New Kadampa Survivors (continuation of the ‘cult’ smear history)

For previous installments:

The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 1
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 2
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 3
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 4
E-Sangha and “sect bashing” (continuation of the ‘cult’ smear history)

The New Kadampa Tradition is not different from other spiritual organizations in that it is not suited to everyone, and many people who try it out do not stay. As a non-proselytizing Buddhist tradition that is not trying to convert anyone, this has always been expected and it is not a problem.

Sadly, though, some of these people leave through disappointment or even irritation and anger; and some of these go onto become active critics of the NKT on the Internet. The bad reputation the NKT has received from the Dalai Lama’s words and actions has proved a rallying point for diverse criticism of the NKT. This can obscure or distort people’s genuine personal grievances by causing every difficulty or disappointment to be exaggerated by the supposition that the NKT must be a cult because the Dalai Lama says so. Instead of taking each disappointment on its merits and seeing it in the context of an organization that is basically sound with room for improvement, some have jumped to the conclusion that their own difficulty is part of a far larger pattern – and that, although they appreciated the NKT before, they have only just realized that they have always been part of an abusive spirit-worshipping sectarian cult 🙂

Learning from criticism

This is not to say that the NKT~IKBU has not made mistakes because of course it has. The NKT~IKBU is a groundbreaking movement and operates worldwide. The Kadam Dharma it offers is pure and has stood the test of time, but the organization itself is naturally made up of imperfect living beings. It would be strange if there were not some problems. As the NKT~IKBU has said, it accepts and is sorry for its mistakes and is trying its best to learn from these, hence the Internal Rules and its many edicts for ensuring harmony, democracy and pure behavior. A great number of improvements and adaptations have been made over the past 30 years.

Hopefully, improvements will continue to be made both by the organization and by its individuals – there is no reason why not. From this point of view, as an ancient Buddhist tradition strives to adapt to the modern world, criticism has proven to be a very helpful mirror in which the NKT~IKBU has been able to see its faults and strive to remove them. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! As Geshe Kelsang has advised on the subject of criticism: check whether what is said is true or not. If it is true, accept and learn from it gratefully. If the criticism is not true, it is still true that we have the basic fault of self-cherishing, so we can still appreciate that person for criticizing us and use it as a reminder to reduce self-cherishing.

Understanding the Status Quo

But as the NKT, despite resistance and resentment from Tibetans who wish to preserve the Tibetan status quo, moves ever more steadily away from Tibetan politics and the vortex of the Dalai Lama to become an increasingly autonomous, non-political and democratic Western Mahayana Buddhist organization, Kadampa students have also had to wisen up. During this transition, they are having to learn to distinguish the genuine mistakes they and others have made (and continue to make) from the politically motivated wild accusations and falsehoods perpetuated by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE), and various Tibetan Buddhist groups. Only then are they able to take responsibility for the former while ignoring or rebutting the latter.

New Kadampa Survivors

Both the mistakes and the wild accusations find their way onto the New Kadampa Survivors, which is an Internet chat group that serves as the main convergence for NKT dissent. From the point of view of learning from criticism, the NKT has benefited from the focus of the New Kadampa Survivors chat group. Certainly, it has no objection to it existing and, if it helps some people, that is also good. But it may also be clarifying to understand it from an historical and cultural perspective.

Understanding the context

The NKT wishes to divest itself of Tibetan cultural accretions and especially Tibetan politics. It is not under the autocracy of the Dalai Lama and TGIE, and this is not pleasing to them. In the broader context of the damaging perceptions of the NKT being a sectarian breakaway inauthentic spirit-worshipping cult engendered by the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan groups, it is easier to understand the arising of the survivors’ chat group in 2007, which spilt over from E-Sangha.

It is hard to imagine this group arising if the NKT had remained under the umbrella of Tibetan Buddhism and the authority of the Dalai Lama and kept his pictures on their walls. After all, other Tibetan groups and Lamas without “survivors” groups have had as many if not more disrobings and disaffected students. Moreover, their unquestioning worship of the Dalai Lama as a God King, and “overall leader of all Buddhist traditions on this earth”* can easily be construed as cult-like, as can alarming but all too common statements like this one from a TGIE MP on France 24 explaining why there was no need for a vote to ban Dorje Shugden: “We do not have any doubt about Dalai Lama’s decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He’s a supreme human being and he is god.” Or this one from the TGIE quoted in the New Internationalist: “Concepts like democracy and freedom of religion are empty when it comes to the well-being of the Dalai Lama and the common cause of Tibet.”

