Smear: NKT has a global empire of businesses from which it makes lots of money

One common smear from NKT detractors is that NKT is really a money making empire of book publishing, Dharma Festivals and Celebrations, Retreat Centers, hotels, cafes and spas, and that these activities and businesses make a lot of money.

Truth: As far as explicit business activities are concerned, there is Tharpa Publications (whose main purpose is to benefit others by distributing Buddha’s teachings in Geshe Kelsang’s books), and the Kadampa Hotels.

To get some perspective, only three of the NKT’s Kadampa Meditation Centers (KMCs) out of over one thousand Centers and branch classes are Kadampa hotels. These are situated in Malaga (Spain), Tuscany (Italy), and South Limburg (Holland) respectively.  The reason for the existence of these Hotels as KMCs is that when Geshe Kelsang and his students were looking for a suitable building for KMC Spain, the most suitable was a hotel in Malaga.  Unfortunately, the local authorities would not allow a change of use for this building, which had to remain as a hotel, so Geshe Kelsang’s idea was to buy the building and operate the hotel with the KMC inside it.

One of the main aims of the New Kadampa Tradition is to ‘exemplify Buddhist practice through public service’ and a hotel is a perfect medium to accomplish this.  Kadampa Buddhism has cherishing others at its heart, so the intention is for guests to enjoy a stay at a hotel where all the staff have this as their heart practice.  It seems so far that this attitude of the Kadampas who work in the three Kadampa Hotels is the reason for their popularity – the guests are treated with uncommon kindness and respect because the primary aim of the Hotels is to cherish others, not to make money. In any case, profits from these hotels are, as with all profits from Kadampa Buddhist Centers and Kadampa Meditation Centers, donated to the International Temples Project (ITP) for the building of Temples for World Peace.

NKT Dharma Centers, whether Kadampa Meditation Centers  (KMCs) or Kadampa Buddhist Centers (KBCs), often have World Peace Cafes associated with them. Some of these make a profit, but their main purpose is not financial. Their primary purpose is to exemplify Buddhist practice through public service and to act as a means by which the public can connect with Buddhism, or just find out more about Buddhism and the Kadampa Buddhist communities.  Profits from these World Peace Cafes are used to defray the running costs of a Center and to support Center development.  Any funds that are not required for this purpose are donated to the ITP.

No individual or Center can benefit from any profits from NKT activities because these profits are used solely to build Temples for World Peace. This is legally enshrined in the moral discipline guide of the New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union, the Internal Rules:

14§7. The profits from each Festival and Dharma Celebration shall be used only for the NKT-IKBU International Temples Project; except that profits from the annual International Festivals held in the UK may also be used as properly required for the running of the NKT-IKBU.

and

18. Resources of NKT-IKBU Dharma Centres

18§1. Since the purpose of opening NKT-IKBU Dharma Centres is to spread NKT Kadampa Buddhism, all the assets of these Dharma Centres shall be used only for this aim. The annual profits made by each local NKT-IKBU Kadampa Buddhist Centre shall be used for the development of that Centre, including improvements to accommodation and so forth, and any remaining profit shall be donated to the NKT-IKBU International Temples Project account of their respective country.

18§2. At the end of the financial year each local NKT-IKBU Kadampa Buddhist Centre shall send a copy of their annual financial report to their NSD, to the Secretary and to the Temple & KMC Development Director.

18§3. The Directors of the NKT Charity together with the Education Council Representatives shall have the authority to prevent the misuse of the assets of any NKT-IKBU Dharma Centre.

18§4. Annual profits made by the KMCs, international Retreat Centres, Tharpa Publications and Hotel Kadampas in each country throughout the world must be donated to an NKT-IKBU International Temples Project account.

18§5. At the end of each financial year the Administrative Director of each KMC and each international Retreat Centre, the Finance Director of each Tharpa Publications and the Managing Director of each Hotel Kadampa shall send a detailed financial report to the Secretary, the Temple & KMC Development Director and the Treasurer.

18§6. All the funds in the NKT-IKBU International Temples Project accounts throughout the world must only be used for the NKT-IKBU International Temples Project and cannot be used by individual Dharma Centres or for any other purpose.

