Reflecting on my Time in Rigpa and with Sogyal Rinpoche


Dear friends,

I too was in Rigpa for a long time and had different experiences, also difficult ones that were similar to some of the things already expressed in this blog. That was more by witnessing what he said and did to others or in some of the teachings or what others had to endure in Rigpa than my own experiences. But the doubts and irritations that derived from that were the same as if those things would have happened to me.

(I can say that to me personally he always was very polite and friendly in the few encounters we had. He seemed to completely ignore any misbehaving, which also occurred, but clearly showed his appreciation when I was in alignment with myself. And even one time when he corrected me he did it in a friendly and welcoming way so I didn’t feel bad about myself, but rather uplifted.)

During that time of struggle Tenzin Peljor really helped me a lot by being there for me and providing a space, where I was able to process my experiences. And also I read this page back and forth, which was tremendously helpful for me as well to come to terms with my doubts and perceptions. At the end it turned out to be really a maturation and awakening process for me, where I could see, that I was the one, who has given my power and discernment away to the lama (S.R.) and I finally could take it back – I hope for good this time… It seems like many people are going through similar processes in these times of change.

© RigpaWIki

Sogyal Rinpoche © RigpaWiki

The most important aspect in this process was to become aware, that at the beginning it was MY OWN experience, intuition, choice and responsibility to choose S.R. as my teacher. At that moment there was no notion of “crazy-wisdom-master”, no “you get to vajra-hell, if you leave the master”, no “if -you-don’t-go-to-the-tsok-that’s-negative-karma”, no “samaya-breaking”, nothing. It was just pure experience, gratitude, beginners-mind, great dreams, expansion, surrender, joy, trust, presence.

But at one point in time that wasn’t enough. There came a moment, when I – out of an inner feeling of insecurity and fear – wanted to find some tangible security according to the pattern: “Your master knows better than you. And if you follow certain rules, you are safe and you don’t get to hell, you come out of suffering; you are out of risk, etc.” I just wanted to play it safe and was grasping to those rules that were meant to give that security. And that’s “pure ego, and it get’s purer and purer und purer” – as one teacher of mine once jokingly said.

(I think, there is no shortcut to enlightenment and no alternative to taking a risk by relying on and trusting your own judgment and at the same time be honest with yourself, be aware and willing to learn and change.)

Of cause all that was triggered by some of the teachings we got, certain statements in the KLS. But then – like new research has shown – there is a kind of a “loop” between certain centers in the brain and the hormonal centers in the body. And therefore as Joe Dispenza put’s it “you can only accept, believe and surrender without analysis to those thoughts that are equal to how you feel”. And: “If you were truly in a different state of being, that (negative) statement or comment wouldn’t make its way past your brain-stem into your body.”

And back to S.R.

I know others that have chosen to focus on those parts of the teachings, where he speaks about the importance of self-love, of love for others, care, of non-judging, forgiveness and the illusory nature of reality and even said things like “You are your own master.” Or: “If you think, S.R. is angry with me – THAT is just a THOUGHT. And if you think: S.R. is happy with me – THAT is just a THOUGHT.” And he invited Jetsün Khandro for teachings, where last year she said things like: “You are holding on to the outer Lama way to long and it’s time to – on the basis of gratitude – move from the outer Lama to the Inner Lama.” And even after that teaching he invited her again and showed much appreciation for her.

During my process I also went through a phase of accusation, grief and anger, and this was helpful to become aware and to accept and to allow myself to feel these emotions to find the strength and decisiveness for the separation and cutting through some belief-systems I had adopted, that were not helpful for me. And a friend of mine went through a similar process.

The purpose of becoming aware of what one doesn’t agree with, for me is to find trust in myself and my own perception, to become clear on what I don’t want and thereby becoming clear of what my true values are and what I really do want.

But ultimately I know that I cannot blame what I went through on anybody, not on Sogyal Rinpoche or anyone in Rigpa, because in that case I would turn myself into a victim. They just mirrored my patterns and gave me an opportunity to learn this important lesson.

What good is faith without discernment? Is it even possible? Who else decides what path to take or what to have faith in? … We do…. The Buddha recognized our basic instinct for happiness as the seed of discerning intelligence.
– Elisabeth Mattis Namgyel: “The power of an open question”

As research also has shown, especially at the Heartmath-Institute negative emotions like anger and resentment are really detrimental to the body and create very incohearent patterns, whereas only 10 minutes of gratitude can boost the immune-system for 7 hours. It’s more effective than a flue-shot.

I also like that statement of Wayne Dyer when he forgave his father: “He did what he knew how to do best. And you cannot expect anything more of anybody. From now on I only send him love.”

As to my observation, Sogyal Rinpoche is positive for many people at least for a certain time.

And I know he has a deep and heart-felt commitment to spreading the Dharma and to his Masters, and he is undertaking tremendous efforts to perform this. It’s probably not always fun to sit there and give teachings. I wouldn’t want to do this for anything in the world ;-)

For many years my time in Rigpa was a time of growth, expansion and syncronicities. Shortly after I joined Sogyal Rinpoche, p.e. at first my job-situation deteriorated, and I couldn’t stay there anymore. But then I got the job that I always wanted without having to do much for it. It was somehow presented to me on a silver-plate. And I witnessed a similar process with other people. I had great dreams, experiences and insights, found new friends. And without him I would not have had the inspiration to go to Dharamsala and Tibet, which were great and very valuable experiences for me.

In the last years it became more difficult and signs became clear to me that my time in Rigpa was ending. The gap between my life and Rigpa became bigger, and the processes I went through were no longer in alignment with Rigpa. And I could only partly communicate about them with a few people in Rigpa.

Since then I have began to study the new and amazing research on the brain and the mind and also epigenetic done by geniuses like Bruce Lipton, Gregg Braden, the Heartmath-Institut and the practices on that basis developed by Dr. Joe Dispenza, the real meaning and significance of Dharma, esp. Vajrayana, became much clearer to me. It’s really fascinating and I feel like this is the next much needed step in implementing the Dharma to the West. And HH Dalai Lama once again showed his wisdom and foreseeing by recognizing the importance of that at a very early point in time. These are tools that were not available to Buddhist teachers in earlier time. And they open the doors to a whole new understanding as well as new possibilities of development. Actually that scientific approach is not alien to the Buddhist teachings. To my understanding counting prostrations or accumulations in the Ngöndro is already an attempt of measuring spiritual commitment and progress and by that giving you feedback. And the feedback-tools that exist today (like brainscans or HRV-measurements, etc.) are just much more precise.

All together I feel grateful to have both, these new revelations as well as the deep grounding in the traditional Buddhist teachings – thanks to Sogyal Rinpoche – and that helps me a great deal to stay in balance.

As an inspiration for those who have experienced trauma, but also for others, I insert a link to a video on YouTube (actually an audio), that I felt was so inspiring and eye-opening in relation to how to deal with trauma and PTSD, that I wanted to share it with you:

In this video Dr. Joe Dispenza talks about PTSD and how to overcome it, and especially the story starting at minute 27 was really mind blowing for me and moved me to tears. This part is only 2 – 3 minutes.

I hope this is of benefit for many people.

I now also want to express my gratitude to Tenzin Peljor for all his help and his great motivation and skillful way to help those people that go through difficult times in Buddhist groups. As well as to provide unbiased information for people so they make more clear and informed decisions, if they join a group.

For me, if those information’s would have been available 20 years ago, I probably still would have made the same decision to join Sogyal Rinpoche, because he was in alignment with me and my karma and therefore touched me more than other – even maybe more evolved – lamas. But I would have been more aware and conscious and trust myself more in that process.

The challenge for all of us, who leave a Teacher, in whom they have put trust and devotion, is to find a new way to live those qualities, to find a true spiritual grounding and the trust in something greater than our ego. Otherwise there is a danger to get lost in depression and meaninglessness.

All the best

FWBO / Triratna – Sangharakshita – Cases of Sexual Abuse

At the Western Buddhist Order men's ordination course, Guhyaloka, Spain, June 2002. © Upekshaka. Source:

Sangharakshita (Dennis Philip Edward Lingwood) at the Western Buddhist Order men’s ordination course, Guhyaloka, Spain, June 2002. © Upekshaka

The BBC reported on September 26, 2016 about how sexual abuse in the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) – nowadays Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO) – happened under the guise of claimed »spiritual friendship« and to help »make spiritual progress«. The BBC spoke to three former members who explained that they were pressurised into engaging in sexual activity with the leader and founder of the FWBO/Triratna Buddhist Order, Sangharakshita (Dennis Lingwood).

One of the persons being abused said, »It was abuse of trust really, because I was a very sincere, perhaps naïve young man wanting to practise Buddhism.« One man said he was under the legal age of consent for homosexual sex at the time. While some followers believed that the leader of the group made a sacrifice in engaging with his students in a sexual relationship, Elie Godsi, a clinical psychologist who has been an expert witness on a number of high-profile abuse cases, said: »This is all about the sexual gratification of a person in a position of authority or power within the group.«

One good thing in that context is that at least FWBO/Triratna is beginning to acknowledge the power and sexual abuse and is talking about initiating steps to prevent future abuse. I read some reports in the past from men being abused by Sangharakshita and responses by FWBO/Triratna members. At that time I felt there was a tendency to still whitewash what happened by claiming the sexual relationships helped them.*

For those living in the UK see also BBC’s »Inside Out East« in which Jo Taylor examines allegations of historic abuse at a FWBO centre (first 10 minutes).


* To understand the harm such abuse can bring you can read the Guardian report The dark side of enlightenment from 1997 which reports the sad story of Matthew, a talented Oxford graduate who rejected careerism in the mid-1980s and joined the FWBO and who committed suicide.

Of tremendous help for me to understand sexual abuse in the context of a power differential (priests, psychologists, teacher-students) is Peter Rutter’s (MD) »Sex in the Forbidden Zone«. I can highly recommend to read that book and to take it to heart.

See also


The Dalai Lama’s Advice to Buddhists in the West

Q: Your Holiness, what advice might you give those of us who are working to develop Buddhist communities and organizations in the West?

A: As I often tell my Buddhist friends, if we want to keep the excellent tradition of Buddhism developed in Tibet alive, it will depend on the existence of freedom in Tibet. To that end, since you are already working together, I would like you to continue to work for the cause of Tibet’s freedom with those who are already doing so.

We try to make a distinction between the words “freedom” and “independence.” The use of the word independence is somewhat delicate. Obviously, I have been trying to establish contacts with the Chinese government and begin serious negotiations. For fourteen years I have been trying my best, persisting in this approach, and pursuing my efforts incessantly to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion through direct talks with the Chinese government.

I would like to share some of my thoughts with all of you gathered here, brothers and sisters in Buddhism.

First of all, Buddhism corresponds to a new tradition, a religion which did not previously exist in the West. Consequently, it is normal that all those who are interested in Buddhism in its Tibetan form would also like to be informed about and continue to study other religions and traditions. This is perfectly natural. However, for those who are seriously thinking of converting to Buddhism, that is, of changing your religion, it is very important to take every precaution. This must not be done lightly. Indeed, if one converts without having thought about it in a mature way, this often creates difficulties and leads to great inner confusion. I would therefore advise all who would like to convert to Buddhism to think carefully before doing so.


Second, when an individual is convinced that Buddhist teachings are better adapted to his or her disposition, that they are more effective, it is quite right that this religion be chosen. However, human nature being what it is, after their conversion and in order to justify it, such a person may have a tendency to want to criticize his or her original religion. This must be avoided at all costs. Even if the previous religion does not seem as effective as he or she would have liked (and this is the reason for the change), this is not sufficient reason to claim that the old religion is ineffective for the human spirit. That religion continues to bring immense good to millions of people. For this reason, as Buddhists, we must respect the rights of others, for other religions help millions of people. In particular, we are in the process of trying to create and maintain a perfect harmony among all religions. In these circumstances it is absolutely essential to be aware of the need to respect other religions.

Third, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition emphasis is always placed on the combination of study and practice. Of course, it may happen that you devote yourself more or less to study. Some people may pursue their studies very far, others may be satisfied with a more limited level of study. Whatever the case, at the foundation you must never separate study, reflection, and meditation. You must also preserve the tradition of practice in which study, reflection, and meditation are indivisible.

Fourth, I would like to insist upon the importance of non-sectarianism. It sometimes happens that people attribute an exaggerated importance to one or another of the different schools and different traditions within Buddhism, and this can lead to an accumulation of extremely negative acts with regard to the Dharma. The advantage of non-sectarianism is that after receiving the transmission of the instructions, initiations, and explanations pertinent to each different tradition, we will be able to have a better understanding of the different teachings. From my own experience, this is without doubt very beneficial. Consequently, if we keep a non-sectarian attitude, as we receive teachings from different traditions, think about them, and put them in practice, it is certain we will improve our understanding of the Dharma. This is why non-sectarianism is so important.

Traditionally in Tibet there have been two approaches used by the many great scholars and accomplished masters. Indeed, while some concentrated on the study and practice of their own tradition, their own spiritual heritage, others expanded the field of their study and their practice of Buddhism from a non-sectarian point of view. This tradition already existed in Tibet among the great masters, and I think that today this non-sectarianism is extremely important and is the best Tibetan custom to follow.

There is a fifth point I would like to go into. For just under thirty years, Tibetan Buddhism has been spreading through the different continents of our earth. Lamas, tulkus, and Geshes have made an enormous contribution to the flowering of Tibetan Buddhism all over the world, aided by hundreds of thousands of students and disciples. During the same period, some rather unhealthy situations have arisen, and this has led to difficulties. Initially this was due to an excess of blind faith on the part of the disciples and also to certain teachers who eventually took advantage of their disciples’ weaknesses. There have been scandals, financial and sexual abuses. Such things happen! As a result I must insist at this point that it is absolute necessary that both disciples and teachers keep the goal in mind—to preserve a perfectly pure Dharma. It is the responsibility of us all to put an end to this type of unhealthy activity.

The Buddha taught the four ways to bring together the disciples, and this was to ensure the welfare of others. The six perfections (Sanskrit: paramita) are practised to achieve one’s own good, and the four ways of bringing together the disciples to achieve the good of others. This involves, first of all, giving material gifts, then practising right speech, then providing help, and finally harmonizing one’s words and acts. Above all, it is important to keep this last point in mind. If we do not master our own mind, it is impossible to master the minds of others. We do not know whether or not it is possible to master the mind of another, but it is what we are supposed to do! Whatever the case, it is essential for those who claim they wish to help others that they control their own minds. To do this it is very important nowadays for teachers to be reminded again and again of the teachings of Buddha on how to help others and harmonize words and acts.

