Meditate in … – Urban Sports Club’s Uncritical Collaboration with the New Kadampa Tradition

Screenshot: Urban Sports Club – Meditation Kadampa Zentrum Berlin

A while ago I was made aware that Urban Sports Club collaborates in France (Paris) and Germany with the controversial New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). In Germany the collaboration does not only include Berlin but also other towns such as Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Wiesbaden, Leipzig, Dresden, Oberhausen, Stuttgart – and maybe even more.

On Facebook Urban Sports Club promotes the New Kadampa Tradition Centre for Stuttgart as “reputable” (renommiert) and their blog entry for Berlin posts a completely uncritical blog entry.

I was contacted by different people recently – including a journalist – who bumped into New Kadampa meditation classes. One of them met the NKT also via Urban Sports Club. They were confused about certain presentations and claims (e.g. to abandon self-cherishing) and contacted me. The problem online is that the most controversial Buddhist or Hinduism groups, who offer meditation, have the best SEO and pop up first as results on Google or Bing if you search online for “meditation” in your town. The reason is basically their immense missionary drive and that they have so many volunteers, who driven by a missionary urge, are keen to get newly interested people into their fold. Another reason is that non-controversial groups don’t invest so much effort and expertise in their SEO and are not that keen to reach online seekers as those controversial (cult-like) groups are. And of course, search engines lack the intelligence to discriminate highly controversial from genuine or safe meditation groups.

Screenshot: Urban Sports Club on Facebook – promoting the Kadampa Meditation Centre  in Stuttgart

A while ago a scientist from a well known university in Germany and I made the Urban Sports Club aware of the controversies and the harm the New Kadampa Tradition has done to seekers of Meditation and Buddhism. I made them aware of a recent survivor, Dr. Dr. Michelle Haslam, and her full analysis of the NKT. I asked them if they have done any research before Urban Sports Club entered into this collaboration with the NKT. The answer was “no”. Urban Sports Club is not interested to end the collaboration with the NKT until critical reports, testimonies or complaints emerge to Urban Sports Club from their members.

Well, I find this quite irresponsible.

“Where are the Bodhisattvas on the Internet who help us online seekers to find groups with integrity?” – Y. (Ukraine) To counter a bit this misbalance online for Berlin in Germany, I set up another website, www.meditieren-berlin.de, to give at least a bit of a guidance for online searchers who look for non-controversial or safe meditation groups in Berlin. If you want to help online seekers too, maybe you can run a similar initiative in your own country or town.

With respect to Urban Sports Club, I think the only thing that can be done is that those who have been harmed by the NKT write to the management of Urban Sports Club to make them aware how naive and irresponsible their approach is.

Questions and answers with Urban Sports Club

Here are my questions to and the answers from the Urban Sports Club management Germany, Berlin. (Note, the correspondence was in German language. Translation into English via http://www.deepl.com; edits + two additional links by me.)

Q: Did you check the group’s integrity before starting the partnership?

Urban Sports Club: While researching the Urban Sports Club you could certainly quickly realize that it is our goal to give everyone the opportunity to organize their everyday life in such a healthy, flexible and individual way. So everyone can find the offer that suits them, regardless of their place of residence, work, hobbies etc.
We guarantee this by searching for cooperation partners in the sports and wellness sector who can offer members exactly what they are looking for.

However, when we cooperate with one of our more than 50 sports and over 7,000 cooperation partners, we do not carry out extensive background analyses, as you do yourself, but rely on the feedback and independent decision-making ability of our members.

Q: Did you contact umbrella organisations such as the German Buddhist Union (DBU), the German Buddhist Monastic Order (DBO), the Institute for Research on Religious and Ideological Issues (EZW) or the internationally renowned research institution www.inform.ac, or the Berlin Central Office for Cult Issues of the Senate of Berlin to find out whether this might be a problematic provider on the spiritual market?

Urban Sports Club: No, as explained in the previous point, we trust in the decision-making ability and the feedback of our members to us when placing one of our partners.

Q: Are you aware that former members who left the group have reported psychological damage such as PTSD or complex trauma? Are you aware of the latest report by psychologist Dr Dr Michelle Haslam on possible psychological damage caused by the group?

Urban Sports Club: No, we are not aware of that.

Q: Are you aware that because of the unhealthy (cutish) structures of the group, admission to the umbrella organisation of Buddhists in Germany (German Buddhist Union, DBU) has been refused by the DBU?

Urban Sports Club: No, we are not aware of that either.

Q:  How can you ensure that young people are not harmed by the group?

Urban Sports Club: We have been working with Kadampa for several years and offer our members the open courses, but not attendance at any of the USC membership workshops. USC members have the flexibility to decide whether or not to visit their partner again after a visit to Kadampa.
So far we have not received any negative feedback from any of our members about this cooperation partner and therefore see no reason to accept it.

Q: Would you also cooperate with Scientology?

Urban Sports Club: No Scientology would not become a cooperation partner of the Urban Sports Club.

Q: What are the ethical limits of your cooperation?

