Kadampas in everyday life

December 11, 2010

As it says on the homepage of our website, the aim of the NKTis to introduce practical methods that can help people of all backgrounds solve problems and find happiness. As Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the Founder of the NKT, says:

“Our intention in teaching Dharma is not just to spread Buddhism. We are trying to help the people of this world by giving them special methods to solve their daily problems and to achieve the permanent happiness of liberation. In itself, the flourishing of Buddhadharma is not important unless it benefits others. This is the main purpose of Buddhism.”

Many thousands of people who visit NKT~IKBU Centers worldwide each year, receiving teachings and meeting practicing Kadampas, will attest to this.

There are also some short internet teachings that give a sense of the accessibility of Kadampa Buddhism available on the main Kadampa website.

There is a growing number of personal blogs by Kadampa Buddhist practitioners talking about how they integrate Kadampa Buddhism into their daily lives and use it to solve their own and others’ problems.

Also, on a few NKT Center websites you can find questionnaires of Kadampa students who talk about how they first got interested in Kadampa Buddhism and then answer some interesting questions. For example: Meditation in San Francisco Questionnaires (since 2006)

Interviews  on the main Kadampa site also give a sense of the range of Kadampas and how they use Kadampa Buddhism to transform their daily lives.

These internet teachings, blogs and so on* offer a small taste of a large variety of NKT students from all different walks of life. Tens of thousands of Kadampa Buddhists are scattered all around the world, East and West – some living in Centers, most living outside and working regular jobs – and all doing their best to integrate Buddha’s teachings into daily life to find inner peace, control their minds, and help others.

We hope to see many more representative Kadampa blogs, interviews and so on in the coming months and years.

If you have any helpful or inspiring experiences you’d like to share, please feel free to post them to the comments section of this article.

(*Please note that New Kadampa Truth does not take responsibility for the contents of unofficial blogs etc.)


Reply to Matt MacCurdy’s posting

November 20, 2010

November 19, 2010.

Dear Friends,

You may have recently read an email or posting from Matt MacCurdy about Kelsang Khyentse, the Building Manager of Manjushri KMC.

We know Khyentse very well. Khyentse himself has told people that before he met Dharma, he had angry behaviour. He has said that since he met Dharma and became a member of the NKT community, he has pacified his previous anger problem and has found a peaceful and meaningful life.

Khyentse helped to build the Temple at KMC New York for many years. There were no problems and people were happy with him. Then he worked on the building projects at KMC France, KMC Germany and KMC Spain for several years – again there weren’t any problems and people were happy with him. Normally as the Building Manager here at Manjushri KMC, Khyentse works with groups of people and again everyone is happy with him. So we understand that Khyentse is telling the truth when he says that through meeting Dharma, he has pacified his previous anger problem.

Unfortunately this year in Brazil, two things happened — Khyentse had very heavy responsibility for the Temple building project with tight completion deadlines and also some people caused him to become angry. Because of this, his previous angry behaviour returned. We are very sorry that this happened.

As NKT Managers we are now asking Khyentse to please maintain a peaceful mind, and we are also trying to prevent other people from causing his anger to return. In this way we believe that such problems can be avoided in the future.

I hope this information is helpful to you,

Warm regards,

Steve Cowing
NKT – IKBU General Secretary on behalf of NKT-IKBU


What is the relationship between the NKT and Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners?

August 3, 2010

Our relationship is one of mutual support, mutual respect and love. We are all disciples of Lama Tsongkhapa, we follow in the spiritual lineage of Gelugpa instructions passed down through the great Lamas Je Phabongkhapa and Trijang Dorjechang, and we do this with the help of our Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden. NKT students have joined Tibetan monks and Tibetan lay people in the Western Shugden Society demonstrations requesting the Dalai Lama to give freedom to Dorje Shugden practitioners. Geshe Kelsang and a number of NKT students have also supported the new Gelugpa monasteries, Shar Gaden and Serpom Norling, not just morally but with generous financial aid. Shar Gaden acknowledge his courage on behalf of all Dorje Shugdan practitioners and his help in bringing these new monasteries into existence.

Inviting other teachers?
NKT individuals naturally have the freedom to go to other teachings given by other Lamas at different institutions if they wish. Representatives of the NKT, such as teachers and managers, are not however permitted to invite Lamas from different traditions to teach.

