Why refute the Bodhisattva Centre smears?

September 22, 2008

Someone posted the comment below and and New Kadampa Truth posted the following reply. It has been posted here as an article in case other people are also wondering why New Kadampa Truth is going to the trouble of refuting obvious misinformation against the NKT.

Hi,

Once again, I wonder why so much effort is put into refuting the ‘bodhisattva centre smears’? Without meaning to sound harsh, who cares?! It seems to me very obvious that strong defensive responses create more of an opposition. If there are people with nothing better to do than to make up nonsense about the NKT because they obviously feel a need to defend their egos, point their fingers and cry like babies, lets let them. I do not believe they are powerful or convincing. If people fall prey to their allegations, this is unfortunate, but karma after all. Furthermore- and I say this being a happy Kadampa myself- there have been loads of ‘problems’ and unfortunate events taking place at Bodhisattva Centre and many others over the last 2-3 years. This is human nature, is it not? I see no need to defend the tradition or the centres in the way they are being defended. It will create more separation & opposition.

love, M.xx

From New Kadampa Truth:

Dear M,

Thanks for your comment, you’ve raised some interesting points. It’s certainly true that strong defensive responses create more of an opposition and we’ve seen this since the New Kadampa Truth website went live. This is a good thing – the New Kadampa Truth Team’s intention is to refute all smears against the NKT with the truth. If the more we reply, the more our critics try to find fault with the NKT, and we then reply to those criticisms, eventually we will have publicly answered all points with clear, logical and truthful responses for all to see. There won’t be any more criticism to be levelled at the NKT and then people can make up their own minds about it. The NKT is not afraid to be criticised because we can humbly accept if we have made mistakes – more valid criticism means greater improvement. However, for a variety of reasons there are those who simply want to harm NKT and we need to be uncompromising in rejecting their lies.

The points raised by Carol and other New Kadampa ’survivors’ in their information leaflet contained some misconceptions that needed to be addressed. This drew another response from them with more misconceptions and allegations that needed to be replied to.

Why did we take some much time to reply to the Bodhisattva Centre smears? There are two main reasons:

1. The New Kadampa Truth Team’s main concern is that if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as the truth. For example, the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman have used the word ‘cult’ in relation to the NKT. Even though it is a lie, many people are using this term nowadays and believe it to be the truth even though there is no valid basis for its use. This is what happens when you don’t reply.

2. We’re here to help! Carol’s original document and responses contained misunderstandings about the Western Shugden Society, the NKT and the Shugden issue. If someone who used to be a member of the NKT has such misunderstandings, needless to say there are going to be many people more distant from the issues who lack clarity. Our intention is to shine the light of truth and reason into the dark corners of confusion on a variety of issues for the benefit of everyone. There is so much that needs clarification and we are grateful to Carol for giving us the opportunity to do so. Some of our readers have praised the clarity and comprehensiveness of our responses; we will leave no stone unturned in trying to help everyone to clearly understand the truth.

Best Wishes,
New Kadampa Truth Team


Another Reply to Bodhisattva Centre Protestors, Part Three

September 17, 2008

Dear Carol and friends, here is the final installment of answers to your questions.

Is Dorje Shugden harming the Dalai Lama?

You said: It was often said that the practice of Dorje Shugden would shorten the life of the Dalai Lama. This recent tour seems to be proving that prediction to be correct as the Dalai Lama is now seriously exhausted.

Do you not think that the exhaustion might have something to do with a 74 year old man spending his year jetting around the world giving teachings and meeting thousands of people? Ageing, sickness and death are facts of samsaric life. Are people going to say — when the Dalai Lama naturally dies from old age or sickness — that it was people praying to Dorje Shugden that killed him? Surely such superstitious views have no place in this modern world.

Ask yourself, seriously and rationally as a Westerner who has been educated in science, do you really believe that the practice of Dorje Shugden can harm someone? What words in the prayers are harmful? What quality of the practice is harmful? I think you may be superstitiously believing the Dalai Lama’s propaganda, which has no logical basis. Such blind belief has no place in Buddhism – it is the real ‘evil spirit’ here!

The explusion of monks from their monasteries

Is the explusion of people from NKT Dharma Centres analogous to the Dalai Lama expelling monks from their monasteries?

You say “Long term practitioners, including people ordained and practising moral discipline in the NKT, can be made homeless and/or ostracised by their previous community if the Resident teacher finds their criticism inappropriate”.

It would be wrong for someone to be asked to leave a Centre simply because they had a criticism of a Resident Teacher. Resident Teachers need to deal with personal criticism in a fair and reasonable manner. If someone in a Dharma Centre has a criticism of the Resident Teacher, Geshe-la has said that the student should respectfully discuss this with the Teacher, asking why they acted in the way that they did. If the Teacher has made a mistake, they should admit to it and take steps not to repeat it. The Administrative Director and EPC are also supposed to act if the teacher is behaving incorrectly – this is now in the Internal Rules.

