Answering those who disparage the NKT ordination, Part Two

October 1, 2008

The ten commitments of ordination as practiced in the NKT have been formulated by Geshe Kelsang. They are in keeping with Buddha Shakyamuni’s advice to his close disciple Ananda:

“If it is desired, Ananda, the Sangha may, when I am gone, abolish the lesser and minor rules.”

These rules have been abolished because most of the commitments explained in the Vinaya are rules for regulating verbal and physical behavior which are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to integrate into today’s society (as you can see from below.) However, their essential meaning has been maintained.

Following on from Part One yesterday, we will now look to see how the 253 vows of a Gelong are subsumed under the more broadly encompassing 10 vows of a Kadampa monk or nun. The Sramanera/Sramanerika Precepts will be used as the reference for the novice vows, and Advice from Buddha Shakyamuni will be used as the reference for the full ordination vows.

Novice Vows

1. Abandon Killing

1. One should avoid taking a human life
2. One should avoid killing an animal or insect
3. One should avoid for selfish reasons, doing an action which may kill an animal or insect and not caring about it; for example, using water that contains insects without straining it; digging a hole in the earth without considering the creatures that might die as a result; cutting grass; overburdening an animal, which causes its death
4. One should avoid while doing something for others, doing an action which may kill an animal or insect and not caring about it; for example, splashing water which has insects on a dry place

2. Abandon Stealing

6. One should avoid stealing, taking what has not been given. This includes borrowing things and not returning them, not paying fees and taxes one is required to

3. Abandon Sexual Activity

5. One should avoid sexual intercourse

4. Abandon Lying

7. One should avoid lying in which one claims to have spiritual realizations or powers that one does not have
8. One should avoid accusing a pure monk or nun of transgressing one of the four root precepts (parajika) when he or she has not
9. One should avoid insinuating that a pure monk or nun has transgressed one of the four root precepts when he or she has not
10. One should avoid causing disunity among the sangha community through untrue slander or taking sides in a disagreement
13. One should avoid telling others lies
14. One should avoid criticizing the storekeeper in the monastery of giving more to those who are near to him or her instead of sharing them with all, when this is not the case
15. One should avoid criticizing directly or by insinuation that the storekeeper in the monastery of not giving oneself a share of the food or other things equal to that given to other monastics, when this is not the case
16. One should avoid claiming that a monastic gave a teaching in return for a little food, which is not the case
17. One should avoid criticizing a monk or nun by saying that he or she transgressed a precept in the second group (sanghavasesa) when this is not the case

5. Abandon Taking Intoxicants

20. One should avoid taking intoxicants

6. Practice Contentment

19. One should avoid covering the vegetables with rice; covering the rice with vegetables
28. One should avoid sitting on an expensive throne
29. One should avoid sitting on an expensive bed
30. One should avoid sitting on a high throne
31. One should avoid sitting on a high bed
32. One should avoid eating after midday (Exceptions: if one is ill, if one is traveling, or if one cannot meditate properly without food.)
33. One should avoid touching gold, silver or precious jewels (includes money)

7. Reduce One’s Desire for Worldly Pleasures

24. One should avoid wearing ornaments
25. One should avoid wearing cosmetics
26. One should avoid wearing perfumes
27. One should avoid wearing the rosary like jewelry, wearing flower garlands
34. One should avoid wearing lay people’s clothing and ornaments; letting one’s hair grow long

8. Abandon Engaging in Meaningless Activities

21. One should avoid singing with self-attachment or for nonsensical reasons
22. One should avoid dancing with self-attachment or for nonsensical reasons
23. One should avoid playing music with self-attachment or for nonsensical reasons

9. Maintain the Commitments of Refuge

11. One should avoid supporting someone who is creating disunity in the sangha community, taking sides in the dispute
12. One should avoid doing actions which obliterate lay people’s faith in the sangha; for example complaining untruthfully to lay people that action brought by the sangha against oneself was unfair
36. One should avoid disrespecting or not following the guidance of one’s ordination master

10. Practise the Three Trainings of Pure Moral Discipline, Concentration, and Wisdom

18. One should avoid abandoning the training, for example, rejecting the good advice of a nun or monk; criticizing the Pratimoksha Sutra
35. One should avoid not wearing the robes of a Buddhist monastic

Full Ordination Vows

1. Abandon Killing

3. killing a human or a fetus
58. destroying viable seeds or a growing thing
66. harming living beings
88. knowingly consume water containing living beings
108. killing animals

2. Abandon Stealing

2. stealing
46. changing the dedication
63. evicting
115. using without confidence
121. staying too long as a guest