Recently, a visiting Tibetan Lama and Dorje Shugden practitioner, who is currently in the States to help highlight the situation with the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden practice, was invited by some NKT teachers to teach at a branch of one of the NKT centers. They were then requested not to do this because, as Geshe Kelsang has said, “We are different traditions.” Over the years, the NKT has consistently resisted inviting Tibetan teachers, including fellow Dorje Shugden practitioners, to teach at NKT centers and this is now in the Internal Rules. This article will help to explain why.

Different traditions
That we are different traditions is evident in several ways. For one thing, it is unlikely that the three NKT study programmes will ever be adopted at the Gelugpa monasteries in India (even though many Tibetans who speak English greatly admire Geshe Kelsang’s commentaries), or that Western NKT teachers, lay or ordained would ever be invited to teach Dharma at Gelugpa monasteries or centers. This is all well and good, as we are different traditions; we are a Western tradition, within Western culture for Western practitioners, and they are a Tibetan tradition, within Tibetan culture, teaching largely in a monastic context.

Here in the West, the majority of practitioners are lay and live in vastly different cultural circumstances from those found in Tibet and India. What works for Tibetans does not easily translate for Westerners and the presentation of the teachings, which has been carefully designed for Westerners, differs widely from the Geshe program taught in the monasteries. As it says in the Internal Rules:

15§1. The Education Programme of all NKT-IKBU Dharma Centres shall consist only of the three New Kadampa Tradition Study Programmes: the General Programme, Foundation Programme, and Teacher Training Programme.

15§2. These programmes form the very core of the NKT-IKBU, and are what distinguishes the New Kadampa Tradition from other traditions.

Other teachers from other traditions can of course be realized beings and qualified to teach holy Dharma in general. The NKT has never said that it has a monopoly on Dharma — that would be going directly against our understanding that Buddhas appear in different forms to help diverse living beings. But, logically enough, only those trained in the NKT study programmes are qualified to teach those programmes.

Geshe Kelsang has taken into account that most Westerners lead very busy and full lives and so the Dharma he presents has become more and more immediately practical. The circumstances are different to the monasteries, where the Geshe program takes twenty years to complete and is intellectually rigorous, involving huge amounts of memorization and formal debate. Some of the monks then go onto do retreats. This system has produced many qualified practitioners, including our own lineage Gurus! But the average Western Buddhist does not have the time or the inclination to complete a 20 year Geshe degree – only one has managed to do this. The NKT study programmes differ from the Geshe program in their very practical emphasis on Lamrim, Lojong and Mahamudra and the emphasis on meditation and retreat. And it is true to say that Geshe Kelsang has conveyed the priceless Ganden oral lineage in a clear, unique and precious way to his Western disciples, for which they are very grateful.

In the NKT the teachings emphasize how to integrate the practices into daily life with family, jobs, etc. Many of the sadhanas have become shorter, with more time for meditation. As it says in the Internal Rules:

16§1. All NKT-IKBU Dharma Centres shall follow the same tradition regarding rituals, retreats, pujas, and granting and receiving empowerments.

These rituals are in many ways far simpler (and shorter) than those in the monasteries. If we examine the life stories of those who grew up in the monasteries, they are utterly admirable, yet utterly unrepeatable for most people in the West. Shar Gaden and Serpom Norling however can recreate these conditions for Tibetan monastic practice in accordance with the changing needs of their own students. Other lay Lamas in the Tibetan tradition can also provide the conditions their own disciples might need.

Books
Even Geshe Kelsang’s detractors acknowledge that his books (which are the basis of the three study programmes) are written by an erudite Buddhist scholar, and no one has found mistakes or inaccuracies in any of them. Geshe Kelsang has not omitted or added anything to the meaning of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. It is clear that Geshe Kelsang is an accomplished Yogi with great personal experience, and through his own experience and wisdom has found ways to help students access the profoundest aspects of Buddha’s teachings as elucidated by Je Tsongkhapa in a swift, achievable, and step-by-step way. His textbooks reveal in astonishing clarity and detail all the stages and practices necessary; a complete road map to attain the enlightened state of Buddhahood. What more can we ask? Our job as NKT practitioners is to put these perfect and detailed instructions into practice every day of our lives.

Language
Within the NKT, all the books, teachings and practices at the centers are given in the language of their country. This means that to engage in the study and practice of Buddhism, people do not have to learn the Tibetan language. Within the NKT Study Programmes, there are no linguistic barriers to the study of Buddhadharma.