Of course, it doesn’t always work like this as the NKT is not a perfect organization and people make mistakes. For example, I am aware that in your case, Carol, this did not happen and your criticisms of your teacher engaging in sexual conduct might have fallen on deaf ears. It seems at that time that no one in the community of Bodhisattva Centre believed it could be happening. A lot was learnt from the disrobing of Lodro and Thogme and of course it is greatly hoped and prayed for that something like this would not happen again. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you for any mistake. If this was the only reason you were asked to leave your Centre, I think it was wrong. I don’t know the details of why you were asked to leave, and your teacher is no longer available to question; so I invite you to write about it to New Kadampa Truth if you wish us to look into it (we will respect your privacy).

In general, what the NKT is working towards is accountability on the part of the teacher and the student. If, upon honest reflection, the teacher does not find their criticism to be valid, but the student still does, they can take it up with the National Spiritual Director or the NKT Secretary in an attempt to find a resolution (the student can do this anonymously if they wish). However, if a student is openly criticizing the Resident Teacher, thereby destroying the harmony of the community, they should be asked to stop by the Administrative Director of the Centre. If their open criticism is not valid and they do not stop, they will be asked to leave to maintain the harmony of the community. In almost every case, they will still be able to attend classes, even if they are no longer living at the Centre.

This is a reasonable way to deal with disagreements and disputes in a Dharma Centre, but what you say is not analagous to what the Dalai Lama is doing. Here is an analagous example based on what you have said. Suppose that the Resident Teacher of the Dharma Centre said to the Administrative Director:

Manjushri is not a Buddha but an evil spirit. I have made detailed investigations and have concluded without doubt that this is true. Geshe Kelsang was wrong to see him as a Buddha. We must tell everyone that from now on they must not worship Manjushri. All residents must sign to say that they will not worship Manjushri and if they do not they will be expelled from the Centre. If they ask why, tell them that the Resident Teacher said so and this is very urgent.

Residents would then be forced to swear an oath abandoning Manjushri practice, on pain of being expelled from the Centre. Does this seem right to you?

Furthermore, at least in the case of this happening in the NKT, the residents could go to the NKT Secretary and say “our Resident Teacher has gone crazy!” and that Teacher could be removed. Shugden monks in India have no such recourse. The Dalai Lama is the sole authority – whatever he says goes.

If the same kind of thing happened at the highest level of the NKT, with the General Spiritual Director declaring a complete change of spiritual direction away from Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition, according to the NKT Internal Rules he would be removed by the Education Council.

You say: Just as the resident teachers of the NKT centres of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso promote peace and harmony in his communities by quietening criticism and doubt, the Dalai Lama has needed to reduce the conflicts surrounding Dorje Shugden practice by, in consultation with other senior practitioners, withdrawing support for practitioners.

It is not the same situation at all. If a Dharma Centre resident continually disrupts the harmony of the Centre, and every effort has been made to address their problem to no avail, they will be asked to leave. But the Dorje Shugden monks have not caused any problems. They are simply following the 400-year old tradition of their own Spiritual Guides such as Trijang Rinpoche. It is they who are following tradition, the very tradition that established the Gelugpa monastery in the first place. Since they are actual Gelugpas, why should they be punished?

Furthermore, if a Dharma Centre resident is asked to leave, they will find other accommodation, food and so forth. Residents, ordained or lay, choose freely to live as tenants in Dharma Centres and no expectation is set up that the Centre, their landlord, is responsible for housing them from then on. In the NKT, individuals are responsible for their own livelihood. Sometimes the NKT will offer to sponsor students to do certain jobs, and those students are free to choose whether to accept those jobs. However, again, being sponsored does not automatically guarantee that the person must be sponsored for life, anymore than being employed in any other job.

The Shugden monks have vows not to handle money and so forth that makes it very difficult for them to get jobs or procure food, and they have nothing other than a monastic education. Many of them have been in the monasteries since they were small children. These monks have no way to support themselves. Many have unwillingly had to disrobe over the years so that they could work in menial jobs – some of them are now in America working 12 hours a day in a restaurant where before they were esteemed monks and teachers. Even if those in India had the money, for example from their families, they are not allowed into the shops to buy anything.

You say: He is supporting a majority view. For many years, even though the practice was already ‘banned’, monks and nuns who practised Dorje Shugden were still living in these monasteries.

No, the Dalai Lama is creating a majority view. Let’s pretend for a moment that monks who do not practise Shugden are angry and offended at having to share their resources with Shugden practitioners and that this is why the Shugden monks have to be expelled.

Why would these monks be angry? The only reason would be because they have been told that the Shugden monks are spirit worshippers, not Buddhists, and that their daily practice is sectarian and harms the Dalai Lama and the cause of Tibetan independence. But who told them this? The Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama created the schism, just as he is creating a schism between Western Buddhist practitioners now over the same issue (see the previous point about the FPMT). Shugden practitioners are becoming the ‘Jews of Buddhism’, a persecuted minority because of the Dalai Lama’s propaganda.

