How are newcomers introduced to the Dorje Shugden issues in the New Kadampa Tradition?

Question: Is there any NKT documentation that talks about when to introduce the Dorje Shugden issues to new students? Is there a deliberate policy of concealment and delay in introducing this until people are ‘too far in to get out’?

Answer – in three parts by Carol McQuire

[1] It’s simply not talked about that way. Even internally in the NKT documentation, I have not seen any that is that specifically discusses ‘Shugden’.

If you read the Notes on Teaching Skills by Gen Thubten Gyatso there is a lot in there about ‘gradual introduction’, etc,. The implicit understanding is that this is about the ‘real NKT’/Shugden, etc but that method also applies to a lot of things about Dharma, not just to ‘Shugden’.

As ‘Shugden’ is such an integral part of the NKT it’s not managed as being at all ‘dangerous’ or ‘nasty’ to bring people in to do the practice – it’s a kindness to them to do so. People are invited to do Heart Jewel/Shugden as the daily ‘Guru Yoga’ and main centre practice – every day, every centre – to say thank you for the kindness of the centres, books, study programmes, etc. It’s not ‘announced’ as ‘Shugden’ like a ‘secret practice’ or something prohibited or wrong. It’s so normalised and ordinary you have no idea what you are being drawn into. It’s the NKT’s main practice so how would it be ‘managed’ as ‘secret’? Doing Heart Jewel – the Ganden Lhagyema with Shugden prayers attached – is also a commitment when you join a study programme and of course, if you want to teach in the NKT.

It’s the Dalai Lama’s views that are ‘secret’ and as so many people who ‘drop in’ to the NKT know nothing about what the Dalai Lama thinks and as most of them know nothing about Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism, then it’s a ‘non-issue’. We tell people who ask us how to ‘check’ that the best way to find out ‘what the NKT is’ is to ask about His Holiness in a general NKT teaching and watch the ‘reply’! It will most probably be an embarrassing silence or a mumbled excuse! Many people attracted to the NKT find it difficult to believe that there is no refuge in His Holiness the Dalai Lama by the NKT as the NKT sangha look just like him and at some point the ‘lineage’ connection to Tibetan Buddhism will be mentioned by them. People may well go to the NKT because of His Holiness and his positive influence on them. That is the sadness embedded in the lack of clarity surrounding these issues.

The NKT does a lot of ‘secret information’ sharing. Knowing ‘what the Dalai Lama says’, etc, is the more ‘secret information’ that is one of the issues you may talk about in private with your NKT teacher and it’s part of the ‘secret bonding’ between the local teacher and their students that keeps the NKT going and the protests going. NKT students are warned not to trust what is said on the internet, etc. They are told about the ‘poor, victimised’ NKT, and the ‘poor victimised Kelsang Gyatso’, etc. The ‘Shugden’ issue is almost marginalised and it’s certainly minimised – if you look at p. 148 in the ‘Modern Buddhism’ ebook that’s a free download, you can see a line drawing of ‘Shugden’ but he’s only called the ‘Wisdom Protector’ so how would a beginner in the NKT realise what the connection is to the protests against His Holiness? It all appears to be very benign and positive.

[2] When you ‘normalise’ Shugden like that, the Dalai Lama then comes across as ‘crazy’ for criticising it and you slot everyone into supporting the campaign as a ‘nice’ thing to do because His Holiness is ‘so mistaken’.

The ‘hardcore’ activists, like IndyHack and Gen La Khyenrab, ‘rev up’ the protest team with all the online accusations and that can deflect criticism of the campaign in general into criticism of their ‘crude’ techniques – this might be an actual ‘campaign ploy’ so people don’t look too much into the real issues and instead they stay ‘in house’ – but in general, it’s seen as the ‘decent’ thing to do to tell His Holiness that he is wrong.

What is also remarkable is that NKT people really seem to fear ‘going outside the box’. Sometimes their idea of ‘research’ is to watch Rabten’s videos for the International Shugden Commuity or look at the Dorje Shugden Tibetan Follower’s videos. Nothing else! Everything outside the ‘NKT view’ they really see as propaganda. I know, because that’s how I thought when I was there! His Holiness was really a ‘bad deal’! It’s fascinating how they do that – all of us ask afterwards how it happened – to university graduates and intellectuals who feel proud of our ability to ‘think independently’! I feel it’s the normalising of the NKT value system – a consistent, inward looking barrage of subtle and not so subtle praise of the ‘Special Kadampa’ techniques. Everything from the Dharma is attributed to Kelsang Gyatso’s ‘kindness’ and when we first ‘fall in love’ with Dharma the NKT justifications and consistently ‘shifted’ teachings slip in too. All your gratitude is highly focused towards the NKT and ‘Geshe-la’, not to ‘Budddha’ or ‘Tibetan Buddhism’.

