Official declaration from New Kadampa Survivors

Today the New Kadampa Survivors group issued this official statement:

 

Declaration concerning the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

We, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dorje Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT sangha now demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

 

Inaccuracies and distortions of what we know to be the truth have been published as fact. The New Kadampa Tradition currently operates as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC). Many allegations and insults are made against His Holiness which are completely unwarranted.

 

At demonstrations and on numerous web sites and Facebook pages, the NKT/ISC viciously attacks the reputation of His Holiness. We have tried to address inaccuracies with the group, but without success. We believe it is time to speak out with one voice. Here we highlight a few of the issues created by the New Kadampa Tradition, their leader Kelsang Gyatso, and his followers:

 

1) The NKT/WSS/ISC say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a ‘liar’. A difference of opinion does not equate to lying. His Holiness holds a different opinion from Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT about the nature and history of Dolgyal Shugden and the effects of this practice upon the well-being of His Holiness, the Tibetan people and their cause. To call His Holiness a ‘liar’ because of this difference of opinion makes no sense.

 

2) The NKT/WSS/ISC claim that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has gone against all his teachers, broken his samaya and destroyed the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa by rejecting the practice of Dolgyal Shugden. His Holiness states that after conducting extensive research into the history and problems of Shugden practice, he consulted with his Junior Tutor Trijang Rinpoche and explained the reasons why it was his duty to reject this practice. The historical record shows that Shugden practice is often contentiously associated with sectarian views and ‘distorted aspiration’ and was viewed as problematic by His Holiness’ Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche. In fact, in this action His Holiness was actually following a course which, according to Buddhist scriptures and past masters, as Kelsang Gyatso himself states, is absolutely correct and appropriate.

 

In his book Clear Light of Bliss Kelsang Gyatso states: “When deciding which doctrine to rely upon, we should not be satisfied with the fame or reputation of a particular teacher, but instead should examine what he or she teaches. If, upon investigation, we find the teachings reasonable and faultless, we should accept them, but if they lack these qualities we should reject them, no matter how famous or charismatic their expounder might be.”

 

Kelsang Gyatso therefore contradicts his own advice when he asserts that His Holiness has broken his samaya with Trijang Rinpoche.

 

3) Kelsang Gyatso also claims that by rejecting one particular protector practice, this means that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is rejecting all Gelug teachings, the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa. His Holiness has not rejected all Gelug teachings and still holds his lineage gurus in the highest esteem. Kelsang Gyatso, however, is never seen in public with any teachers connected to the lineage he claims to represent. He is alone, without the influence of either peers or superiors. He created the NKT in 1992 after a schism with another Tibetan Buddhist group which invited him to the UK to teach in 1977 and whose property he then kept as the ‘mother centre’ of the NKT.  In 1996 he was unanimously expelled from Sera Jey Tibetan Buddhist monastery, where he trained, for being a ‘holder of broken commitments and wrong view’. As he is the only Tibetan teacher in his own tradition of ‘Modern Buddhism’, with his own ‘new’ ordination and no study of the traditional Vinaya teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, he also effectively isolates his own students from the wider Buddhist world.

 

4) In 1998 Kelsang Gyatso stated that the NKT would no longer be involved in any further demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He admitted that the Shugden issue was, in reality, an issue of Tibetan politics and promised that the NKT would not take part in any further inappropriate actions. Since then Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT have organised two further rounds of protests, one beginning in 2008, and the latest round currently being staged.

 

5)  In 2008 Kelsang Gyatso wrote to all his dharma centres stating that he was personally organising the NKT’s participation in the protests. He also said the protests were being organised by a group called the Western Shugden Society (WSS). A simple check reveals that all the Directors of WSS were and are members of the New Kadampa Tradition. Yet the NKT often denies that they have any connection to the WSS. Kelsang Pema, Gyatso’s former assistant, informed journalists that the WSS had no leader.

 

6) Even if the NKT say that it is only an ‘individual decision’ for a student to support the protests, we know that at present the ISC directly and actively recruits protestors and fundraises for demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama inside NKT centres.

 

7) The 2014 NKT campaign is delivered by its latest front group, the International Shugden Community. Currently, the ISC has two registered groups. In Norway ISC records show the Executive Director and Chairman to be NKT teachers. The ISC US based non-profit company in California shares an address with a large health food company of which Len Foley, an ex NKT teacher, is CEO. His wife, Rebecca Gauthier, an NKT Resident Teacher, is also spokesperson for the ISC in the US.