We can also ask, “Why were the Shugden monks allowed to live in the monasteries until now?” Bearing in mind that Shugden monks had been living peacefully side by side with all the other monks for decades, and they were all like brothers, perhaps it is because the Abbots of these monasteries know that there is nothing wrong with Dorje Shugden. They just hoped that the Dalai Lama was experiencing some temporary madness and would change his mind. Their heart was not in it. This seems to be born out by some of the Dalai Lama’s increasingly insistent speeches, a sample of which I’ll repeat here:

The Dalai Lama gave a speech at Drepung Monastery on 7th January 2008 saying:

With strong emotion, Samdhong Lama accused Shugden devotees, saying that they have made open and overt contact with the People’s Republic of China.

He adds that he thinks it is very difficult for the monks to remain like fish and tadpoles together in the three monasteries of the Gelug Tradition.

The Dalai Lama is preparing a reason to purge the monasteries. Later the Dalai Lama had a meeting with the abbots of the monasteries. He rebuked the Shartse abbot, saying:

‘Shugden devotees are growing in your monastery. If you are this inept, you had better resign.’

The Dalai Lama also reprimanded the Jangtse abbot, saying:

‘You said that the monastery is clean, but there are still some Shugden devotees. You must do better.’

Who is the driving force behind ‘purging’ the monasteries’? Only the Dalai Lama. In his crusade to stamp out the practice of Dorje Shugden, everyone has to do what he says or leave.

The status of the ban and treatment of monks in India

You say: If this ‘ban’ was illegal then surely some government or human rights association would be backing your claims.

It is progress that the fact of the ban is no longer being disputed due to the wealth of evidence on the Internet, including in the Dalai Lama’s own speeches, that a ban is in force. This ban is illegal. There is currently an attempt to get the Dalai Lama to answer for his ban of Dorje Shugden in court in India because he has broken the Indian law by practising Deity discrimination.

As far as support by human rights associations are concerned, there are two things that need to happen. Firstly people have to accept that human rights abuses are taking place and secondly they have to want to do something about them.

It is going to take time for them to want to recognize that the Dalai Lama is abusing human rights. Because the Dalai Lama’s media profile is so high and positive, there is a natural resistance to taking these stories of abuse seriously. It’s like being told that the Husband of the Year is beating his wife! Also the plight of the Tibetans is so poignant – someone recently described them as the “seal pups of the international community” – and people have felt (though of course this is changing) that the Dalai Lama is their only future. So people are not in a hurry to accept such truths.

However, when it becomes clear what the Dalai Lama is doing, it is going to be hugely disappointing to many people. The Dalai Lama was a symbol of hope for many people, but when they realize that the Nobel peace prize winner has been waging his own private war against his own people, while at the same time hypocritically talking about love, compassion, tolerance and religious freedom, they will be understandably upset and their faith in Buddhism will be shaken.

Although the Dalai Lama’s supporters accuse us of being his enemy, actually we are trying to protect the Dalai Lama from the inevitable embarassment that he will experience when all this politicking and abuse become public knowledge. It may not be in the interest of Buddhism for the Dalai Lama’s reputation to be destroyed, but so far he’s doing a very good job of destroying it himself through his own un-Buddhist actions.

So far, a few brave Buddhists are shouting “Dalai Lama, stop lying” and perhaps it is not getting widespread media attention. However, as time goes on, more and more people will become aware that the Dalai Lama is not what he seems. How much better it would be for the Dalai Lama and his followers and supporters if he lifted the ban now, before it is too late


Another Reply to the Bodhisattva Centre Protestors, Part Two

September 14, 2008

Dear Carol and friends, here we continue our answers to your questions!

Questions about Dorje Shugden

Is the practice of Dorje Shugden modern?

The practice of Dorje Shugden can implicitly be traced back to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni because, at that time, one of Buddha’s eight Bodhisattva disciples was Manjushri, and Manjushri and Dorje Shugden are the same person.

Buddha Shakyamuni encouraged many of his disciples such as King Ajatashatru to rely on Manjushri because they had a strong karmic connection with him. In the same way, Gelugpa teachers such as Je Phabongkhapa, the late Panchen Lama Chokyi Gyaltsen, Tomo Geshe Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Geshe Kelsang and Sakya Teachers such as Sachen Kunga Lodro, Morchen Dorjechang Kunga Lhundrup and Dagchen Trinley Rinchen have encouraged disciples to rely on Dorje Shugden because of their strong karmic connection with this particular embodiment of Manjushri.

Manjushri manifests as many different Dharma Protectors, such as the various Mahakalas and Kalarupa. It is accepted by the Dalai Lama and his followers that these Protectors are manifestations of Manjushri, but not Dorje Shugden. Why? If your Teacher tells you “Mahakala is Manjushri” and he also says “Dorje Shugden is Manjushri”, why believe one statement and not the other?