3. Abandon Sexual Activity

1. sexual activity
5. intentional emission of semen except during a dream
6. coming into bodily contact with a woman
7. using sexual language
8. recommending sexual services to oneself
9. acting as a gobetween
21. giving one’s robes to a nun for washing
22. accepting cloth from an unrelated nun
34. engaging an unrelated nun to clean wool
52. teaching Dharma to a laywoman
68. teaching the Dharma to nuns without having been appointed
69. teaching the Dharma to a nun until sunset
71. making a Dharma robe for an unrelated nun
72. giving a Dharma robe to an unrelated nun
73. walking along a road with a nun
74. entering a boat with a nun
75. sitting in a solitary place with a woman
76. standing in a solitary place with a nun
77. eating food which was caused to be made by a nun
89. sitting at a place of preparing for sex
90. standing in a place of preparing for sex
91. giving food to ascetics
101. sleeping for more than three nights in the same place as someone who is not fully ordained
112. sleeping with a woman
117. traveling on a road with a woman
124. leaving without informing the Sangha
127. going into town at improper times
129. going to a king’s palace at night
138. accepting food from a nun

4. Abandon Lying

4. lying about one’s attainments of superhuman Dharmas
12. groundless accusation
13. deprecating by insinuation
48. telling a lie
70. accusing of teaching the Dharma for the purpose of a little food
109. causing another monk to generate regrets by intentionally wrongly accusing him
116. groundlessly deprecating by accusing of having committed a remainder

5. Abandon Taking Intoxicants

126. drinking alcohol [i.e., intoxicating beverages, spirits, and liqours]

6. Practice Contentment

10. having a hut built for oneself which is not good for roaming about
11. having a community building built which is not good for roaming about
18. holding cloth for more than 10 days without having it blessed
20. holding a deficient piece of cloth for more than 30 days without having it blessed
23. begging cloth from a householder
24. not giving away the excess of a set of robes
25. obtaining through begging more than the householder had intended to give
26. obtaining through begging more than the male and female householders had intended to give
27. obtaining items after having begged for them more than six times
28. using a cotton mat
29. using a mat made only of black wool
30. having a mat of more than 50% black wool
31. replacing a not yet six-year-old mat
32. not patching a new mat by a handspan of the old mat
33. carrying wool too far on a journey
35. touching gold and silver
36. undertaking various activities in money
37. obtaining profit through business
38. holding an extra begging bowl for more than 10 days
39. seeking a begging bowl
40. engaging an unrelated weaver to weave cloth
41. extending the material of a robe
42. taking back what was given
43. early possession of rainy season offerings, etc.
45. obtaining 30 days too early, or holding more than 30 days late, the large rainy season cloth
47. storing medicine (i.e., clarified butter, oil, honey, and molasses) for more than 7 days
78. eating repeatedly
80. accepting more than two or three begging bowls full
81. eating the abandoned food
83. gathering and eating separately beyond the Sangha’s eating place
84. eating at an improper time
85. eating that which has been stored
86. eating without giving and taking
87. begging special food
105. wearing undyed cloth
131. making a needlecase made of bone or horn
132. making seat legs too long
133. leaving cotton lint upon the bedding of the Sangha
134. using more than the measure for a mat
135. using more than the measure for an itch bandage
136. using more than the measure for a large cloth
137. making Dharma robes to the measurements of the Sugata

7. Reduce One’s Desire for Worldly Pleasures

106. touching precious materials that do not belong to him
107. bathing more than one half of the body before one half month has passed
128. visiting families before or after a meal when the family which invited him for a meal is unawares

8. Abandon Engaging in Meaningless Activities

65. sitting down heavily upon a roof of a building owned by the Sangha
92. watching a war
93. staying in a place of war for more than three nights
110. tickling with the fingers
111. playing in water
113. frightening a monk
114. hiding a personal belonging of a monk or nun
120. digging the earth

9. Maintain the Commitments of Refuge

14. dividing the Sangha
15. not giving up supporting one who divides the Sangha
16. disturbing householders by deprecating the Sangha, causing them to lose faith
17. displeasure with instruction
53. teaching Dharma to a woman in excess of five or six words, except in the presence of a wise man
56. deprecating by belittling someone
59. abusively dismissing a monk who is serving the Sanhga
60. turning a deaf ear to advice or when asked a question
64. putting down a monk who had previously resided in the place owned by the Sangha
79. eating in the residence of extremists twice in one day
94. becoming involved in the branch of an army
95. raising one’s hand and striking another monk
96. threatening a blow with a weapon to a monk
97. concealing the grave offense of a monk
98. causing food to be cut off
100. later changing one’s consent
103. sharing Dharma and materials with a monk who has been expelled by the Sangha
104. sharing Dharma and materials with a novice who has been expelled by the Sangha
118. keeping company with thieves; proceeding with a caravan intending theft
119. giving ordination to someone under 20
122. abandoning closely given advice
125. disrespectful conduct
139. eating food without correcting a nun who asks to serve out of order
140. begging and eating food amongst families considered by formal declaration of the Sangha to be undergoing training
141. begging and eating food in forest dwellings considered by the Sangha to be dangerous