As far as the disciple is concerned, to quote a Tibetan proverb: A disciple must not throw himself upon a spiritual master “as a dog throws itself upon a piece of meat.” A disciple must not rush to place their trust immediately in a master, but must rather take the time to reflect carefully and examine the master’s qualities before establishing a spiritual bond with them by receiving their teachings. It is preferable to receive the teachings of a master while viewing him or her first and foremost as a spiritual friend. We must not rush to hear their teachings and consider them our master at the same time. Little by little, if having observed them we are convinced that they are a true master, fully qualified and worthy of trust, we can follow their teachings by considering them our master. We must not hurry.

The sixth point which I would like to go into regarding Dharma centres concerns our oft-invoked prayer: “May all beings find happiness and its causes.” This is something we should apply directly by doing something useful for society. Engaging in social activity in the community, by trying to help those who are in difficulty, such as those with mental or other problems, for example. This does not necessarily mean we should teach them the Dharma, but rather use the teachings ourselves in order to help them. I think such activity directed toward others is something we should develop. It is the natural conclusion of another common prayer: “May all beings attain happiness and be free from suffering.” On this principle, if we can bring good, even if only to one person, we are fulfilling in part the vow we have made. Moreover, the entire Buddhist community of these centres should participate in social engagement by assisting others, and I think this is something very important with regard to the operation of these centres.

A vegetarian diet is not obligatory for Buddhists. Still, for those of us who follow the teachings of the Great Vehicle, it is important. But the teachings of the Buddha were open and flexible on this subject, and each practitioner has the choice to be vegetarian or not. Large gatherings are sometimes held in Dharma centres and when there are such festivities, celebrations, or teachings, I think that if a great number of people are to be fed it is very important to serve only vegetarian food for the entire duration of the meeting.

Seventh point: we often say this prayer, “May the teachings of the Buddha (the Dharma) be propagated.” If Tibet regains its freedom, this will certainly help to preserve the vast and profound teachings of Buddha, including the Lesser and Great Vehicles as well as all the Tantras. There is therefore an obvious connection between the freedom of Tibet and the preservation of the teachings of Buddha in the world. If this were not the case, if the fundamental question of Tibet’s freedom were solely a political issue, then as a monk and a disciple of the Buddha’s tradition I would have no reason for such concern. But the two aspects are closely linked.

Even when I am advocating the demilitarization of Tibet, that it be made into a peace zone, although the term “demilitarization” is not strictly speaking a term from the Dharma, the project is nevertheless closely related to the Dharma. Many of you, representatives and members of the different centres, are among those who have already contributed to the cause of Tibet’s freedom. I thank you for that and ask you to continue your efforts, bearing in mind the relation between the preservation of the teachings and the freedom of Tibet, in order to give practical expression to the vow that the Buddha’s teachings be preserved and developed.

My last point—you must keep your mind happy and know how to laugh!

Found at // Original source: Extended Quote from “Beyond Dogma – the challenge of the modern world” by HH Dalai Lama, pages 139-143. English translation published by Souvenir Press, UK, 1997. Originally published in French as ‘Au-dela des Dogmes’ by Éditions Albin Michel S.A., Paris.


See also


You’re interested in going to a Buddhist center in your city for the first time. What advice can be given?

Lion’s Roar posted an entry I’m interested in going to a Buddhist center in my city for the first time. Any advice? On a rather quick reading I found it a bit incomplete recollecting my and others’ people experiences with cult-like groups such as the New Kadampa Tradition / Kadampa Buddhism. I wondered how that advice given by Lion’s Roar can prevent one from falling pray to cultish or questionable Buddhist groups? What do you think? I think its not a complete or a pretty save advice that Lion’s Roar offered.

That’s why I had the idea to ask YOU about what advice you have to offer to newly interested people who want to visit a Buddhist center in their city for the first time. Most of you have experiences of harm in cultish or damaging Buddhist groups. What would you advice to people interested to go to a Buddhist center in their city so that they might NOT end up in the pain and suffering as we had to experience it – or finally even abandoning the Buddhadharma altogether?

A person who relied on the Sangha of the Pagode Path Hue in Frankfurt – outwardly a young, dynamic Sangha – whose (former) abbot, Thich Thien Son (Mai Hue Giang Tran), has been alleged of multiple sexual abuse of his (male) students (including the abuse of young men who were already abused as children and whom he promised to heal from that abuse!) – wrote on my German blog this very sad message recently which I just approved:

Die Geschichte von TTS hat bei mir ziemlich viel zerstört. Von „Buddha Dharma Sangha“ ist nur noch Dharma geblieben. Den Buddhismus habe ich hinter mir gelassen.
„Sangha“??? um Gottes Willen – Die Sangha, die eine Stütze sein sollte, Reaktionen der Menschen in der Sangha, die Abhängigkeit von TTS hat mir gezeigt was Sanghas sind: Ein Haufen Blinder die nicht man zu sich selber ehrlich sind. Süchtig nach Macht, Anerkennung und Gier, hörig bis zum Anschlag. Oder einfach: Verlogen. Sangha ist definitiv kein „Juwel“. _()_

Translation: The story of TTS has destroyed a good deal to me. From “Buddha Dharma Sangha” has remained only Dharma. The Buddhism I have left behind me.
“Sangha” ??? For God’s sake – The Sangha, which should be a support, the reactions of people in the Sangha, the dependence on TTS showed me what Sanghas are: A pile of blind people who are not true to themselves. Addicted to power, recognition and greed, submissively dependent to the limit. Or simply: mendacious. Sangha is definitely not a “gem”. _ () _

It makes me so sad to read this.

And its even sadder that – as it appears to me – many gave up Buddhism altogether* after having made devastating experiences in unhealthy or abusive Buddhist groups. So my request, my call to you – the readers of this blog – is what advice would you give to newcomers to Buddhism to be able to avoid the negative and harmful experiences we had to make? How can new seekers of  Buddhism avoid to bump into a Buddhist centre which might be good in online and print marketing and self-presentation but harmful to its members or followers?

You could use the template by Lion’s Roar and offer your own advice in the comment section. Maybe we can help and protect some people?!

(I will add my thoughts later in a comment.)

* Luckily, Joram, who wrote the comment quoted above, seems still to have faith in the Dharma!

How China’s Communist Party gets its propaganda into the Australian media

According to ABC Media Watch, Fairfax media publications – including The Age and Sydney Morning Herald – are accepting money from the Chinese government to print stories, biased towards Chinese view. UK’s Daily Telegraph has also accepted Chinese funds apparently.

Do you remember the highly questionable press coverage of H.H. the Dalai Lama’s visit to Australia by the Australian media in June 2015?

Sidney Morning Herald, and The Age for instance gave ISC spokes person and the New Kadampa Tradition’s Hongkong representative Nicholas Pitts (Kelsang Rabten) a platform for his strange allegations against the Dalai Lama by printing his allegations without consulting any independent academic expert and without any fact proving. Having followed the international press coverage I found that the Australia’s press coverage of the Dalai Lama’s visit in Australia was the worst.

Now, one year later (and after Reuters’s December 2015 investigation) ABC’s Media Watch reports:

For more details read: Fairfax prints Chinese propaganda by ABC

Further readings

Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya by Mano Mettanando Laohavanich

Those interested to cultivate a deeper understanding of the Dhammakaya Movement, Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Thai: วัดพระธรรมกาย), can read the academic paper, “Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya” by Mano Mettanando Laohavanich published in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 19, 2012. So far this blog had only one post regarding this movement, “Dhammakaya sect knows where Steve Jobs was reborn” (2012/09/16).


Chedi of Wat Phra Dhammakaya at night

The abstract of the paper states:

Thailand’s controversial Wat Phra Dhammakāya has grown exponentially. In just three decades, it has come to have millions of followers in and outside of Thailand and over forty branches overseas. The esoteric teaching of meditation taught by the leaders of the community has inspired thousands of young men and women from various universities to sacrifice their lives to serve their Master, something that has never been seen before in Thailand or elsewhere in the Theravāda world. What is the nature of this esoteric teaching? Why is it so appealing to these young minds? These questions are discussed and analyzed by the author, who was one of Wat Phra Dhammakāya’s founding members.

Read the full paper: “Esoteric Teaching of Wat Phra Dhammakāya” by Mano Mettanando Laohavanich


Update June 2016

Update August 2016

There is also an academic book Nirvana for Sale?: Buddhism, Wealth, and the Dhammakaya Temple in Contemporary Thailand by Rachelle M. Scott, published by State University of New York Press, 2009.

The synopsis reads:

Explores the relationship between material prosperity and spirituality in contemporary Thai Buddhism.

What is the proper relationship between religion and prosperity? Rachelle M. Scott looks at this issue in a Thai Buddhist context, asking when the relationship between Buddhist piety and wealth is viewed in favorable terms and when it is viewed in terms of conflict and tension. Scott focuses on the Dhammakaya Temple, an organization that has placed traditional Theravada practices, such as meditation and merit-making, within a modernist framework that encourages personal and social prosperity. The Temple’s construction of a massive religious monument in the late 1990s embodied this message, but also sparked criticism of the Temple’s wealth and fund-raising techniques and engendered debates over authentic Buddhism and religious authority. Scott situates this controversy within the context of postmodern Thailand and the Asian economic crisis when reevaluations of wealth, global capitalism, and “Asian values”occupied a preeminent place in Thai public discourse.

Update September 2016

Human Rights Press Award for Reuters Investigates “The Long Arm of China” | Dalai Lama | Shugden


The English Online Grand Prize of the The Human Rights Press Awards 2015 went to David Lague, Paul Mooney, Benjamin Kang Lim, Sui-Lee Wee and Stephanie Nebehay, a cohort of China experts working at Reuters.

Joyce Lau of The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, writes:

In “The long arm of China”, they used multiple articles to draw a larger picture of how China engages with minorities and the outside world.

“This is very good, wide-ranging reporting,” said barrister Jacqueline Leong, who has been a HRPA judge since its first year in 1996. “The package as a whole drew together common threads between three different issues: the Dalai Lama, the UN Human Rights Committee, and the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in the nation’s far West.”

“These three are rarely put together,” added judge Armin Kalyanram, a former chairperson of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

HRPA-logo-230x350pxThe official website states about the award:

The Human Rights Press Awards recognize top rights-related reporting from around Asia and are organized by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong KongThe Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International Hong Kong. The goal of the Awards is to increase respect for people’s basic rights and to focus attention on threats to those freedoms.

Part four of Reuters investigates “The Long Arm of China” covered the Shugden controversy and the role China plays in it, “Special Report: China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama”. This investigative article was written by David Lague, Paul Mooney and Benjamin Kang Lim. They sought among others the expertise of Robert Barnett, Elliot Sperling and Thierry Dodin. Basing their article on Reuters’ investigation, China Digital Times (CDT) wrote a neat summary and linked to different background sources: “China Backs Sect in Global Effort to Smear Dalai Lama”.


On Tuesday, May 24, 2016, the US government Congressional-Executive Commission on China, co-chaired by former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, held a hearing to “examine the Chinese government’s reach beyond its borders to stifle critical discussion of its human rights record and repressive policies …. These efforts include … clandestine efforts to discredit the Dalai Lama through a Communist Party-supported rival Buddhist sect …”. The hearing was held to formulate recommendations for Congressional and Administration action to combat such activities.

According to Phayul and, an American District court penalized a Tibetan Shugden follower, Mr. Lobsang Gyaltsen aka Dowa Gyakpa, yesterday (May 23) for assaulting a senior citizen during a mass protest rally two years ago during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
There is an English interview portion with the lawyer who represented Mr Ngawang Norbu Sherpa, the victim. What becomes clear – at minute 19:46 – is that the shugden protestor, Lobsang Gyaltsen, was the first to launch a legal complaint, against Mr. Sherpa for defending himself. Because Mr. Sherpa put his arm out when Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Shugden supporter, kicked him. Then, after he was cleared with evidence, Mr. Sherpa made the counter claim, which resulted in 1 year of probation for the defendant and month fines. The Shugden defendant, Mr. Lobsang Gyaltsen, admitted his wrongdoing and if he violates his probation faces two years in jail.

Kadampa Ordination – A Misguided Approach

Shugden won’t protect NKT monastics, NKT monastics have to study, observe and protect their vows themselves.

You can find below the content of The New Ordination Handbook of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT).

My claim is: With the information provided in The New Ordination Handbook the NKT and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso misguide and misinform their faithful students and those who want to become Buddhist monks and nuns within the NKT. Based on this misguidance NKT monks and nuns risk to break and to loose their vows being thereby spiritually harmed in grave ways. In my opinion, this new superficial, whitewashed, ambiguous version of monastic ordination also damages the transmission and understanding of Buddha’s teachings and the Vinaya in the west.

There is an Ordination Handbook from 1999 by Kelsang Gyatso which is different to the new one. It is also more complex in its distortions and inventions. In the Ordination Handbook from 1999 Kelsang Gyatso claims among others that the NKT ordination stems from the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras or that “If we can maintain the determination to keep our vows through the death process and into our next rebirth, we will still be ordained in our next life.” Both claims are not tenable if investigated properly using authentic Buddhist scriptures, existent commentaries, and reasoning.

Other forms of errors reagrding the 1999 Ordination Handbook and the so called “Kadampa Ordination” were discussed already in other posts here on the blog and recently also by Geshe Tashi Tsering on YouTube (see the Further Readings section at the end of this post). For a brief overview about the NKT ordination see here.

The very key problem with The New Ordination Handbook comes right at the beginning under the heading “What is the Ordination Vow”. It reads:

When we took our ordination in front of our Preceptor and the Assembly of Sangha we made the promise to practice the commitments of ordination. This promise is our ordination vow. For as long as we maintain this promise we are practising the ordination vow. If we give up this promise we break our ordination vow.

I regard this passage and The New Ordination Handbook as being highly problematic because in essence the explanations given here are 1) unclear, 2) not precise and 3) they include a fundamental twist that is not concordant with the Vinaya as laid down by the Buddha and as stressed by Je Tsongkhapa — whose “pure” heirs the NKT so diligently claims to be.

In the context of this New Ordination Handbook and the teachings given in general on ordination within the NKT it becomes clear to an investigative mind that Kelsang Gyatso has never taught properly at which point a vow is really broken — though the Vinaya and its commentaries are explicit about this. Instead of really helping NKT monks and nuns to understand the boundaries of their vows and how to maintain them, this New Ordination Handbook adds more clouds to the already existing confusion by claiming wrongly, that the ordination vow is a “promise to practice the commitments of ordination” and that this promise is kept “for as long as we maintain this promise”. According to Kelsang Gyatso, the ordination vow is broken only when “we give up this promise”.

The 10 vows of NKT ordination are explained in the following way:

There are ten commitments of ordination that we promised to practice. These are to abandon killing, stealing, lying, or cheating, sexual activity, taking intoxicants, and engaging in meaningless activities, and to practice contentment, to reduce our desire for worldly pleasures, to maintain the commitments of refuge and to practice the three higher trainings — training in higher moral discipline, concentration and wisdom. The tenth commitment, to practice the three higher trainings, is the actual method to attain permanent liberation from all suffering, which is our deepest wish and the real meaning of human life.