That’s why a ‘normal, logical’ method when analysing the protest ‘justifications’ will fall short – it’s the whole fabric of ‘how the NKT did it with Shugden’ that needs analysing.
When the NKT/ISC, etc say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama ‘wants to destroy the NKT’, this feels like the truth as discrediting Shugden discredits the NKT world completely. So, the NKT ‘war’ becomes the almost desperate need to preserve ‘their’ tradition, which is then ‘overlaid’ back again onto a ‘Tibetan’ issue as a wider justification of their actions.

The game of ‘creating our own tradition’ which will ‘be’ Tibetan but not ‘Tibetan’ in practice (‘connected’ but ‘isolated’) started when Neil Elliott and other westerners met Kelsang Gyatso at Manjushri Institute in the 1970s. His Holiness wasn’t publicly against Shugden worship then, so it was a ‘sensible risk’ for Gyatso and Neil to create their ‘separate, Shugden tradition’ and ‘world’ during the 80s. They had designed most of it by 1992 – the music was still missing but the basic, simplified books and sadhanas in English were ready. Then, all their great new structure which had the ‘guru yoga of Shugden’ at its heart was torn apart in 1996 by His Holiness’ decision – which I am sure was not at all directed at ‘attacking the NKT’. The decision was taken to help conflicts simmer down and this eventually worked within the Indian diaspora – but Kelsang Gyatso and Neil, then ‘Gen Thubten Gyatso’ were then stuck in the cul de sac of being primarily a ‘Shugden’ group – I think that’s why Kelsang Gyatso went to India with Kelsang Pema in 1996 – to see what he could salvage as a ‘campaign’ against His Holiness, not just ostensibly to ‘see’ the political realities.

Gavin Kilty talks about the wider context here:

[3] It’s almost as if, the more logic you use ‘against’ the anti Dalai Lama protesters, the more you alienate them, as Shugden is so ‘normal’ and listening to what His Holiness says is such a big conceptual contrast to what they have been taught to think, that it produces ‘cognitive dissonance’ and ends up increasing their faith in the NKT. It’s difficult for them to think ‘beyond’ the NKT view.

It’s very, very clever. Bound onto the back of Kelsang Gyatso’s ‘love’ for Shugden as it seems to represent his bond with Trijang Rinpoche and his ‘lineage’ and is the ‘residue’ of the actual Tibetan lineage that Kelsang Gyatso holds and tried to give to his students but in a very crude way (without him having to make the actual effort to ‘be’ a spiritual guide to anyone in person), Neil Elliott used this ‘Kelsang Gyatso figurehead’ to create their own ‘New Kadampa Tradition’ using educational, psychological and politically astute management techniques. What many people don’t understand from outside the NKT is how unimportant the actual person of Kelsang Gyatso is in everyday NKT life – your local teacher, centre and the books are far more so. ‘Geshe-la’ was always more of a ‘concept’ than an actual ‘spiritual guide’ – this is more evident now that he no longer appears in public – he ‘appears’ through ‘Heart Jewel’ practice to ‘talk’ to students who so often say they feel ‘close’ to him but what are they actually close ‘to’?

It was a brilliant plan – to make their own ‘tradition’ and then sell ‘their’ Dharma as a product using corporate commercial techniques and building up a world wide empire of real estate by using students almost like ‘slave workers’ – NKT volunteers, including most of the teachers, work for nothing except the ‘privilege of being allowed’ to work for the NKT! The plan inevitably got warped – their campaign hasn’t changed with the times – it used to be more realistic in the late 90s. It’s not now – they have to look harder for justification – which is why their campaigns are becoming more and more absurd. Last week ‘Atisha’s Cook’ – one of the anonymous online protesters – produced a meme stating that His Holiness is ‘worse than Hitler’. ‘Shugden’ is even hyped up as a ‘religion’ in itself.

