NKT monks beat retreat over wind farm – from Tharpaland to Schloss Sommerswalde

Selling Tharpaland

The Sunday Times (Mark Macaskill) has published an article about the selling of NKT’s Tharpaland to one of Britain’s largest energy firms who builds close by a wind farm.

“The monks” of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) claim that they “have been forced to sell” Tharpaland and they submitted “evidence” to a Scottish parliamentary inquiry into the government’s renewable energy plans. According to Macaskill

In it they attack windfarms as “centres of massive and traumatic disturbance” and urge ministers to introduce a six-mile buffer zone to protect local communities.

Macaskill states further that the

Monks at the Tharpaland retreat centre in the forest of Ae, in Dumfries and Galloway, claim “infrasound” from turbines can cause “mental sinking” that disrupts their ability to meditate and commune with nature.

The claims of “the monks” sound all very strange to me, especially that the NKT monks attack wind farms as “centres of massive and traumatic disturbance” and that “low-level noise from a wind farm will severely affect their health.” NKT made also exaggerated claims that thousands of people from all over the world would have attended the retreats at Tharpaland.

The study (PDF) – financed by the New Kadampa Tradition – states:

The three windfarm studies showed a consistent and progressive average 70% loss in ability to develop concentration over the various distances approaching the windfarms, and virtually a total loss in ability to develop concentration at the turbine site itself. (p. 12)

Further it reports that retreaters have

… reported disturbing negative psychological reactions including (1) confusion (2) loss of self-confidence (3) effects similar to depression (4) effects similar to mania (5) irritability and anger (6) heightened emotionality and crying. (p. 15)

To make clear that the retreaters are not mentally unstable or ‘a bit crazy’ and that the reported effects are mainly created by the wind farm, Dr Alexa Hepburn, PhD, Lecturer in Social Psychology, Loughborough University, comments:

It is important to emphasise that these reactions are very different from subjects’ normally happy and well-balanced psychological states … (p. 15)

To dispel doubts about the reliability of the retreaters’ reports Hepburn goes so far as to claim that the retreaters were “not ordinary subjects” and would be “uniquely qualified to participate in the evaluation” due to their “meditation training and experience” and because “the subjects have all taken vows for life to abstain from lying and only speak the truth and were explicitly instructed to be ‘objective’ and completely truthful in reporting their experience.” (Obviously the issue of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and the dishonest and duplicity mode of the New Kadampa Tradition were not taken into consideration.) Hephurn concludes that “It is therefore unlikely that conscious subject bias is present to any great extent in the results.” (p.8)

The study by Hepburn reports also about “Disturbing Visual Effects”:

Many of the subjects reported adverse effects just looking at the turbines, describing the demand quality and hypnotic effects of their spinning blades and the shadow flicker as very disturbing … (p. 16)

and it conlcudes that

For most of the subjects in these studies, these windfarms were centres of massive and traumatic disturbance, even after only a few hours. In almost all cases, subjects reported a ‘relief’ in leaving the turbine field. Had they actually been in strict silent retreat at the time of their windfarm visits, their experiences would have been devastating. (p.21)

The 'farewell photo' from the facebook page of Tharpaland Kadampa Meditation Centre shows only 1 monk and 8 nuns … where are the other monks? All together there are about 48 persons on the image. The centre is rather small.
The ‘farewell photo’ from the facebook page of Tharpaland Kadampa Meditation Centre shows only 1 monk and 8 nuns … where are “the monks”? All together there are about 48 persons on the image. The centre is rather small.

Tharpaland has total assets of £770,085 plus total liabilities of £54,798. It was given as a gift to Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the NKT, by a devoted follower. It would be at least a possibility that “hav[ing] been forced to sell” the asset “to one of Britain’s largest energy firms” was quite in the interest of the organisation […].

There seem to be some oddities in all of this … and there is more:

The Dumfries and Galloway Standard reported “Concerned monks submitted evidence […] claiming they suffered serious side effects when they were praying within five miles of a windfarm.” The New Kadampa Tradition moves the Tharpaland retreat centre now to Schloss Sommerswalde – (former East-) Germany, Brandenburg, near Schwante. However, at this new location there is already a wind farm about 4.25 miles away from it. The wind farm has four wind turbines with all together 1,604 KW wind power, making an average of 401.00 KW per wind turbine, and is located in Oberkrämer (Vehlefanz/Eichstädt).