Now, for a monk or nun in the NKT, because of not setting the boundaries for breaking the vows clearly, the faithful monastic might truly wonder when his or her vow of not killing, not stealing, not lying, not having a sexual activity, not taking intoxicants etc. is broken.

Can you kill a mosquito or are you going to loose your vows when you do so? Can you kill an animal, like a rat, or do you loose your vows when you kill a rat? If you can kill a mosquito or a rat then can you also kill a human being without that your vows are being broken?

What about stealing or lying? Can you steal and lie as you please or as you feel needed — maybe even “for the benefit of all”? — or “for as long as [you] maintain this promise” to train in “the commitments of ordination”?

What about having no sexual activity? If you had a wed dream, did you break your vows? If you masturbated, have you broken your vows of ordination? If you have sex with another nun or monk is this ok “for as long as [you] maintain this promise” to train in “the commitments of ordination”?

I remember an NKT monk who abandoned the robes after he masturbated because he was thinking he had broken his vows. The amount of existing confusion within the NKT regarding the vow of celibacy can also be imagined based on a testimony by a former NKT monk, Peter Graham Dryburgh, that reads:

I made a decision to deliberately break my ‘ordination vows’ so that there was no way I could or would stay, and even that process wasn’t without challenges – I did nothing sinister, I simply masturbated to break my celibacy vow – thinking they would simply discard me for this – however, I was wrong, I was told to do the Sojong Practice and that was told it was a standard process, almost a ‘secret club’ that most monks would do this once a year, then renew their own vows at the ordination of others – I was even partnered with another monk who would talk to me about how ‘okay this was’ and told (and I quote) “we all do it”. The only thing that I had to change, was that I would have to do a month’s retreat and write a letter to GKG to apologise for doing this “without permission”.

So there is no celibacy in the NKT ordained community – and this is when my mind became so entrenched in absolute terror – but terror of remaining there – as I was assigned another monk to ‘help me’ in my celibacy – and this turned out to be that if I did not masturbate myself – it was okay, the expectation was to ‘help each other’ – not a comfortable concept – he now (K Cho) runs and manages a prominent centre in Rome, so my mind was made up!

There are also cases of sexual activities with nuns by former officially appointed monastic successors of Kelsang Gyatso, e.g. Gen la Gelong Thubten Gytaso (Neil Elliott) or Gen la Samden Gyatso (Steve Wass), and other famous NKT teachers like Gen Kelsang Lodrö (David Everard) of the Bodhisattva Centre in Brighton etc., which indicate that not only NKT monks and nuns but also the NKT leadership is in great confusion about when vows are broken and when not — or at least, even the NKT leadership seems to lack serious support and education for understanding and maintaining their monastic vows!

I remember a teaching about Vajrayogini (a hightest yoga tantric practice) given by Kelsang Gyatso where he said that as long as you maintain “divine pride” you can even act negatively without facing consequences … “divine pride”, so I remember, he said, turns even actions usually regarded as negative into positive deeds – as long as you “keep divine pride”. I wondered at that time, ‘If I have sex with another person while I imagine ‘I am Vajrayogini’ is this then permissible?’ Luckily, I dropped that thought as unacceptable.

The sexual misconduct within the leadership of NKT and among some NKT resident teachers relates back for me to Kelsang Gyatso who misses to teach his monks and nuns properly about the vows but prefers to give ambiguous, unclear and even misguided teachings that leave too much space for personal interpretations.

But in fact, according to Buddhism, when is the ordination of a Buddhist monk and nun really lost or broken? At what point are you no Buddhist monk or nun anymore? What are the boundaries you have to transgress to loose your ordination?

In general, someone who has committed a defeat, a root offence (pali: Parajika) — which is 1) having sexual intercourse with humans or animals, or 2) Stealing something of value, or 3) Killing humans, or 4) Lying about attainments — is defeated by that downfall and can’t be a member of the monastic order anymore. (For a more detailed and nuanced explanation see here.)

Je Tsongkhapa lists the following causes for loosing one’s ordination vows in The Essence of the Vinaya Ocean:

Causes of Loss
Causes of losing vows are two.

Common Causes
Giving back the training, death, two sexes appearing, changing thrice, and cutting one’s roots of virtue are common.

Special Causes
Learning one was not yet twenty, agreeing to serve, and the day’s elapsing are special to, respectively, bhikshus, probationer nuns, and fasters. Some assert the vows are lost if one commits a root offence or if the holy Dharma vanishes. Vaibhashikas of Kashmir assert one with vows with a root offence is like a rich man with a debt.

Geshe Rabten a yogi and scholar of the same school as Kelsang Gyatso, the Gelug school, respected to some degree even by the NKT because he practiced also Shugden, states in his commentary on the gelong vows about the four “root vows” (pali: Parajika) — which are the most important vows for any monastic:

The first classification of the precepts of a gelong are the heaviest; these are called pen pa, which means defeat. They are called defeats because they cut the strength of a gelong vow. They cause them to degenerate. The reason for calling these defeats is that if two people are fighting and one loses, he is defeated. And so in the same way if we should commit one of these defeats it is like the precepts defeat us and we are the defeated.


There are four defeats:

1. sexual intercourse
2. taking that which is not given
3. taking human life
4. a specific type of lying

(1) Sexual intercourse 

This defeat occurs when one has sexual intercourse with either a human or a non-human, e.g., an animal, The way the actual defeat occurs is: first there arises lust/attachment/desire in the mind to engage in the act, then it involves one of the three pathways of the opposite sex, this other being. These three pathways are, for a female, the mouth, the anus, and the sexual organ. So if one’s male organ enters any of these three pathways, then as soon as there arises the physical pleasure from just the motion or activation of the semen, this defeat is incurred.

During the time of the Buddha there were some bhikshus who thought a defeat would occur only if sexual intercourse was carried out with a human being, but that it would not if it were carried out with an animal. They acted upon that attitude and then the Buddha told them that they were committing a defeat by acting in this way. Also some other gelongs, not knowing exactly what was involved in this defeat, thought there would be no defeat if intercourse were carried out with a corpse. So they did this, with just half a corpse even. They wanted to keep the vinaya, they wanted to keep their vows, but they did not know how. So the Buddha explained that the vow included corpses, either half or whole, and that a defeat was incurred when any of the three pathways were entered.

(2) Taking that which is not given 

This excludes two cases:

  • the first is that if some person has said that this food is for you, and he then sets it out, and then you come along and take as much as you like, there is no downfall.
  • the second is taking that which others have discarded, that have been thrown away, not wanted anymore.

So these two do not constitute a downfall. But now for other things, things that are not one’s own and belong to another person. If there arises the motivation “I would like to steal that, I would like to take that for myself,” and then having this motivation one goes out and takes it or sends someone else to do it, then as soon as the thought or attitude arises, “Now it is mine, now I have got it,” this defeat takes place. So this defeat occurs whether one acts directly or indirectly. In order for this defeat to occur it does not mean you have to wear a mask, hold a revolver, and generally carry on like a thief, holding somebody up—like that. It also occurs if one should rob someone openly, to their face, snatching something from them by force perhaps. There is also a third way of stealing, and that is through deceit of trickery, lying or deceiving other people in order to get something from them. So in each of these three ways this defeat can occur.

(3) Killing 

This involves killing a person or one who is to become a person. A person is defined as one who has come from a womb—a human—or one who is still in the womb when the head and limbs have already formed—a human fetus. This is called a person, and this is what is created when the male and female elements come together and the consciousness enters that mixture. In either case of killing, one should have the motivation “I would like to put an end to, to cut the life of this being,” and with that motivation to commit the act, either oneself or causing someone else to do it. Like saying to another person, “Please give this person poison, please shoot this person.” In either case, if the individual dies before oneself, then this defeat occurs.

There are many ways in which one is able to kill someone, e.g. amongst those who think of themselves as practicing Dharma, there are some who use a certain kind of mantra, very violent mantras that can be used to kill a person. So one could apply these mantras and thus take the life of another being, and although one may have that the feeling that one is a great Tantric Master, what has occurred is simply a defeat.

Question: What happens if the person committing the act dies before the victim? Is the effect different or changed? And if this is so, then why is it?

Answer: There is a difference. For example, if one gives some slow-acting poison to someone else, obviously with the intent to kill him or her, and then in the meantime one dies, and later this other person dies, then if one asks, “What is the time that the person was killed and the defeat incurred?” it would obviously be at the time that the victim died. If the person doing the killing had already died and had taken birth as a bug, or something similar, then it cannot be said that that this bug killed that person because it certainly did not. So there would not be anyone who was responsible, because the person who set out to do the killing is no longer existent.

(4) Lying 

This refers only to a specific kind of lying. Not all kinds of lying result in this defeat. This defeat specifically refers to lying about one’s attainments. For example, if one should be lacking the attainments of Samadhi, Samatha, clairvoyance and one should tell otherwise. Or if one should claim to be the incarnation of this or that particular Lama when one obviously is not, as soon as such a false statement is made about one’s attainments and another person hears it, then this defeat occurs. This act of lying does not even have to be a verbal action; e.g. if one is a Guru and one’s disciples are saying “It really seems as though you have great clairvoyance,” and one does not say anything, one just sits there silently agreeing, giving the impression that one is agreeing, or just giving a knowing smile or laugh, then this defeat would occur. If one is just joking about one’s insight and others accept it as a joke, then the defeat does not occur; there still occurs a sort of downfall, however, but not a defeat.

However, if you are playing around and the other person is not aware of this, it would not be a defeat, but a downfall, which is only just below a defeat and therefore still very heavy. The only kind of results that come from a defeat are suffering, and so if you should try and describe the virtues of committing one of these defeats, there is really nothing to say.

There are two kinds of downfall. The first is called a natural, i.e. it is such that whoever commits it, whether with or without vows, whoever is engaging in it, when he does something that is unwholesome, that leaves an evil imprint on the mind. This is called a natural evil act.

Question: If someone borrows something with the intention of returning it when one has finished, but fails to ask the person for it if he is not around at the time one needs it, is that considered as stealing, having the intention to give it back, but not specifica1ly asking for it?

Answer: It would not be a defeat because one does not have the intention to keep it forever. However, a downfall would still occur although it would be one of the less heavy ones.

So Geshe is not teaching us this so that we can become learned, have great knowledge of the vinaya. This is entirely in order to be put into practice. For example other things like compassion, Bodhicitta: if we can put these into practice and meditate on them, then this is excellent, but if one cannot, then the result is not[sic] going to the lower realms. But now that we have the vinaya, the result of not practicing this … very difficult! So this is something that simply must be practiced; there is no way we can avoid practicing it. So the Buddha told the gelongs that they were to have few concerns, few activities and few desires. Which would leave them content with just a few things, clothing and so on. Whereas if they had a lot of desires they would always be getting this and that for themselves, acquiring many things. So Buddha said that there are thirteen things, specific articles to have, and these are sufficient.

This is quite in line with the Vinaya, the Pratimoskha, as it was taught by the Buddha, as it is been taught and practiced in the Pali Tradition, and as it is been taught and stressed by Je Tsongkhapa and the Gelug school from which the NKT derives.

However, sadly, these important and differentiated teachings about the Vinaya are totally absent in the NKT. Instead, Kelsang Gyatso blurs the whole Vinaya topic with his superficial, distorted and misleading explanations, leaving monastics in a state of confusion, uneducated and unguided. Shugden won’t protect NKT monastics, NKT monastics have to study, observe and protect their vows themselves.

I fear, this New Ordination Handbook — which is quite in the tradition of the common confusion found within the NKT about this subject — will lead NKT monastics even more into a wrong direction because these superficial explanations can be read and interpreted in ways, that you can do what ever you like as a Buddhist monk or nun in the NKT “for as long as [you] maintain this promise”, the “promise to practice the commitments of ordination”. According to The New Ordination Handbook, NKT monks and nuns only break their ordination vows when “we give up this promise”.

I would like to encourage and to urge every NKT monk or nun to really study the vows, its boundaries and to live according to the Vinaya and Pratimoksha as laid down by the Buddha and stressed also by Je Tsongkhapa. It will be only for your benefit and the benefit of others as well as Buddhism in general.
Thank you very much!
As a start you could read Geshe Rabten’s commentary or, if you like, you could contact me and I can give you a commentary on the vows by a respected Lharampa Geshe of the same school as Geshe Kelsang who taught the Vinaya and the monastic vows correctly to Western monks and nuns.


The New Ordination Handbook of the New Kadampa Tradition. Author: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

The New Ordination Handbook of the New Kadampa Tradition


The instructions given in this leaflet are a practice guide to a meaningful life. To avoid obstacles and to make progress in practising the ordination vows I would like to encourage those who are ordained to memorize The New Ordination Handbook of the New Kadampa Tradition and put its every meaning into practice. By doing this they will experience immeasurable meaning in this life and in their countless future lives. I guarantee this.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Buddha’s Enlightenment Day
April 15th 2010 

The Practice of the Ordination Vow


When we took our ordination in front of our Preceptor and the Assembly of Sangha we made the promise to practice the commitments of ordination. This promise is our ordination vow. For as long as we maintain this promise we are practising the ordination vow. If we give up this promise we break our ordination vow.

There are ten commitments of ordination that we promised to practice. These are to abandon killing, stealing, lying, or cheating, sexual activity, taking intoxicants, and engaging in meaningless activities, and to practice contentment, to reduce our desire for worldly pleasures, to maintain the commitments of refuge and to practice the three higher trainings – training in higher moral discipline, concentration and wisdom. The tenth commitment, to practice the three higher trainings, is the actual method to attain permanent liberation from all suffering, which is our deepest wish and the real meaning of human life.

To avoid obstacles and to make progress in our practice of the three higher trainings we need to practice the other nine commitments, from abandoning killing to maintaining the commitments of refuge. Understanding that the happiness and freedom of each and every living being are equally important we should abandon performing actions that cause others to experience suffering and problems, including killing, stealing and lying or cheating. This is the basic foundation upon which all spiritual realizations will grow. If we check carefully we shall understand through our own experience that sexual activity, taking intoxicants and engaging in meaningless activities are serious obstacles to pure Dharma practice in general, and especially to our practice of pure moral discipline, concentration or meditation, and wisdom. Understanding this we should abandon sexual activity, taking intoxicants and engaging in meaningless activities. Through practising contentment and reducing our desire for worldly pleasures we shall be able to control our distractions, and thus easily make progress in our practice of the three higher trainings. Understanding this we should apply great effort to practising contentment and reducing our desire for worldly pleasures.