10  Atishas Cook the Dalai Lama is worse than HitlerThe NKT simultaneously ‘uses’ Tibetan Buddhism as validation and has to keep itself completely separate from it. The protests function to do both, very neatly. It’s difficult to do that, but they managed to pull it off – at least for their own followers! The reality that Gavin Kilty analyses, in the face of this, seems ‘abnormal’ and ‘absurd’. And to us, on this side, the NKT appear utterly absurd! It takes a lot of thought for people of either side to ‘understand’ where the ‘other side’ is coming from at all.

Carol McQuire

NKT Survivor Testimony: “I Am Not Your Teacher”

I Am Not Your Teacher

by Andrea Ballance

The shortcoming of hanging pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak. – Boris Spassky

Definition: Hanging pawns are an open, half-isolated duo. It means that they are standing next to each other on the adjacent half-open files, usually on the fourth rank, mutually protecting their stop squares. They share a number of characteristics of weak pawns they are not directly protected by other pawns and may become targets of attack.

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Photograph of Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the New Kadampa Tradition, taken from the back cover of “Clear Light of Bliss” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Wisdom Publications, London, 1992. No photographer credited.

I was ordained and living in Manjushri Centre. For as long as I had been there I experienced a troubled relationship with the centre teacher who at the time was Samten Kelsang. I would ask him questions, get cryptic answers, bad answers, an answer read out of one of Kelsang Gyatso’s books or no answer at all.

In his defence, I was passionate about the Dharma and had an unending list of questions to ask and get answers to. I was so utterly blown away by the scriptures and what their meanings could be. I was desperate to talk to people who had more knowledge than me. I probably annoyed him. I know he had no idea how to ‘deal’ with me.

I had tried for many years to be a friend to this teacher and he would fluctuate between being a friend, treating me like a stranger or treating me like I was an enemy trying to harm him. He refused to let me join the Teacher Training Programme like the other students. When my friend asked him why, he just replied, “she is not ready”.

Gradually over the years I became sicker and sicker with what I now think was some form of chronic exhaustion brought on by stress. This also played a part in what people and this teacher thought of me. I think it was widely accepted that I was a shirker and I was lazy.

I was constantly thrown into arguments with this guy. He would say the most shallow things and I would have to check if they were for real or not. I have used this example before, where he said that, “Fat people do not look good, but that thin people might be sick”. He would sit and just stare at people when they were in asking for advice. He would be inappropriate and fixate on lay people. He was unsupportive and very obsessed with his own reputation and his pond-like fame. He was also in very poor health a lot of the time and he tried to hide that from his students. Could one be a Buddha and still be epileptic?

Samten tended to work by the ‘dogs tooth’ method of being a teacher. Better to hide all the flaws, not be open about who you are and let the student ‘project’ pure teacher onto you.

This idiotic and traumatic student-teacher connection ended one summer when this teacher decided he wanted me to be kicked out of Manjushri Centre. He got the management together and convinced them that the best thing for him would be if I was told to leave the centre. I was completely devastated.

Photograph taken by Andrea Ballance.

Photograph taken by Andrea Ballance.

As a nun I never and, I can truly say this, never, approached this teacher without meditating. Either meditating on the cushion, if I felt what was going to be broached would end in an argument, or breathing and taking refuge as I walked up towards him. To me, he had a powerful energy and I found it hard to breathe around him, so I always needed to be clear as to why I was talking to him. So I would take refuge in my guru and the Buddhas…imagine their light shining in through my crown chakra into my heart and then deal with whatever ridiculous situation was before me.

Because of this, because I would take this confusion into my meditations and practice, I was confident that even though I had had troubles with this teacher, I had always done my best. So when the centre management ganged up on me and told me I was to be thrown out, I refused to leave without seeing Kelsang Gyatso. After all I felt that I was straight with my guru and the Buddhas.

I remember in the days that followed the management’s request for me to leave that I cried a lot. Manjushri Centre meant a lot to me and although I had never fitted in and I was endlessly confused there, it was the only place I had ever been a nun. One afternoon while this was all kicking off, I went to the toilet. I had to walk over the chapel to get to the toilets. As I opened the doors I heard two people chatting in the chapel.

The male voice said,

“She will not leave unless she sees Geshe-la’”

A female voice replied,

“She will see him over my dead body”.

Of course they were discussing me.

I was devastated. Exhausted from illness and sure no one would take on a nun that had been thrown out of another centre, I was lost. I had no chance of speaking to my guru – the one person who would be able to see my intention and help me. I had people actively preventing my situation from being told to him. So I would leave the centre, be barred from my guru and have nowhere to go. I was gutted.