Monks, nuns, lay men, lay women
Related to this, the moment Geshe Kelsang arrived in the West he set about training and empowering Westerners to teach Buddhism, based on their own sincere spiritual progress, so that they could teach people in their own languages and cultures. He said he wanted four types of teacher — monks, nuns, lay men, and lay women. Geshe Kelsang has ‘democratized’ Buddhism here in the West by appointing teachers in this way and has said repeatedly that one’s Spiritual Guide can be a monk, nun, lay woman or lay man. This is a vast departure from Tibetan ways. Geshe Kelsang also shows no discrimination based on race or sexual orientation, setting the tradition apart from the Tibetan hegemony of the FPMT and other Tibetan Buddhist centres and the 14th Dalai Lama’s condemnation of homosexuality.

No Tulku system
While to some, the practices of recognizing Tulkus and using oracles for divination may seem interesting and exotic, they are well outside Western cultural norms. With respect to the Tibetan Lama mentioned earlier, one NKT branch teacher recently told a relatively new student that “This Rinpoche is even higher than Geshe-la as he is a reincarnate Lama.” This reveals the danger of the Shangri-la syndrome, naively idealizing foreign cultures and grandiose titles as magically perfect and naturally superior to ours. The Tulku system is one of inherited power where reincarnate Lamas (almost always Tibetan boys, even these days) are discovered at a very early age and then groomed for their privileged status and authority. This system creates an unbreakable glass ceiling for Western practitioners. What is the place for lay Gelugpas in the Tulku system? What is the place for women, ordained or lay? This system worked in Tibet on many occasions, but it can and has also been misused by those with a bad motivation for worldly purposes.

The NKT has decided to elect its leaders instead. Indeed, not just one but two women have been appointed to the highest positions in the organization for a period of at least the next four years. This utter breaking with the Gelugpa monastic tradition makes perfect sense in a Western democracy but would not be appropriate for Shar Gaden, for example, which is a Gelugpa monastery. Nuns in the highest position in a Tibetan monastery would be as much of a cultural hurdle there as relying upon the Tulku system would be to the NKT.  It is also worth noting that Geshe Kelsang has not tried to interfere with how Shar Gaden or Serpom Norling are organized, even when his involvement was requested. He has never tried to interfere with any other Buddhist Center in the West either.

No teachers in the NKT have been recognized as a Tulku, most teach without fanfare or recognition. Inviting Tibetan Tulkus and Lamas to teach at NKT centers can undermine the teachers’ credibility simply because Western teachers appear more run of the mill and “like us” than an exotic Rinpoche.

No oracles or divination

The Internal Rules state:

16§2: To prevent Dharma being used for political aims or worldly achievement, no NKT-IKBU Dharma Centre shall follow any tradition of recognising and relying upon oracles, or follow any system of divination.

This is not saying that these systems are always misused or that they never work or should not be used by others. Within our lineage our own great Tibetan Lamas sometimes relied upon oracles and divination. Even Geshe Kelsang himself used divination to find the rebirth of his mother, as explained in the book Introduction to Buddhism. Early on in the NKT years, the oracle of Dorje Shugden came to a few NKT centers and Dorje Shugden composed a beautiful and inspiring long-life prayer for Geshe Kelsang. However, it is true that on occasion this system has been used in the service of political power and still remains open to abuse. Not to mention that an oracle’s possession can present a large cultural barrier to the average Westerner, seeming alien or superstitious. Acceptance of the validity of divinations and oracles, while firmly established within Tibetan culture, is outside of our own.

Ordination within the NKT
At the present time the NKT-IKBU has about 700 ordained people around the world. The way of granting ordination was designed by Geshe Kelsang following the ancient Kadampa tradition. It is very simple and very practical. A great deal has been explained about this on our website and blog.

Independent Buddhist Tradition
The Internal Rules state:

§3 The New Kadampa Tradition shall always be an entirely independent Buddhist tradition and the NKT-IKBU shall have no political affiliations.

Geshe Kelsang has worked hard for the last 30 years to create a modern tradition of Je Tsongkhapa’s Buddhism, one that can be transplanted into any country in the world because it is divested of Tibetan politics and culture. This has not been easy as it has challenged the Tibetan status quo, and over the years even some NKT students have sometimes questioned whether we really need to let go of the Tibetan language, customs and connections with the Tibetan establishment.

