice was compiled quickly for people who left NKT or who are thinking about to leave NKT. It mainly aims to give a quick overview on matters of concern NKT people might have with respect to the Guru. It is aimed to support those who are thinking to leave NKT or who have have left NKT already and who now might have doubts if leaving Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a negative, positive or neutral action.”

Also I do not pretend that this advice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche does not exist. From what does Michael conclude that? In contradiction to his claim is the fact that I discussed this advice in detail on E-Sangha and put that advice into perspective. Different times I replied to some emails by worried ex-NKT with respect to this advice too. E-Sangha does not exist any more nor do I have a copy of that discussion. To save some time, I just quote from an email I sent to a former NKT follower regarding this advice in 2010:

[... Tulku Rinpoche] advised to ignore this advice.

I wonder why FPMT even puts a personal advice to a specific person online…

Nobody has to accept advice or a teacher which/who is contrary to the teachings. Though it is not good to be negative to one’s teacher and it is correct to inspire to stop such negativity, the teachings suggest to leave a teacher when one realises he is not qualified. And also Je Tsongkhapa comments in his commentary on Guru devotion one should not follow advice of the guru which is contrary to the Dharma.

So leaving NKT or GKG is NOTHING bad, it is virtuous to leave a misleading teacher, because a misleading teacher leads one onto wrong paths. However, one should make a neutral distance, and of course every negativity creates negative Karma but (I think) one should also not be too tight about this. How can one not be upset about being abused? We are human beings, but as Buddhists we work on our states of mind to not respond too negative to things or to respond at least neutral or if possible in a positive manner.

Actual, I do not accept this advice and I wrote something about this and my reasons on E_Sangha in the past.
You can ask also Ringu Tulku about this if you like.

I wonder if Lama Zopa Rinpoche still has this view since he knows now better how much people suffer and are misled in NKT—its a very old advice. I would support that idea to write to Lama Zopa!!! A monk told me when the NKT resident teacher of Paris asked Lama Zopa to be her teacher too, he refused as long as she is a student of Geshe Kelsang!* One can also ask if he finds it a good idea to follow Geshe Kelsang and to learn the Dalai Lama is the enemy of Buddhism (though that is a bit provoking.)

Though I don’t like to write something about this to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I support the wish to clarify this directly with him.
I would also read or make suggestions with respect to a letter to him, however, the letter must be written by others. For me this matter is finished in a way, and I think it is better people write for whom this really creates worry or is a subject of concern. This makes things more urgent/serious. I do not expect a reply so it would be dishonest if I would write something.

Is this ok for you what I wrote/suggested here?

Though Michael’s post (not to speak about his blog in general) has more perversions, I save my time by just ignoring them and I give rather some quick reasons why I think that actual Kelsang Gyasto is not a reliable spiritual teacher. First of all he has isolated and is isolating himself and his followers from other genuine Buddhist masters, the Dharma (not written by himself), and the Sangha (all the many genuine practitioners and masters outside of the NKT). This is cultish but these are not the actions of a Buddhist master who understands that persons have different needs, Karma and inclinations, and that one can learn from everything and everybody. To create ‘one Dharma for all’ and to bind the own students to one single isolated teacher is also an expression of a lack of compassion and the lack of the wisdom which sees the individual aspects of the phenomena and sentient beings. Because the Buddha has great compassion and because he possesses the wisdom that knows the individual aspects of phenomena, and because all the Buddhas possess these qualities, the enlightened Buddhas know that there are limitless Dharmas for limitless sentient beings. No Buddha has ever claimed that the holy Dharma can be comprised into 22 books written by one single author nor is there any prediction or scriptural quote that this would happen or that such a reduction of the Dharma would be appropriate; instead the scriptures emphasize that there exist limitless doors of Dharmas given by limitless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they do not say to read the Dharma of another Buddha would “confuse” the own disciple. Secondly instead of seeing the dependent arising of things Kelsang Gyatso has put the blame different times solely on others and claimed at the same time he would have not done any fault at all. This shows for me that he does not apply even basics of Buddhism when he encounters problems because according to the sixteen aspects of the Four Noble Truths there is no singular external cause for the production of a phenomenon (e.g. it is not possible that the Dalai Lama is the sole and single source which created the problems with respect to the Shugden practice). All phenomena are dependent arising and arise due to many causes and conditions, its parts, and by ‘mere’ thought. So how can a Buddhist master who has an understanding of dependent arising (emptiness) put the blame on others? There is a contradiction here.

I could continue like this but to make it short, I quote from a letter Kelsang Gyatso sent to me and other students of the former NKT resident teacher of Berlin, and NKT’s representative for Germany, Gen Kelsang Dechen. I think for those who have knowledge about Buddhism, NKT’s internal (cultish) dynamics, and psychology or who rely on their common sense it will be easy to recognize that these statements by Kelsang Gyatso are highly manipulative, fear provoking, and contrary to the teachings of the Buddha and the Vinaya (the rules for Buddhist monks and nuns). Kelsang Gyatso threatened those NKT followers who were thinking to follow Gen Dechen—who has full support from Lama Gangchen Rinpoche and Lama Kundeling Rinpoche, two known Shugden Lamas—that if they do so the following will happen:

Wenn Ihr Euch entscheidet Carola zu folgen, wird die Verbindung zwischen Euch und mir automatisch enden. Aufgrund dessen werden Eure Ordinationsgelübde enden. Das bedeutet, daß Ihr nicht mehr länger ordiniert seid und Ihr könnt den Ordinationsnamen, den Ihr von mir empfangen habt, nicht mehr benutzen.

Gleichzeitig werdet Ihr die Überlieferungssegnungen, um meine Bücher zu unterrichten, nicht mehr haben. Das bedeutet, daß Ihr meine Bücher nicht als Dharma-Lehrer unterrichten könnt.

Auf diese Weise werdet Ihr in der gleichen Lage wie Carola sein.

Ich hoffe, Ihr seid Euch im klaren über Eure Entscheidung.

Mit Liebe


If you decide to follow Carola [Gen Kelsang Dechen], the connection between you and me will automatically cease. As a result of this your ordination vows will cease. This means that you are no longer ordained and that you cannot use the ordination name any more that you have received from me.

At the same time you won’t have the transmission blessings to teach my books [any more]. This means that you cannot teach my books as a Dharma teacher.

In this way you will be in the same situation like Carola.

I hope you have clarity about your decision.

With love

This approach is “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” but it has nothing to do with Buddhism.

* Amendment, June 18, 2011

According to to some emails I’ve received in the past days this is not correct. The person asked me to state “According to this person this is not correct, they never asked Lama Zopa to be their teacher.”


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