Like I said, I was passionate about the Dharma and completely dedicated to my ordination and the life I had stumbled upon. At that point, I had no plan B and I was panicking. My friends started to help me. People tried to smuggle me in to see him and I wrote a letter that a friend either gave to him or just left in his room after she had been to see him. I remember the letter. I could hardly write it. It looked as though it had been written by a child.

A few more days passed and I still was not sure that he had even read the letter. I went to the office and checked my mail and the nun who had exclaimed that I would see Geshe Kelsang “over her dead body” walked up to me. She seemed amused and her voice had softened and she said “Geshe-la will see you” and she gave me a date and time. I said thank you and felt relieved. I nearly didn’t hear what she said over the blood rushing through my veins and the anxiety filling my mind.

I had to prepare to see the guru now. I think I had met him briefly a couple of times but he didn’t know me. In fact, the first time I ever met him was as he was walking around the centre with his entourage. A boy called Chris really wanted Geshe-la to meet me and kept pointing at me and saying my name. Eventually Kelsang Gyatso looked over at me and instead of saying, “Hello”, he said,
“This one is trouble.”

So we weren’t best buddies. We didn’t ‘know’ each other in the ordinary sense of the word but he had ordained me so I thought I could call him my guru and see him in that way. I had no Dharma possessions left because from the moment he arrived in Manjushri Centre, I slowly gave him everything. I don’t want to talk about that because I really was trying to be pure and make good karma for people, and in the hope I made some I don’t want to ruin it by feeling embarrassed about it now.

So I had nothing to take to offer him and I had to buy something. I had a little money and so I managed to get an unfilled statue that was unpainted and a katag and then I just had to wait. I just had to wait and hope he would help me.

Most of the rest of this is a blur for me. I went to the audience with him. He was much smaller than I had remembered him. Bird-like. I sat down and the door was left open. I gave him my offering. We talked about things and the main reason I cannot remember what was actually said was because he was looking at me with a really peaceful face while at the same time shouting at me with a really annoyed, angry voice. He was like two people. He indicated that he needed to sound angry with me for the people outside of the room.

In this audience he told me that I needed to act more like a nun and that he was not my teacher.

I think at that point my mind left the room and shortly after that he let me leave. I stood up and as I left the room the little bird-like guru hugged me. It was a hug that was made out of the energy “sorry”. It said, “I am sorry”. He did not say I am sorry, though the energy of the hug felt like he was trying to say “I am really, really sorry.” After that I went back to my room.

I was devastated all over again. I was just a person who wanted to go to teachings, be a nun, to have a teacher… The whole stream of teachings and pujas and meditations demand that you respect your teacher… that you have a teacher, that you devote yourself to a teacher… When you ordain – you have to realize here that I genuinely thought I was actually ordained – the moment you ordain, your guru is Geshe-la. Every prayer book, meditation guide and ritual prescribe visualizations of the Teacher, the guru – Geshe-la… except he just told me that he wasn’t my teacher.

No words can describe the utter confusion and loss I experienced after that meeting. If he was not my teacher, then what was this ordination about? What was my life about? I was horribly lost. Slowly all the corner pins of my good intention and determination were being kicked out from beneath me.

I really could not resolve the meeting I had had with Geshe-la and I still cannot today.

About a week after the meeting, Geshe-la sent someone to ask me if I would move to Losang Dragpa centre in Todmorden. I was really unsure because I just had a gut instinct that I would not get along with Samden Gyatso, the teacher there, but I agreed because Geshe-la was ‘the guru’.

A few weeks later Samten Kelsang got transferred from Manjushri Centre and appointed the resident teacher of Losang Dragpa Centre – the centre I was moving to. Samden Gyatso was transferred to Manjushri Centre and took over as Resident teacher of the ‘Mother Centre’.

Make what you will of all of I have explained above, because I still have not worked through it all and I have been disrobed for over ten years.

After all of that I just felt like a lost jigsaw piece. I realized that in some way my reputation had been reinstated through moving me to Losang Dragpa rather than simply asking me to leave Manjushri, but there was no solidity, no definite plan, no one who said “Oh, this has been done to help you.” It just felt like I was a joke being played on Samten but maybe I was just being used as a pawn in the bigger NKT game – a game that I had not consented to and still have no understanding of.

This testimony was originally posted on this Facebook Page and is protected by Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND.