With respect to the claim that the NKT makes ‘a lot of money’,  all profits are donated to building Temples for World Peace. The more money that is raised, the more people around the world are benefitted through having access to these Temples and the teachings of Buddha.

Some people have argued that business is necessarily bad or at least not compatible with Buddhism. But business, like any other activity, can be either good or bad depending upon the motivation with which we engage in it.  Resources are necessary for benefiting others.  For example Marpa (Spiritual Guide of the famous Buddhist saint Milarepa) would engage in business and use the money he made to travel to India so that he could obtain and bring back Buddhist texts for the benefit of the Tibetans.

One of the six perfections that are the main path to enlightenment is giving.  Through operating Kadampa Hotels, World Peace Cafes and other appropriate businesses, Kadampas have the chance to practice cherishing others, and the profits from these activities are given to others in the form of Kadampa Temples that are intended to create peace in the world. Those training on the path to enlightenment try to give up the wish to keep things for themselves and dedicate their activities and possessions to the benefit of others.  In the case of Kadampa businesses, everything is created for and donated to the benefit of all living beings.

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22 Responses to Smear: NKT has a global empire of businesses from which it makes lots of money

  1. dharmaprotector says:

    Thank you for explaining how the Kadampa Hotel idea came about–this certainly helps to remove the “for profit” connotation that running a hotel usually has.

  2. medibuddha says:

    Public service does not mean making beds and leaving chocolates on a guest’s pillow. Public service means engaging in substantial material activity that improves the lives of those who are lacking necessary resources, such as shelter, food, basic human comfort, safty, medicine, etc. It is laughable to suggest that helping someone with plenty of money have a pleasant holiday is an act of public service. You have thoroughly misappropriated the term ‘public service’.

  3. dharmaprotector says:

    So, public service is only for relieving people’s manifest suffering (Skt. duhkha-duhkhata)?

    Surely, it is also a public service to help others to overcome their changing suffering (Skt. viparinama-duhkhata), as any spiritual organization aims to do.

    And, last but not least, it is also a public service to others to learn about pervasive suffering (Skt. samskara-duhkhata).

    For a religion to focus only on manifest suffering would actually be a public DIS-service.

    Helping others to find the real source of inner peace (even for those who would not normally be inclined to attend a Buddhist temple, but maybe serendipitously encounter it on holiday) is the greatest public service.

  4. Sarah D says:

    The great skill of the NKT having Kadampa Meditation Centres in hotels is that people who would never normally see an image of Buddha or consider going to a meditation class may be attracted to try something that will change their present and future lives forever! I think that’s the real ‘public service’

    I must admit, when I first heard the idea of Kadampa Hotels I had lots of doubts and wondered if this was the right direction to be going in, but having thought about it quite a lot subsequently, it makes perfect sense and is really a great gift to everyone. Just feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and so forth is not as meritorious (strange as that might seem) because it doesn’t give people the opportunity to connect with the path to liberation. As Nagarjuna said, developing wishing love for one moment is more meritorious than giving food to all living beings every day because it’s developing a wish for all beings to find pure happiness rather than the contaminated happiness of ordinary enjoyments.

  5. medibuddha says:

    You have grasped my meaning correctly, dharmaprotector. I’m sorry I cannot speak to the meaning of the Sanskrit terms, I am not versed in Sanskrit. There are several connotations, however, to the phrase ‘public service’ in English which I think preclude us from using it in the way you suggest.

    The term ‘public service’, as used in this blog, is conflated with several other ideas, and this is a disservice to everyone. Those who work in hotels and cafes, volunteering their time and energy are engaging in selfless service, yes, spiritual service and practice, yes, but in public service, not quite. Why? Because though the NKT volunteers are not compensated for their time and energy, the guests do pay for their stay. Public services are not paid for by the individuals who receive them. They are provided to the public by government or non-profit organizations, free of charge to the individuals utilizing the service.

    There is also a connotation of need when we speak of public service. The connotation is loose, and if we look at, say, the Rotary Club that plants flowers in a town center, we might wonder if we “need” those flowers. But it qualifies as public service because the Rotary Club pays for the flowers. Everyone who walks by enjoys them. For free.

