Experiences with the New Kadampa Tradition and Kelsang Gyatso

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

Someone sent me an excerpt from the book “The Novice: Why I became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Left and Why Learned” by Stephen Schettini (Published by Greenleaf Bookgroup, 2009), page 331, Epilogue:

Scientists aren’t the only ones with an agenda. In England, the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) has emerged as a player in the Dolgyal affair, a vocal opposition to the Dalai Lama and a cult to be reckoned with. Its founder, the Sera Jey monk Kelsang Gyatso, was installed as a spiritual advisor for Lama Yeshe’s Manjushri Institute back in the early eighties, and promptly commandeered it. That Tibetan imagery and lore can be turned to such forms isn’t at all surprising, but its growth is astonishingly so. The NKT is firmly established in more than two dozen countries, with assets running into the hundreds of millions. Back in 1982, I translated a seven-day course for Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in the Lama Tzongkhapa Institute in Italy. I found him a pedantic teacher and an irascible man, one of very few Tibetan teachers to whom I took a visceral dislike.

I’ve corresponded with several NKT members who initially took up arms against my provocative little web page on the topic. In the end, they admitted that they were in search of a sympathetic ear, and ultimately a way out. This is a guilt-driven rather than a military-style cult, making its web both insidious and sticky. Rather than challenging its members, it’s best to ask about their allegiance and let them formulate their rationalizations out loud. Given time, the skilful design of the Buddha’s teachings seems able to penetrate even such convoluted trips.

Hopefully  in the future there will be more books or public records which offer a critical insight into a life devoted to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and its founder, Kelsang Gyatso. This could help the public and Buddhists alike to better understand what risks there are or what harm people can experience who devote  themselves to the NKT.

Most reports about the harming effects the NKT can cause to followers are not public. Many of them appeared in the non-public New Kadampa Survivors Forum with its present 1,345 members. Some are stored in the archives of INFORM, Cult Information Centre etc. Over the past two years, more and more people felt encouraged to share their experiences and the harm they have

Here is a collections of reports by former members which are available online, please feel free to point out or to link other reports about experiences within the NKT.

Also the following letter from Sera Je Dratsang—though very polemical in style—lists at the end some stories of what former members reported: To the Tibetan Buddhists around the world and fellow Tibetan compatriots within and outside Tibet. Then there is Bunting’s The Guardian Article “Special Report: Shadow Boxing on the Path to Nirvana”.

* The videos are currently only accessible via YouTube. Originally the cartoons were posted under http://www.xtranormalbuddhist.co.uk

** The blog was run under New Kadampa Cult Watch but later it was deleted by the owner. To get a taste of what the person was saying at that time one can read some material on Dialogue Ireland. The current blog is unstable at the moment, sometimes there are posts, sometimes they are deleted again.

  Last edited by tenpel on Sept 16, 2020