 

The ISC front-man is a senior NKT monk named Kelsang Rabten. In his YouTube “News Broadcasts” Kelsang Rabten does not wear his monk’s robes and appears to be a professional journalist. He hides his status and biased position. One ISC video uses footage of young Burmese monks conducting traditional alms-rounds to fraudulently misrepresent the situation in India regarding the supposed ‘ostracism’ of Shugden followers. Techniques such as these are deceitful, designed only to exaggerate their claims against His Holiness.

 

8) The allegation that the Dalai Lama is engaging in repression of Freedom of Religion is, in fact, more relevant to the way the NKT itself operates. NKT Centres are dedicated to the exclusive devotion of Kelsang Gyatso. NKT centres and teachers are only permitted to teach from books written by Kelsang Gyatso. Teachers other than those trained by the NKT and appointed by Kelsang Gyatso are not allowed. Ordained NKT people and others are told they will be reborn in the hell realms and may not get enlightened if they leave the NKT.

 

9) With the backdrop of continued Human Rights abuses against the Tibetan people, who number little more than 6 million in total, and the mass slaughter of an unknown number of Tibetans due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation often quoted as being more than one million, claims made by the ISC such as that ‘4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ are obviously lies.

 

We acknowledge there may be some problems within the Tibetan community that need to be addressed but no established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT/WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’. We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture and question the intentions of those who use this culture but appear not to support this struggle.

 

Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT.

 

10) There are many documented cases where the NKT threatened to sue using libel law and thus silenced other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. In our experience, the NKT generally prioritises the expansion of the group over the welfare of individuals. The NKT Survivors internet group numbers over 1,200 subscribers. There is no Dalai Lama Survivor’s group.

 

In view of the consistently unkind behaviour of his own organisation, we feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students can have no moral right for making such attempts to discredit and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

 

Those of us who once belonged to the New Kadampa Tradition are resolved to bring these inaccuracies, disinformation, and outright lies to light. Who better to reveal the truth than we who were once inside the organisation?

 

19th August 2014

 

Carol McQuire

Jamie Kostek

Lynne Cracknell

Ani Tsultrim

Graham Smetham

Linda Ciardiello

Ian Thomas

David Cutshaw

Robert Helms

Steve Maxwell

Michael Brown

Charles Wesley

Andrew Durling

Andrew Cheadle

Kevan Webb

Tenzin Peljor

James Tregaskis

Tim Ford

Tony Allen

Karma Yonten

 

Supporters

 

Lyn G Farrell

Charlie Worthington

Cynthia von Hendricks

Ashoka von Hendricks


The Three Patiences

The Patience of Enduring Suffering

Enduring suffering is a natural state for all of us. If we did not experience suffering we would have no negative karma ripening. This is not possible in this world, so we all experience suffering. Understanding that brings compassion – “I am one of many”. Enduring suffering is the natural state for our whole life.  Happiness is a relief from suffering when things seem to be going right. But things cannot go right for ever, and even apparently fortunate people experience unhappiness. “What is my unhappiness compared with anybody else’s? It is natural for me to experience unhappiness because everybody else is.”  Understanding this is gaining the Truth of Buddha’s First Teaching – the teaching on the First Noble Truth, True Sufferings.

We should not be unhappy when we are experiencing pain, but glad for we are experiencing dharma. When we are happy, and things are going well, we hardly remember Dharma, but when we are suffering we can use it to remind us of the truth of Buddha’s teachings – All Beings experience suffering.

The Patience of Not Retaliating

The reason we retaliate is because unexpected harm causes anger to flare within us. This is Buddha’s second Noble Truth (True Origins) which states that all harm arises from either delusions or karma.

Examining my mental continuum throughout all my actions,

As soon as a delusion develops

Whereby I or others would act inappropriately,

May I firmly face it and avert it.                 (Geshe Langri Tampa)

We expect not to be harmed and so when we are, anger rises automatically. As long as we expect not to be harmed, so will we always have anger.  Only when we have changed our expectation to that which understands the true nature of phenomena is to arise in dependence on karma, will be free of anger arising. Anger arises only because we do not expect the world to conflict with our wishes. Because Buddha teaches that the world will always conflict our wishes, in the three states of discontent, so anger will always arise. When we have conquered the three states then the world will not conflict our wishes because our wishes will be in line with Buddha’s teaching, and anger and all other delusions will not arise.

