I am not too much interested in discussing Ole Nydahl in this post. I wrote at length about him on my German website. The German article was my response to a collective effort by Ole Nydahl followers to remove criticism on Ole Nydahl from the German Wikipedia. After a mediation had been provoked by me, one of the (female) pro Nydahl editors was able to influence the (male) Wikipedia mediator by secretly inviting him to a dinner and a lecture of Ole Nydahl. (I found that out when I checked their talk pages and what they had deleted at those pages.) When I realized this I confronted the Wikipedia mediator and the pro Nydahl editor with these facts and finally I withdrew from the mediation and the German Wikipedia article about Ole Nydahl and made my own article about him …
According to all the information I checked, read, and received, I think it is safe to say that Ole Nydahl is a classical elitist leader gathering people who finally identify themselves with an elitist group, the Diamond Way, and its leadership – elitists who are convinced that it is they who bring the Dharma (within the context of Tibetan Buddhism) to the West – and Tibetans or Buddhist monks or nuns are not much needed for this process.
Ok, naivety and pride can make you believe everything, no matter how stupid it is.
In that sense, Ole Nydal and his Diamond Way followers are quite similar to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). Another similarity Ole and his Diamond Way Buddhism share with the New Kadampa Tradition is the occupation of a respected name for their spread in the West. Like the NKT occupies and claims to be the inheritor and the possessor of the ancient Kadampa school, Ole Nydahl and his Diamond Way devotees occupy and claim to be the inheritor and the possessor of the Karma Kaygue Tradition in the West. Also, both share a similar missionary drive, rapid expansion, badly educated teachers, and a superficial understanding of the Dharma. Ole Nydahl has been rightly criticized for promoting a hedonist version of Buddhism. Ole Nydahl has also been accused of speaking in a conceited and militaristic way, of being right wing, racist, sexist, and hostile to foreigners. He also became infamous for his strong hostile attacks against Islam.
However, he and his followers see themselves as yogis … maybe, the first yogis of the Karma Kaygue Tradition who do not live in caves, solitude or the forest and who do not have to rely on renunciation but on (samsaric) joys like bungee jumping, fast motorbike races, parachuting, sex etc.
In Germany people reported to me that Ole Nydahl and his followers took over most of the German Karma Kaygue Centers and made them their own centers. They said they did this by making devoted followers members of the respective charity trusts, removing the old board and installing a new board that followed Ole Nydahl and his favorite Karmapa candidate (Thaye Dorje). There were mainly only three very strong persons in Germany who were able to resist Ole Nydahl’s take-over strategy, a former army general and two architects. The latter also won the court case (after Nydahl and his followers took over their centre in Hamburg) and they kicked him and his followers out of it.
Having said this, there are also some good things about Ole Nydahl and his Diamond Way Buddhism:
- it is not too difficult to leave the group – though similar to NKT, going to other Buddhist teachers, Buddhist centers or Buddhist traditions is strongly discouraged, seen as a grave fault and a threat to the lineage … similar to NKT, Nydahl and his followers share the same attitude of sectarianism with Kelsang Gyatso and his followers¹
- those who left the group are not damaged too much, but report that mainly there has been benefit for them and they can continue under good teachers outside of Diamond Way very easily
- many (but not all) think about their time in Diamond Way with gratitude, and say that it was a good, initial start for Dharma practice for them
- Ole does not establish himself as the sole authority for his students but Ole invites also other Buddhist teachers like the late Shamar Rinpoche etc.
- Ole accepts when a student leaves him and when the student says he wants to follow another teacher. A former student told me that Ole wished him all the best and let him go without grasping or hostility.
I want to make you aware of the following propaganda video:
Here is an analysis to it:
- The Affective Aspect of Decision by the Non-Buddhist Blog / M. Steingass
For a video about Tibetan yogis watch this video:
More critical information about Ole Nydahl
- Lama Ole: Buddhist teacher or charlatan? by Joe Orso
- Controversial Buddhists (PDF) by MyWeekender.co.uk
- Eine Art Buddhismus Light? – Prof. Martin Baumann (Neue Luzerner Zeitung)
- Kein Interview mit Ole Nydhal – Prof. Peter Riedl (Ursache & Wirkung)
- Buddhistischer Lehrer ohne Tiefgang – Süddeutsche Zeitung
- F. Rupprecht über Ole Nydahl, die Karma Kagyü Übertragungslinie und Diamantweg Buddhismus
Burkhard Scherer, a desciple of Ole Nydahl, about Nydahl and his group from a rather biased academic point of view
- Macho Buddhism: Gender and Sexualities in the Diamond Way (PDF) by Burkhard Scherer (PhD)
- Interpreting the Diamond Way: Contemporary Convert Buddhism in Transition by Burkhard Scherer
¹ See for instance: A Warning Letter from Lama Ole Nydahl: Don’t Mix Tantric Methods and Teachers