    I don’t understand your meaning when you say that religious organizations strive to relieve changing suffering. First of all, this is a concept that is specific to Buddhist thought. Religious organizations exist to provide religious/spiritual guidance, training and support, first and foremost. They sometimes also provide various kinds of service to the public. But I don’t think I ever heard a Christian claim that their religious services, for instance, are a ‘public service’. That would be to confuse the religious with the secular.

    I have no argument with KMC hotels or cafes or anything else, and think it’s a neat idea to have the KMC inside the hotel. But we need to be careful with our terms. You are certainly careful with your delineation of Sanskrit terms. I’d suggest you be similarly circumspect and use English words and phrases within the scope of their commonly accepted use.

    Buddha taught the pervasive nature of suffering because it is subtle, and our misunderstanding of its nature causes us to continue to suffer. While I agree that it is the highest form of service to others to educate them about suffering and its causes, and to help them to create the causes of happiness, I fail to see how that meets the commonly understood definition of ‘public service’. We provide the opportunity to engage in spiritual practice and service. Would it not be clearer to simply call it that?

  6. dharmaprotector says:

    I provided the Sanskrit as it is the Buddhist lingua franca, since not every tradition translates those terms with the exact same English words. For example, manifest suffering translated more literally would be the “suffering of suffering.”

    You say, “There are several connotations, however, to the phrase ‘public service’ in English which I think preclude us from using it in the way you suggest.”

    Yes, you are correct. According to Wikipedia, “public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens.” And, according to the dictionary, a public servant is a government official.

    However, people commonly use the term ‘suffering’ to refer to manifest suffering alone (i.e., they call their changing suffering ‘happiness’ and they are blind to the fact that suffering pervades all six realms of samsara). But just because people commonly have a very limited connotation for the term suffering, does that mean Buddhists cannot also use the term suffering in a more expansive sense? Do we Buddhists have to come up with a brand new term since people usually connote happiness to their changing suffering, for example?

    In the same way, just because your government acknowledges only manifest suffering and so provides public services only for manifest sufferings, does that mean that Buddhists cannot serve the public to help relieve their changing and pervasive sufferings?

    By the way, your taxes pay for your government’s public services, and they pay the salaries of your public servants.

  7. Wishfulfilling Jewel says:

    Hi MediBuddha,

    You make an interesting point. However, language is not a static thing, but something that’s both slippery and always evolving. In other words, while the use here of “public service” may not fit a dictionary definition, this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong or inappropriate; if anything, it’s helpful for us to think more deeply about what the term “public service” really means, or could mean.

    One of Geshe Kelsang’s most loved quotes is “Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible.” All the problems in this world stem from a lack of inner peace. It is delusion that creates starts wars, delusion that creates haves and have-nots, and delusion that harms our environment. While offering methods to recognize, reduce, and eventually remove these delusions, may not be the normal approach to solving societal ills, it is still effective and beneficial in the long run. Since the people offering these teachings offer them as volunteers with an intention to serve others, and since they are offered to whoever shows up to a class without discrimination, I would say these classes are both “public” and “service”. Therefore, I think the term “public service” is appropriately used.

    As all hotels and cafes support these classes, and as the intention of the volunteers is to serve the patrons of those establishments with a good heart and by setting a good example, the ultimate intention is still one of public service.

    Also, it might be helpful to point out…

    – Some Kadampa Buddhist Centers offer teachings in prisons. Likewise, Tharpa donates a number of books each year to inmates. This is definitely a public service.
    – Some Kadampa teachers and students work as hospice volunteers. This is definitely a public service.
    – In Britain, places like Manjushri Centre are becoming tourist attractions, where people can visit the temple and learn about Buddhism in a casual way (free of charge). This, too, can be interpreted as a public service.
    – Also in Britain, Kadampas are invited fairly frequently to teach about basic Buddhist principles in public schools. They do so as volunteers and free of any charge. This could also be called public service.