The Patience of Definitely Perceiving Dharma

When we start to perceive emptiness, and the way it arises, we can face up to Dharma. Dharma means phenomena or things. So, when we are seeing things we are perceiving dharma. Allowing things to happen is a way to practise. For instance, if we are at a festival and we see a group of people who appear to be not too pleased with us we could slink off, or we could go up to them and face our karma. In the latter case, we are going against the natural way of things to avoid conflict. By accepting the pain of unhappiness we are accepting karma – and it disappears. This is a way to release karma. If we face up to all unpleasant karma, eventually we will have nothing left to throw at ourselves. We will be free of our negative karma. This ends the Buddha’s teaching on the second Noble Truth – True Origins. By bringing karma, negative karma, to an end – all suffering is extinguished (nirvana, True Cessation, The third Noble Truth) and we are enlightened (the completion of True Paths, The fourth Noble truth).

This Patience could also be called the Patience of Definitely Sitting in Dharma. Attempting to meditate can be painful on our time, our pleasure, our body and our mind. As we overcome each of these we can congratulate ourselves on definitely practising the Patience of Sitting. The suppleness in our mind and body arising from the accumulation of virtue and the release of pure wind is our reward. As we realise emptiness so our meditation continues even when we are not sitting. Metaphorically this is still The Patience of Sitting in Dharma because we see all phenomena as related to our mind, and hence related to our karma. Since all negative karma is painful, so are all phenomena arising from that karma. This is Definitely the Practice of Sitting in Dharma where ‘Definitely’ means emptiness.


Mad Monk – Gendun Chöpel

Gendun Chöpel was brilliant. As a student he beat all his teachers at debating points of dharma. In his first monastery he specialised in taking positions that could not be won in traditional dharma debates – and winning them. His greatest was to take the non-Buddhist view of the Jains, who contrary to Buddhists believe that plants have consciousness, and leave his fellow students unable to gainsay him!

As a result he was kicked out.

Alas! After I had gone elsewhere,
Some lamas who can explain nothing,
Said that Nechung, king of deeds,
Did not permit me to stay due to my excessive pride.

Arriving at the famous Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, one of the three important Gelug monasteries, he signed on with a tutor famous for his defense of Tsongkhapa. The two did not get on! Often they were heard having shouting matches with each other over dharma points.

Chöpel went to India for twelve years where he learnt the arts of love, and like the sixth Dalai Lama became known for his poetry. He regretted his countrymen’s use of Sanskrit texts as amulets rather than translating them into their own language. When he returned he tried to teach them the ideas from outside their land, such as the world not being flat.

I have written facts,
Unheard of in the Land of Snows.
Because of my poor and ragged appearance,
No one is there to heed my words.

At one point he was put in prison and all his writings taken.

Today you can read some of these works as well as his life story.

Source: Gendun Chophel

Film: Angry Monk

Life Story: The Madman’s Middle Way


out to save the world?

outtosaveworldA new book has just been published: Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World. Having purchased it myself and read chunks of it, I can safely say that it is a throroughly readable and utterly compelling study of some of the many intentional communities around the world, a study that is nevertheless academically rigorous and backed by copious and meticulously detailed footnotes and references. Readers of this blog would be fascinated by this book as it contains a chapter about someone’s experience within the NKT. Yes, folks, you read that right: there is a book out there now that contains an account of life within the NKT, “warts ‘n all”! That alone makes this book ground-breaking and worth reading just for that.

I wrote a review for the book, which is now on the amazon.co.uk website:

I must admit to being biased about this book: I have personal experience of INFORM, the independent charity that collects and disseminates accurate, balanced and up-to-date information about minority religious and spiritual movements, and which has organised the bringing together of the collection of essays that constitutes this book. I have had reason to be very grateful for the balanced, sensitive help and advice INFORM gave me when I experienced the trauma of becoming involved in a bitter dispute within the New Kadampa Tradition, one of the movements written about in this book. The subtitle of this book – Out to Save the World – indicates what is common to all the intentional communities that feature in this book, these communities being just a small sample of the many thousands of such communities around the world. These communities originally start off with the best of intentions, in this case the intention to help save the world in some way. But so often these communities, because they involve some radical experimentation or innovation in communal living, or represent a radical break with a spiritual tradition, or cultural norm, have crises and disputes to deal with which threaten their very existence. How these communities deal with these crises determines, amongst other things, whether the original intention of these communities survives or changes significantly, sometimes so much so that it becomes unrecognisable to the community’s original founders or members. These communities, when they function harmoniously, often help their members to experience the height of spiritual inspiration, even ecstasy, in ways not available in the ‘normal’ world, sometimes creating the feeling of having been ‘saved’ and thereby empowered to help save others. But when they go wrong, the fall-out can be toxic to all involved, especially given the deep emotional, financial and social investment members of these communities often have to make in order to gain entry to them, or at least feel like they belong within them. Exit from these communities, voluntary or enforced, is often deeply traumatic and destabilising for both the people leaving and for some of those left behind.

