Putting the NKT into perspective

If you wish to study the evolution of the New Kadampa Tradition in the wider context of Tibetan Buddhism in general and within the cultural context of Buddhist adaptation generally within the modern West, you may find the academically rigorous analysis by Dr. David Kay in his “Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain – Transplantation, development and adaptation”  to be essential reading. This is exactly the sort of wider context that makes so much of what the NKT does more understandable. It is the sort of context that would probably never be supplied from within the NKT itself but which needs to be supplied from outside the NKT if any kind of balanced perspective upon the activities of the NKT is to be even possible. I’m not going to quote from the essay, because it is such a long one and I really think it needs careful reading all the way through to get a real understanding of the full historical background to the NKT. In the process, I think one gets a much better understanding of Tibetan Buddhism in general and of the ongoing challenges Buddhism faces in its transmission to the West. It also gives one some insight into how much the NKT itself has changed already and is likely to change even more as it tries to deal with its own turbulent past and the fast-changing dynamics of its present situation. Without reading this essay, one would probably never know – unless one has been a long-time ‘insider’ – just how much, and why, the NKT has changed, as the NKT is very good at rewriting its own history in order to promote the impression of it having an untroubled, stable and secure identity that has endured over time, free from challenge by internal conflicts or external disputes. I heartily recommend that Kay’s work be studied, especially as he bends over backward to be as fair and objective as he can. Happy reading!

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7 Comments on “Putting the NKT into perspective”

  1. Carol McQuire says:

    It should be noted that Kay’s work only includes information given by ‘official’ NKT members who were allocated to speak to outsiders and told exactly what to say. Therefore the ‘real’ story of the NKT has still to be told. ‘Real’ being the perspective of many other people involved in their history. But, like you say, Kay’s work is a good beginning in broadening understanding of the historical perspective of the NKT. Most newcomers to the NKT have NO idea either of Shugden practice and it’s historical context of Gelug sectarianism or of the demos against the Dalai Lama. Nor will they know anything of the sexual misconduct of the respective Gens – Gen Thubten Gyatso and Gen Samden Gyatso….as well as the ‘sexual lineage’ that Gyatso blames on them…

    • andydharma says:

      Yes, Kay’s work is only a beginning, and the experience of the ‘grass roots’, the ordinary members of the NKT, is a story that is only just beginning to be told. The ‘full story’, if such a thing is possible, will come out – eventually – and that story will be a fascinating body of material for helping to work out how a truly effective transmission of the Dharma to the West will be possible. After all, it’s early days yet, when looked at in the perspective of a 2,500 year history of Buddhism! And we have played, and are still playing, a part in that story, even if we didn’t plan on the story turning out like it did! And what we did as part of that story all helps, all matters in some way, because we did it with sincere motives and with a heartfelt wish for the Dharma to flourish, and nobody can ever take that away from us. Thanks for your comment, Carol!

  2. DharmaForum says:

    I find this work (Tibetan and zen Buddhism in Britain … ) tedious in the extreme. It is only about numbers. Percentages. As if that was important. I feel depressed. Humans only seem to care about numbers. That is …. Power! I cannot think any of these people are Buddhists. At the Centres the only question you were ever asked was …. how many came? Not, “did someone get what you were saying, did anyone get the meditation? How has the group improved over the last few years? Is there anyone who could go on to enlightenment?” Power. Not Buddhism, not spirituality, but power. The only spiritual people are the ones new, coming to the class. Those of us organizing have become mundane, non-spiritual, anti-spirituality. Interested only in the survival and growth of the group.

    • Carol McQuire says:

      Confused here. Are AndyDharma and DharmaForum the same person? Would agree with the last post, that’s what happened. For me that defines the group as a ‘cult’ – the fact that the group’s proriority’ (the NKT’s as a whole and not to diminish either the kindness or the good intentions of many of the individual members) was for it’s own survival above any consideration for the ‘ordinary’ student.

      • andydharma says:

        No, andydharma and DharmaForum are not the same person! Honest! I can confirm from my own experience of life within the NKT that there was a widespread obsession with the numerical and financial success or otherwise of classes and centres, and I must confess I was guilty of having this obession myself to some degree, something that was partly the result of the organisational culture prevalent through the NKT due to its self-imposed missionary role of trying to singlehandedly spread Dharma throughout the whole world, which many in the NKT embraced with a messianic fervour. One of the nice things I have found about being outside of the NKT’s organisational culture is being able to focus purely on my Dharma practice and not worry if I never teach again or never have any organisational Dharma role ever again. The quality of my Dharma experiences has taken off like a rocket as a result. There is an inevitable tension, which all Buddhist organisations share to some extent, I think, between sincerely wanting to spread the Dharma widely, and tring to focus on quality Dharma practice irrespective of what happens to the spread of the Dharma. How that tension is dealt with both by individual Buddhists and by Buddhist organisations themselves requires, I think, a deep study of the Dharma itself and a willingness to confront oneself with some very hard questions about why one wants to get into Dharma in the first place. After all, the intentions behind our actions are sometimes so subtle that they require a searing self-honesty to winkle them out!

        Ironically, the NKT has severely compromised its objective of spreading Kadam Dharma by obsessing too much about the internal ‘purity’ of its own teachings and teachers, regularly purging itself of teachers and centres that are deemed too impure to be worthy of spreading that Dharma! If you set the bar of purity too high, then the danger is that you have too few teachers and centres to help spread the Dharma and those that you do have end up presenting a view of the Dharma that is too narrow and doctrinaire to gain a wide enough acceptance by a broad enough cross-section of the general public. But that’s the NKT’s problem, not mine, thankfully!

  3. […] Putting the NKT into perspective (maitreyabuddhistcentre.wordpress.com) […]


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