    I would imagine that in the future, as Centers grow to be more stable and have more Dharma teachers, you will see more and more of them offering things like classes in prisons and Buddhist hospice care. Furthermore, it’s exactly these types of good-hearted services that the hotels and cafes make possible.

  8. the supreme wise jewel of great ego moon cheese.... says:

    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/ShowCharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1015054&SubsidiaryNumber=0

    – Also in Britain, Kadampas are invited fairly frequently to teach about basic Buddhist principles in public schools. They do so as volunteers and free of any charge. This could also be called public service.

    This is a lie , check your facts.

  9. the supreme wise jewel of great ego moon cheese.... says:

    £25 to £50 visit to a school or to visit a centre .
    I know that for a fact.

  10. newkadampatruth says:

    Supreme Wise etc, Could you explain where you are getting this information from? Are you saying it is 25/50 in total or per participant? There is nothing about it in the link you post to the charity commission, nor anywhere in NKT literature or Centers as far as I know. Thank you.

  11. the supreme wise jewel of great ego moon cheese.... says:

    Try looking at the nkts website for a start….

  12. the supreme wise jewel of great ego moon cheese.... says:

    Hotel kadampa golf holidays ….thinking im joking? google it.

  13. Bill Esterhaus says:

    I don’t have any problem with people going on golf holidays whilst staying at a Kadampa Hotel – heck, at least their money is going to something that’s going to benefit others, unlike if it was going to some other hotel. Since the hotel profits are donated to the International Temples Fund (no individual benefits), the money will be used to build more temples so that more and more people can see Buddha images. Since seeing a Buddha is an indestructible cause of enlightenment, it sounds like a good idea to me. What’s the problem with this? I don’t get it.

  14. the supreme wise jewel of great ego moon cheese.... says:

    That’s because you are living in the twilight zone…

    (imbeded video of the Twilight Zone removed)

    Editor adds: Thanks, but your response is neither constructive nor makes any sense, although it is humorous!

  15. The Theravadins do it all by voluntary donation – just saying 🙂

  16. John Swainson says:

    Dear John,

    You can also write directly to the NKT office about specific financial questions.

    Yours,
    New Kadampa Truth Team

    Established in 2008, NewKadampaTruth.org (together with its associated blog) is the online service of a New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT ~ IKBU) Public Relations team consisting mainly of experienced and knowledgeable teachers and administrators within the New Kadampa Tradition. Its primary purpose is to provide in-depth, authoritative refutation of smears against the NKT ~ IKBU for those who have read or heard defamation of this time-honored Buddhist tradition. It also endeavors to increase transparency in the NKT ~ IKBU and pass on complaints. For this reason, it invites comments and questions. People can also write anonymously and know that their questions will be heard and respected and, if wished, addressed privately and discreetly. NewKadampaTruth.org has no physical office. It is associated with and endorsed by the NKT office at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in the UK.

    If the above is the stated purpose then why did my response to the smear about them making lots of money get moderated off the forum?
    There should have been ‘refutation’.
    Truth: As far as explicit business activities are concerned, there is Tharpa Publications (whose main purpose is to benefit others by distributing Buddha’s teachings in Geshe Kelsang’s books), and the Kadampa Hotels.

    Explicit business activities as stated are fine but what about the other less explicit activities, as far as accounting is concerned, such as the festivals, etc.

    The income from these is always shown as income from charitable activities.

    If a festival is advertised and charged for, then it must be a business activity.

    If the intention is not to make a profit, then why charge any more than to cover the costs of the activity?

    Anyway…

    One of the main aims of the New Kadampa Tradition is to ‘exemplify Buddhist practice through public service’ and a hotel is a perfect medium to accomplish this. Kadampa Buddhism has cherishing others at its heart, so the intention is for guests to enjoy a stay at a hotel where all the staff have this as their heart practice. It seems so far that this attitude of the Kadampas who work in the three Kadampa Hotels is the reason for their popularity – the guests are treated with uncommon kindness and respect because the primary aim of the Hotels is to cherish others, not to make money.

    Popularity is called into question after reading these statements.