However, Geshe Kelsang has a far-reaching, compassionate vision and, as a direct result of his wisdom, skill and courage, hundreds of thousands of people (and millions of people potentially) who would never have met these Buddhist teachings now have access to them and are now practicing Je Tsongkhapa’s clear and powerful Buddha Dharma through the NKT every day. Many Western people in the NKT are making spiritual progress without abandoning their own Western lifestyles, by practicing in their own cultural milieu, and by transforming their own 21st century environments. They are able to do this without having to waste a great deal of precious time figuring out which Tibetan cultural customs and institutions are necessary for their practice and which on the contrary can get in the way of actual inner transformation.

A bridge between east and west, a bridge to the future
This article has outlined some of what has Geshe Kelsang removed and what he has kept. His epic achievement has been in transplanting Kadampa Buddhism from the snowy mountains of Tibet into an entirely alien Western soil so that it becomes a natural part of the landscape of our societies. This is a true bridge. NKT students need to know the nature of this achievement if they are to feel confident about protecting this legacy rather than defensive or out on a limb, or feeling the need to supplement their tradition by inviting other teachers. If we do begin to invite Tibetan Lamas to give teachings at our Centers — teachings that will naturally have subtle and not-so-subtle differences and even contradictions to the three study programmes — what does that say to others about the completeness and effectiveness of our own tradition? And what or whose teachings and path will we then follow?

So, NKT students are encouraged to keep our enthusiasm and respect for all traditions of Buddhism while relishing studying, practicing and realizing our own.

In Part Two of this article we will pursue some of these themes. If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please let us have your comments.


Bulletin: New NKT-IKBU Temple & KMC Development Director

June 13, 2010

Kelsang Pema has been asked to step down as NKT-IKBU Temple & KMC Development Director by the Directors of the Charity because she was no longer performing all the functions of her office in accordance with the Internal Rules.

New Kadampa Truth would like to thank Pema for her sincere work for the NKT-IKBU. We wish her every good health, happiness, and delight in her Dharma practice.

The Directors of the Charity have appointed Kelsang Rabchog, formerly administrative director of Manjushri KMC, to take her place.

Stephanie Atkinson, formerly director of Tharpa Publications UK, is the new administrative director for Manjushri KMC.

Peter Davis is the new director of Tharpa Publications UK.


The sale of Losang Dragpa Centre (Todmorden) and remortgaging of NKT properties

June 5, 2010

Here the NKT office replies to the questions raised in the comments to this article on 21 May 2010 by John Swainson. Thank you, John, for the opportunity to clarify.

(Q1)  Has the NKT used money from the sale of Losang Dragpa Centre (in Todmorden, West Yorkshire) for the development of centres abroad contrary to the Internal Rules?

No.

In accordance with Clause 9.1 of LDC’s Memorandum of Association and with section 17§5 of NKT-IKBU Internal Rules, the Spiritual Director of LDC (i.e. the General Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa Tradition~International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU) advised that it would be most beneficial if LDC’s remaining assets could be given to Manjushri KMC, the original “Mother Centre” of the NKT-IKBU, for subsequent distribution to one (or more than one) other Member Centre of the NKT-IKBU.  This proposal was checked with the Charity Commission, explaining that Manjushri KMC is a part of the NKT-IKBU charity, and was then formally adopted by the directors and members of LDC.

In this way the requirements of LDC’s constitution and of the Internal Rules were met.

The receipts from the sale of Dobroyd Castle were donated by LDC to the NKT-IKBU charity in October 2008. They were then designated by NKT-IKBU to International Temple Project purposes, where the funds would bring most benefit. Some of the funds were used to buy a property for Hotel Kadampa Holland in January 2009, and the rest contributed to subsequent international developments, all to promote the Buddhist Faith of the New Kadampa Tradition around the world in accordance with the charitable objects of LDC and of the NKT-IKBU.

Losang Dragpa Centre (LDC) was closed only because no NKT Teacher was qualified to improve the Centre spiritually or materially, given the history of spiritual impurity at the Centre.

In general, the trustees of a charity are bound by law to strive to realize the current market value of any assets that their charity offers for sale.  This is what the directors of LDC did when selling Dobroyd Castle.  Professional valuations of Dobroyd Castle made in previous years were  not relevant.