The point is the Dalai Lama doesn’t trust his own lineage Gurus, and in particular his teacher Trijang Rinpoche. The Dalai Lama previously referred to Trijang Rinpoche as his root guru:

‘I received the transmission of the guru yoga (Lama Chopa Guru Yoga Practice) from my root guru, the late Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.’  – Dalai Lama  – The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, Snow Lion Pub.1988.

Rejecting any Buddhist teaching is one of the “great faults”, but the Dalai Lama seems to think he has the wisdom to decide what people should practice and what they should not, even though his view is clearly not in keeping with his teachers’ and he does not have the spiritual authority of being the head of any lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Such interference in the religious practices of others by a political leader is unheard of in the history of Buddhism.

Refuting that Dorje Shugden is separate from Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition

You ask: If you live in a residential centre of the NKT you are also not allowed to engage in the religious practices of another tradition. For instance, you would not be allowed to have a picture of the Dalai Lama on your shrine. What difference is there in this and in the situation in India?

(It is not completely clear to me what you are comparing here, so let me know if I have missed your point). I personally know of several NKT residents who have pictures or books of the Dalai Lama in their rooms, and this is not disallowed — much less have these residents been asked to leave, as is sometimes claimed elsewhere. We don’t have pictures of the Dalai Lama on the Centre shrines as he is not the NKT’s (or Gelugpa’s for that matter) Spiritual Guide or lineage Guru (see Smear: NKT has split away from the Dalai Lama). It is unlikely that many of the Dalai Lama’s followers have a picture of Geshe Kelsang on their shrines for the same reason! In India, even pictures of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche are currently being removed from monasteries.

The situation in the monasteries in India is that over a thousand monks have been expelled (from the homes they have lived in since they were children, in many cases). This is for the crime of continuing to do a beneficial spiritual practice they have done their entire lives in those same monasteries, taught to them by their beloved Spiritual Guides who were Abbots, high Lamas and so on of those monasteries. In many cases, they have a life entrustment to do this practice. Some who chose the expediency of giving in to the Dalai Lama and giving up their reliance on their Spiritual Guide have described it as having their heart ripped out.

Just to get this into context, the practice of relying upon Dorje Shugden was a key practice of Je Phabongkhapa (the most famous Gelug Lama in the first part of the twentieth century) and of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (the most famous Gelug Lama in the second half of that century). Since the Gelug tradition was by far the largest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, it is safe to assume that relying upon Dorje Shugden was a key practice of a large proportion of Tibetan Buddhists at the time of the Chinese invasion and in the early years of the Tibetan diaspora.

Meanwhile, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) have followed the Dalai Lama’s suit and recently barred from their Centres anyone who practices Dorje Shugden. This policy of discrimination is stated clearly on their website, and it seems extraordinary that, in this day and age, no one in the FPMT or elsewhere has questioned it. The NKT does not have anything remotely comparable to this policy and allows anyone to attend teachings; and yet it is accused by its detractors of sectarianism. If the NKT had a blatant policy of sectarianism like the one spelt out on the FPMT website, there would be a huge outcry. Naturally, the NKT would never hear the end of it. So why is there not even a small outcry about the FPMT’s policy? It seems because they feel safe hiding behind the popularity of the Dalai Lama, assuming that people will not question it; and, so far, they are correct in this assumption.

It may be worth pointing out that the Dalai Lama’s discrediting of Dorje Shugden is not simply an attack upon a Dharma Protector who, being a Buddha, needs no defending. Because relying upon Dorje Shugden was a key practice of Je Phabongkhapa and his disciples, an attack on Dorje Shugden is an attack on the spiritual heritage of all these Buddhist masters. If it is true, as the Dalai Lama claims, that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit, it follows that these and many other Buddhist masters were relying upon an evil spirit — thus discrediting them, their followers, their Gelugpa tradition and their lineages of spiritual transmission. It is this, along with the unprecedented attempt to forcibly ban this practice, that Dorje Shugden practitioners find so unacceptable. They are not saying that non-Dorje Shugden practitioners are not entitled to their own religious practices and traditions, only that they are entitled to theirs.

Is the ‘Dorje Shugden problem’ a political issue?

You say: Concern for the ‘Tibetan people’ is a ‘political’ cause but concern for Dorje Shugden practitioners is not?

Tibet is a country that has a Government in Exile (TGIE) and the issues of Tibet are the issues of the government and political by nature. The practice of Dorje Shugden is an essential part of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition and it is a spiritual practice. Campaigning for religious freedom is very important because it affects the spiritual lives of Buddhists. The WSS believes that by practising Buddha’s teachings people can attain permanent liberation from suffering. If these teachings are lost or corrupted, there will be no possiblity of finding permanent release from suffering; so maintaining these teachings is a religious and not a political issue.

It may be uncomfortable to hear but, according to Buddha’s teachings, politics, such as campaigning for a free Tibet, will never lead to permanent liberation from suffering, whereas restoring and protecting a pure spiritual practice that can get people out of samsara will.

You say: If this is about religious freedom and not a political issue, why can’t the NKT itself protest against the Dalai Lama? If it is a political issue then why are members of the NKT engaging in Tibetan politics when the NKT pertains to be non-political?