    INCOMING RESOURCES FROM CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES

    Analysis of investments at 31 December 2008 between funds 2008-2007

    Other investments
    Non-UK Group

    The charity owns all the issued share capital in two foreign companies one in Italy costing £1,368,766, The Pensione Villa Splendor SL and the other in Spain costing £2,109, The New Kadampa Tradition KMC Spain SL.
    The Spanish company was formed by NKT – IKBU in 2005, and operates the hotel from premises which are owned by NKT – IKBU as is the goodwill all of which was purchased in 2005 and is included in the fixed assets. The Spanish hotel has been converted to follow the basic
    Buddhist precepts, including the creation of meditation rooms and shrines.
    The Italian company was acquired in 2006 by purchasing the shares from an Italian family who owned all the shares. The Italian company owns the hotel and grounds. The hotel has been converted to follow the basic Buddhist precepts, including the creation of meditation rooms and
    shrines.
    With reference to the Spanish company the income for the year was £249,774 with expenses of £279,198 making a loss of £29,424. Total assets amount to £606,235 and liabilities total £839,068. Total funds are in deficit by £232,833.
    As regards the Italian company the income for the year was £125,905 and the expenditure was £168,653 making a loss of £42,748. The company at the year end had liabilities of £635,103.
    Assets total £592,355. The market value of the fixed assets including goodwill on consolidation was £1,575,036.

    On reflection they say….

    Goodwill on the purchase of the hotel in Spain has been written off during the year as the opinion of the trustees was that with the poor trading of the hotel its acquired goodwill has been reduced to nothing.

    Meanwhile at Losang Dragpa Centre

    The Centre has continued its efforts to contact those who are shown as having loans to be repaid .
    During the year £3,280 of the unconfirmed loans as at 30th June 2003 were converted into donations with the agreement of the individuals . Despite the efforts of the Trustees over the last three years it has not been possible to contact individuals with loans outstanding of £9,642, as these loans are all in excess of seven years old the Trustees have decided to convert these outstanding amounts to donations in the year to the 30th June 2004.

    FREEHOLD PROPERTY
    The freehold property known as Dobroyd Castle was professionally valued as at the 2nd September
    2002. Based on this report and assumptions contained therein, it was considered that the open
    market value and estimated realisation price of the freehold interest with the benefit of vacant
    possession is a figure of £465,000

    Fixed Assets

    Freehold property £417,860. Fixtures and fittings £37,936

    After depreciation the net book value was£370,698 at 31st December 2007

    Case Study June 2008
    Dobroyd Castle,
    Todmorden
    The Trustees of the Losang Dragpa Centre
    In 2007, Savills were instructed by The Trustees of the Losang Dragpa Centre, to dispose of Dobroyd Castle a former Buddhist College and Meditation Centre. The Grade II* listed Castle is set in 17.5 acres over looking the town of Todmorden.
    The accommodation comprises the main Castle, Grade II listed stable block, three modern accommodation blocks, workshop and gymnasium totalling approximately 49,000 sq ft.
    Marketing commenced in December 2007 and following an extensive marketing exercise contracts were exchanged in May 2008 to an Outdoor Activity Centre operator.
    The property was marketed at £2,250,000 and the agreed price was close to this.

    I am no financial wizard but could someone explain this.

    The valuation was made and depreciation was taken into account. The freehold property was valued at £465,000 in 2002. However the value had reduced by 2007.

    O.K. There was a recession.

    The sale of the freehold in 2008 accrued £2,250,000!

    If they were able to sell for that amount in 2008, why was the statement of assets ie the freehold, showing the value at £417,860?

    It is my belief that the assets of Losang Dragpa Centre were used to finance ventures elsewhere, was this abroad, contrary to the internal rules, and the reasons given about ‘the impurity’ of the centre were ‘convenient’?

    If anyone would like to refute this then I am willing to listen. Until then , it is my belief that the NKT is a business enterprise before it is a spiritual organisation.

  17. John Swainson says:

    I wrote to you on the basis of your statements below.