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More NKT survivors’ testimonies

A Tibetan Translator’s Testimony by Tenzing Wangdak

GUEST POST

My Diary – The Ticking Bomb That Took 23 Years To Explode

My name is Tenzing Wangdak. I woke up at around 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning, December 17th, 2014. I was in no mood to go to work. Looking around my bedside, I saw my small computer. I picked it up to navigate through the websites on the internet. There were messages from my Facebook friends. There was one particularly interesting message. The title was “We need to talk about Shugden.” My younger brother Zoksang, who lives in Kingston, New York City, sent it to me. It was about one western Buddhist nun who tells the story of her woeful life when she was studying in the New Kadampa Tradition. She is one of those ex-students of the NKT who came out very strongly against the high level of religious fanaticism and sexual scandals prevailing in the tradition. I asked myself a question – is it the right time to tell my part of the story of the Shugden controversy?

It was way back in March 1991 when I had a face-to-face confrontation with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. It all started with the decision taken by the FPMT of not allowing any teachers working under the spiritual direction of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to teach Buddhism at any Buddhist centre affiliated to the FPMT. In Menorca, we had a Dharma centre run under the direction of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The resident lama was Geshe Tamding Gyatso, and I was his translator at this modest centre, on this small and beautiful island of Spain. Every year we visited some Buddhist centres in other parts of Spain, mainly in Madrid, Valencia, Alicante and Seville. The FPMT run those centres. Unfortunately, they informed us that Geshe Tamding Gyatso was not allowed to teach anymore at these centres from now onwards.

Well, I thought there might be some good reason that the FPMT had for taking such a decision. Quickly, we learnt that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso had taken the drastic step of transforming the face of all his centres on the pretext of establishing and following a pure Gelugpa tradition. He removed the pictures of H.H. the Dalai Lama from Manjushri Institute, Cumbria, and from all other centres in the United Kingdom. In those days he was a Buddhist teacher highly admired by his disciples, both in England and Spain, for gentleness, simplicity, pure ethical discipline, knowledge and meditation. I thought a great meditation master would never make such a mistake. Someone who, I thought, was a role model for those who followed the model of study and practice established and guided by Lama Tsongkapa.

Photo of Kyabje Khen Tamding Gyatso Rimpoche

Photo of Kyabje Khen Tamding Gyatso Rimpoche

Here at Menorca, we learnt the true news. Geshe Tamding Gyatso, our resident teacher, was very upset. It was in the middle of November, 1990, we were at the house of the director of our centre. I said to Geshe-la that there might be some kind of misunderstanding, and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso would not make such a mistake. I even insisted he make a call to clarify the situation. At the beginning he was hesitant but decided to do so. They talked for almost one hour and we were wondering what was going on. He was not saying much. Yes, yes, here and there, nothing more. The person on the other end of the phone line was doing all the talking. After the call, Geshe Tamding Gyatso said to me; “How could he be such a ruthless sectarian?” There was a deep frown on his face. I found him really upset. The board members of our centre were nervous and very unhappy. They openly told us that the attitude of Geshe Kelsang was not justifiable, and they were thinking of having a separate Dharma centre independent of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

After a few days, we invited Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to come over to our centre to clarifying the on-going controversy of Shugden worship. At that time he was at Manjushri Institute, he accepted the invitation and decided to impart some basic Buddhist teachings during one weekend in March, the following year.

Our director was so sure of himself that the prospect of opening an independent Dharma centre under the direct spiritual direction of the resident Lama, Geshe Tamding Gyatso seemed a reality. The visit of Geshe Kelsang was drawing near and we were cleaning the centre to welcome him. The centre was in a three-storey building on the main street of Notario Quintana in Cuitadella de Menorca. Geshe Kelsang was to stay in my room. So I cleaned it up. One night I dreamt of Geshe Kelsang entering the main door of the centre and giving me a stick. I woke up in the morning with a strong feeling that something unpleasant was going to happen.