The NKT and Geshe Kelsang have never strayed into such murky waters but their opposition to the behavior of the singularly famous head of Tibet has provided a rallying cry and justification for diverse detractors, which is not possessed by Tibetan Buddhist groups under the Dalai Lama’s patronage.

Rules of the game

According to its founder, David Cutshaw: “It is a place for former members to come and openly discuss what it was like being part of this sectarian cult.” There are three rules on Survivors: “No NKT propaganda is allowed; no NKT members/followers/students are allowed; no debate of Dorje Shugden is allowed.” What this means is that no positive input is permitted about the NKT (or Dorje Shugden).

The intention of David Cutshaw may well have been to find an audience himself and provide support for others. Perhaps there has been some relief for certain members as they have been able to voice their grievances and find sympathy. But the overall atmosphere and group dynamic is one full of blame, where everything is blamed on Geshe Kelsang and the NKT. (The only personal responsibility members seem to take is for their own neediness or naivety in joining the cult.) Even when outright untruths are told and re-told, no one is permitted to come forward to confute these or restore some balance, for that amounts to “propaganda” and the message is censored.

This all means that those who were seeking answers or support invariably become more negative, and newcomers stumbling upon this group (finding it for example while searching NKT in Google) receive an entirely one-sided and distorted depiction of the NKT. If they do not take the trouble to question what they are reading, it is natural for them to believe it, become disillusioned, and resolve henceforth to avoid the NKT.

Vicious circle

From this point of view, the survivors group is not helpful to the development of the NKT (and nor do they wish to be!) The very existence of the survivors’ group (and the fact that members often foray onto other Internet sites to share their views) has also fuelled the prejudices of Tibetan Buddhists further into thinking that the NKT must indeed be a cult if there are ex-members who are prepared to say so; and this has created a vicious circle of criticism and negative views. This has been a damaging factor in the NKT’s reputation in the Buddhist community (but music to the survivors’ ears!)

Disinhibition

(As an interesting aside, Internet chat groups are known to have a “disinhibition effect”, which according to psychological reports is not always benign and can “lead to rude language, harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, and even threats”, or “simply a blind catharsis, an acting out of unsavory needs and wishes without any personal growth at all.”)

Reasons for joining

It seems that most people on Survivors joined in 2008 as they were disillusioned by the Western Shugden Society’s demonstrations against the Dalai Lama’s ban, and/or by Samden’s and/or Lodro’s disrobings. In the latter case, this disillusionment is quite understandable and since that time steps have been taken to avoid a repetition.

For one thing, since the disrobing of Samden Gyatso, the Internal Rules specify that the authority of the both the teacher and the managers in each Center is subject to checks and balances and more equally shared out.

Far fewer people are joining the chat group nowadays, and the vast majority are “lurkers” or non-active participants. The same few people make almost all the postings. Judging by conversations and reports, it would appear that about half the members are NKT practitioners who are or were curious to read what is being written about them or their teachers.

Agent provocateurs

There are also members of survivors who have clearly never been to an NKT Center. They come from other Tibetan Buddhist groups and are on the chat group solely to “do research” for their own anti-NKT agendas (particularly an individual calling himself VJ Kumara who went so far as to wish for Geshe Kelsang’s death), sow dissatisfaction and TGIE propaganda, or promote their own traditions and Gurus. (Sometimes the Survivors realize they are being used in this way, at which point they have protested to the moderators.)

Tenzin Peljor deserves a mention here since he was the first to appear on the group straight after Dave had posted his first messages in 2007, suggesting he made the group public so everyone could find it; and since then has been a frequent poster and self-appointed spiritual advisor to the survivors, painstakingly ensuring that no one forgets how dreadful the NKT is and how wonderful (non-Shugden) Tibetan teachers and groups are by contrast. As with Namdrol on E-Sangha, survivors looking for guidance tend to trust Tenzin because they believe him when he makes himself out to be an expert on the NKT (and now Tibetan Buddhism), even though he has not been near the NKT in over 10 years and had an atypical experience of it.

A sense of proportion

In December 2010 the Survivors celebrated their 1000th member. While it would be wonderful if there were no survivors at all because everyone continued to enjoy their experiences within the NKT, it is worth getting this figure into proportion.