    ‘If you have any concerns about the NKT from what you have read on the Internet,
    heard from Tibetan Buddhist groups or from your own personal experience, we actively invite you to please let us know and we will do our best to address them. On this site, we wish to address each smear and allegation with truth and facts, with the hope and prayer that concerned people will then be more fully informed and thus better able to resist the erosion of their confidence and the destruction of their trust.

    As it says on the website:

    Established in 2008, NewKadampaTruth.org (together with its associated blog) is the online service of a New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT ~ IKBU) Public Relations team consisting mainly of experienced and knowledgeable teachers and administrators within the New Kadampa Tradition.

    Its primary purpose is to provide in-depth, authoritative refutation of smears against the NKT ~ IKBU for those who have read or heard defamation of this time-honored Buddhist tradition. It also endeavors to increase transparency in the NKT ~ IKBU and pass on complaints. For this reason, it invites comments and questions.’

    In response to my questions you said…

    ‘You can also write directly to the NKT office about any specific financial questions.’

    But, I wrote to you.

    So, are you going to provide ‘in depth, authoritative’ information from ‘experienced and knowledgeable teachers and administrators’

    This is a repeat of my previous post which has disappeared from the blog.

    New Kadampa Truth: John, for one thing, we are not entirely certain what it is you are asking. Also, we reiterate, detailed NKT accounts are available on the Internet for public viewing, and the NKT office (the NKT treasurer) can help you directly with any other specific financial or accounting questions that remain. Yours, New Kadampa Truth.

  18. John Swainson says:

    With reference to contacting the finance office…

    …the accounts published on the Internet will be a true record of the financial dealings of the NKT.

    Decisions are made within an organisation and acted upon. Finance departments simply describe the outcomes, financially.

    The people who make decisions are those who can answer my questions.

    Has the NKT used money from the sale of Losang Dragpa Centre for the development of centres abrosd contrary to the Internal Rules?

    Has the NKT raised money, through remortgaging properties, to finance the ITP when those properties were in need of funds for development, contrary to the Internal Rules?

    I have had no reply from info@kadampa.org, My enquiry was made on the 13th May.

  19. newkadampatruth says:

    Sorry for the delay John. It doesn’t mean there are no good answers to your two questions, it most likely means that the NKT office is very busy, especially during this period between the Spring and Summer Festivals.

    The NKT take the Internal Rules very seriously as their moral discipline guide. It is also a binding legal document, so it is highly unlikely that funds from the sale of Losang Dragpa Centre or any other Centre have been used in any way incompatible with those rules.

    For details other than those publicly available on the NKT accounts, you can continue to await a reply from the NKT office, perhaps when they are less busy. Thanks for your patience.

  20. John Swainson says:

    ‘On this site, we wish to address each smear and allegation with truth and facts, with the hope and prayer that concerned people will then be more fully informed and thus better able to resist the erosion of their confidence and the destruction of their trust.’

    Well, the Spring Festival started on May 28th. The Summer Festiaval starts on July 23rd. My reckoning puts this gap at 53 days.

    The comment about taking the rules seriously is no doubt true but to say it is ‘highly unlikely that funds from the sale of Losang Dragpa Centre or any other Centre have been used in any way incompatible with those rules’ is not helpful.

    To claim the office will reply ‘when they are less busy’ does not accord with the intention expressed in the opening quote from your website.

    John Swainson

  21. newkadampatruth says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your patience. Replies to your questions received from the NKT office have been given in a new blog article. Once again, thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

    All the best,
    New Kadampa Truth

  22. Michelle says:

    Ive been thinking and perhaps it would be good to have a clear educational page or updates of the progress that is coming from fundraising. If there is going to be a strong emphasis on fundraising perhaps a website showing what is developing such as a blog with posts each time a new place opens or someone gets a new bigger building. On such a website the people in the said city can put thankyou messages to those who helped raising money and write articles saying what benefits they are experiences. For example I live at Madhyamaka Centre. I dont know where the money came from to begin this centre. Perhaps somebody donated a house who knows. But I would like to write a post thanking those people because if Madhyamaka centre had not been started I would not be a Buddhist.
    People have very mixed feelings about the fundraising emphasis. I think the feeling is strong enough that a website dedicated to the topic will totally reverse any doubts

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