On Friday 23rd, March 1991 he visited our centre. I greeted him warmly. He reciprocated with the same customary Tibetan greeting. One Spanish nun accompanied him wherever he went. He looked thin and frail. On the same day, in evening, the centre performed the Dorjee Shugden Invocation Ritual. From September 1987 to March 1991 when the centre performed the Shugden Invocation Ritual, there were not usually more than three or four persons participating. It was always done on the 29th day of every month. That same evening, Geshe Tamding Gyatso, the resident teacher, invited Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to assist in the ceremony, but he was too tired and too weak to attend. I was on the ground floor, lying on the sofa, watching TV. I saw more and more people coming one after another to join the ritual for the first time in more than three years. Later, I could hear the sound of damarus, ringing bells and chanting in perfect harmony. I felt very sad, frustrated and helpless. There was nothing I could do to prevent them from joining the ceremony. I was completely broken inside. They were completely overwhelmed by Geshe Kelsang’s presence. After the completion of the ritual, the people returned home happily. The director saw me sullen and sulky. I had a brief conversation with him. “Well”, he said to me, “we are very happy to have you here as our translator. We want you to stay with us.” I looked straight at his face.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso commanded respect and submission. The sight of him fascinated them with awe and reverence. They idolised him the way I used to idolise some Bollywood hero when I was a teenager.

Next day, March 24th, Geshe Kelsang gave Dorjee Shugden initiation for which some new people joined to receive it. It was shocking to see people happily participating it in the hope of receiving protection from the worldly spirit in their lives. I found the arrangement manipulative in the hope of attracting more people to spread it far and wide.

On 25th/26th March, in the morning around 10 a.m., the two Geshes met in the room where Geshe Kelsang was staying. Their talk lasted for 2 hours. I was in the kitchen, and suddenly Geshe Tamding Gyatso entered to prepare momo (Tibetan dumplings) for lunch. He was not his usual self, but a bit agitated. So, I asked him, “What has happened to you?” Geshela replied, “Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was accusing me of trying to separate him from his centre. I told him frankly that I would never do such thing. It was, in fact, the board members of the centre who wanted to do it.” Geshe Kelsang continued, “If it was not you, then, most probably, it was Tenzing, the translator, who influenced them to do so, because he was from Dharamsala.” Geshe Tamding Gyatso came to my defence telling him that it was not true at all. What prompted me to meet Geshe Kelsang in his room to have a private talk was his sheer lack of respect towards a senior geshe. Geshe Tamding Gyatso was senior to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. He was an authentic geshe of the highest class, whose mastery over tantric knowledge of Shri Guhasamaja, Heruka, Yamantaka, Kalachakra and Vajra Yogini was just breath taking. All kinds of tantric rituals were at his fingertips. I saw him performing them by heart. The wrong accusation was the last straw that broke the camel´s back.

After lunch, I went straight into Geshe Kelsang´s room. I greeted him warmly and hesitantly asked him if I could have a talk with him. He called me in warmly and I sat down on the floor. He was sitting upright on the bed. So I took the initiative of breaking the ice.

“Geshela, I am not happy with the way that the Shugden empowerment was given here yesterday, because there were several new people who had never received the basic Buddhist teaching and have no idea whatsoever of the protector Dorjee Shugden. They received the Empowerment. I think it is against the basic guideline of Tibetan Buddhism.” My explanation provoked a strong anger in him. He angrily replied, “Tenzing, it is not your business.” He repeated the phrase several times. Then he continued, “the work of a translator is to translate and nothing more, and the work of a resident teacher is to teach, nothing more. It is the board members who run the centre.” He continued, “Yesterday, the board members came up here to tell me that, not only you hate Dorjee shugden, you also hate me?” I was bewildered, could not believe my ears. However, I kept my cool and answered him firmly, “It is a sheer lie, and how could I hate Dorjee Shugden when I don´t know him. I continued saying, “I have never hated you. Had I hated you I would have never read your books and manuscripts!” I looked up at him and saw him seething with sheer anger, taking in a deep breath, and looking up at the ceiling. Suddenly he looked down and questioned me defiantly, “I want to test your skill in the art of debate, for you have studied Buddhist philosophy for many years. “Is Kyabje Trijang Dorjeechang a root spiritual teacher of H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama?” I replied, ”He, indeed, is one of them.” Kelsang Gyatso continued, “If he is one of the root teachers, how could Dalai Lama possibly go against the words of his own teacher?” At this point, he went ballistic and yelled, “He cannot go against his own teacher´s words. When we do Dorjee Shugden practice we are doing a favour to the Dalai Lama. We do not bring disgrace to him.” He then kept silence for a moment and came out with more aggressive, cold and calculated comments.

“He (the Dalai Lama) is Nyingmapa, Zogchenpa, and the one who has broken the spiritual relationship between himself and his teacher. His lineage is impure.” At this stage of the conversation I found the atmosphere in the room unbearable. I felt unsettled. Anyhow, I kept cool and retaliated with the following answer, “If a disciple can not comply with the words of his lama, he can tell this politely to his teacher.” I cited the 24th stanza from the text of Ashavagosha, Fifty stanzas of Guru yoga”.