  • On the Tampa Bay Florida Facebook page alone, servicing one of the NKT’s medium-sized Centers, there are 1000 followers.
  • Teachers in New York, Texas, Brazil, Mexico and other places each week have audiences of hundreds. It is impossible to say exactly how many students attend NKT Centers every week, but it is certainly thousands.
  • Each International Festival attracts thousands of attendees.
  • Dharma Celebrations worldwide each typically attract hundreds of attendees.
  • Several hundred members of the Survivors’ group are still Kadampa practitioners who are just checking what is being said about them.
  • The vast majority of Survivors never post anything.

Moral discipline guides

Genuine mistakes have been and continue to be thoroughly investigated. The NKT has no wish or intention to endorse any cult-like behavior. The vast majority of people in the NKT try to be kind, well intentioned and reasonable, which is why NKT Centers generally enjoy success and their communities worldwide are growing. Some managers or teachers in the NKT have engaged in inappropriate or over-bearing behavior due perhaps to delusions, worldly concerns, poor people skills, over-enthusiasm, or failing to put the essential teachings on cherishing others into practice. However, these all too human shortcomings are not institutionalized in the NKT, and this behavior is neither encouraged by nor acceptable to the organization.

Please know that if you have any concerns or complaints about the NKT~IKBU organization, teachers, or managers, you are invited to email info@kadampa.org, or call [+44] (0)1229-588-533 and ask for the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of the NKT~IKBU, who will address your concerns in accordance with the Internal Rules 4.8, 12.1 and 12.3. These NKT “moral discipline guides” are responsible for making sure that Centers and individuals are “caring for people with kindness”, “improving the qualifications of Dharma students so they become qualified Dharma practitioners and Teachers”, “maintaining the Centre as a pure, peaceful and harmonious society”, avoiding “any breach of moral discipline”, and so on. If these things are not happening at an NKT Center, and for any reason you are not comfortable discussing it with the teacher or managers, you are requested to write to the moral discipline guides straightaway.

It does not follow from the unskillful behavior of a few individuals that the NKT is a cult, nor that such behavior cannot be found in other traditions that have not been labelled cults. Each case needs to be taken on its merits.

Where the criticisms on the Survivors group are groundless, factual responses can be found on New Kadampa Truth.

Footnotes

*(as proclaimed in a recent political announcement from a meeting with the Dalai Lama, March 6-8 2009):

“As per the gist of the intention of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, International Genden council, and the resolutions of Three Great Seats regarding the evil spirit Dholgyal (Shugden), monasteries including the Three Great Seats are heading toward positive direction, cherishing one’s interest. However [we] will discuss what is the best to carry out concerning the activity on the whole and the impairment imposed by Dholgyal adherents to Tibetan religion and politics, as well as their various actions of defamation carried out against His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

For the sake of Tibetan religion and politics, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the overall head of all Buddhist Traditions on this earth, has given admonition not to worship the spirit Dholgyal. For the leaders who are High Lamas, Abbots, Tulkus, representatives, extend fully support on 10th meeting. Furthermore, through this meeting, they appreciate and praise the monks of Gelugpa monasteries for picking the vote-stick accorded the Vinaya and completely relinquishing the religious and material ties with Dholgyal worshippers.”

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25 Responses to New Kadampa Survivors (continuation of the ‘cult’ smear history)

  1. Jimmy says:

    The 3rd signee (out of a total of 8 Kagyus and Nyingmapas and one Gelugpa) who signed that pronouncement you quote about the evil spirit Dolgyal from the meeting attended with the Dalai Lama was the head of the Bon tradition, Menri Trizin Rinpoche.

    I have nothing against him personally but is it not the most ludicrous and perverse irony for the Bon leader to be accusing fully qualified Buddhist masters like Trijang Rinpoche and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso of being spirit worshippers, when the Bon tradition is unashamedly shamanistic, animist and pre-Buddhist? Why is he in a position to judge, let alone condemn? Is he there for the sake of numbers (along with Kagyus and Nyingmas who in the past have had nothing to do with how the Gelugpa tradition is run) — the more the merrier to gang up on Dorje Shugden practitioners?

    What am I missing here?! Are Tibetan politics really that corrupt, that far gone?

  2. Will says:

    Yes, they are, thanks to the Dalai Lama’s absolute power over them. The more stuff that comes out of Dharamsala, the harder it is to see how it is possible to come to any other more benign conclusion.