I will only mention one essay in this book, the chapter written by Carol McQuire about her time as a Buddhist nun within the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), which is deeply controversial within the world of Buddhism generally. I, like Carol, was once a devout member of the NKT and I was deeply moved by Carol’s searing honesty about her experiences, and about her complex and evolving feelings towards the teachers, teachings and organisational practices of the NKT both during her time as a nun and after her traumatic exit from the NKT. I could relate to many of her experiences and feelings and recognised how difficult it is to retain one’s idealism and devotion in the midst of turbulent, confusing and often disturbing change within an organisation like the NKT, which tries so hard to preserve what it perceives to be a ‘pure’ Buddhism whilst at the same time trying to put clear blue water between itself and the rest of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that it originally evolved from and which often itself criticises the NKT as being less than a ‘pure’ Buddhist sangha. Carol’s essay was somewhat cathartic for me and helped me with my present journey towards understanding and integrating my past within the NKT. I suspect many of the other essays in the book will serve a similar function for others who have had contact with either the NKT or the other intentional communities explored in this book.

All the essays in this book are meticulously backed up with copious footnotes and references to academic research and documentary material, and the introductory overview by Timothy Miller of the broad history of intentional communities is extremely useful in putting the essays that follow into context. The stories in this book are about powerful, often bizarre, always deeply felt experiences by real life people within the intentional communities they belonged to, and show a side of spiritual life that very rarely makes the headlines, especially as many communities have fraught relationships with the media and society in general, sometimes preferring not to engage openly with them at all, in order to maintain their ‘purity’ or so as to maintain their freedom to operate in the way they wish to, or simply because they despair of ever getting the wider world to understand or accept them. This book is an invaluable contribution to the study of intentional communities and their often fraught histories, complex social relationships and organisational psychologies. It is also very readable and compelling into the bargain. Truth is often stranger than fiction and this book certainly illustrates that.


the psychology of tantric practice

A book I have just finished reading , The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra, by Rob Preece, has been so compelling that I felt I had to share a few thoughts of mine about it. I have not read a book that so successfully helped me to start putting Buddhist Tantra into some sort of overall context, especially within the cultural context that we have here in the West. Preece concentrates on comparing Buddhist Tantra with the psychology of the Jungian tradition of psychotherapy, and he does that very successfully, although I think it would also help greatly if Buddhist tantra were also put within the context of the wider world of Western psychology generally, especially within the emerging discipline of positive psychology, whose research findings in recent years are rapidly influencing the Western view of what facilitates the most positive mental states. Jung does not get as much publicity, I feel, as he deserves, which is a  shame as his view of the mind is very subtle and nuanced, but he had, as Preece explains, a blind spot when it came to his view on Westerners’ ability to use meditation effectively. He was overly pessimistic on this, which is ironic as his psychological views are actually an asset in helping westerners to get an intellectual grasp on the deeper significance of tantric symbolism and how it can be integrated with the symbolism we are familiar with through our Western cultural heritage, which influences us greatly even if we are not consciously aware of that influence. Jung does a great job in exploring the archetypal images that come up time and again within  Western culture and which reveal the unconscious drives and energies that influence our conscious thinking. Preece usefully links up some of the archetypes Jung explores with the archetypes that lie behind tantric symbolism. For example, Preece makes the interesting point that Heruka Chakrasambara is very similar to the roles played by Dionysus and Kernunnos in Western culture, and that the Western language of alchemical transformation is analogous to the symbolism of ‘generation stage’ tantra, especially with regards to the ‘inner offering’.

Preece makes the very valid point that Westerners practising Tantra may actually create problems for themselves if they do not have the necessary degree of psychological stability and that Western psychotherapy has much to contribute to help Westerners achieve this, especially as Eastern teachers of Tantra, according to Preece, often display a lack of understanding of the psychological complexes and problems that are familiar in Western societies. Tibetans may be very concerned about ‘spirits’  and ‘demons’ interfering with tantric practice, but Westerners are usually more concerned with dealing with memories of traumatic events or dealing with emotional issues arising in childhood, especially in their relationships with their parents.

