NKT Chaplaincy, NKT Business & NKT Research

Some updates:

NKT Chaplaincy in Canada

The Sumeru Books Blog wrote in June 2009:

Buddhist chaplaincy in the spotlight

By Yönten, on June 15th, 2009

Correctional Services Canada is looking for Buddhist chaplains and has $75,000 in contracts to back that up, according to a Canadian Press story released today.

Currently, Kelsang Donsang, a Westerner who is resident teacher at the Kuluta Buddhist Centre in Kingston is their only approved contact and is in line to renew the contract for 1,717 hours/year of chaplaincy services.

Kuluta is a New Kadampa Tradition center affiliated with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The irony is that most Buddhists do not consider New Kadampa as a legitimate Buddhist organization.

Here is the link on CSC’s website to their report in PDF format:

Buddhism and Business Ethics

Justine Elizabeth Haney, Queens University, has tried to research the NKT with respect to “Buddhism and Business Ethics”-Adaptation and Integration: An Inquiry Regarding the Matters of Business and Ethics in The New Kadampa Tradition.

NKT and Research on NKT

I just glanced through Haney’s essay and it might be—though she tried to keep a type of scepticism—she has fallen to a certain extent prey to the euphemist language NKT use so skilfully. For instance she writes: The International Temples Project is Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s compassionate vision to have a Kadampa Buddhist Temple dedicated to world peace in every major city of the world. That it is a compassionate vision to built an NKT temple in every major city of the world is an NKT claim, it could be claimed that this aim is a megalomaniac vision too, far more as NKT is the brand product of one single person who tries at all means to keep total control over it: Kelsang Gyatso. To call it a megalomaniac vision might be indicated also by the fact that he himself said in Berlin 2000: “I, I am the NKT!” So I would claim: actually, spreading NKT is spreading Kelsang Gyatso and his 23 books. But maybe I am wrong here?

NKT is solely based on his authority and understanding of the Gelug presentation of Vajrayana and Sutra teachings. Kelsang Gyatso is the only accepted living Buddhist authority within NKT. The NKT temples are solely based on his teachings, books etc—though there are Buddha statues and thankas, and one Sutra (the Heart Sutra) these Buddhist icons can not oppose his claims about Buddhism (e.g. the NKT ordination “lineage” would derive from the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras). NKT is an organisation solely circling around one person, hence some refer to it as a personality cult. By spreading NKT temples world wide his personal vision of Buddhism and his created Buddhist brand New Kadampa Tradition is spread worldwide, it increases HIS influence, power and presence, not that of Buddhism. Though it is claimed this is only for the benefit of others, it might be it is only for the benefit of his reputation and fame. At least there might be different perspectives if establishing an NKT temple in every major city of the world and to sell the own books in “every book shop in the world” is qualified to be called a compassionate action or not. I would expect a bit more distance from a researcher with respect to such claims.

It is incorrect by Haney to claim a “Tibetan custom to charge for Buddhist teachings” and the story surrounding Yeshe Ö’s offering of gold to Atisha—which is widely explained to be an expression of his deep appreciation of Buddhist teachings rather than payment demanded by the monastery—is misconstrued by Haney to be an actual payment.  I wonder if this is now the official NKT story of the events in old Tibet or where she got that from. What I like is that she tried to be unbiased and had a certain type of scepticism but I fear NKT research requires really experienced researcher to fully get the things as they are. NKT and Tibetan Buddhism in general as well as the socialisation of Tibetans are extremely complex, the complexity is greater due to cross cultural issues, and if people are not honest in what they say or have an agenda to hide unwelcomed facts.

Sometimes I wonder how much researcher rely and even take over NKT statements without checking them against other sources or to look onto them from different angles. This can be seen in Bluck’s research, as well as in Cozort’s paper, and more recently in Bell’s research on the Shugden history, e.g. when he states on page 21:

“When Dorjé Shukden practitioners in America have protested peacefully against the Dalai Lama’s policies, individuals who have attended the Dalai Lama’s lectures have spat on them and throne bottles.”

When the NKT alias Western Shugden Society protested in New York they claimed to have done this “peacefully” and accused the Dalai Lama followers (mainly Tibetans for whom the event was organised) to have behaved like a “hostile mob“; but to accuse a person in general (or the Dalai Lama particularly in this case) to be a liar and a hypocrite, as NKT/WSS have done it, shouting these accusations loudly with megaphones over a long time is not necessarily peaceful, it could be called aggressive and “violent speech” too. It could be argued as well, the “NKT mob” aggressively provoked the Tibetans who came to listen to the teachings of the Dalai Lama, their respected leader. It is expected from Buddhists not to go to places to propound their own tenets where they are not invited because going to places where one is not invited and to teach the own views could create conflicts for the people at that place. Actual NKT has violated this Buddhist peace means. Then if some conflict arise, who’s fault is it? Nobody invited the “NKT mob” to shout loudly and over a very long time their (hostile) accusations at places where people gathered to listen faithfully the teachings of the Dalai Lama. I was rather amazed to see how easy— e..g.—the people took the aggressive provocations in Nantes, France, 2008, where the noise of the NKT protesters didn’t even stop when the people ate their meals and wished to communicate with each other… even to communicate was difficult due to the constant noise of megaphone amplified slogans shouted by the protesters in rhythms (and I think even supported by drums, when I remember correctly.)…

I think to really make a good account of what NKT is and is not, this requires a researcher with life experience, a deep understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, values in Asian and Western cultures, and also a person who has some experience with wrong truth claims as they can be found so often in New Religious Movements, and which are often just means to rewrite the history of such groups. To my opinion Kay’s research is the best account on this as far as I have seen.

Nevertheless thanks to the young researcher for their effort and hopefully there will be some good and balanced in-depth research in the future. I also do apologize that I mainly focused on some weak points I found, and that I didn’t appreciate strong points!