We should never give up the promise we made in front of our Preceptor – who is the representative of Buddha – which was to go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha throughout our life. This promise is our refuge now. Saying ‘I go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha’ means that we will apply effort to receiving Buddha’s blessings, to putting Dharma into practice and to receiving help from Sangha, our pure spiritual friends including our Spiritual Teacher. This is the principal commitment of the refuge vow. Through maintaining and sincerely practising this principal commitment of refuge we can fulfil our final goal.



There are four main practices of the ordination vow: (1) the practice of renunciation. (2) the practice of higher moral discipline; (3) the practice of higher concentration and (4) the practice of higher wisdom.

The first is the gateway through which we enter the path to liberation – the supreme, permanent peace of mind known as ‘nirvana’. The remaining three, called the three higher trainings, are the actual path to liberation.

To develop the realization of renunciation we should deeply contemplate how in our countless future lives we will have to experience the unbearable sufferings of animals, hungry ghosts, hell beings, humans, demi-gods and gods. A deeper explanation of this contemplation is given in Modern Buddhismin the chapter The Path of a Person of Middling Scope. We should deeply contemplate this explanation continually until we develop intense fear of the unbearable sufferings of the endless cycle of impure life, samsara. This fear is renunciation and arises from our wisdom; it is not ordinary fear but is part of wisdom. We should therefore engage joyfully in the actual path to liberation – the three higher trainings.


In the practice of higher moral discipline we apply effort, motivated by renunciation, to abandon inappropriate actions in general and especially breaking our commitments of the ordination vow – the ten commitments already listed. When we train in higher moral discipline we are learning to be deeply familiar with the practice of moral discipline, motivated by renunciation – wanting to attain permanent liberation from the sufferings of countless future lives.

The nature of moral discipline is abandoning inappropriate actions, maintaining pure behaviour and performing every action correctly with a virtuous motivation. It functions as the basic foundation upon which all other spiritual realizations will grow, and it prevents future sufferings and problems for ourself and for others. If we check carefully we shall understand that most of our human problems arise because of our lacking the practice of moral discipline. We know that some intelligent animals can be trained to stop certain inappropriate actions, maintain pure behaviour and perform actions correctly but the difference between them and human beings is in their motivation; animals have no opportunity to develop renunciation. In Buddhism, renunciation necessarily arises from wisdom.


In the practice of higher concentration we sincerely learn, with the motivation of renunciation, to be deeply familiar with the concentrations or meditations presented in Lamrim teachings – meditations on the preciousness of our human life, death, renunciation and so forth. We should also apply effort to controlling our distractions; with distractions we cannot accomplish anything. When we are training in higher concentration we are learning to be deeply familiar with concentration or meditation, motivated by renunciation.

The nature of concentration is a single-pointed virtuous mind. For as long as we remain with this mind we shall experience mental peace, and thus we shall be happy. The function of concentration is to prevent subtle distractions; and we prevent gross distractions through sincerely practising moral discipline. Normally, distraction is the main obstacle to our Dharma practice. We can solve this problem through sincerely practising moral discipline and concentration; together they give rise to quick results in our Dharma practice.


In the practice of higher wisdom we sincerely learn, with the motivation of renunciation, to be deeply familiar with meditation on the emptiness of all phenomena – the mere absence of all phenomena that we normally see or perceive. When we do this we are training in higher wisdom. In this training we emphasize attaining tranquil abiding focused on emptiness. Through this we shall develop the wisdoms of superior seeing, the path of seeing and the path of meditation, and the wisdom that directly realizes and experiences nirvana, the supreme permanent peace of mind. A practical explanation of this development can be found in Modern Buddhism.

In general, wisdom is a virtuous, intelligent mind that functions to understand meaningful objects – the existence of past and future lives, karma, emptiness and so forth. These objects are meaningful because understanding them brings great meaning to this life and our countless future lives. We should apply great effort to developing the wisdom that recognises, reduces and finally abandons completely our self-grasping ignorance – the root of all our suffering and problems. We can accomplish this with careful study and strong practice of the teachings on emptiness given in Modern Buddhism in the chapter Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta.


In conclusion, when we took ordination following the instructions given by our Preceptor, we changed three things; our mind, our physical aspect and our name. We changed our mind from attachment to this life to renunciation, wanting to liberate ourself permanently from the sufferings of our countless future lives. We should maintain this change throughout our life. To do this, every day we should contemplate the instructions on death, the existence of future lives and renunciation presented in Modern Buddhism. 

We changed our physical aspect by wearing the three precious robes of ordination; the shamthab, zen and chogu, which indicate that our main practice in daily life is the three higher trainings, called ‘higher’ because they are motivated by renunciation; training in higher moral discipline, higher concentration and higher wisdom. We wear these special robes not to show that we are a special person, but to remind ourself that our daily practice is the three higher trainings. We should keep this recognition in our heart and put it into practice.

[Line drawing of the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden inserted.]

The three precious robes of ordination are very special clothes; the shamthab represents higher moral discipline; the zen represents higher concentration and the chogu represents higher wisdom. Another significant item of clothing of an ordained person, the dongkha, represents the abandoning of self-grasping ignorance.

In general there are three levels of trainings in moral discipline, concentration and wisdom, which correspond to the stages of the path of persons of initial scope, middling scope and great scope. The first level of these trainings is practising the path to higher rebirth that protects us from taking lower rebirth; the second level of these trainings is practising the path to liberation that protects us from taking rebirth in samsara; and the third level of these trainings is practising the path to full enlightenment. Since we need to protect ourself from lower rebirth and samsaric rebirth, and we need to attain the supreme happiness of enlightenment, it is definite that we need to practice the entire Kadam Lamrim from relying on our Spiritual Guide to training in superior seeing, as presented in Kadam Lamrim instructions such as Modern Buddhism. In this way, by sincerely putting Kadam Lamrim instructions into practice, we shall accomplish the ultimate goal of human life, the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.


By not transgressing the practice of moral discipline
Of the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Tantric vows,
And by gathering virtuous Dharmas and accomplishing the welfare of sentient beings,
May we complete our heart practice, the perfection of moral discipline.

ColophonComposed by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, April 2010
Copyright: New Kadampa Trdition –International Kadampa Buddhist Union 2010.


Further Readings


Last edited on April 28, 2016 at 11:32 am

Did the Shugden group, ISC, give up protesting against the DalaiLama? Its a bit more complex …

After The Guardian and Reuters reported about the disbandment of the International Shugden Community (ISC), I expressed some reservations in a blog entry (see Some Final Remarks). Unlike many claims made online and in print – for instance on Reddit or The Guardian – Reuters didn’t establish that the International Shugden Community (ISC) – which was founded and is operated by the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) – is financed by China nor was the defector Lama Tseta a member, supporter or follower of the NKT. The Shugden groups are also not homogeneous and there are many not one.

Did nobody wonder how it could happen that after the official “disbandment” of the ISC on March 10th, 2016 – the commemoration day of the Tibetan Uprising – during the last day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Madison, some of the Dolgyal (Shugden) adherents flew a plane with a large banner that read “Dalai Lama Stop Lying” over the venue in Madison in the afternoon? The plane was up for at least 2-3 hours. 3-4 Tibetan Shugden protesters also stood in front of the venue and distributed materials. So are the protests really over and how much substance have the Reuters articles?

I think in the sense of upholding the spirit of European enlightenment more differentiation and more precision is needed. Things are complex and though the misunderstanding that “Reuters established beyond doubt the link between the International Shugden Community and the Chinese communist party” (The Guardian) might settle for most people the Shugden dispute, it is just not correct. In the light of the facts, ’s self-confident claim in The Guardian, “a victory for real journalism” is quite embarrassing.

Nevertheless, thanks to Reuters, thanks to The Guardian and to the very few other international newspapers and journalists – like Foreign Policy – who tried to report about it in a more nuanced and more informed way.

Thanks to everybody – especially the academic experts – who helped to shine light on this diffi·cult topic!

Here is a reflection by Tibetologist Thierry Dodin about this complex topic:

A Warning Letter from Lama Ole Nydahl: Don’t Mix Tantric Methods and Teachers

Dearest Diamond Way students and friends,

A few words of timely advice:

I understand that many of you, who haven’t had the Phowa practice yet, are now looking to receive this timeless experience.

Recently, at the great initiation of Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche’s monastery in Nepal, I spoke to Dupsing Rinpoche whom I didn’t know but who had apparently been contacting our Diamond Way centres and offering his teachings, among them Phowa. I told him that our strength lies in the fact that we only take teachers who have been sent directly by Karmapa. Furthermore, he agreed that there are many Phowa-lineages and promised that to avoid confusion he will never mix into our Diamond Way practices and centres but instead do his own work.

Our Diamond Way centres should stay with our transmission as blessed by the 16th Karmapa, who always stopped any mistakes on the tantra-level. Concerning Phowa, our method is the Drikung-Kagyu practice given by Ayang Tulku to Hannah and me in the presence of the 16th Karmapa in Rumtek, Sikkim in 1972 with the wish that I should teach it to our many friends. This was also requested and blessed later by Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche and many of our highest lamas. Handled like this, it has brought perfect results to at least a hundred-and-twenty-thousand students so far.

Even If Dupsing Rinpoche or anybody else may have a similar text to the one we are using, it is not the same living transmission. Our observation and experience and – more importantly – that of our great Karma Kagyu lamas Hannah and I learnt from over the last 45 years, warn all students against mixing deep and tantric methods and teachers.

Tibetans never mix practices from different lamas and Vajrayana transmissions, even if they have the same lineage-lama and use the same texts; this is because it is known to lead to unending and fruitless discussions rather than a deep inner growth and lasting experience.

I therefore advice strongly against bringing confusion into our practices by taking tantric methods from teachers not sent to our DW centres by Karmapa. There will certainly be enough people for good and hard working lamas to create their own centres and organisations upholding their own methods.

Most Venerable Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche and myself advise our Diamond Way students eager to learn Phowa to begin with the preparation which has been so effective in the past: please do at least half a million OM AMI DEWA HRIHmantras. Meditating on the Red Buddha over your heads, you will receive the blessing of the pure land and our noble lineage. Furthermore, as the great 16th Karmapa often stated, our main practices remain the Ngöndro and the exciting Karmapa meditations leading to the Great Seal teachings of full enlightenment. Over the centuries this created timeless human growth.

For the basic and fundamental teachings leading to Phowa we have several hundred qualified Diamond Way teachers and I aim to give Phowa courses as soon as possible again. Therefore, if you start the OM AMI DEWA HRIH mantras and continue polishing the floor with your prostrations I shall give the practice when conditions come together. Joining in the stream of awareness already created, your results will be powerful and connected to modern life.

Countless best wishes and may we meet soon again.

Long Live our noble Karma Kagyu lineage!

Yours, Lama Ole

P.S. The focus on and deep practice of one method at a time is what brings lasting results.


A brief commentary by the person who leaked the letter

Dupsing Rinpoche is a Karma Kagyu lama following – just like Ole – Thrinle Thaye Dorje as Karmapa. Dupsing Rinpoche is one of my teachers, so I know him quite well.

He did not contact Ole’s centers, in fact – to my best knowledge – Ole’s German students contacted Dupsing Rinpoche and requested him to give teachings (though not within Ole’s facilities). Ole wants to keep total control of his group but does not have enough courage to make this clear, so instead of telling things like they are, he spins stories such as those in this letter. Of course anyone who has studied with Tibetans will know that what Ole says there is non-sense, but his students never had a chance to personally study with Tibetan teachers, they only attend public lectures and empowerments given by the teacher whom Ole personally invited and whom he kind of oversees.

This being so his students have no knowledge on how Tibetans conduct themselves when it comes to Dharma and think of sectarianism as being not only norm, but also a requirement.



Sectarianism & Non-Sectarianism

See also

How Rebirth Takes Place, Tulkus, Recognizing Reincarnations – HH the 14th Dalai Lama


A very clear statement by the Dalai Lama on voluntary reincarnation (tulku) in general, and on his own future incarnation as the 15th Dalai Lama from 2011.

Translated from the original Tibetan


My fellow Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, all those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and everyone who has a connection to Tibet and Tibetans: due to the foresight of our ancient kings, ministers and scholar-adepts, the complete teaching of the Buddha, comprising the scriptural and experiential teachings of the Three Vehicles and the Four Sets of Tantra and their related subjects and disciplines flourished widely in the Land of Snow. Tibet has served as a source of Buddhist and related cultural traditions for the world. In particular, it has contributed significantly to the happiness of countless beings in Asia, including those in China, Tibet and Mongolia.

In the course of upholding the Buddhist tradition in Tibet, we evolved a unique Tibetan tradition of recognizing the reincarnations of scholar-adepts that has been of immense help to both the Dharma and sentient beings, particularly to the monastic community.

Since the omniscient Gedun Gyatso was recognized and confirmed as the reincarnation of Gedun Drub in the fifteenth century and the Gaden Phodrang Labrang (the Dalai Lama’s institution) was established, successive reincarnations have been recognized. The third in the line, Sonam Gyatso, was given the title of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, established the Gaden Phodrang Government in 1642, becoming the spiritual and political head of Tibet. For more than 600 years since Gedun Drub, a series of unmistaken reincarnations has been recognised in the lineage of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642. I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception. For these guidelines to be fully comprehensible, it is essential to understand the system of Tulku recognition and the basic concepts behind it. Therefore, I shall briefly explain them below.

Past and future lives

In order to accept reincarnation or the reality of Tulkus, we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.

Although many religious traditions accept rebirth, they differ in their views of what it is that is reborn, how it is reborn, and how it passes through the transitional period between two lives. Some religious traditions accept the prospect of future life, but reject the idea of past lives.

Generally, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to birth and that once we achieve liberation from the cycle of existence by overcoming our karma and destructive emotions, we will not be reborn under the sway of these conditions. Therefore, Buddhists believe that there is an end to being reborn as a result of karma and destructive emotions, but most Buddhist philosophical schools do not accept that the mind-stream comes to an end. To reject past and future rebirth would contradict the Buddhist concept of the ground, path and result, which must be explained on the basis of the disciplined or undisciplined mind. If we accept this argument, logically, we would also have to accept that the world and its inhabitants come about without causes and conditions. Therefore, as long as you are a Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth.

For those who remember their past lives, rebirth is a clear experience. However, most ordinary beings forget their past lives as they go through the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth. As past and future rebirths are slightly obscure to them, we need to use evidence-based logic to prove past and future rebirths to them.

There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.

Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.

As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.

There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognise places and relatives from those lives. This is not just something that happened in the past. Even today there are many people in the East and West, who can recall incidents and experiences from their past lives. Denying this is not an honest and impartial way of doing research, because it runs counter to this evidence. The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnations is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

How rebirth takes place

There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.