I can understand your confusion. This problem comes from not distinguishing between the religious and the political dual role of the Dalai Lama. I believe even the Dalai Lama has this problem.

The pure practice of Dorje Shugden has never been ‘Tibetan politics’. The Dalai Lama has made Dorje Shugden into a political scapegoat, blaming his failure to get Tibetan independence on the worship of this Deity. All the WSS is trying to do is to protect the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa. Why is this political? Who is engaging in politics here?

The NKT itself does not protest against the Dalai Lama because many more people than those in the NKT are affected by the Dalai Lama’s ban. As mentioned above, there are many Gelugpas in this world. The WSS is an ad-hoc association of Dorje Shugden practitioners. It is not only the NKT that disagrees with what the Dalai Lama has done.

You say: If Tibetan problems are nothing to do with the WSS then why are you protesting against the Tibetan political leader about his management of Tibetan monasteries? There is no ban on practising Dorje Shugden for NKT practitioners. Do you wish to have the approval of the Dalai Lama?

If the Dalai Lama is a political leader, why is he involved in the management of Tibetan monasteries? This would be like President Bush making decisions about what US Dharma Centres do.

The Dalai Lama wants to have his cake and to eat it – he wants to be a politician and he wants to be a spiritual leader at the same time. These roles are incompatible. With all due respect, confusion over what he is seems evident from your questions and responses, and I think this confusion stems from his ambiguous dual role – is he the political or the religious leader? What does he want from the world and its people? Even the media is often unsure how to refer to him and world politicians are ambivalent about whether or not to meet with him. His theocratic role is unique in this modern world and, for those who disagree with him, there is no recourse because of it.

Practitioners of Dorje Shugden will probably never get the Dalai Lama’s approval, which of course makes many of them very sad, as you can see from their stories on this video. But what they need is the freedom to practice, the freedom not to be ostracised from their communities, and the freedom not to be demonized as non-Buddhists engaging in ‘cult-like’ practices worshipping an evil spirit. Since the Dalai Lama is the source of this slander, the Western Shugden Society need him to retract his statements and give religious freedom; nothing more.

I’ll post the final part of the replies tomorrow. Once again, thank you Carol for the opportunity to answer your questions. Hopefully these answers will be helpful for others also who are wrestling with doubts, at least enough for them to respect this position even if they do not agree with it.


Another Reply to the Bodhisattva Centre Protestors

September 13, 2008

New Kadampa Truth wrote a reply to Carol McQuire on all the points she made, and she has now posted more replies, which can be found on various websites, such as Tenzin Peljor’s. (We know from Tenzin’s website that Carol McQuire was the person who organized the original leaflet to hand out outside Bodhisattva Centre.)

(Carol’s original leaflet has also been made into a new blog imitating the design of this one, created by someone called exKelsang conscript. The answers to the points raised there have not been included on that blog but can be found on the New Kadampa Truth’s original replies. )

We thank Carol for the opportunity to clarify further.

We have not answered each of the points individually as this will turn into an interminable debate about small points. We have answered in a number of subject areas as follows:

New Kadampa Tradition questions

Practising one tradition or many?

The presentation of Buddha’s teachings can be original but the content of the teachings cannot change. In this sense, the New Kadampa Tradition is both traditional and new. The three study programmes are a new development but what they teach is traditional Buddhism.

Because you consider it a good thing to study books from several Tibetan traditions and commentaries by many Teachers, you seem unhappy that the New Kadampa Tradition study programmes are based only on the tradition of Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa as presented in Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s commentaries; and you see this as a disadvantage. Why? Please provide a logical justification or simply accept and respect that some people want to practise many traditions and some people want to practise only one. Everyone is different and has choice. If you wish to study with many different traditions, you are free to do so. In the New Kadampa Tradition we believe we have received a full set of instructions for attaining enlightenment that work for us, and it is our freedom to follow those instructions.

Later, you say: Even practices taught by Je Tsongkhapa such as Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka, are not considered appropriate practices in the NKT.

This is completely untrue, whoever told you that? The practice of Guhyasamaja is implicit in the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide because we meditate on the body mandala of Guhyasamaja. (See Great Treasury of Merit). The practice of Yamantaka is implicit in the Offering to the Spiritual Guide, Heart Jewel and Wishfulfilling Jewel. (See Heart Jewel).

It is wrong to say that we do not rely on Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka in the NKT. For example, in Heart Jewel Geshe Kelsang says that accomplishing the attainment of Je Tsongkhapa has the same function as accomplishing the attainment of Yamantaka, and reciting the Migtsema prayer has the same function as reciting the mantra of Yamantaka. The Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa is practised every day in NKT Dharma Centres.

In accordance with the instructions of his own Spiritual Guide, Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang, Geshe Kelsang has presented a simple practice of Highest Yoga Tantra where we rely upon the practices of Heruka and Vajrayogini to attain enlightenment. How many paths to enlightenment do we need? Relying sincerely on one Tantric Deity as the synthesis of all Deities accomplishes the attainments of all Deities.