Distance between Schloss Sommerswalde and Windfarm Oberkrämer (Vehlefanz): 4.2 miles
Distance between Schloss Sommerswalde (Tharpaland retreat centre near Schwante) and wind farm Oberkrämer (Vehlefanz/Eichstädt): 4.25 miles. Distance calculation via http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm
Bildschirmfoto 2013-02-28 um 00.40.29
Wind farm with four wind turbines near the new Tharpaland retreat centre.
Distance calculation via http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm

According to Hepburn’s study the proposed Forest of Ae wind turbine rating is 3.00 MW and 95 wind turbines are planned. This would be of course a by far greater project than the wind farm nearby the new Tharpaland retreat centre at Schloss Sommerswalde. But still, if Hepburn’s The Effects Of Windfarms On Meditative Retreaters study is reliable the retreaters at the new Tharpaland home must expect that “their experiences” will be “devastating”, and that they have to undergo “massive and traumatic disturbance”, “(1) confusion (2) loss of self-confidence (3) effects similar to depression (4) effects similar to mania (5) irritability and anger (6) heightened emotionality and crying” because the new Tharpaland home is “within five miles of a windfarm.”

From Tharpaland to Schloss Sommerswalde

or From one asset to another

NKT is now using Schloss Sommerswalde near Schwante (Brandenburg, close to Berlin) as their new retreat centre and all NKT resident members there — including people from the village who live at this place — have to leave. Some of the villagers who live at Schloss Sommerswalde have been living there already for some decades and their tenancy agreements with the NKT were – at least in the past – sacrosanct. When I remember correctly, the local government (Gemeinde Oberkrämer) made it a condition when NKT bought the castle the first time, that the tenancy agreements with the villagers are sacrosanct. (I lived there from 2000–2002. I was also involved in some of the management issues at that time, including a press conference etc.)

Gemeinde Oberkrämer and the former local major, Manfred Lehmann, were informed in the past by a quite accepted and established Christian cult authority that NKT is seen as a cult but they ignored the warnings – although there was a great controversy with respect to a Transcendental Meditation (TM) group at the same time nearby who bought a big property in Rheinsberg (Brandenburg). The local priest, Pfarrer Johannes Kölbel, didn’t reply to an email I sent him hinting to the problems, when I left the group in 2002.

The local community, including major and priest, were also informed about NKT’s controversial background by ourselves, and at that time they sided with us. As far as my information goes, nobody is willing to listen to the problems within the group. The main reason for turning a blind eye on the groups’ controversial backgrounds might be that the local communities in former East Germany desperately are looking for landlords who take care of the old, much neglected, and maintenance intensive castles. However, there seems to be also an underlying Western society issue where political correctness and misunderstood religious tolerance lead towards an unwillingness to listen to people who report about their real life problems within religious organisations or the harm they receive by the power abuse of religious institutions. In order to be able to sell the castle and to have “peace and harmony” one neglects controversial settings: “No problems, please!”.

According to the TAZ,

The cult commissioner of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, Thomas Gandow,  states that the Kadampa tradition is a cult of Tibetan Buddhism, which is completely isolated within Buddhism.

© Wikimedia & Doris Antony put it under the GFDL and CC-BY-SA-3.0

The NKT plans now to restore the building of the village residents (Orangerie) with a lot of modernization measures from the roof down to the cellar by April 2013. The costs will sum up for this restoration to more than 200,000€. The tenants from the village who live at the Orangerie have to pay a part of the bill, and so their monthly rental costs will be increased by more than 100€ when the restoration will be finished.

This seems to be now the way to get rid of the non-NKT tenants who are not willing to leave. Some other tenants are more willing to leave because they expect a well paid comparision from NKT by leaving the place.

In the past the NKT didn’t care in any way to restore or maintain the tenant’s building. So, why are they suddenly so caring?

Some background information about NKT at Schloss Sommerswalde

In 2000 the NKT (via Dipankara Zentrum, which I was a member of at that time) bought Schloss Sommerswalde for the first time from the ministry of the German federal state Brandenburg for 1,5 million DM. At that time there were certain legal requirements attached to the purchase contract which we, the NKT, needed to fulfil. Among the many requirements like a kindergarten, a public library, a cultural meeting point, a hospice, and the reconstruction of the building we had to promise to invest 6 million DM into the whole castle ensemble. One of the requirements was also that the tenancy agreements of the people living on the castle ground were protected and we, the NKT, couldn’t cancel them. Only if all these requirements were fulfilled after 10 years (when I remember correctly), the property would be owned by the charity trust.