Intelligent disciple, with joyful mind,
Listen the lama’s words with enthusiasm.
Explain to him in words
If you can´t comply with it.

For a moment, silence reigned in the room and I took the opportunity to end the conversation with the following comforting words.

“I am an ordinary monk who works as a Dharma translator and you are a Dharma teacher. So, there is no comparison whatsoever. We do have very distinct viewpoints with regard to Shugden issue. You think you are always right, and I think I am right. But, who knows who is right? I follow H.H. the Dalai Lama. I, therefore, will leave the centre for good. You find a good Dharma translator for Geshela, someone who propitiates Dorjee Shugden. The voice within me says that I am right, not wrong. Excuse me if I am wrong.” He was completely taken aback by my final words. He kept silent meanwhile I went out of the room.

He realized that I could not be pushed over easily. I kept my cool under the most difficult situation. At the end of the day, I found him callous, ruthless, devious, obstinate and unyielding. Indeed, he was a hard nut to crack.

After the summer, 1991, I left the centre. In Menorca, life was easy and comfortable. I enjoyed summer life on beautiful beaches for three years with my Spanish friends. However, I decided to leave the centre. I worked there for more than three years without any payment. I had nothing to lose and more to gain from such a decision. I stepped out of my comfort zone and took the risk to find a better future life.

I used to admire Geshe Kelsang. At one stage of my life I thought he was a role model for many Buddhist practitioners. Unfortunately, he turns out to be one of the worst Buddhist fundamentalists the Buddhist world has seen in many years. He has completely forgotten the life of Lama Tsongkapa who studied under the great masters of other schools. My teacher, Gen Lobsang Gyatso, was completely right when he said to me in 1986, “It is ironic that when you meet Kelsang Gyatso for the first time, he appears be a gentle, soft, and simple monk. He gives you the impression of someone who is on the verge of attaining Buddhahood in two or three days, but, he is rotten from inside in real life.”

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was once considered a great meditation master, but now he is outcast officially not only from his own monastery of Sera Je, but also from the Gelukpa Society. At present, he is lying low, but still he is using his students to defame the Dalai Lama at all costs. He accuses the Dalai Lama of the violation of Human Rights, but he is blind to his own act of destroying lives of NKT survivors. He accuses the Dalai Lama of banning religious freedom but he prohibits people from reading Dharma books of fellow Buddhist teachers. How dare he say that he is following the pure lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa, while not allowing his own students to read Lama Tsongkapa’s books! I was flabbergasted to realize that there were no Dharma books other than his own books in the bookstores of his centres.

He says that the Shugden is Lama Tsongkapa’s manifestation, when more than 95% of Tibetan Buddhists consider him as a terrifying worldly spirit. He, in fact, degrades Tsongkapa to the status of a worldly deity. What a shame!

His long, reclusive life has taken a mental toll on him. He has gone insane to the point of no return. His hatred and resentment towards the Dalai Lama is clearly reflected on the banners and the placards written with “21st century Buddhist Dictator”, a “liar”, “the saffron robed Muslim”, a man whose “real nature is cruel and very evil”, etc.

It was in January, 1993, one year and a half after I left their dharma centre, when Geshe Kelsang Gyatso revisited it and carried out the so-called “Lineage cleansing”. He threw out some old members of the centre, who were his fervent admirers and Dorjee Shugden worshippers, without obvious reason.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso once said that Geshe Tamding Gyatso was the most qualified dharma teacher to come to the west. This time, he gave him no choice but to leave the centre. Geshe Kunchok Tsewang, then resident teacher at Manjushri Institute, retired at the age of 68 without choice. They sent him back to his monastery in South India. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is now 83 years old, but still holds a firm grip on all the centres of NKT. He does not want to renounce the absolute power he enjoys. What I find so unbelievable is that a man who is considered “the third Buddha” by his own followers is not spared from the unholy trinity of power, status and wealth.

The big difference between the two geshes is that Geshe Tamding Gyatso went on to become the abbot of Ganden Shartse Monastery, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream before his death, whereas Geshe Kelsang Gyatso remains a monastic outcast of Gelugpa Society.

The devil inside him makes his Dharma
Practice dust
Resentment flows deep in his blood,
Nipping the bud of empathy in his heart.
Ignorance obscures his mind completely
His frenzied mind runs like a wild elephant
His ego fills up like a balloon
That is sure to burst.
His behaviours do not match his preaching.
Hence, his books are worthless scrap of paper.
I feel sorry for him.