The meaning of Tulku

It seems the Tibetan custom of applying the epithet ‘Tulku’ (Buddha’s Emanation Body) to recognized reincarnations began when devotees used it as an honorary title, but it has since become a common expression. In general, the term Tulku refers to a particular aspect of the Buddha, one of the three or four described in the Sutra Vehicle. According to this explanation of these aspects of the Buddha, a person who is totally bound by destructive emotions and karma has the potential to achieve the Truth Body (Dharmakaya), comprising the Wisdom Truth Body and Nature Truth Body. The former refers to the enlightened mind of a Buddha, which sees everything directly and precisely, as it is, in an instant. It has been cleared of all destructive emotions, as well as their imprints, through the accumulation of merit and wisdom over a long period of time. The latter, the Nature Truth Body, refers to the empty nature of that all-knowing enlightened mind. These two together are aspects of the Buddhas for themselves. However, as they are not directly accessible to others, but only amongst the Buddhas themselves, it is imperative that the Buddhas manifest in physical forms that are accessible to sentient beings in order to help them. Hence, the ultimate physical aspect of a Buddha is the Body of Complete Enjoyment (Sambhogakaya), which is accessible to superior Bodhisattvas, and has five definite qualifications such as residing in the Akanishta Heaven. And from the Body of Complete Enjoyment are manifested the myriad Emanation Bodies or Tulkus (Nirmanakaya), of the Buddhas, which appear as gods or humans and are accessible even to ordinary beings. These two physical aspects of the Buddha are termed Form Bodies, which are meant for others.

The Emanation Body is three-fold: a) the Supreme Emanation Body like Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who manifested the twelve deeds of a Buddha such as being born in the place he chose and so forth; b) the Artistic Emanation Body which serves others by appearing as craftsmen, artists and so on; and c) the Incarnate Emanation Body, according to which Buddhas appear in various forms such as human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees to help sentient beings. Of these three types of Emanation Body, the reincarnations of spiritual masters recognized and known as ‘Tulkus’ in Tibet come under the third category. Among these Tulkus there may be many who are truly qualified Incarnate Emanation Bodies of the Buddhas, but this does not necessarily apply to all of them. Amongst the Tulkus of Tibet there may be those who are reincarnations of superior Bodhisattvas, Bodhisattvas on the paths of accumulation and preparation, as well as masters who are evidently yet to enter these Bodhisattva paths. Therefore, the title of Tulku is given to reincarnate Lamas either on the grounds of their resembling enlightened beings or through their connection to certain qualities of enlightened beings.

As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said:

Reincarnation is what happens when someone takes rebirth after the predecessor’s passing away; emanation is when manifestations take place without the source’s passing away.

Recognition of Reincarnations

The practice of recognizing who is who by identifying someone’s previous life occurred even when Shakyamuni Buddha himself was alive. Many accounts are found in the four Agama Sections of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jataka Stories, the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, the Sutra of One Hundred Karmas and so on, in which the Tathagata revealed the workings of karma, recounting innumerable stories about how the effects of certain karmas created in a past life are experienced by a person in his or her present life. Also, in the life stories of Indian masters, who lived after the Buddha, many reveal their previous places of birth. There are many such stories, but the system of recognizing and numbering their reincarnations did not occur in India.

The system of recognizing reincarnations in Tibet

Past and future lives were asserted in the indigenous Tibetan Bon tradition before the arrival of Buddhism. And since the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, virtually all Tibetans have believed in past and future lives. Investigating the reincarnations of many spiritual masters who upheld the Dharma, as well as the custom of praying devotedly to them, flourished everywhere in Tibet. Many authentic scriptures, indigenous Tibetan books such as the Mani Kabum and the Fivefold Kathang Teachings and others like the The Books of Kadam Disciples and the Jewel Garland: Responses to Queries, which were recounted by the glorious, incomparable Indian master Dipankara Atisha in the 11th century in Tibet, tell stories of the reincarnations of Arya Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. However, the present tradition of formally recognizing the reincarnations of masters first began in the early 13th century with the recognition of Karmapa Pagshi as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa by his disciples in accordance with his prediction. Since then, there have been seventeen Karmapa incarnations over more than nine hundred years. Similarly, since the recognition of Kunga Sangmo as the reincarnation of Khandro Choekyi Dronme in the 15th century there have been more than ten incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo. So, among the Tulkus recognized in Tibet there are monastics and lay tantric practitioners, male and female. This system of recognizing the reincarnations gradually spread to other Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and Bon, in Tibet. Today, there are recognized Tulkus in all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu and Nyingma, as well as Jonang and Bodong, who serve the Dharma. It is also evident that amongst these Tulkus some are a disgrace.

The omniscient Gedun Drub, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founded Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tsang and took care of his students. He passed away in 1474 at the age of 84. Although initially no efforts were made to identify his reincarnation, people were obliged to recognize a child named Sangye Chophel, who had been born in Tanak, Tsang (1476), because of what he had to say about his amazing and flawless recollections of his past life. Since then, a tradition began of searching for and recognizing the successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas by the Gaden Phodrang Labrang and later the Gaden Phodrang Government.

The ways of recognizing reincarnations

After the system of recognizing Tulkus came into being, various procedures for going about it began to develop and grow. Among these some of the most important involve the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions and indications that might occur; the reincarnation’s reliably recounting his previous life and speaking about it; identifying possessions belonging to the predecessor and recognizing people who had been close to him. Apart from these, additional methods include asking reliable spiritual masters for their divination as well as seeking the predictions of mundane oracles, who appear through mediums in trance, and observing the visions that manifest in sacred lakes of protectors like Lhamoi Latso, a sacred lake south of Lhasa.

When there happens to be more than one prospective candidate for recognition as a Tulku, and it becomes difficult to decide, there is a practice of making the final decision by divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak) before a sacred image while calling upon the power of truth.

Emanation before the passing away of the predecessor (ma-dhey tulku)

Usually a reincarnation has to be someone’s taking rebirth as a human being after previously passing away. Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death (ma-dhey tulku), but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest an emanation before death. Within the Tibetan system of recognizing Tulkus there are emanations who belong to the same mind-stream as the predecessor, emanations who are connected to others through the power of karma and prayers, and emanations who come as a result of blessings and appointment.

The main purpose of the appearance of a reincarnation is to continue the predecessor’s unfinished work to serve Dharma and beings. In the case of a Lama who is an ordinary being, instead of having a reincarnation belonging to the same mind-stream, someone else with connections to that Lama through pure karma and prayers may be recognized as his or her emanation. Alternatively it is possible for the Lama to appoint a successor who is either his disciple or someone young who is to be recognized as his emanation. Since these options are possible in the case of an ordinary being, an emanation before death that is not of the same mind-stream is feasible. In some cases one high Lama may have several reincarnations simultaneously, such as incarnations of body, speech and mind and so on. In recent times, there have been well-known emanations before death such as Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and Chogye Trichen Ngawang Khyenrab.

Using the Golden Urn

As the degenerate age gets worse, and as more reincarnations of high Lamas are being recognized, some of them for political motives, increasing numbers have been recognized through inappropriate and questionable means, as a result of which huge damage has been done to the Dharma.

During the conflict between Tibet and the Gurkhas (1791-93) the Tibetan Government had to call on Manchu military support. Consequently the Gurkha military was expelled from Tibet, but afterwards Manchu officials made a 29-point proposal on the pretext of making the Tibetan Government’s administration more efficient. This proposal included the suggestion of picking lots from a Golden Urn to decide on the recognition of the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Hutuktus, a Mongolian title given to high Lamas. Therefore, this procedure was followed in the case of recognizing some reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and other high Lamas. The ritual to be followed was written by the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso.  Even after such a system had been introduced, this procedure was dispensed with for the Ninth, Thirteenth and myself, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

Even in the case of the Tenth Dalai Lama, the authentic reincarnation had already been found and in reality this procedure was not followed, but in order to humour the Manchus it was merely announced that this procedure had been observed.

The Golden Urn system was actually used only in the cases of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. However, the Twelfth Dalai Lama had already been recognized before the procedure was employed. Therefore, there has only been one occasion when a Dalai Lama was recognized by using this method. Likewise, among the reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, apart from the Eighth and the Ninth, there have been no instances of this method being employed. This system was imposed by the Manchus, but Tibetans had no faith in it because it lacked any spiritual quality. However, if it were to be used honestly, it seems that we could consider it as similar to the manner of divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak).

In 1880, during the recognition of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Twelfth, traces of the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and the Manchus still existed. He was recognized as the unmistaken reincarnation by the Eighth Panchen Lama, the predictions of the Nechung and Samye oracles and by observing visions that appeared in Lhamoi Latso, therefore the Golden Urn procedure was not followed. This can be clearly understood from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s final testament of the Water-Monkey Year (1933) in which he states:

As you all know, I was selected not in the customary way of picking lots from the golden urn, but my selection was foretold and divined. In accordance with these divinations and prophecies I was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and enthroned.

When I was recognized as the Fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama in 1939, the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and China had already come to an end. Therefore, there was no question of any need to confirm the reincarnation by employing the Golden Urn. It is well-known that the then Regent of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly had followed the procedure for recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation taking account of the predictions of high Lamas, oracles and the visions seen in Lhamoi Latso; the Chinese had no involvement in it whatever. Nevertheless, some concerned officials of the Guomintang later cunningly spread lies in the newspapers claiming that they had agreed to forego the use of the Golden Urn and that Wu Chung-tsin presided over my enthronement, and so on. This lie  was exposed by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who the People’s Republic of China considered to be a most progressive person, at the Second Session of the Fifth People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (31st July 1989). This is clear, when, at the end of his speech, in which he gave a detailed explanation of events and presented documentary evidence, he demanded:

What need is there for the Communist Party to follow suit and continue the lies of the Guomintang?

Deceptive strategy and false hopes

In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible managers of wealthy Lama-estates who indulged in improper methods to recognize reincarnations, which have undermined the Dharma, the monastic community and our society. Moreover, since the Manchu era Chinese political authorities repeatedly engaged in various deceitful means using Buddhism, Buddhist masters and Tulkus as tools to fulfil their political ends as they involved themselves in Tibetan and Mongolian affairs. Today, the authoritarian rulers of the People’s Republic of China, who as communists reject religion, but still involve themselves in religious affairs, have imposed a so-called re-education campaign and declared the so-called Order No. Five, concerning the control and recognition of reincarnations, which came into force on 1st September 2007. This is outrageous and disgraceful. The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.

Moreover, they say they are waiting for my death and will recognize a Fifteenth Dalai Lama of their choice. It is clear from their recent rules and regulations and subsequent declarations that they have a detailed strategy to deceive Tibetans, followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the world community. Therefore, as I have a responsibility to protect the Dharma and sentient beings and counter such detrimental schemes, I make the following declaration.

The next incarnation of the Dalai Lama

As I mentioned earlier, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.

When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

The Dalai Lama

September 24, 2011

The Cessation of the International Shugden Community / Dalai Lama protests

I guess you read or heard it already, the International Shugden Community (ISC) announced their “dissolving”. What is a bit mysterious is the why and if this is meant seriously. I want to share briefly some thoughts with you about this.

ISC announcement, made on 26th February 2016.

ISC announcement, made on 26th February 2016. (PDF)

This announcement was made on the 26th February, 24 hours after Tibetans and Ex-NKT activists staged counter-protests against Neil Elliott’s teaching venue at Putney library.

Neil Elliott can be considered as the main ideologist behind the spread and expansion of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) as well as the creator and maintainer of the driving forces in how the NKT recruit new members and in how the NKT bind them skilfully to their organisation.

Its the NKT who ran those protests via ISC.

Those counter-protests against NKT centres in London and in Great Britain, I think, were very effective to raise awareness about the controversial background of the NKT and in that sense they are a real threat for the missionary drive that pervades the NKT since its inception. That’s why some ex-NKT (and so do I) rather speculate that the withdrawal from the Anti-Dalai Lama protests might likely be based on this perceived threat for their further expansion. However, Reuters or The Guardian specualte it was because of the investigative article by Reuters, “Special Report: China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama, from Dec 21, 2015.

Maybe it was a combination of both. In general, phenomena arise due to many causes and conditions. The cessation of the protests was even predicted by the Dalai Lama a while ago. It might be worth to note that the NKT / ISC dated their dissolution three months earlier, on December 1st 2015.

There is also a new piece written by Tsering Woeser on RFA, The Shugden Issue Used to be Just a Religious One. I cannot really agree with many points in it, however, I can fully subscribe to this point of view:

In indicating that followers of the Gelugpa school should drop their Shugden practice, the Dalai Lama is effectively handing over greater religious freedom to believers. It is effectively a negation of something negative that yields a positive. – Tsering Woeser

Some days ago I asked Linda Ciardiello, who takes part in the counter-protests, to send me images and to give a brief report about them, putting them into perspective with what The Guardian wrote. Here is her report / her thoughts and some images and a video of the NKT counter-protests.


A “victory for real journalism” or a victory for determined activism?

by Linda Ciardiello
March 7, 2016

When the Dalai Lama visited England in the summer of 2015 it should have been a joyful occasion – a celebration for the UK Tibetan community in exile. But sadly his visit was marred by a series of overwhelmingly loud, intrusive and offensive protests by the New Kadampa Tradition, under the banner of their front group, the International Shugden Community. Greatly disturbed and hurt by the actions of the NKT, an independent group of London-based Tibetans decided the time had come to stand up to the NKT, to fight back, and to send them a clear message that their actions would no longer be tolerated by Tibetans. Thus a counter demonstration was staged by Tibetans and Tibet-supporters on September 18th outside KMC London, NKT’s main south London centre in Morden.

Through social media, a number of former members of NKT heard that this counter-protest had taken place and came forward to offer the Tibetans their help and expertise for further direct action against NKT. Thus the counter-protest movement against NKT quickly began to gather momentum, with a second demonstration being held outside NKT’s Shantideva Centre in Reading on November 8th. At this demonstration a speech was delivered addressed to the Resident Teacher there and to the Spiritual Directors of NKT stating “We Tibetans have been victimised, intimidated, harassed and disturbed by your actions towards our Dalai Lama to a degree beyond our tolerance and we are therefore asking you to please stop hurting us” and that their campaign against the Dalai Lama “has a political dimension which is aligning the NKT to serve the agenda of China’s brutally repressive dictatorship”. It has recently been rumoured that a week after this demonstration in Reading occurred, with its direct appeal to the NKT to desist from their campaign, a private email from ISC bosses was sent out to NKT anti-Dalai Lama activists to say that their protests would stop as of December 1st.