    I am struck by the totalitarian tone of the document, as well as the barefaced lie: “His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the overall head of all Buddhist Traditions on this earth”. It is not only eerily, dare I say it, communist/fascist (“supreme leader”), but also frightening that the Dalai Lama was present while this pronouncement was being drafted but let the hubris stay in!

    There is irony heaped upon irony when it comes to this group of people describing Shugden practitioners as spirit worshippers. For starters, they are no such thing, as anyone who has ever talked to one could attest if they wanted to. Another irony is the well documented huge reliance the Dalai Lama places on the Tibetan state spirit Nechung, who has a whole temple (complete with statues, offerings and everything) to himself and helps the Dalai Lama make all his political decisions (including the one to ban Dorje Shugden practice).

    Thank you New Kadampa Truth for continuing to bring out this information, especially as you do tend to just state the facts and I have not seen you resort to hyperbole. The articles are good journalism.

  3. dharmaprotector says:

    How about “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the supreme religious and temporal head of Tibet.” (Points of the Kashag’s Statement Concerning Dolgyal)

    Or, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the saviour who can decide the continuation or otherwise of Tibet and its subjects; he is the Captain of Peace in the world; he is the overall head of all Buddhist traditions on this earth; he is the master acclaimed by all the religious traditions of the world.” (Resolution of the Tibetan Cholsum Convention)

    I have a number of his books published by Snow Lion, all of which say on their back cover, “Born in Amdo, Tibet in 1935, Tenzin Gyatso was recognized as the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.”

  4. dorjeshugdentruth says:

    I don’t know what’s happened to the Dalai Lama, he seems to have lost all sense of proportion. There are more and more ludicrous things coming out of Dharamasala all the time. It’s so exaggerated it seems like a bad joke but, worryingly, I believe they are saying such things with a straight face!

    I heard that the Dalai Lama was present at that meeting so he knows that people are using such ridiculously inflated titles for him. Is his ego so huge that he’s prepared to allow such distortions to continue unchallenged? Even more worryingly, perhaps he believes it. Now that’s scary because it means he’s really lost it.

    It’s megalomania gone mad; the very worst Tibetan soap opera. How long is this going to go on before Tibetans realize something is very seriously wrong at the top?

  5. Bill Esterhaus says:

    Dear New Kadampa Truth, thanks for this series of articles – it’s making it much clearer where the ‘cult’ idea came from. I also think you’re showing a very good example of honesty and humility, admitting that mistakes were made. The Dalai Lama would never admit to making a mistake even though he’s made many.

    It’s as ‘Will’ says – the Dalai Lama has absolute power over the Tibetans. If he goes crazy, because there’s no democratic system, he cannot be challenged and replaced, unlike the Internal Rules of the NKT where the General Spiritual Director can be dismissed by the Education Council if he acts against the best interests of Kadampa Buddhism.

    Because the Tibetans are subject to a dictatorial Theocracy they have no way to challenge the DL and so they have no choice but to accept a leadership that seems to be getting more bizarre and ego-centric by the year.

    There’s only one hope: that the DL will retire soon and that his replacement will not follow his path of hypocrisy and divisiveness but will restore genuine harmony and religious freedom.

  6. DharmaRayz says:

    By all appearances this is like something out of Star Wars where Anakin is slowly turned into Vader, except that sadly in this case the Jedi Council seem to be cheering his devolution to the dark side on.

  7. dharmaprotector says:

    Palpatine: Don’t you wonder why they won’t make you the overall head of all Tibetan Buddhist traditions?

    Anakin: I wish I knew. More and more I get the feeling that I’m being excluded from the lineage. I know there are things about the Dharma that they’re not telling me.

    Palpatine: They don’t trust you, Anakin. They see your future. They know your power will be too strong to control. You must break through the fog of lies the Gelugpas have created around you. Let me help you to know the subtleties of the Dharma.

    Anakin: How do you know the ways of the Dharma?

    Palpatine: My mentor taught me everything about the Dharma, even the nature of the eclectic side.

    Anakin: You know the eclectic side?!

    Palpatine: Anakin, if one is to truly understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Gelugpas. If you wish to become a complete and wise leader, you must embrace a larger view of the Dharma. Be careful of the Gelugpas, Anakin. Only through me can you achieve a power greater than any Gelugpa. Learn to know the eclectic side of the Dharma, and you will be able to save your country from certain death.