I write this testimony to fully support the NKT survivors who have taken the right decision to break away from the NKT. One of my Tibetan friends insisted that I do this. Personally, I have nothing against Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. His attitude and behaviour in the recent years are so intolerable for Tibetans that I take the opportunity to tell the truth. The people of the NKT need to take the blindfolds off their eyes and see the wider world of Buddhism. It is high time for them to stop running the ugly show of protest and come to their senses. Geshe Kelsang needs to recover from his spiritual madness. He can still rectify his mistakes and leave them behind as if they were a terrible nightmare. It is not surprising that a human being makes mistakes – one after another. Man is the only animal who trips over the same stone twice. After all, we are emotional creatures.

By Tenzing Wangdak.

20th January 2015

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Originally posted

More Testimonies

Buddhist Bullshit

Originally posted on Post-Traditional Buddhism:

I generally avoid getting political on this blog. Not because I am apolitical, or think it too messy a subject to broach, but because I have used this blog primarily as an exercise in exploring ideas and experiences I personally find curious and interesting. It’s been a primarily personal affair.
Although I have been attempting to write a blog post on non-duality this December, I have failed three times and the pleasure in the task has evaporated, which is never a good sign. In wondering what to write next, I was surfing the net on Boxing Day and came across a couple of videos by ex-members of a Western Buddhist organisation of which I was a solid member for a number of years, even once considering ordination (yikes!). The organisation is called the NKT (New Kadampa Tradition) and is to be found on many cult-watch websites.
I was involved with…

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

Dear Nicholas Pitts/Kelsang Rabten,

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

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

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

Your response suggests the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your final points are related and as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes

Addendum

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

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

Original  Proposal [edited version]

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

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

Enlightenment by 21 Lamrim meditations! – What a marketing!

Enlightenment by 21 Lamrim meditations! – What a marketing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art work by Carol McQuire – A NKT Survivor

Art work by Carol McQuire – NKT Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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See also

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

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

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

Message from one of the charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre

Dear members and supporters of Maitreya Centre,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Durling,

Chairman of the Board of Trustees,

Maitreya Buddhist Centre.

1st March 2012

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

GUEST POST

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

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

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

Andrea Ballance as a nun in the NKT.

Andrea Ballance as a nun in the NKT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea Ballance also created the video cartoons :: Watno Guru

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

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More NKT survivors’ testimonies

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

GUEST POST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

updated December 18, 2014, at 01:24 pm

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Helpful background interviews

Update Dec. 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Ivy’s full story …

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

More NKT survivors’ testimonies

 

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

GUEST POST by Carol McQuire

(Provisional notes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENTARIES TAUGHT IN TIBETAN 1977- 1986 Manjushri and Madhyamaka Centres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOKS WRITTEN FROM TEXTS: 1986 – 1997

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

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

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

Lorig (Pub. 1993) (Understanding the Mind)

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

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

SHORTENED VERSIONS OF THE ABOVE: 1997- 2014

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

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

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

Foonotes

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

[2] Now called Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre.

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

See section 9.

9. Books

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

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

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

[6] Personal account

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Last time I saw Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

GUEST POST

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

We were told forever.

KG 2006-001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KG2006

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

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

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

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

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

Guest post by NKS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also

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

New Kadampa Tradition
International Kadampa Buddhist Union


To all NKT-IKBU Centres
05 August 2010

Dear Administrative Directors,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your co-operation.

Warm regards,

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

NKT declaration of sectarian views 2010

See also

And

What is the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)?

GUEST POST by Ex-NKT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INFORM

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

Information by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Declaration concerning the demonstrations by New Kadampa Survivors

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

Further information on the NKT can be found here:

Kelsang Gyatso’s Tibetan Relations

GUEST POST by Ex-NKT

Concise information for a broader public

Kelsang Gyatso’s Tibetan Relations

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

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

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

Documents

See also

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9) Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the NKT organised demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama that coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT. His Holiness has not changed his view or his actions since 1996. Therefore we question what has caused NKT followers to start their demonstrations and defamations again in 2014.

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

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

26th September 2014

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

Supporters

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

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Download

Background

See also

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

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

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

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

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

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

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

How can there be dialogue until the weapons are withdrawn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update 31 Oct 2014

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

See also

See also by Joanne Clark

Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19th August 2014

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

Supporters

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

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