You’re blowin’ my mind, man

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It’s not often that I get a dharma teaching where I leave out thinking “whoa, I think my mind has been blown.” Have I walked out feeling inspired? Sure. Chided? Yes. Challenged? No doubt. But the teaching on Sunday by Anam Thubten Rinpoche was really amazing. I felt like I got called out on ten years of incorrect dharma practice. My friends, were likewise moved.

In the teaching, the Rinpoche talked about there being only two paths: the path of awakening and the path of ignorance. Yet, many of us believe that there is a third path, this very inherent path that will lead to a very inherent enlightenment. A solid path. A path where one can measure one’s progress by certain milestones. A path filled with many different practices and rituals. Yup, that’s the one I’ve been on. Busted. But, if there is no path, and no instant enlightenment, what in the hell are we doing?

My friends, also NKT rebels, went to lunch afterwards and mulled this over (apparently very loudly, as someone with whom we spoke later said that after we left the restaurant was very quiet.) and looked forward to getting some clarity when we had our meeting with Rinpoche after lunch.

One of the things I know I struggle with, and I believe my friends do also, is how to we view Geshe-la, now that we are no longer with/contemplating leaving/still peripherally involved with his tradition, the NKT. For the most part, I’m feeling at ease with my decision to leave, and only occasionally engage in negativity while my friend John tends to get caught up in a lot confusion and guilt. And I think we both feel a bit embarrassed at having to tell people we are refugees from the NKT expecting that people from other traditions will heap scorn upon us, or pity us for falling for the cult. Of course, none of those things have happened. In fact, quite the opposite.

After lunch, we headed back to the temple to wait for our appointment with Rinpoche. And, as usual, we are the most boisterous people in the room. A woman sits down with us and starts asking us question since she hadn’t seen around before. We mention that our previous teacher was Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and braced ourselves for a negative response. Instead the woman paused for a very long time, and we thought she was going to start crying. “Oh my god, I love him. I’ve loved him ever since I picked up one of his books. You’ve gotten teachings from him? You are so, so fortunate.”

When our turn came to see Rinpoche, John was our designated spokesperson. He explained that we were long time students of Geshe-la, and now we feel as if we were traveling the third path. One of the first things the Rinpoche said was how fortunate we were to have studied and learned so much, and that we need to have a heart full of gratitude towards our teacher that had taken us to this point. But, he said we need to make a U-turn. He prescribed for a practice that includes daily recitation of the Heart Sutra and a prayer by Shantideva. That works for me for now.

In the hours that have passed since our meeting, it is hard to remember his exact words. They feel so light that it is hard to hold on them. Meeting him in person confirmed my impression from his teachings that he is the real deal. I’ve only met one other person like him where I felt that sort of lightness, that lack of ego obstructions.

I’m not feeling the need to follow the NKT Survivor forums anymore. I wish all my friends who remain in the NKT the best, and I wish for them to find peace and happiness. And for those who have left, may they likewise find peace and happiness and teachers who can help them along their journey. Geshe-la still has a place on my shrine, and while I may no longer be seeing him as my spiritual guide, I’m sure he would be pleased that I’m still loving practicing and loving the dharma.

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8 responses »

  1. Hi Lazybuddhist

    Good on you. I’m glad you seem to have found a dharma avenue that looks promising. I’ve been asked to stay on the gentle survivor’s forum but don’t think I will. It’s been a big distraction. I’m still with the NKT, however, as I haven’t yet found a worthy alternative. I went to my FPMT centre last night and it just isn’t able to completely support my practice. They simply aren’t that interested in me as a person, or my spiritual condition. I’m treated as a genuine peripheral there. For the moment, I must continue to walk the path I happen to be on.If nothing else, the NKT is an amazing pre-school.

  2. It’s good that you have found a way forward. I have never officially left the NKT, only the centre I attended, and I have not attended a festival or course since, but I still respect Geshe-la’s teachings, and may return in the near future. However, I don’t agree that the NKT is a cult, it’s just the way certain people within the tradition behave that can make it come across that way.

  3. its nice to hear positivity and clad that
    you have not left dharma completely as buddhism and the teachings saved me life literally.
    I do agree that some people do give the nkt a bad name.but hey people do that everywhere
    i am planning on finding my own way along the path and my own teacher untill that arises and is clear to me i am just going to take lessons from where i can and acceppt the blessings from all the buddhas cos at the minute thats all i have faith in. we are all sensitive people with so much to give since we got to be here lets live.marvin gaye, peace yall

  4. dear lazy buddhist, i am glad your new teacher seemed to tell you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Geshe Kelsang’s books on Buddha’s and Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings are so beautiful and it would be a waste to completely reject both him and the Dharma he taught you. I have been an NKT practitioner for many years and do not believe that it is even remotely a cult. But I also believe that people are free to come and go as they choose, and it’d be great if they could do that without guilt and anger — accepting that mistakes are made everywhere by fallible human beings, but that the Dharma still works if it is put into practice.

  5. Ive been along to a few NKT meetings,and Im amazed that people can say its a cult..I have never been pressured into attending more/giving money/etc… From my own limited knowledge i think that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has been an extremely positive teacher for the west…the scope of his books etc is fantastic,he has made a great effort to bring Buddhism to the west. As regards the smears of having to pay for the dharma at NKT events, its the same everywhere..the FPMT charge for classes, I went to see the Dalai Lama in Nottingham a few months ago and that cost a lot!… you cant even get into York cathedral now without handing over £7 !! Anyway, thats my opinion for what its worth.Blessings to you.

  6. all things go to grow or slow us ~ it all depends on whozin the drivers seat. with a pure intention behind the wheel even the most painful experiences become blessings.

    if a helping hand comes your way then take it with that intention ~ forget about what anybody else has to say about it good bad or udder wise. in the end itz your mind and therefor your path that needs to be met. in this way there can be no ‘mistakes’

    if the spiritual guide can manifest in n e form then we best keep an open mind and better an open heart cuz them blessings is all ways an option ~ sea?

    btw – cult is from occult meaning hidden from the eye so unless you have omniscience then yer all red eye in a cult of one kind or an udder ~ even if itz only a cult of won ~

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