(Q2)  Has the NKT raised money, through remortgaging properties, to finance the International Temples Project (ITP) when those properties were in need of funds for development, contrary to the Internal Rules?

No.

Section 18§1 of the present NKT-IKBU Internal Rules says:  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.

The purpose of this rule is twofold:  (1) to indicate to the directors of each Centre that annual profits should not merely be ‘hoarded’ by the Centre; and (2) to give clear guidance as to the most beneficial way to use surplus funds to promote the Buddhist Faith of the New Kadampa Tradition in accordance with the charitable objects of the Centre.

The rule does not otherwise limit the discretion of Centre directors as to how to use their existing Centre assets to promote the Buddhist Faith of the New Kadampa Tradition most effectively.


Bulletin: Changes of Spiritual Director in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

April 14, 2010

There have been some recent changes to the Spiritual Directors of the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU).  Gen-la Khyenrab has resigned as General Spiritual Director (GSD) due to poor health.  This is his letter to the managers of the NKT:

Dear Education Council Representatives and NKT Directors

It is with a heavy heart and regret that I tender my resignation as GSD.  I am unable at present to continue the duties of GSD due to poor health and I am therefore asking if you will accept this resignation.

with love and prayers
Gen-la Khyenrab

Gen-la Khyenrab’s resignation was accepted and he will be returning to his previous position (prior to becoming Deputy Spiritual Director) of Resident Teacher of Tara Kadampa Meditation Centre in Derby, UK.

We at New Kadampa Truth would like to express our deep gratitude to Gen-la Khyenrab for his kind spiritual guidance, sincerity, deep experience, and constant good humour during his years as Deputy Spiritual Director (DSD) and his eight-month tenure as GSD; and we are sad to see him go.  No doubt the students of Tara KMC will benefit greatly from his wisdom and experience, and we all look forward to receiving teachings from him again in the future. Those in North America do not have to wait long, as he is still teaching the US Festival at KMC New York at the end of this month. In accordance with Internal Rule 5.8, retired GSDs can be invited back to teach at Festivals.

In accordance with Internal Rule 5.9, the serving Deputy Spiritual Director (DSD), Gen-la Dekyong, has now automatically become the new GSD and vacated the office of DSD and of North American National Spiritual Director (NSD). Gen-la Dekyong has happily accepted this responsibility, even though it is earlier than she had anticipated. She will be moving to Manjushri KMC to begin this position immediately.

Due to the vacation of the office of DSD, in accordance with Internal Rule 5.10, the continuing Directors of the NKT-IKBU and the main executive officers of the Charity recommended Gen Kunsang of KMC Mexico to become the new DSD, and she was duly elected by a majority vote of all the members of the Education Council of the NKT. Gen-la Kunsang has the qualifications required for a DSD as stated in the Internal Rules.  She is a senior student of the NKT and has served as a very successful Resident Teacher in several countries. Prior to being elected as DSD, Gen Kunsang served as Resident Teacher of KMC Mexico and held the position of the NKT National Spiritual Director for Mexico. She is fluent in three languages — German, English, and Spanish.

Gen-la Dekyong, as GSD, will grant the empowerment of Enlightened Mother Arya Tara and give commentary to the practice at the NKT-IKBU International Spring Festival at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre at the end of May. Both Gen-la Dekyong and Gen-la Kunsang will be granting empowerments and giving teachings at the NKT-IKBU International Summer Festival in July. These are wonderful events that we can all look forward to.

Finally, the new NSD for North America (replacing Gen-la Dekyong) is Gen Jampa of KMC Texas. Gen Rigpa is the new RT at KMC California and Kelsang Norbu is the new teacher (replacing Gen Rigpa) at Drolma Center in Fort Lauderdale!

Let us know if you have any questions about any of these developments.


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

December 31, 2009

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.


Smear: NKT has no lineage after Geshe Kelsang

December 17, 2009

NKT detractors have claimed that after Geshe Kelsang’s retirement in 2009, the General Spiritual Director of the NKT will not be a Geshe, Lama or Rinpoche, and therefore there will be no lineage for NKT in the future.

This objection arises from comparing the NKT-IKBU (New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union) with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, feeling that it should operate in the same way.   This does not have to be the case.   The living lineage of any Buddhist tradition exists in the hearts of its practitioners as realizations.  It cannot exist on paper or in titles such as ‘Geshe’, ‘Lama’ or ‘Rinpoche’.  These titles should be given either out of respect for the example that such a practitioner demonstrates, or as a qualification (in the case of ‘Geshe’) for a particular course of academic study.