  8. Wishfulfilling Jewel says:

    Some of the ex-NKTers in the New Kadampa Survivors were people who went to my Center. (I know this because I am one of those “lurkers” who joined just to see what all the fuss was about!) It was very surreal to read what they had written. A couple of them went from gushing to me about how wonderful the Center was one month, to the next month writing about how horrible we all were. It was bizarre, like schizophrenia. Everyone else in the forum nodded and patted them on the back in sympathy, “Oh yes, we know how it goes, don’t worry, that horrible experience is over now.” (And one of their postings has been repeated many times on other anti-NKT sites.)

    I honestly didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I wanted to protest, to set the record straight, but I knew it wouldn’t matter. People would just say, “Oh, there’s another poor brainwashed NKT devotee.”

    It reminds me of Shantideva saying that worldly beings are impossible to please, and not even the Buddhas can satisfy them all!

    My conclusions from reading the New Kadampa Survivors postings were twofold: (1) that I needed to see if there was anything I could do to improve and make sure I wasn’t falling into the spiritual hypocrisy our Center was being accused of, and (2) not to worry too much about what people say, and just keep doing my best to improve my own mind and my own Center, with the recognition that “my best” won’t ever satisfy everyone.

  9. Mark says:

    Dear New Kadampa Truthers,

    I am so glad that there is a forum that can discuss all this stuff. I think it is important that there is reasonable consideration of the many important topics and issues that have arisen.

    For too long there has just been the other side- which for me, bears no reality to my experience. All the NKT bashing that I have heard and read is so extreme and just plain wrong. But for years all you could find apart from the official NKT website was anti-NKT vitriol, and there was so much of it.

    I am not saying that I see no faults in NKT centres, teachers etc. I have seen faults (and still do from time to time), and disagree with decisions made- but I think that is ok, because that happens throughout all aspects of life professional/social/personal. I think it is healthy to be honest. Also I think it is what Buddha wanted us to do; not just to accept things but to check and challenge. But I think maybe because of the sheer weight of anti-NKT feeling, we were getting a little afraid to look at ourselves just in case we fell into the “Darkside”. I think, as always, we need the middle way; so hopefully we can become grown up balanced practitioners

    To use a political analogy, this whole blog seems to be like Barack Obama coming to town after 8 years of Bush!! Intelligence, fairness, objectivity and truth have returned.

    So please keep holding aloft the victory banner.

  10. Shiloh says:

    Yep, Mark, I agree with all you say. And what I am finding is that we were losing our self-confidence but the fear has evaporated in the face of honesty and openness. Here we find that the NKT is a great organization that helps so many people help themselves in such profound and far-reaching ways, but that occasionally people in the organization are as irritating or misguided as any other people in samsara!

    (And whose fault is that?!)

  11. Richard S says:

    I think one problem I found while lurking on survivors (sorry, survivors!) is that someone would tell the same out-of-date story and then the others would all jump in and commiserate (e.g. the oft-repeated “monk’s tale” or the story of the Bodhisattva Centre resident being unfairly asked to leave. I never quite understood what some of the survivors’ actual grievances were, including the founder of the group, who just seemed to jump on the bandwagon of whatever was being said).

    These tales would be generalized such that the problems were made out to be systemic when in fact they were — on almost every occasion I could see at least — the responsibility of only a very few people in the NKT who have now been removed.

    So the group to me felt outdated and out of touch a lot of the time. It also felt like a kind of sad, musty cellar where no light was getting in and you’re desperate to open a window but aren’t allowed to. So I stopped lurking.

    But, given that there is no smoke without fire (even though it sometimes sure feels like a lot of smoke from a small fire!), I think those who post do sometimes come up with useful criticisms for the NKT to check if there is truth in or not. I confess that over many years with the NKT I have sometimes been irritated by decisions made by NKT managers and I am also glad for a lot of improvements made in the ways things are run — and I thank the survivors for their part in that. Every organization needs a complaints box!!

    And thank you New Kadampa Truth for getting this stuff out into the open where it can be dealt with.

  12. dharmaprotector says:

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire… or arson.