Urban Sports Club: If one of our cooperation partners should show a behaviour damaging to the reputation of the USC, cause damage to USC members or negligently endanger them, the USC will consider an extraordinary termination of the cooperation after the partner has been informed about it.

We will continue our cooperation with Kadampa until we receive feedback from our members confirming cases as described by you to our cooperation partner. If we receive such feedback, we will approach Kadampa and confront them with the issue.


Fragen an und antworten vom Urban Sports club

Frage 1) Haben sie die Gruppe in Bezug auf Seriosität vor Beginn der Partnerschaft überprüft?

Urban Sports Club: Bei der Recherche zum Urban Sports Club konnten Sie sicher schnell erkennen, dass es unser Ziel ist, allen Menschen die Möglichkeit zu geben, ihren Alltag so gesund, flexibel und individuell zu gestalten. So findet jeder das für ihn passende Angebot, unabhängig von Wohnort, Arbeit, Hobbys etc.
Das gewährleisten wir, indem wir vielfältig im Sport- und Wellnessbereich nach Kooperationspartnern suchen, die für Mitglieder genau das Angebot darstellen, was sie individuell gesucht haben.

Wir machen bei einer Kooperation mit einem Anbieter unserer über 50 Sportarten und über 7.000 Kooperationspartner jedoch keine umfangreiche Hintergrundanalysen, wie Sie es selber tun, sondern vertrauen auf das Feedback und selbstständige Entscheidungsvermögen unserer Mitglieder.

Frage 2) Haben sie Dachverbände wie die Deutsche Buddhistische Union (DBU), die Deutschen Buddhistische Ordensgemeinschaft (DBO), die Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen (EzW) oder die international renommierte Forschungseinrichtung http://www.inform.ac oder die Berliner Leitstelle für Sektenfragen vom Senat Berlin kontaktiert, um zu eruieren, ob dies ggf. ein problematischer Anbieter auf dem spirituellem Markt ist?

Urban Sports Club: Nein, wie im vorherigen Punkt erklärt, vertrauen wir bei der Vermittlung eines unserer Partner auf das Entscheidungsvermögen und die Rückmeldung unserer Mitglieder an uns.

Frage 3) Ist Ihnen bekannt, dass ehemalige Mitglieder, die die Gruppe verließen, von psychischen Schäden wie PTSD oder komplexen Traumata berichtet haben? Ist ihnen der letzte Bericht der Psychologin Dr Dr Michelle Haslam zu möglichen psychischen Schäden, die die Gruppe verursacht bekannt?

Urban Sports Club: Nein das ist uns nicht bekannt.

Frage 4) Ist Ihnen bekannt, dass wegen der unheilsamen (sektenhaften) Strukturen der Gruppe eine Aufnahme in den Dachverband der Buddhisten in Deutschland (Deutsche Buddhistische Union, DBU) von der DBU verweigert wurde?

Urban Sports Club: Nein auch das ist uns nicht bekannt.

Frage 5) Wie können Sie sicher stellen, dass junge Menschen, nicht durch die Gruppe geschädigt werden?

Urban Sports Club: Wir arbeiten mit Kadampa seit einigen Jahren zusammen und bieten unseren Mitgliedern die offenen Kurse, jedoch keinen Besuch in einem der Workshops über die USC Mitgliedschaft an. USC Mitglieder sind flexibel in der Lage bereits nach einem Besuch bei Kadampa selber zu entscheiden, ob sie den Partner nochmal oder nicht besuchen möchten.
Bisher haben wir noch kein negatives Feedback von einem unserer Mitglieder zu diesem Kooperationspartner erhalten und sehen daher auch keinen Grund zu Annahme.

Frage 6) Würden Sie auch mit Scientology kooperieren?

Urban Sports Club: Nein Scientology würde kein Kooperationspartner des Urban Sports Club werden.

Frage 7) Wo liegen ethische Grenzen der Kooperation bei Ihnen?

Urban Sports Club: Sollten einer unserer Kooperationspartner ein dem USC gegenüber rufschädigendes Verhalten an den Tag legen, USC Mitgliedern Schaden zufügen oder diese fahrlässig in Gefahr bringen, wird der USC eine außerordentlichen Kündigung der gemeinsamen Kooperation in Erwägung ziehen, nach sich mit dem Partner darüber ausgetauscht wurde.

Die Kooperation mit Kadampa werden wir solange weiterführen, bis uns Rückmeldungen unserer Mitglieder erreichen, die Fälle wie von Ihnen beschrieben bei unserem Kooperationspartner bestätigen. Sollten wir solche Rückmeldungen erhalten, werden wir umgehen auf Kadampa zugehen und sie mit dem Thema konfrontieren.

A recent discussion between Former Scientologist Jon Atack and Dr Michelle Haslam on The New Kadampa Tradition

Jon Atack, author and speaker on Scientology and authoritarianism speaks with Dr Michelle Haslam about the NKT, authoritarian groups and ‘Fair Game’.

Further Information

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