But no such email was received by anyone outside NKT/ISC and thus the counter-protest movement against the NKT continued to gather strength and confidence with a third demonstration staged outside NKT’s Brighton Centre on December 13th, followed by a fourth outside their Bristol centre on January 31st 2016 which garnered extensive press coverage in the Bristol Post and a fifth outside their Southampton centre on February 21st, which also gained press coverage in the Southampton Echo. Meanwhile, the counter-protest movement had spread internationally, with a demonstration staged outside a Public Talk in Vancouver, Canada given by Kelsang Khyenrab, NKT’s Deputy Spiritual Director on 10th February. During the question and answer session of his talk, Khyenrab was even confronted by a pro-Tibet activist in the audience who asked him what he had against the Dalai Lama and if he’d ever compared him to Hitler, at which Khyenrab attempted to wriggle out of his embarrassment by feigning amnesia.

With a forthcoming UK visit by the Dalai Lama planned for April, the counter-protest movement had no plans to let up with their pressure on NKT, as they set out to target the London NKT centres in the weeks prior to the visit, with Neil Elliott as a particular target. Elliott is the most senior teacher in the NKT and is understood to be the real “power behind the throne” of Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT. He is suspected to be the prime “mover and shaker” of their attacks on the Dalai Lama and the secret chief of their International Shugden Community. Thus on Thursday 25th of February a counter-protest was held outside Putney library, his teaching venue for one of their “branch classes”. The protesters caught sight of Neil Elliott and his assistant approaching the venue and some could not contain their anger with him, loudly denouncing him and his “cult” with “shame on you!” and “leave Tibetans alone!”

Within 24 hours of Elliott’s public humiliation a public announcement was issued by the International Shugden Community stating that they had already announced protests against the Dalai Lama would stop as of December 1st, and in addition it had now been decided that the ISC would disband completely and all their websites would be removed by March 10th. This announcement has been greeted with some relief but also considerable suspicion by Tibetans and former NKT members, not least because similar announcements have been made in the past, only for them to change their mind, break their word and regroup under a different name. The ISC is in fact the third front group NKT has created to mount their attacks on the Dalai Lama.

The announcement was met by NKT members and Shugden worshippers with surprise, disbelief and considerable confusion – no explanation was given for the decision. Some NKT members declared that perhaps the decision had been made because they “had won” – despite the fact that the Dalai Lama has not changed his stance on Shugden worship at all and has not accepted any of their demands. Yet perhaps they have won in the sense of the damage they have wrought on the Dalai Lama’s reputation in some people’s eyes – but that damage is as nothing compared to the damage they have done to their own reputation!

There was also the declaration that if need be, the NKT will re-group in the future. It’s not surprising therefore that Tibetans and former NKT do not trust the ISC’s announcement and nothing short of a public announcement and apology by the NKT themselves, not their front group, would ease that distrust. Thus the counter-protest movement against NKT continues and there have been two further demonstrations since the announcement was made – one outside Elliott’s class in Morden on Tuesday 1st March and one outside a day course NKT held at University College London in Bloomsbury on Saturday 5th March – with more to come.

Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper has reported the collapse of the ISC in an article published on 28th February, as a footnote to the concerted attack made on the Guardian by the NKT/ISC for their unfavourable report on NKT’s activities and motives back in the summer, where they were labelled as an “extremist sect”:

”It’s worth recording that the same journalist’s reporting was vindicated last week when an international Buddhist sect which he claimed last summer was funded by the Chinese to denounce the Dalai Lama, announced it was dissolving. The sect had mounted a concerted email campaign against the paper, and held a protest near our London office demanding that the story be withdrawn. Then Reuters established beyond doubt the link between the International Shugden Community and the Chinese communist party. Collapse of protest – and a victory for real journalism”

Bullet point summary

  1. Dalai Lama visit to UK in the summer of 2015 marred by NKT/ISC’s very loud and intrusive protests.
  2. Tibetans and Tibet supporters stage counter-protest outside KMC London in Morden on September 18th
  3. Tibetans and ex-NKT join forces to stage protest outside NKT’s Reading Centre on November 8th. Appeal made in speech to NKT to stop hurting Tibetans and stop working to China’s anti-Tibet agenda.
  4. 15th November: ISC make private announcement to their members that protests against the Dalai Lama will stop as of December 1st (Publicly rumoured at end of February)
  5. 13th December: Tibetans and ex-NKT protest outside NKT Brighton centre.
  6. 31st January: Tibetans and ex-NKT protest outside NKT Bristol Centre – extensive press coverage in Bristol Post.
  7. 10th February: Canadian Tibetans and ex-NKT stage protest outside Public Talk given by NKT’s Deputy Spiritual Director, Kelsang Khyenrab in Vancouver. Khyenrab is publicly confronted by Tibet supporter during his talk.
  8. 21st February: Tibetans and ex-NKT protest outside Southampton NKT Centre – coverage in Southampton Echo.
  9. 25th February: Tibetans and ex-NKT protest outside KMC Branch class in Putney given by Neil Elliott – considered the “power behind the throne” of Kelsang Gyatso, NKT and the ISC. Elliott publicly confronted and humiliated by Tibetans in the street outside the venue.
  10. 25th February: Public announcement that ISC have ceased demonstrations against the Dalai Lama and will disband as of 10th March. No explanation given.
  11. NKT members reaction: surprise, confusion, disbelief and declaration that it is because they have “won” and that if they need to they will regroup in the future.
  12. Anti-NKT demonstrations continue – 1st March: KMC London, Morden; 5th March: KMC Bloomsbury branch. More to follow.
  13. 28th February: Guardian newspaper announces dissolution of ISC, putting it down to Reuters confirmation that they are funded by the Chinese government and describing it as “a victory for real journalism”.


ISC announcement as found on 12 March 2016.

ISC announcement as found on 12 March 2016.

Websites gone include

  • Dalailama Truth Facebook and Twitter
  • Western Shugden Society website
  • DalaiLamaNews website
  • InternationalShugdenCommunity website

The URLs remain active for these sites. In some cases, a short statement concerning the dissolution of the ISC and its media has replaced the content.


Some Final Remarks

The NKT has been banned on Reddit – most of you might know – with rather dubious reasons. And when Stephen Pritchards of The Guardian writes “Then Reuters established beyond doubt the link between the International Shugden Community and the Chinese communist party. Collapse of protest – and a victory for real journalism.”, he is not really correct. Why?

Reuters established what other sources had already established, that China backs Shugden groups in India and Tibet; but Reuters did not establish that China backs financially the Western ISC which was founded and ran by the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). However, some of the few Tibetans among the protesters have a clear link to China and to officials of the Chinese Communist Party. The merit of the Reuters investigative article is that it gave a rather holistic picture of the whole and ended the prevailing confusion of many international media about this tricky subject.

IMO, the whole international media coverage of the Shugden controversy is rather a testimony of the low quality and lack of expertise in religious matters of the media. It rather testfies that journalists and newspapers / media work and investigate under time pressure, and while lacking expertise, they have to hastily fill pages or broadcasts with interesting (attention catching) news – at the cost of sober and precise information. Their output in this context has very often left readers in confusion, ill informed and even misinformed up to that they offered their readers without further verifications (missing to contact academic experts), the propaganda of a media savvy campaigning group that has never shown any restraint from lying, distorting and manipulating information. The few well investigated articles can’t neutralise really the huge amount of ill informed press articles and documentaries that have been published over the last decades.

I hope this delusion has now an end and people can focus on relevant issues.

Last edited on March 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm


Sogyal Rinpoche & Rigpa – An interview with the former director of Rigpa France Olivier Raurich

Translation of an interview with the former director of Rigpa France Olivier Raurich which appeared in the French magazine “Marianne”¹

Q: When did you become interested in Buddhism and how did you encounter Sogyal Rinpoche?

I studied mathematics at l’ecole normale superieure (teacher training college) in the Rue d’Ulm, aiming to become a scientific researcher. At 24, I had an existential crisis leading to a spiritual quest. When I first discovered Buddhism, I really liked the idea of “verifying with your own experience.” At first, it wasn’t about belief, but getting benefit from meditation. I went to conferences and encountered Sogyal Rinpoche. He spoke English and something resonated.

Sogyal Rinpoche, 2008 Wikipedia Commons

Sogyal Rinpoche, 2008
Wikipedia Commons

After several years, he said that I am very hard-working and spoke very good English. I became his translator in France, without having any personal relationship with him, because Sogyal Rinpoche immediately imposes absolute dominance in relationships. He was the master, inaccessible and irritable — it’s all about carrying out his instructions, full stop.

Q: So you have been a privileged witness to his rise and the growing success of his organisation, Rigpa?

Over the years, I actually became increasingly active in Rigpa, as a meditation teacher and president of Rigpa France. I appeared several times on the television show “Buddhist Wisdom” on France 2.
At the same time I had my job teaching maths, because almost everyone is a volunteer in Rigpa, and the few salaried jobs there are very poorly paid. To make offerings in money and labour is part of Buddhism and it seemed great to me to offer service for free. Later I realised that under this pretext Westerners became veritable milk cows.

The big retreat centre, Lerab Ling, situated in L’Hérault, opened in 1992. The same year, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” appeared. It was drafted by Patrick Gaffney, a brilliant and modest English scholar, and a man I greatly admire, from teachings given by Sogyal Rinpoche and other masters.

It became an international best-seller, and people flocked to Sogyal Rinpoche, who became a global Buddhist star. I was excited — I had the impression we were going to spread Buddhist wisdom throughout society.

Q: Considering his behaviour, especially with his closest disciples, did it ever shock you?

He’s a charismatic communicator, but what shocked me immediately was the disconnect between his rhetoric and his character. He loves luxury, fashion and violent American films. Ecology and social issues do not interest him at all. He is not at all shy about singing his own praises — to excess and in front of everyone. He stays in luxury hotels, surrounded by the most expensive electronic gadgets. I struggled to accept this behaviour, because at the same time some people in Rigpa were very poor. He preached that he had the same contentment, simplicity and renunciation in this life, without needing to practice. For a long time, I thought his behaviour it was related to cultural conditioning from his origins as a Tibetan aristocrat.

He blew hot and cold with me — sometimes he praised my translation to extremes – and sometimes he humiliated me in public. He was always very authoritarian. There were consistent rumours that he abused young women — not by physical violence, but by a huge psychological hold over them. This was officially justified by the concept of “crazy wisdom,” which maintains that great masters can commit acts which are incomprehensible to ordinary mortals.

This applies to everyone — “If the master humiliates you, it is to liberate the ego, to purify the disciples” and “There is no greater action than the will of the master” and so on … the traditional Tibetan texts are very clear on this point.

I was primarily interested in Buddhist teachings. I hosted internships and that side of things, with the team of instructors. We did a good job of spreading Buddhism. That’s what made me stay so long.

Q: How is it that Sogyal Rinpoche was not worried? Why has the Dalai Lama never reacted?

Several crises have occurred. There was the lawsuit for sexual harassment in 1993 in the United States. Subsequently, some former students have told their stories and a lot of people left Rigpa on those occasions, particularly in 2000 and 2007.

Then in 2011, an article appeared in “Marianne” — after this Sogyal Rinpoche decided not to appear at the meditation retreats for newcomers at Lerab Ling.

Many people left. Rigpa paid a very expensive professional agency in Paris, specialising in crisis communication, to train a few spokesmen, including myself, to respond to the allegations of sexual harassment and financial abuse. We were advised not to answer questions, but rather to endlessly repeat certain key phrases – and to quote the Dalai Lama as much as possible for moral support.

Q: The Dalai Lama clearly says (in “Ethics in the Teacher-Student Relationship” , 1993; Healing Anger, Snow Lion, 1997 pp. 83-85) that the abusive behaviour of masters must be exposed publicly and explicitly. Why has he not reacted himself?

My hypothesis is that he cannot discredit Sogyal publicly, because it would undermine Tibetan Buddhism. Sogyal Rinpoche has managed to make himself indispensable in the Tibetan community.

Q: When did you start to have doubts?

I stayed all these years despite my reservations, because I hoped  Rigpa would be able to share profound wisdom with the greatest number of people, which would benefit society as a whole. But it became more and more difficult to invite people to his teachings, because his behaviour became impossible at times — pretentious, even in public. I had begun to write my first book, to illustrate how authentic Buddhist wisdom can be open to the world, adapted to the west, and conforming to humanist ideals.

Beginning with the article in “Marianne,” I felt the tension ratchet up a notch within the Rigpa leadership. All the secrecy and manipulation of information weighed heavily on me. I had come for teachings on humility, love, truth, and trust, and I found myself in a quasi-Stalinist environment and permanent double-talk. His dictatorial side and anger worsened and I was increasingly disturbed by it. He did not hesitate to brutally silence and ridicule people in meetings. Critical thinking is prohibited around him — the door is locked. Negative feedback never reaches him — only praise is reported because people in the close circle are afraid of him. It can make him angry or he would humiliate those close to him. He can also be friendly and full of humour if everything conforms to his wishes.

In the summer of 2014, during a retreat for the older students I made my decision to leave because I saw through him clearly — I saw his falsity. He demanded abundant offerings, specifically in cash, in front of 800 students. Each had to write their name on the envelope, so that he could check the amount.

There is also increasing control over regular students. They are made to feel guilty if they do not come to retreats. There is a lot of pressure — the Rigpa computer database identifies participants in retreats, practices, past meetings, etc. If a student does not attend, it must be justified – if a student leaves in the middle of a teaching, someone has to find them and ask why. This has driven a lot of people away.

Q: What is your assessment of that experience which lasted twenty-eight years?

The fact is that my spiritual education happened through him. Even though he didn’t write The Tibetan book of Living and Dying, he was it’s driving force. It is a very good book, it has helped thousands of people, even if it does contain some elements of Tibetan superstition.

I do not dismiss these years because I have studied, practised and shared meditation, the teaching of the spirit of compassion, the basis for Buddhist philosophy —  impermanence and interdependence. That’s why I asked Sogyal Rinpoche to write the preface for my first book. But for the last few years, he has insisted on more and more religiosity and absolute devotion to the master. Authentic Buddhism is wisdom, founded on experience and reflection, as explained frequently by the Dalai Lama, who embodies exemplary Buddhism.

Today, I have left behind the abusive or traditional aspects which are not adapted to our times. I participate in spreading a secular wisdom for the west in a collaborative and egalitarian manner, without gurus or magic charms, where everyone strives to embody what he preaches. I am finally at peace with myself.

Interview by Élodie Emery
English translation and edited in March 2016

¹ Bouddhisme : l’imposture Sogyal Rinpoché

See also

Dorje Tsering: Where We Failed Him

Dorje Tsering

»When a 16-year old Tibetan burns to death, it isn’t a noble sacrifice. It is suicide. My thoughts on self-immolations.« – Gelek Bhotay

»Finally, a thoughtful yet caring critique of Tibetan responses to immolations: @GelekB’s call to go beyond heroics.« – Robert Barnett

Drifts & Drafts

Dorje Tsering succumbed to his injuries on the third day of his stay in the hospital’s critical care unit.