10. Practise the Three Trainings of Pure Moral Discipline, Concentration, and Wisdom

19. separation from one’s Dharma robes
44. separation from one’s retreat place for more than six days
49. speaking abouta ny act of another monk which is reputed to be a fault
50. speaking divisive words to a monk
51. reviving a quarrel
54. expressing faults of another monk to a person who is not fully ordained
55. speaking of one’s actual superhuman Dharmas
57. speaking to another monk words which despise the Vinaya
61. leaving without collecting the bedding, which then becomes damaged
62. leaving without putting away the mats
67. erecting more than three layers of bricks
82. feeding to one who has abandoned eating
99. touching fire without being mindful of the time
102. not giving up unwholesome views
123. eavesdropping
130. belittling the basis of one’s precepts of moral discipline

You Get the Idea…

142. for the lower robe, not wearing round
143. for the lower robe, too high
144. for the lower robe, too low
145. for the lower robe, covering the ankles
146. for the lower robe, one side hanging like an elephant’s trunk
147. for the lower robe, folding the upper portion below the navel
148. for the lower robe, gathered unevenly at the belt like tying the top of a sack of grain
149. for the upper garment, not wearing round
150. for the upper garment, too high
151. for the upper garment, too low
152. going to a layperson’s house without relying upon mindfulness and alertness
153. going without wearing one’s robes correctly
154. idle chatter while going
155. going with one’s eyes wandering in distraction
156. going with one’s eyes cast beyond a yoke’s distance
157. going while covering one’s head with cloth other than a hat
158. going with one’s Dharma robe lifted up
159. going with one’s Dharma robed draped over both shoulders
160. going with one’s hands clasped behind the nape of the neck
161. going with one’s hands tightly clasped
162. going by jumping
163. going by strutting
164. going stiffly erect
165. going on tiptoes with chest out
166. going with arms akimbo
167. going with the body twisted
168. going while swinging the hands
169. going while wagging the head
170. going with shoulders touching
171. going while joining the hands
172. sitting on a seat without being invited to do so by the householder
173. sitting without examining the seat
174. sitting heavily by dropping one’s weight down upon the seat
175. sitting with one foot upon the other
176. sitting with one thigh upon the other
177. sitting with one ankle upon the other
178. sitting on a throne etc. with one’s legs tucked under
179. sitting with one’s legs outstretched
180. sitting with one’s sexual organs exposed
181. not accepting food respectfully
182. accepting food only full to the brim of one’s begging bowl
183. accepting equal portions of main food (e.g., rice) and vegetables
184. not accepting food in order of ordination
185. accepting without paying attention to one’s alms bowl
186. holding out one’s begging bowl before the food comes
187. covering the main food (e.g., rice) with vegetables … with the intent of getting extra
188. holding one’s begging bowl over the food
189. not eating food in accordance with common etiquette
190. taking very small mouthfulls
191. taking very large mouthfulls
192. not eating in moderation
193. opening one’s mouth before bringing food to it
194. speaking when one’s mouth is full of food
195. eating while making sounds such as ‘tsuk tsuk’
196. eating while making sounds such as ‘chak chak’
197. eating while making sounds such as ‘hu hu’
198. eating while making sounds such as ‘pu pu’
199. poking out one’s tongue while eating
200. eating (rice, etc.) grain by grain
201. disparaging the food while eating
202. spilling the broth to the right and left while eating
203. making smacking sounds from the palate while eating
204. eating by dividing mouthfulls
205. licking food stuck to one’s hands
206. licking food stuck to the vessel as well as one’s hands
207. shaking off food stuck to one’s hands
208. eating while shaking one’s begging bowl
209. shaping the food like a stupa
210. abusing the begging bowl of another monk
211. touching the water container with food stuck to one’s hand
212. tossing the dishwater over another monk
213. throwing out the dishwater from washing one’s begging bowl, etc. whenever one pleases
214. putting the remaining food in one’s bowl
215. setting one’s bowl down without a base
216. similarly, placing the begging bowl on a cliff
217. placing the begging bowl on a steep slope
218. placing the begging bowl on a sill, etc.
219. washing one’s begging bowl while standing up
220. washing one’s begging bowl while on a cliff
221. washing one’s begging bowl while on a steep slope
222. washing one’s begging bowl while on a sill, etc.
223. taking water by holding one’s bowl against the current of a river
224. standing while teaching Dharma to a seated listener
225. teaching Dharma when seated to someone who is lying down
226. teaching Dharma when seated on a low and poor seat to someone on a high and rich seat
227. teaching Dharma to someone who is in front while walking behind them
228. teaching Dharma while going along the side of the road to someone going along the center
229. teaching Dharma to someone whose head is covered with cloth, etc.
230. teaching Dharma to someone with their robes pulled up
231. teaching Dharma to someone with their Dharma robes draped over both shoulders
232. teaching Dharma to someone with their hands clasped at the nape of the neck
233. teaching Dharma to someone with their hands tightly clasped
234. teaching Dharma to someone wearing a hairknot
235. teaching Dharma to someone wearing a hat
236. teaching Dharma to someone wearing a crown
237. teaching Dharma to someone wearing a garland
238. teaching Dharma to someone wearing a veil
239. teaching Dharma to someone mounted on an elephant
240. teaching Dharma to someone mounted on a horse
241. or other than these two mounts
242. teaching Dharma to someone seated on a palanquin
243. teaching Dharma to someone wearing shoes
244. teaching Dharma to anyone holding a staff or stick
245. teaching Dharma to anyone holding an umbrella or parasol
246. teaching Dharma to anyone holding a knife
247. teaching Dharma to anyone holding a sword
248. or other weapon
249. teaching Dharma to someone wearing armor
250. when one is not ill, to make excrement or urinate while standing
251. to throw excrement, urine, plhegm, snot, etc. into moving water
252. to throw excrement, urine, phlegm, snot, etc. on the ground covered with grass
253. purposely climbing in trees above a man’s height, unless there is a disaster