Moral discipline and support issues in the NKT

You say: The last three Resident teachers have left Bodhisattva Centre through problems with moral discipline. Geshe Kelsang appointed all of these teachers. Have the causes of this lack of moral discipline in very long term practitioners been addressed? The new Internal Rules require the educational programme co-ordinators to aid in creating an environment suitable for the teacher to be able to practice moral discipline. How is this implemented? Are there clear guidelines….etc

You’ve raised some good food for thought here, thank you. As an organization and as individuals, we are generally trying to improve and to support teachers and practitioners, both lay and ordained, and we will give your points due consideration.

WSS questions

Clarifying the relationship between WSS and NKT

You seem confused about the relationship between the WSS and the NKT. It has to be said many times: the WSS is NOT the NKT. The WSS has many more members than the NKT because it includes all Shugden practitioners who are suffering under the Dalai Lama’s ban, including all Tibetan practitioners of this Deity as well as Western practitioners of this Deity from non-NKT Buddhist Centres. It also includes some non-Buddhists who have sympathy with this issue and who have supported the demonstrations as a matter of religious freedom and human rights.

Is this so difficult to understand?

It is true that Geshe Kelsang asked his students to help with the WSS, but that does not mean that the WSS is the “political front” of the NKT or other uninformed associations that people are making on the Internet. Geshe Kelsang has been concerned about the Dalai Lama’s political actions of destroying the pure tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. He has also been asked for help by Tibetan practitioners in India. He decided to respond and to take some responsibility, and he asked his students to help by supporting the WSS demonstrations. These are currently seen as the only way to make the Dalai Lama listen and hopefully engage in dialogue to solve this problem.

Geshe Kelsang as an individual, concerned Dorje Shugden practitioner has requested his students as individual, concerned Dorje Shugden practitioners to support the WSS. Many NKT practitioners want to help but there are also many who remain uninvolved in the demonstrations.

The WSS is independently funded and has no financial ties to the NKT at all. My understanding from the WSS is that many private individuals have been incredibly generous – including many Tibetans who for various reasons cannot attend the demonstrations in person but support them through their money and prayers. The WSS receives funds through its website into its own bank account.

Geshe Kelsang has encouraged his NKT students to support the WSS with their time and energy because if the Dalai Lama succeeds in destroying the reputation of Shugden practitioners in the minds of the general public as successfully as he has done in the minds of his followers, the NKT will have no function and will not be able to benefit others by offering the teachings of Je Tsongkhapa throughout the world. (Just look at E-sangha for evidence of this and the accusations of people like Robert Thurman). The NKT is therefore supporting the WSS in protecting this pure Buddhist lineage for both this and future generations.

Is it the intention of the WSS to disrupt the teachings of the Dalai Lama?

You said: It is reported that these loud but peaceful demonstrations have been so loud as to interrupt the teachings of the Dalai Lama. Was the intention to stop the teachings? Why continue with hours and hours of ‘loudness’ if the people you wish to reach are trying to listen to Dharma? Are you saying that no-one should listen to the Dalai Lama? That his teachings are so contaminated that you should interrupt them?

No, it is not the intention of the WSS to disrupt the teachings of the Dalai Lama. It is of course people’s choice whether they attend his teachings and follow his view. Many people appreciate him. But the WSS does not believe that he is perfect or that he is right on this issue, and it is normal and healthy in a democratic society to express concerns about leaders who are adversely affecting your life.

The WSS is only wanting to engage him on the subject of Dorje Shugden. Since the Dalai Lama will not listen to Dorje Shugden practitioners, and diplomacy has not worked, the WSS has to be “a fly in the ointment”, so to speak. They are therefore exercising their democratic right to demonstrate wherever the Dalai Lama is giving teachings.

This is not much different to you standing outside Bodhisattva Centre and handing out leaflets – the difference being that at this point the NKT are trying to understand and respond to your concerns.

I will post part two of this reply to you tomorrow.


Bodhisattva Centre Refutations

September 9, 2008

Recently at a Bodhisattva Centre (Brighton) Open Day, two people handed out leaflets to newcomers in order to dissuade them from attending the Centre’s Buddhist meditation classes. Many of their complaints stem from their dislike of the open opposition of many New Kadampa Tradition students to the Dalai Lama over his ban of one of their spiritual practices. It is understandable that some people might wish to protest in support of the Dalai Lama and it is their freedom to do so. Moreover, the New Kadampa Tradition and Bodhisattva Centre have not claimed to be faultless organizations. However, the information these two people were handing out was largely incorrect and misleading, so we need to address it here. Please let us know if you have any more questions about any of the issues raised below.

This leaflet has also been copied and pasted onto a couple of other websites. Most recently it has been adapted into a new blog imitating the design of this one, created by someone called exKelsang conscript. The answers to the points raised there have not been included on that blog but can mostly be found below.