Then in 2000 Kelsang Gyatso expelled Kelsang Dechen, the NKT resident teacher. She personally had to guarantee for the finances (the main sponsor was related to her), and the property was legally in the hands of the German charity trust which legally separated from NKT. NKT UK tried to get the castle by suing the German charity trust but lost the court case. At one point NKT members illegally occupied the place – entering through the windows – and the police was called to eject them. (We had to do this twice with NKT.) (Quite complicated story …) The German charity trust – without the financial backup of NKT and due to the utter unrealistic claims in order to get the property  (the public was for instance deceived by claiming we had 700 supporters. The number came from counting all peoples who ever gave their name for a newsletter, later it was exaggerated to 2.000–3.000 supporters + we were only very few people with not too many professional skills) — got bankrupt about four or five years after the splitting from NKT (the official declaration of insolvency had been made in 2005.)

The castle ground was then for sale again but no spiritual community, including Thich Nhat Hanh, was interested: too big, too demanding, too much damage for community life. In October 2005 the NKT organised an International Kadampa Festival at Werbellinsee (Joachimsthal) which brought a plus for 1,000,000€. This was the cash with which the castle ground at Sommerswalde was bought in a compulsory auction for the second time. But now there were quite likely no legal requirements stipulated in the purchase contract, at least none referring to the rent contracts of the villagers who live there.

In Germany a landlord has only very limited rights to terminate a tenancy agreement. For a landlord it is only allowed to do so, if he needs the space for himself or for his family members and a landlord in Germany has to justify the termination in written form. By being “pressured to leave Tharpaland” the NKT made some of their people “homeless”, so they might use this now as a justification to dissolve the tenancy contracts. (Which in turn increases the value of the property.) The main reason that has been brought forward by the NKT in their cancellation of the tenancy agreements at Schloss Sommerswalde was that they need the tenants’ flats of the villagers for themselves in order to accommodate NKT members who have moved from Tharpaland IRC, Scotland to Germany.

Besides the huge castle there are three big adjoining buildings situated on the castle ground (see images above) – two of them were empty before the NKT has decided to move from Scotland to Germany. Up till now there weren’t more than 6 or 7 NKT members from Scotland. Two or three of them are living in one of the buildings that were empty before. While this building was completely restored nothing ever was done to repair the building of the villagers (Orangerie) who live there during all those years. Another huge building is still empty. In the evenings one can see that only one or two rooms of the castle (if any at all) are illuminated.

The NKT people who lived in Schloss Sommerswalde after the second purchase and who reconstructed it move now to Berlin to set up another Kadampa Meditation Centre. I met recently twice a NKT monk in Friedrichshain (a region in Berlin) in December 2012.

There are only few Geman articles nowadays online. The whole story is very interesting, and I think a journalist could take time to explore it.

To get a better understanding of the deceptive nature of NKT it is good to get to know at least a bit of the history of Maitreya Buddhist Centre – which stands also for cases within NKT not made public – and the deceptive campaign of the Western Shugden Society or Shugden Supporter Community.

* The article mentions Mönch Tashi – that am I 😉 – there are so many stories behind the scenes, about the press conference, press work, unsubstantiated claims …
** The Berliner Morgenpost was the only newspaper who reported critically about the first purchase of Schloss Sommerswalde. They mentioned in their article that our Dipankara centre is accused of being a cult, and that the finances and the whole situation is not transparent and includes contradictions. The journalist of the Berliner Morgenpost was well informed and didn’t buy our charming offensive, and what we said to ‘dispel doubts’. During the official press conference on the occasion of purchasing the building ensemble – which was widely reported – he was the only one who questioned us and the purchase. All other journalists just repeated and reported what we claimed without any checking or questioning.

See also

Update 27 April 2013

A new research was published by Psychologist Keith J. Petrie and his colleagues of the Medical Highschool in Auckland in the journal Health Psychology. The reason for the symptoms reported in the context of wind turbines they demonstrated to be based on the Nocebo Effect.

For details see:

Update 20 February 2014

  Last edited by tenpel on February 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm