Ex-NKT as an Identity

The following is a post by a former member of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT-IKBU)

I’ve been ex-NKT now for longer than I was a member of this organisation. Recently, reading about ex-Catholics, I managed to convince myself I’d really got to grips with this and NKT was no longer a major factor in my thinking – after all, the ex-Catholic women I read about had been raised Catholic, attended Convent schools and had the whole of their formative years shaped by the institution of the Catholic church and its attitudes. I, on the other hand, spent a few years in my early thirties voluntarily living in NKT centres and following their practices.

But it is not so simple. Like Catholics, we immersed ourselves in a way of life that is a total mystery to outsiders, learning to think the NKT way, to speak the language on a day to day basis (gompa, puja, Geshe-la, Kangso, Lama Chopa and so on), following the monthly and yearly calendar (8th Tara Day, 10th and 25th Offering to the Spiritual Guide, 29th Kangso, Spring Festival, Summer Festival, UK Dharma Celebration). We came to take for granted the rituals and offerings – Tsog pujas, offering Shugden the alcohol, tea, cake, milk and curd, empowerments, and so on – and learned how to explain these to new people.

When we left usually it was a sudden break off from this life and lingo, with no one to talk to about the reintegration processes we had to go through, at the same time as dealing with our mixed feelings about what happened to us during our time in NKT and the specifics that led us to depart.

Somehow, it doesn’t go away with the years, not completely. I have a different life now, different Dharma input and different company. Yet when someone on my higher education course forum posted a link to a Western Shugden Society “documentary” following our 30 page study of the Dalai Lama I quickly felt the old sense of bogging down, of dismay, of utter inability to explain these things or make them better – or even to explain how deeply it affects me just to keep repeatedly posting that as Westerners we have no basis on which to understand, to which I want to add, especially if you’ve never been a member of the Shugden cult, and then gone through leaving.

I’m learning that ex-NKT is an identity, and an enduring one.  As ex-NKT perhaps we need to bear that in mind, and if necessary find ways to explain it to significant people in our lives – though they probably will not understand. I don’t have a clue what we can do when the issue comes up with people who are not so significant to us!

I certainly recommend reading about ex-Catholics: it’s an interesting perspective and I think we can learn a lot and realise that although our institution was different our processes may be similar – and equally valid.

I’m not writing this to complain about being deeply damaged or wounded by NKT, more to reassure those who have left for some time yet not completely left it behind – maybe we never do and maybe to recognise this is important in the process of living the rest of this life. I welcome your thoughts on this!