  13. charlotte says:

    just an observation…..from what I have read most people on the “survivors” site have valid reasons for being there and truly wish they were not in the position of finding fault with something they held dear for, for some, many years . They have not arrived at their current way of thinking without a great deal of soul searching and also many many concerns ,doubts etc.
    Whatever ones opinion may be, EVERYONE deserves our utmost love and compassion and deep deep understanding.
    We must all examine our own intentions and check that we are performing the most appropriate and correct actions .

    yours humbly C

  14. Mark says:

    Hi Charlotte,

    I agree with your sentiment, but I think the reality can be a little different. I have a 2 year old daughter, who vehemently hates having her teeth brushed but we do it anyway because we know it is good for her. I think, with all due respect, this website is a bit like the parent…

    I didn’t particularly like school, or a few of my jobs in the past, but I realise that life can be like that. I don’t conclude that we should close down all the schools or shut down all previous places of employment and blame them for all my problems!

    Also, just to clarify I sometimes see things done at my centre that I think are wrong. I have also had unhappy times while attending the centre or at festivals. But then I have also had similar experiences in all other aspects of my life. I have been around dharma centres and the NKT for over 12 years, and I have seen many things happen – good and bad. However I never lost sight of what I think is Geshe-la’s pure intention and what the NKT is trying to achieve. And in conclusion, I think the world would definitely be a lot darker without the NKT.

    Respectfully

    Mark

  15. Dakini says:

    Thanks for such great articles and comments – it’s so inspiring to read about these Internal Rules. I once read somewhere (I forget where now) about the ‘rules’ that Buddha left for his disciples after his passing away to ensure the Dharma remained pure for as long as possible. Sounds familiar… hopefully through these Internal Rules, the Kadam Dharma will be around for a long time yet.

  16. Richard S says:

    What do people think about the idea of NKT managers and teachers checking out the Survivors’ group (if they have not already done so) just so they can ask themselves honestly and without fear, “Am I myself guilty of any of these behaviors described here?” Would there be anything to lose?

    Another way of doing it would be to check the New Kadampa Truth website where pretty much every grievance has been addressed, and, again, to ask humbly as an individual, “Do I ever do this?” e.g. “do I ever tell people to read only Geshe-la’s books? Do I ever pressurize people into over-working? Do I ever behave a little fanatically?” Or whatever.

    The Kadampa tradition itself clearly does not desire nor encourage these behaviors, hence the website and the Internal Rules (not to mention the holy Dharma); but individuals within the organization are naturally capable of making these kinds of mistakes due to delusions. This might therefore be a good litmus test enabling us to follow Atisha’s advice to identify and overcome any faults we might have. Especially those faults that are in any sense responsible for the NKT being thought by some people to be cult-like.

    What do people think?

  17. Extremador says:

    Im already seeing changes & Ive seen changes in the NKT trying to address any extremes & remove them. But new people can still come along & in their own wave of excitement do many fanatical things. Its important for teachers & senior students when they see people being overexcited in this way to say ‘Its a free country but this is not the ultimate aim’ or ‘you can do now but it might make others feel pressure to do long hours too’
    This could be said if theyre overworking, offering everything they own, not resting when ill, neglecting eating at mealtimes. If people see one person doing things like this & the teacher says ‘How wonderful’ this is the beggining of these extremes as its like a big thumbs up for enthusiatic intensive activity. Before you know it its the norm, its the routine, its the tradition. The BEST is to say ‘very nice you enjoy if it works for you but extremes are not the traditionals ultimate aim’
    This issue of extreme behaviours can be stopped if the teacher doesnt give the thumbs up. Its easy to lose mindfullness & start something crazy with a wave of enthusiasm. This needs to be taught to ITTP students to not give thumbs up.

  18. Dave says:

    I must admit being quite new to all this, but the NKT i have read about on the survivors website bears very littly relation to my own experience. At the centre Ive attended for the past year or so the people have been very welcoming and helpful, the teachers have been wonderful,and I have never been pressured for money or anything else.Im very happy in the NKT,I think Geshe-la’s books are fantastic,and i just dont see any cult-like behaviour…. Unfortunately on the survivors sites you arent allowed to post a view like this.Are they worried that people might actually start to hear the truth?? For anyone unsure as to the NKT, I would say go along to your nearest centre and see for yourself

  19. Extremador says:

    The thing is if a religious experience is powerful are you in a cult?

    Just because a teaching is powerful & you feel compelled to follow the teacher of your own free will doesnt mean its a cult. Many people had powerful feelings of religious devotion in history & they were admired not told they were behaving in an unhealthy way.