Replies to: Information about Bodhisattva Centre

(We thought you might like to know)

The Buddhist Centre you are about to visit is one of the larger residential Centres of the New Kadampa Tradition.www.kadampa.org You may notice that the publicity for this Open Day does not mention the NKT or any Registered Charity information about the Centre.

This was not a deliberate omission. Bodhisattva Centre was not trying to hide the fact that it is a member of the New Kadampa Tradition or a registered British charity, and these facts are very clear from all the other Centre publicity.

If you commit to study with the NKT at Bodhisattva Centre you will only study the books of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The original texts they are based on are also available in many other Buddhist traditions.

Geshe Kelsang’s books form the basis of the three NKT study programmes (the General Programme, Foundation Programme and Teacher Training Programme) but outside of their studies NKT students can and do read what they wish. Everyone has freedom to do as they choose. Please see Smear: NKT students are not allowed to read non-NKT books for more information on this.

It is reasonable and consistent with other traditions of Buddhism to study only the books of that tradition — for example, you don’t study Zen texts in a Theravadin monastery. Geshe Kelsang’s books are based on Je Tsongkhapa’s commentaries to Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings, which are mostly in Tibetan. Some translations are available but most are not. For example, Geshe Kelsang’s Tantric books have no precedent; such detailed instructions are not generally or easily available, even in the Tibetan tradition. Geshe Kelsang has received requests for Guide to Dakini Land, for instance, to be translated into Tibetan so that Tibetan practitioners can benefit from it.

Geshe Kelsang has never claimed that his books are his original work. In Buddhism there is no original work because the teachings should be able to be traced back in their entirety to the word of Buddha. In Joyful Path of Good Fortunefor example, Geshe Kelsang says in the Preface:

I received these teachings from my Spiritual Guide, Trijang Dorjechang, who was an emanation of Atisha; thus the explanations given in this book, Joyful Path of Good Fortune, actually come from him and not from myself.

Geshe Kelsang’s books are the most complete set of instructions on attaining enlightenment available in the West and have been highly regarded by people of varying traditions over many years. You can check the book reviews on Amazon to see for yourself some of the benefit people derive from these books.

You will be taught to meditate on ‘absorbing the Guru’ ( who is manifest in this life as Geshe Kelsang Gyatso) into the depths of your mind and to reinforce this meditation with the protection of Dorje Shugden in the practice of Heart Jewel (daily) or Wishfulfilling Jewel (daily) and Kangso (monthly). This practice is the ‘essence of Kadampa Buddhism’ as taught by the New Kadampa Tradition.

It is your choice who your spiritual teacher is and no one can dictate this to you. The practice mentioned here, Heart Jewel and so on, is a traditional practice of the Gelug (Virtuous) tradition of Je Tsongkhapa, which is the tradition Kadampa Buddhists follow. This tradition has been followed for nearly 400 years by both Tibetans and Westerners.

The Dalai Lama has requested, in order to maintain peace and harmony in the communities of all Tibetan Buddhist traditions, that practitioners of Dorje Shugden should not attend his teachings or view him as their Spiritual Guide. He has not banned the practice. This recommendation does not affect anyone in the NKT. The NKT has always emphasized its complete independence from Tibetan society even though the lineage of the teachings is given as Tibetan.

Without justification, the Dalai Lama has banned the centuries-old practice of Buddha Dorje Shugden that was practised by his own Teachers and, in doing so, has caused a schism in the Buddhist community that has destroyed peace and harmony rather than maintained it. Even though, when questioned by the Western media, the Dalai Lama has claimed not to have banned the practice, well over a thousand monks who refuse to give up their faith have been expelled from their monasteries and lay people are being ostracized and persecuted by their communities — which clearly indicates that it is much more than a “recommendation” or “request”. Please see this video for speeches he has made on the subject, or read what he has said in his own words on a website about this issue.

This “recommendation” or ban does in fact affect the NKT adversely because the Dalai Lama is using his fame and exposure in the West to spread the view that the practice of Dorje Shugden is cult-like and non-Buddhist — hence, practitioners of this traditional and popular Protector Buddha are being smeared with these associations both in the East and in the West, unjustifiably so.

The NKT recognizes that there is a difference between Tibetan society/politics and the Buddhism that came through Tibet, just as there is a difference between politics and religion in general. Buddhism started in India with the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni and those teachings moved through Tibet and are now in the West. Consequently, although there are many lineage Teachers of Buddhism who are Tibetan, Buddhist teachings did not originate there and do not belong to Tibet or any other country. The NKT is a global Buddhist tradition that follows the traditional teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni as transmitted by both Indian and Tibetan Masters through to our present-day Teachers in different countries. The NKT is not a Tibetan organization and is not bound by Tibetan feudal society or politics.

However, members of the NKT, under the name of the Western Shugden Society (WSS) have organised and paid for frequent and persistent demonstrations all over the world against the Dalai Lama accusing him of not being a Buddhist, of lying and hypocrisy.