Answering those who disparage the NKT ordination, Part One

September 24, 2008

Please see the New Kadampa Truth website for the main refutations of the smears:

NKT ordination is not valid


NKT monks and nuns are not authentic

In the next three articles on this New Kadampa Truth blog, we will look more closely at the nature and function of NKT ordination and the authenticity of its lineage. We will be listing all 253 vows of a fully ordained monk and showing how they are not contradictory to the ten vows taken and kept by a monk or a nun in the New Kadampa Tradition.

In The Ordination Handbook, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says:

The verbal explanation of the Kadampa ordination is brief—there are just ten commitments—but their practice is very extensive. These ten commitments that you promise to keep are a condensation of the entire Lamrim teachings. Although we can finish a verbal explanation of these vows in a few hours, their practice is all embracing. You should do this—few words but always practice, practice extensively.

The purpose of the Vinaya (Tib. dulwa) is “to control [the mind]” through higher moral discipline, as this is the foundation for developing pure concentration (i.e. tranquil abiding), and in turn profound wisdom (i.e. superior seeing). While the first five Kadampa vows (“Throughout my life I will abandon killing, stealing, sexual activity, lying and taking intoxicants”) are common to all Vinaya lineages, the latter five (“I will practise contentment, reduce my desire for worldly pleasures, abandon engaging in meaningless activities, maintain the commitments of refuge, and practise the three trainings of pure moral discipline, concentration and wisdom”) are taken from the Mahayana Perfection of Wisdom Sutra and its commentaries such as Atisha’s Lamrim text Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, which references Arya Asanga’s The Bodhisattva Stages (Skt. Bodhisattvabhumi) listing the six ‘branches’ or necessary conditions for attaining tranquil abiding, including:

  1. little desire
  2. contentment
  3. no distracting activities
  4. pure moral discipline
  5. no distracting conceptions

These preparatory practices are methods of training the mind—methods of moral discipline. The very purpose of becoming ordained as a Buddhist monk or nun is to practice a moral discipline that enables one to achieve tranquil abiding. With tranquil abiding, one can attain superior seeing. With these three higher trainings—moral discipline, concentration and wisdom–one will attain liberation from samsara. In his text, Atisha says:

“One who neglects the branches of tranquil abiding will never attain concentration, even if he meditates with great effort for a thousand years.”

Yet some legalists still reject the latter five Kadampa ordination vows simply because they do not appear verbatim in the Vinaya or Pratimoksha Sutras. For example, they would say that, even though it is more succinct, the vow “to practice contentment” just isn’t to be found in traditional ordination texts.