    Modern society is so critical of everyone. Teachers cant show anything magical as it makes a big problem. The whole NKt issue is that 1000 years ago if Geshela did this everyone would rejoice but now there can be no lamas making a revival of old teachings.its a sin basically.no lama can reestablish the teachings if things degenerate. They are outcast if they try to do anything good.why? because theyre not towing the line. The main group of lamas take offence that they have no say in the matter or are not in charge. They feel insulted that someone dares to make any decisions. Its all about ego & heirarchy thats my conclusion. These lamas may give beautiful talks as they know the instructions but if they dont respect & let someone try to do something good then its an ego thing. 1000s of years ago people would have tears of joy seeing what was happening, now its all feeling slighted people feeling their heirarchical position is being ignored & then smear campaigns to try to destroy all the good potential & replace it with a bad image of buddhism as a religion of bickering & egos.

    The NKT is not a cult, its much gentler than the non westernised version where you have to do 100 page sadhanas daily or be scowled at & told you will roast in hell for aeons. The NKt is run by imperfect people & the spiritual experiences they are getting are quite powerful BECAUSE it is a very pure teaching & intention of Geshe Kelsang. So of course these powerful energies can be channeled the wrong way at times.but what is the alternative? To prevent people developing these powerful expereiences? close the door to any potential powerful realisation make it all dead & intellectual so noone gets emotional & fanatical?

    How do you think people were when they met someone very pure trying to do something good in the past? like jesus john the baptist moses mohammed…I promise you they were surrounded by fanatical people of course things went wrong because of all the powerful emotions & energies it wasnt perfect but the teacher did his best to correct when people went the wrong direction.

    Nothing is good enough for us nowadays. We have more luxurious bathwater than cleopatra, we eat more luxurious dishes than the emperors of the entire roman empire did. yet we pick at our food & complain that movies that cost millions of pounds & that people risked their lives to make are rubbish. I suppose all the critiques will believe geshela should have taught us all to chant tibetan & consult the dalai lama before doing anything for permission. If milarepa was told he had to consult another lama before he had permission to speak what do you think he would have said? He would have told them to go shove it

  20. Extremador says:

    I found an interesting website where there is support for people in the situation of being deemed a cult because its a new set up http://www.firmstand.org/articles/cult_myth.html
    They are an association campaigning against persecution of people who are picked on because they are not a high number.
    The Foundation against Intolerance of Religious Minorities (FIRM) advocates the human, social, and civil rights of all religious and spiritual groups, particularly religious minorities actively engaged in spiritual practice. In particular:

    FIRM provides education for the general public on all the varieties of prejudice, both overt and subtle, that are currently being practiced openly against many religious minorities. A comparison is made with other forms of discrimination (toward women, blacks, homosexuals, the handicapped, etc.) to which our society has become more sensitive.

    religious tolerance: we still have a long way to go

    discrimination against minority religions via the “cult” myth

    media sensationalism and apostasy: a destructive synergy

    anti-cult movements: systematic religious persecution

    the taboo against religious traditions that make strong requirements of members

    the taboo against gnostic religious traditions and Spiritual Masters

    how to find the truth about a religious movement

    FIRM chronicles the history of persecution throughout the ages of religious minorities and their founders (including persecution of Christianity in its infancy, leading to the deaths of Jesus and many of his disciples), and it examines the origins of (and the motivations behind) such persecution.

    FIRM observes that five stages tend to occur in the fight against intolerance or prejudice of any kind in our time:

    1. Atrocities or injustices are committed on the basis of discrimination of one kind or another.

    2. A social movement coalesces to counter that particular form of discrimination.

    3. The movement is accepted socially; “consciousness” is “raised”; laws begin to change, in the direction of guaranteeing equal opportunity, rights, and privileges.

    4. Now hyper-sensitive to its own discrimination, the society swings to the opposite extreme, in the form of a “political correctness” movement, whose purpose is to eliminate all speech (and action) that might possibly offend, because it could be interpreted as (either overtly or covertly) discriminatory.

    5. The society swings toward a more natural balance, affording both equal opportunity and an open and ongoing forum for the exploration, understanding, and appreciation of real and usefully acknowledged differences among sexes, races, sexual persuasions, religions, etc. (none of which should ever be translated into differences in human, rights, social opportunities, etc.).