The WSS and the NKT are not the same. You can find out more about the WSS on Wikipedia.  The WSS is independently funded. The WSS is an ad hoc coalition of Dorje Shugden practitioners from many different countries, including many Tibetan practitioners of Dorje Shugden. Its aims are fourfold:

  • To give freedom to practice Dorje Shugden to whoever wishes to rely upon this Deity.
  • To stop completely the discrimination between Shugden people and non-Shugden practitioners.
  • To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled from their monasteries and nunneries to return to their monasteries and nunneries where they should receive the same material and spiritual rights as the non-Shugden practitioners.
  • That the Dalai Lama tell in writing to the Tibetan community throughout the world that they should practically apply the above three points.

The Dalai Lama has been requested to discuss this issue but no reply has ever been received, which is why the WSS has had no choice but to organise demonstrations to raise public awareness of this problem.

Unfortunately, there is clear evidence that the Dalai Lama is lying and being hypocritical about this issue. For example he has said that there is no ban on Shugden practice (there is) and he talks constantly in public about religious freedom, love and tolerance while, under his orders, his people are being discriminated against and denied basic human rights if they refuse to give up the practice of this traditional Buddhist Deity.

The NKT is not allowed, under British Charity Law, to engage in political activities such as public protest. Some of the prominent members of the WSS who have been protesting are Gen Kelsang Khyenrab, Deputy Spiritual Director of the NKT, Kelsang Rabten, National Spiritual Director of NKT Australia, Kelsang Pema (the main public spokesperson) personal assistant to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso for more than 8 years, and the current resident teachers of Bodhisattva Centre and centres of the NKT in Bexhill, Huddersfield, Wales, London, etc as well as many residents of this NKT centre in Brighton.

The NKT has not engaged in any political activity. As mentioned, the WSS is an independent body that is not affiliated with the NKT. Even so, WSS demonstrations are not political but are spiritual actions to stop the pure spiritual tradition of Je Tsongkhapa from being destroyed by political interference by the Dalai Lama. The demonstrations are loud but peaceful.

Since many dedicated NKT practitioners naturally practice Dorje Shugden in accordance with tradition, of course as individuals they are supporting the aims of the WSS, along with a large number of non-NKT Dorje Shugden practitioners, including Tibetans. However, the NKT charity is not organizing any demonstrations.

In the last two years many high level teachers of the NKT have left under suspicion of sexual misconduct including Gen Samden Gyatso, the previous long term Deputy spiritual director of the NKT as well as at least two Resident Teachers of Bodhisattva Centre.

It is true that Samden and two Resident Teachers of Bodhisattva Centre have left due to an inability to keep their vows of celibacy, and this is deeply regretted. Bodhisattva Centre has indeed been far more adversely affected by this behaviour than other NKT Centres.

[N.B. Since writing this, I heard from someone who rightly pointed out that Losang Dragpa Centre has been the most adversely affected by impure behaviour. LDC was the first (and hopefully the last) NKT Centre to be dissolved.]

It is worth noting that, unlike many religious leaders, even within Tibetan Buddhism, Geshe Kelsang himself has never had any accusations of impropriety leveled against him in terms of his moral behavior. The overwhelming majority of the 700 monks and nuns in the NKT do keep good moral discipline, and “many high level teachers” is a large exaggeration. Please see Smear: NKT has a lot of sexual scandals and cover-ups for more information.

So why is the WSS protesting against the Dalai Lama’s advice at a time when Tibetans are being imprisoned, tortured and murdered for trying to preserve their own culture which includes these precious Buddhist teachings?

This is a different issue because Bodhisattva Center is not part of the WSS and the Tibetan problem has nothing to do with the WSS. While they have compassion for the plight of the Tibetan people, neither the NKT nor the WSS have any political affiliations. If the Dalai Lama is undermining his own and others’ attempts to preserve Tibetan culture by his illegal ban and persecution of his own people, that is not the fault of the WSS but of the Dalai Lama.

It is not the WSS who is at fault; they are merely defending themselves against the Dalai Lama’s actions. The survival of the precious Buddhist teachings does not depend upon the survival of Tibetan culture. The WSS are principally concerned that the Dalai Lama’s politically motivated actions are destroying these teachings, and are therefore acting to stop him. The Dalai Lama has brought the protests on himself by banning the practice of Dorje Shugden and refusing to engage in discussion about it. Since it is the Dalai Lama who refuses to engage in dialogue, the WSS has had no choice but to act by organizing demonstrations.

Is the WSS creating difficulties for the Dalai Lama in the public arena in order to deflect public awareness of internal difficulties in the NKT under the pretence of protecting the practice of Dorje Shugden practitioners?

Not at all. As was said before, the WSS and NKT are different organizations. The WSS exists solely because of the actions of the Dalai Lama. There is no “pretence” because the practice of Dorje Shugden practitioners is being destroyed by the Dalai Lama and action has to be taken now. The Dalai Lama has brought these difficulties upon himself through his dictatorial and illegal actions. Once he has lifted the ban, all WSS activities will cease. For more information, please see www.aboutwss.org and www.wisdombuddhadorjeshugden.org


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