The insistence that Kadampas should adhere strictly to the letter rather than the spirit of the vows is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. For example, vow #31—to not get a new mat before six years are up—is obviously a particular instance of the more general principle to practice contentment. Recognizing and observing the ‘spirit’ or meaning of the individual precepts of the Vinaya is how the Kadampa ordination vows are to be understood and practiced.

When you read the 253 vows of a fully ordained monk (which we will post here next), you can ask yourself whether, in this modern age, it is actually possible to observe them to the letter? It is arguable whether there is one single monk on this planet who is even attempting to follow them all literally. (And full ordination for women in the Tibetan tradition died out centuries ago, rendering nuns as second class monastics.)

It is helpful to understand that the 253 Vinaya vows arose gradually, one by one, in dependence upon the needs of the emerging monastic community and the societal norms of Buddha Shakyamuni’s world 2500 years ago. However, it is possible to observe purely and sincerely the spiritual principles behind these vows and adapt these principles practically to our very different society. This can be done without losing any of the meaning and function of the full set of 253 vows, and in full accordance with the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni and all other great Buddhist Masters. This is what makes the Kadampa ordination so authentic, beautiful, meaningful, and suitable for our modern day world.

Another mistake made by legalists is to try and pigeonhole the 10 Kadampa ordination vows variously into the 5 vows of a lay woman or lay man (Tib. Genyenma/Genyenpa), the 8 vows of a reunciate (Tib. Rabjung), the 10 or 36 vows of a novice nun or monk (Tib. Getsulma/Getsulpa), or the 253 vows of a fully ordained monk (Tib. Gelong). However, the vows of Kadampa ordination are to be regarded as a practical condensation of the essential meaning of the ordained vows. As such, we should look to see how the 253 vows of a Gelong, for example, are subsumed under the more broadly encompassing 10 vows, rather than the other way around.

There are no doubt different ways of doing this, and many of the 253 vows will fall under more than one of the 10 Kadampa vows. Tomorrow we will show one example of how all the novice and full ordination vows are naturally included within the comprehensive yet succinct vows of Kadampa ordination. The Sramanera/Sramanerika Precepts will be used as the reference for the novice vows, and Buddhist Ethics will be used as the reference for the full ordination vows.

Smear: The NKT is Fundamentalist

September 9, 2008

Truth: This is not true. The definition of fundamentalism in Wikipedia is “deep and totalistic commitment” to a belief in, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life.

Fundamentalism is therefore clinging to a set of principles in reaction to the perception that too much compromise of these principles has been made in the modern world. This does not apply to the NKT. As with all Buddhists, NKT practitioners try to practise Buddha’s teachings as they were traditionally transmitted to them without imposing their own interpretation or omitting anything; however there is a flexibility at NKT Centres around the world to compromise with the norms of society as necessary to benefit others, which is the antithesis of fundamentalism.

There is an expression in Kadampa Buddhism: “Remain natural while changing your aspiration.” One example of this flexibility is the NKT ordination. The ten commitments provide the flexibility to function in the modern world — such as being able to support oneself by having a job, handling money and freely meeting with people to help them — but they also provide the necessary restraint from inappropriate actions that Buddha taught in the Sutras to make progress on the spiritual path. The NKT ordination is far more suited to living in the modern world than the traditional ordination based on the Vinaya. It is critics of the NKT ordination who appear to be fundamentalists by clinging to a fixed idea of ordination that cannot change with the times. For them, NKT ordination offers too many compromises with modern life. However, because Geshe Kelsang understands the essential meaning of Buddha’s teachings, he is able to made changes in presentation where necessary without compromising what Buddha taught or the strength of monastic ordination.

There are many other examples of flexibility and changes to the presentation of Buddhism introduced by the NKT, such as the training of Buddhist teachers of every nationality for every country, the training and promotion of lay women and men as teachers alongside monks and nuns, the translation of books and prayers into modern languages, new sadhanas compiled under the compassionate guidance of Geshe Kelsang, the use of new tunes and modern instruments in the music accompanying pujas, the composition of the Liberating Prayer (a new praise to Buddha Shakyamuni), following the solar calendar familiar to the West as opposed to the lunar calendar followed by the Tibetans. These and many other innovations distinguish the New Kadampa Tradition from other traditions. However, the essential meaning of Buddha’s teachings remains unchanged. In this way, NKT is both flexible and traditional at the same time, but it is not fundamentalist.

This post was copied from the New Kadampa Truth site: Smear: NKT is fundamentalist.