An Open Letter from the International Shugden Buddhist Community (ISBC) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

Today, on Tibetan Uprising Day (10th March 2017) the New Kadampa Tradition (aka NKT, Kadampa Buddhism, Modern Buddhism, Kadampa Meditation Center) posted a new divisive letter that has the potential to create more unnecessary disunity among Tibetans. The letter proclaims the tulku of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche (who is regarded by all Tibetans, including HH the Dalai Lama, as being authentic), to be the “false Trijang Tulku”.

The Open Letter by the NKT via ISBC (PDF) was posted on the NKT official website, the official NKT Facebook site and the NKT’s ISBC website. The letter is signed by Henry Shefveland (Gen-la Kelsang Jampa) who is the Deputy Spiritual Director of NKT-IKBU and the Resident Teacher at KMC Texas. The foundation of the International Shugden Buddhist Community (ISBC) was announced by Lucy James via Facebook on 20 January 2017.

The reasons for this new move are not clear. There could be several different motives:

  1. The NKT wants to maintain unity among its own followers after their founder and leader Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is no longer present; some speculate he is already dead since he has not been seen in public since the end of 2013. A new image of an enemy could serve to distract and unite them against the outer, “evil” and “degenerated” Tibetan Buddhist world, while the NKT can continue to claim to their followers that they alone are the last “pure” heirs of the “pure lineage” of Trijang Rinpoche / Je Tsongkhapa.
  2. Having collaborated extensively during the most recent anti-Dalai Lama campaign with Shugden groups in India, Malaysia and China, groups who regard Trijang Tulku as authentic, they now want to “disconnect” from them by ‘plunging a knife into their spiritual heart’ (For those Shugden practitioners in Asia, Trijang Tulku is considered a holy being and an authority; calling him “false” is likely to create pain in the minds of their former allies.)
  3. By declaring Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche to be the “false Trijang Tulku”, the New Kadampa Tradition’s leadership cuts off any chance of its followers finding a genuine spiritual path or Buddhist refuge outside the NKT, keeping them securely within the NKT fold.

For those who don’t know the background, in their past international campaigns, the NKT (via their various political front organisations) labelled the Dalai Lama the “false Dalai Lama”, “the World’s worst dictator”, and compared him to Hitler etc.

However, a Reuters’ report, “China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama“, which was part of a series “The Long Arm of China” that won a prominent Human Rights Press Award, was quite devastating for the international Anti-Dalai Lama campaign carried out by the NKT. Having subsequently disbanded their 4th political front organisation, the ‘International Shugden Community (ISC)’, the New Kadampa Tradition recently created yet another, new front organisation: the “International Shugden Buddhist Community (ISBC)”. In the letter shared here, the ISBC promotes a new type of ‘Buddhism’ that has thus far never existed: “Shugden Buddhism”.

This highly political move on Tibetan Uprising Day reveals a profound level of self-deception and delusion, where the NKT warns their followers not to “mix Dharma with politics“. And yet, at the same time, they do exactly this with great diligence.

“We Kagyu followers normally do not mention this name without fear. There is no Shugden practitioner among Kagyu followers. The reason why we fear the one I name just now, is because we believe that he causes obstacles to spiritual practice and brings discord in families and among the community of monks.” – H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche in Dorjee Shugden, The Spirit and the Controversy

I recall an interview with Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche many years ago, written when he was somewhere between twenty and twenty two years old. He recounted how he could remember his previous life until the age of six or seven. If I remember correctly, recognition of him as the Trijang Tulku began with himself and was subsequently acknowledged by Tibetan masters, including HH the Dalai Lama. As I recall it, when he was a young boy, he and his parents went to a carpet shop in one of the Tibetan settlements in India. The shop had a large image of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and the little boy pointed to it, saying something like, “that is me”. I’ll try to find the interview so others can see for themselves.

See also


¹ Note: While Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is apparently dismissive of Tibetan Lamas performing mos to divine whether monks have found the right candidate or not, the irony is that one of the leading people who would give such advice based on divination (Mo) was his own “Root Guru Trijang Dorjechang”.