A Psychological Report on The New Kadampa Tradition

For those who were harmed by the New Kadampa Tradition (aka Kadampa Buddhism or Modern Buddhism), it is of grave concern that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK as well as mindfulness organisations or mindfulness groups are either sending vulnerable people to meditation classes run by the NKT or collaborate with the NKT without any critical awareness of the controversial background of this group. The NKT movement has harmed the mental health of many of its followers causing among others complex trauma, PTSD, depression or suicidal thoughts. Those who survived the NKT refer to themselves as New Kadampa Survivors. For a brief overview about the controversies regarding the NKT and for some self-help groups of NKT Survivors see here.

Michelle Haslam (PhD, DClinPsych), a clinical psychologist who works in the field of safeguarding, wrote a 39 page “Psychological Report on The New Kadampa Tradition” which can be dowloaded here (PDF).

If you lack time to read Michelle Haslam’s report in full, the following excerpt is her summary (from page 36):

Myself and many other survivors believe the NKT to be a highly psychologically damaging and exploitative organisation that attracts people through their attachment trauma, depression and dissatisfaction with life. They are not qualified to offer or teach mindfulness classes, and are benefiting from the ‘mindfulness movement’, and the naivety of Western people regarding Buddhism. It is clear that they have no understanding of mental health, but strongly believe that they do, which makes them a particularly dangerous group. All of their practices (aside from the brief breathing meditation which is mostly harmless on its own if it wasn’t aimed to put people in a relaxed state) could be potentially severely damaging to both mental and eventually to physical health.

Potential psychological damage whilst within the group includes:

  • the increasing inability to trust one’s own perception and intuition
  • dissociation from the body, derealisation and depersonalisation
  • further repression of emotion and trauma through spiritual bypassing, thought-stopping and thought-control
  • anxiety linked to fear of rebirth in a hell realm
  • obsessive compulsive urges linked to ‘purification’ of negative minds
  • further trauma due to experiences of abuse within the group which is enabled by the teachings and lack of safeguarding
  • stress and burnout
  • severe cognitive dissonance due to the gaslighting
  • misplaced loyalty and trauma bonding to the guru and the group

In particular, this is highly damaging for those who came to the group with pre-existing acute trauma or complex attachment related trauma. For those with a learning disability whom take the teachings very literally, following these teachings could lead to a severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The difficulties involved in leaving and recovering from the experience of being involved with this organisation are extensive. These could include symptoms of:

  • Grief
  • The withdrawal effects of leaving a cult
  • Narcissistic abuse syndrome
  • Complex post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Spiritual abuse

Due to the nature of the particular practices they could also suffer from hallucinations and paranoia. Recovery is likely to take many years for those who have been deeply involved in the group. Re-adjustment and rehabilitation is likely to be very challenging and to take a long time, and survivors may need intensive psychological support. Survivors would benefit from support from those with specialist knowledge and experience of both cult involvement, and the way in which this particular group operates. There is not currently enough training or understanding of cult involvement for mental health professionals. Research is required to better understand the psychological damage and needs of survivors of this particular group, however participation rate in any proposed study is likely to be low due to complex post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and fear of consequences.

Those who are looking for independent academic information could contact www.inform.ac for further details about the New Kadampa Tradition movement.

See also