I particularly liked Preece’s point about tantric practice having to be integrated into a deliberately cultivated sensitivity to the natural environment in which the practice is done. Tibetans certainly had a very keen sensitivity to how the energy forces within their local environment influenced, and were influenced, by the energy-winds within the human body, and that keeping the body in harmony with nature as it is experienced is a crucial part of successful tantric practice as well as ensuring that the individual feels an integral part of the surrounding world. Preece links this need for heightened nature sensitivity with a fascinating explanation of how mandalas work from a psychological perspective.

Anyway, Preece convinced me that making tantric practice come truly alive is very difficult  unless it can be translated within one’s own understanding of how one’s psychological life, especially one’s emotional experience, works. And that understanding perhaps depends crucially upon cultivating an increasing sensitivity towards how tantric symbolism needs to  be interpreted through ones’ own understanding and experience of the symbolism and archetypes of one’s own culture. It also needs, I think, a growing understanding of how one’s own experience of one’s immediate natural environment can be integrated with that tantric symbolism so that the mandala becomes a living manifestation within one’s life experience. Just jumping in and trying to impose an alien Tibetan tantric symbolism upon one’s mind without any kind of awareness of how one’s Shadow side could be dangerously and uncontrollably unleashed into conscious awareness seems to me now like reckless folly. And with that provocative claim, I take my leave – for now!


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!


does the Heart Sutra have any heart?

One of the creative endeavours I have established for myself in 2013 is to do an intensive study of the Heart Sutra, one of the most revered, and perhaps the most studied, of all the sutras of Mahayana Buddhism. It is short, very punchy, and very readable, especially when read out loud (and I suspect the sutra was designed to be read out loud for maximum effect, echoing the original oral culture of  Buddha’s own time, nearly 1,000 years before the sutra was written). The sutra flows, is easily memorised, and has a very direct, personal, earthy style, free from rhetorical flourishes and technical wizardry. But precisely because the sutra is short and sweet, it is enigmatic, mysterious, revelling in paradox and ambiguity, and in flouting the conventions of logic and reasoned argument. Hence the numerous commentaries on the sutra, most of which strive to pin down the sutra, attempting an exhaustive and comprehensive definition of its meaning and attempting to fit the sutra seamlessly into the overall logical structure of Buddhist teachings and praxis as laid out by the tradition in which the commentary is written. The commentaries are often indeed very useful in helping to explicate the sutra, especially when they provide some of the background context within which the sutra was written (and there is a huge context that needs to be understood and appreciated), but none of the commentaries can truly provide the definitive reading precisely because the sutra is itself designed to undercut any such definitive reading  Why? Because, for me anyway, the sutra points towards the indefinable openness of  direct experience itself in all its raw, sensual, wild immediacy. The sutra is playfully but deliberately subversive, rebellious, teasing and provocative. Yes, one can read anything one likes into the sutra and impose on it any logical structure you like, but it can always be read afresh by each new generation of students of the sutra precisely because it can have such a powerful effect upon the reader, an effect that has to be understood and assimilated by the reader himself/herself through a deeper understanding of the reader’s self rather than through consulting supposedly authoritative commentaries on the sutra. Appealing to authority is no use ultimately in gaining a true understanding for oneself of the power of the sutra when it becomes a living reality in one’s awareness, just as appealing to authority is no use in gaining an ultimate appreciation of what the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings is for oneself.

I suspect the writer of the Heart Sutra understood the essentially private, personal nature of dharma realisations, and therefore the impossibility of ever translating that mystery into a definitive conceptual explication of the meaning of Dharma itself. The Heart Sutra contains a multiplicity of meanings, on a multitude of levels, precisely because it plays with, and subverts,  the very idea of anything containing an essential meaning at all. Direct, unmediated experience itself, within the here and now, is open to infinite meanings, and that openness defies all attempts at closure by conceptual explanations that are created after the initial moment of experience itself. The heart of the Heart Sutra is empty of all meaning precisely because it is so full of meanings. The form of the Heart Sutra points towards what is not within its form, towards what is not in any form, just as any form contains everything that appears not to be in that form. The emptiness of a form allows it to contain everything, to be full in a way that it may not initially appear to be. A form may appear to be just a part of the world, but it can be experienced as containing all the parts of the world; it is, to ‘enlightened’ vision the world appearing as that form. William Blake himself would, I think, have understood the sutra and these words of his are, for me,  a perfect commentary on the mystical vision at the heart of the sutra:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.