He was 16 years old. He looked younger, much younger, than his age. In one of the more widely shared photos of his, on people’s Facebook posts and profile pictures, he is in a classroom. He is smiling, in a kindly way.

For most people, this is the only image with which they will identify with this young Tibetan boy in India: a sunny, cherubic face, nattily attired in his school uniform, caught as if in the midst of writing notes on his notebook. There is no sign or trace of the violent deed to come.

View original post 1,127 more words

A comment to Tsem Tulku’s post, “The 14th Dalai Lama’s prayer to Dorje Shugden”

Retain your reverence and admiration for the person, but subject the writing to thorough critical analysis. – A Tibetan saying

Someone sent me a link to a post by Tsem Tulku, The 14th Dalai Lama’s prayer to Dorje Shugden. I wrote a comment to the post because it is based on so many misunderstandings. I was thinking a comment could help Tsem Tulku and his students, NKT or ex-NKT followers, as well as Shugden pas who seem too cling too much to a literal interpretation of the teachings to reconsider, broaden or differentiate their understanding. I copy and paste the comment below. I made also some small corrections. The whole comment to Tsem Tulku’s post is based on a reply I wrote in December 2006 to NKT editors on Wikipedia.


Dear Tsem Tulku,
someone sent me the link to this post and I feel compelled to respond to it. Please forgive me if it hurts your feelings. This is not my intention. My intention is to correct the underlying misunderstandings of the post and to give the discussion a broader and saner perspective.

I think you make it too hard for yourself and others (you mislead yourself and others) by assuming that all the masters – including HH the Dalai Lama – are totally enlightened (omniscient) and therefore can’t make errors. This is typical Tibetan Dharma propaganda and there is no proof whatsoever for such claims. By claiming totally enlightened status for the Dalai Lama or your lineage lamas you ascribe to them an infallibility they highly likely didn’t possess. These recognised Tulkus or high lamas are most often mainly highly gifted people with immense good karma and dedication to Dharma practice, their lineages and sentient beings. Of course they have also certain high realisations but this doesn’t make them free of errors. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very clear about this and he openly admits his own errors as the great Indian Pandit Atisha has admitted openly his own errors. Similar to as Atisha rejected the false view on emptiness by his most precious guru, Serlingpa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama rejects the false view on Shugden by one of his his most precious gurus, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. It would be good to become more realistic and to see masters as sentient beings who can make also errors otherwise you make one knot after the other in your and your students’ minds and nobody is really helped by claims that don’t match reality or that distort reality and confuse the mind.


It would be a first step to reality to accept that masters can err. That’s why also Je Tsongkhapa wrote in his commentary on the tantric vows that if your master gives an “improper and irreligious command” don’t follow it. Tsongkhapa quotes the Vinaya Sutra: “If someone suggests something which is not consistent with the Dharma, avoid it.” Also the writings on Sutra and Tantra by Tsongkhapa make clear that tantric masters can err and can even go astray. A student must be able to see such faults and to respond wisely to it. By claiming in the literal sense total enlightened status to the gurus you construe them to be unfailing and you go against the scriptures and what past masters like Atisha or Tsongkhapa did. Tsongkhapa distanced himself from Ven. Rendawa’s Madhyamaka view and he rejected Rendawa’s view that the Kalachakra is not authentic. When Atisha was criticised by his most important master, Serlingpa, about his Madhyamaka view, Atisha answered to Serlingpa (who followed Chittamatra school): Whatever you say: I will not give up my view and the more you talk about your Chittamatra view the more clearly I see that my Madhyamaka view is correct. – To see your master as totally enlightened is a tantric training and is not meant to be understood in the literal sense. As you can see the most important Lamas of the Gelug school, Atisha and Tsongkhapa, found faults in their teachers’ views.

If you have really respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, why don’t you read his comments and think about their meanings? For instance in his commentary about the Heart Sutra, The Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom, His Holiness gives the following interesting perspective which is worthwhile to reflect:


HeartSutraEarlier we observed that one of the principal features of the Buddha’s teachings is that they were spoken to accord with the varying spiritual and mental needs and dispositions of the listeners. The tenets of the various schools can similarly be viewed as fulfilling these diverse needs. We have just seen how the Mind-only School distinguishes definitive from provisional teachings, and in fact each school has its own criteria for determining whether a teaching of the Buddha is definitive or provisional. In each case, the process is similar: first, one uses analysis to determine the Buddha’s ultimate intention in making a particular statement; second, one determines the Buddha’s contextual rationale for making a particular statement; and third, one demonstrates the logical inconsistency, if any, that arises when the particular statement is taken literally. The need for such an approach is found in the Buddha’s own sutras. There is a verse in which Buddha urges his followers to take his words as they might accept from a jeweler a metal that appears to be gold: only after seeing that the metal does not tarnish when burned, can be easily cut, and can be polished to a bright shine should the metal be accepted as gold. Thus, the Buddha gives us his permission to critically examine even his own teachings. Buddha suggests we make a thorough inquiry into the truth of his words and verify them for ourselves, and only then “accept them, but not out of reverenced”. Taking direction from statements such as these, ancient Indian monastic universities, such as Nalanda, developed a tradition whereby students would critically subject their own teachers’ scholastic work to analysis. Such critical analysis was seen in no way to go against the great admiration and reverence the students had for their teachers. The famous Indian master Vasubandhu, for example, had a disciple known as Vimuktisena, who was said to excel Vasubandhu in his understanding of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. He questioned Vasubandhu’s Mind-only interpretation and instead developed his own understanding of the sutras in accord with the Middle Way School. An example of this in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is Alak Damchoe Tsang, who was one of the disciples of the great nineteenth-century Nyingma master Ju Mipham. Although Alak Damchoe Tsang had tremendous admiration and reverence for his teacher, he voiced his objections to some of Miphams writings. Once a student of Alak Damchoe Tsang is said to have asked if it was appropriate to critically object to the writings of his own teacher. Alak Damchoe Tsang’s immediate response was, “If one’s great teacher says things that are not correct, one must take even ones lama to task!” There is a Tibetan saying, “Retain your reverence and admiration for the person, but subject the writing to thorough critical analysis.” This demonstrates a healthy attitude and illustrates the Buddhist tradition known as the approach of the four reliances:

Do not rely merely on the person, but on the words;
Do not rely merely on the words, but on their meaning;
Do not rely merely on the provisional meaning, but on the definitive meaning; and
Do not rely merely on intellectual understanding, but on direct experience.

As I said already, this is in line with what Atisha and Tsongkhapa did: they corrected the views of their own beloved teachers and corrected errors and misunderstandings.

However Atisha was nevertheless grateful to Serlingpa and honoured him as his most important master. Similarly His Holiness has still deepest respect for Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. He said this and also demonstrated his deep respect different times. He has also explicit auspicious dreams of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche which indicate his deeply felt devotion.

There are other examples were masters corrected or refuted or rejected the views of their masters, His Holiness the Dalai Lama states:

Therefore, Arya Vimuktisena, whose teacher was Vasubhandu, saw that Vasubhandu’s manner of explanation of the Abhisamayalankara had been more affected by his own personal bias towards a particular position than being a true reflection of the author’s ultimate intent. He therefore composed a commentary refuting that view, displacing it with a Madhyamaka interpretation. Now was this a case of a corruption of the spiritual guide – disciple relationship on Arya Vimuktisena’s part or of him showing disrespect for Vasubhandu? It was neither of these things.

Then we could look at accounts of the relationship between Jowo Je Atisha and his teacher Serlingpa. Serlingpa was the teacher who Atisha himself accredited as the one who helped him most in his quest to generate bodhicitta. In this area, he was like his root Lama. Despite this, on the philosophical level they were at variance. Serlingpa held the Cittamatra view. Accounts have it that Serlingpa congratulated Atisha for his practise of bodhicitta, whilst informing him that as far as his philosophical view was concerned he was incorrect. Atisha said though that Serlingpa’s instructions only served to boost his confidence in the correctness of the middle way view.

Likewise, we have the case of Dharmakirti. Vasubhandu had many students, one of whom was Dignaga. He was said to have been the one who surpassed even his own master in terms of his understanding of Pramana. Dignaga then had a disciple called Ishvarasena. He in turn had Dharmakirti as a student. Dharmakirti heard explanation of Dignaga’s Pramanasamuccaya text from Ishvarasena, but rejected Ishvarasena’s interpretation. He then incorporated Ishvarasena’s views as the objects of attack in sections of his Pramanavarttika. Thus, when it comes to helping to clarify the doctrine, creating, and rectifying mistakes, even one’s own teacher may come under criticism. One can see it in terms of one’s teacher having given certain instructions directed at a few specific individuals (when there is a need to give a different message). Whilst this might generally work though, it would be difficult to square in the above-mentioned case of Vasubhandu. At least in the way that Haribhadra has put it, it sounds as though it was Vasubhandu’s own bias (as opposed to consideration of any particular disciple) that led him to interpret things in the way that he did. Anyway, whether the original reasons for certain interpretations were due to individual students, other considerations or plain misunderstanding, it may prove necessary for later individuals to clarify things. Rectifying, clarifying and the like are generally accepted approaches for the learned and completely in step with the correct general approach to the teachings. This is way to proceed and help to guard against decline. (see Gelug Conference)

Another example you’ll find here:

Based on his realization, Tsongkhapa revised completely the understanding of the Prasangika-Madhyamaka teachings on voidness and related topics that the teachers and learned masters of his day had held. In this regard, he was a radical reformer with the courage to go beyond current beliefs when he found them inadequate.

Tsongkhapa always based his reforms strictly on logic and scriptural references. When he established his own view as the deepest meaning of the great Indian texts, he was not committing a breach of his close bond and relationship with his teachers. Seeing our spiritual teachers as Buddhas does not mean that we can not go beyond them in our realizations. Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche II explained this with the following example.

To make a cake, we need to put together many ingredients – flour, butter, milk, eggs, and so on. Our teachers show us how to make a cake and bake a few for us. They may be very delicious and we may enjoy them greatly. Due to our teachers’ kindness, we now know how to make a cake. This does not mean that we cannot make some changes, add some different ingredients, and bake cakes that are even more delicious than those our teachers made. In doing so, we are not being disrespectful toward our teachers. If the teachers are really qualified, they will rejoice in our improvement on the recipe and enjoy the new cakes with us. (see A Short Biography of Tsongkhapa by Dr. Alex Berzin)

(Just as a note: the incarnation of your master Kyabje Zong Rinpoche does NOT practice Shugden and he has abandoned that practice.)

I wish you and your students all the best,

First hand account of an ex NKT follower of being in the 2008 demonstrations against HH the Dalai Lama

Even with the start of 2016 you will still find strong claims of denial by NKT activists that the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) is behind the protests against the Dalai Lama although plenty of evidence has proven this fact. (For a detailed discussion see here.) I was thinking to repost the following account that was written in 2009. When I remember correctly it was posted in the Yahoo New Kadampa Survivors forum founded by David Cutshaw. The Facebook group New Kadampa Survivor Activists made this report public and stated: “We have been asked by the author to keep his/her identity secret so you may wish to ignore everything on that basis. People are wary of the NKT to the extent of thinking that they need anonymity.”

The people that used to run the WSS [Western Shugden Society] website were two people called Kelsang Chokyi and Kelsang Sudhana. They ran the website from a back room behind the NKT internet offices. Lucy and Nick were heavily involved. Sudhana and Karla Hessian (maybe spelled that wrong but she is EPC [Education Program Coordinator] of NY) used to do the videoing at the demonstrations, and these are the videos you see on the WSS website. However, they were very careful that they only allowed people to discuss the demonstrations as WSS and not NKT. The demonstrations were organised by NKT people (e.g. Neil Elliott etc.) and security was organised by the NKT (Kelsang Khyentse, Michel Gautier and other security people) On the day passes were issued to people by the NKT (although using a different logo which apparently represents the WSS) All bus stewards and demo stewards were organised by the NKT and were members of the NKT. Banners and placards were also produced and stored by members of the NKT.


Photo from the 2008 NKT/WSS protests.

For demonstrators the demos were put on as free. So all people had to do was turn up and everything would be paid for (accommodation, travel and food). On demonstrations individual NKT Centres donated food and drink for people to eat on the coaches, and accommodation was almost always in Centres although hotels were provided on some occasions (all paid for). For example on one occasion food and bottled water was provided by Heruka Centre. However, when people on the internet started asking where the WSS got their money from a letter was issued from the NKT secretary that centre money should not be used to send teachers on demonstrations (i.e. flights), so the students should raise the money themselves. Needless to say we know that the NKT expected its teachers to attend, and we all saw what happened to Lucy when not enough support was given. On long bus trips the WSS also handed money to people so that they could buy their lunch, no one knew where this money came from but it was widely referred to as Geshe-la’s [Geshe Kelsang Gyatso] money. In NY, France, Germany and the UK demonstrations it was the same. There were other Tibetan teachers/students that were present at some demonstrations (only ever a handful) however 99% of the attendance was NKT.

In the days after the New York demonstrations (the day when the WSS people were evacuated) Pema told the demonstrators that she had phoned Geshe-la to tell him what happened. Geshe-la apparently laughed on the phone and was delighted. Let me make that clear- he was delighted that there had been a scene between the Tibetan crowd and the WSS. He referred to this as a ‘perfect demonstration’. Pema then said that later Geshe-la phoned up to ask how the students were and if anyone was hurt- this was not his first thought apparently.

The last I knew officially was the last demonstrations in Switzerland (?) were cancelled when the Dalai Lama cancelled his teachings. After that nothing was told to students or teachers. I did take part fully in demonstrations believing it was important to do what my teacher told me, however now I have learned things kept from students about the NKT I regret ever doing so.

See also


When it is more than abuse – Experiences within the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

By Peter Graham Dryburgh

The hurt and harm of spiritual abuse is rarely inflicted upon people with the intention to wound anyone.
– Major Scott Nicloy

When we think of abuse in the year 2016, we think of horrific, intentional acts that are set out by a perpetrator, whose simple intention is to violate, humiliate and control another person by whatever means possible – for they need this, they thrive on this to succeed in their role, it is a must, it is the core, the life essence of the perpetrator.

Sadly in this day and age, there is an unspoken danger, an abuse never mentioned, nor addressed by law no society in general, but we have passed new laws around psychological abuse in the UK (December 2015) to protect the oppressed, but it is still not recognised that within the realms of ‘spirituality’ that there is abuse, there is manipulation, there is control forced upon those who feel ‘devoted’ and (simply in my opinion), that this must change.

A number of years ago, I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as living with a condition called “Developmental Post traumatic Stress Disorder”, which is a culmination of many traumas in life to effect the mind, or the brain, and one of these contributors was most definitely ‘spiritual abuse’ at the hands of and the control of the ‘New Kadampa Tradition’, which cost me my home, my job and around £10,000 in debt, but most importantly, for a long time, it cost me my confidence and self esteem, my dignity and my heart.