In earlier times, titles and paper qualifications were not required for sincere spiritual Teachers and disciples.  For example, Atisha was not called ‘His Holiness’ or ‘Rinpoche’ or ‘Geshe’.  Even students of this great Master  who were called ‘Geshe’ (meaning ‘spiritual friend’) such as Geshe Potowa, Geshe Langri Tangpa and Geshe Sharawa would not have recognised the Geshe degree that passes for a qualification to teach in the Tibetan Gelugpa tradition these days.  They did not engage in such formal study – they simply listened to their Spiritual Guide’s instructions and,  putting them into practice with a pure motivation, developed genuine realizations.  They then passed the lineage of the instructions on to their disciples.

Many great lineage Teachers of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition  never passed a Geshe degree but they were serious, wise and realized Teachers.  As Gyalwa Ensapa, a lineage holder of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition, said in one of his many songs:

My only good qualities are that first I made single-pointed requests to my Spiritual Guide, then I practised my sadhanas as soon as I received them, and finally I attained enlightenment in three years and three months.

As it happens, the NKT-IKBU does have three study programmes, the Teacher Training Programme in particular being very rigorous, consisting of many years of study, exams and meditation retreats. Unlike the Geshe degree, it is not hampered by politics (for example, to study at the Gelugpa monasteries under control of the 14th Dalai Lama these days it is necessary to have signed a document renouncing the practice of Dorje Shugden, a political qualification stipulated by the Tibetan Government in Exile). Also, while containing many profound philosophical subjects such as Lorig (the nature and functions of the mind) and the profound wisdom teachings of the middle way, the NKT Teacher Training Programme is also very practical with the extensive study of Lamrim (stages of the path) and Lojong (training the mind). It is also meditative, orientated towards the Yogi’s way of life, with subjects such as training in meditative concentration and Mahamudra. This is unlike the Geshe degree, which emphasizes philosophical studies instead of practical and meditative ones. To complete the Teacher Training Programme requires great dedication and many years of sincere practice. The final qualifications for any NKT-IKBU Teacher to aspire to are explained in the eleven reversals.

Just as the NKT-IKBU does not need to rely on traditional Geshe training, neither does the NKT-IKBU have to rely on reincarnated Teachers or ‘Tulkus’ for lineage because it is not necessary.   Sadly, there are many examples in the Tibetan tradition of how the Tulku system has been abused for the sake of power, wealth and reputation.   Since mistakes and worldly motivations are common in these degenerate times, it is not wise to rely upon such a system.   A Teacher should be assessed on the merit of their own teachings and example, not by their reincarnation lineage or titles.

The lineage of the NKT-IKBU is maintained as follows:  The essence of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings on the path to enlightenment have been transmitted to Geshe Kelsang’s disciples, both orally and in written form.  These instructions contain everything required to reach enlightenment.  NKT-IKBU practitioners have therefore received the lineage of all of Buddha’s teachings, and through their own sincere study and practice can become a lineage holder.

The purity and authenticity of the tradition is the responsibility of the Education Council of the NKT-IKBU, consisting of the Resident Teachers of all NKT-IKBU Dharma Centers, excepting the General Spiritual Director.  This system is democratic and protects against the NKT-IKBU being taken in a wrong direction by any NKT-IKBU General Spiritual Director who develops a degenerated motivation.  More information about the function of the Education Council can be found in the NKT-IKBU Internal Rules.

Thus, having received the unbroken transmission of the genuine spiritual teachings of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition from Geshe Kelsang, having been authorised to transmit them by NKT-IKBU, and by relying upon Buddha Shakyamuni,  the Teachers of the NKT-IKBU have the authority and blessings to transmit these precious holy teachings for countless generations to come.


Heart Jewel – Standing Up for the Middle Way

October 9, 2009

We’re happy to recommend ‘Emptymountains’ site ‘Heart Jewel – Standing Up for the Middle Way’, which has just been re-designed.

The site is well-written and contains the actual published and unpublished speech of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Trijang Rinpoche and Je Pabongkhapa, which answers the smears and allegations against the NKT-IKBU. It also contains a great deal of clear background and reasonings related to the Dorje Shugden controversy that you may find helpful.

Enjoy!


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

March 25, 2009

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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