    This sequence has been illustrated in the civil rights and womens rights movements, which are both in process between stages 4 and 5. Unfortunately, the fight against intolerance of religious minorities is still largely in stage 1. The various freedoms guaranteed to religion by the U.S. Constitution, and by the constitutions of other governments and international bodies like he United Nations, still largely benefit majority religions exclusively. In other words: we have a long way to go!

  21. Extremador says:

    what I would like to know and get more information on is:

    What is the comparision between historically times when religions spread rapidly & the definition of cult

    What is the comparison between Buddhist monasteries in ancient times & pre 1950 in Tibet & the definition of cult

    What is the comparison between ancient teacher disciple relations & the definition of mind control/cult leader & adherent (Eg Milarepa & Marpa)

    For example, many stories of Buddhists of old have people in them who died for their religion, gave all their wealth away, obeyed their guru as he asked them to do things that harmed their bodies. The great monasteries we hear of were communities of people who were heavily controlled & their freedoms suppressed. If they ‘strayed’ they were booted out. The religion says to regard someone who appears as a human to be an infalliable source of information who is always right (a Buddha). So is the entire philosophy of Buddhism going to be deemd a cult? If these are the characteristics of a cult them a mainstream religion has been a cult for 1000s of years…..
    As a child I saw David caradine endure all the gruelling hardships inflicted by his Buddhist master as well as movies of Shaolin monks & I was impressed. I wanted that life. Is the Shaolin monastery of old fitting the definition of controlling & suppressing freedom. Was it a cult? It was a small community indeed. I think it is as important to publish a book on this topic. I cannot put my finger on it but there is something very important in this topic that will determine if we practice religion in our future lives or develop a dislike for it or wrong understanding of how religion works. We need to sort out our karma.

  22. Extremador says:

    Definition of cult

    I have spent a great deal of time surfing cult info websites filled with many sociologist psychologists & very intelligent people. But they all disagree & do not have a clear definition of cult. I always find Geshe Kelsangs teachings are clear where other people are confused. So I did some thinking and came up with the following definition to be tested to see if it fits all cults. Once we have a definition its easy to establish who is & who isnt.

    My definition of cult is an organisation using psychological techniques that upon realising it is harming its members decides to continue harming them because harming them is bringing leading members wealth, fame, worldly pleasure and popularity.

    In a nutshell it is intentional harm for worldly purposes. The definition also has to be applicable to management training gurus, boot camps gurus, & psychotherapy gurus.

    What do people think?

  23. Jamie says:

    I agree and disagree with several of the opinions on here. It is good to have balanced discussion. I will speak from my experience, and what I have learned. The whole question of whether the NKT is a cult or whether this or that administration is good or bad is almost irrelevant. The benefit from the holy Dharma, including with regards to that “found” through Dharma Centres, is undeniable. It’s there. There’s benefit to be had, for yourself, and ultimately for others.

    My experience is: just be careful – if you are at a crossroads – of what you decide upon.

    It can seem an easy decision to move into an NKT Centre and throw yourself into “helping”, because it’s obvious, clear, set up. However, you need to be very sure that’s what YOU need, and that that’s what YOUR path is. It’s your life, and in the long run, you will have to realize that, no matter how simple or blissful it might appear to move in and jump onto the well-structured NKT train, living your own path, day by day, year by year is the most critical thing you can do. Everything is at stake. Your relationships, your future, others, everything..

    Neglecting some inkling of a personal path different (form or content-wise) than the NKT Centre path will eventually catch up with you. Be true to who you are and what your instincts are telling you, and above all else, do not just jump into any advice that anyone gives you. I know. I’ve tried. We can’t escape living our own individual path…

  24. Lily says:

    If the “smears” against the NKT are baseless lies, why stoop to the level of those doing the smearing? The fact that the NKT has taken the actions it has in defense of its reputation has caused me to question the validity of the teachings, because it is my understanding that good Buddhists do not care about reputation. At least, that is what I was taught by the NKT. So why go against your own teachings?

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama says:

    “As it says in The Way of the Bodhisattva, praise and a good reputation do nothing to increase our longevity or good health. Maybe if lots of people praised us we might get a bit richer! But apart from that, praise does not make us live longer or in better health or help us in any other way. If people criticize us, it does not make us sick or unhealthy and nor does it shorten our lives. It does not affect us in any substantial way at all.”

    – The Dalai Lama, from “Bad Reputation,” Tricycle, Summer 2007

  25. newkadampatruth says:

    Hello Lily,

    Correcting misinformation is not the same as caring about one’s reputation.

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