When you give nothing but trust, you sometimes leave yourself vulnerable; however, when you are manipulated into this trust, and manipulated into believing that you are doing the right thing, it can leave you quite damaged.

I remember my first ever meeting with the NKT, it was nothing more than a simple meditation class in my locality, it was an interest I had. At that initial meeting I raised the question around their relationship with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and I was greeted at the next class by the ‘resident teacher’, not the course teacher, to eliminate my fears and concerns regarding their ‘tradition’ – which I now realise was their first lie, their first mis-truth, and sadly the road into ‘spiritual abuse’.

Everything seemed to happen so quickly for me, I was encouraged to leave an unhealthy relationship that I had been in for a number of years, give up my property, leave friends and family behind – all in the name of ‘seeking perfection’ and Dharma – I had had an interest in Buddhism for a number of years, but I grew up in fishing villages and islands on the Scottish coast, so accessing this spiritual path was jarred with obstacles, until I moved for employment reasons to Birmingham, and I had been presented with such an easy access. One might say that I should have been more cautious, one would think I may have spotted the signs, but I challenge this, because, with every form of abuse, the perpetrator ‘sugar coats’ the truth, it is given with false love and the offer of true friendship and a spiritual ‘brethren’, a family almost.

In general NKT centres are portrayed by the press uncritically as the World Peace Cafe Baltimore which has an article in the Baltimore Sun

In general NKT centres or their activities are portrayed by the press uncritically. For instance the World Peace Cafe Baltimore has an article in the Baltimore Sun or there are similar uncritical articles in the Daily Telegraph or The Guardian about retreats in the NKT.

So I started attending classes, moved into the centre, started paying for as much as I could in order to ‘gain merit’ on my road to enlightenment, which became the most important ‘mantra’ in those years, almost more important than spiritual prayers themselves, ‘gain merit, gain merit, gain merit’ is something that was taught so hard lined it became something I ate, slept and breathed for a long period of time.

When the NKT offered me the opportunity to become ‘ordained’, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I was never able to refuse – it had almost become a situation where my dreams had come true – and this is where the real abuse started, it was customary to give ‘interest free loans’, pay for building renovation, cars, statues and even the resident teacher to attend ‘festivals and empowerments’ in foreign countries (I recall paying so that someone could go to Germany for ‘Highest Yoga Tantra Empowerment’ and also being told that I may not achieve enlightenment for ‘eons’ as doing so left me unable to afford to go myself). Sadly the more I gave, the more it seemed never to be enough, there was always a need for something – I was never allowed to give up my job (which was not an issue as I loved helping others, and worked full time in an alcohol and drug treatment service) as I was the only person who brought money into the ‘Centre’ that was not based on fraudulent benefit claims by the other ordained staff there.

As time went on, my responsibilities matched my financial contribution; on times where I could afford to take out loans from my own bank, my responsibilities were great, and the respect I appeared to be shown matched this; on months where I had to pay back more to the bank than I could to the ‘centre’, I was almost shunned and kept to the side – but I did so ‘willingly’ as it meant I was balancing the negative karma from both this life and past lives, and who would not wish for this, especially in the road to enlightenment – which after the HYT empowerment, would only take 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days – yet I never gained this empowerment, as I always paid for others to do so, generating the karma to allow myself to do so one day. I began to despair, for only one reason – that I might never find enlightenment – that I might never be free from samsara and able to actually help other people? I think this is when my doubts begun to set in.


The life within the New Kadampa Tradition is advertised as being full of joy and full of peace and ease.
© New Kadampa Tradition Facebook Page

I began to realise that even working from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Friday outside of the centre, I would often be up til 2 a.m. working on the building, and up again at 5 a.m. to ‘get the shrine room (gompa) ready for the day, my weekends had become full of ‘cherishing the centre’ and I lost any friends (and was encouraged to do so as they were negative to the path) who were not connected to the NKT; it became my entire life, my world, my every waking and sleeping moment.

Meeting Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (GKG) was a special and rare occurrence, and when I did, he would simply laugh and tell me that any worries were due to negative karma, and to simply see these issues as purifying negative karma, to see them as wonderful opportunities on the road to enlightenment, so as I had become so engrossed in seeing GKG as my living Guru, and a living embodiment of the Buddha himself, then of course I would thank him and feel that I had done wrong by even questioning the ‘challenges and worries’ that I faced in daily centre life.

I used to welcome an NKT festival in Ulverston as it was almost a break, a holiday from responsibility. I was often challenged by ‘senior’ monks and nuns as I always missed the first session in the temple, morning meditation, as I used this for catching up with sleep – and frankly it was a delight to be able to shower and dress in peace away from the sometimes thousands of people who were there – it became my welcome break – and I think the beginning of realising that things were not right.

I started to worry when there were death threats made against GKG and security precautions were taken – such as bullet proof vests were being worn by monks under their robes – and we were asked if we would take a bullet for ‘Geshe-la’. This is when it became real to me, realising that it actually can’t be a safe place, a genuine place to be, so I hatched a plan to leave, which was filled with obstacles. It was almost similar to the film ‘The Running Man’ – and with every sexual based scandal the NKT was facing with all the corruption and money laundering that was evident, with benefit fraud, and exploitation of innocent people, you think it would be easy to walk away when you are faced with these dilemmas – but it isn’t, there is the huge guilt of ‘breaking away from the Guru’, there is the being ostracised by your community, friends and even teachers.

I made a decision to deliberately break my ‘ordination vows’ so that there was no way I could or would stay, and even that process wasn’t without challenges – I did nothing sinister, I simply masturbated to break my celibacy vow – thinking they would simply discard me for this – however, I was wrong, I was told to do the Sojong Practice and that was told it was a standard process, almost a ‘secret club’ that most monks would do this once a year, then renew their own vows at the ordination of others – I was even partnered with another monk who would talk to me about how ‘okay this was’ and told (and I quote) “we all do it”. The only thing that I had to change, was that I would have to do a month’s retreat and write a letter to GKG to apologise for doing this “without permission”.

© Carol McQuire: “Transform Your Life”

© Carol McQuire: “Transform Your Life”

So there is no celibacy in the NKT ordained community – and this is when my mind became so entrenched in absolute terror – but terror of remaining there – as I was assigned another monk to ‘help me’ in my celibacy – and this turned out to be that if I did not masturbate myself – it was okay, the expectation was to ‘help each other’ – not a comfortable concept – he now (K Cho) runs and manages a prominent centre in Rome, so my mind was made up!

I actually waited for the centre to ‘close’ for two weeks, and everyone went away to where they went to. I remained, and spoke with a student at the centre, and asked for her help. I lived in her cupboard for a number of week as I had nowhere else to go, I was not allowed to speak to anyone, and as I could not get transport I left my belongings there – of which I managed to fish some clothes and basics from a skip a few days later.

If I was to be asked what my biggest mistake was to date, it was picking up a copy of ‘Transform Your Life’ in a bookshop all those years ago – it did transform my life, but not in a good way, not by any means…

Posted originally on the New Kadampa Survivor Testimonies Facebook Page.


More NKT survivors’ testimonies

The Secular vs. the Spiritual: Is India Squandering Its Top Export: The Buddha?

Secular values are the values that citizens share regardless of their religious differences; secular policies are policies to which citizens can be expected to give rational consent regardless of their religious commitments. – Jay Garfield

You might have read the quite harsh essay by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche on the Indian Huffington Post Blog, called “How India Is Squandering Its Top Export: The Buddha“. In that essay Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche essentially argues that India and Nepal should respect more deeply “their Buddhist heritage” and should deal with it in far better ways. Rinpoche called India’s and Nepal’s “lack of concern” to be “both a leadership failure and an endemic societal blindness.”

Jay Garfield wrote an intelligent reply, “In Defense of the Secular“, pointing out some issues in Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s essay. One of Jay Garfield’s points is that the usage of the word “secular” as a pejorative term as well as its contrasting with the “valorized spiritual” is a mistake because “it creates a pernicious duality between the secular and the spiritual that denigrates the civil society that is the best protection that a minority tradition like Buddhism could ever have.”

There are some other issues in the essay by Dongsar Khyentse Rinpoche that might need to be addressed or thought/discussed about. For instance, the demise of Buddhism in India. The demise of Buddhism in India is a complex issue as Thierry Dodin pointed out in an interview. One of Dodin’s points was that Buddhism in general is no form of religion that reaches out to the masses. “The Buddhist elites, whether in the Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana – all three were represented in Southeast Asia – care little about whether the people understand the teachings. Among the lay people, Buddhism has always been more addressed to educated and relatively wealthy people who had time and leisure to devote themselves to the great metaphysical questions – suffering, cessation of suffering, etc. For the masses it has tolerated traditional forms of religion as the prebuddhist spirit worship or even introduced Indian gods like Brahma or Ganesha that were tangible. Other religions – Islam, Hinduism and Christianity – are in many ways closer to the people: they give the people’s daily lives a structure and put the individual in a social system of coordinates.” (translation by me)

I have also strong reservations about Dongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s portrayal of China’s efforts with respect to Buddhism in such a positive light and that he is using China as a positive example to criticise India and Nepal while not spending a single word about the often questionable motivations of China’s engagement for Buddhism. The efforts of the Communist Party in China or the PRC in general to do something for Buddhism is mainly a means to control people and to exert soft power. (see for instance: “Seminar held to reinterpret Tibetan Buddhism to justify China’s policy in Tibet” by TibetanReview)

Did Geshe Kelsang Gyatso lie when he claimed that he didn’t receive teachings from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama?

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) (or “Kadampa Buddhism” / “Modern Buddhism”), makes a big fuss about Guru Yoga, using this teaching to demand utmost obedience from his followers in the name of “Guru Devotion”. While he can’t accept non-obedience or criticism against his own person he put a lot of effort into initiating and running three world wide Anti-Dalai Lama campaigns, using his ill informed or misinformed western converts to attack the Dalai Lama as a “ruthless dictator”, “21st Century Buddhist Dictator”, “destroyer of the Buddhadharma”, “false Dalai Lama”, “saffron-robed Muslim” whose nature is “very cruel and evil”. (For the whys see here.)

When Kelsang Gyatso was expelled from his monastery in 1996, the expulsion letter of his monastery college Sera Je found his behaviour against the Dalai Lama unacceptable, especially because Kelsang Gyatso received both sutra and tantra teachings from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama when he was in Tibet. The letter claimed that Kelsang Gyatso received the fifth Dalai Lama’s Lamrim Jampel Shalung at the Norbu Linka summer palace and the Kalachakra Initiation in 1956.

Having the Dalai Lama as one of his teachers and running international character assassination campaigns in the guise of “religious freedom” against his own teacher is a grave fault according to both, Sutra and Vajrayana teachings. It is also hypocritical by Kelsang Gyatso to demand utmost and rather slavish devotion from his own followers and abusing these followers to run a defamation campaign against one of his own teachers, the Dalai Lama. It is ridiculous to threaten his own followers to “break their guru devotion” if they dare to oppose him even respectfully – threatening them with countless rebirths in the hell realms – while he himself runs disrespectful smear campaigns against one of his own teachers who is widely considered to be a great Bodhisattva.

However, Kelsang Gyatso tried to escape the consequences of his own behaviour and the arguments pointing out his misbehaviour by claiming that he has never received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama (see for instance this interview).

In a new YouTube video, Geshe Tashi Tsering of the Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London says he has evidence that Kelsang Gyatso “received many teachings from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, including Vajrayana teachings.” As an example Geshe Tashi Tsering mentions a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Nga Rim Chen Mo, The Great Exposition of the Path of Mantra. Geshe Tashi names two witnesses who are still alive, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin and Geshe Lobsang Tengye who are both of Kelsang Gyatso’s former monastery (Sera), his former college (Sera Je) and his former house (Tsangpa Khangtsen).

I think all NKT followers and ex-NKT alike can relax because there is nothing to be feared by leaving a teacher who does not live what he preaches, and who is – according to his own teachings – on the path to hell ;-)

Actual, it is virtuous and correct to leave a non-virtuous or abusive or misleading teacher because such a teacher will lead his students onto wrong paths.

Je Tsongkhapa citing the Ornament for the Essence said:

Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result. – Je Tsongkhapa in “Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice”, ISBN 0861712900, p. 46

However, following the 14th Dalai Lama’s advice to former NKT followers, “You should continue to regard him with respect …”


Jamgong Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in “Buddhist Ethics” (Treasury of Knowledge), Snow Lion Publications:

Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions

8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend

The harmful teacher is one of bad temperament, of little pure vision, great in dogmatism; he holds [his own view) as highest, praises himself, and denigrates others.

In general, the nonspiritual teacher (mi-dge-ba’i bshes-gnyen) is a lama, teacher (mkhan-slob), dharma brother [or sister] (grogs-mched), and so forth—all those who are attached to the phenomena (snang) of this life, and who get involved in unvirtuous activity. Therefore, one must abandon the nonspiritual friend. In particular, although they have the manner of goodness in appearance, they cause you to be obstructed in your liberation.

The nonspiritual teacher has a bad temperament, little pure vision (dag-snang), is very dogmatic (phyogs-ris), holds as highest his view (lta-ba) as the only dharma, praises himself, slanders others, implicitly denigrates and rejects others’ systems (lugs) of dharma, and slanders the lama—the true wisdom teacher—who bears the burden of benefiting others. If you associate with those who are of this type, then, because one follows and gets accustomed to the nonspiritual teacher and his approach, his faults stain you by extension, and your mindstream (rgyud) gradually becomes negative. Illustrating this point, it has been said in the Vinaya Scripture:

A fish in front of a person is rotting and is tightly wrapped with kusha grass. If that [package] is not moved for a long time, the kusha itself also becomes like that. Like that [kusha grass], by following the sinful teacher, you will always become like him.

Therefore, as it has been said in The Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection (mDo dran-pa nyer-bzhag; Saddharmanusmriti-upasthana):

As the chief among the obstructors (bar-du gcod-pa) of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.

In every aspect one should be diligent in rejecting the sinful teacher.

Reuters’ Special Report about the Shugden controversy and the joint effort of China’s Communist Party & the New Kadampa Tradition to discredit the Dalai Lama

Here is the new special report by Reuters, “China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama“, about the globalized Dorje Shugden controversy and how the Shugden movement gets “clandestine support from [China’s] Communist Party.” Reuters: “Their joint campaign to discredit the Tibetan spiritual leader is paying off, especially in Britain.”

Reuters’ investigation is part four of Reuters investigates “The Long Arm of China”. The detailed and thorough journalistic analysis by Reuters includes an investigation of the background of the Shugden controversy, “The politics of Tibet’s poisonous religious divide“.

See also


Last edited on Dec 26, 2015

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